Tag Archives: Arabian Sea

On Tanning Solutions

Someone tells me that the Brits swarm in hordes to Goa for the winter, slather themselves with suntan lotion and roast. So, besides the blue waters of the Arabian Sea, there is a sea of pink sunburned blubber on the sands. We (The Missus and I – The Missus more than I) figured setting aside the sun burn part they’re all onto a good thing. Which is why exiting Coffee Valley found us pointing our way westwards.

Now it’s all right to say we’re going to the coast from Sakleshpura. As the crow flies or as NH 48 goes (since we’re not going to fly like crows, I would think crow flying distance would be shorter), the distance is mere 120 kms to Mangalore. However, since that excellent piece of rallying ground, Shiradi Ghat is closed, we chose it’s upcoming (some would say that the top spot has been relinquished) competitor, Charmadi Ghats. And since we’d used that road on our way to Magundi earlier in the year, we figured the journey would be a breeze. We figured wrong. It was a bone jarring, potentially axle breaking, dusty 20 kms just getting to the Ghats. Somehow, in the 5 months that had elapsed since our last crossing, this stretch of tar had converted to something that resembled the mountains of Ladakh with all the dust of Thar. There was an excellent view of the sun setting just below the forest guest house at Charmadi. Eventually, we pulled up in Mangalore, instead of the original destination, Udupi and bedded down for the night.

The beach at Malpe.

We were up with the lark the next day and a friend of ours pointed us to a beach near Mangalore. Penambur I think. Unfortunately, the signposts were not encouraging – we didn’t see one at all – so we went to the next beach, Kapu. We were the first ones there, at about 7.30 in the morning. There were others who were there as well, but they were there to commune with nature, and I guess they did that everyday. The beach is excellent with the lighthouse in prison garb with a red top. There was a nice feel to the whole place with the spray in the soft morning light. The beach is not very wide, but it is long and the light house end is where it ends. There are remnants of a an ancient structure, but I couldn’t find a way of getting on it. The Missus, enjoyed this better, as like a true dweeby geek, I was too busy capturing this on camera. As soon as we hit the highway from Kapu, a wonderful mist surrounded us. All the time I stayed on the coast, I’ve never seen mist. Ever. This was a nice grey morning, with minimal traffic and coconut palms sticking out and the vapour rising from the creeks we crossed adding to the views.

We stopped for an authentic Udupi breakfast. On my last visit to Amgol, we’d briefly stopped at Malpe and I wasn’t particularly keen on going back. However, since we didn’t have a particular destination in mind, we went back there anyway. Instead of stopping at the beach, though, we stopped a bit further up, near a temple. We walked past a school and soon were on the beach. Malpe has it’s charm, though my money would be still on Kapu. For a start, there is the jetty further up the beach, plus unlike Kapu, this beach proper had a line of last night’s dinner bobbing about in the waves. And from the looks of it, it looked like the entire village had a gala time the night before. You’ve to admit that that kind of puts a dampener on Baywatch-esque ideas of a beach.

The lighthouse at Kapu.

When we started back, we decided to take back roads of coastal Udupi. Like an earlier trip, it was fun just going through a place and enjoying the sights. However, the boffos at the NHAI have decided that to appreciate the beauty around, you need to be reminded of the hell below your wheels. The road is good in patches heading out of Udupi and there are patches where they exist merely in a hypothetical way. Though having been battle hardened by the Charmadi Ghats, which is not even hypothetical – being more in the realm of mystical, we weathered it. It definitely put a dampener on things though. Next port of call was the ever charming Maravanthe, lunch at Murudeshwar (though I wonder just why I go there) and on to Baiyandooru. This beach is absolutely blissful and because it’s at an inaccessible place – well it’s not really, but then who makes the effort when Goa is just a little while away. Maybe that’s it’s charm. No people, a temple whose provenance or denomination I didn’t bother to check perched at one end and a creek at the other. The drive from here onto Goa gets progressively worse till after you cross Karwar. At the Goa Karnataka border we ran into familiar territory. Payment for no service rendered. For whatever reason, we were asked to register our name at the border crossing and leave something for “tea & water”.

The beach at Baiyandooru.

Goa in Christmas is wonderfully decked up and we had booked a place at Morgem. However due to all our stops and the state of the roads we were only able to get there by night. Morgem in the morning looked absolutely wonderful. It doesn’t have the hordes that plague Goa’s other beaches. It might also be that we plonked ourselves at a time in the morning when Goa is still dreaming about last night.

Next port of call was Vengurla. However, the map and it’s actual corporeal existence diverged. Which is me putting my showing off my English skills to say that the map showed the road passing through this beach and the it actually being 22 kms away. Since we were a little pressed for time, we chose to go to Malwan. There is a short ride to Sindhudurg fort from Malwan jetty and people who’d help you snorkel as well. Neither of the choices appealed and we left for Ganapatipule. There is a temple to Lord Ganesh here. While The Missus went into the temple, I took a short walk beyond it. MTDC has beach huts and tents. If you go beyond the small crowds on the beach nearer to the temple, this is an amazing beach. Towards it’s northern end there is a creek that meets the sea and the view is absolutely amazing.

Ganapatipule.

Later, I spent a weekend driving around with my earlier companions, the Usual, Suspects. The journey brought us to Bankot, a sleepy village that has a ST bus wide road, an excellent beach and no food. Hunger took us onwards to Anjarla, with a little-wider-than-a-ST-bus road, an excellent beach and fish meals. We camped on the beach star gazing till the cold and the wind pushed us in to the warmth of our modest home-stay.

So, yeah, all this rambling is to agree with the Brits. Just take care not to roast your self.

Sun, Sea & a whole lot of chillin’

Work is good. Mainly because it helps you appreciate the breaks better. I believe I touched upon this theme earlier. Anyhow, as it often happens in corporate-dom, we’d worked like dogs (no offence to the ladies who’d worked equally hard) for a long time. To the extent that most of the other teams would rather chew on their shoes than have any sort of interaction with us. Just around this time, the mandarins above decided to give us some money for “team building” before we went postal and we lost half of the company. Then came the difficult task of deciding where to go. For various reasons, some true and mostly false reasons, the ladies decided to ditch us. Which more or less helped us firm on Amgol. I’d been wanting to go here ever since I heard it from a friend.

An evening at Amgol.

While the decision was made quite early, due to a variety of corporate reasons – some of which were beyond our control, the actual date was set for middle of March. We hoped that we wouldn’t suffer Caesar‘s fate, though we did have a driver who tried really hard. The idea of a tropical isle really appealed to a the entire team. So right up to the last moment we had people who dallied and then decided to come along. This led to the first problem. The seat next to the driver had to be utilised. So, of course, the first bus had to have it broken. The initial starting time of 22:30 hrs. then stretched to 23:30 by the time the alternate bus was arranged. Then the alternate bus had a puncture. We were driving around Nelamangala waking up highly disgruntled puncture repair-men. One who went so far as to refuse double rate because he had not slept for 5 days. Highly unlikely that. Anyhow, by the time we left Bangalore and it’s suburbs it was almost 02:15. I for one was sure that we won’t reach before 12:00 the next day. But then, I wasn’t counting on our friendly neighbourhood S├ębastien Loeb wannabe – the replacement driver. Having come of a day shift and forced into driving the night, he made the most of it. In the process, he made sure all of his guardian angels – and possibly ours – were on their toes. I counted no fewer than 3 instances in during which my pathetic life flashed before my eyes. But as it turns out we were alive and on the island by 10.00!

After an excellent breakfast of neer dosa and chutney along with coconut halwa, all plans of cricket were shelved as folks jumped into the river for a swim. The river is not very shallow on it’s southern edge. As Vishwas, the owner, put it if the boat topples, don’t swim, stand. The northern side is, at places, upto 10 feet or more deep when the tide comes in. The island itself is on the estuary of river Varahi. So technically it’s on, what would be called backwaters in Kerala. There are not a lot of things to do on the island. We made do with cricket and volleyball. There are no TVs – which is the whole point in my opinion – so those expecting to catch up on what Tulsi and her Saas are getting on to in their hugely exciting life, should give this place a miss. One plus side of this was that we missed the pathetic display that the Indian cricket team put up against Bangladesh. Post a slightly indifferent lunch – only the fish curry was good – we all then lolled on the sands by the river quaffing beer. Let me be the first to tell you Amgol, in this weather is prime beer-quaffing territory. You’ll only get canned beer so if you want more, you’ll need to bring your own. There is a refrigerator in the small shack. The shack is also good for the odd cups of coffee – when you’ve had too much beer. Which, as any sane person will tell you, is not possible.

Your ticket off the island at Amgol.

Unlike other land locked places, you won’t be able to get off the island whenever you feel like it. Though the skeletal staff, will help you across the river, it is hard work for them, so make up your mind before you make them run around. Folks interested in birding will find the isle an excellent place to fill their time. When the tide runs out between mid-morning and late afternoon, you can arrange for angling as well. You can use the isle as a base to visit nearby beaches – Othinene, Kaup, Maravanthe etc. Since NH 17 passes along the coast, for those who lack personal transport, the public transport is good along this route. There are direct buses to Kundapura, from where Amgol is about 4 kms. Kundapura bus stand should also help you connect to other beaches and places of interest along the coast quite fine. You can also use the Konkan Railway, but you’ll need to enquire about the train timings.

But then, these are exacting activities. I would recommend that you spend 2 days doing nothing. Besides lolling on the sand and drinking in the beer of course.

Boondein

Road Trip n. A journey in an auto-mobile, usually impromptu or unplanned. Road Trip n. A journey,usually coincides with a long weekend, undertaken because there is an auto-mobile. The first is the dictionary meaning, the second, the meaning according to my roomies and myself. A lot of jaunts have been because there is an auto-mobile and a long weekend. I went on this trip some time ago. 12th August 2005 was the date. And now that summer is nigh, I figured, it is a good time to remember, that there are cooler climes on the other side of the Heat.

August had been kind, and there were 3 long weekends to choose from. We chose the first, on the principle, that when it comes to holidays, tomorrow is not tomorrow. We had planned a long circular trip to the Karwar coast on the West and back. We started on 13th Morning at 6 AM. Our original destination was Gokarna, 250 kms north of Mangalore and 420 km east of Bangalore. There are two ways of getting there. For those who are interested in the scenic route, the NH 247 to Hassan is the ideal way. Right up to Chickamaglur, the road is drivable, the scenes great, and what’s more, if you are the journey-is-the-destination kinda person, you can stop over at Belur and Halebidu. Both of these places have temples built in the 12th century AD. The Halebidu temple is smaller, and it is dedicated to Lord Shiva. There is an excellent guide there, who for 50 Rs. will give you a run-down on the temple and also impart such nuggets of wisdom as what Love is. For those interested, according to him, it is Look, Observe, Verify and Enjoy. Most of us in the group figured that we can skip from look to enjoy. The temple at Belur is dedicated to Lord . It is also much bigger. It is a collection of temples in a large compound. The central temple is the one dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is known as the Chennakesava Temple. It is not as intricately carved as the one at Halebidu, but at least it is complete. Legend has it that the Halebidu temple was sacked by a rival emperor before it could be finished.

The temple at Halebidu on a cloudy August day.

Onwards. When we set out, there was no stated destination nor a stated idea. The whole journey-is-the-destination might not work for people travelling in mixed company. Women like to have a firm answer on where we are going and why are we going and so and so forth. However, we were not thus encumbered. The road between Triptur and the turn off to Chikamagalur is quite bad. Once you cross this however, it is excellent. Both for the driver and others. We passed through some excellent scenery, where the driver wanting to appreciate it closely, got a little too close. I believe there is a dog out there with a bad back to prove it.

The Jog falls in full mid-August flow. Circa monsoon 2005

Jog Falls, is an excellent place. If you can see anything that is. That is the impression we got when we reached there. Having chosen a period when the monsoon was getting active, we could hardly see anything at the site. There is however, an alternate viewing point, which very conveniently, is also not so crowded. To get there, ignore the signs which prompt you to cross a bridge to view the Falls. Just a little beyond the bridge, is a road that goes up which leads to an alternate site. This is relatively empty and if it is possible, cleaner.

Honnavar was the halt for the night. By the simple process of elimination. That was the nearest town to Gokarna. There are a lot of hotels around, there is a Kamat just across the junction where the NH 247 meets the Bombay Cochin highway. Word of advise, the last stretch from Jog Falls to Honnavar is a NH. Even if it gives a feel and width of a village track. Since we chose a long weekend, we ended up staying at Kumta, 20 kms north of Honnavar. Excellent rooms at 500 + taxes. For four people.

A view of the Gokarn coast, once you get past the temple complexes.

The next day was the coast drive. The ideal way would be to start from Bhatkal and drive up to Goa. Since we all know the ideal way is never the realistic way, we did the contrary thing. Driving down from Gokarna to Mangalore. This stretch boasts of some excellent beaches. These are not crowded, they have reasonably cheap hotels around, and for most part, are good to go to any time of the year. Gokarna is also a temple town and unless there is another way to the beach, there is an extremely narrow and convoluted entry to the beach. And at first pass, it is not even worth the effort. Move around a bit, and you will be rewarded. For those who are up to it, there is an excellent half day trek along Gokarna, which will cover Uma, Kudle, Om and Paradise beaches. Just take something to eat along with you. There are a couple of huts on Uma and Kudle which will serve you your basic fare.

The next beach driving down is the Murudeshwar beach. This again is a temple beach, but walking along the beach is much more interesting. The Maravanthe beach is the best of all. It suddenly comes upon you as you are driving along the not-so-excellent road. And it is each to miss. It is just a spit of land between the highway and the sea. Add an excellent river next to the road, and you have the perfect setting. For those who want to take a break, the Turtle Bay Resort is the only choice, so book in advance. The resort is nice and prices range from 500 to 1200 for double occupancy. It is also on the beach, but a little further along where you would stop.

A boat-man on the Sharavati as it flows past Maravanthe, Karnataka.

The last part of the journey is also the most painful. The drive from Mangalore to Bangalore would be heavenly; and would be, considering that the PWD and the truckers are trying to get you there any way. The roads are bad all along the ghat and quite a way beyond. I might’ve missed out on a couple of beaches, the Malpe beach at Udipi is also considered good, but attempt this drive only if you have more than 3 days. Otherwise all you would have are memories and trouble sitting anywhere for a couple of days.