February 22, 2011

Along the Karnataka Coast Line

So, me and wifey decided to go along the West Coast of India to celebrate our First Anniversary. We just booked the ticket from Bangalore to Mangalore and let everythings take shape as it comes. Initially, I had some apprehensions of going till Gokarna as I feared that we might run out of time by the time we finish the Jain circuit and Udupi. But it so happened that we finished the Jain circuit in a day and had loads of time. And we ended up doing Moodbidri - Karakala - Venur - Udupi (Malpe, Kapu) - Gokarna (Kudle, Om). We could have always done Murudeshwar and Honnavar, but i wanted to relax for sometime and not have a strenous schedule, as work was burning me out.

Read on for a more detailed itinerary and some travel notes.

Day 1 - Friday
We had booked a sleeper bus from Bangalore to Moodbidri, and it so happened that the road was horrendously bad. We were on the upper berth, and it was jumping and wobbling for most of the time, hardly had a good sleep! (I think the stretch from Hassan and all the way upto Mangalore was crap!)

The bus started from Bangalore(Bannerghatta road around 7:30am and we reached Mangalore in the morning around 6:30am. We had not planned whether we want to do Mangalore or carry on to Moodbidri. In the morning, i felt that we should be doing the Jain circuit and then head on towards Udupi, than sticking to Mangalore. Mangalore can always be done when we plan to do Kerala ; something like, start from Mangalore and then onto Bekal-kasargod and the rest of Kerala). Anyway, the bus conductor asked us to get down at Jyothy bus stand if we are to catch a bus to Moodbidri. We had to walk across the road and wait for a bus which came in another 5mins. Reached Moodbidri in around 50mins. We had our breakfast in a hotel in the Moodbidri bus stand. We did not note the hotel's name, but it was pretty clean - though not duly whitewashed. A idli-vada and quick tea is always refreshing in the morning. Asked quickly for directions to the Thousand Pillar Jain Temple and then proceeded onwards. Enroute we stumbled on a Hanuman temple. I had opined that this was just another temple, but it looks like this Hanuman/Anjaneya temples is a very famous one in Moodbidri.

A quick walk lasting 15-20mins lead us to the Thousand Pillar temple. Photography is not allowed inside the temple premises. When we entered, there was hardly anyone inside. The intial few pillars on the leading face of the temple were looking nice - though not impresseive; the prangan(area surrounding the sanctum) and near the walls were unkempt with grass and wild plants. Unimpressive, i had expected much grandeur in this temple; though the brass statue of Mahaveera inside the temple glowing in the bulb within the sanctum was nice to look at. The pedestals were nice but the pillars were lacking the much needed intricate carvings.

A jaunt back to the bus stand and then a tea in the same hotel and then a bus to Karakala ensued. The journey was for around 30mins. The sun was pretty bright by now and we had to wear our shades, as we had to climb hundred odd steps to visit the statue of Gomatestwara on the top of the hillock. A few chocolates before the climb and a quick ascent lead us to a flat land with the monolith statue of Gomateswara standing in the middle, surrounded by two sets of walls - one very close to the statue itself and the one around the temple. Clicked a few snaps and sat here for sometime. The shade outside the temple was cooler than that of inside.

We then came back to the Moodbidri bus stand and caught a bus to Venur. Unlike the hillock in Karkala, Venur is pretty much at the ground level; few steps leads us to the monolithic structure which is again on a flat concrete ground.

Venur does not have many lunch options, so we had it in one Jain hotel which was clean, though the food was nothing great. The hotel owner told us that there are regular buses to Udupi from Venur, but little did we know that those buses go via Moodbidri(duh!).

(And thus i had seen all the big-4 monoliths of Gomateshwara in Karnataka - Shravanabelagola, Karkala, Dhramasthala, Venur ! Yay!)

We reached Udupi around 5:30pm in the evening. Took a hotel near the road that leads to the Krishna temple. The room was neat and clean, but not luxurious - you dont get a deluxe room for 300 Rupees!). Went on a walk near our hotel and asked for the best hotel in that area with a few passerbys; almost everyone seemed to suggest Woodlands and after a sumptuous meal there and a follow up walk near the temple, we retired for the day.

Note : Prefer doing Moodbidri, Venur and then Karkala in order. There are buses from Karkala to Udupi and you dont have to come back to Moodbidri, we didnt know about this and lost about an hour in the transit.

Day 2 - Saturday
We visited the famous Krishna temple in the morning around 8am. Lord krishna - a black idol - was kept in a small room which had many oil lamps lit and was not to be reached by anyone. Devotees had to have a view of the Lord via a small window - the sighting would last only for a few seconds. The rush was not much and we had a good darshan.

A breakfast at Woodlands ensued and we took a nap in our room. We again went to the Krishna temple in the noon - for the mid day prasadams - the meals. Surprisingly, the temple treats brahmins and non-brahmins differently. I was wearing a Jean and a T and we both stood in the line for the non-brahmins. We were told that only those who wore dhoti were eligible to sit in the area marked for brahmins (we wondered how easy this system could be tricked!). The meals for the non-brahmins are served in the first floor. Everyone is asked to sit down and the marble in front of them is to be washed and food is served on this. I would expect that the scene on the ground floor was to be completely different, with banana leaves and a much better quality of food. In the abode of God, such differentiation is to be frowned upon. On a philosophical note, i do not understand why Man always comes up with means and measures to differentiate people(his fellow beings) !

Anyway, we proceeded onto the Government Bus stand which runs buses to Malpe. Malpe is around 5-6 kms from the Udupi bus stand and from the Malpe bus stand you can catch an auto to reach the beach. I did not find anything spectacular about the beach, though there was a ship building/repair yard on the left hand side of the beach. It was around 2 in the noon, and we did not loiter in the sand, but sat on the bench and whiled our time. A boat ride to St.Mary's island could always be done, but this would be too much 'touristy'. We got a lift from the beach to Malpe Bus stand and then caught a bus back to the Government bus stand. We were told that buses to Kapu had to be caught from the Private(or Service) bus stand. Kapu is slighlty far off and the ride lasts for close to 30mins. One can walk from the Kapu bus stand to the beach or hire an auto; auto costs around 25-30. We preferred to walk.

Tip: When you get down from the bus at Kapu bus stand, get onto the other side of the road and ask for directions to the beach; they will lead you to a narrow lane - get onto that and then go straight, you will reach the bypass road, and then cross it and take the road next to the temple on the other side of the road, keep going straight; once you reach a T junction, take the left and then take diversion from the road onto the sand which is next to a few huts there, a few meters away is the beach. This side of the beach is virgin and not people/tourists visit here. Also, you can spend some time in the shade of the monolith rock there and then climb onto it too ;)
The more famous(read 'crowded') part of the beach is on the other side of this rock.

Kapu beach has a functional lighthouse(there is no port here) and the sunset from here is beautiful!

There was a local mela going on in the beach when we went there and then took an auto to the Kapu bus stand back (this one is on the Bypass road). Back to Udupi and retired for the day after a meal at Woodlands ;)

Day 3 - Sunday
We got up at around 6:45am and vacated the room by around 7:15am. The hotel's manager told us that Train was way better than bus, as the former would take 2-2.5hours to reach Gokarna than the latter which takes around 5 hours. Also the roads are not good. The train was to leave at 7:50am from the station. I wanted to try our luck and caught an auto to train station and reach there by 7:30. The rush in the station was just beginning and the queue for the tickets wasn't long. We got the tickets and had a quick breakfast in the station. The train arrived, not very crowded, one of us managed to get a seat while i kept standing for a while and exchanging seats. Reached Gokarna road by around 10:40am. There was mini cab/bus waiting outside and for 15 Rupee ride lasting for 15mins we reached Gokarna. We were not sure about the hotels to choose from - i.e, choose a hotel in Gokarna or prefer any of the huts along the beaches. Preferred to rest for sometime, have some lunch and then decide.

And so we stumbled on Hotel Sri Sai Ram, this is a small hotel next to the SBI ATM on the main road, before you enter Car Street. Little did we know that this hotel will be our place for lunch/dinner for our remaining stay in Gokarna. This clean hotel is run by a family - husband,wifey, a son and a daughter; and i think there are two helpers who get them along with the kitchen and other associated activities.

Post lunch, we roamed in the streets behind the gokarna bus stand looking out for rooms and here we stumbled on Katyayani Guest House. This is run by a gentleman who runs a provision store just outside his house. Our room was on the first floor - damp and a little unclean. But since we were budget travellers, we took this and quickly cleaned the room. A quick nap and a long walk along the Gokarna beach in the evening followed.

Day 4 - Monday
Getup at around 7:15am, breakfast at take the road next to Ganapati temple and then proceed towards Kudle beach and then onto Om beach. The trek to Kudle takes around 40mins(when done slowly). ( the platform is quiet steep, till you reach the flat ground on the hillock. ). Kudle to Om Beach takes around 20-30mins(again when done slow)

(View of Gokarna beach from the hillock enroute Kudle)

The whole day was spent on these two beaches and the evening sunset at Gokarna beach.

Day 5 - Tuesday
Get up around 7am and a quick breakfast at Pai Hotel on Car Street. Proceed to Kudle beach. The morning sun was nice and bright and the 30minute trek was refreshing.

Also, we started the trek from Gokarna beach instead of the lane next to Ganapati temple. This was a boon, the ascent was not hard and also we were able to continue walking without breaks for quiet sometime. We sat in the shades of the trees in Kudle beach for sometime, till the Kayak guy came in. The sand was cool. The 1 hour long kayaing session was pretty good. We started off with a big thud in the water before we could paddle the kayak ;) We went around 0.5-1km inside the waters where it was still. It was quite scary sometimes. (Having kayaked in the Red Sea earlier, this was our second time, but, the Arabian Sea was a little scary  when compared with the Red Sea).

Back to our room in Gokarna just in time to check-out, quick bath and vacated the room. Post lunch, time was spent sleeping in one of the huts along the Gokarna beach where the fishermen had kept their nets (it wasnt stinky ;) ).

A nice wooden-oven cooked pizza in the restaurant along the sides of the hillock at Gokarna and a beautiful sunset brought the trip to a beautiful end.; and the cane juice with ginger and lemon was a refresher to bring the energy back :)

Boarded the sleeper bus at Car Street at 7pm(started only at 7:45pm) and reach Bangalore by 6:30am.

Expenses (all expenses are for two pax) :

  • Bangalore-Mangalore(Sleeper bus) : 700
  • Mangalore-Moodbidri(bus) : 50
  • Moodbidri-Karkala(bus) : 26
  • Moodbidri-Venur(bus) : 30
  • Moodbidri-Udupi(bus) : 50
  • Udupi-Malpe(bus) :12
  • Malpe bus stand-Malpe Beach(auto) : 25
  • Udupi-Kapu(bus) : 24
  • Udupi-Gokarna(train) : 62
  • Gokarna Train Station - Gokarna : 30
  • Gokarna-Bangalore(Sleeper bus) :400
  • Hotel at Udupi (2 nights * 300 ): =600
  • Hotel at Gokarna (2 nights * 200 ): 400
  • Food : depends on what you eat ..we are veggies;)
  • Kayaking at Kudle:300
Grand Total (for two) : around 5000 INR

(I have been planning this tour for close to 4 years now; every time i planned this, something else came up in my schedule and i ended up doing something else. I am glad that this long pending visit to the Indian(Karnataka) West Coast is finally over; and with this, i think i have covered most places in Karnataka).
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