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Kumta to Gokarna: A voyage through Beach lines

5th May, 2016, 9:00 PM, with the IPL on, the thoughts hovered to the weekend plans. Of course there was the visit to decathlon and the running at Cubbon Park, but the soul always wanted to go away for the weekend for obvious reasons. The working Saturday didn’t even matter..!!

Almost as if he read my mind, Ankit called and asked “Bhai Gokarna chalein yeh hafte?” My wanderlust got the best of me and the commitments for the week had to wait for yet another week.

That’s how Gokarna trek took shape, without even a clue of the trail. Ankit, as always, took the task of mailing back and forth till it was Friday night. Though we planned just 12 people in the beginning, given the super-fast registrations, we hit the next number 20. The group made most arrangements the day before departure, and Sonali co-ordinated with the girly gang.

The organizers started late thanks to my bike. It broke-down 1 km from Ankit’s place, who supposedly lives in the most crowded area of Bangalore. Took Sagar and myself 1 hour & all our might to drag it through. Took thorough inputs from Virendar, Hiren about the trek on the way to our BTC landmark: Shantala. We reached at 9.40, and given that everyone was already there, the journey started soon after.

After a minor debate on whether have a short intro or a longer one, we started with our “Surname” Dumb charades intro. Just took things to another level, since all knew most people by name by now. After over an hour of fun filled introduction, it was movie time, during which, most people dozed off. A midnight tea break, turned into a tiny dinner for some of us. And we were back on the road with every one sound asleep looking forward to the fine morning!

On reaching Shimoga, noticed that we were running late and though the driver assured us to reach Kumta by 8:30, we didn’t make it before 9:30. Reached Kumta, rushed to the retiring rooms at the bus stand to freshen up. For Breakfast, tried a bakery cum Tiffin center opposite to bus station which we found homely – But they were short of food for the whole team and hotel “Pallavi” next to bus stand came to the rescue of the starving souls. (There is a hotel Pai refreshments 2-3 km before reaching Kumta village towards the left side on highway, this could be a better choice for breakfast and refreshing, we can try it next time)

The already late start was even delayed when I noticed Premal had left my favourite jacket back at the restaurant and we had to run back half a kilometer to fetch it!! Post a few turns, the Arabian Sea welcomed the bunch of enthusiastic BTCians on the mission to explore the beach line from Kumta to Gokarna.

Day 1 - March to Heaven Beach

With the Sun at its peak, we quickly offloaded all back packs and tents from bus, tied up the 7 tents to individual bags, getting the headcount of 1-20, we started towards the destination at noon. The usual combination of me leading and Ankit trailing, it was a race to get ahead of the timeline. Set a target to reach the lunch point by 2.30 pm (which is at middle of Nirvana beach).
Our apologies to the gang, didn’t spare any time to relish the moments, the scenic beauty of Kumta beach. There are benches laid all over, one can sit and enthrall the piercing waves, rising past the hilly terrain. We moved down the hill taking the cement road which leads to a fishermen’s hamlet with boats docked along the coast: Vanalli beach in VIBGYOR hues. Again, the schedule didn’t allow for us to pose for the camera or feel the grace. Thanks to Sagar for the few memoirs captured.
Then came this hill, challenging us to find a way to Kadle beach. Given that everyone was new to this place, we went about exploring the cliff, Took a U turn, up onto the hill on the right side, aiming north – accepted the challenge of trail finding posed before us. Shoving off the bushes, tackling sharp thorns for over an hour we defeated the hill and found the villagers on the bank of kadle beach (one can continue though the cement road of Vanalli beach to reach here if this sounds gruesome). At the beach shore, found a couple of private houses that were no less than a posh holiday homes – sure, everyone wishes to own one, in this beautiful land.
Right onto the Kadle beach shore, with no mercy from sun – the team showed greater spirit passing though Holanagadde beach, Gudeangadi beach and on to Nirvana beach without compromising the pace.  The long trail on the other hand, never appeared to look shorter, even with steady pace of experienced trekkers. The line of 20 people walking with backpacks, some on the beach, some right next to the waterline and few walking in the incoming waves widened to over a kilometer as the fast ones tried to push further and the slower ones huffed & puffed to catch up.
We reached the spot for Lunch at 3 pm, half an hour behind the planned schedule. Santosh, the proud owner of tiny refreshment center, was very cordial to welcome our hungry squad with Ragi Milk, the welcome drink. In fact he was waiting for us from 2pm onwards, we left a prior intimation in morning from Kumta. Post a couple of rounds of the drink, Vijaya asked him the recepie which he was patient enough in explaining, while handling the high tension of varied demands. This was followed by Mangalore buns & Aloo vada as main course! Some tried Aloo vada with paav. Sagar, being the Mumbaikar he is, even asked for tempered green chilli and chutney to complete his make-do vada paav. For dessert were lassi, mango lassi, and naturally ripened banana.
The clock had just ticked past 4 when we started back on the trail. We were to reach Heaven Beach for night camping, i.e., after crossing the other half of Nirvana beach & conquering Kari deva hill. It was more or less a Left-Right March with a few demands to pose for group pics heeded to and requests to play at the beach blankly denied.
Completed the Nirvana beach by 5:15 pm. And ahead of us was the task of finding trail to Heaven Beach through Kari Deva hill. Ankit and myself moved in different directions on a solo walk and located a trail each. If one takes the right onto red clay road past half km – a jeep road goes up the hill and down on to the beach. By the time I came back to the team, we found a group of locals taking a short cut up the hill and gave us assurance to stick to it.
The team started trekking up the hill well past 6 pm and hopped over steep and tiny boulders slipping along the path. Past the fort wall, one sees the scenic view of sea past which is the light house on left and a tiny fishing harbor on right. For people who want to do this trek, remember if one needs to hit the destination – we shouldn’t cross the fort wall, and instead walk parallel to the wall from outside, few meters ahead one can find the jeep track and little further a left turn on jeep path down the hill takes you to heaven beach.

But here we ventured above the hill, entering into the wall in line of nirvana beach, walked toward a mystery beach (a tiny one hardly 20 M long), thinking this was our destination. But in no time, we figured the direction towards Heaven beach from a distance and walked back adjacent to the fort wall to find the trail downhill. The time was 6.45 pm. We found a wall opening, which mostly looked like a man made damage. Past this, the trail was bushy. With the sun rushing towards moving to its nest, natural light became bleak. Down the hill, path finding became pretty difficult as it was almost dark. With torches in hand, we decided to hit back onto the hill either to find a better route or to camp right on the hill!
This was followed by a series of discussions for trail finding. Viru turned himself a Google map in explaining every corner of the hill with marked screenshots. After a couple of attempts for trails, realized we were almost there. Thanks to Viru, Vikram & Santosh (called voluntarily) for checking in. Meanwhile, the team almost dozed off with tiredness. Considering the pleasant moon light, hill top with cool caressing breeze, the possible high tides on seas shore which could affect camp on a full moon day; the team organizers decided to camp at hill top. The only worrying factor was Bala being unwell, though he got well past midnight fortunately!

Then it was over to Ankit & Sonali who along with Aravind and others lieutenants pitched all 7 tents in no time. Immediately after this, the kitchen team got to work for the day’s dinner – Chefs Ankit, Sagar, Divya, Sonali & Umang in quick action. Owing to scarcity of water and the dry grass all around, no stoves were ignited and the menu was Bhelpuri, Parantha-Achaar & Bread-Jam. Post dinner, we celebrated a few Birthdays: Muthu & Vivek and an advanced one for Shailesh.

Most of the members called it a day in no time and went to sleep, ignoring the charm of a full moon. Though the tents were no less than humid chambers, on strict orders to sleep inside the tents only, everyone went in cursing the organizers. Whilst some of us – Sagar, Umang, Divya, Punit, Sonali, Ankit & Myself tried our luck at UNO. Though a complete stranger to this, I turned out to be the winner in no time. This fair play-tactics-possible cheating-halla went well past 1.45 am, as people left one by one. At 2:30, everyone dozed off and that was end of day 1 of Gokarna Beach Trek: Adventurous, Tedious, patience testing.

Day 2 – Kari Deva Betta to Gokarna

Day 2 started unfolding slowly at 5 am, one by one everybody woke-up to the reality that it wasn’t the cushioned bed but the undulating grass land on a hillock they dwarfed on. Sadly, not a drop of water was left to quench the thirst. But cucumbers from Ankit’s bag were enough to keep all hydrated for the time being. The tents were dismantled and rolled up in a matter of 15 minutes and back packs were on the shoulders to start the long day of 20+ km trek.

The journey started at 7.30 am and in no time we reached the elusive Heaven beach which literally hid from us the whole night! Worth noting was the cordial gesture from villagers downhill who offered water the moment they glanced at us. One home maker even offered tea, but knowing the team size, we denied thankfully.

True to its name, the place is adorned with pretty scenic elements - hillocks, rows of coconut trees, dense tree lines. Not sure why it’s named Heaven, looked worth it though! The beach stretches no more than 100 meters, hardly. Our next destination was Belikhana, the confluence point of the Aghnasini River with the Arabian Sea.
Started walking past the heaven beach, past a temple, on the left is the trail which leads us to the next destination. If you are going there, Ensure to take path on the right, that takes you up the hill! The one on the left takes us to a small cliff down to the coast line and further heads back to the temple. We happened to go through this! The 15 minute walk through the hill and a hamlet of fishermen lead us to the Belikhana ferry Point.

Here, we had to cross the line of confluence in a ferry to Tadadi Fishing harbor. By the time we arrived, the ferry was loaded with localities,and we waited for 30 minutes for the next ride (with 20 people and 20 backpacks, this ride was almost a personal BTC ride). While we waited, our chef, Ankit, once again swung into action and provided breakfast: Bread, Garlic-Mayo Spread & Jam. Poor lad, given the shouting he did while trailing throughout the trek, almost lost his speaker. We could hardly hear him from a foot's distance.

The Ferry arrived,  and post negotiations, we settled for Rs. 30 per head opting for a longer ride rather than a straight drop. But the force of the gushing waves didn't allow into the sea. We happened to remain with river and reached the harbor earlier than planned.
Then started the next part of the day's trek: God’s own beach (stretch from harbor to Anjaneya temple). Not so pleasant, neither tidy. We rushed to hit the road, found the famous paradise hotel (no more than a shack) which was in dismantling stage, owing to coastal authorities notification to shut all beach shacks and restaurants due to monsoon arrival. The owner, Jaya Prakash said it's a regular camping spot for many beach trekkers during peak season.
From here we could see Horizon cliff, wherein was perched the light house of Gokarna. We took the paradise beach trail, up the hill. Here on, handed the lead to Manik, who had done this stretch a few months back. With a stopover in between we landed at the paradise beach, which was a no man’s land (except a water vendor) - pristine, but with high tides. People were furious and outraged that despite walking on the beach for a day now, they could not play in the sea. Hence, ignoring the fury of the waves, most participants finally dunked themselves in the waters. The organizers on the other hand got another tedious job  of alerting people not to go too far! Meanwhile, on realizing that not enough of her own clicks were taken on the first day, Sonali posed around for a photo shoot, thus the need of changing the memory card..!!
Post this, we headed towards the half moon beach! Back on trail, running parallel to the coastline watching waves hitting hillocks perpetually. Reached the deserted resort of Half Moon Beach at 11.45 am. Were greeted by an old couple and a sadhu, claiming to be of dharwad origin but a typical Mallu by slang with strings of Rudraksha beads hanging around his neck. as the group took a break, Umang & me started interrogating the Sanyasi who typically talks in English and little kannada.
As we headed to Om Beach from here, the Sadhu came along for a while to show us the trail. We all just wondered why he was suddenly waving towards the coast. To everyone’s surprise, one of the foreigners staying at the resort emerged from the sea and found herself being scanned by 17 pairs of eyes.. Yupp.. Boys will be Boys!

The trail to OM is a smooth ride, tasted mini wild plums – such fresh and sweetness.. after a 10 minute walk, the group reached OM beach, the first commercial beach of the trek. The naughty attempt by our trail lead & his lieutenant: Manik & Umang, of resting right next to a couple of pretty foreigners failed miserably when the whole team walked right past them. The best part here were the trees, stretching their branches on to sea, almost touching the waves. The group found a nice shady place to rest while a couple of us scouted for a place to have lunch.
The sad part though about this beach, was the liquor people carried and the rubbish they created. If one were to do a cleanup drive here, they would require lorries to ferry the garbage away. Namaste Hotel at the far end of the beach serves Lunch from 12:30 to 4:30. Though they agreed when approached, when the team landed there, they denied service for no specific reason..!!

Irked with this, we decided to move to the next beach: the famous Kudle. Started climbing onto steps, and took an unexpected break for 30 minutes. Balawasn't feeling well again. Appreciate his courage though, he still moved forward with team. Reached Kudle beach and kinda hijacked the Kudle beach restaurant at 3 pm. Imagine, gang who had not had a proper meal since Friday afternoon..!! took 4 tables, One and a half hours, and 2 completely dedicated people to serve our hungry tummies. The only downside: despite being a coastal town, We couldn’t have sea food. Sagar’s masala sprite stole the spotlight.
The sea in Kudle beach appeared pleasant, we decided to stay till 5.30pm. Few enjoyed the beach and the sea, rest resorted to a post lunch UNO session. Group pics were taken before moving to the destination Gokarna! We thought of calling the bus to Kudle, But mini buses are not allowed on beach roads.
The last leg of the trek started at a significant high after the significant refuelling. Up the hill, on to stairs, and the clean tar road lead us towards Gokarna. Here we had a new lead in place, Gokarna temple expert: Vijayalakshmi. after a small debate on whether to go to the temple or the beach, we head on to tick the checkbox on Gokarna Beach. It was 6.10 pm and with a target to leave for the temple by 6.45 pm, everyone settled on the comparatively crowded beach shore.
As people relaxed, Ankit walked in with a Water melon and went on to divide it into 40 equal parts, perhaps using his civil skills. Got some spare time to ourselves and took one final round of playing in the sea with Malli and Ankit.
Just after sunset, everyone took a bath at the Gokarna bathing complex, which too supplies salty water, but through taps. For dinner, had the simple yet delicious prasada at temple complex. As 4 of us went to visit the temple, Our target time to leave Gokarna slipped by.

Owing to the delays, followed by some more bickering while boarding the bus, started at 9:15 thus pushing the ETA at Bangalore to 8:30 AM. The ideal time to depart from Gokarna is 7 PM, in order to reach Bangalore by 6.30 AM (something worth consideration while scheduling).

The feedback taken on the way back summed up the journey as a fruitful and exploratory trek with a gang of 20 unleashed on a positive note. Reached Shantala at 8 Am the next morning, and bid goodbye to the team and thus concluded the short journey of the much awaited Gokarna trek on a high note.

Realized the ideal time to do the Gokarna trek is from September to April. It will be pretty crowded but one can experience a pleasant weather.

Would like to end my 1st ever Blog with a note of thanks to everyone, for making it successful event with great patience & perseverance: The team: Muthu, Vivek, Aravind, Bala, Priyank, Deep, Puneeth, Amol, Shailesh, Ashwin, Manik, Premal, Malli, Vijaya, Umang, Divya, Sagar, Sonali; and Those helping on the phones: Viru, Hiren, Vikram & Santosh. And of course, i don't need to thank my Co-organizer, Ankit..!!
Phir milenge…
Live, explore, Zara hatke!!! 

Written By      : Veera Brahmam
Organized By  : Veera & Ankit
Date of event : 21st - 22nd May, 2016
Place               : Gokarna
Members         : 20
Pictures          : BTC FB Page

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