Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Serene beaches of Karwar Day 1

"The sea beach of Karwar is certainly a fit place in which to realise that beauty of nature is not a mirage of imagination, but reflects the joy of the infinite and thus draws us to lose ourselves into it.Where the universe is expressing itself in the magic of its laws it may not be strange if we miss its infinitude; but where the heart gets into immediate touch with immensity in the beauty of the meanest of things, is any room left for argument?"
Rabindranath Tagore,1916. It is said that Rabindranath Tagore had visited this beach and was inspired by its tranquil beauty to write his first play.

With Labor day approaching(an extended holiday) we were looking for a decent destination with all the hill stations being full we hit upon "Karwar" and after reading excellent reviews we planned a trip down to Karwar. There are a several ways to reach Karwar from Bangalore , we took the Hubli route. We reached Bangalore city railway station at around 7.15 Pm to board 6589 Rani Chennamma Express which leaves at 9.15 PM. I was very hungry and since we had couple of hours before the train was to leave we entered "Shree Raghavendra Hotel" at the Majestic bus stand. I had set dosas. The train left at right time 9.15 Pm from Banglaore City Railway station.

It was scheduled to reach Hubli by 5.30 AM but was late and reached at 6.45 AM after getting down from the train we started enquiring about way to Karwar and we were directed to take a bus from the 'old bus stand' of Hubli. We took a Auto though the guy asked Rs. 30 initially but when we told the actual price Rs.15 he agreed. Thanks to the shop owners who not only directed us but told the real fare as well. In Hubli the primary language spoken is Kannada but people speak Hindi also very well so we didnot have much communication issues. On reaching the bus stand which is maintained NWKSRTC we were told that buses are available for Karwar or we can hire a car/taxi but it'll be costly and they are run by travel agents. Since it was 7 AM in the morning none of the travel agents were open so we opted for the bus. We were told by the guy at the enquiry counter to wait at platform 8 and 9. At around 8 AM a bus for Karwar came and we scrambled to get in to secure a seat for all of us. There's bus every half an hour to 45 minutes from Hubli to Karwar. The fare is Rs.110 per head for a distance of about 160 Kms and it takes 4 hour 30 minutes to reach karwar with 2 stops at Yellapur and Ankola.

Map of North Karnataka district with Hubli, Yellapur, Ankola and Karwar

As it was month of May it was hot but the road from Hubli to Karwar passes through the lovely Western Ghats. The ride through thick forest was very pleasing and my friends slept but I was constanly looking out of the window. The trees were dry and dull but still they were blocking the sun and it was quiet cool. A almost dried river was also flowing along side the road for some portion of the road. One remarkable thing I noticed on the way was that there were a number of broken down trucks alongside the way also a number of tire retreading/vulcanzing plants beside the road. The road to Karwar from Ankola is up the Ghats alongside the Arabian Sea but the Navy's "Project Sea Bird" has blocked the breathtaking view of the Sea from the ghat road.

We reached Karwar Bus stand by 12.30 PM, It was really hot and humid and we decided we can't do without A/C rooms. The auto took us to Hotel Navarathna on Karwar Main Road. It was a good hotel and we were charged 1250/- per A/C double room(this was way beyond our budget but the weather didnot allow anything else). After check-in we freshened up and went for lunch at Hotel Sai International just accross the street. The food was quite nice with lots of variety from North Indian and chinese quisine. We returned to our rooms and thought of resting a while before going for local Karwar sight seeing.

Around 4 we got out of the Hotel it was still hot and hired an Auto Rickshaw for Devbagh beach which is about 5 Kms. from hotel but the Guy started asking for Rs.150/- he told "you see the place where I'll take you and then give whatever you like". He took us to a place from where we walked about a kilometer and half through the beautiful casuarina grove to reach the Log huts of the Devbagh Beach Resort from there we went on to the Devbagh Beach it was really serene with a few people bathing in sea we walked through the white sand in the backdrop of casuarina trees and clicked pictures of the setting sun.

Casuarina Grove of the Devbagh Beach

Sun set @ Serene and calm Devbagh Beach

Lone boat @ Devbagh Beach

The driver asked we want to watch the sun set from there or from a "better" spot near the Kali River Bridge. We agreed to him and he speeded up the Auto as the sun was decending rapidly and the driver was racing with the sun so that we reach vantage point before sun god calls off the day. We reached Kali river's bridge when sun was above the horizon but was hid behind the clouds so we could not see a 'perfect' sun set but clicked the pictures of the picturesque River Kali, the bridge in the background of the western ghats and houseboats in backwaters (yes they do have a kind of backwaters). Then we ate the local ice-creams u know like the baraf-ka-gola sort of thing.

River Kali Bridge

Backwaters of River Kali near the bridge

Then the Auto Driver took us to the Karwar beach or the Rabindranath Tagore Beach by now Sun had set and dusk had set in. We paid the Auto Driver Rs.200(50 extra for his excellent service) The beach is nothing special almost a mini version of Marina Beach of chennai but much cleaner. Small children were enjoying the sea water and we got down till knee-deep water to feel the Arabian sea. Then we sat on shore to watch the vastness of the Sea. Sitting there I was trying to figure out exactly where Rabindranath Tagore might have sat and seen such a beauty which was non-existent now. Gazing at the sea, we didn't realize When the watch had turned to 8 Pm , we then walked back to our Hotel which was close to the beach. Actually the main Karwar town is quite small you can literally walk around.

It was very warm and humid we were sweating like hell, actually my body had forgotten what sweating was after staying 3 yrs in Bangalore. I was reminded of my hometown the way I used to sweat profusely there. Then after cooling ourselves at the Hotel we returned to the Hotel Sai International for dinner with super chilled beer. After dinner we walked along the main road for ice-cream but all the shops were closed by then so we returned to our Hotel to find they have ice-cream and we had our fill. I also enquired with the staff for a cab to Go-karna for next day and they refered us to a cab driver who agreed after some bargaining for Rs. 1500/- including a trip to OM beach. So after fixing the cab we retired for the day exhausted.

Serene beaches of Karwar Day 2

On the day 2 we woke up late mainly due to the fatigue of the previous day and moreover we were not in hurry as it was very hot outside and the trip to Gokarna was planned only late afternoon. We had late breakfast which was a typical South Indian fare with Idly, Dosai, Appams etc at Hotel Purnima just a few metres off from the our Hotel. After breakfast we got back to Hotel as it was becoming too dificult to stay outside in that heat. In hotel we were watched the Hindi movie "Style" which was nice comedy. After the movie we went back for lunch and waited for the cab to come over. The cab driver came around 2.30 PM and by 3 we started for Go-karna.

Gokarna is 60 KMs south from Karwar.It is a is a Hindu pilgrimage centre. It is a temple town and is referred to in a number of Hindu historical literature pieces. Around the town lie a number of beaches and these serve as a major attraction for travellers. A number of interesting mythological stories are there about this place. The places of pilgimage include Mahabaleshwar Temple (Maha: great, bal: strength) a famous Shiva Temple and it houses the atmalinga. Named so after Ravana referred to the linga's great strength.

It is situated at the western end of the main street. The main deity here is two-armed, standing and at least 1500 years old. The idol of Lord Ganesha also is ancient. In the sanctuary is a stone linga, encased in brass, placed on a coiled stone serpent. The floor of the hall in front has an intricate engraving of a giant tortoise. One thing that surprised me was the Sign inside the temple bearing "Foreigners not allowed inside the sanctuary". The temple santuary is open for public from 8 AM to 12 Noon in the morning and from 5 PM to 8PM in the evening. Besides Mahabaleshwar temple there is Maha Ganapathi Temple built in honour of the boy Ganapathi, who deceived the demon Ravana. It is also worth a visit.

Pristine Beaches of Gokarna

The main street from the Shiva temple leads to the beach which nice and open but quite dirty. We decided to have a dip in the sea and go for the bath. The sea was comparatively calm and easy for a quick swim. After enjoying there for sometime we moved towards the OM beach.

The other beaches in Gokarna besides the Gokarna beach are the Kudle Beach, Om Beach, Half moon Beach and Paradise Beach (also known as Full moon). Kudle and Om are around 6 km from Gokarna town along a muddy hill; they are accessible by rickshaw or foot. Half moon and Paradise are beyond Om beach and are accessible only by foot or boat. Om beach is named so because it is shaped like the auspicious [Om] symbol. Om beach is the only naturally Om shaped beach. Two other beaches - Paradise and Half Moon - are smaller and remote beaches.

Om Beach(L) the Arabian Sea washing the rocks(R)

The "Hills" and "Rocks" of the OM Beach

The cab took us to the OM beach which is a marvelous beach. It has a few beach side restaurants famous one being "Namaste Cafe" favorite with the international tourists. It was marvellous to look at the water gushing on the rocks. One of other tourists remarked "this water gives life takes it away as well" so true. We sat on the small hillock near the beach and watched the sunset on the rocks. It was a marvellous sight. After sunset we lied down on the hot rocks and gazed at the moon perpendicularly above us. The air was heavy and moist but a bit cooler. Slowly it started getting dark and we started moving back to Karwar with beautiful memories of the evening.

Sunset on the Rocks @ OM Beach

Serene beaches of Karwar Day 3

Day3 was primarily a day we marked for return as we had a train to catch from Hubli so after lunch at our old jaunt Hotel Sai accross the road. We started for the Karwar Bus stand @ 3 PM from the hotel after reaching there we waited for sometime and then got into a bus for Karwar which started at 4 and we were at Hubli Old bus stand at 7.30 PM. We were told about famous "Dharwad Peda" a speciality sweet from North Karnataka district. Dharwad Peda is made out of Milk, Sugar coating and Khoa. You can buy Dharwad Peda in Sweet Shops all around Hubli-Dharwad. So we spotted a shop near the bus stand "Mishras Peda" and purchased 500 gm box.

Dharwad Peda

Then picked up dinner and proceeded to Hubli Railway station for Rani Chennamma Express which leaves Hubli at 10.55 PM but it was about 30 mins late. The train reached Bangalore City next day at 8.30 AM about 1 hr late. And we were back to our 'normal' life after a 3 day sojourn to the pristine beaches of Karwar.

A few revelations from the trip:
Karwar is a very good destination if you want spend time with your family and friends in quiet and serene beaches with less crowds.
Best time to visit is between Oct-Feb but certainly not the summers and moonsoons.40% of time of our trip was spend inside hotel room due to the horrible weather.
Karwar can be reached directly from Bangalore by buses otherwise can be reached by train from Bangalore through Hubli, Longda. There are several trains which ply from Bangalore to Hubli but Rani Chennamma Express is best.
Karwar is about 100 Kms. from Panaji Goa so can be clubbed with a Goa trip ofcourse if you have time.