Flop Trip #1 Nandi Hills

“We should have started early”, he said after we had come half way from Murugeshpalaya. We were excited to use Google maps for the first time on a trip (we always believed in asking humans for routes). Of course the annoying GPS lady was constantly telling us what to do and eventually she was wrong. She was leading us to Hyderabad. We went back to humans for help and reached a place.

We had ridden 78 kms on a bike and took a left, with a lot of expectations. Our eyes craved for greenery around, for images all over the internet showed so. It should’ve been shot up-hill we told ourselves and rode ahead. Foot-hill arrived, without any sign of “ahaa” sceneries. 40 hair-pin bends it said. Our minds drifted off to small streams oozing out of the rocks and us drinking water from there. Truth hit us like a truck. We started riding up-hill and it was like riding up to a parking lot in a mall.

“Alcohol prohibited” a board read on our way up. We didn’t know why till we reached the top. We parked the bike and went to see Tippu’s drop- the spot from which Tippu Sultan pushes the prisoners off the hill. I wish I had pushed Tippu off of there for choosing such a spot. And then there was a suicide spot (status quo). Well, it really is. When there are monkeys all around you waiting to grab anything that you have, you would want to jump off the hill. But then, you can’t do that too, for it is a cage!

There is a temple close to the cage but the ground gets very hot to walk without footwear. Silver lining: Dosa camp- Dosas at reasonable rates. You starve all through your ride till here, this is one good place to have something decent. Coming back to alcohol.. Oh yeah! No BYOB. KSTDC sells beer here. If you have absolutely nothing to do one weekend and would like to go on a long tiring ride/drive, this place is the ultimate choice. 

We grimly struck out *Nandi Hills* from our “Places to visit from Bangalore” list. After all, shit happens..

Go Gokarna!

How Gokarna:

It was a result of brain rot. Bored of getting bored, I was in desperate need of change. It was late January. Bearing February last weekend in mind, my first choice was Jog falls, Karnataka. One call to the Karnataka Holiday’s manager at Jog falls and I learnt there was no water there. The ultimate saviour Google, told me Rajasthan, beaches and historic places were best to visit in Feb. Wondering why none of the “travel planners” suggest these things, I started listing out places. There was too little time. Goa and historic places were clearly out of question- they seemed blah. The blessed soul I call a companion came to play, “lets go Gokarna” he said and it began. We zeroed in on Valentine’s weekend.

Pictures of beaches and rocks did seem attractive, but for a Chennaite, it was nothing new. Battling the thoughts, I started reading up more and realised it was not a place to go with friends. The stay got arranged by dropping a mail to “Namaste Cafe” in Om beach (a resort on the beach). Not a lot of places there have this facility. They don’t even have listed phone numbers. You go and you check yourself in. The tariff is pretty low too- you get shacks for 150 bucks a day. Is it the “affordable” Goa, I wondered. Didn’t know it was way better till I saw it myself. Tickets got booked (trains of course, were full. So were the buses!) and luckily a bus from Bangalore had just 2 seats left. Now that’s a sign, I told myself. Always wanted to know how many days would a place need to be covered completely. Mr. Govind of Namaste Cafe was gentle enough to tell us, how many ever days we stayed, we could cover the whole of Gokarna in one day. We didn’t understand what he meant till we actually visited the place. That’s the kind of info people look for at times, which again a lot of travel planners don’t give. Brushing all that aside, just like every other traveller, I was thrilled.

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Why Gokarna:

Not a lot of times does a place actually call out for you. This one does. The way to Gokarna from Bangalore gives one a “Kerala” feeling. “GoKarna” means “cow’s ear” Wikipedia says. It sure is one hell of a beautiful ear. Covered with palm and coconut trees, surrounded by hills it is hard to believe there is any beach close by. They don’t show up till you start climbing one of the hills. Also,  legend says, the whole route is guarded by a “wicked witch”. Kudos to her, she is doing a great job!

The bus drops you at Gokarna bus stand which is pretty close to Mahabaleshwar temple. The auto rates are standard- 150 bucks to the other end of the town, Period. The beaches loom in as the auto takes a sharp turn. ‘How on earth is this hiding here’, is the feeling. It is impossible to know Namaste Cafe is on the shore of the beach till one reaches the restaurant. We had booked a cottage (with attached bathrooms. There are rooms without too in which case the rates are lesser). The place is well maintained, clean and peaceful. The day began with a long drive to Murudeshwara temple.

Lord Murudeshwara Temple

Lord Murudeshwara Temple

Murudeshwara is another temple by the shore one should visit before 11 in the morning. Once the sun comes out, the place heats up and it is impossible to walk without footwear. Situated 85kms from the town one could get there by a cab (again, can be arranged by the hotels/ shacks you stay in). The drive is just OK. But the caves which hold the statues explaining the story of Gokarna is absolutely brilliant. The story gets narrated in the background (in Kannada) but the depictions are clear enough to understand. The temple tower has elevators that take tourists up.

The temple tower

The temple tower

A weekend with Nature, well spent:

A day well spent would be watching the sunrise from Om and  the sunset from Kudle Beach is what the people at Gokarna say. Wherever you stay, you go up and down a hill, you reach the next beach- that’s probably what Mr. Govind had meant. The path looks like it was laid by running water, as it drains down into the sea. The scintillating trek ends at the sands of Kudle beach. It is clean and the waves are not harsh like the ones in Chennai. It feels like Arabian sea is caressing you every time there is a tide. Plus, the sand doesn’t stick to your skin. Do lay on the sand beneath the moonlight wherever it is that you stay (accompanied by Beer adds to the experience). The best part is, when you retire to your room and switch the fans off, you could hear the tides and realise they do not have a pattern. The other two beaches- Paradise and Half moon could be visited by boats from Om- which also offers Katamaran, speed boat rides etc.

Kudle Beach

Kudle beach.. The smooth waves

Kudle beach.. The smooth waves

While Kudle and Om beach show one perspective, Gokarna beach changes it completely. There is hustle of the temple town, traffic (just the autos and cycles) and yeah! Shopping. Cotton Harem pants are a *must buy*. Only after you wear one there, would the trip be complete. A whole street filled with cotton stuff- bags, pouches, and all that’s necessary for the stay are available. Not having had spent any money throughout the walk, you would be tempted to buy the graphic tees.

Om beach

Om beach

Contrary to popular belief, sunset from Om beach is incomparable. “Climbing on the rocks is prohibited” a board says, but as long as you know you would be careful, climb up and you won’t regret. The sun goes down, not reflecting at all on water (you would want to blow a kiss to the mighty SUN as He retires). There is peace and tranquility all over the place and it’s pretty infectious that it embraces you real tight. There is a wholesomeness when the trip ends. You would have trekked as much, been spiritually touched and had fun along the beaches. We were lucky to watch the moon see us off that night (It was a full moon night) as the bus left the town.

Sunset from Om beach

All buses from Bangalore come in the morning and leave in the evening. Plan your rest of the journey accordingly for these buses are not famous for punctuality. Have a grace time of 3 hours to board the next train/bus/flight comfortably.

If you have had a hectic week, you can take half a day off to catch a train to Bangalore and you need an awesome weekend, start planning for December. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you, but this time you wanna forget who you are, Go Gokarna!