It all started during the Karwar Trip. Me had a look at Om beach and it was love at first sight! Rarely do you get to see a place with four virgin beaches seperated by hills & cliffs!!!
The beaches in Uttar Kannada district, have a peculiar landscape, being in close proximity to the Western Ghats. Mostly, they are bound by hills on all possible sides. And the Beach Trekking Route (also called Golden Route) from Bellikere to Murudeshwar is one of the most exciting. I got some very good information from some Karnataka government sites, Sharada R of DreamRoutes.org  and numerous other web sites. Bellikere is near Ankola and the Golden Route starts there from the Bellikere Creek. Murudeshwar has a small islet and famous for the Siva temple.
Gokarana is along this route, sandwitched between the Gangavali and Agnashini river mouths. The four beaches Kudle, Om, Half moon and Paradise are towards the south of Gokarna. Among these Om and Kudle is the easiest to access, still around 8kms from Gokarna town along some muddy 'hill up down' (Please excuse my English - hangover of Ashi's companionship) road!!! Halfmoon and Paradise are just away from civilization, accessible only by foot or maybe a chopper/boat ;)
Our plan was part of Aravind's marriage at Mangaluru (Mangalore). Five of us started off to Mangaluru on a friday evening, and spend time mourning our friends loss of bachelorhood!!! On saturday, we also managed to hire a taxi to Udupi (Uduppi) / Malpe and take a boat to St. Mary's island, something which I could not do on three previous occassions. The place has an exquisite charm with blue water and golden sand beaches. Sadly, the one part that looked the best was termed "Dangerous - No Swimming" and we could get down only on the other side.
|St. Mary's Island
After Aravind's marriage, around 2.30 on sunday, we boarded the Mangaluru - Mumbai Mathsyagandha express to Gokarna. Anand was to get down at Udupi and meet his parents there, the rest of us (me, Ashi, Mahesh and Manoj [KS]) continuing till Gokarna. This train took the Konkan railway line and passed through couple of tunnels and bridges, before making it to Gokarna railway station by around 7.00. By then it was pitch dark and we had given up hopes of reaching any of the beaches by night. But, out of the railway station we were surrounded by some taxi people waiting for their prey. Bit of haggling and we settled for Rs. 350 to reach Kudle beach in a Maruti Omni. Though it may sound exorbitant, the cost is justified considering the path to Kudle, part of which I have covered during the Karwar Trip.
Gokarna railway station is 2kms off the NH17, along the Gokarna road connecting Gokarna and Madangeri along the NH17. Gokarna town is close to 10kms from the railway station. Our plan was to go to Gokarna, book tickets for Bengaluru (Bangalore) next day and then leave for Kudle. Both KSRTC and VRL runs buses from Bengaluru to Gokarna. Since KSRTC booking station was closed by 5.00 we settled for VRL, kept part of the luggage at the booking station and then proceeded to Kudle.
Road to Kudle was same as the one to Om to the most part. Just out of the Gokarna town towards NH17, you can spot a road going to the right. The road almost ends couple of kms up on a hill top, where you can spot a rest house and couple of hotels. Sea is visible on two sides from the top of the hill. From there its a mud path, along the hills. Another 3-4 kms the downhill begins. Day time you can have an awesome view of the Om and Kudle beach on the way [refer Karwar Trip page], but now it was pitch dark. Soon you'll reach a steep descent leading to Om beach, and a tarmac road to the right. The tarmac road is only a km long and stops at another hill top, where the driver stopped. That was it, time to walk!!!
We picked up our luggages, switched on the torches and climbed down a small narrow route and could soon feel the roaring sound of the Arabian Sea. The shore is dotted with restaurants and huts available for rent. Restaurants proudly displayed their 'Chinese', 'Continental' and Desi menus and one of them even had an Internet Cafe with 'CD Righter' facility. Alas ... this beautiful beach is fully commercialized. Lots of tourists, 99% of them foreigners occupied these restaurants. Dodging some fiercely barking dogs, we enquired for rooms and food in couple of places. Finally settled down for an eggeterain diet and a hut with the 'CD Righter' facility. At the restaurant KS displayed his bottle opening skills by opening the red wine bottle he had brought with a screw driver. The owner of the hut is an old man, enthusiastic in displaying his English fluency, in spite of our enthusiasm to display our Kannada skills. He seemed to be floating in cloud no. 9, after having some of the 'esoteric medicines' available aplenty here, which makes these beaches notorious!!!
Night was sleepless, since the hut we chose hardly had any ventilation. It was warm and sultry!!! Lesson #1, choose a room with good ventilation. Mahesh and KS chose to have a stroll in the beach in the wee hours of the day and was returned once by the fierce dogs outside. Un-deterred they set off again at 2 and spend time sitting in the beach till 4!!!
Ready to ride the waves ... starting from Kudle
We all got up by 6.00, had coffee/tea and a dived into the sea. KS had a stitch around his ear and missed the action in the sea. he was to miss all the action in the sea throughout the trek. By 7.30 we said bye to the old man and Ashi confirmed with him that the 'Hill up down' is Om beach. Finally .... Ashi refined his English from him and seems the effect is quite contagious and lingering.
Lets go 'Om ... from Kudle to Om
We took the same route back, spotted a small temple further up the hill, went past the tarmac road, entered the mud road again and went downhill to reach Om beach in less than half an hour. On the way, some sort of a resort was being constructed, which has partially marred the beautiful landscape.
Mt. Om ... Conquered 01 Nov 2004
Contrary to my expectations, Om was very crowded, thanks to the long weekend. The first thing we did there was breakfast at a 'multi-cuisine' restaurant with internet facility. Once again, the diet was strictly eggetarian - French toast and Cheese Omelets - and it was good.
After breakfast we took a dip in the beach and spent time lazily in the beach. There is a big rock in the middle of the Om. We proceeded to climb up that and succeeded to climb a small one in spite of slippery ground and strong waves. Stopped by a restaurant and chatted up with some of the foreign tourists. Meanwhile, the shop keeper asked Ashi, if he is interested in some of those 'esoteric medicines' Gokarna is notorious for. Ashi claims that ... he has refused the offer!!!
|Bye Bye to 'Om
Around 12.00 we left Om and climbed up the hill from the other side of the beach. It was again less than half an hour to Half Moon Beach. First climb up the hill through an easily visible path along the thickly vegetated hill top. The path bifurcated couple of times and we kept to the left initially, until we finished climbing up the hill. Once the climb is over and the descent started along one side of the cliff, we kept right for the next few 'junctions'. It was awesome, with waves splashing on to the shore visible on one side and the steap cliff on the other side. It gradually went down to a small deserted beach covered with rocks and white sand. We spotted some farmers just before the beach and they confirmed it was the Half Moon Beach.
Peeking at Half Moon ....
It was very hot by then and a dip into the water was a must and a big relief. By then an old lady came with some bananas and a pineapple. Soon, couple of other trekkers joined us from the other side. They were coming all the way from Kumta and trekking to Gokarna. A li'l chat with them to find out how to reach Paradise and we started off.
Road to Paradise!!!
Road to Paradise Beach was along the beach. Well ... you cant call that a beach. Past Half Moon Beach, there is a slippery rocky path half emerged in the sea, which leads to Paradise. After doing some circus along the slippery rock we decided that there should be a route through the top of the hill. We all climbed up and moved some distance along the hilltop. The problem came when at one point, we found that there is no road to go further. There were couple of bifurcations from there, but all of them getting lost in the jungle. But, the fact that the beach is almost visible from the top was consoling enough. At last, we decided to climb down the hill, through a path which is almost covered by shrubs, some of them thorny. With some effort we managed to do it and descended down to Paradise!!!
Paradise was not crowded or commercialized like Om beach, but still there were couple of small restaurants and huts available there, none of them displaying any boards about their 'Multi-Cuisine' menu. But, when we enquired the guy at the hotel, who prefer roaming around in his under wear, he told, about things like fried rice, noodles and pasta. I was not dying to eat any of these, so were others. Once again, eggetarian was prefered - boiled eggs and bread toast.
Paradise also have a couple of small and attractive looking huts just next to the beach. Like Om/Kudle beach, some foreigners were occupying these places. But the numbers were very small and the place looked neat and pristine. The sea here is pretty rough with very strong waves. We soon indulged in a game of getting into the sea, only to be thrown back to the shore. In between rain also started and that delayed our start.
Some enquiries with the guy roaming in his underwear revealed that climbing up the hill next to Paradise Beach will take us to a small village called Bellekhan (Belekhan). Buses are available from there to Gokarna at 5.30. 2kms more from Bellekhan is Tadri (Tadadi/Tadari), which is a bigger town with regular transport available to Gokarna and Kumta. Finally, around 2.30 we started off from Paradise. Localites, showed us a small steep path uphill. Within 5-10 minutes, we could climb up the hill. After that the road was wider and more obvious. But, we did enquire couple of people on the way to make sure that we were on the way to Bellekhan. The route was pretty green for almost 1-2 kms, until we entered a muddy path ending in a small broken bridge. There it was ... another beach surrounded by a hill on one side!!!
Broken Bridge to Civilization
Next to the bridge, there were couple of shops and by the addresses written there, we could make out it was indeed Bellekhan. Tadri was still around 2kms from there, along the tarmac road. By 3.00 we were at Tadri and waiting for a bus (actually a tempo traveller serving as a bus) to take us to Gokarna. Later on, I realized that Tadri is the southern most point in Gokarna, where the Aghnashini river meets Arabian Sea. The portion of river here is also called the Tadri river.
Road from Tadri joined the NH17 - Gokarna road almost 3kms from Gokarna and before 4' O clock, we found ourselves near the VRL booking station. The lady there, suggested a house where we can freshen up and take some rest. We picked up our luggages, went to this house and soon found ourselves strolling around in the streets of Gokarna.
Did he have some 'esoteric medicine'?
Gokarna is essentially a temple town and reminded me of places like Kanyakumari and Mahabalipuram. Gokarna beach, though crowded and bigger, also has a similar 'hills on both sides' view. We spent some time there and then headed again to VRL booking station to board our bus to Bengaluru by 7.00.
It is hard to leave any place and get back to Bengaluru, generally becuase you simply dont want to go back. This time it was more difficult, due to a bus with hardly any suspension, the back seats that was made available to us and 3 couples, who were sitting around us and chatting incessantly and scorning at the stupid world around them. Simply intolerable!!!