The lockdown shifted our perspective towards travel; making us pause and explore smaller unknown places. Then why not the unexplored of our very own state - Karnataka!
4 days,2 of us, 1 car.. thus was our exploration of the lesser known beaches and backwaters of coastal Karnataka.
Bangalore - Karwar - Byndoor - Bangalore. There aren't many resorts to choose from if you want to stay along the beach (we were particular about a beach resort). Thus, we chose resorts in Karwar and Byndoor as our rest spots and it was a great decision. It was optimally located for day trips along the coast touching Gokarna and Udupi and also for our return trip to Bangalore.
Bangalore to Karwar is a 9 hr drive and we wanted to break that up. Unable to take an additional day off work, we decided to work from Chitradurga for a day! Chitradurga is about 3hrs from Bangalore and we started early on a Friday morning to get there for breakfast. KSTDC has a very humble, clean and great place to work from (with good wifi) to spend the night on a budget, overlooking the fort.
Saturday morning began with checking out of Chitradurga and hitting the road, bidding farewell to all the windmills along the way. Karwar is the last beach on the Karnataka coastline and is a very important Naval base for India. There is a completely different charm as you step into the Uttara Kannada district and it amazes me how our country's landscapes, languages and food change every 100kms. Located at the mouth of the Kali river, Karwar used to be a major port during British rule for spice trading. It is this place where Rabindranath Tagore wrote his masterpiece Prakitirir Pratishoota, his foray into the literary space.
In Karwar we chose to stay at the Devbagh beach. Run by the Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR; Govt. run), this beach resort is located at the estuary where river Kali meets the Arabian Sea. The beach resort, a 20mins boat ride from its Karwar office on main land, is really well maintained and offers you stay with a delicious food package; since there is nothing else around, just like living on a desert island! I recommend a one night stay here, getting lost in the coniferous jungles, walking endlessly on the beach, spending the evening playing with the water and listening to the waves as they lap up and enjoying dinner on the beach with a bon-fire. The resort does offer treks, bird watching or a boat ride into the sea to spot dolphins. We chose the boat ride, to go into the sea but unfortunately didn't see any dolphins. Seeing how tourism has been hit, post covid, we have been choosing stay options which are Govt. run to help support the local community - Devbagh is one of them, managed and supporting the fishermen community nearby.
Majali and Tilmati Beach - After spending a day chilling, doing absolutely nothing other than appreciating nature, we checked out and headed towards our next stay destination of Byndoor, a 4hr drive away. You can do a complete road trip from the north to the south of coastal Karnataka and be awed by each and every beach. We chose a few, the ones we haven't visited before.
Getting off the boat from Devbagh at the Karwar jetty, we drove towards the Goa border to check out Majali beach which shares its border with Goa. This is a small beach which has a rock formation which you can climb to reach the black sand beach of Tilmati. Tilmati can alternately be reached from the Goa side as well.
Mirjan Fort - Post this quick pitstop we headed back towards the south of the coastline as we climbed the mountain towards Gokarna. If you are visiting here for the first time, would recommend a stop over at the famous beaches of Gokarna, Kumta, and the rock formations of Yana. You can stay at any of the beach resorts at Gokarna too. We had visited Gokarna many years ago and hence chose to skip it; but decided to visit the Mirjan Fort which was en-route. The Mirjan Fort was built by Rani Chennabhairadevi in the 16th century and was a major hub for spice trade. In fact she was known as the Pepper Queen. The sprawling fort is beautiful and offers a great view of the entire green forest cover. The view would be much better in monsoons, given the lush greenery which grows on and around the fort. We spent some time exploring the fort and I went crazy , like a child running around the open spaces.
Honnavar & Byndoor - as we drove towards our resort, we started getting hungry and decided to stop near the Honnavar backwaters at the Green Park River view restaurant which was located at a point where the Sharavati river flows into the sea. After a quick lunch we continued our drive towards Byndoor. Enroute, there were a few other places you could cover - Apsarakonda waterfalls, Shiva statue at Murudeshwar, Bhatkal beach and lighthouse etc. We reached Byndoor around mid-afternoon at the Sai Vishram resort. Run by SaiBaba devotees, this resort offers multiple options for stay - a luxury tent right at the beach or cottages which are a bit higher up. We chose the tent since we wanted to access the beach easily. The stay was amazing - great amenities, delicious and healthy food and staying in a tent where luxury meets rustic.. feels exactly like camping!
Day 3 was dedicated to beach hopping! We decided to simply drive down from Byndoor to Udupi and hit as many beaches as we could! Post breakfast we started off toward our first beach:
Marvante Beach - this is the highlight.. Hands down! The highway leading to this beach has the Arabian Sea on one side and the backwaters of the Sharavati River on the other side. It is just Awesome; So picturesque! Marvante beach is also starkly different from other beaches with black stones which you can walk across to view the sea.
Trasi Beach - a beautiful beach near Marvante beach, lined with coconut trees and benches, giving you some time to pause and reflect while watching the sea waves crash against the boulders.
Kodi Beach - by now you would realise most of the beaches have backwaters since multiple rivers run across this region. We spent some time driving though the coconut tree lined roads to Kodi beach and walking across the sea-walk unto the sea. You can also check out the tall Kodi beach lighthouse towering against the sky.
Kundapur - we drove a bit inland to see the backwaters at Kundapur. We just couldn't get enough of the picturesque views of the tall coconut trees lines up against the river banks. Indeed a treat to the eyes!
We then headed to Udupi for lunch. Bharath (The Husband) loves his fish and his main agenda was to head to Thimmappa for their fish meals. Being the vegetarian, I got some lunch nearby and we then headed out to explore Udupi's backwaters.
Udupi backwaters & Kemmanu Hanging Bridge - Udupi, apart from being a temple town, has two other attractions. One of them is the backwaters. The road to the backwaters is quite narrow and completely lined with thick coconut groves and provides an incredible experience just driving through them. You will notice at most of the backwaters, the banks on either side are connected by a number of Hanging Bridges. These bridges are the lifeline of this area, providing a mode of transport to goods and people on either side of the river - Some of them so strong that they can withstand bike movements too. We decided to visit the main one which is the Kemmanu hanging bridge. The river is also a place for kayaking and you will see the horizon dotted with Kayaks. If you would like to Kayak, there is a adventure sports place right at the base of the bridge. Even if you don't kayak, this is a lovely spot to enjoy the stillness and calmness that nature offers and take in its serene beauty.
Malpe Beach - The second attraction in Udupi is the Malpe beach. As you drive towards Malpe, stop to catch a glimpse of a huge dockyard and number of fishing boats docked at the bay. Malpe is an important port and fishing harbour for Karnataka and you will see this at the place. You can park your car and then walk towards the sea on the sea-walk or just sit on one of the benches to enjoy the wind, the view and the sunset. You can also catch a boat from here to St. Mary's island.
Thus commenced our return journey to Bangalore. This was a 8-9hr drive and we headed out post breakfast. The thing I love about road trips is that you can plan pitstops and one of them was the drive through Agumbe(which luckily falls en-route). Agumbe apart from being extremely picturesque and offering some great treks and views, is also the place where the popular '90s show Malgudi Days was shot. The small town was turned into a set for one of the most famous TV series of the 90s. As you drive across, do stop by to admire the Dodda Mane where a large portion of the show was filmed.
Post reliving some memories, we headed back towards Bangalore with a quick stop for lunch and tea.
Covid has somewhere forced us to re-look at many of the places we had visited through our growing up years - but with a new found interest and perspective. With it forcing us to take smaller trips and closer home, here's to re-discovering our India and all that she has to offer!
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