Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gokarna - Cliffs, Beaches and Mist

Close to 400 km of the drive from Bangalore to the Gokarna area is over fairly new, 4-lane, tolled highways. The last part of the drive, almost 150 km, is along a winding, narrow state highway that snakes by the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary nestled in the Western Ghats. Rains had recently drenched the area, a result of a low pressure trough that covered most of southern India. The ground was still wet from the rains, and the vegetation looked clean and fresh. 

Refuelling breaks were the excuse needed to walk around, stretch and admire the greenery.

The animals were having a remarkably lazy day. A cat peacefully slept under the shade of a roadside restaurant.

A cow nonchalantly sat in the middle of one of the lanes on the highway, indifferent to the traffic that was going by.

At Linger resort, we had not only the resort, but also the beach to ourselves. It was a long story of continued tranquility. Each trip from Linger to the outside world meant trekking on the beach, and over the narrow path leading to the neighbouring resort that was our parking slot. The dogs from Linger trotted along, escorting us on our way out. 

The paddies were amazingly lush green, the leaves gently swaying in unison in the breeze. 

The first sight of Gokarna is that of a long flight of steps leading to the rocks below. A good lookout point to survey the scene. For those from Chicago, an appropriate place to look west and wonder how far Chicago might be from Gokarna, probably a little way beyond curved horizon. 

Hmmm... so this is the famed Om Beach, said to resemble the Om symbol in the Devanagri script, if you look from way high. Or, it may even suffice if you feel way high.

Lots of rocks, pebbles and waves.

The highest spot on the road in the vicinity of Gokarna provided amazing views of the hillsides, clouds and sea. 

A perfect spot to slow down (if that was at all possible!) and relax a bit. 

Looking north, we could identify the Bhavikonda area a few kilometres away, and even beyond, the river that we had walked to.

The journey back to Bangalore began on a rainy note. A light, intermittent drizzle fell, making us want to set up an umbrella by the roadside and settle down for the morning. 

The mist made the atmosphere seem even more mysterious. 

The rain cleared up soon enough, and we went along our long drive home. For some others, it was a long walk back home.

Thank you for joining us on our journey to the Gokarna area. 

You may also be interested in this trip: Off to Bhavikodla with the Boys

Until next time, then! Safe travels!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Off to Bhavikodla with the Boys

Bhavikodla,where? Oh, ok. Oh, well. 

The opportunity to meet up with long lost colleagues and other friends we have made along the way is reason enough to look forward to a trip to the West coast of India, the home of several well known beaches, and probably as many not so well frequented ones. The South-West Monsoons pretty much peter out by September. However, we were hit by a giant low pressure trough that resulted in rains over several states. The comforting points were the cooler weather and lower sweat levels. 

As we approached the Karwar area, it was evident that chilling is the way to go, as this fully stretched cat demonstrated by a fuel station.

A cow had decided to cool off by the shade of a large tree. Hello cow, anybody home?

Rather oblivious to the traffic going by. What, me worry?

Linger is a unique property. Getting to Linger is not that simple. First, you needs to get close, via narrow, winding mud tracks that are broad enough to let one vehicle through most of the way. The resort next door allows guests to park, after which access to the resort is via narrow trails with overgrown vegetation that brush past you.  The staff from the resort wait for your arrival and help ferry your bags over to Linger, should you wish, like when you have a glass of cool drink in your hands. 

The narrow paths lined with vegetation lead to the beach. If you are lucky, you may even be treated to the sight of 'when you got to go, you got to go'.

A little stream flows across the beach. It is highly recommended that you get rid of shoes and roll up your long pants.

A grim reminder of the 'Circle of Life' along the way.

The President of the 'Committee of the Circle of Life' looks on impassively close by.

Are we done, yet? Nope. The walk continues.

Finally, it looks like we are somewhere near our destination. A clearing leads to a path lined with lights. 

Turns out that Linger is a bit of a distance away from the neighbouring resort where you need to park. The trail, beach and stream make the walk more interesting.

So, here we are. The first sight is the 'dining hut'. Our expectations about the food had been set impossibly high. I suspected that may have been the 'marketing' effort to get people to enlist for the trip.

There are five huts scattered among the trees and plants, all in a rather natural and non-manicured environment. The huts were mostly made of natural materials.  The inverted 'V' at the top of the ceiling was completely open to nature on the Eastern side. Only the West facing huts had plastic hanging down to keep the raging South West monsoon winds out.

Cloth screens hung along windows lined with wire mesh. We needed the fresh air. That's what we were there for, anyway. The nights got interesting for some of us. Creatures big and small came visiting through the gaps, to check whether we were lonely or not. The dogs politely stayed outside. A cat was not as considerate. And something further down the food chain. Finally, little critters. Calls came in from home, inquiring whether the resort was comfortable. Oh yes, absolutely, not just for humans, but for several species of nature, as well.

The toilets were classy, really. Flushing toilets, tiled floors, ceramic sink, Dettol soap, Head and Shoulders shampoo, bucket, mug, towels and a clothes line. Door with a hook, too. What else could you ask for? Ok, hot water maybe, which was actually available on demand, manually, in a bucket. Pass on that. Running hot water, maybe. In that case, you are recommended to stay home.

Two dogs lived in the resort. They quickly adopted us.

This is one of the 'before' pictures, we used to be colleagues in the late '80s and early '90s..

One of the promises made by our coordinator was food. At any time. Unlimited. Good quality. Time to test that promise. We arrived at about 3:30 PM, and lunch was ready.

Crumb fried Mackerel.

Chicken curry.

Potato et al.

Some more neat veggie stuff.

Yummy dal, left in an almost boiled state, with minimal salt and spices. Truly yummy for my taste buds. Some folks grumbled about the salt being low. I could actually discern the flavour of the dal.

Crisp papadams. The usual order per meal would end up being for about thirty.

The doctor had asked us not to miss this part of the meal.

After long and rather tiring meals, it used to be time to head to the beach. It was our beach.

Private beaches don't quite exist here, however, the Bhavikodla beach just north of Gokarna turned out to be just that. No visitors at all along the entire stretch of beach. Valid reason for the beach to be called OPB (Our-Private-Beach).

A brave, lonely fisherman was making valiant efforts to net some fish.

How about a round of fishing, guys? Yeah, let's see what's going on in there, and what's in the net. 

Quick negotiations started, I guess with good intentions so that the fisherman can sell his catch to us and would not need to go to the market.

Only a few, little fish, he said.

Chandru is not the sort to give up. He decides to try his hand at net fishing.

We left the fisherman that evening as he kept throwing his net, in the hope of getting a bite to eat and possibly sell a bit in the market.

Dinner used to under the trees and clouds. A few rain drops seem to have got the camera.

Post dinner beach-side gatherings were interesting and long.

Early morning sights were beautiful. Little rain drops would hang delicately at the tips of little branches.

The beach appeared to be quieter than at other times, but I suspect that an illusion. In reality, the beach was equally quiet all day. Cooler, perhaps, in the morning.

A very broad river met the sea a few kilometres north of the resort.

The confluence was rather turbulent, perhaps due to the stormy weather.

You can walk North and South from the resort. Going North leads to the river, a good pre-breakfast walk of over 5 km, just what the doctor ordered.

Breakfast at the resort was the common Bread and Omlette and the uncommon Neer Dosa and Chutney. Oh, I forgot about the Prawns earlier. They were all gone by the time I could get the camera out. Full marks for the food.

Going South brings you close to Gokarna along a fishing village. Water and cliffs stand in the way. Good enough for the pre-lunch walk. In case you have not noticed, we measure time in terms of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Time now for the AGM on the beach. On OPB, I mean.

Wonder whether there are any crabs in there?

An injured gull needed help. The bird had an injured wing, and the beach dogs were keeping a keen eye on it.  The circle of life.

Meal times and in-between meal times were good occasions to catch up about people, places and events.

The beach was also called the TYOCA Beach. That is, Take-Your-Own-Chair-Anywhere Beach.

And once you get to the point where you think you would be comfortable, all you need to do is push the chair into the sand, settle in, wiggle your backside a bit so that you settle in some more, and then sit back and relax, waiting for a lot of nothing to happen.

Evenings were a time for long walks, well escorted by the two dogs from the resort who had adopted us.

This is the 'during the trip' picture. Five of us had started our careers at Digital Equipment Corporation way back in the late '80s and the early '90s. Such pictures demand great skill. First, find something to support the camera. Ok, the upturned sandal should do. Dust the sand off, well, most of it. Place the camera in a reasonably horizontal and stable position. Is the framing acceptable? Meanwhile, the guys are getting impatient. Set the timer. Press the button. Run. Squat. Smile. Wait for the red light to reach a count of ten.

A time to reflect. The low tide uncovers a vast area of soft sand over which the gentle waves create tiny ripples.

As the sun goes down, it's time to head back, with the row of lights welcoming  us.

Power failures happen occasionally for short periods of time, no cause for concern. Time to bring out the candles and the emergency LED lamps.

Post dinner, it's time to crawl in (literally) to the top floor of the hut where standing room is available only in the centre portion. We did not get to spend too much time there, though. It would quickly become morning, and time to head out.

A typical view of quiet mornings. Each day seemed to merge into the next.

The food hut, where much time was spent. The tall claims about the food had been realistic, after all.

The overnight rain made the area look even greener and attractive.

Bathroom with a view of the fields and sea.

Finally, it was time to leave. It was drizzling lightly. Our walk on the beach and through the path would be interesting that morning.

We said bye to the crew of the resort, always smiling, happy to make our stay comfortable with the help of endless tea and coffee, dozens of neer dosas and omlettes, thirty papadams per meal, and constant requests for fish and prawn. Happy to take our lunch order during breakfast, tea order during lunch, dinner order during tea...

Well, we survived the long walks, several days doing nothing on the beach, occasional drizzles as well as endless rounds of food and drink. This is the 'after' picture, along with the newest member of the group that had happily adopted us during our stay at Linger.

You may be interested in more about the Gokarna area: Gokarna - Cliffs, Beaches and Mist

Name of the the property: Linger (

If you have reached so far, thank you for having joined us. We hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did.