April 27, 2011

Karavali Darshana: Destination Uttara Kannada

It was quite some time since we had a "babu" trip, where we travel most of the journey in luxury and dont raise much of an effort as compared to our biking or trekking getaways. With the onset of the summer, we let go the previous 2 options and decided to do much of the travelling in buses with push back seats and local taxis, an absolute luxury when compared with our norms. The North Canara district was on our radar since a long time and we finally decided to head to this place thanks to the long weekend (22-24 April 2011) due to Good Friday. The total headcount this time was a whooping 8 :P (Loki, PPR, Shashi, Sai, Umesh, Sravan, Manju and Myself). We were supposed to catch the 10.45 pm bus to Dandeli from Blore and Majestic Bus stand was in an absolute chaos and messy state, thanks to long weekend, heavy rain and ongoing metro work. Somehow our bus arrived and we left Blore at around 11.30 pm.

Day 1 (22/04/2011): Dandeli 

Kali River
Landed in the Dandeli town after a tiring 11 hr road journey. Had advance booked 2 rooms in the State Lodge just opposite the bus stand. But when we landed there, the manager was saying he didnt have any rooms even though he could clearly see the booking done with my name. But keeping the booking as a leverage and after much haggling from our side we managed to get 2 rooms out of thin air .. voila.. the art of negotiation :D. And we succeeded with this art in not one instance but twice within the 3 day period. From the hotel manager we got contact of the adventure tour operator, which being the main reason why we landed in this town the first place.

Contacted the adventure guy and selected a 1k package comprising of river kayaking, coracle ride, jacuzzi bath and river crossing and sadly no rappelling which we were looking forward the most, bcoz of some migratory bird having laid its eggs in the rappelling spot. Having our breakfast at nearby dingy Hotel Santosh (people who serach for neat and clean eateries will surely die of hunger :D) and proceed to our water activity destination which was the Bison Resort in Ganeshgudi. Also enroute the gigantic man made structure which was Supa Dam captured our rapt attention for the time it was visible. 

Jacuzzi Point
After landing in the resort we were taken directly to the kayaking point on the river Kali. Having already been familiarized with this sport there was less excitement , but the fun part was when we were paddling across obstacle courses, squeezing our kayaks across waterlogged tree trunks, gaps amid boulders and so on and the fact that we were amidst very dense jungle was quiet calming. After kayaking which lasted for an hour or so we were taken on a coracle ride which was quite boring and from here taken to the natural jacuzzi point. At this jacuzzi point the rapids were quite strong and we were made to sit amid boulders completely immersing the body which gave a gentle full body massage, so much so that I was feeling totally drowsy after this :D. 

Rappelling Point: Check Out The Black Speck

"Stone" Berg
The only activity remaining was river crossing which the resort people canceled it terming it no fun unless the dam upstream releases water. So after poking around we found that rappelling was available at a different location and we agreed to take it up, but we had a problem , all of us were wearing slippers instead of shoes since we hadnt anticipated rappelling to present itself out of nowhere. Anyway not to loose this opportunity we went along and after a 20 min jeep ride we landed at our rappelling spot which was nearly 100 ft drop and this scene literally freezed my senses.After a brief intro the first person was let go and he climbed down effortlessly and then 2nd person attempted and this person totally screwed up our confidence with lot of banging along the stone walls and bleeding legs. 

Me In Action: Top View

Bottom View :D
Soon my turn came and apart from the initial scare of leaning back towards the drop and hopeless grip provided by the beach slippers the climb down went pretty smooth and soon got a hang of it. The entire thing took around 1.5 hrs for all 8 of us and by this time we were actually contemplating whether to stay put in Dandeli or move towards Sirsi for the night. Landed at the bus stand to inquire and got the info that the last bus had left some time ago (6pm is the last bus) and the first bus in the morning was at 7.30 am. So we decided to stay in Dandeli town for the night. Our adventure package also included a tour of crocodile park , but majority of us were tired and we decided to ditch the plan.

Day 2 (23/04/2011): Dandeli->Sirsi->Yana->Viboothi Falls->Gokarna

Got up pretty early in order to catch the 7.30 am bus to Sirsi (final destination being Dharmastala) and within no time we were warming the last 2 rows of the bus, not out of choice but the front seats were totally occupied by fellow passengers, and they had a very good reason for their selection. The bus driver and the gas pedal were inseparable like lovestruck couple and this resulted in people in the last rows being thrown in the air like ping-pong balls. But apart from the rash driving the views in the densely forested area between Dandeli and Yellapur is really captivating, and is totally unique in terms of types of trees found here when compared with other regions of Southern India. 

After Yellapur the road condition improves a lot and we landed in Sirsi, taking a good 3 hrs to reach this place. We went to a nearby eatery to have our breakfast and from here itself booked a local taxi for 2 days to explore the surroundings. After much bargaining the owner agreed to charge 5k for a 12 seater Trax Cruiser.  The taxi arrived at 12 noon and we moved towards our first destination for the day , Yaana. The road conditions between Sirsi and Yaana were pretty decent and we landed at the parking lot of the Yaana caves within 1 hr of leaving Sirsi. From the parking lot the the majestic rocks were just a 10 min walk and within no time we start to get the glimpse of the huge rock formations, which doesnt even remotely tries to blend in with its forest surroundings and totally stands out, not as a sore thumb , but as a beautiful stage performer under a spotlight. 

A beautiful rock formation formed due to volcanic activity and unlike anything I have seen before. There are 2 such big rocks formation, first is Bhairaveshwara Shikhara the biggest one and the other being Mohini Shikhara representing Shiva and Parvathi respectively. Near the foothills of the 100 foot Bhairaveshwara Shikhara is a temple dedicated to the Lord and after the darshan we went to explore the huge caves behind it and it may sound cliched but these caves were really breathtaking. Huge high ceiling caves illuminated naturally by rock openings of different shapes and sizes. An absolute delight for photographers. We took more than one hour to explore the 200 m distance of this huge cave, a see it to believe it wonder. 

Hogwarts Castle

"Tin" Man :)

From here we moved to Mohini Shikhara but Ppr and Shashi got into "Who Gets There First?" running spree and ended up overshooting the destination by around 3 kms :P. This resulted in a search party to be sent to (me and loki) find and bring back the lost sheep :D.  From here we moved to our next stop which was Viboothi Falls. After Yaana the roads deteriorates rapidly and you start wondering whether we are in a so called state highway. After taking a diversion we came to the parking lot of Vibhooti falls and from here the falls is a good 2 km walk. An important point to be remembered when sight seeing in these regions are that no place can be accessed directly via road, there will be some amount of walk required and in some cases pretty steep climbs. 

Viboothi Falls
After a 15 min walk we landed at the Viboothi falls which was totally deserted except us and this was a very cozy place, with minimum signs of human activity. The water was clear and some people were lucky enough to attract fishes in the falls and and get a hand/foot nibbled while others were downright unattractive to them. After spending some time we returned back and the state of the highway towards Gokarna improves and we reach the coastline at around 6 pm and we went directly went to the Om Beach where we had booked beach shack for the night at Om Shree Ganesh Cafe after the more popular Namaste Cafe was totally booked. But surprisingly enough the person in charge at the Ganesh Cafe downright refused that he had taken any bookings and that they were completely booked, but what really pissed us all was the arrogant manner in which the manager responded. Anyway we were made to wait for the owner to arrive and 2 of us went in search of alternatives and found a friendly beach shack manager at Jungle Cafe who agreed to rent a couple of beach shacks.  But as soon  we returned back with the good news the Ganesh Cafe owner was offering 3 shacks which came out of nowhere, but we refused his offer and moved towards Jungle Cafe which was much cheaper (200/hut), more cozy and better than the former. 

Om Beach

After settling down we decided to go for a walk along the beach and by this time the beach was totally dark apart from the few shacks/hotels which illuminate the beach at irregular intervals. Had dinner at Dolphin Dive Cafe which was pretty good and this place was brimming with westerners. At one point one middle aged white male came to our table and started cleaning our table and this totally stumped us, one question in everyone's mind was "Was this Guy High????" and the fact that Om beach is a popular hangout for hippies and their freeflowing narcotics reinforced our conclusion that this guy was really high. But again and again this guy came to clean the tables and the ones surrounding us somehow convinced us that this guy really worked here. I guess he was trying to be totally self sufficient at this new place and cleaning tables was the first job that was offered to him. Also whenever he approached our table there was 2 phrases which he repeated again and again which was "How U Doing?" and "Teek Hai?" and we would reply in affirmative. 

Our Beach Shack
After the dinner we hanged out on the totally deserted and pitch dark beach only to be disturbed now and then by nervous barking dogs. We stayed by the peaceful beach absorbing the soothing darkness till around half an hour to midnight and then went back to our shacks to have a not so peaceful sleep, 3 days in running. 

Day 3 (24/04/2011): Gokarna -> Unchalli Falls -> Sirsi -> Banavasi -> Sirsi

Om Shape Of Om Beach
We were up again early in the morning all set to do the mini trek from Om Beach to Paradise Beach a distance of about 5 kms along the mountainous and rocky coastline. Started the trek at around 7.30 in the morning and started moving towards the southern direction parallel to the coastline. As soon as the Om Beach ends there is a steep climb to the cliffs and this continues all the way to Half Moon Beach, a small deserted beach. Up till the Half moon beach the path is pretty easy and when we move further the path becomes more tougher with huge boulders dotting the path and fact that they were quite slippery made our progress a bit of an effort. Also the humidity was pretty high, drenching us in no time. Finally after trekking for nearly 1.5 hrs we reached the small beach surrounded by mountains on all the 3 sides giving that isolated feeling, called the Paradise beach. Even then there were a couple of shacks/hotels which was operating from here in order to connect with the material world.  

Om Beach To Paradise Beach Trek
 From Paradise beach we decided to take a boat taxi back to Om Beach. A lot of tourists hire these boats for a 2 way travel from Om Beach to Paradise beach and we decided to hitch a ride back with half the cost or so we thought. While returning back the boats-man decided to do some dolphin hunting. Initially we were able to sight just a lone dolphin and our boat was just stalking this single creature. But soon it was joined by a huge group of other dolphins and we started to witness lot of dolphin dives , which was too good but too random to capture in our cameras.  

Half Moon Beach
Reached back to Om beach and by this time it was buzzing with activity. Lot of western girls sunbathing in bikinis and what more could you ask for :). Majority of them had a flawless figure, and we wonder whether it is in their genes??.  But one thing I observed that Indians are not used to seeing such sights and start downright staring at them. Agreed being a man its hard not stare at such beautiful forms, but to stare at them with unblinking eyes and bang in front of them is downright creepy. We spent a hour or so playing in the beach and returned back to have a open air shower in our shack under a canopy of trees. Thouroughly enjoyed the shower part too :P.

Finally Paradise Beach
 Got ready and by 1 pm we were ready to leave behind the beach and move towards the Gokarna Temple. One general impression I got from Om beach is that its exclusively for westerners where Indians are treated as second class citizens, and by our own country men. Off course westerners bring in dollars , but the attitude the shack/hotel owners have towards Indians is totally unacceptable. Reached the Gokarna Main temple and had darshan after waiting for nearly 20 mins in highly humid environment, and the first thing I noticed was the boards saying "Foreigners Not Allowed", feeling like first class citizen again :D.

Unchalli Falls
Our next destination was the Unchalli falls and after a drive of nearly an hour or so we landed up in near the entrance of the falls. Walking some 500 m we get to the view point of the falls and all of us were surprised at the sight. It was much much more than what we had expected. Water falling from 381 ft is not something which can be termed as common. There was a path which seemed like going all the way to the foot of the falls , but since we were tight on schedule we decided to moved on.

Reached Sirsi and went to the nearly 350 year old Marikamba Temple and the first thing that strikes you is the architecture of the place. There was a great deal of islamic architectural influence in this temple with lot of arches and domes. This resembled more of a mosque than a temple. Also the silver doorway is pretty spectacular and not to be missed even though its highly unlikely any commoner would get a closer look. 

Marikamba Temple

From Sirsi we moved towards the ancient temple of Banavasi around 25 kms from the town. This 9th century temple was pretty spectacular and we spent some time exploring its surroundings and by now it was dark and time to return back to Sirsi to catch our 9 pm bus back to Blore. Had dinner at one of restaurants in Sirsi and went to catch the bus in the new bus stand which surprisingly was totally deserted, the main reason being it being in the outskirts of the town. Finally the bus came and  went to the old bus stand which was buzzing with activity. Got to know that all buses even if they start from New bus stand go to Old bus stand!!!!!... then y do they have the new bus stand in the first place :P.

Reached back to Blore at around 6.30 am the next morning , much earlier than expected , finally ending our first "babu" trip of the year. 

Trip Details :

Total Cost Per Person ------> 3.5 k (including everything)

State Lodge Contact ------> 08284-231 920, 234 920, 233 606

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