Plan B; B for Beach

Thanks, that was very gracious of you (see previous post). I'm about a month late in blogging this trip of ours to anticlimactic forests and cute lovely beaches. The delay can well be attributed to any of starting trouble, writer's block, holiday hangover or work pressure, but let me play the honest guy and admit I was lazy.

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Oct 13, 2005: We had only called up Dandeli Forest Dept. the day before, and couldn't book tents in the Kulgi Nature Camp - we were just asked to come to the camp, where two tents were expected to be vacant.But, lo, you guessed right, they were not. We were politely shown the door, or gate, whatever (intriguingly, there's a cut-out of a bison by this gate) ("Rooms, no. Only dormitory."). We anyway didn't fancy the idea of staying in a "nature camp" just 1km from civilization, from where there was a rain-induced moratorium on treks ("No permit") and the watchmen very skeptical of jungle safaris ("If you're lucky, you can see.."). We also considered Jungle Lodges, but they were really expensive, and they seemed to prefer hikes (though they called them treks) to treks anyway. We rang up a trek organizer, one Manjunath Rathode (our eventual trip-nemesis) who wasn't available, went back to Dandeli, and checked in at State Lodge, just opposite the bus stand, with whom we got a safari arranged for the evening.

"We", btw, is Shanthi, her man Jomy, and Binu and myself. We all work for the same company, and all but Jomy in the same team, in a broad sense of the word. Binu was the new entrant for trekking, but he was too scared, of the emptiness of the long holiday, not to join us.

gokarna 10-2005 007At four that evening, we were weirdly greeted with an Ambassador for the safari - apparently, we were to be driven to the nature camp to get permits, and then board a jeep further down. We had just drove past Kulgi after getting the permits, when the driver got a call from his boss saying the road ahead was blocked. After much haggling with the boss (who turned out to be the Manjunath chap) over phone, we decided to forgo the Rs.200 we had paid for the petrol. Binu never got his tongue around the place in the whole showdown, and his phone fight was like: "We came to see the safari, not Kujla... Yes, but it takes 8 bucks from Kalaja to Dandeli, and we've already... This is ridiculous, to just get to (what the beep is this place called, da) Kajoli, you can't...". (Once back in Bangalore, he did put in some dedicated effort, and has now mastered the art of saying "Kulgi".)

The evening was well spent with pointless philosophical discussions on life, the universe and lovelives of individuals, some of which (the conversations, I mean) trickled on to our dinner table at the nearby restaurant. The day was perfectly concluded by an inebriated gentleman (all restaurants in Dandeli are "bar-cum"-prefixed), who took a dislike to our conversing in English, which he couldnot follow well apparently, and politely suggested we use Hindi instead. He probably wasn't a purist, since he didn't object much to my thoughtless "Tik hai. No problem.". Anyway, we didn't linger long to observe his reactions.

Oct 14, 2005: We boarded the first bus to Karwar at 7:00 the next morning. We hadn't researched on Karwar, but knew it was somewhere closeby, and that it has good beaches. After 3 hours in the tightly packed bus, and a brunch at Karwar, we decided to proceed immediately to Gokarna (I'd been to Om beach earlier, and that's the best beach I'd ever been to (note the past tense), and so I told my co-wayfarers).

At Gokarna, we were unsure whether we'll get to stay in Om beach itself, or we'll have to stay put in Gokarna. Binu and I set out to go to Om and find out. The first autowallah we asked to get to Om never got over our refusal of his one-way ride offer for 150 bucks - he almost followed us everywhere that day, telling everyone we talked to, how unfair our dealings were and how his miraculous machine was the only thing that could ever get us to Om. Anyway, fortunately, we stumbled onto this chap called Felix (our eventual trip-saviour) who gives away bikes on rent, and he offered to get us to Om and back on auto (driven by his friend, Rs. 200) while he arranged our bikes, so we can check out Om beach for lodging and also see how bad the road to Om was. It was bad - I had about 60% confidence of riding a geared bike through that final 100 metres of slush (I had started on geared bikes about 2 weeks earlier). gokarna 10-2005 082 No rooms in Namaste Hotel, Om beach (I had this feeling that they didn't want to rent it to Indians). No rooms in the other shack too. Beautiful beach, though, complete with one blond guy practicing juggling with clubs. We went back, checked in at Hotel Gokarna International, Gokarna, and took the bikes that Felix had to offer us on hire: a Yamaha and a Kinetic Honda (Rs.500 for both). We decided to pay Om a courtesy call right away, even though it was a bit too late in the evening for the slimy mountain road ahead.

gokarna 10-2005 015Our first stop was intended for some by-the-road photography, but the Yamaha wanted a longer pitstop. After multiple deft, but futile, kicks by Jomy, we called up Felix, who offered to come right away and see what was wrong, the noble chap. But after shaking the bike at 30-degrees to ground on reserve, it spurred to life, and we asked Felix to stay put. Alas, the Yamaha didn't quite want to stick to this rule, and Jomy had to improvise creatively - adding a jolt here and a slant there, on future unforced engine halts. Later, that night, the Yamaha's owner disrecommended the Monte-Carlo-incline-and-jolt method and suggested we blow into the tank to rescuscitate the engine from then on, though Jomy continued to prefer the former.

gokarna 10-2005 017Having spent quite sometime in a twilight photo shoot at the top of the hill facing the sea, it was dark when we parked our bikes on top of the cliff. We found our way down in the moonlight, but after barely ten minutes in the deserted beach, we dragged ourselves back - we couldn't sure if the bikes were safe.

Once we were back in Gokarna, the other three badly wanted to have fish, and we settled down in the beach at the second shop from the sea (run by one Vijay, if I'm right) - apparently the only place by the beach that served fish. While we were waiting, it started to rain, and we got into the shop. But it wasn't just a shop - it was their home. There was the bed, with a plastic sheet suspended below the leaking thatched roof, like a circus net, that the son (about twelve yrs old) drained periodically into a vessel. There were framed Hindu gods hanging on one wall. And the kitchen nearby, where our order was being prepared. The items of our order, we noticed, also became their dinner.

gokarna 10-2005 051Oct 15, 2005: We were up very early the next day, the last day of the trip, hoping to maximise our beach time and were munching on our toasts hungrily at 7:30am in Namaste at Om beach. The costume of the fellas from afar needs special mention, and I don't mean the bikinis. A lot were dressed in those dull-saffron cotton dhotis. One even had a garland on. The phoren crowd definitely seemed mixed - there are families, with reluctant kids being dragged by the parents into the water; couples furiously keeping journals in short-size school notebooks; single ladies solemnly reading at their breakfast table; gangs smoking away God-knows-what. But somehow, nothing really looks out of place.

gokarna 10-2005 109After a brief visit to the rocky hillock that forms the center wedge of the Om, we proceeded on, to the Paradise beach we had been told about in the hotel. After an enjoyable little hike of about half-an-hour over the hill at the south end of Om (not recommended for non-trekkers), we were at Half-moon beach (though we thought that was Paradise beach then), a cute little beach cradled with palm-fringed hills all around. Since it's accessible only by foot or by boat, there was not a soul there, but for the old lady offering to sell us bottled water and the old man working on a small paddy patch we set sight on as we descended onto the beach. The water was refreshing, but we didn't risk venturing very deep - the shore fell off much earlier than in Om, and there was not a soul, remember. After cycles of getting wet, sun bathing and climbing rocks, we decided, not unreluctantly, to turn back at about 2:00. We had to go to Kumta to catch our bus back to Bangalore - we couldn't book from Gokarna, so we had to get there asap.

gokarna 10-2005 074 One little thing was the test of sacrifice that Jomy passed without a whimper - Shanthi's flimsy footwear of the fashionable kind snapped in Half-moon, and she was asking around for a spare among the limited 'floating' population of the beach (ie. us three). I surreptitiously suggested that she take Jomy's, with the side-effect that Jomy had a slightly less comfortable way back than the rest of us.

The quick retreat from Half-moon does leave me asking for more. And we never got to Paradise. Unlike textbooks and papers, I'd rather not leave that as an excercise for the reader.

More photos of this trip

Bangalore - Dandeli: Rajahamsa Bus: 8:30pm at Bangalore
Kulgi Nature Camp, Kulgi. [Disrecommended]
  • About 8kms from Dandeli - take a jeep/tempo/bus from Dandeli bus stand going to Ambika Nagar, get down at Kulgi circle, turn right, walk about 1km
  • Acco: Rs. 200/- per tent for two
  • Safari: Rs. 800/- per jeep, Rs. 200/- for guide, Rs. 20/- per head for permit.
  • Contact: Deputy Conservator of Forests, Dandeli. 08284-31585

Jungle Lodges and Resorts, Dandeli. 08284-30266
  • Rs. 1700/- per head for 24hrs for twin-sharing acco, food, hike and a coracle ride.
  • +Rs. 250/- per head for a half-day trek

State Lodge, Opp. the bus stand, Dandeli.
  • Rs. 230/- (?) per double room.

Dandeli - Karwar (3 hrs): Karnataka state transport buses: 7:00, 8:30, 9:00 am at Dandeli
Karwar - Angola (? hrs): intermittent buses
Angola - Gokarna (1 hrs): hazaar buses/tempos
Hotel Gokarna International, Gokarna. [Recommended]
Namaste Hotel, Om beach. 100/- per head (or was it 150?)
Bike rental: Felix, +919448321675 [Recommended]
Petrol: The motorbike workshop on the way from Hotel Gokarna to the bus stand sells petrol
Gokarna - Kumta (~20 kms): intermittent buses/tempos. we unnecessarily took an auto (Rs. 200?)
Kumta - Bangalore: Rajahamsa bus: 7:30 at Kumta, later non-Rajahamsa buses available

Updated 21/May/2008 to add map widget from


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