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A Travel Blog from India: January 2011

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Karavali Vistas- Part 1 - Karwar, Gokarna, Murudeshwar

The first time i ever saw the sea was when i was ten years when my dad and i went to Madras for an international exhibition. There was chance to visit the ship and I was in awe as we entered it. Playing in the sands of Marina is the earliest memories of sea and sand.  After that i always loved the sea. It became apparent when i was posted in Goa during my Armed forces tenure for a year. Posting in Goa was god sent and weekends were spent on beaches with a beer! What else can one expect do in Goa of all places on the earth!!!

Devbagh beach from a distance
Thus, it was not a bad idea when we decided to do a road trip in our good and reliable Indica sometime in 2002 covering the entire stretch of West Coast - known as Karavali in Kannada - in Karnataka and Bekal. What a memorable trip it was!

The coast of Karnataka is less explored than its neighbours – Kerala (especially south Kerala) and Goa. It is good that way as the beaches are not spoilt and overcrowded.

Our journey started with the gem of Arabian Sea - Karwar. The drive to Karwar was via Shivamogga - Jog falls - Honnavar. We had booked our stay in Devbagh beach resort, one of the loveliest island resorts in this country. Run by Jungle Lodges, this is a small piece of land jetting into the sea. There is no road to this place and have to reach by a motor boat from a jetty across Kali Bridge in Karwar.
Sun Rising over Kali Bridge
A quick boat ride - 15 minutes - brings you to this pristine resort with ten log huts. The beach is unspoiled, sunsets and sun rises are awesome and to top it all, the place is so quiet that you would love to be there forever! To Get up early and go for a sun rise jog is a meditative experience. Ditto when you sit on the beach to watch the sun set in the horizon between two hillock - islands. 
Sun setting between the small hillocks in the sea
We also did boat rides to Oyster Rock to see British built light house. After Two days in Devbagh, we were on our way to Murudeswar.
On the way, we visited the famed temple at Gokarna and the OM Beach. The temple in Gokarna is regarded as one of Jyotirlingas in Hindu tradition. The temple is not great architecturally though. OM beach was another beauty waiting to be explored – which it is now. Silver sands and safe coast in winters makes this a good destination for beach holiday.
Magnificent Shiva Statue with sea as backdrop!
The drive from Gokarna to Murudeswar was smooth. We entered the tall welcome arch, and drove straight to RNS Lodge, the only accommodation apart from Naveen beach resort which was full. In a way it was a boon in disguise as the lodge is located on a cliff overlooking the sea. At night we could not fathom it. When we got up in the morning and looked out of our window, we were thrilled. A quick breakfast and we were off to Visit the tallest Shiva statue in the world. The setting is fantastic. The idol of Shiva in penance with sea as a backdrop is just out of the ordinary.  

When you drive in NH 17, you will love the scenic beauty of azure sea on the one side and rolling hills on the other. As you drive along, you will see numerous rivers with coconut trees on the fringe almost touching the water. A lone fisherman will be rowing away in the placid waters of these rivers. Any bridge on this highway is a treat as you can stop and fill in the beauty of the nature.

Mravanthe stretch - Sea on left & river on right
But nothing can beat a small stretch of two KMs when you near Maravanthe. Sea and untouched beach on one side, Swarnamukhi River on the other with hills as a backdrop! What a place! Stopping over for a sometime to wet our legs in the beach and collect shells, we drove to Turtle Bay resort for a beer. The setting was fantastic and beer was chilled. I felt the resort not great though and definitely not value for money. It touts beach eco tourism and looks quite basic. But what you get is unspoilt sands.

We had lunch in Kundapur. Being veggies, couldn’t go to the famed Shetty Lunch Home which is famous for Ghee Roast Chicken and Kane (A variety of Fish) Fry. They are supposed to be out of the world. As we reached the temple town of Udupi, it was around 4 PM.......... 

Reaching there

a) You can either start your your exploration of Karnataka coast from either Mangalore or Karwar.
b) If starting from Karwar as we did
     By Bus - There are overnight buses from Bangalore to Karwar both by KSRTC and Private operators
     By Car - You can reach Karwar by any of these two routes
           a) Bangalore - Shivamogga - Jog Falls - Honnavar - Karwar. Distance 520 KMs. Very good road till Jog Falls and
               decent road beyond. Check road conditions before start.
            b) Bangalore - Hubli - Yellapur - Karwar. Distance - 521 KMs Excellent roads. Check road condition between Hubli - Karwar
My recommendation is Option (a) which will help you see Jog falls and beautiful Sharavathi Valley on the way.
     By Train - Not advisable as there is no direct trains to Karwar from Bangalore
c) If starting from Mangalore
     By Bus - There are overnight buses from Bangalore to Mangalore both by KSRTC and Private operators
     By Car - You can reach Mangalore on this route
           a) Bangalore - Hassan - Sakleshpur - Mangalore. Distance Very good road except for a stretch of 20 KMs in Shiradi
                Ghat which is not good. Check road conditions before start.
     By Train - There is direct trains to Mangalore from Bangalore


Karwar - Number of resorts have opened in Karwar in recent times. Though expensive, Devbagh beach resort is the best.
Gokarna - Many choices including home stays available now
Murudeswar - RNS lodge or Naveen beach resort provide decent accommodation

Travel Tips

a) Best season to explore the coast is November till February. It is hot from March to May and monsoons are heavy during June - September. Start early so that you can spend time to see Jog falls as well as Sharavathi valley. Stop over at a watch tower to see Sharavathi river taking a bend. Check the picture in this link http://www.flickr.com/photos/aithals/2477857666/

b) If you are planning to reach Karwar or mangalore by bus or Train, it is recommended that you hire a cab to tour the different places on the coast. though the bus services in coastal Karnataka is very good, this will help save time.

c) When you are driving on NH 17 between Karwar and mangalore, stop over to savour beautiful sights. The beautiful drive between Karwar and Ankola is now marred by the wall constructed by Navy. Nevertheless stop over and view the see from a height.

d) Gokarna may be crowded during festival season. You will also be troubled by priests who will try to influence you to do special pujas etc. avoid them.

e) One can definitely spend a day in Gokarna itself and enjoy Om beach. Hippies who used to crowd Goa, have moved now to Gokarna!

f) Do the trip leisurely and savour the sun rises, sun sets, rivers etc.......

g) If you are sea food or Chicken lover, don't forget to visit Shetty Lunch home in Kundapur.

h) If you are interested in snorkeling, scuba diving etc Devbagh beach resort and turtle bay beach resort organises it.

i) If interested one can take detour from NH 17 to go to Kollur and Idagunji to see famous temples of Mookambika and Ganesha

Some good web links which are helpful.

a) Wiki entries on Karwar, Gokarna and Murudeswar provide good information


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