An unplanned tour often turns out to be one of the most memorable trips of our life. Seated on a giant rock at the isolated Maravanthe beach just after dusk, I was aptly reminded of this cliché (often much-maligned) by my subconscious mind. How true it was! Even a day prior to this trip, I had no idea that we would be venturing out on a family trip to coastal Karnataka in less than 24 hours' time! In hindsight, would it have been as satisfying as it was, if it was a planned tour instead? I don't know, but hindsight can be a great thing to have, and not to have, at the same time. PROLOGUE: My mother has always been an avid traveller, while my dad is equally enthusiastic about travelling, if not more. So it hardly comes as a surprise that their son too would inherit similar traits. I had been to all major tourist destinations in Eastern and Northern India, even before I could complete my high school education - thanks to my parents strong penchant towards exploration which made us venture out for the unknown at-least once a year. My mother was having a tough time coping with the tag of 'emeritus' getting included prior to her name. After ending her 40+ years of professional service as a highly respected Mathematics Lecturer, it was inevitable though. To get over the niggling feeling of detachment, my parents decided to spend a few days with their granddaughter and landed in Bangalore last Friday (22-05-2015). I could not think of a better alternative than a family trip to turn my mother's dismayed mood in to her usual jovial elements. A tour to one of the scenic beaches in Southern India was an automatic choice, but finalizing one particular destination was the real challenge. Popular beach destinations like Kanyakumari, Trivundram or Pondicherry have already been explored. Moreover, I was on the lookout for an off-beat beach destination away from all the hustles and bustles of life. After spending an hour or so on Google Map and WikiTravel, finally I managed to identify couple of probable destinations - Maravanthe in Coastal Karnataka and Manjeshwar in Kerala. It was time to pack the backpacks and we set off on our journey the following morning. Although the initial plan was to cover only the duo (Marawanthe+Manjeshwar), we ended up exploring as many as six pristine but less popular beaches during this amazing tour. A NOTE: As this is going to be quite an overwhelming and lengthy travelogue, I plan to cover it in 4/5 parts. So kindly bear with me, as I pen down the second part to take you through this virtual tour. For the time being, you will have to quench your thirst with a few teaser photographs captured during the trip. FEW TEASERS: Stay tuned! Part-2 will go live shortly Regards, Deb Continued from Part-1: Who had invented the concept of alarms? More importantly, why the hell did he do so? Isn't it sheer cruelty to bring someone from the fantasy dreamland to the harsh reality in a matter of seconds? Okay, before you start to advise me to get off my high-horse, let's call off the argument to some other day. As the alarm went off right at 4 am, I started to anticipate the dreadful task of waking up my better half. It was definitely the most difficult part of any travel plan. If I had the choice, then I would have gladly agreed to take up the challenge of awakening Mr Kumbhakarna instead. Only if wishes were horses! To cut my misfortune short, let's now move on to the things that actually matter. Travel Start Date - 24-05-2015 at 5:15 AM Destination - Kundapura Trip Duration - 3 Days Planned Return Date - 27-05-2015 at 00:30 AM No of Travellers - 5 Traveller Details - Mom, Dad, Wife, Yet-Another-Mom (read daughter) and your's truly Our Ride - Maruti Alto 800 'Yet-Another-Mom' reminded me of a funny leg-pulling tactic that was very popular during my college days. Statuatory Warning: No offense intended to anyone alive or dead. Also I would request you to Kindly take it in the right spirit. Do you have any idea how does a South Indian person spell the word 'moon'? It's actually very simple - "Yam, Yo, Yet-another-yo, yen". Now please don't accuse me of hurling racial abuses, it was just a casual banter. Back to the travelogue, although the route to Kundapura via NH-48 through Hassan and Chikmangaluru is the shortest one, I planned to take the Mysore - Madikeri - Mangalore route. This route passes through Coorg's (Kodagu) beautiful ghat section - which is very close to my heart due to the fact that it was our honeymoon destination. So it was an opportunity to revive those memorable moments and I didn't want to let it slip out. Route Taken (via Bangalore-Mysore-Mangalore Highway, NH-17) [475 KM] - Bangalore - Mandya - Srirangapatna - Mysore - Hunsur - Madikeri - Puttur - Mangalore - Udupi - Kundapura Alternative Route (via NH-48) [424 KM] - Bangalore - Kunigal - Channarayapattana - Hassan - Chikkamangaluru - Agumbe - Kundapura Another Option (via NH-4 & SH-52) [460 KM] - Bangalore - Tumkur - Chitradurga - Shimoga - Nagara - Kundapura We started off right at 5:15 in the morning. As usual, we took the NICE Road to touch Bangalore-Mysore Highway near Kengeri in just about half-an-hour's time. Traffic was sparce at the early morning, so I was able to maintain a steady speed of 100-110 KM/Hr. We reached Srirangapatna at 7 am and continued further towards Mysore before turning right at the Ring Road junction. We continued to drive along the Ring Road for 18 KM till Elivala Junction before taking another right turn towards Mysore-Madikeri highway. We decided to take a break before Hunsur at around 8:30 AM for relieving ourselves, if not for anything else. Spoting a suitable place with decent food and clean toilet was a real pain however. This stretch from Mysore till Hunsur is in desperate need for a few of those Kamath's and Sharavana Bhavana's. Thankfully, we finally managed to locate a food joint named 'Rotala' with ample parking space, decent variety of food items, courteous staffs and most importantly, well maintained restrooms. My parents wanted to go for Masala Dosa, while my daughter's parents considered 'Chole Bhature' to be a better option. 'Yet-another-mom' in her desperate bid to be 'different', satisfied her appetite on a plate of Vada Pav. Ice Cream was unanimously voted as the most suitable dessert to combat against the raising level of Mercury. To sum up, the food items managed to please our taste buds with impressive degree of success. Our destination, Kundapura, was still at a distance of little over 300 kilometers. So without wasting any further time, we bid adieu to 'Rotala' and continued to move along at the pace of 100 KM/HR. As we approached the ghat section after Kushalnagar, I could spot a few droplets on the windscreen. It soon turned in to a drizzle. By the time we reached Suntikuppa, it started to pour heavily. My better half was concerned. However, born and brought-up in the hill-sorounded North-Eastern India, I was not bothered at all. To be frank, the prospect of negotiating blinding curves on a rain-soacked slippery road gave me a sudden adrenaline rush. Because of the heavy downpour, my initial plan for a stop over at Madikeri went for a toss. However, I badly wanted to feel the lazy monsoon charm that goes so well with hill stations. A hot cup of refreshing tea with a fag in the chilling breeze was a little too much of a temptation to resist. The rain had subdued to an extent. So I parked the car in front of a small tea stall and ordered 4 'cutting chai'. The descend had already began. We had another 200 kilometers to travel, which by my reckoning should have taken another 3 and half hours. Anticipating to reach our destination by 2:30 PM, I decided to drive non-stop till Kundapura. The narrower ghat section ended soon and I stepped on the gas pedal in a near-empty highway. In no time we crossed Sullia, Puttur and arrived at Mangalore. Road work was in progress on the Mangalore-Udupi stretch, which took us an hour and a half to reach Udupi town - famous for the picturesque Malpe beach, Sri Krishna Temple and its cuisines. The 40 odd kilometers between Udupi and Kundapura was not in a good condition. Road widening was going on and we had to take multiple diversions. Finally arrived at Kundapura town at 2:45 PM. We had booked a night's stay at Hotel Sharon in Kundapura. Checked in to our rooms, ordered for lunch and went for a shower. It was pretty hot, and humid too. Part-3 will go up soon. Stay tuned. Continued from Part-2: I must admit that stepping out of the air conditioned hotel room needed quite a lot of courage, especially in the afternoon. Air temparature was boiling hot as the 'Suraj Chachu' had decided to come down with all his prowess. Venturing out was out of question till the sun decided to call it a day. The nearest beach was Kodi beach - just about a couple of kilometers from Kundapura Main Road. But we decided to give it a miss for the time being and catch the sunset at the picturesque Maravanthe beach. When we finally arrived at the Maravanthe beach, it was well past 5:30 PM. It's located at a distance of 15 kilometers from the Hotel we were residing at. It was an affair of love at first sight. Outlook Travel rates it as the most beautiful beach in Karnataka not for nothing. One seldom comes across such a pristine beach. NH-66 from Udupi to Bhatkal runs along the beach. The other side of the highway is equally impressive with Souparnika River flowing down right beside. The entire beach was only our's, surprisingly devoid of any crowd. The set-up created a spectacular scenery. It was what I like to call as 'Serendipity'. It seems the almighty had actually designed the whole set up on a blank canvas first and then replicated it in the real world with utmost care. It's one of a kind in the world, or at the very least, in India. We found ourselves fully drenched in no time. The beach is conducive for taking a dip in the water because of its sandy shallow surface. It was a real pleasure to see my mom get all childlike and indulge in some fun with her granddaughter. Age is indeed just another number that nature can wipe out so easily. As my family members continued to enjoy every bit of the serenity all around, I brought out the camera to capture those moments in my lenses. The sun was about to retire for the day. As the fiery ball of light painted the water in flaming red color and sank beneath the horizon, I found myself absorbed in the nature's play with an unwavering gaze. The beams of light continued to linger on the sky to mingle with the rolling clouds. It was a sunset to remember forever. As darkness slowly started to take over the stage, we bid our final adeiu to this wonderful place. Maravanthe gave us a lot to cheer about. Up next, it's the turn of Kodi Beach in Kundapura and Malpe Beach in Udupi, which we explored in the following morning. Continued from Part-3: It was an exhausting day and we had an early dinner that night. The next destination was Udupi, but before that we were keen to catch a glimpse of Kodi beach at Kundapura. Our plan was to set off early in the following morning. So before retiring to bed, I walked down to the hotel reception with the intention of settling the dues. The hotel manager, however, informed me that he would be available right at 6 am and suggested me to settle the payment in the following morning. It was not the case, though. 'Manager sir hasn't reached yet' - was the response that I got from the reception in the morning. There was no sight of the manager even as the clock went past 6:30 AM mark. The hotel employees, too, were clueless and requested me to wait for some more time. I was irritated by this irresponsible act on the manager's part, but somehow managed to keep my temper at check. At that point, one of the security guards, who happens to be from my hometown' suggested me to visit the 'secret beach' at Ottinene, which according to him, is the most beautiful beach in the entire region. It was located at a distance of 30 odd kilometers from the hotel. Although our initial itinerary did not include this place, we decided to go for it. After all, there was no point in simply waiting for the hotel manager to arrive. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Ottinene (also pronounced as Vattinene) view point, located next to Someshwara Temple on an overhanging cliff, provided us a spectacular view of the Sumana river estuary merging on to the Arabian sea. The beach was inviting, but it required climbing down through a narrow rocky pathway to access the beach. So we had to be content with capturing a few mesmerizing photographs from the view point. Before returning to the hotel to settle the payments, we decided to visit the Kodi beach en-route. It is mainly used by the local fishermen community. Considering the close proximity from Kundapura town, the beach was surprisingly devoid of any tourist activities, thus making it an ideal place to spend some quiet time with your loved ones under the shades of coconut trees. As a bonus, you can also get to see some of the freshly caught fishes when the fishermen return after a night's hard work. We thoroughly enjoyed the solitude at Kodi beach. Especially, my father and his granddaughter had great fun playing with the sands. After spending around 45 minutes at this lovely village beach, it was finally the time to say goodbye. At around 11:30 AM, we reached back at the hotel to finish off the billing formalities. This time I was relieved to see that the hotel manager had finally arrived. We promptly settled the outstanding bill and vacated our rooms to end the first phase of our Coastal Karnataka tour. Our next destination was Udupi, which is just around an hour's drive from Kundapura. Continued From Part-4: If you are finding yourselves 'all at sea', quite literally, to keep track of this travelogue, then it's due to no fault of yours. I sincerely apologise for my inability to pull the reins on my words, but I will surely append a concluding section to make it a little easier for you to find all the key information at a single glance. Back to the travelogue now. We had booked in advance a night's accommodation at Hotel Sharada International in Udupi. The hotel is conveniently located right off Kundapur-Udupi highway. 'Sharada International Welcomes You To Udupi" - it's actually more difficult to miss the large sign-board than spotting it. After having an authentic 'Dakshina Kannada Thali' to satisfy our taste buds, we decided to go for a stroll on the Malpe Beach - at a distance of 4 KM from our hotel. The route is well marked with sign boards written in English. There is ample parking space available right at the entrance of the beach. The sea-shore was beaming with tourists - a welcome change compared to what the trend has been on this tour. Malpe's endless stretch of golden sandy beach offers an amazing view of the Arabian sea. To add to its charm, there are those swaying coconut trees and the refreshing breeze to rejuvenate yourself. It has all the ingredients to set the mood for an idyllic holiday. Malpe beach also gave me a chance to take my daughter for a camel ride. That was an all new experience for her and she enjoyed it thoroughly. After watching the magical sunset at Maravanthe beach on the previous day, I did expect to catch another of a similar kind at Malpe. The Almighty, however, had a different idea and decided to cover the blue sky with dark clouds all of a sudden. Pretty soon, twilight started to descend on the mother earth. Instead of ruing the missed opportunity, we diverted our attention to the road-side food vendors selling a variety of fried fish items. To be frank, the word 'fish' brings out an inexplicable feel-good sensation in Bengali souls - and I am no exception. We feasted on the freshly caught Bangda (Indian Mackerel), Surmai (Indo-Pacific king mackerel) and Malabar Trevally. Delicious would be an under-statement, if I am asked to describe the taste. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The final part of this travelogue will introduce you to two lesser-known beaches. We covered both these beaches on the last day of our trip. Alongside, I will also include a 'Tour Diary' covering all the important points that may help you in planning a similar tour in near future. Stay tuned for the last few glimpses. Regards, Deb And here's the detailed "Trip Log" to find all the relevant information at a glance - Tour Duration - 3 Days (24-05-2015 to 27-05-2015) Places Covered - Kundapura, Byndoor, Maravanthe, Udupi, Surathkal, Manjeshwar No of Travellers - 5 Traveller Details - Mom, Dad, Wife, Daughter and yours truly Our Ride - Maruti Alto 800 Onward Journey Start Time - 24-05-2015 at 5:15 AM Origin - Bangalore Destination - Kundapura Route - Bangalore > Mandya > Srirangapatna > Mysore > Hunsur > Madikeri > Puttur > Mangalore > Udupi > Kundapura Onward Journey End Time - 24-05-2015 at 2:45 PM Distance Covered - 475 KM Time Taken - 9 Hrs 30 Mins (including breaks, stop overs) Actual Travel Time (onboard) - 7 Hrs 15 Mins Fuel Consumed - 23 L (approx) Accommodation Details: Kundapura - Hotel Sharon (#32, Kodladi, Kundapura) Udupi - Hotel Sharada International (Off NH-17, Near Adi Udupi Signal, Udupi) Return Journey Start Time - 26-05-2015 at 6:15 AM Origin - Udupi Destination - Bangalore Route - Udupi > Surathkal > Manjeshwar > Vittala > Puttur > Madikeri > Hunsur > Mysore > Mandya > Bangalore Return Journey End Time - 27-05-2015 at 00:30 AM Distance Covered - 515 KM Time Taken - 18 Hrs 15 Mins (including breaks, stop overs) Actual Travel Time (onboard) - 9 Hrs 30 Mins Fuel Consumed - 27 L (approx) Hope you have enjoyed the virtual ride as much as we did. Are you tempted to embark on a similar trip to the beautiful Coastal Karnataka? In case of any query, do feel free to get in touch. Regards, Deb Continued From Part-5: Finally, it was the day to return to our nest. In order to make the most out of the last few hours, we planned to embark on the return trip early in the morning, so that we could visit a couple of beaches en-route. While a beach in Kerala was the unanimous choice as far as my co-travellers were concerned, I was particularly keen on visiting the Surathkal beach. As things turned out, we managed to cover both during our return journey. We checked out of the hotel in Udupi at around 6:15 AM and had a quick stop over breakfast near Adi Udupi bus stop. It took us a little more than half-an-hour to arrive at Suratkal beach - which is located at a distance of 44 KM from Udupi town. It's a golden sandy beach with rocks of different sizes scattered in between. Colorful boats used by the local fishermen community were lying on the beach - giving it an artistic look. Moreover, the shallow water level makes it a safe place to take a dip in the crystal-esque water. The beach was near empty, besides a few love birds, - who, in all probability, were NIT Surathkal students. Brishti, my daughter, was running all over the beach to catch those tiny little crabs, while my better half was busy collecting some 'cowrie' and shells - which were aplenty on the sea-shore. Although we refrained from getting ourselves completely drenched, it was worth paying a visit just to capture the scenic beauty. Next in line was the Kanwatheertha Beach in Manjeshwar, Kerala. It's the nearest beach town in Kerala from the Karnataka border. To be frank, I had never heard about this beach before. The only reason to include this in our itinerary was its close proximity from Surathkal beach. The road was in great condition, although a bit narrow at some places. We covered the distance of around 30 odd KM from Surathkal to Manjeshwar in flat 30 minutes. I was a bit skeptical initially, on whether it would be worth visiting this unknown beach. It was actually my mom's continued insistence that forced me to Manjeshwar. At the end of the day, I am glad that I listened to her. Manjeshwar turned out to be one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever been to. I would let the photographs do all the talking on my behalf. We ended up spending more than an hour under the cool shades of coconut trees at the Manjeshwar beach. The lazy charm of Manjeshwar played the perfect tune to end our leisurely tour of Coastal Karnataka.