SOUTH INDIA has always fascinated me. Being born and brought up in North India, visiting South India seems like a distant possibility as a child given the long distance. The distance drastically changed when I moved to Mumbai but so does life. When I decided to solo travel, visiting far end places seems more tempting than nearby South India. The classic case of “The grass is always greener on the other side.” During Last month Deepavali holidays, I finally decided to break this jinx and hatched a plan to travel to my neighbouring state of KARNATAKA. My cousin brother from Punjab joined me in this South Indian Adventure.
OUR JOURNEY TO KARNATAKA
MUMBAI–> MADGAON–> KARWAR–> GOKARNA–> KUMTA–> MANGALORE–> COORG–> MYSORE–> BANGALORE–> MUMBAI
DAY 1: Mumbai to Karwar via Madgaon (Overnight Train)
DAY 1: Karwar to Gokarna via Local Train
DAY 2: Gokarna to Kumta via KSRTC Bus
DAY 2-3: Kumta to Mangalore via Overnight Bus
DAY 3: Mangalore to Madikeri (Coorg) via Bus
DAY 5: Madikeri to Mysore via KSRTC Bus
DAY 5: Mysore to Bangalore via Train
DAY 5: Bangalore to Mumbai via Plane
We started our journey from Mumbai after midnight via Train. Our train reached Madgaon at noon. Since Goa is over crowded by Indian & Foreign Tourists, I chose Gokarna as an alternative. Our train halted at Madgaon for 15-20 minutes(Longer than usual). I stroll outside during the halt to get a feel of Goa since I have never been to Goa before and in the process forget about the train and somehow managed to board the running train. Strictly average lunch were served shortly after.
We get down at our destination. Guided by the father-son duo, we look for the bus/taxi to reach Gokarna. Luckily, someone told us the train to Gokarna is on the platform. We ran to buy the ticket and board the train. Half an hour long train Journey to Gokarna is full of stunning views of Mother nature.
We took an Auto to reach Om beach. We settled in our cottage cum hotel room and within few minutes we were fast asleep. In the evening we experienced a mesmerising sunset followed by really yummy Noodles at Namaste Cafe. At night it gets really dark on the Om Beach due to lack of lights.
BEACHES OF GOKARNA
OM BEACH: We stayed at a hotel located on Om beach. Lot of options here for accommodation. Next day, we wake up quite early to embark upon an unplanned and unexpected adventure. After strolling on the beautiful beach for a while, we hiked the mountain with stunning views and unknowingly reached the Half moon beach.
HALF MOON BEACH: One guy were camped here. It seems like a good place for camping. Sea was bit volatile at that time. We relaxed on the rocks for a while. It was really soothing and serene. We continued our journey further towards the Paradise beach. Couple of food shacks are here.
PARADISE BEACH: Reaching there required a lot of rock climbing. After sometime, my cousin decided not to ascend any further but I was really enjoying this beach trekking. I continue my journey till I reach the furthermost rock, well Almost! While coming back we ate a strictly average sandwich at one of the eateries on the Half Moon beach.
KUDLE BEACH: After resting for a while and freshening up, we set out to explore remaining two beaches. First stop was Kudle beach, It took us 20 mins to reach Kudle Beach from Om Beach by walk. It is located in the opposite direction to Half Moon Beach. We chilled here for a while before moving towards Gokarna beach. Lot of shacks here to chill and relax.
GOKARNA BEACH: More half an hour walk from Kudle beach took us to Gokarna Beach. It is most populated beach among all. This one is more family friendly beach. Food stalls can be found here. It somewhat reminds me of Girgaum Chowpatty. We met a Ice vendor here who happens to be from Punjab. My cousin chatted with him in Punjabi for a while. He left his home in Punjab a while ago and his heart finally settled here in Karnataka after navigating through many Indian states. My cousin was pleasantly surprised as he was least expecting to meet someone from Punjab all the way down in South India!
All the above beaches are clean in terms of water and surroundings with relatively less crowd. I would rate Gokarna beaches higher than Mumbai beaches. If you want to look beyond Goa beaches, I would highly recommend you to visit Gokarna. Gokarna is located less than 150 Kms from Goa.
I chose Kumta as I want to visit Mirjan Fort but we got quite late and couldn’t able to visit the fort. We reached Kumta from Gokarna in an hour via KSRTC (Government) bus. I find KSRTC buses of Karnataka more cleaner, efficient and comfortable than other states’ government buses. I booked a night bus (Private) from Kumta to Mangalore. The only bad experience of my Trip. The bus was almost 2 hrs late than the actual time. We waited and waited and waited punctuated by an episode of a guy mercilessly beating another guy. Bad vibes! The bus driver keep on saying “Only fifteen more minutes” till he finally reached and we finally board the bus during the wee hours of the morning and reached Mangalore quite early in the morning.
I hardly slept in the bus or for that matter in the train at the start of our trip. I realised I just can’t sleep in moving things. On the contrary, My cousin can even sleep in an Auto rickshaw without a hint of discomfort. But even though I hardly slept, I was not low on energy. Whenever I reach a new place, I get instilled by an overpowering energy. The thrill and the curiosity of exploring a new place excites me to no end. After freshening up, we head towards the famous Gokarnanatheshwara Temple. We had a short stop in Mangalore before we catch a bus to Coorg.
TEMPLES OF MANGALORE
Gokarnanatheshwara Temple: I heard a lot about South Indian Temples as they say “The best temples of India are in South India” and I couldn’t agree more. Simply beautiful and so aesthetically done. I felt like I am rediscovering the hinduism all over again. I guess the above pictures says it all!
Mangaladevi Temple: Like the name “Mumbai” comes from the Mumba devi Temple. Similarly, the name “Mangalore” comes from the Mangaladevi Temple. After our visit to the temple, we had a breakfast of Idli, Vada and this round shaped thing(see above pic) which was really tasty but I forgot it’s name!
After changing multiple buses, we finally reached Madikeri after 4 Hrs+ Journey. Madikeri is the headquarters of Coorg (Kodagu) district. The stunning beautiful scenery during the ride kept me hooked. We were beyond tired and slept in no time after reaching our hotel in Madikeri.
THINGS TO DO IN COORG
Raja’s Seat: Really populated tourist spot but worth visiting for the stunning view. Visiting during sunrise/sunset is highly recommended.
Sri Omkareshwara Temple: Prominent temple of Lord Shiva.
Abbey Falls: Another highly populated tourist spot in Coorg.
Raja’s Tomb: Monuments are not in good condition but the beautiful garden it is located in is best for a nice walk and to relax.
Nalknad Palace: An old palace build in 1700s. It was the last refuge for the last King of Kodagu (Coorg) Kingdom before he was deposed by the British.
TADIANDAMOL (HALF) TREK: HIGHEST MOUNTAIN PEAK OF COORG
Easily, my best experience of Coorg. Ever since I did my first ever trek in Central Asia, I was itching to do my next trek. I included Coorg in my itinerary solely because I wanted to mount the highest peak of Coorg. We leave early in the morning to reach Kakkabe. We took a bus from Madikeri to Nopuklu(Since direct bus to Kakkabe is limited) then a bus from Nopuklu to Kakkabe foolowed by an Auto ride to Nalknad Palace. Nalknad Palace is the starting point of the Tadiandamol Trek. It took us 90 minutes to reach the Nalknad Palace from Madikeri. We started our trek at 9 A.M. hoping to return by evening but as luck would have it we returned back by noon. I was really enjoying the Coffee plantations, Greenery, stunning views till we met a guy. He told us that the trek is closed ahead. I was really disappointed but didn’t lose hope. We continued our journey through beautiful nature till we reached at the barrier where we were stopped by the Forrest department personnel. He said the trek is closed ahead as a precautionary measure due to land-sliding during Kerala Floods, this part of Karnataka were also affected during the floods as it is near the Kerala border. We sat there for a while and had our lunch. We met two different set of people who came from Kerala and Mysore and returned back disappointingly. After soaking in the stunning mountain views, we started our descend from the different route which had even better views than the previous one. At one point, we got bit confused about which way to go. We encountered a dog and followed him. It was like he was showing us the path and he was right! We stopped at a small house and had a really tasty homegrown coffee. We played with the house’s kids for sometime. It turns out it was their dog. After bidding them adieu, we restarted our descend. Yes, the dog again took the lead. He could have stayed back but he walked with us till the starting point of the trek. I even tried to trick him. I signalled my cousin to hide in a coffee plantation for a while and see what happens. After exploring the plantation, we came out to find the dog patiently waiting for us while relaxing under the shadows. Once he sees us, he quickly wake up and continued walking. He only left us after we reached the starting point of the trek i.e. Nalknad Palace. On the way back we met two guys from Bangalore and we passed on the information about the closing of the trek. Subsequently, we met them again on the bus way back to Madikeri since they decided not to do the trek. We hangout for a while before bidding each other goodbye.
Even though we couldn’t able to complete the trek but still it was easily the best day of our trip!
It was our last day of the trip. Most hectic but rewarding. We catch an early morning bus to Mysore from Madikeri. It was approx. 3 hrs ride. During the bus ride, I experienced fog after very long time. It reminded me of my childhood days. My first impression of the city was that we should have given at least a full day to this historical city but we had only 3-4 hrs in hand. I decided to visit Chamundi Hills and the famous Mysore palace in whatever time we have.
Chamundi Hills: The Famous Chamundeshwari temple is situated on the top of Chamundi Hills. While the temple was overly crowded and it was blink and miss kinda darshan. But the ride to the temple was refreshing. At one point you have this amazing view of the Mysore city (see pic above).
Mysore Palace: The palace of the King of Mysore. I have been to some palaces before but this one is really well maintained and beautifully done. Stunning architecture and heritage. I had a great time exploring the palace and learning about the history behind it. Unfortunately, we had to rush since we had to catch the train to Bangalore. I don’t mind coming back to Mysore just to explore the palace once again!
With only few minutes in hand. We ran to catch an Auto to the railway station. It was a near hit and miss situation. Just when we board the Shatabdi train, it starts moving. We somehow made it! It was only 2 hrs ride to Bangalore with views of mesmerising nature and mountains. Again, we had a less time in hand for Bangalore, I thought of doing a small food tour instead of going to touristic places.
Second stop was at the chaat corner. It was good if not great. I like the Malleshwaram area. Clean and Quite. It somewhat reminds me of Chandigarh. After exploring it for a bit we head towards the nearest metro station to catch a metro to our next destination.
Our next stop was Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar: 75 years old iconic restaurant in Bangalore. Needless to say, it was really crowded outside the restaurant. After waiting for good 20 mins, we finally entered and can’t wait to eat their legendary Masala Dosa. The dosa was really crispy from the outside and full of desi ghee(butter). Coconut chutney was sublime. I never had a dosa quite like that in my life. Not the best dosa of my life but definitely one the best dosas I ever have.
With that our trip to Bangalore and Karnataka comes to an end. We catch a taxi to the airport which was around 90 minutes ride. It was like a whole city tour with glimpse of gardens, IT sector parks, Markets, Government buildings, Bangalore palace. My trip to Bangalore was pretty short to make any judgements but still here are some: I like the weather(unlike Mumbai not humid), relatively cleaner and greener given its a Metro city. Traffic was bad but not as horrible as Mumbai’s traffic. Unlike Mumbai, Bangalore airport is situated in the outskirts of the city. We reached the airport just one hour before our flight. It was my cousin’s first flight ever and the whole experience inspired me to write about my first flight ever.
HIGHLIGHTS & TIPS
-Unexpected Morning hike to Half moon beach in Gokarna
-Witnessed Fog after very long time
-They say “South India has most beautiful temples in India” and I couldn’t agree more
-Dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan, Vada with Coconut chutney in Malleshwaram and Gobi Keema in Kumta
-I find locals quite helpful & honest and almost everyone I spoke with was able to understand Hindi
-You won’t find typical South Indian Food (Dosa, Idli, Vada) after 8 PM in restaurants
-Tadiandamol (Half) trek
-Use KSRTC Buses to commute as they’re cheaper and relatively cleaner
-Lastly, soothing nature and several beautiful sunsets & sunrises I experienced
From visiting Beaches to Temples to Palaces to Waterfall to Hill Station to doing trekking to Food Tour to being stranded in the middle of the night to unexpected adventures. We had all kinds of experiences and adventures during our trip to Karnataka. Since we had few days in hand, we tried to make most out of it. The trip was mind opening and mind refreshing experience. The best thing to come out of my trip to Karnataka is I would be exploring more of my country in the future that’s for sure!