Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bhatkal Beach

Bhatkal is another beach that is as yet off the tourist map. But this is not a deserted beach like Kasarkod. There's a small settlement of people, mostly fishermen, who live by the beach. But from a tourist perspective, there's nothing there. Not a shack, or a shop for refreshments. No public transports except an occasional Autorickshaw from Bhatkal town 7 kms away.

As a result of this seclusion from the rest of the world, the beach here is pretty unspoilt. It's another vast beach that you would enjoy walking on. But beware of the huge crabs crawling over the grainy sand beach. The heat as everywhere we went was a killer. But thanks to some huge boulders on the the beach we could get some respite from the unrepenting Sun. It was an ideal spot to relax, with a book in hand.
Getting-there: 15kms from Murudeshwar. Buses available from Murudeshwar and Kollur.
Must-Do: Get a book and have a relaxed time with the soothing sounds of the ocean.
Must-Don't: Choose the summer to visit the place. Littering this paradise-on-earth.
My Rating: 7/10

Mookambika Temple, Kollur

If you are a Hindu Malayali, the chances of you visiting the Mookambika Devi Temple at least once in your lifetime are pretty high. The temple may geographically lie in Kollur, Karnataka, but you will easily mistake it to be somewhere in the lush green mystic mountains of Kerala. The chances of hearing Kannada voices here are as remote as the sun setting in the east.
The presiding deity here is Goddess Mookambika, believed to be the manifestation of Shakti, Saraswathi and Mahalakshmi. This temple is also considered to be one among the Seven Muktisthala pilgrim centers in Karanataka along with Udupi, Subramanya, Kumbashi, Koteshwara, Sankaranarayana and Gokarna. Another significance of this temple is that Sage Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have perceived the idea of setting the temple here by installing the idol himself, some 1200 years ago.
The temple is situated at the foot of the Kodachadri Hills and on the banks of River Sauparnika. If you have a day to kill, you can consider a trek to Kodachadri peak. There are all-weather Jeeps that take you to the peak. We however kept this trek for a later date.
The Mookambika Devi is also a favourite for Vidyaramba. A lot of small kids are initiated into education  here by writing in a platter of rice. The temple can get really crowded in the mornings and late evenings, as there is a steady influx of devotees. So you might want to go during the "non-peak" hours.

Getting-there: 60kms from Murudeshwar. 420 kms from Bangalore. Buses are available from both locations to Kollur.

Must-Do: There's a clothes regulation here. You cannot enter the shrine wearing, shorts or three-fourths. Men have to be bare-chested.

My Rating: 6/10

Friday, May 27, 2011

Apsarakonda Falls, Honavar.

After reaching the far end of the beach, we started walking in-land and soon enough we found human habitation there. We started asking around, and thankfully realised that we were on the right track. The Apsarakonda was a mere kilometer walk from there. And yes, we didn't have to climb the hillock. 

The Apsarakonda hardly qualifies to be called a "Waterfall". If you are rich, you can probably create one in your own backyard. There's a steady stream of water pouring down a well-shaped earth-pit with some phantomesque setting. But the fresh water was enticing enough to make me go take a dip. Parched from energy-sagging walk, I drank the fresh water to my heart's content. And suddenly all the fatigue and the exhaustion disappeared. I was now ready to head back to our hotel in Murudeshwar.

Getting-there: The best way to the reach here is to take a Rickshaw from the Honavar-Murudeshwar road. The other way of course is from the beach - not recommended if you are not a regular walker in the sun.

My Rating: 4/10

Kasarkod Beach, Honavar.

The Kasarkod beach in Honavar is not to be confused with Kasarkode of Kerala.

If you are looking for a deserted beach in coastal Karnataka, then this is one among them. I say it is deserted because there's not a single shack on it and almost no civilization near it. The beach is at least 8-10 kms long. And all you see is the sun, sea, sand and vegetation. For the few hours we spent there, we hardly saw any people. The blistering heat might be one of the reasons though :). Even though it was early April, the heat was merciless.

Had it not been for the heat, this beach would have been the ideal place to just relax and forget the woes of the world. From the directions given by some helpful people on the bus while on our way here, we realised we could actually walk our way on the beach to reach Apsarakonda Waterfalls. It initially didn't sound like a bad idea. But when it came to execution, it proved otherwise. The walk on the sifting sand never seemed to end. The far-end of the beach seemed to be a mirage. The closer we went, the farther it appeared. To our dismay we realised going back to our starting point and taking a motorable road also seemed far-fetched since we walked down far too long.

After much dilly-dallying on whether to go forward or backward, we decided forward is the way to go. Luckily, not too far away, we finally reached the far end of the beach - a hillock. The Apsarakonda Falls is supposedly on the other side of the hillock. Now here presented our next dilemma. Is the Falls really where we thought it were? And, did we have to climb the hillock to get to the other end where the Falls is supposed to be? Climbing the hill was nearly out of question. We were to find out soon enough...

Getting-there: The beach is about 3 kms from Honavar town and about 26 kms from Murudeshwar. Maxicab rides available from Honavar and Murudeshwar.

Must-Do: Spend some leisurely moments here soaking the familiar sights of a beach.
Must-Don't: Visiting the beach in the hot summer sun.

Additional Notes: The beach is pretty much unspoilt, thanks to it being off the tourist map...as yet.

My Rating: 7/10 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Murudeshwar, Uttara Kannada.

It's surprising how a well-planned trip can completely turn on its head and turn out to be something entirely different. This was what happened to us in our last trip. What was supposed to have been a beach-hopping fun turned out to be a temple-hopping devotion.

The initial plan was spend a day each at the beaches of Honavar, Murudeshwar and Bhatkal. The blistering heat turned spoilsport and with that all plans went awry. Though we got down at Honavar, because of lack of good accommodation, we quickly left to Murudeshwar 26 kms away. Murudeshwar is famous for only one thing - the Shiva temple which is bang on the ocean! Well yes, it is literally on a hillock in the ocean, covered on three sides by the sea. The most eye-catching spectacle though is the tallest Gopuram in the world. The 20-storied, 249 ft tall gopura called the Raja Gopura towers over everything else, including the 143 ft high Shiva statue, considered to be the second largest in the world. The primary deity here is Mridesha Linga, which is believed to be a piece of the original Atma Linga. 

Once you are done with visiting the temple, you would notice that there is pretty much nothing you can do in this beach town. Of course you can go boating and water-skiing. But somehow it did not appeal to our senses. The beach itself, around the temple is pretty nasty with the continous influx of devotees who can be seen walking around semi-naked going for a bath or attending nature calls. This was a enough of a turn-off to look for other alternatives to kill time. And that meant looking beyond Murudeshwar.

Getting-there: There are overnight buses available from Bangalore (470 kms away).

Must-Do: Watch the sunset. Boating and scuba-diving options available.
Must-Don't: Spoil the natural beauty of the place. Make plans for an extended stay.

My Rating: 5/10.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Hampi, Day II

Underground Shiva Temple
Day II Highlights

We started our second day in Hampi with our bicycles, a route map and the scorching sun for company. First stop was the Underground Temple. By climbing down some 30 odd steps you’ll find yourself at the Underground Shiva Temple. Well, that’s as much underground as it goes here. From the outside the temple is well maintained with a beautiful lawn and garden. But the inside of the temple, is something you might want to avoid. The inner sanctum of the temple is clogged with dirty stinking water. The stench of bats, doesn’t make it any better either.

But the architecture of the Temple is worth a second glance. It reminds one of the marvelous Hoysala temples in Belur and Halebidu.

Hazara Rama Temple

Next up was Noblemen’s Quarters. Pretty much nothing is left of the quarters, but you get the idea that it once was indeed some residential area.

With the blistering sun above us, we decided to move-on. Next up was the Zanana Enclosure, which housed the Lotus Mahal and Elephant Stables. The Lotus Mahal brings back memories of Nizam architecture. It is a beautifully constructed hall. The symmetry of the structure is just mind bogling. Adjacent to it is the Elephant Stables. It has been so majestically built that only the Elephants can do justice to its size and stature. We spent a few leisure minutes resting in the shade and regain our energy for the remainder of the sites.

Lotus Mahal
Hazara Rama Temple was next on the map and that’s where we were headed. This is another temple that was aesthetically built. But obviously it was not built to last forever. Parts of the gopuram have been decimated by nature’s fury over the years. But the rest of the temple looks to have stood the test of the times.

Next up was another set of ruins which housed Mahanavami Dibba and the Stepped Tank . Stepped Tank was the last of the ruins we visited in Hampi. It surely was the icing on the cake and definitely not in ruins.Every stone built into that tank holds its place proudly for the world to see. Personally,, this was the best thing we came across in Hampi. You can sit and admire this masterpiece all day long, despite the merciless Sun. Nowhere else will you see such precision symmetry.
Elephant Stables

The Stepped Tank ended our Hampi weekend on a high note. We took back memories of some great works of art in stone, for every stone in Hampi had a story to tell.

Must-Do: Rent a bicycle/moped/rickshaw/car – whatever works for you.

Must-Don’t: Littering. Giving alms to the beggars, especially children.

The Queen's Bath/Stepped Tank
Best-Time-To-Visit: Probably during the rains/Hampi Festival (December).

My Rating: 8/10