Monday, September 12, 2011

Dreaming of Karwar

I’ve been dreaming of Karwar for around a year now. Ever since I heard of this tiny fishing town called Karwar from Tushita, this place was haunting my dreams, and I knew I had to visit this place atleast once this lifetime. Her ancestors used to reside in an island on the Mandovi River. When the Portuguese arrived, they fled further south and settled down on an island off Karwar. The Indian government has still not recognized these various islands that dot the Arabian Sea so they do not have electricity and run on personal generators thus leaving the island bereft of public utility services such as power and water supply. Islanders run their own diesel generators for day-to-day activities. We were fascinated with her narration of her trips back to the island to visit her grandmom and how choppy the sea waters would be at times, so they would wait at the mainland till it was less dangerous to venture out down the Kali river to the Arabian Sea to reach their island.

Her stories made me conjure up real, vivid images in my mind based on her description and I knew I would one day visit this place but of course I didn’t know that day would be sooner than I thought. Since there was a long weekend coming up, our initial plans were to drive down to Coorg with my school friends Saurabh and Kunal and their respective spouses. However, when that didn’t work out, Sand, Joy and I decided to get the details and route from Tushita and other folks who had driven down recently. Finally, with the best routes and information of places to visit in place, we headed out to Karwar. We started at 6 am, via the Outer Ring Road, and then caught the Hyderabad Bangalore expressway.

At Jadcherla, we got off the expressway to continue our journey to Karwar through Mahboobnagar, Raichur, Gangawati, Koppal, and Hubli. From the moment we started our journey it had been raining, so we were a little worried about the road conditions. However, apart from a few towns, major part of the state highways had excellent roads. After crossing Hubli, around 5:30-6 pm we entered the Ghats. To reach Karwar, the last stretch of around 2 hours was through the winded roads of the Ansh National Park and though the woods were lovely, dark and deep, with the fading light and the rains, visibility had become extremely poor and it was the toughest stretch. To top it, there was no GPS connection, so we had no clue whether we were venturing deep into the forest or headed the correct route to reach Karwar.

Finally, around 8 pm we reached Karwar. Our search for our hotel took us sometime before we figured it was located around 4-5 kms outside town after we crossed the Kali bridge on a hill-top. After crazy twists and turns and a very narrow hilly winded road we heaved a sigh of relief once we spied the hotel. It was raining cats and dogs and I was feeling extremely grateful to be out of the rain when the folks at the reception told us that we had to step outside again to reach our rooms. So in the pouring rain, we go up this dark, grassy, scary, unknown hillside and then we see these cobbled steps going down to an eerie looking building. The only thought going through my head was that I hope I do not step on a snake. The moment we entered the room and saw the view from our balcony, it was sheer bliss and I forgot all about creepy reptiles, I was so entranced. We had a view of the estuary where the river Kali meets the Arabian Sea and felt humbled and grateful that I could view this place in my lifetime. The whole night it was stormy, the wind was whistling, and the doors and windows rattling and it reminded Joy and me of our trip to Pattaya six years ago when we had the same experience during the rains. What is it with us and our trips to seaside places during the rains?

However, if any of you folks ever plan a trip to Karwar, do stay at the Devbagh resort which is located on an island off the Karwar mainland. We stayed on the mainland coz it was monsoons and didn’t want to get stuck on the island due to bad weather but a trip to this island is definitely worth a dekko. The next day after local sightseeing at Karwar, we headed off to Murudeshwar (around 120 kms) away and decided to stop at Gokarna (that is enroute and around 60 km from Karwar) on the way back. Murudeshwar is famous for the world’s 2nd largest Shiva statue and has some spectacular views as the temple resides on the coast of the Arabian Sea.

Next, we decided to visit Om beach at Gokarna. The drive to the secluded Om beach is off the beaten track across these beautiful green forests with glimpses of the sea at intervals. Once we reached, it was a rocky climb down to one of the most pristine, serene and rocky beaches in India. It was tough leaving that place but we do have plans to go and stay in Gokarna next time and spend some more time exploring that region.

The next day we headed out to Goa from Karwar. The roads were lovely, clean, and it was a very green and refreshing drive to Panjim which was around 100 kms away. Reached Panjim, had lunch with one of Sandy’s schoolmate and his GF at this Italian place called CafĂ© Mangii, then headed off to Baga where we had plans to spend the night and pay a visit to Tito’s. Next day, we shopped for all the local wares and with the car fully loaded, headed off to Martin’s Corner for lunch and then began our journey back. For those doing a road trip down south, avoid the Ponda, Mollem, Anmod route. The Karwar route maybe a little longer but you will save time as roads are far better. We took the Mollem national park route and the roads were washed off in some places, there were fallen trees, and it was pouring buckets as expected during the monsoons in the ghats.

So another vacation comes to an end. It was really rejuvenating after the monotony of work and city living. For the last 6 months, had been feeling restless and needed to get away to a place like this to clear my mind of all the stress and events in my life and that’s exactly what this did. I always feel sad when vacations end but I do feel like I’ve got a new lease of life after this trip and feel recharged to take on city life for now until wanderlust strikes me again and I feel the need to set out to newer destinations. 