Sunday, April 10, 2016

Gokarna Road Trip #ATOZCHALLENGE

So the year 2016 started with a bang. Barring a weekend trip to Shivasamudram waterfalls, I had not really traveled anywhere much for the past three months. And so, I became an irritated human being. I knew I had to travel again. Travelling, for me has become more like a ritual, an addiction with withdrawal symptoms when I miss it.

After weeks of searching for accommodation, optimizing routes and estimating the cheapest rental cars, the itinerary was set. Adding to the already long road trip plan was the marriage at Chittoor which I decided to go in the last minute. I was overjoyed that I was invited to it and made it a point to attend.

So my journey started on March 24 evening 4 o clock with a friend in a Santro. After driving for what seemed forever in long straight roads, we finally reached Chittoor at 9 in the night. After a small confusion which involved us going in rounds in search of the lodge where we were supposed to stay, we finally made it to the wedding at 9 30. I had a bus that would start from Chittoor bus stand at 10 40. Now the thing is Chittoor is a relatively small town and I have never been on Andhra buses before. I had booked an Express bus from APSTRC and not knowing what express meant and went directly to the bus stand from the marriage hall. Express bus is more like a local town bus I realized. To put it precisely, I was like the Red Woman from the Matrix trilogy.

We started from Bangalore by 7 in the morning after having refreshing coffee and bournvita from a small Nandhini stall at HSR. We had rented a Scorpio from Autoriders, one of the newer startups in the space of rental cars. Luckily, they did not have speed limit restriction set up yet and we were already darn excited about this.

Our first planned stop was the temples at Belur. Though we were way behind schedule due to the hopeless tyres in the Scorpio, we were able to make it to Belur by noon. We had to literally skip to the inside of the temple due to the scalding sun. The architecture of the temple was just mind-blowing. I have never seen more detailed temple carvings before

Beautiful carvings at the Belur Temple
Our next stop was Chikmagalur. We were staying at a homestay there, a tacky pink colored building. The adage 'Never judge a book by its cover' turned true here. We had the most wonderful experience for a very reasonable prize. In the hot hot summer, we had camp fire and barbecued chicken. The delicious food they served added to the high. We had a very adventurous drive to Kemmangudi. The roads were narrow and the Scorpio was really put to test. We reached the peak just in time for a magnificent view. Sadly, the cameras were all out of charge by then. 

The next day, we started to Gokarna. On the way, we stopped at Sacrebyle Elephant Camp. We were on time for the elephant's daily water dip. We seemed to have a knack at arriving at the right moment. There is something magnificent about the elephants and I was damn excited seeing them so much up close. To add to everyone's excitement, a baby elephant actually played with us for while, posing for photographs with such elan. 
The friendly Baby Elephant
Our next pit stop was Jog Falls. I am still not sure if the falls are real. They looked like they can be just mists falling over the cliffs. I have never been more mesmerized. I wanted to just sit at the bench and stare at the falls for hours. 
Mesmerized by the Jog Falls
We really visited a lot of placed in this trip. The next stop was Murudeswara. Again, we made it just when the sun was setting in the background. The Shiva statue there looked majestic. After a visit to the temple, we continued on the last stretch of the journey towards Gokarna. We were really not prepared for the deserted-ness of Gokarna. Night had already fallen and there was absolutely no one on the road. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere when we finally settled down at the cottages we had booked.

Kudle Beach at Gokarna
I was up early the next day and I should say, I was eager to see what Gokarna was all about. I was awestruck by the beauty of this place. Deserted beaches. Cliffs and Rocks that lead right to the water. This place was a dream. We were staying at the Kudle hilltop. We trekked down the hill, across the Kudle beach and crossed over to the Om Beach. From there, we took a ferry that showed us the rest of the beaches and dropped us back at Kudle. 

Commercialization has not yet reached Gokarna fully and hence we happily enjoy the waters without being surrounded by Hawkers. I finally understood what a true holiday retreat meant. We spent hours jumping with the waves. After a particularly big wave, I decided to get retired hurt and spent rest of the time playing with the sand. No one bothered us the entire time we were there. It felt heavenly. I was eagerly waiting to see the sunset at the beach, but had to return to the cottage. But then, after a short walk up a hill that looked quite interesting, I  chanced upon the most beautiful sunset. In the night, we found refuge in the famous Namaste Cafe, the only Cafe with the television to watch the India Vs Australia match. 

After the most dreamy vacation, we started back to Bangalore. Driving at 140 kmph speed, 10 hours later, we were to HSR, ready to get back to our corporate life, but having visited the place where time can come to a standstill.  

P.S. : This is my first travelogue and I have really struggled with it. So thanks for reading if you have reached the end :)

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