Beaches in Gokarna

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This post has been published in Club Mahindra blog. This is my 3rd post on Gokarna. Here’s my 2nd post and 1st post.

About Gokarna: An ancient beach town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, Gokarna has great religious significance as well. The town has 5 beaches – Gokarna, Kudle, OM, Half Moon and Paradise – in that order and with hills between the beaches. As such, it offers extremely good opportunity for beach treks. None of these beach treks surpass 30 minutes duration and provide exotic views of the sea from the hillocks. World seems to have stopped when you are here – beach hop, lay on the beach, jog, walk, eat at beach cafes, buy, drink, dance, write – do whatever but don’t rush. This is a place that rewards laziness. All these make Gokarna a great two day weekend getaway from Bangalore, Goa, Mumbai and Pune during Oct-Apr.

 

Carefool at OM Beach

Carefool at OM Beach

 

Each beach in Gokarna is a lazy man’s paradise. Stay and eat at a beach side hack/cafe/hotel/resort. Lie on the  beach – on a bed-sheet with a hat over your face to avoid sun/eye-contact, or with the sun scorching your back. Or, read a book lying on a towel and in your bare minimum. And the best part, wear almost anything that you want (just that you have to wear something) – barmudas with sleepers, Alibaba pants and top, or a skirt of any shape and size.

There are five beaches in Gokarna – Gokarna, Kudle, Om, Half Moon and Paradise, in that order.

 

Gokarna Beach at Dusk

Gokarna Beach at Dusk

 

Gokarna Beach – It lies close to the town and is frequented by locals and tourists alike. The beach is close to the Mahabaleshwar Temple, a very old Lord Shiva temple that has an associated legend as well. At the beach, you can spot families, young and elderly couples, single and group travellers. It goes without saying – several fast food joints and the groundnut/balloon sellers adorn the shoreline. In the vicinity, you will find plenty of hotels, food joints and garments/puja shops. A word of caution here for tourists:  Avoid wearing skimpy clothes in the area. Since the ancient temple is nearby, this part of Gokarna is more of a pilgrim town than a beach town. You wouldn’t want to be an eye-sore for the locals just for your choice of clothes.

 

Kudle Beach

Kudle Beach

Kudle Beach – Is mostly frequented by foreigners and is almost a kilometer long, pretty wide as well. This gives you ample space to engage in the usual beach games, bonfires etc. Rocks, and plenty of them, adorn the sea shore. You’d find foreign tourists (mostly, but some Indians as well) staying in the shacks – sleeping, eating, drinking and reading.  I spotted the “Shantaram” being read atleast atleast thrice! King Fish delicacies are very tasty and are reasonably priced, in fact cheaper than most restaurants in Bangalore. The eateries play continental/Israeli music all the time. You could also beach trek from Kudle to Mahabaleshwar Temple.

OM Beach

OM Beach

OM Beach – This beach is around 20 minutes of an auto ride from the Gokarna bus stand. Certainly the best of the five Gokarna beaches, the beach derives its name from the Hindu religious symbol – OM, since its shape resembles that of the symbol. The ‘OM’ shape is pretty evident when you see the beach from the hillocks on the either side. However, the right side gives a better view than the left. Consequently, the picture you take would be mirror image of the OM symbol. The beach is the longest among the five beaches and is frequented by Indian and foreign tourists alike. You can stay at the Namaste Café which overlooks the OM Beach, or at any of the several shacks that are scattered around the beach. There is also the Swaswara resort as well, a hundred odd meters away from Om beach. There are three equidistant rocky patches at the beach. Two things you shouldn’t miss at OM – sitting atop each rock patch and the morning jog.

Half Moon Beach - Panorama

Half Moon Beach - Panorama

Half Moon Beach – It’s a tiny beach and can be reached by beach trekking from Om, or by paying INR 200 on a ferry boat. But the ferry ride wouldn’t allow you to spend much time at the beach. The beach has huge rocks as well. There’s a hut and you may as well get some food there. Once here lose yourself and merge with the tranquil surroundings.

Paradise Beach – The fifth and the last beach in the series, and it befits its name. You have to beach trek for about 20 min from Half Moon beach to reach Paradise beach. There are a couple of beach cafes as well.

Tips…

  1. Be careful while swimming, as the sea is shallow at some places and there are several cases of death due to drowning reported every year here.
  2. As usual, bargain hard with the sellers – beads sellers, clothes and accessories sellers, musical instruments sellers etc.
  3. Take mosquito repellent and a bed-sheet with you.
  4. Try beach trek – there are at least four options. If you can’t beach trek at all, you can see the beaches on a ferry boat – at INR 200 per head.
  5. Take your swimwear with you – there aren’t too many beaches in India where you can wear them without being ogled. So, don’t miss this opportunity.
  6. Don’t wear bikini at the Gokarna Beach – this may offend the local people and the police. But you may wear them at the other four beaches.
  7. Don’t miss the morning jog at OM beach.
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Namaste Cafe, Gokarna – overlooking OM Beach

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Namaste Cafe Entrance

Namaste Cafe Entrance

About Gokarna – An ancient beach town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, Gokarna has great religious significance as well. The town has 5 beaches – Gokarna, Kudle, OM, Half Moon and Paradise – in that order and with hills between the beaches. As such, it offers extremely good opportunity for beach treks. None of these beach treks surpass 30 minutes duration and provide exotic views of the sea from the hillocks. World seems to have stopped when you are here – beach hop, lay on the beach, jog, walk, eat at beach cafes, buy, drink, dance, write – do whatever but don’t rush. This is a place that rewards laziness. And yes, it is one of the very few places in India (other than Goa of course!) where you can find bikini babes – and that too in good numbers. All these make Gokarna a great two day weekend getaway from Bangalore, Goa, Mumbai and Pune during Oct-Mar.

About Namaste Cafe – Lies on the shore of OM Beach. In fact it lies so close, you would feel OM Beach is the private beach of Namaste Cafe. Ph – 08386 – 257141, Address – Near Om Beach, Gokarna, Karnataka – 581326

Namaste Cafe from Om beach

Namaste Cafe from Om beach

Rates: Range is INR 150-600 for double occupation. Mind you, I’m talking on Oct 2008.

Services: You wouldn’t need much for your room. But you would spend quite some time at the restaurant – eating, drinking, smoking, talking or just, passing time looking at the sea and people around. At the restaurant, service is prompt and accurate.

Best Experience: The cafe lies just on the shore of OM beach. This takes away all the distractions that you may have while on a beach vacation. Just leave your room and hop on to OM Beach – jog, walk, just lay lazy, write, observer the sea and people, sit atop the rocks at the beach. Also, you can beach trek from beach to another.

Worst Experience: The room was stuffy and the bed-sheet dirty. But this was inconsequential given the advantages.

From Namaste Cafe Balcony

From Namaste Cafe Balcony

Summary: The location of the cafe is the best part – overlooking OM beach. Thus, you can have your breakfast, lunch and dinner and simultaneously watching the sea and people around. The cool breeze, the sound of the sea, the lingo of the people around you and of course, the little shop selling beach wares and accessories makes it a perfect place to spend time. The only catch, small rooms.

Tips & Tricks

  1. The room was really small and the bed-sheet dirty. So, bring a bed-sheet with you in case you want to sleep on a clean one.
  2. You may need a mosquito repellent. I didn’t need one though. But then, better safe than sorry.
  3. Take the rooms in the first floor – you’d spend a quality time on the balcony.
  4. Try the Continental food at the cafe – the price, taste and ambience is a good bargain.
  5. Have heavy breakfast at the cafe – the sea view with the breeze caressing your ears and hairs is a charming experience

Further Reading:

My review at HolidayIQ, Namaste Cafe @ Flickr,

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Hogenakkal: Gorges, Waterfalls and Parisaling

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About the place

The place offers multiple experiences – gorges, boating, massage, bathing in beach/waterfall, diving, fish fry – all rolled into one. Also called Hogenakal, Hogennakkal, Hoggenakal, Hoggenekal, Hogennekal, Niagara of India, the place derives its name from hoge (smoke in Kannada) exhaled by kal (rocks in Kannada) because of water force. A series of waterfall and their mist, circular boats (parisal, hence the term I coined parisaling), a couple of gorges, beaches and theatrical surrounding each such experience awaits you here. The place is 130 km from Bangalore and is accessible by both train and road. At Hogenakkal, Cauvery (also called Kaveri, Kavery) falls from a great height creating waterfalls and cutting through gorges. The river water is traditionally believed to have healing effects (since the river flows through a forest having plants of medicinal value). Best time to visit is non-monsoon period.

What to see/do

One comes to Hogenakkal for its famous waterfalls and famed oil massage, and returns with scintillating other add-ons. Among other add-ons, parisal and beach are most retrieving. Here’re the stuff you should see/do to make the most of your trip. Most of the photographs here are taken by Shekhar.

There is no way for you to reach the waterfalls if you don’t rent these circular vessels called Parisal, or Coracle in English. A parisal has a bamboo frame covered with plastic (or, as they said, buffalo hide). The bottom of the parisal is tarred which makes it water proof. The first look of these vessels might make you doubtful about its ability to carry eight people for 3 long hours. But I read that parisals are one of the oldest watercraft in the world (Apparently parisals were used by Roman invaders as early as 1st century AD. This was relieving indeed). Plus, nobody else seemed to have this doubt. So, we took the plunge and hired two parisals – 5 boarded each. We had to bargain a lot – from 200 per head we brought the boatmen down to 550 per boat for a total time of 3 hours, including waiting time for add-ons.

Ride on the parisal had several phases, with each break better than the previous one.

Phase 1 (Mistiest Waterfall)

The ride started without any hiccups. The boatman did a stunt and started rotating the parisal at a good speed. It was indeed exhilarating. Do ask your boatman to do the same. And yes, it is absolutely safe. After a couple of minutes we had to de-board the parisal and took a walk on the rocks. We reached a waterfall, which was probably the mistiest of all. The tiny droplets of water sprinkles on your hairs and skin and makes the photo session interesting. Water was gushing out at a great speed and the lashing sound on the rocks made it all the more mighty. Also, there is a Viewpoint Tower (entry INR 2) which allows you to see far and wide.

Phase 2 (Upstream Waterfall)

Next phase started with we getting down the steps to board the parisal at a gorge. We reached a fork, with waterfalls on one side and beach on the other. We took the waterfalls route. The proximity to the waterfalls was sublime. The boatman rotated the parisal so that each one of us gets wet with the ‘falling’ water. We went a little upstream and close to only a couple of waterfalls as any further advance could have been troublesome. We had to balance well on the parisal. Any unwanted movement could have spelled trouble – so we avoided it. We took a few snaps of the place and retreated. It was a real treat to watch the lashing water on one side and contrastingly calm waters on the other side. Interestingly, there are mobile shops on parisals selling several items of interest – gutkha, mouth fresheners, cigarettes etc.

Phase 3 (Learning to Fly)

The large rocky stretches, with Karnataka-granite on both sides of the river (it was gorge) captured our imagination. There were a few children on the top of it, roughly at 30 odd ft. Someone told us that in INR 5/10, they would jump from the cliff. Gosh! It sounded inhuman and insensate. On closer observation, I found that the children were really happy – their laughter said it all. One kid jumped, and I took the photograph. Seeing a kid jump from a 30 ft cliff into deep water was quite a sight. The parisal then moved towards the beach. The island divided the river into two. We were asked to take a break – for bath, some fish fry, massage etc. We parked the parisal at the beach.

Phase 4 (Bath, Massage and fish fry)

The beach break was real fun. The water was knee deep and was a blessing for me, since I can’t swim! We made the most out of it. Squatting, jumping, thumping, floating and all other myriad maneuvers were made in a span of half an hour. The frenzy of water activities brought hunger with it. Got out of water and stepped on the sand, only to find it extremely hot. We had to run hurriedly towards the shops selling cold drinks, chips and other eatables. Few women were selling fish fry – INR 15 a piece. We bargained and brought it a little down. The fish fries turned out to be delicious. For the vegetarian folks, there were some chips etc available. Meanwhile, I collected some sea shells as memento of Hogenakkal.

The boatman offered us massage (standard rates are INR 50 for head massage for 10-15 minutes and INR 100 for full body massage for 30-45 minutes). None of us agreed. However, we did spot some people getting massage. So, I leave it to you to take a call on this. Just check whether the guy offering you massage has a valid license or not. We returned to our water acts. This time it was the competition to try staying afloat for the maximum time. Needless to say, most of us got disqualified – since almost nobody could swim.

Phase 5 (The Strike)

The water act continued for a long time. At the end of it, we boarded the parisal for the next phase. Our next stop was a rather effusive waterfall, not very high but gushy. Water just under the fall wasn’t to deep, so the boatman asked us to go virtually inside the fall. The burbling water lashed upon us with full force, and needless to say, we didn’t miss the massage of Hogenakkal. Bathing there for half an hour left us tired but ecstatic. Time was almost up (3 hours) and the boatman called us back. It was time to head back. Heading back was uneventful, with all of us tired and gratified with the Hogenakkal experience. The trip ended with us eating (fish rice, what else?) at a nearby joint and then boarding our Tempo Traveler.

Getting there/Town Transport

From Bangalore: Train – From Bangalore there are 6 trains to Dharmapuri, the earliest leaving Bangalore Cant. station at 0627 hrs. Then take a bus to Hogenakkal (47 km). While returning, take a bus from Hogenakkal to Dharmapuri and take the evening train from Dharmapuri at 1817 hrs. You may check at railway‘s website. , Road – Buses are available from Bangalore to Dharmapuri, and then to Hogenakkal. If you take a personal vehicle, you have go through Hosur – Krishnagiri – NH 7 to Dharmapuri – Hogenakkal. There is another route through Hosur – Rayakottai – Palacode – Pannagram – Dharmapuri – Hogenakkal. Roads are good throughout. Here’s the map.

From Chennai: Distance is 355 Kms. Train – Get down at Morappar (75 km from Hogenakkal), then to Dharmapuri and Hogenakkal. Bus – Straight buses operated by TNSTC. By a personal vehicle, route would be – Chennai – Vellore – Ambur – Krishnagiri – Dharmapuri – Hogenakkal. Here’s the map.

Where to stay

I guess not many people stay there due to its proximity to Bangalore. However, if you still want to stay, TTDC (+91-4342-256447) operates a hotel there. Other options are tourist bungalow run by the State Tourism Development, Corporation, Hotel Tamil Nadu (+91-4342-56447) and Tourist Rest House. Please verify from other sources about the hotels before making a booking.

TravellersDiary’s Recommendation

Set out on a one day trip from Bangalore. Start early to enjoy the morning freshness en route. Stop at Pennagaram, where at the outskirts of the village you would find guardian deities Aiyanars. [A website describes them as being “Made of terracotta or plastered brick, these giant figures are brightly colored and generally depict fearsome and mustachioed warriors.”] Reach Hogenakkal after paying levies at multiple places (we paid INR 30 twice and INR 20 once), park your vehicle and leave for the river. Remove your shoes, specs, hairbands, watches(non waterproof ones). Purse, mobile, credit card, camera etc will get drenched if you don’t take adequate precaution. Take a plastic bag with you for the same. If you cannot speak Kannada/Tamil, dont worry. Even if you speak Hindi, you can manage. Do bargain a lot with the boatmen and fish-fry selling lady. Include in your trip all the must see/do stuff mentioned above – bathing at the falls, rotating the parisal, the jump, the bath, fish fry, massage (?), shop at parisal, shells, walk on the sand, viewpoint tower etc. And yes, take loads of pictures – the trip is incomplete without the souvenir.

Further Resources on Hogenakkal

Anurag’s post, Sandesh’s Post, Traveller’s Paradise, Deepu’s post.

Pictures: TravellersDiary Album, Sanjukta’s pic, Jump from oochappan, Anita’s pic,

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Srirangapatna: Tipu Sultan’s Capital

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About the place

Srirangapatna (Also known as Srirangapattana, Srirangapatnam, Seringapatam) is an island town on the Bangalore-Mysore highway (15 Km from Mysore, Karnataka, India) encircled by river Cauvery. The town dates back to at least 894 AD when Chieftain Thirumalaiah built the temple of Lord Sriranganatha. The island town was the capital of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan – The Tiger of Mysore. The ruined-preserved state of the town today points to its past glory. Climate is pleasant throughout the year. However, November to April is best.

What to see

Daria Daulat Bagh: This was Tipu’s summer palace and was built in 1784 in Indo Saracenic style (other example being Victoria Memorial, Kolkata). The palace is made of teak. There are lush green lawns in surrounding the palace. Inside the palace, several paintings, coins, maps of the days of Hyder/Tipu are reminiscent of the battles of the father son duo. However, photography and videography are prohibited inside. The canal-pipes duo made me assume some kind of fountain, now defunct. Don’t really know whether there is/was any. But captured it in the photograph nevertheless.

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Gumbaz: Inside the tomb Hyder Ali has been laid to rest in the middle and on either side are the tombs of his wife Fatima Begum and son Tipu Sultan. Gumbaz has splendid ebony doors inlaid with ivory. The walls inside are covered with Tipu’s favorite Tiger stripes. Tipu’s wife, sons and relatives are buried just outside the main structure. A guide inside Gumbaz will tell you some tales of the Tipu days, and in return, he expects INR 10/20. According to the guide, the housing structures adjoining Gumbaz served as Guest house for the soldiers. Next to the Gumbaz is a mosque Masjid-e-aksa.

Sangam: 1km from Gumbaz is Sangam, the place where the River Loakpavani joins the River Cauvery. From Srirangapatna you can take an auto to this spot. The way is pretty straightforward, so even if you are on a personal vehicle, it shouldn’t be difficult for you. This is a popular picnic spot and is a beautiful place. From here the river follows into the Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu. You may tour the river on the circular vessels/handwoven rafts shown in the adjoining picture. The ride becomes adventurous when the Boatman shows his skills and moves the vessel in circular motion. Trust me, it is adventurous, and often scary. We also encountered such vessels (called parisal in Tamil) in my Hogenakkal trip.

Old Fort: Only ruins of the fort-walls remain to date. Vehicles are allowed inside, where there’s a mini township. The fort has 7 must-see places as pointed in the adjoining picture – mosque, temple, dungeon, water gate among others. It is from this Fort that Tipu’s soldiers launched attack against the British. There is an obelisk in the fort in the place where he died, after being betrayed by his own men. Inside the fort there is a mosque and the Ranganathaswamy Temple. You may also see some spots where Tipu’s men stored their gunpowder.

Jumma Masjid: Also known as Masjid-e-Ala, Jumma Masjid was constructed in Tipu Sultan’s reign, in 1784. It is a grand structure with two lofty octagonal minarets. The minarets stand on a high platform with an open court in the front. I also came across something very interesting – 99 names of Allah is inscribed on the walls of the prayer hall on the western side. Also, the ground floor of the Masjid has a porch (or verandah) where many pupils were studying when we reached there. The sight was, well, conducive to study. Oh by the way, I took this picture standing on a moving (and turning!) Tanga.

Ranganathaswamy Temple: The temple was built by Chieftain Thirumalaiah in 894 AD. The temple is enormous and its architecture is a mix of Hoysala and Vijaynagara styles. Vishnu, enshrined as Lord Ranganatha (Ranganathaswamy), is shown reclining on the bed laid out by the serpent Aadi Sesha. The Chaturvimsati (meaning 24 in Sanskrit) pillars before the inner entrance has the cravings of the 24 forms of Vishnu. The temple also has shrines of Krishna, Ranganayaki Thaayaar, Goutama Muni, Alwars and Acharyas of the Vaishnava faith. There is a gigantic Rath, placed just outside the temple. Once a year, devotees pull the Rath and encircle the Temple. The festival is a boiled down version of RathaYatra of JagannathaPuri.

Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon: Colonel Bailey died in these dungeons in 1780AD. It also imprisoned Captain Baird, Captain Rulay, Colonel Brithwite, Samson among others. A guide will tell you : British prisoners were kept standing, with their outstretched hands handcuffed for 22 hours a day, with a resting period of 2 hours. During the siege of Srirangapatna, one cannon rolled back, pierced the ceiling and fell into the dungeon. And to this day it is lying there. Also visible in the top-left of the picture are few steps protruding from the wall. These were used by night-watchmen to climb down during the day. Beyond the walls of the dungeon is the river Cauvery. Rocky riverbed and some vegetation make it a good sight.

Water Gate: People of the Fort township used to fetch water from river Cauvery using this secret gate. This was the gate through which British soldiers entered the fort and killed Tipu. Another version of the story says that the British spilled water in the basement through this gate where Tipu’s army stored gunpowder. This rendered all the gunpowder useless. You may read more about the Battle of Seringapatam here.

TravellersDiary leaves you with some pictures of other must-see places inside the fort. You’ll know enough history when you visit place – through a guide, tanga-wallah or a board outside the must-see place.

Getting there/Town Transport

From Bangalore – Car: Drive down the Mysore Highway via Maddur to Srirangapatna. A taxi to Srirangapatna costs INR 1,200 approx Bus: Services every 20 min from Majestic (Platform No. 17) for Mysore. Step down the bus at Srirangapatnam, 15 km before Mysore. Roam around for 5 hrs and then go to Mysore. This will save at least 4 hours if you had planned to stay at Mysore, then visit the island town and go back to Mysore.

From Chennai: Car: Srirangapatna is a comfortable 460 odd km drive on NH4 to Bangalore via Chittoor and Karnataka State Highway 17 via Maddur.

The town has a bus stand well connected to Bangalore and Mysore. All the buses in this route has a stop here. Local buses ply with 20min frequency. SUVs, Auto and the odd Tanga are available at the bus stop for city tour.

Where to stay

If you are on a single day tour, no need to stay. Return to Bangalore/Mysore on the same day. If you are on multiple days tour, best option is to stay in Mysore. However, if you really want to stay in the town, Karnataka Tourism lists two hotels here – Ambelee Hotel Resort (Tel: 91-8236-52326) and Hotel Mayura River View (91-8236-52114).

TravellersDiary’s Recommendation

If you want to relive certain pages of Indian history, have just one day and live around Bangalore/Mysore, Srirangapatna is the preferred choice. The place will make you feel as if you were a character of the TV series ‘The Sword of Tipu Sultan‘. You can witness numerous characters and settings from the history books – Hyder Ali, Fatima Begum, THE SWORD, Tipu’s fort, Water gate, Colonel Bailey, Daria Daulat Bagh live here.

Reach Srirangapatna at around 10 am and take a tour of the fortress-island town on your vehicle. Autos are also available (@INR 70 per person). However, TravellersDiary recommends renting an odd Tanga (Horse carriage), where you can relive the old world charm. It will cost you INR 40 per person, will take more time than other means, but will give you two different experiences – ample time to see the locales so that the ‘places to see’ seep through, and the ‘tak tak’ tapping sound of the horse’s feet. The roads are good, so it wouldn’t be back-breaking. Plus, the Tanga-walla may agree to be your guide, free of cost. The picture here shows my parents, uncle and maasi on a tanga.

Further Reading

Wikipedia page

More about the Temple

More TravellersDiary pictures here

Srirangapatna on Bangalorebest

P.S. Let me know if the post was useful/useless to you. Bouquets/Brickbats are welcome