It was end of September and the rain had shown temporary respite in Karnataka. We were getting ready for our first trek of the season. Our first choice was Narashimha Parvata near Agumbe, but Raghavendra Pai (the local contact) advises against it as Agumbe forests have become official naxal area now. Naxals might leave us alone, but Police are sure to trouble us, informs Mr. Pai. I had been thinking of doing a beach trek for a long time. Though there was a fear of rain, we agreed on doing this beach trek from Ankola to Gokarna. Ankola and Gokarna are two coastal towns in Uttara kannada district of Karnataka. This trek involves walking along the coastline of Arabian sea crossing many hillocks and fishing villages on the way. My colleague Sharada had done this trek from whom I get all the necessary details.
After last minute dropouts, nine of us were ready for the trek. The group has many first timers, but this easy trek is an ideal beginners trek. Not much climbing is involved but it is a long walk on the sea shore in humid conditions. Nithin has convinced his wife Shantala to join the trek. Ashwin and his wife Aparna have joined enthusiastically along with their cousin Chinmayee. Nithin has invited 3 of his colleagues Sandeep, Pujar and Raghavendra also. We board the Sugama bus to Ankola. Nithin and Shantala barely manage to board the bus after spending almost 2.5 hours in Friday evening traffic.
The bus reaches Ankola at 7AM on Saturday. Rain had just stopped here after pouring continuously for last 9 days. Most of us complete the morning ablutions in the KSRTC bus stand toilet; while our ladies group conveniently finds a church for this purpose. Church people welcomed us with excitement, but were a bit disappointed after knowing that we had just come to use their toilet facilities.
The actual trek starts from a coastal village called Belikeri which is about 30min bus travel from Ankola. We are finally ready to hit the trail; I mean the sand, at 10.30AM. The humidity and heat of the sea level is a bit too much for us – the people who live at 900m hill station of Bangalore. There is an excitement as we come in contact with the sea for the first time. We will be with this sea for the next two days. The sea in this region appears very calm. Waves are hardly to be seen and water is not that clear, mainly due to the port activities in Belikeri. Its 11.45AM when we reach the first fishing village called Deshina Halli. It is a small village with a few thatched huts amidst coconut trees. Many manual boats have been lined up on the coast. We need to cross a small green hill next as the coast line is not accessible. It is too dangerous to follow the sea along the actual coast line here.
We quickly join the sea after a short stint on the hills. Next important village is Gabth Halli. Here a river stream called Gabth Keeni joins the sea. Usually this will be knee deep, but today it is flowing full due to rains. We had to book a boat to cross this small stretch of fresh water. At around 1.45PM we reach another village Shedikuli, where we break for lunch in the shade of coconut gardens. Fresh water for drinking is obtained from the village. Chapattis are quickly consumed with MTR side dish.
At 3.45PM we are on the banks of the stream Nadibagh which has to crossed. The actual point of river joining the sea is just about 25m, but appears too deep to cross there; moreover there is strong current also. We find a circuitous route of more than 100m where the water is at maximum waist deep. After observing our inexperience in crossing the river, a villager shows us the way through the water. We cross many tiny fishing villages and reach the regions biggest
village called Belambar at 4PM. Our plan was to reach the next village called Manjugoni on the same day, which involves going past a huge hill. We get different views about the time required to cross the hill. While one villager says it takes just about an hour, another manages to convince us that it will take at least 3 hours. We decide to camp in Belambar for the night. There was a Government School amidst beautiful green surroundings which looks like an ideal place to spend the night. After our failed attempt to get the school doors opened, we decide to use the school verandah as camping ground.
An hour is spent in the sea and we take turns to clean ourselves in a tiny fresh water stream. It has become dark and its dinner time. We start the dinner with a hot vegetable soup and its again Chapattis and MTR side dish for the main course. Though we aren’t equipped for the campfire, Nithin lights up the night with his sweet songs. Others also chip in. Sometime in the midnight it pours, but we are protected by the school roof. Everybody gets a sound sleep except Raghavendra, who is woken up frequently by cats and bats.
We get up at 5AM on Sunday and take more than an hour to get everybody going. We take around 2 hours to cross the hill through a well defined path in the hill which connects Belambar and Manjugoni. To proceed further from Manjugoni, we have to cross a big river called Gangavali. Fisher men offer their boat services to cross the river. This side of sea appears more beautiful and rough and water is clearer. We break for a tea in a village house. The bore well water here invited us to enjoy a fresh water bath. From here its around an hours walk to Gokarna beach. We reach Gokarna at before afternoon.
Gokarna is a temple town famous for the temple having Lord Shiva’s Atmalinga. This place is very sacred to Hindus. Many come here for performing death rituals of the departed ones. Today Gokarna temple has been commercialized beyond belief with priests donning the role of touts. They use all the skills in the book to attract people to get some Pooja done. Many priest-turned beggars harass the visitors. While some of decided to rest in the temple premises, others visited the Om beach. Thus we had an evening’s time to spend in Gokarna. One can continue the beach trek further down towards, Honnavar, Murdeshwar and may be all the way down till Udupi and Mangalore. May be it would at least take another 4 attempts to cover this entire distance