Forget Goa, this is where the party is at now.
This year for my birthday, I was desperate to get out of the city. No, not Goa for the endless drunken nights that well... are actually just regular nights in Bombay. I wanted to go someplace new, someplace not-so-popular. So when an ex-colleague/ex-neighbour who had moved to Udupi invited me over, I jumped at the offer.
I had been thinking of following the sea through the Konkan (West) Coast for a while and Udupi would be a good start. Apart from that a very attractive part of the trip was going to a surf school there. Armed with a "GoBro", a camera just like a GoPro only much cheaper (SJCAM 5000x if you must know), along with an overnight train ticket on the Mangalore Express, I was off to the city of temples.
The road through Kodi and Bengre is one of the prettiest and calmest
Kodi Bengre: A 45 minute bus ride from Udupi took me to the little beach villages of Kodi and Bengre, often clubbed together and called Kodi Bengre. This is where I spent most of my 6 days. 40 minutes of the journey is through the city but as the bus takes a turn from a place called Ude, it is overwhelming to see a sudden change in the landscape. White sands and a long wavy beach full of palm trees on one side, contrasted with a calm river flowing on the other side. If you were to view it from the top, you would see a narrow strip of land positioned conveniently between the Arabian Sea and the Swarna River. There is only one long road through Kodi and Bengre and it's one of the prettiest I have seen.
There were times when I would have the entire beach to myself, with only a couple of dogs and a few ships sailing in the distance for company. Over the week the only people I saw on the beach were from The Shaka Surf Club and some local kids, surfing in the morning and evening. Weekend had a few tourists, mostly students from nearby Manipal University.
The Delta Point where the sea and river meet at the end of the village is a fantastic place to sit and spend hours. One can’t swim here of course, but to watch the blue sea and the green river crashing into each other in a continuous series of waves is fascinating and very calming.
Shaka Surf Club: My first surfing lessons. The club hosts professional surfers and wannabe surfers like yours truly from all around India and the world. Along with surfing lessons, they offer accommodation in tents by the riverside and home-made Malvani meals. I tried my hand at various other activities like kayaking, swimming in the river, skateboarding, yoga, and ofcourse chilling in the hammocks under the shade of the palm trees.
The Shaka Surf Club is a great place to learn surfing
Kapu: Another 40 minute bus ride from a different part of Udupi leads to Kapu. It’s a small village famous for its lighthouse, standing tall since 1901. It’s open to the public from 5:30 PM daily. The view from here is mesmerising, as the lighthouse stands on a rock the size of a two-storyed building. From the top you can see three different beaches surrounding the lighthouse - Kapu beach and two others that were completely deserted except for a few fishing boats.
Compared to Kodi, Kapu is more touristy, with a mostly local population in the evening for some sea breeze. What I liked best here was the little backwater flowing from behind the lighthouse and forming a tiny, shallow river.
St. Mary’s Island: This Island is special because of the lava rock formations all around it, which look quite fantastic and are extensively studied by geologists from around the world. The water is absolutely clear and the beach has more shells than sand – crushed, multi coloured and pretty. From what I hear, this is the first place in India where Vasco Da Gama landed centuries ago. Rave parties were a common occurrence on this island, though I didn’t see any. There were a few beer cans lying around a burnt out bonfire... not a sign of a big rave.
Rock formations around the island
To get to St. Mary’s. I took a ferry from Malpe beach like most tourists, but there’s also the option of taking it from the Jetty near the shipyard. Boats are available from 9:30 AM to around 6 PM for Rs. 200 per person.
The half-an-hour journey reminded me of an amusement park ride, bouncy and bumpy all the way. Just when you think it’s about to tip over, we somehow managed to stay afloat. The sea here is dotted with several tiny islands. The soft afternoon glow, the fairly cool breeze and the ridiculously loud music playing in the ferry made for a rather amusing ride.
Ferry to St. Mary's Island
Krishna Math: On a Friday evening I accompanied my friend to the famous temple of Krishna located in Udupi itself. The temple ground is expansive and bustling with different kinds of people. I was surprised to see that the priests were actually really young boys.
A pair of giant raths (chariots) were pulled around the temple grounds, and a rather large ceremony made out of all this. There were dancers, musicians, fire breathers, people in various costumes and entertainment at every corner.
People participated in the ritual of rath pulling with large ropes and in harmony. All were invited - the old, young, kids - some of whom were gleefully hanging by the ropes instead of tugging. It was heartening to see how age wasn’t a factor within the temple grounds. It was led by a group of enthusiastic musicians, who beat their drums louder and louder to motivate people to tug harder. The atmosphere was full of positive energy and bhajans and temple bells rang in my ears.
People pulling raths
My Birthday week in Udupi was not just fun but also therapeutic (till I arrived back in the city and back to social media).
Ecstatic with this kingfish thaali
1. Get to the Udupi city bus stand and you can find a bus to anywhere.
2. There are numerous beautiful, mostly secluded beaches to explore around the city.
3. Honourable mention: The fish. Please try the local fish delicacies!
Chilled out Birthday!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Madhurima Basu Roy
Photographs by: Madhurima Basu Roy
Cover photo credit: YouTube.com