I remember visiting my grandparents’ house as a kid for the summer break and play in the backyard. Until I visited Agumbe, I had long forgotten about the childhood pleasures of playing in the backyard filled with coconut & sapota(chickoo) trees. The mud roof house protected us from the summer heat. My grandparents now live in a concrete structure and the backyard doesn’t exist anymore, but my ride to Agumbe took me on a trip down those good old days. However, don’t mistake Agumbe to be just another village with the old-world charm.
Studded with gorgeous waterfalls, the wettest place in South India, Agumbe, is home to the only rainforest research station in India (The ARRS- Agumbe Rainforest research station) and also hosts a wide variety of trekking trails for all age and experience levels. So when I planned the trip to the coastal Karnataka, I looked forward to visiting Agumbe. After exploring the pristine beaches of Udupi and a goodnight’s sleep by the beach the day before, I was all set to ride to Agumbe.
I woke up very early that day to watch the sunrise. But when I went upstairs to watch it, I realized I was on the terrace of a small building surrounded by coconut trees. I knew I wouldn’t get a clear view of the sunrise. But I just sat there waiting to see how it unfolds.
The sky was still purple and the stars still bright and there was pin-drop silence if not for the rustling of coconut leaves. I sat down as the purple sky slowly gave in to the waving coconut trees silhouetted against the orange sky that turned red as the time approached 6:30 AM. Once the sky was bright enough, I went to the beach for a morning stroll.
Country Roads & Udupi Life
Barring a few older adults who were on their morning walk, I didn’t see anyone else on the beach. I sat there and took a deep breath. It felt so peaceful just listening to the symphonies made by the waves crashing on the shore, the chirps of birds, and the chatter of the people around. I had to vacate the Airbnb by 7:30 and it was already 7 AM, so I went back to the Airbnb.
I freshened up, packed my stuff, gave the keys to the owner. With all the enthusiasm in the world, I started the ride to Agumbe. I reached the Mangalore-Mumbai highway again and took the right turn after crossing the Santhekatte bridge. I bid goodbye to the calm Suvarna river flowing under the bridge. After riding for close to 1 hour through small villages and dusty roads, I stopped at Kukkehalli for breakfast.
There were quite a few options available but the Mangalore buns caught my eyes. Mangalore buns are a popular breakfast snack in the coastal Karnataka region. They’re very soft, fluffy with mild sweetness (bring it on already), and made using all-purpose flour and banana. I had these buns in Karwar and Goa before but this small hotel beat those buns hands down. I continued the ride through the villages and soon villages disappeared.
The wilderness surrounded me after I crossed the last village. It was a very relaxing ride as there wasn’t much traffic and the road was good.
Lost In The Wilderness
I rode through the dense forests while the canopy of trees protected me from the scorching sun. I don’t remember how it all started, but all the road trips I went on till then flashed in front of my eyes. And I realized that out of all the trips I went on, bike rides were the most memorable ones. Perhaps, it was because I like being occupied with my own thoughts and bike trips offer that perfect opportunity. Or maybe it is because I had some of my craziest ideas while I was riding. I was sure my brain was using the idle time to process the information I keep feeding it day in day out. ;).
While I was lost in my own thoughts, I reached Perdur on the Udupi-Agumbe highway. I continued the ride on the highway, took another diversion at Onthibettu. I reached Varanga after 30 minutes of the ride through the road dotted with villages.
Floating Faith In Varanga
Varanga is a popular pilgrim place for Jains and the “Kere Basadi Varanga” is the main attraction. Kere Basadi Varanga is a Jain temple built in the middle of a lake. it has a rich history of 650 years and this lotus-shaped temple is dedicated to Parswanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara of Jainism. The lake appears to be at the foot of hills of the Someshwara Wildlife sanctuary. I want to go closer to the temple. There was a boat available but, apparently, it is available only after 4 PM for regular visitors or on the request of the priest.
Though I was disappointed that I had to see it from the shore, the reflection of the temple and the hill in the lake more than made up for it. I was grateful that I got a chance to get that view at least. I spent about 10 minutes there, absorbing the views and taking respite in the shade of the trees and then started the ride again.
It was 10 AM by the time I started and to be honest, I felt the first half of the day was quite boring. All throughout, it was just trees, thoughts, and nothing else. I had one more stop before reaching Agumbe and hoped it to be better.
In Search Of A Plunging Sita
I set the navigation to Kudlu Teertha falls, thankfully I still had internet connectivity. I rode to Mudrady and took a diversion towards Seethanadi. After a short ride on the Udupi-Agumbe highway after Seethanadi, the road diverged into the woods. There was a concrete road for about 5 mins of the ride which soon disappeared as I reached the deeper stretches of the forest.
I was used to muddy-roads, so I continued the ride until I stopped. In front of me was a muddy road, filled with gravel on a SLOPE. Riding on gravel on a plain road is a difficult thing in itself but riding down a slope in the middle of a forest is a feat I wasn’t ready for.
I drove very carefully and slowly and navigated past the raw, beautiful yet back-breaking road. While the road kept introducing hurdles, the views of the landscapes by the road kept me going.
I reached the designated parking area at around 11 AM and looked around and there were 2 minibusses and many bikes. I paid for the parking and entry ticket (INR 70 for 2 wheeler & Adult Entry combined) and it was time to chuck the rubbers and start the hike.
The initial stretch of the trail was flat. The scorching sun right over my head tired me quickly. I continued walking on the trail and danced on the stones laid over streams and the blue tiger butterflies matched my steps.
There were stairs under the shade of towering trees after crossing the first stream. Ample shade to protect from the sun, the chirps of birds, the rustling of the leaves, and the melodies of running streams, it was the most soothing part of the trail.
Thundering Kudlu Teertha Falls
After walking on that trail for over an hour, the sounds faded away and a thundering sound caught my attention. I looked around for the source of the sound and it was coming from a point ahead in the trail. I continued walking on the trail and spotted a thick and bright stream of water hidden behind the leaves in from of me.
Another five minutes later, the breathtaking Kudlu Teertha falls presented itself.
Amidst huge rock-cut caves, the Sita river plunged into a pool of water. This is supposedly the first waterfall of the Sita river and has religious significance as per local folklore. I desperately wanted some respite from the dry and hot weather. So I jumped into the pool and boy it was ice cold. Huge rocks surrounded the pool blocking the sun because of which the water was so cold. I went closer and stood under the falls and I literally had to cover my head with hands. The water had so much force that it felt as if someone was throwing stone pellets on my head.
I walked back to the parking area after exploring the caves around Kudlu Teertha Falls. Agumbe was still 45 Kilometers away and I was starving. So without any delay, I started the ride to Agumbe at around 1 PM.
The Ruthless Vehicles & Curves
I was riding on the Udupi-Agumbe highway and I remembered the drive from 2018. Back in 2018, we were driving on this road during a whirlwind trip in and out of western Ghats along with friends. We didn’t expect the hairpin bends to be so sharp as we approached Agumbe. One of the hairpin bends was so sharp and there was a bus driving down the turn. Santosh/Preetham tried to turn around the bus but due to the speed of the car, we went straight for the wall and probably stopped a few centimeters away.
It was by far one of the nightmarish roads for me. So riding on this road 2 years later meant, overcoming that fear. So I took a deep breath as I approached the hairpin bends. The first one had a long road before the next turn, so I breezed past it comfortably. The second one had a slightly shorter runway before the next bend but wasn’t that difficult.
But the subsequent hairpin bends arrived in quick succession but thanks to almighty I survived the ruthless bus and truck drivers and reached the sunset viewpoint at the top of the ghat section alive and in one piece. That was a tremendous confidence boost for me.
The fears you overcome become the launchpad for all the subsequent shots you take in life.– Inju
The Old-World Charm Of Agumbe
It was still 2:00 PM and there was ample time for sunset and I was going crazy for food, so I continued the drive towards Agumbe village. At around 2:20 PM, the homes gleaming with old-world charm appeared by the road.
At the center of the village stood, Dodda Mane. The 150-year-old homestay turned house shot to fame after featuring in 2 episodes of Malgudi days. A lot of scenes in Malgudi days were shot in Agumbe. It’s so interesting to see the village still has the same charm even after attracting so many tourists every year from across India and the world even.
I took a turn towards the Agumbe-Sringeri route and continued the ride through the forest to reach Nrupatunga Homestay, where I had booked the stay for the night.
As I was hungry, I had a quick lunch and then rested for a bit before riding back to the sunset point. I knew Agumbe was very famous for the sunset but the scale of that fame was unfathomable for me. When I went back to the sunset point, I noticed that there wasn’t enough parking space. I parked my bike almost touching some car’s bumper and went to find a spot.
The World Famous Sunset Of Agumbe
So there are three places where you could get a clear view of the sunset. One is a steel structure extending out from the road. The second was a staircase of sorts and the third was just a barricade at the curve that you see in the image below.
The sunsets are so famous that not only all the seating spots were
occupied crowded but there were people standing on the road. I thought it might be worth a shot to ride down the ghat section again to see if I could find a free spot. But much to my surprise, every spot that had a clear view of the valley and sunset was occupied.
To be honest, it was like a carnival.
So, I rode back and stood by the road and saw the sun go down below the canopy of trees. It was definitely one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. I swear. The atmosphere was electric and as the sun went down the horizon, people cheered loudly. I was standing by the road and held my phone in one hand shooting a timelapse of the magic. It was so funny when I watched the replayed the video again.
Soon after the sun went down, everyone started walking off the metallic structure as if they were getting off a Mumbai local train. Little did they realize that the show was still ON. Once there was enough space on the structure, I went ahead to get a better picture of the valley, and boy it was enchanting.
I rode back to the Nrupatunga homestay, had dinner, and stepped out for stargazing. The Orion was back again and we chatted over a couple of long exposure shots and called it a day. There was a power cut throughout the night so I hardly slept that night.
That was the end of day 2 of my bike trip to the Coastal Karnataka region. The first was on the beach exploration in Udupi. In case you’re interested in reading about it, please click here.
Thank you for taking out your valuable time to read this travelogue.
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