Ever since I successfully flew over Bir Billing in my maiden attempt at Paragliding, I have been really looking forward to the next adventure. So one fine weekend, I quickly looked up in my list and Kayaking was up next. But little did I know that in the quest to cross off an adventure from my list, I’d end up in Karwar. But Karwar was so full of surprises which made the trip even more exciting and I called it a paradise. Curious why I called it that? Read all about how a Kayaking trip to Karwar changed my perception of Karwar from a quiet coastal town to the least explored paradise in Karnataka.
Just like the call to do Kayaking, We all dream of attempting things we’ve never done before. But what does it take to actually do it? For me, it was another trip with Plan The Unplanned that made it possible. On a busy Friday evening filled with endless traffic, loud and irritating honks, I was sitting in a 14-seater bus whose speed oscillated between 10 KMPH to 30 KMPH moving at a snail’s pace.
What a start!! I told to myself, but with all the uneasiness in life, it always rewards you with something much more than the difficulties. In my case, it was the cold breeze from the window after we drove past the traffic and we’re inching towards Tumkur. The whistling sound of cold and fresh air gushing into the window and onto my face carried away the residual irritation off my face. I slowly slipped into a deep sleep while the driver continued the drive to the coastal town of Karwar.
Waking Up By The Sea
I think it was probably 7 AM when I woke up as the driver braked sharply. I moved the blinds aside, opened the window, and boy we were now driving along the coastline of Karwar. The fishermen were standing on the beach patiently, waiting for that right tide that can put them back into the sea and let them do what they do best, catch fish.
After about an hour of mesmerizing coastline views, we arrived at the beautiful campsite, Camp Riveredge Paradise. A Paradise inside another paradise ;). After completing the check-in formalities, we headed to the cottages. The cottages were about 50 m from the dining and reception area. We were walking to the cottages when the sunlight reflecting off the river distracted me. I was surprised to see that the campsite was right by the Kali river, truly living up to its name. We continued walking and the wooden pathway way welcomed us.
I was wondering why someone would need a pathway to walk on when there was a firm ground a few inches beneath. But the answers found me when I stepped into mud after crossing the wooden pathway. I later realized that the cottages were built amidst mangroves and at night when the water level rose during high tides, water floods the cottage area. How were we gonna sleep peacefully if the cottages were flooding at night? Even that problem solved itself when I looked at the cottages that had a high-rise basement.
Planning A Laid Back Saturday
We quickly freshened up and finished breakfast. The host met us right after that and briefed us about the plan for the day. I jumped with excitement when he said “You’ll be spending the entire first half of the day Kayaking” :D. Kayaking would be followed by a lunch and after that, we were to explore on our own.
Sounds like a pretty laid back Saturday. Doesn’t it? 😉
Just like me, there were many in the group who were first-timers. And naturally, they had to train us on the basics of Kayaking. So we all gathered around the Kayaks while the host and his team of Professional Kayakers explained the basics of how to steer a Kayak, Dos & Don’ts. As much as you want to give it a try first, the only way to give a try was to do it in the river. And while you’re in the river you might as well give it your best than a half baked attempt ;).
As fate had it, it was my first time Kayaking and I was doing it Solo, at least for the first half of the Kayaking session. I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers, wore the safety jacket, buckled up, and sat in the Kayak and the Pro-Kayakers pushed it into the river.
Start Paddling Soldiers
I started paddling rapidly left and right. While the theory was pretty straightforward, the practical wasn’t as easy. It took me a while to figure out the cause and effect of paddling and the directions. I think the water flow was more than normal I was drifting away in the opposite direction from the team without even realizing it.
What a start to the first attempt at Kayaking, I said to myself. I started paddling intensely to catch up with the others. But I was paddling upstream of the water, so it was even more difficult to manage.
But what do you do?
When you HAVE to row upstream, because what you want is on the other side.
You keep pushing yourself and keep improving at every paddle, correct the course at every deviation, and then get there. That moment made me realize a certain thing about life.
When the going gets tough, The tough get going!
That’s what I did. I kept paddling until I got a hold of it and it was a breeze literally and figuratively ;). The river seemed to have calmed down, looking at my determination as I felt the effort ease on my shoulders. I start paddling closer to the mangroves as I never saw mangroves in the river from up that close. It made me wonder, how can some plants survive in such excess and saline water conditions yet the ones at my home die off even after me pouring water every day. Totally beats me.
I got used to the sound of the paddle pushing through the river water and the water falling back into the river over the paddle. In the middle of a river, with nothing but calmness around, it was a meditative experience.
The Mushy Midpoint
Soon the river took a turn and we followed and after paddling for about an hour and a half, we reached the halfway point. The mangroves divided the river into two streams at this point. We stopped Kayaking after reaching the diverging point. The Pro-Kayakers who were paddling beside us all this while asked us if we wanted to get into the water. My clothes were half wet already and the sun was shining bright, to top it off we had life jackets. So all of us nodded in unison and the next second, I rolled into the water 😛 coz I didn’t know how to get down from a Kayak.
The river was almost 70m wide and we were right in the middle. We swam around a little in the middle and it was too normal. We thought of swimming to the shore and come back. What would go wrong as we had life jackets right? So off we swam to one of the shores. Once we reached the shore, I stood upright and I felt something weird on my feet. It was something too soft but disgusting at the same time. After poking on the soft surface I realized it was the slimy riverbed. After spending some time under the cool shade of the trees on the shore, we swam back to the midpoint clicked pictures and got into the Kayaks.
We started paddling and luckily, since we were going downstream it was easier on the shoulders. But contrary to what I thought, this wasn’t that easy either. Since we were going downstream, we had to be extremely accurate with the direction. Any wrong paddle stroke amplified the divergence from the target point.
Hugging The Mangroves
So we were just paddling and course-correcting all throughout this stretch. But remember? we were a bunch of amateurs, so naturally, we couldn’t paddle accurately, so we paddled beyond the exit point.
Then all of us were so tired that we were just paddling in circles and soon we all gathered together. Just then someone said, let’s take another group picture. So I pulled out the phone from the pouch and started clicking pictures. While we were resting, the river wasn’t. So, we kept drifting towards the mangroves along the shore and before we realized, we were stuck in mangroves. So some of us had to get into the water again, pull one kayak after another and after multiple futile attempts, we reached the exit point.
I gave the Kayak back but I wasn’t done with playing in the river yet. I wanted to take one final dip in the river so I
went ran into the water for a final dip. After another relaxing dip in the water and few backstrokes, I went back to the cottage to freshen up. We had lunch and then headed to explore the surprise package of Karwar, the pristine, unexplored, and breathtaking beaches.
Tilmati Beach Of Karwar
First up was Tilmati Beach. This beach is so secluded that we had trouble locating the beach on Google maps. Imagine that. We were following the route suggested by Google Maps but soon we reached Karnataka-Goa border and as per maps we had to cross the border. But I read somewhere that we didn’t have to cross the border. So we put Google maps aside and asked the border police for directions. We followed the instructions and asked another villager to re-confirm. He also suggested the same route and soon we got off the main road and were driving through fishermen’s villages.
Soon we approached a dead end at which point we asked another localite about the directions to Tilmati Beach. He instructed us to park the bus there and start walking.
Walking? but where? Aren’t we at the beach already? I can see it right in front of my eyes.
And Voila, after referring to the maps again, I figured that Tilmati Beach was actually unreachable by road and involved a hike from Majali beach, the beach I was staring at when we got down the bus.
So we reached the far end of the Majali Beach and there was no trail but a huge rock in front of us. Surprised, I opened maps again. It said the trail actually started from where we stood. But all we saw was a stream of water, white sand beneath our feet, and a huge rock in front of us. So, I climbed up the rock hoping a trail would find me, and at the very end of the rock, there was a small trail winding into a cliff.
A Walk By The Cliff
This was another adventure in itself as the trail was right on the edge of a cliff. There was nothing but rocks and waves crashing on those rocks below the cliff.
Despite how dangerous the trail was, the view of crystal white waves crashing on those pitch-black stones was a mesmerizing view in itself. We kept following the trail and it soon took us to a huge stone. The stone was leading up to the sea and was sort of a natural sea-walk.
We took some rest there and clicked a lot of pictures. The trail continued at the edge of this stone and we followed it again. We climbed up a few rocks, climbed down a few, walked along a few more ridges before reaching Tilmati Beach.
A few moments later, my phone received a message that read, “Welcome To Jio Goa-Maharashtra”. I laughed realizing that we just walked into another state.
The beach surprised me beyond words. Tilmati beach is one of the most unique beaches I have ever seen. The sand on this beach isn’t the regular white or beige color but it’s pitch black. It’s as if someone unloaded truckloads of sesame seeds on this beach. The name of the beach is also very apt.
Til means Sesame seeds and mati means sand in Marathi. So, Tilmati beach simply means that beach of sesame seeds.
I went closer to the waves and the crystal clear water flowing above the black sand was a picturesque moment. Due to the remoteness of the beach, crystal clear water, black sand, and the hike put Tilmati beach right in the list of my favorite beaches. It is even more rewarding because I wasn’t even expecting it.
Godly Sunset At Devbagh Beach, Karwar
The sun was fast approaching the horizon and we were planning to explore other beaches of Karwar. So we turned around and walked on the same trail back to Majali Beach. A quick look at the map showed Devbagh as our next destination. We were planning to watch the sunset from Devbagh beach before heading back to the campsite. Drove back to the main road again and took another turn towards the beach and passed through fishermen’s villages before reaching the beach.
We got down a few hundred meters before Devbagh Beach as we were told there wasn’t any parking space ahead. So we got down and started walking along the beach. The sun was just 2-fingers above the horizon. The sunshine was still so bright that it lit up the waves on a multi-colored flame. Starting from the far end of the sea, the color changed from indigo to blue which turned into the red as you slowly approached the center and then turning into orange before changing into a yellow beam of light at the center of the spectrum.
As we walked along the beach, the kids from the nearby fishermen’s village were out for an evening ride on their bicycles. The waves were receding that left a mirror-like surface on the beach that extended the color spectrum up until where we stood. The silhouette that formed when the kid with the bicycle passed through the yellow band in the spectrum was an image to be framed and hung on the wall. It was so beautiful and breathtaking.
We soon reached the end of the Devbagh beach and sat down to watch the sunset. There were two islands a few KMs into the sea. The sun slowly descended into the horizon between the two islands, spilling scarlet, crimson, magenta, orange, and all the possible shades of red into the sky.
We started the walk back, taking that occasional glimpse at the colorful sunset sky and its reflection on the mirror on the ground.
Bring That Clams Curry!
We reached homestay and freshened up for dinner. The campsite manager told us that the fish fry and clams curry was famous in Karwar. I didn’t know what clams were but I decided to give it a try. First time Kayaking, first time seeing a black sand beach and another first added to that list with the clams curry.
And soon the dinner arrived and I was surprised beyond measure. To be honest, I realized clams are what lives inside the seashells that we all sea on the beach. Just like an oyster, there are two shells protecting it. So the top shell is removed and the clam along with the bottom shell cooked. Honestly, it wasn’t particularly tasty but hey now I learned about a new dish and that counts as a win too right ;).
Dancing With The Stars
We gathered around the bonfire after dinner and danced like there is no tomorrow. Soon we sat down tired and turned to the melodies of Prateek Kuhad while a million stars came out and joined the party. I also learned to identify the Orion constellation from one of the fellow travelers and the list of firsts in this trip grew to four :D.
All in all, it was definitely one of the most fulfilling trips ever. I got way more than what I thought when I set out for this trip. And that is not where the beauty of Karwar ends, Karwar has mountains that overlook the entire coastline. And I pledge to be back another day to hike up to the peak and get an uninterrupted view of the entire coastline of Karwar.
If you enjoyed the journey, tell me about your favorite places in the comments. Read about my Himachal Pradesh backpacking trip here.
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Asta La Vista