Finishing touches. I always loved finishing touches. Be it Dhoni’s sixer from the 2011 world cup final or Khalid Hosseini’s heart-melting concluding lines from the kite runner, there is a distinct style to how the great artists concluded their art. Traveling is no less an art and the last day of the 3-day trip in coastal Karnataka is no less than a half-filled canvas for me to give those final touches and make it memorable. So when I was thinking hard on how to conclude the trip, I took an unpopular decision. I had to reach Manipal for boarding the bus that evening. Manipal was just 54 KM from Agumbe which is roughly an hour of the ride. But I rode on that road while coming to Agumbe and it would be boring to ride on it again.
So, when I scouted the places of interest on my saved list on Google maps, I found a few more places of interest and I immediately decided to visit all of them. The magical sunrise, the spiritual experience of Sringeri, the wilderness around Kigga, the enchanting ride through Kudremukh national park, and finally the one that got away on Day 1, Kapu Beach. All of them put together, the ride turned out to be 193 KM long. But I was game for it.
Change is inevitable. It is almost as certain as death. But still few people and places seem to embrace it impressively. Sringeri with its centuries-old monasteries and temples is one such place. Sringeri is a small hill town near Agumbe. Established by Sri Adi Shankaracharya Sri Saradamba Peetham located in Sringeri is one of the first mathas of Advaita Vedanta. How it embraced the change while still keeping the values intact is why Sringeri was on the list.
So after a full day ride through the wilderness of the rainforests of Agumbe, I set my alarm for 5:30 AM and closed my eyes. I got whatever little sleep I could get because of the power outage and woke up at around 5:40 AM. So, I quickly freshened up, picked up my battery bank, phone, jacket, keys, and left the homestay.
Chasing Sunrise At Kundadri Hill
I stepped out of the hotel and all it was pitch darkness all around. I cleaned the dew-covered bike seat and started the bike. After 5 minutes of ride on the highway, google maps asked me to take a left turn towards a narrow road. Riding through the darkness, I visualized how beautiful the sunrise would look like from the place I was riding to.
Kundadri Hill has the distinction of being the best place to witness the sunrise in perhaps the entire of Karnataka. So, I rode as fast as I could through that narrow road surrounded by darkness and freezing cold to catch a glimpse of the golden hour. I reached the foot of the hill at around 6:15 AM and the sky had already started the magic.
I rode carefully through the narrow and sharp hairpin bends of the Kundadri ghat and reached the parking space, and ran to the sunrise spot as if I would lose my life if I didn’t.
My belief is that a lot of success in life comes down to three things luck, effort, and timing.Inju
So in spite of having put a lot of effort to wake up early, ride through biting cold on a scary road, my timing and luck weren’t right. By the time I sat down, the cloud cover that added the beauty to the sunrise had already dispersed.
But sitting atop an 830m hill during sunrise has its perks. The absence of clouds was a blessing in disguise as I got a clear view of the spectrum of sunrise. The pitch darkness at the foot of the hill slowly transformed into silhouettes of hills in blue. I looked further up in that spectrum and waved at the familiar shades of red, orange, and yellow and of course the sun.
A Grand Welcome To Sringeri Sharadamba
I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the last day of this magical trip. After spending about 30 minutes watching the sunrise, I started the ride back to the homestay. Slept for some more time before starting the long ride back to Manipal at 9:40 AM. The next stop was the ancient town of Sringeri. It was 24 KMs of pure happiness for my riding soul. The roads were so good and picturesque that it would put NICE road to shame. I reached Sringeri at around 10 AM and had breakfast.
The prominent places in Sringeri are Vidyatheertha Setu, Sringeri Sri Saradamba temple, Vidyashankara temple and a monastery of Sringeri Sharada Peetham.
The Vidyatheertha setu, a suspension bridge built over the Tunga river connecting the monastery to the temple premises. The disciples and priests of the Sharada peetham use the bridge to traverse back and forth between the temple and monastery.
After a walk along the bridge, I started walking back to the temple and saw huge crowd on the main road. Curious, I joined them to see what was going on. Two elephants decorated with golden ornaments were walking towards the temple in a procession. Few meters before the temple, they turned aside and stood by the road making way for the deity. With a grand procession, the deity sat on the Ratha for the procession.
I was standing besides the ratha and as I looked up at the deity, the 127 feet tall colorful gopuram caught my eyes. It was so grand that and all-consuming that I just stood there in the middle of a procession staring at it.
Vidyashankara Temple: 14th Century Architectural Wonder
Once the crowd cleared off, I went inside the temple premises. As I entered, a huge stone temple carved out of stone caught my eyes. I presumed it to be the Sharada temple because it was inside the gopuram of Sharadamba temple and was literally the first and most grandiose temple I saw inside. But much to my surprise, the presiding deity wasn’t Sharadamba but Vidya Ganapati. I looked around and the Sharadamba temple was in a corner.
The unique structure intrigued me, so I took a closer look at the architectural features. From my exploration of temples in Hampi and Belur-Halebeedu, I realized that the Vidyashankara temple had features from both Hoysala & Vijayanagara architectural styles.
I really felt I was in the 14th century when I looked at the temple premises in Sringeri. The disciples, monks, and priests were all around me in traditional maroon attire. There was a stairway leading up to the river like old times. Mud roof houses surrounded the temple amplifying the already rustic look of the temple.
It was 11:20 AM already and I was still 144 KM away from Manipal. I quickly started the ride from Sringeri on the Solapur-Mangalore highway. After a 10 minute ride, I took a diversion at Menase into a narrow road to reach the next destination.
This road was so narrow and passed through a lot of small villages killing my speed. But I continued the ride to the next stop through country roads. Riding through those smaller villages and looking at the kids looking at me reminded me of myself. Although I don’t remember who I looked at or which biker passed through my village in my childhood.
Ride To Sirimane Falls
Until Kigga it was a journey through the villages. The only scenes until then were curious-looking villagers but once I crossed Kigga, I was back into the wild.
The road diverged into a paved country road surrounded by beautiful landscapes that soon turned into a muddy road which then remained non-existent. The last stretch of the road to the destination was worse than the ride to Kudlu falls. So after a yet another back-breaking ride of 20 minutes, I reached yet another waterfall of the trip, the Sirimane Waterfalls.
Sirimane waterfalls is a beautiful cascading waterfalls in the western Ghats. But the real beauty of this falls has nothing to do with the water but the people around it. Sirimane falls is a real life example of eco-tourism. There are staircases and viewpoints built to witness the beauty of the falls.
There is a moderate entry fee but the responsibility of collecting tickets and maintenance of the falls lie on the shoulders of the people around. In return they get to attract tourists and make a living by selling food. The money collected supposedly supports the maintenance of a small hydro electric powerplant that powers the houses around the falls and Kigga.
While people in the remote corners of the country are figuring out how to live alongside nature in a sustainable way, it’s a shame us metro-folks don’t pay heed to such activities.
Anyway, I quickly explored the falls and had lunch at the food joint. It was almost 1 PM and now the distance was a little over 120 KMs. The fear of missing the bus in Manipal slowly started to take over my mind at that moment. So, I quickly turned around, started the bike, and hit the road.
Riding Through Kudremukha National Park
I took the right turn at Haradugodu towards the Solapur-Mangalore highway. Judging by the surroundings I was certain that I was in a remote corner of the state. Probably in the middle of a forest where anything could go wrong and no one would be around to help. The roads were smooth, even better, in fact much better than the ones in Bangalore.
I entered the highway and within a few minutes reached the national park check post. The guards noted the time of entry and the vehicle number. They informed me that I need to be out of the national park within a certain time limit, meaning I wasn’t supposed to stop anywhere and “explore”. I nodded my head and said, I was in a rush anyway.
I wanted to quickly ride through the forest stretch but then a voice inside spoke, “Dude, you’re passing through one of the most enchanting national parks in India. This is the ride of a lifetime and if you skip through this without experiencing the beauty around, then you were better off taking the direct route to Manipal. Is this what you call traveling?”
Then I figured if I miss the bus, I can always catch another bus, yes it does cost me money but it’s not a showstopper. So, I signed up for experiencing the wild.
The next 90 minutes of the ride through the Kudremukh National was so peaceful. I gave up the need to ride fast (just maintaining enough speed to not take more than the stipulated time) and enjoyed the wilderness. The canopy of trees protecting me from the hot afternoon sun, the chirping of birds and crickets that silenced the noise of the bike, and the occasional sight of monkeys hanging around the corner.
A Quick Pitstop At Karkala
Once I exited the national park, the canopy was gone, so were the monkeys and the chirps. It was really hot and I was riding continuously for an hour and a half. I pushed myself hard and reached Karkala at around 3:15 PM. I had 4:30 hours and approximately 60 KMs to cover with a quick surprise in between for the golden hour. “Will I make it?” The doubts intensified.
But I was tired, so I made a quick stop at the St. Lawrence Shrine just outside Karkala town, also known as Attur Church. I spent some time to catch some cool air in the shade of the church and emptied my bottle.
I stared the ride again at around 3:30 PM with the aim of not stopping anywhere until I reached the next destination. The Karkala- Padubidri road was damn good and wide. It gave me some respite while I pulled the throttle as much as I could. I took a right turn towards a one-way road at Belman and continued the ride.
Exactly after covering half the distance from the church to the next destination, my bike stopped. I checked the fuel, it still had enough to last for another day’s ride, checked the spark plug, it was fine as well and then I let the bike in off condition for a while and started it, and boom it started.
It was close to 4 PM and I restarted the ride again with full enthusiasm and a few kilometers later, the bike stopped again. Figuring it might have been a vapor lock issue, I tried opening the fuel tank lid and let the vapors escape and started again. Thankfully it started and I was proud of my Mechanical Engineering degree.
Kapu Beach & A Surprise
At around 4:30 PM I finally reached the parking space of the Kapu beach. I was supposed to ride to Kapu beach on Day 1but I was short on time on that day. The reason for me to hurry was to witness the surprise package of this beautiful beach. I entered the beach and was surprised to find it very clean. Kapu beach is certainly one of the cleanest and well-maintained beaches I have ever seen.
I turned my head in search of the surprise I was waiting for and there it was on my right-hand side. I saw a huge rock in the distance, upon which there was a structure. Painted in black and white stripes with a red hat on the top, the sight of Kapu beach lighthouse was exhilarating. The child inside me got so excited that I wanted to run to the lighthouse at that very moment. But my stomach and brain had other priorities.
When you’re a non vegetarian, exploring coastal Karnataka, then it’s a shame if you don’t try the fish fry. So, I sat down at one of the food stalls by the beach to try it and boy it was delicious.
Kapu Beach Lighthouse: The Streak Breaks! I Win
It was already 5 PM and the lighthouse was open for visitors. (remember the lighthouse episode from the ride in Udupi?) I walked up to the rock and paid the entry fee. There are three things I love about lighthouses. The first one is the obvious birds-eye view of the coastline, the second one is a bit philosophical where it guides the ships safely to the harbor and the third one and the most exciting one is the spiral. So the first thing I did when I entered the lighthouse was to look straight up at that spiral. The beautiful spiral painted in white and black.
I slowly climbed the steep steps and reached the top. Owing to the limited space, we were let go one after the other. But the wait didn’t irritate me as I was standing beside the instrument that is responsible for the second reason I love lighthouses. If you are wondering what it is, then am talking about a beautiful piece of art made by prisms arranged in a spherical fashion around a powerful halogen bulb. The prisms help intensify the light generated by the bulb and guide the ships safely back to the harbor.
While I was busy observing the details of the lantern pane, the guard called me as it was my turn to go out. I stepped out and I couldn’t control my excitement. Everyone on the beach was like tiny ants and the vastness of the greenery around the beach had no bounds.
The rock on which the lighthouse was built just multiplied the beauty of the beach. Oh! to top it all, the cold breeze flowing across was such a relieving sight.
The Uninterrupted Golden Hour
I recollected my words that I wasn’t worthy enough of climbing a lighthouse as all the ones I visited previously rejected me. But there I was, with the one I probably wanted the most. I wanted to watch the sunset from there but it was too crowded, so I went down and sat on one of the uninhabited rocks.
Unlike the sunset at Agumbe, fortunately, I had an uninterrupted view of the sunset. It was just me, the sun going down the horizon in a breathtaking fashion, and the vastness of the sea dotted by a few rocks in between. Perhaps, the best ending for a trip that gave me the experience of being alive every moment.
It’s Time To Say GoodBye
But goodbyes are hard. Aren’t they? You spend so much time together that it feels like an eternity. Yet, there comes a day when you have to part ways. It may not be in your control but something that is just forced upon you.
This moment of the coastal Karnataka trip was something similar, forced upon me. Be it that ride along the coast exploring pristine beaches or the ride through the wilderness in the rain forests of Agumbe or the ride through the enchanting Kudremukh National park or the breathtaking sunset at Kapu beach, I had such an amazing time.
But after all, I am a normal human being who works through the week to get back to where I want for the weekend. I guess that’s what Travel teaches you the most.
That you have to go through the downs to rejoice the ups. That all good things won’t last forever. And as a matter of fact, the perfectly normal or boring times make up the majority of our lives.Inju
In life, I often felt I didn’t give time for goodbyes. So when the sun went down and I started walking back to the parking area, I wanted to change that thing about me. I wanted to change that then and there. So I turned around to wave a proper goodbye but I was simply stunned to see the view. The entire sky was painted pink and the silhouette of the lighthouse and the huge rock underneath was so mesmerizing. I felt like nature acknowledged the change in me and proactively rewarded me for it.
I rode back to Manipal just in time to catch the bus. The bus driver almost yelled at me for not being early. And with that, one of the most beautiful & exciting trips of my life came to an end.
Thank you for taking out your valuable time to read this travelogue.
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