There are trips that you just keep putting off for that perfect moment and that perfect moment never comes. And one fine day, you just pack your bags and head out because the best time to go was the last time you thought about it and the second-best time is now. I fell in love with coastal Karnataka during my road trip to Gokarna back via Udupi and Agumbe back in 2018. But a bike trip in Udupi was always like a mirage, so close yet to so far.
For some reason, the conviction wasn’t there to just go and explore. But one fine day in February 2020, after almost 2 years of contemplation I decided that I’ll go explore Udupi and Agumbe during the Shivaratri long weekend. As spontaneous as the decision, the three-day bike trip around Udupi exploring the pristine beaches along the coast and the hidden beauties in the wilderness was all about that spontaneity.
It was such a beautiful trip with so many amazing memories that it was too overwhelming to read in one go. So, I’ve broken it down into three parts, one for each day of the trip. Come join me while I explore some of the most pristine and underrated beaches in coastal Karnataka.
Since I had a lot of ground to cover in the three days I wanted to plan it well before landing in Udupi. I made a rough itinerary on the map joining the places of interest in Udupi, Agumbe, Sringeri & Karkala. After I made the itinerary, I realized that I had to stay at two different places for the two nights. After carefully looking at the places I wanted to cover, I locked in Udupi to be my starting point. But that wasn’t the end of the hunt.
I still had to figure out the mode of transport to reach these places. Since many of them were remote areas with limited, non-existent, or infrequent bus connectivity I decided that I will rent a bike and ride continuously for three days. But something about riding for three days straight worried me.
The longest I drove on a single day before that trip was around 400 KMs during my ride from Goa to Pune. But that was on a highway with the best roads I could ask for but riding through forests and ghat roads aren’t as easy. With that worry lingering in my head, I decided to book a bike anyway.
The easiest way to know if you could do something is to just do it.-Inju
I quickly looked up on Royal Brothers‘ website if they had any outlet around Udupi. Just around 5 KMs from Udupi, I found one outlet in Manipal, the education hub of South India. I made the bookings for the bus to Manipal and the bike for the three-day ride. I didn’t find any hostels in Udupi but I got a steal deal to rent a cozy Airbnb by the beach for just INR 700. It was 2KMs north of Malpe Beach.
Slogging My Way Into Manipal
On the 20th of February, I packed my bags and left for the Jayanagar bus station. Typical of Bangalore on a weekend, there was a lot of traffic. The bus slogged through the honks and piles of metals. Owing to that, the bus reached Manipal at 8:15 AM against the scheduled time of 7 AM.
But that was a blessing in disguise as I had scheduled the bike to pick up at 8:30 AM. I got down the bus and looked around. I thought Manipal was just any other small town but boy I was in for a surprise. There was a huge building in front of me that read, Kasturba Medical College. As I walked on the main road, few more buildings appeared on both sides of the road. The KMC and MIT spread themselves on either side of the Udupi-Agumbe road in Manipal.
After walking for five minutes I spotted a KFC, Domino’s Pizza, and two high rise towers in the distance. The development of the town just blew my mind, no wonder education improves lives. A few minutes later, I reached the Royal Brothers’ outlet and picked up the Avenger 200.
I filled up the tank in the nearby petrol station and started the ride to Airbnb in Udupi. Udupi had a unique charm in the 700-year-old temples and monasteries surrounded by modern life. It truly takes you on a trip down the history lane without sacrificing the comforts of modernity. But the best thing about Udupi isn’t the co-existence of tradition and modernity but the food. The Udupi cuisine not only remained unchanged but has become so famous that it placed Udupi on the world map for must-try vegetarian food.
Feels Like Goa! Not Udupi.
I continued riding on the Udupi Agumbe highway and took a right turn towards Kalsanka-Amabagilu road and hit the Mangalore-Mumbai highway. The diversion towards Thonse West near Municipality building near Gopalapura teleported me to Goa.
The sight of tall coconut trees on either side of the road, the algae infested compound walls was such a Goan thing. I was following the google maps location the owner had sent me and it took me to an isolated home a few meters off the main road. When I enquired at the house they said they never heard of Airbnb, let alone hosting anyone.
I quickly called up the owner and explained to him the situation. He asked me to come to the main road and said he’ll take me along to the actual location. At this moment, I was a little worried that the owner was gonna dupe me and escape. I reached the main road and the owner came along. We drove on the main road for some time and we took a left turn on a concrete path. The road ended very soon and he continued driving on the loose beach sand and reached a small house.
I looked around and all I could see were tall coconut trees with the sea waving at me as a welcome gesture. It was scorching and humid so I quickly freshened up and started the ride. The first place I wanted to visit was something that I wanted to witness to confirm it’s existence.
The Reunion At Kodi Bengre Beach
I have seen estuaries in life and even swam in one but all of them were huge. The volume of water was simply incomprehensible but this place was different. As I continued the ride towards this spectacular place, I saw the density of houses reduce gradually. After a 10-minute ride, I saw the ocean waves crashing on the backyard of the houses on my left. While I felt it couldn’t get any better, the shimmering glow from the backwaters of the Suvarna river on my right caught my attention. The waves in the backwaters were busy playing with the coconut leaves as the trees bent 90 degrees from their upright position.
What a start to the trip, I thought to myself as the turquoise blue water on the left, the shimmering light from the right while accompanied me under the shade of towering coconut trees on both sides.
I rode till the end of the road, parked my bike on the road, and climbed up a wall. As I got down the wall, I saw the Sita and Suvarna rivers racing towards the Arabian sea with white sand of Kodi Bengre Beach lazily witnessing the reunion. Since it was afternoon, there weren’t many people on the beach. The beach was really peaceful with ample shade to relax.
The estuary was also an entry point for the motorboats of deep-sea fishermen. For a brief moment, I just stayed put and observed the waves crashing on the shore, the silent reunion of the rivers into the sea, and the rustling of coconut tree leaves.
It was truly a remarkable start to the trip but I was too quick to pass that judgment. The next stop was just 3-4 Kilometers away if there was a road across the estuary.
Rejected By Yet Another Light House
As strange as it may seem, the next stop was a lighthouse. It is a seemingly simple and boring structure for many but they always excited me. Be it the spiraling stairs or the refractive mirrors to show direction, and the birds’ eye view from the top, it is an amazing place to spend some time at. The Kodi beach lighthouse was only a few kilometers from Kodi Bengre beach. But there were no roads across the estuary, so I got back on Mumbai-Mangalore highway, took another diversion at Beejadi, and reach the Kodi Beach lighthouse.
I was so excited looking at the towering structure and parked my bike outside the entrance and walked up to the gate. There was a notice board hung outside the gate. It read,
Visitors Are Allowed From 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM.
That’s it. I didn’t read any further. There wasn’t anyone around the lighthouse. So I thought I will go inside and try convincing the officials inside. I opened the gate, walked towards the office block. It was locked. I turned towards the quarters behind the lighthouse and there was a guard, having lunch. I asked him in my broken yet polite Kannada if he could allow me to climb up the lighthouse. He refused, quickly and politely.
That’s how my relationship with lighthouses has always been. Ever eluding. I had been to two lighthouses before, once to the famed Aguada fort in Goa and the second one in Pondicherry. But both the times I didn’t get to climb up to the top. I sighed after mentally noting the score down, 3-0, and cursed myself for figuring out all the details but the entrance timings of the lighthouse. I left for lunch as there wasn’t much left to do at Kodi Lighthouse.
The Conundrum Of Faith
If you’re a non-vegetarian aficionado like me, you’ll always hunt for the best. But when you’re in coastal Karnataka, which already boasts of some of the best non-vegetarian dishes, where would you go?
That was my dilemma until I found Shetty’s Lunch Home in Kundapura in my research. Few months before the trip, I had gone to dinner with my family at Shetty’s Lunch home in Jayanagar, Bangalore. The ghee roast was heavenly. The best Ghee roast I ever had. So when I found out about the Shetty’s Lunch home in Kundapura, I immediately decided that it was gonna be my lunch spot.
So I rode through the toad by the backwaters and reached Shetty’s lunch home in 10 minutes. I went straight to the AC section as it was really hot, sat down, and looked at the menu, and then it struck me that it was Shivaratri that day. I am not particularly religious but have an unfading love for Lord Shiva. So I settled for a vegetarian dish, relaxed for a bit, and started the ride again. The vegetarian dish wasn’t particularly great but if you love non-vegetarian food and by chance end up in Kundapura, Shetty’s lunch home is your go-to place.
Walk Into The Sea At Maravanthe Beach
My next stop was the Maravanthe beach. It was about 16 KMs from Kundapura. I hit the Mangalore-Mumbai highway again and this stretch of the road was stunning. As soon as I hit the road, a bridge welcomed us. After crossing it, within another 5 minutes there was another bridge and then another and then another. I later learned that Kundapura, especially the Gangolli area is home to the estuaries of three rivers.
I continued riding and soon a river accompanied me on the right-hand side. A few minutes later, the sea also made its way into the landscape. On my left were sea walks, extending deep into the sea, and on the right was the Souparnika river gently flowing towards the sea and I couldn’t hold the excitement while riding in between them. This was the feeling I craved for. All the pain of riding 80 KMs was for this brief moment here. I sometimes laugh at myself as to how I underestimate what gives me immense happiness.
I stopped at one of those sea walks and the view was some sort of a three-layered sandwich. The bottom layer was a road with the sea walk and the sea occupying the middle and the bright blue sky making up the rest of it. I spent a good 15 minutes at Maravanthe beach.
Touristy Things At Malpe Beach
After that mesmerizing experience at Maravanthe beach, I started the long ride of 60 Kilometers back to the next destination, Malpe Beach. It was around 2:20 PM when I started the ride back. The sun was at his peak outburst. I slowly picked up speed as the traffic wasn’t much at that time. I raced past villages, small towns and didn’t slow down.
But the heat was unbearable and I was already tired as I didn’t ride for that long in a while. I guess it was around 2:50 PM, the ride was very boring, add the heat and tiredness, I was really sleepy. I think for a brief moment I even closed my eyes unconsciously but quickly realized what was happening and stopped by the road to freshen up. There was a coconut cart where I stopped for washing my face, drank some coconut water, and then started the ride again.
I rode as consciously as possible after that episode and after about an hour and half of drive, I reached Malpe Beach. Right from the entrance, I felt like I shouldn’t enter this beach. It was too crowded unlike all the beaches I explored that day. But I was there for a special purpose, to explore what makes St. Mary’s Island so famous.
So I parked my bike amidst an already crowded parking space and walked towards the beach. It’s a really beautiful beach with Palm Umbrellas for providing shade to the tourists. There were all sorts of water games available at the beach. It truly felt like the starting scene of Jaws or Piranha (just the party scenes yo). As I walked towards the water, I spotted few motorboats and there were people shouting St. Mary’s Island standing in front of the boats.
A Rolling, Pitching & Yawning Ride To St Mary’s Islands, Malpe
I approached a guy who was standing in front of the boat and asked him about the price. He replied hurriedly that the ticket price is INR 300 per person and the last boat leaves from the island by 5 PM. I paid the money and wore the safety jacket and jumped into the boat.
Anchors up and we set sail towards the island. As it is common with all helmsman, the boat rolled as the waves crashed onto the boat’s hull. After a 30 Mins of ferry ride that was rolling in all directions possible, I safely reached St. Mary’s Island. On the outside, it looked pretty normal as any island. I started walking towards the entrance to the island and spotted a peculiar rock formation. The rocks were cuboidal in shape and appeared to have been fused to other cuboidal rocks.
I walked through the entrance and the attempts of making it a tourism spot were rampant. A restaurant here, a recreational center there, few water sports equipment scattered around the island can be found alongside a huge crowd who for some reason seem to be focusing on just one part of the island. I skipped past that spot to explore the island and after a few minutes of walk, I found a much calmer place. Best thing? There was a board that reads “PEACE” in the cursive text but people either paid no attention to it or didn’t want peace for some reason, it was an empty spot.
I walked further and found an even more secluded corner of the island. There wasn’t anyone in the near vicinity at this spot. This spot was much calmer and untouched. I was glad that people were spending all their time at the earlier spot leaving this calmness for me.
Chasing Sunsets In Udupi
At around 5 PM I jumped back into the boat and reached the Malpe beach by 5:40 PM. I had initially planned to watch the sunset from Kapu beach but there was no way I could make it till there in time for sunset. But I still wanted to give it a shot, so I quickly ran back to the bike and started the ride towards Kapu Beach. I raced past the busier roads, the fishermen’s houses, and a harbor.
Soon after crossing the harbor, the road ran by the beach. Similar to the Maravanthe beach this tiny and beautiful beach also had sea walks. I looked at the sun approaching the horizon and decided to watch the sunset from Mattu beach itself, this name I learned after the fact. There were local kids playing between two sea walks and another one was occupied by a family. I found another empty one and sat down.
I set my phone up to capture the timelapse and just sat by the beach. Sunsets, time and again amaze me. After a day full of riding and exploring, I was tired and found refuge in the beauty of the sunset. At around 7 PM, I started the ride back to Airbnb. It was close to 20 KMs from Mattu beach but it was a breeze now that it was breezy and cold. As I approached the harbor, the silhouettes of the boats in the backdrop orange-tinted sky, the flag masts, and their reflection on the water was such a mesmerizing landscape.
At around 8 PM I reached the Airbnb, rested for a while, went and bought Maggi, ate it, and then went upstairs for some stargazing. Traveling in winter and not stargazing is a crime 😉
After capturing the Orion, the only constellation I recognize, I called it a day and hit the bed.
Thanks for sticking through till the end, this is the 16th post in the virtual travel blog post series. Thanks for all the love and feedback <3
This is part one of the three-part travelogue on my bike trip in the coastal Karnataka. If you loved this journey check out my other bike trip travelogues here.
If you wish to join my upcoming trips, connect on Instagram.
See you next weekend, until then be in touch.
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