Picture yourself spending an entire day exploring beaches, climbing up and down an ancient fort, running into roaring waves in some of the most pristine beaches, and watching one of the most beautiful sunsets sitting right on the edge of a cliff. My backpacking trip to Kumta with Plan The Unplanned was full of such exciting yet never before done experiences. The popularity of this quaint little coastal town is usually dwarfed by the popular neighbor Gokarna. But you’d have to visit Kumta to believe that it is no less. If you’re someone like me, you’ll actually enjoy Kumta more than Gokarna.
But I didn’t know that before I joined the trip. I was apprehensive about it because I was a solo traveler until then. So the thought of traveling with a group made my introverted soul nervous. And contrary to be usual practice, I didn’t research the itinerary at all. I somehow wasn’t comfortable with unplanned adventures. So, How will I manage? How will I enjoy this trip? these were some of the questions that bogged my mind until the day I left my house for the trip. I just felt it was okay to leave things to destiny once in a while. Read on to know all about how my Unplanned adventures in Kumta turned out to be.
So Many Reasons For Going On A Trip
In May 2019, I received the news about a level up in my career. As cheesy as it may sound, I wanted to treat myself with a trip, more so because it was already 2 months since my last bike trip to Coorg. So, I was writing blogs for Plan The Unplanned for a while and had written enough to earn a free trip.
So, I was scrolling through the events page of Plan The Unplanned and found that Kolukkumalai was in the plan for the week, but for lack of enough bookings, it got canceled. The next choice was Kudremukh but owing to the planned forest fire, even that got canceled.
On further scrolling, I spotted Kumta. That was a name I never heard before. I was curious, so I found out that it was a beach trek. I was aware of the concepts of beach and trek as explicitly different things. But a beach trek? was it a marketing gimmick? I didn’t dig further and booked it, for the heck of exploring what it was about.
So, come May 10, I finished work early and left to board the bus. I met Jolly who was one of the treks leads for the trip. After a brief chat with the fellow travelers at the pickup point, we were off, navigating through the never-ending sea of metal pieces treading on rubber and surrounded by smoke.
We picked up few more people on the way and soon hit the Bangalore Pune highway. The highway brought back a lot of memories from my bike trip to Pune the year before. That trip down the memory lane didn’t last long as Amit, the second trek lead took charge.
Breaking The Cage Of Introvertedness
A Name, A truth, and A lie were all it took to break the cage around my introvertedness. It wasn’t even past 12 and I was really comfortable with everyone around. I realized not everyone is judgemental and more people are accommodative. Anyway, as I sat by the window seat a cold breeze brushed past my face, and that busy highway bustling with economic activity shattered the trail of office thoughts.
Moments later, Jolly briefed us on what was in store for the next two days. By then it was time for a bumpy and uncomfortable sleep but who knew this would become one of my favorite weekend rituals in the months that followed.
I woke up when the backbreaking speed breakers between Haveri and Sirsi made me feel their presence. And soon the open fields on either side of the road filled with fog presented themselves.
At a few places in the forest, the fog I presume was too lazy. So it just covered the crown of the distant tree, leaving the rest of the trunk bare. It was as if that stretch of trees didn’t have any leaves and there were just trunks standing in anticipation of spring. We reached Sirsi at around 6:30 for stretching and freshening up.
Journey To The Sandy Shores
We continued the drive and soon the ghat section made its way into the drive. Our driver drove carefully through the ghat section that revealed some of the most enchanting views of the valleys. Within no time we reached Kumta, the quaint little town in the North-West of Karnataka.
We continued the drive through the Kumta town, passing through numerous fishermen houses until we reached a dead end. The trek leads asked us to wait inside while they went ahead and opened the gates.
The bus entered into an ocean of sand and came to a halt. We got down and walked into the shade of beach pine trees. Two tents were pitched by the side of the pine trees. In the distance, a metallic board revealed the words, Sandy Shores beach stay, an apt name for a campsite by the beach, I thought.
My eyes wandered around the campsite and stopped on a series of mangroves. The gaps between the mangroves were filled with a palette of white sand, a grey band in between, and ended in bright blue. Realizing we were really close to the beach, we dropped the bags in the tents and ran straight to the beach. It was hardly 30 meters away from the campsite.
The beach stretched to infinity on our left side and ended at a small hill on the right. The best part was for as much as my eyes could see, there was no one else on the beach. I hiked up the hill to get a good view of the shoreline. It was already 9:30 AM so we got back to the campsite, freshened up, quickly gobbled up breakfast, and were all set to start the “beach” trek.
A Beach Trek! For Real?
We assembled near the bus thinking we’d have to go somewhere to start the trek. But the guide arrived and started climbing a rocky and steep trail. Without a word, we followed him. It was very sunny already and the initial stone-ridden steep climb gave us a taste of the adventure. After the initial stretch, be it because of the rocks or the sun himself burning a few more molecules of Hydrogen, it was too freaking hot.
While the sun was sucking the energy out of us, the cheers of waves washing ashore motivated us to continue the trek. And once the beautiful panoramic views of the beach started to appear, I was in no mood to laze around.
And another stretch of steep climb later, the trek flattened out revealing the Aghanashini estuary. Honestly, at this moment, I felt like I was on top of the Chapora Fort in Goa. The only difference being the hills just beneath the estuary.
The frothy white waves slowly approaching the shore and the myriad shades of green on the hills beneath was such a pretty sight. We stopped there for some time to click some pictures. The trail followed the fort wall and the panoramic view of the entire beach and the backwaters accompanied us. The sickle-shaped beach appeared to threaten me to visit nature often and I realized in the months followed, I took that threat very seriously.
The Kagal Fort Of Kumta
This view continued for some time until we reached the bastion. It was facing seawards revealing the vast ocean in front of us. The local guide told us that we were atop the Kagal fort. The Kagal fort in Kumta was built to protect Mirjan fort from intruders approaching via the estuary. So it was a watchtower more than a fort.
While we were busy clicking pictures, the guide shouted out loud and asked us to look into the sea. We spotted a dolphin just by the cliff and it was such a beautiful sight. I said to myself that Dolphins set the right goals for wanderers enforcing a carefree attitude.
We continued walking along the fort wall, while the Gokarna shoreline revealed itself on our left. It was actually surprising to see how close we were to Gokarna. While I was gazing at the shoreline, the sound of waves crashing the rocks caught my eyes. The waves slowly crawled towards a small beach called Nartana beach.
Most of the fort was ruined and there were only a handful of walls left. Unsure of what exactly prompted our trek leads, they started walking down the stairs between two walls. I hopped on the steps and reached down. It appeared like a granary. And as if the granary was emptied recently there were ants everywhere. And like hungry zombies, they started crawling up my legs.
I ran after getting rid of the ants on my legs. Thanking the heavens that the worst was behind us, we continued walking.
The Battle Of Kagal Fort
We started trekking down the fort towards Mystery Cave Beach. Since we were trekking down the fort, the trek was too steep like the beginning. However, unlike the beginning, this had taller bushes that saved us from the sun. Thanking the heavens again, we continued the walk but little did we know that huge red ants were waiting on the leaves. The red little bastards jumped on our heads and crawled their way over the head, face, and neck.
The dripping sweat, the cuts on the skin because of thorns, and the slippery slope crowned it the title of the hellish patch of the entire trek so far.
Reaching Heaven (Beach) Alive!
By the time we reached the beach, I was so restless that I along with Poornima and Pooja just ran into the incoming waves. It was so soothing but the waves were too strong to stay for long. So we started trekking along the beach. climbing up and down the rocks to reach Heaven Beach.
Whoever said all good people go to heaven was either lying or there are no good people in this world. Because that was heaven in front of us and we couldn’t spot another soul anywhere close to that beach. And unlike the mystery cave beach, the waves were much calmer here and hence was the perfect place to get into the water. There was also enough shade on the shore to have lunch as well.
Amit taught us a few tricks to stay afloat on our backs. Trust me, I have been trying back swim all my life but somehow at that moment, I just got it. The trick is to make a “U” shape out of your body, i.e head and the feet above the water and the rest of the body below it.
We spent close to 2 hours on Heaven Beach, had the packed lunch, and started the trek along the beach again. The next stop was a cave that was supposedly used by Queen to move between Kagal fort and Mirjan fort in the event of an attack. The guide who was there with us claimed that a lot of foreign tourists still use these caves to get to Mirjan Fort and that he accompanied such tourists thrice. But that was an adventure for another day, I told myself.
Unplanned Dive In Aganashini Estaury
We continued the trek and started the climb uphill. This particular stretch passes through the fishermen’s village which is full of small huts. I once dreamed of living on a cliff in a villa and here I was seeing the huts which were a luxury for the people there.
Soon we reached the bus pick up point but the bus was nowhere to be seen. We waited for a while and in the meantime, the guide asked us if we were interested in a boat ride. All of us agreed in unison.
Soon we were off sailing into unknown waters. The helmsman was alternating between the two extremes of the engine handle creating a rolling motion in the boat. I just stretched my hands and acted as if I was controlling it.
Soon we reached the middle of the river, and it was calm. Truly away from the noises on the shore. An interesting twist caught us off guard. The helmsman asked us if we wanted to get into the water. I stood up and raised my hands in excitement :D. He signaled me to come to the rear end of the boat. He checked my life jacket, fastened it wherever necessary and made way for me to jump.
And I didn’t give it a second thought. I just took a leap of faith in the bond of those two plastic pieces and jumped straight into the water. The water was warm, and since it was evening already, the sun wasn’t shining so bright.
Casting A Magic Spell
With nothing but water around me and the sun shining bright, the dive offered me a momentary peace. Soon others followed suit. In the next few minutes, more than half of us were in the water, swimming, playing, and more than that, having the time of our lives.
This unplanned adventure was truly a magical and memorable one. The helmsman was patient enough or we simply had so much time, I don’t know. But he let us stay in water for a good amount of time.
Once we were back in the boat, I felt like Hrithik Roshan after the scuba diving session from the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. I wasn’t lost, I was just letting the moment sink in, staring endlessly at the foamy ripples in the water and the mangroves that silently observed them. After all the hustle back in the city, this was a decisive moment, restoring that much-needed balance.
Sunset Hike At Vannalli Beach Kumta
Soon we were back on the bus. I think that unplanned dive cast a magical spell on everyone that we sang madly at the top of our lungs. We danced and sang our way to Vanalli beach, where we had planned to watch the sunset.
Vanalli beach is a small little beach close to the Kumta village. Sandwiched between two small hills, the beach appeared to be the fishermen’s entry into the sea. The sun was closer to the horizon giving the perfect opportunity for some silhouettes.
I tried headstand for the first time, albeit with the support of Poornima. We started climbing the hill on the right to reach the sunset point. The sunset shades truly transformed the beach. The green shrubs on the hill, the pearl white waves, and the orange shade of the sand resembled a tricolor arrangement.
After walking for another 5 minutes, we reached a small that seemed to be a camping place. We sat down under the shade and watched the most magical moment on the Earth.
The turquoise blue water turned to gold and the sky threw up all the shades of orange. But much of the concentration was at the center of all this magic, the bright orange Sun. He waved a final goodbye while we looked at him in awe without batting an eyelid.
We returned back to the Sandy Shores, had some delicious fish and curd rice. I’ve been told right from childhood that the above combination can be poisonous for human beings. But I gave it a try and it’s been close to a year now and I am still alive. Either that’s a myth or I am not a human(Wow).
Starry Night On The Kumta Beach
Once everyone finished their dinner, we gathered around the bonfire. I don’t remember how it started, but all of us took a dig at singing, then got up and danced like mad people. We then sat again to narrate stories from our travel diaries.
It seemed that the stars were also curious to hear all these exciting earthly stories and they gathered in zillions above our heads. As if it wasn’t magical enough, Jolly pulled out his harmonica and we all erupted singing the songs. Looking back, it was another defining moment on the kind of traveler I became. I wasn’t sure if group travel suited me, but that night, I burned those thoughts in the bonfire. Most of the trips that followed this one were in a group and I absolutely had a great time and met some amazing people.
As I delved deep into these thoughts, thinking, How magical can a night get?? but I was too quick to conclude that.
So at about 1 AM, we went on a walk along the beach. It was pitch dark with the only thing visible were the foamy white waves. As we sat down on the beach, we kept staring endlessly at the waves. Something unusual caught my eyes as blue lights emerged beneath the foamy white waves. It was bio-luminescence, I quipped in child-like excitement. I was stunned by those unexpected views. It was definitely my first and it was so so magical. The intensity increased after a while, not as much as what they show in movies but good enough to call it a magical day.
A New Day With The Same Sun
Jolly asked the people interested in the sunrise trek to wake up at 5:30 AM. I set my alarm and dozed off in the sleeping bag under the starlit sky.
As planned I woke up at 5:30 AM. I, Jolly, Poornima & Thejaswini was the only ones who woke up. We started walking towards the beach. The viewpoint was just a few climbs on the hill by the beach. The sky was filled with clouds and the beach was calm with few fishermen dotting it.
The sky was filled with dark clouds and I was afraid we won’t be able to watch the sunrise but just at that moment, I saw a small glowing orange ball peeping from the edge of the hills in the distance. Honestly, I have been on many early morning rides back in Bangalore but not even once that I stopped to witness this beautiful moment. I decided to do that more often from then on.
Once the sun was completely up and the clouds started to block him up, we started the climb down. I went back to the camping site and sat on a leaning chair, and dozed off in a jiffy.
After breakfast and a game of volleyball and lots of clicks in the hammocks, we were off to the next destination, Vibhooti Falls.
Diving In Vibhooti Falls
The trek leads gave us a choice between Aganashini Falls and Vibhooti Falls. Because all of us wanted to get into water AGAIN, we chose Vibhooti Falls unanimously. The treks leads were kind enough to change the itinerary accordingly. The Vibhooti falls were around 58 KM away from Kumta. We started the drive and when we reached the highway, we stopped at a Dhaba for lunch. The rest of the journey was through a dense forest and Amit told us that there weren’t any restaurants on the way.
After finishing dinner, I made for the lost sleep as I dozed off in bus sitting by the window. At around 2 PM we reached Vibhooti falls parking area. The falls were around 1.5 KM away, but there was a well paved path to reach the falls.
The falls are supposedly perennial and a legend links their origin to the Yana caves. Owing to the peak summer season, the water level and flow were at their lowest. However, it increases significantly in the monsoons, and travelers aren’t even allowed to enter the pool.
We got into the water, and I was surprised to find the water was so cold. How can the water be so cold when it was burning hot everywhere around us. Anyway, I swam around a bit and flaunted the newly learned skill of backstroking. Moments later, I settled onto that rope in the middle. The only water game we could think of was “Who holds their breath longer underwater”.
Interestingly, the first time we played it, we hardly crossed the 30s. But at the end of it, the highest was well over a minute.
It showed how flexible our body is and the only limit is what you set in your mind.
The Goodbye Sunsets
We quickly changed into fresh clothes at the rooms available near parking and boarded the bus. We hit the road and it started drizzling after we crossed Sirsi. While we were busy watching the dark clouds, the sun caught our attention with a vibrant shade of orange.
The sun was shining so bright that all of us just gazed at it from the back windshield. There were three hills in the distance and as we drove on the curvy road, the sun appeared to set over one hill and revealed himself in the valley between the hills. It was as if we watched 3 distinct sunsets that day. What a way to say goodbye and only if every goodbye gave as many chances, I thought.
Well Deserved Closure
Anyway, we sang our way to Bangalore after a brief pitstop at Davanagere. A lot of the guys on the bus didn’t taste the authentic Davanagere Benne Dosa. So I suggested we stop at Davanagere and have it for dinner. The sporty trek leads welcomed the idea and requested the driver to take a turn towards Davangere town.
Soon we reached the Wolrd Famous Benne Dosa joint in Davangere, Sri Guru Kottureshwara Benne Dosa stall. I was so hungry that I think I ate 2 plates of Dosa. For the uninitiated, it’s a very heavy dish and a typical adult will be full by having one plate. But Inju was no typical adult. 😉
We got back into the bus, concluded the trip by sharing our experiences. As I sat back in the seat by the window, thoughts flooded my mind. My mind was filled with so many apprehensions before I started on the trip, but in the end, it was an overwhelming experience. I guess that is how life is, always supporting you when you push your boundaries. In the months that followed, I not only chose to travel in groups but went to become a trip leader on my third trip with Plan The Unplanned.
The next morning, we bid goodbye to each other and slid slowly into the deadly routine until I open the doors for the next unplanned adventure
Thanks a lot for sticking through
I’ll be back soon with another blog post.
Until then, be in touch.
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