With the Eco-evangelist..

 After finishing the beach trek (shall post my beach trek adventure later) and taking a quick shower, I decided to hike around the hills close to my shack. My host Mahesh had told me about the breathtaking views of the ocean from these hills.

View from the hills close to Ram Temple, Gokarna

View from the hills close to Ram Temple, Gokarna

I gradually moved uphill and the imposing view of the sea was mesmerizing. The wind was strong and it started drizzling. The air was cool and damp but soothing.  The sounds of the ocean were comforting; the musical beating of the waves subdued all my worries.

View of Gokarna main beach..

View of Gokarna main beach..

As I moved ahead Gokarna beach was visible far below.  I walked further and I saw a gentleman with pony-tailed hair and lively eyes walking uphill.  With a broad smile he wished me Hari Om.  I reciprocated the wish. He was Varun Lulla – the Eco-evangelist from Mumbai. He had all the traits of a typical mumabikar- cheerful, friendly and enterprising. He was living in Gokarna for the last 6 years and is setting up an eco village here. Soon his parents too will be moving down to Gokarna

varunlulla

Varun who wants to increase India’s green cover, quit advertising for the pursuit of sustainable living, plans to introduce forest insurance in India and make concept playgrounds.

A rock on the hills...

A rock on the hills…

Our friendly chat lasted for a couple of minutes more. He shared his knowledge on the mystical village of Gokarna. He was wandering around the hills looking for flora and fauna unique to Gokarna.  We exchanged our contact details and he promised to visit Wayanad, my hometown soon. We parted again wishing Hari Om.

An Ashram downhill…serene ambiance…

The hills close to to Ram temple looked heavenly.  Meeting people here is destiny.  It was here I met the Eco-evangelist Varun, French couple Jonathan and Jeane, and Swiss nomad Stephanie. The night spent with Jonathan, Jeane and Stephanie in the moonlit hills was memorable.

Ruins of an ancient structure....

Ruins of an ancient structure….

Thalatta Thalatta – The Sea The Sea

From the deciduous forests of Kollur now I am heading to the coastal village (or town) of Gokarna.Mangalore–Madgaon passenger leisurely inches towards its destination occasionally tunneling its way out all the way through Konkan Rail.  The rail line, which runs parallel to the Arabian Sea coastline connecting Mangalore to Mumbai, offers some of the most spectacular views of any Indian rail journey.

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Sharavathi Rail Bridge – Picturesque Konkan Rail (Picture Courtesy – Wiki Travel)

The Konkan railway route intersects national highway NH-17 at many places and run along, bifurcating picturesque paddy fields and sleepy little villages. With a stretch consisting of 91 tunnels and over 2000 bridges, criss-crossed by mountain ranges and a large number of tidual estuaries, Konkan Rail is one of the most difficult terrain ever encountered in the history of railway construction.

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Chugging across the Sharavathi River

Here I go dangling over the Sharavati River, carried by the 2060 meters long Sharavati Bridge, the longest one in the Konkan railway. 3 hour journey concludes at the pocket-sized station of Gokarna Road.

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Pocket-Size Gokarna Road Railway station (Picture courtesy – Jeane)

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Gokarna Road Rly Station, Side View (Picture Courtesy – Jeane)

Walked around 1 Kilometer to reach the main road and boarded one of the frequently plying public transport buses to Gokarna.

PS:  You just pay a fraction of the charge of rickshaw for the bus ticket. The rickshaw guy was demanding 200 bucks, while the bus ticket cost me 10 bucks 

Now I am in the quaint little town of Gokarna. The weather is muggy out here.  Walking down the street unhurriedly, I dial number of my host Mahesh and he picks up the phone in 2-3 rings. Effortlessly he guides me to his place. Mahesh welcomes me with a warm handshake and “Good Afternoon sir, how are you?” Mahesh’s place was atop a cliff overlooking the sea. The view from here is astounding.

The Sea The Sea uttered my mind expressing joy on the sight of endless ocean. For the next two days I would be staying in a structure similar to a shack with basic facilities. Stretching on the lovely sea-face verandah I sipped the masala tea offered by Mahesh.

The sea looked fairly rough, and it was amusing to watch it bang itself against the cliffs and then recede, before gearing up for the next onslaught. I sat there for quite a long time watching the sea and the sky, and every wave.  In a couple of minutes I will be setting off for the beach trek .

Amazing World of Solitude..

Touching down….

After an interval of 4 years, I touched down the sacred territory of Kollur. This temple town has transformed a lot and signs of commercialization were evident everywhere.  Lodges had mushroomed in every corner; hills were being mowed down for fresh constructions. Touts were wooing passengers alighting from the bus to substandard accommodations.  A couple of luxury hotels had sprung up and the roads and drainage were filled with pet bottles, and plastic waste.  Sight of empty liquor bottles and broken beer bottles here and there baffled me. The pilgrim place seemed to be at the verge of conversion to a holiday destination. A bit upset I walked ahead in search of an accommodation.

After a quick wash and breakfast I headed towards the shrine of Divine Mother. Dark clouds were gathering in the sky, and a cool strong breeze brushed past me whipping my hair forward, caressing my neck and shoulders. Suddenly the sky opened up and it started pouring.  The wind was so bad that i struggled balancing the umbrella and simultaneously holding to my fluttering dhoti. Rain gathered momentum and half drenched I entered the sanctum which looked deserted.

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Temple main entrance – Almost deserted

 Queue rope lines that guided teeming pilgrims remained empty.  The usual shove and push which I hated most was not there. The dozing security personnel threw a lazy smile.  He looked relaxed since there was nothing much to take care. Everything here looked so familiar. Slowly I walked in to the innermost sanctum (Garbhagriha) where the idol resides. The priests and the archaks here are always polite and a smile adored their face. With the scent of camphor and incense sticks wasping through the air and the glow emanating from the idol I felt in peace within me.

Temple premises drenched in rain

Temple premises drenched in rain

A feeling of detachment dawned as I started circumambulation of the main sanctum. The positive vibes that filled the air, the chanting’s that reverberated the space and the unremitting rains; time seems to be standing still here. And for the first time in life I realized balance in life is having inner peace despite what is happening around; it is not about having no problems in life or having only happiness in life.

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Rainclouds gearing up for another outburst…

Start of my semi reclusion

Unhurriedly I walked towards the structure overlooking the shrine and sat in a remote corner watching the rain. Raindrops took their turn landing with a divine rhythm on the roof of the shrine, lamp posts, and the corridor and on people passing by. Vivid memories of earlier visit to this place with my family flashed through my mind. I sat face to face with myself at the abode of divine mother in the company of Mother Nature. Great start to days of semi reclusion that gave lots of insight into life. This might help in understanding myself as a person, but might take some time.  That’s Okey.

Raindrops landing with a divine rhythm

Raindrops landing with a divine rhythm

More on my exploration and discovery in the subsequent posts

Finally hitting the Road..

Saturday 27th July 2013
And now I hit the road…
Finally today will be hitting the road. The day was hectic; after arriving early morning from Cochin had matters to settle down and sort out, and in due course it was afternoon when I was free. Oops got to be ready for the trip. A bit of swift shopping, searching the cupboard for some outfits, some toiletries and finally packed up the whole stuff. The whole day it has been raining heavily and finally late evening bid good bye to my dear ones and stepped into the bus for Calicut.

And i hit the road

And i hit the road

As I waited for the Mangalore bound West Coast express it started pouring heavily again, but inside the station it was comfortable. It was quarter to 12 midnight and a sweet voice through the public address system announced the train is slated to arrive at platform number 4. Lugging my sort of heavy bag, rushed to platform number 4 at the far end; Panting and puffing managed to occupy a vacant seat there. The train was already running late and finally at half past 12 puff-puff-puff arrive the West Coast Express. No bookings; hence shelled out an extra buck to the ticket examiner and now I own a berth. Compartment flooded by heavy rains had a nauseating stench. I never was a fan of the Indian Railways and adding to the ordeal my berth the lower one was in a pathetic state; torn and strewn with cotton; A clear indication of apathy of Indian Railway to the South. With my footwear still on I laid down on the berth and as the train pulled out of the station the stench gradually weakened and was gone forever. Was just tossing and turning the whole night.

Sunday 28th July 2013
The train pulled into the Mangalore Central at wee hours of the morning, but the station was abuzz with passengers and vendors. From the exit I could see the bus to Kollur parked in front of the station. It was almost empty and so could occupy a comfortable window seat. As the bus accelerated and cruised up the Panvel highway I fell into a deep slumber. As I woke up the bus had already taken the diversion and was now moving past tiny settlements and deciduous forests towards the tiny hamlet Kollur. So will be going into a semi-recluse for next couple of days

Explore, Dream, Discover..

This journey was in the pipeline for a long time.  To spend a couple of days in seclusion at the temple town of Kollur, bordered by lush forests and mist clad mountains; that too during monsoon; and then explore coastal Karnataka, dream by the pristine beaches and discover  something new.

The long wait

The long wait – Kundapura Rly Station

My plans to travel solo raised quite a few eyebrows –Travelling solo at this age!!! Planning to run away from responsibilities!!Seeking spiritual solace!! Any sinister plans!!!

Are you insane? Exclaimed my daughter.

But I was desperately in need of a break.

For the last couple of years I have been running on an unrealistic schedule – 5 days at my office; 2 days busy with my holiday cottages, and then the weekly ordeal of shuttling between Cochin and Wayanad.  I was in a tattered shape; both physically and mentally. In addition some unfortunate incidents inflicted deep scar inside me; hence I opted for this unavoidable break.

Stripped of my normal environs, my friends, family and colleagues, my daily routines and schedules, my cabinet full of clothes and books – with all this taken away, I was forced into direct experience. That was not always comfortable, but was always invigorating.

Nevertheless the journey turned to be very exciting. Bumped into interesting personalities including drug peddlers, occasionally was out of place and certain experiences were out of the world. To sum it up the entire journey was a fab. In the coming days will post some snippets that i have scribbled down in my notepad.