St Mary’s Island near Malpe beach, Udupi, Karnataka

Here are bunch of photos of St Mary’s Island, taken by my photographer-friend Nagesh who has roamed this coastline since his childhood (and who is, incidentally, shooting India’s first fully digitally shot movie). Since¬†they are such lovely snaps, I decided to let the story follow the photos.

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As I wrote sometime ago, if Karnataka gets its act together, it has everything going for it to emerge as India’s top tourism destination. Here is more proof.

St Mary’s island is a little slip of land about 30 minutes out into the sea from Malpe Beach in Udupi. As you can see in the photos, God certainly let loose on this one; it is gorgeous and I can say this with the certainty of someone who has seen a fair number of beaches and islands across the world. The island is full of crystallised basalt rock, a unique rock formation found in very few places in the world, the most notable being the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And, the sea between the island and the long curve of the beach at Malpe is placid and gentle (or at least looks that way).

As I stood on this little island last week, it was clear that it is crying out for a bit of tender, loving attention. Continue reading

Agumbe, the tallest & wettest place in Karnataka

agumbe-mist-on-hills-karnataka-photo-picture.jpg(Agumbe photo courtesy : JP)

Last week I discovered Agumbe (pronounced Aagumbe). A quick one hour drive, straight up over 14 hair-pin bends took me from the coastal city of Udupi to the heights of Agumbe. And guiding me to Agumbe was the man who is most likely to put Agumbe firmly on the map – Jai Prakash, known to all and sundry as JP.

JP’s story is atypical. JP hails from Udupi the charming coastal town in Karnataka. And for a youngster from a nice south canara middle class family, he landed the ultimate prize Continue reading

On a passenger train from Mangalore to Madgaon on the Konkan Railway

26 stations separate Madgaon from Mangalore on the KR2 passenger. It took me 7 hours and I didnt mind it one bit. And, yes, the KR2 passenger has one reserved compartment and seats allotted are zealously guarded by the TTE. So, go ahead and climb on it the next time you are in the west coast. It is a great journey.

This is a particularly blessed land. As you go north to Goa, you get the sea on your left and masses of open, rolling country on your right. And to make it all very agreeable, the train runs over innumerable rivers and goes through long tunnels that have the exotic smell of damp red laterite soil; the same smell that greeted me in my grandfather’s house deep in the Keralan country, every morning when the dew was fresh on the ground.

And, now for my 10-second primer on the Konkan railway. The four Konkan coastal states (Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka & Kerala) hold 49% and the Indian Railways hold 51% of the Konkan Railway corporation. About 20 odd scheduled passenger trains run on Konkan railway in addition to a number of cargo trains. It has about 1900 bridges and 91 tunnels. The celebrated Mr Sreedharan, who then went to do a number of Metros in urban India, was the first head of the company. His team got the job done in about 7 years time and if other Indian government projects are anything to go by, this verges on the truly miraculous.

Like all big developments, the locals love it and hate it by turn. Continue reading

Will serendipity help me fill my Konkan trip?

And how.

I am back from almost a week of wandering up and around the Konkan coast from Mangalore to Madgaon. Which of course, explains my absence from this blog. But, I am back with many stories that should give me lots of posts over the next few days.

Here is a sneak preview. The people I met over the week include:

  • The banker who dumped a promising international banking career to become a farmer in the highest peak in Karnataka..
  • An engineer who gave himself up to his passion for photography and who is filming India’s first digital photography movie..
  • A singer/contemporary of Remo who was part of all the recent history of Goa – from the Portugese defeat to the retreat of the hippes..
  • A fascinating Estonian who can’t figure out why Indians never say ‘I don’t know’, but say ‘her husband expired’…
  • Olga from Barcelona, who does knock-out Spanish food at Ingo’s…

and so many more.

Watch this space. It gets interesting.

Click here for the first post on planning my recent Konkan trip.

Click here for all my Konkan posts.

Click here for all my Goa posts.

Konkan coast on rails

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(Map of Konkan Railway)

So, I am off again. The idea is to get to Mangalore and work my way up to Goa and then from there to explore the beaches of Sindhudurg in South Maharashtra. It is a non-plan, plan. I have a train ticket from Bangalore to Mangalore. I have a ‘second sitting’ booked from Mangalore to Madgaon. (I think www.IRCTC.co.in is a blazing wonder – I just booked, very effortlessly, a 71 buck ticket for the MAQ – MAO journey and even have a window seat allotted to me; need to see whether seat allotments hold on passenger trains on the Konkan railway). I also have a return ticket to fly back from Goa to Bangalore. Hopefully, serendipity will help me fill the rest.

Click here for all my posts on the Konkan.

And, click here for all my posts on Trains, planes, spacecraft etc.

Online booking of train tickets on Konkan Railway

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(Mario Miranda’s cartoon for Konkan Railway)

The first line of the online booking page of Konkan Railway reads as follows:

Internet booking is available ONLY to Indians, Foreign nationals and NRIs holding a valid passport.”

Clearly Martians and other riff-raff Aliens cannot hope to hoodwink the Konkan Railway bureaucracy. Equally, NRIs (who are obviously neither Indians nor Foreign Nationals) have to watch their step. I sleep well in the knowledge that our country and our national treasures are well protected, if not by everyone, atleast by the good folks at Konkan Railway.

If you are an Indian, Foreigner or NRI, click here to book your tickets with Konkan Railway.

http://www.konkanrailway.com/website/ehtm/online_reservation.htm

All others can click here for my Konkan posts or here for all posts on Beach vacations.

Bangalore to Mangalore – by train to the Konkan coast

Once upon a time there was this quiet town in India renowned for its great weather, doddering pensioners and slow & steady factories. And a few hundred kilometres away was another small town on the sea, with a massive smell of drying fish as its unique signature.

Life went well for everyone till a crazy Texan came to town (the first town with great weather) and in a short span of time had so corrupted the place that it was overflowing with cars, traffic jams, call centres, multi-milionnaires and java coders. While all this was going on, the second town was still on its placid path, with its unique olfactory imprint intact.

But a few souls in the sleepy, smelly town decided they wanted to get to the big city that the other town had now become. They too wanted ‘success’. So they fought hard for a railway line between the two towns.

Energised by the pleas of its people, the government decided to set up a railway line between the two towns. And started a project. The project went on. And went on. And went on. Soon, everyone in the two towns forgot about this railway that was being built. They went by car, by bus, by plane. By everything but by train. And the two towns bustled.

Till one day, when somebody suddenly said, the railway is now open. Continue reading

Tarkarli beach on the Konkan coast

Sindhudurg is the southernmost district of Maharashtra, just north of Goa. Sindhudurg is supposed to have some of the best beaches in India and Tarkarli beach in particular is mentioned by many as a particularly lovely beach to go to. Tarkarli’s reputation is one of clear waters that allow one to snorkel and scuba dive, which is interesting because to the best of my knowledge there is no other mainland beach in India that is good for watching the world underwater.

Goa does offer Scuba, but even the operators themselves agree that Goa’s murky waters are not the place for it. The best snorkelling & diving in India is in Lakshadweep, where Mitali & Prahlad Kakkar run Lacadives (the other option is to dive with Goa diving in Agatti Island; I have come across some vague rumours of safety here, so do check well before you go) . After that is the Andaman Islands, particularly Havelock Island. I haven’t been there and so do not have first hand experience – but many members of HolidayIQ swear by Havelock which is very reassuring.

Anyway, to come back to Tarkarli beach. I do know that a few years ago, a couple of well known boutique cruise operators (Seabourn, I am almost certain was one of them) had an interesting halt offshore at Tarkarli beach from where they brought guests by boat to the beach and then took them on a cycle tour of the local Konkan region. My impression is that this is not done anymore – certainly not at Tarkarli beach. Not sure why.

MTDC has a resort at Tarkarli beach, which has been reviewed and rated by many members of HolidayIQ. Everyone is unanimous in their opinion of Tarkarli beach. Tarkarli is an awesome beach and Continue reading