Standing in the middle of a well-laid tar road that is recently washed by heavy downpour of rains, I look ahead. The road is flanked by palm trees, lean and tall to the right and to the left —are virgin beaches of Udupi. Shrubs tucking behind palm trees, visible through the trunks, seems greener. No man or animal dares to come out of their hideouts. With dark clouds still lurking above, there is a calmness that only follows a storm come and gone.
Three days earlier, I was browsing through my father’s library and found a book titled ‘Bangalore & Karnataka’ published by Stark World. There was a section of thirty pages on coastal Karnataka with beautiful photos and endless description of beaches claiming them to be ‘virgin,’ ‘unspoilt,’ ‘golden sand’ etc., For a while, I had been longing to see beaches—soothing effect of waters with endless horizon that only a few could understand.
So, I packed my bag and came for a short backpacking trip of nine days to explore coastal Karnataka, in South India, starting with Udupi. I visited the touristy beaches of Udupi that was suggested by many. They were Malpe and Kaup beaches. Even in the ‘Bangalore & Karnataka’ book that I had seen, these two beaches were highlighted with their own dedicated chapters. It lived up to the reputation of being scenic and clean. But, I wanted to see beaches that were part of coastal natives’ everyday lives and not only those that were designated for tourists. So, I spoke to Ganesh about it, my host in Udupi. Most travelers do not get to see the plenty other beaches of Udupi either because their itinerary is strictly planned with no room to explore or they simply don’t find it. Even with buffer time and no plans, I wouldn’t have found it if not for Ganesh. From Padubelle via Katapady, to Udayavara village crossing paddy fields that intelligently hid the unexplored beaches behind, we arrived at an exact place where I wanted to be.
I stand in the middle of a well-laid tar road that is recently washed by heavy downpour of rains. The dark clouds are still lurking above. Ganesh, seeing me lost in thought says, ‘Here, take the keys and you ride the bike. It is a straight road of 10 km from here to Malpe Port. You will enjoy it.’ I take the keys, sit on the bike and he becomes the pillion rider. Taking on the role of a guide, Ganesh explains, ‘this beach on to your left is Mattu beach, then will come Pithrodi beach, which will lead you to Malpe port. There is no sign of demarcation between the beaches anywhere, but these are local names.’ I nod in acknowledgement and start the engine.
Deliberately, I ride the bike in less than 25km an hour. Scenery that unfolds at a slow pace thereafter is over whelming. Brahminy kites emerge first and actively engage in the sky with their skillful acrobatics followed by Kingfishers whose silhouettes only I could see; palm trees sway to the humble tune of winds; mirroring the sluggishness in weather, men in shorts and sleeveless vests play cards under thatched gazebos; smell of dried fish drifts in the air which very well could be the fragrance of sea—all the while beaches to the left are churning sand—brown in color—with a horizon stretched to infinity.
Parallel to the sea, slowly snaking forward behind the palm trees, is a river. Ganesh says,’ this is Papanashini river. It flows westward and joins Arabian Sea near Malpe.’ I know about a particular stretch along the national highway, NH-66, which is bordered by Arabian Sea on one side and Sauparnika river on the other. It is hailed as one of the most scenic spots in Karnataka and popular among tourists. It is a few paces behind Marawanthe bus stop. To see the same landscape now in Udayvara without vehicles blaring or eyes glaring, is like being one among the privileged private audience watching nature’s grandeur show.
As I ride, my spirits are soaring high. It is that feeling –when your physical form is bound but your soul with arms outstretched reaches for the sky with a big smile!
At the end of 10 km, we arrive at Malpe port. I remember that while riding through villages; I did not see one shop that sold groceries or even vegetables. I ask Ganesh about it. ‘To buy necessities for their daily needs, villagers have to take a ferry from this side of Malpe port to the other side where Malpe bus stand is in proximity. There are plenty of shops in and around the bus stand. If that does not suffice they could catch another bus to Udupi which is a bigger town with a lot more decent shops.’ I understand that to live one with nature but out of sync with the fast paced outer world, there is a price to pay.
Back on the bike retracing the same route, I stop countless times to savor every bit of the scenery. The beaches are clean but now their tides are reaching higher and higher and it begins to rain. The waves are incoherent and the beaches are frothing angrily, still, it embraces an undaunted single fisherman’s boat closer to the shore while issuing a warning telling others to stay away.
I ride back to the starting point feeling sinisterly happy for all things that went wrong and those that went right resulting in this one perfect, blissful bike ride alongside the pristine beaches of Udupi.