What? – a power packed weekend!
My limited brush with Coastal Karnataka was during an impromptu girl’s trip to Murudeshwar, Jog Falls and Gokarna. This time around we had 3 days to squeeze in a quick trip in monsoon (15th August weekend). While the relentless rains in Western India isn’t my favourite time to travel, but it was too tempting to let go off a long weekend. During a coffee break at work, we were looking at pictures of Jog waterfalls (2nd highest drop waterfall in India) and we instantly decided we wanted to see it in person.
Our destination for the weekend was decided!!!!!
When? - in full-blown Indian monsoon!
There is no best season to visit any place. Sometimes lean season is the best to beat the crowd and get budget deals. However, it has its own woes, especially weather not holding up.
We had zeroed in on 3 destinations in Coastal Karnataka – temple town of Murudeshwar (can be visited all year round), Jog waterfalls (Best during or just post monsoon), Gokarna (best time to visit is from Oct to March). Because the highlight of our trip was jog waterfall, monsoon was a good time to visit. Also, we were ready to be at the mercy of rain God’s for the duration of our visit!
Unfortunately for us, due to mediocre rain until August, Jog falls was half as majestic as I have seen it in photos. Murudeshwar was overcast and we had our good moments in Gokarna. However, if you have a choice, I’d recommend visiting Murudeshwar and Jog falls in monsoon, followed up by a visit to Dudhsagar waterfalls, near Goa. Gokarna would be better post October when the skies are blue and trail for half-moon trek not slippery!
How? - Indian railway loyalist
It was just me and a girlfriend travelling and we decided to be loyal to Indian railways, mainly for the affordable tickets as the airfares to Mangalore were over the roof and also for the safety.
Mumbai to Murudeshwar
In order to ensure minimum loss of time, we took Matsyagandha Express (LTT, Mumbai) to Murudeshwar [departs at 3:20 PM and revised arrival at 4:08 AM– when we travelled the train arrived at 5.45 AM].
We did a mistake by looking 2AC and had to do with half a sitting berth as only one of our ticket status had moved to RAC. Lesson learnt, for such an impromptu trip, always book sleeper class (best option!) or third AC (if you cannot tolerate sleeper class) as the ticket roasters move faster as higher cancellations are expected. Another option would be to book ticket upto Mangalore (last destination of Matsyagandha) as chances of confirmed ticket are higher as final destination has higher number of reserved seats, unlike smaller transit stations.
Alternatively, one can fly to Mangalore and take a bus to Murudeshwar
Murudeshwar to Jog (day trip)
I love budget travel, but not at the loss of comfort. I know it’s a paradox, but we managed quite well.
We arrived in Murudeshwar all geared up to change 2 buses to reach jog falls [Murudeshwar to Honnavar and then on buses on Jog falls route heading to Banaglore/ Mangalore and costing us about INR 150-200]. But having slept so little in the train we changed our mind and called up a local taxi guy. One day trip to Jog falls in a 4-seater costs about INR 2,000, while an 8-9 seater costs about 2,500.
We decided to take our chances and share a taxi (one way) to Jog falls with another group of 6 friends who (luckily for us!) needed a one-way taxi to Jog falls (they had booked KTDC accommodation at Jog Falls).
While our costs were taken care of (about INR 500 per person), but we did get into major disagreements with the group. Jog falls has two look out points, one next to KTDC resort and one on the opposite side (some 3 kms towards Murudeshwar). The group wanted to visit the second view point but wanted us to drop then back. In the bargain, we agreed, but that set us back by 2 hours and we barely managed to be back at Murudeshwar post sunset. [Tip: When travelling with random groups, pre-agree on halts/ cost sharing, in consultation with driver, to avoid bad blood]
Murudeshwar to Gokarna
Passenger train (which runs between Mangalore and Madgaon, Goa) is by far the cheapest and fastest mode of transport from Murudeshwar to Gokarna.
The train arrives at Murudeshwar at 9:07 AM as per revised timings (ours was to arrive at 9:58 AM but was delayed by 45 mins) and reaches Gokarna at 10:10 AM as per revised timings (we were scheduled to reach at 11:10 AM).
The ticket was a mere INR 120 while the picturesque train journey was priceless! Enroute we passed through Manki, Honnavar and Kumta towns to arrive at sleepy station of Gokarna, a good 7 kms off the main city!
Gokarna to Mumbai
While we had wait-listed tickets from Gokarna to Mumbai in Matsyagandha express, our luck ran out and we were stranded on Sunday morning with options running out. Buses were full (VRL travels/ SRS travels) and taking a bus to Goa and a night train was too hectic/ tickets were unavailable. Here again, had we booked a ticket from Mangalore to Mumbai, we might have got an RAC, who knows!
Ultimately we decided to travel in ladies unreserved boogie (last boogie of the train). All we had to do was pay INR 300 and wait/ reserve our seat. The train was fairly crowded until Madgaon, but the beautiful landscape and chit-chatting with local women kept me occupied. Luckily I got a place to sleep (top wooden berth) and thereafter the journey was quite comfortable – my back doesn’t agree with that statement though!
Kamat Residency, Murudeshwar
At such short notice, almost all sea-facing accommodation options were booked. Hence, on a friend’s recommendation, we booked an AC room at Kamat residency (on the temple main road) for INR 1,000. The room was basic, but even as two girls staying alone, we did not feel unsafe.
While our first choice of accommodation was undoubtedly Namaste Café (Om Beach), we ultimately settled for cottage at a fairly new resort called Sanskruti resort.
The resort was a splurge for INR 5,000 a night. However, the property, though very small, is very beautiful. The cottages are nestled around a two section swimming pool. The serve buffet meals and aspire to have a bar license soon. Each room looks out to the swimming pool and is equipped with a huge bed, A/C, flat screen TV, toiletries and smells wonderful, thanks to some great room freshners.
While the food has a lot of scope of improvement, the staff is very friendly and helpful. We had specifically requested for a pick-up from station (Manager himself came to pick us up in his personal car!), early check-in (free of cost) and late check-out (free of cost). They even arranged for auto for us to visit the beaches, and trust me the autowallas were very polite and non-intimidating. Overall, a very relaxing stay at Sanskruti.
And just before checking out, I did jump into the pool and got badly tanned! – True mark of a brilliant trip ;)
Murudeshwar is mainly a temple town with limited food options. We ate a breakfast of idli/ dosa at Kamat Residency and dinner at multi-cuisine Naveen Beach Restaurant bang opposite the temple (the building structure almost hangs into the sea).
There is only one restaurant here run by KTDC. There is significant waiting and food choices are limited, south Indian thali/ idli/ dosa fare. I tried the thali which was very filling.
We ate a buffet lunch and breakfast at Sanskruti resort, which was decently priced, but could do with some improvements.
We watched the sunset sipping beer at Namaste cafe (Om beach) and thereafter hogging on nutella pancakes and sandwiches.
We met random travellers and spent some time getting to know them. We loved the cafe so much we returned here for lunch next day as well!
There is a shack called Paradise cafe at Kudle beach, but we didn't find it appealing enough.
The trip cost us about INR 9,000 per person. While it wasn't exactly a budget stay, but hey, girl's do need some pampering, right?! ;)