The town of Gokarna, situated in Uttara Kannada district, sure brings thoughts of picturesque wanderings. Booming with tourism, the pilgrimage centre is more sought for its heavenly beaches now. While it is undoubtedly a holiday destination for people from around the world, it is also a paradise for those who like to explore the less-traversed coastal path.
Gokarna to Honnavar, a 50-km coastal stretch, is popular for its breezy routes and pristine beaches, and one can spot many backpackers here getting sun-kissed and taking over the rocky cliffs on the shores of white sand beaches. Of late, the coastline has become extremely popular with trekkers, and there are many groups that organise treks here.
With the primary motive of providing a platform for nature lovers, Bangalore ASCENDers (BASC), was started seven years ago by four backpackers who looked forward to building a genuine wilderness wanderer community. Currently with over 5,000 members, BASC organises frequent treks to many hillocks. However, it is the Golden Trail trek from Gokarna to Honnavar that takes on an unconventional course.
“We organise treks on sharing basis and we charge a minimum amount of Rs 1,300 for the Golden Trail trek. If the expenditure is excess than this amount then it is collected again, and if the expenditure is less, then the excess amount is returned to the trekkers,” explains Jinu John, one of event organisers of BASC. True to nature, the trek community has strict guidelines — no plastics, no alcohol and no smoking. “Trekkers who do not abide by these guidelines are blacklisted by the organisers,” stresses Jinu.
The Golden Trail coastal trek starts from the beautiful cliffs of Ankola and traverses through the pristine beaches like Om, Paradise, Half Moon, Full Moon and Sangam. The group leaves Bengaluru on a Friday night, reaches Gokarna early on Saturday morning, grabs breakfast from a nearby restaurant, packs lunch and starts off the trail.
“Our trek is very economical and we do not promote luxury. Every trekker takes care of himself or herself, and it’s a group of like-minded volunteers trekking on the same route,” he explains. The trekkers, while filling the registration form for the trek, have to check in the list of works they are willing to do during the two-day camping, which includes cleaning the campsite, installing the tents, collecting water, cooking, getting ration etc. While they travel in a bus, camp in tents and cook their own food, they trek through the forests, cross a river on boats, and at the end of the day, take a dip in the blue sea.
Ramkumar Gopalan, a travel blogger who had joined BASC in this coastal expedition twice, shares, “This coastal stretch is a paradise and there are many unexplored beaches with no human footprints on them. While the trek is tiresome, it is a worthy experience to encounter clear and white sand beaches. BASC helped me experience the pleasure of nature.” However, one has to wait till the end of the year to experience this trek with BASC as Jinu says, “November to January is the ideal time for this trek.”
Nevertheless, if you are among the ones who like to get sun-kissed and experience the coasts on bright summer days, then Get Beyond Limits (GBL), another passionate trek group, could come to your aid. With well-planned commute and stay, Ishan Sharma, one of the founder members of GBL, says, “The coastal trek from Gokarna to Honnavar is hand tailored with five beach routes.” They take the irregular path starting from Kudle beach. “We had to find a way to trek throughout the path; not taking the ferry service. So we start from the North coast,” he adds.
They indulge in cliff climbing, hike on the boulders, spot the dolphins on the coastline and explore the untouched beaches during the course of the trek. The two-day trek comes to an end here after witnessing the first rays of the sun the next morning.
The trek groups take prior permissions wherever needed before carrying forward the trek. They do not camp on the beach sides without prior permission nor do they trek on the reserved forest areas without permission. However, they are not recognised by the tourism department.
On a cultural quest
The trek to the coastlines are not just thrilling but educational too. While information technology people, corporate professionals and other enthusiasts from urban areas join the trek groups from Bengaluru, many school students from across the State and even other states take part in the trek from Gokarna to Honnavar with their teachers. Conducted during the winters, these educational treks are organised by an organisation called BuDa Folklore (BuDa in Kannada translating to roots).
BuDa Folklore has been working towards studying and preserving the rich traditions and folklore of Uttara Kannada. With centres in Honnavar and Angadibail forest, BuDa is helping both students and researchers gain better perspective on native traditions and ecology. Started by well-known researchers Shanthi Nayak and N R Nayak, BuDa is also managed by their daughter Savitha Uday, a teacher and cultural philanthropist.
The centre organises various events round the year. The programmes aim at reviving native art, tradition and culture. While the centre invites enthusiasts to take part in traditional events such as mat weaving and quilting workshops, it also organises sea, forest and river route educational treks for students. These treks showcase the rich diversity of the region and its social and cultural significance.
Sreeja Velayudhan, a teacher, who took her students on this educational trek, says that it was one-of-a-kind experience. Their first pit stop was the Mavinkuruve Island on River Sharavathi. The island has rich folklore and was once popular for the art of making double keys. Exploring this island, the four-day educational trek took the path to Karki village where the hanging bridge lies, and continued to the Ramangindi beach, where the students met the locals.
The next attraction was the long stretch of the picturesque Dhareshwar beach where the encounters with sea creatures like jelly fish, dolphins and flying fish excited the eyes. The students also learnt the art of jewellery making here. “From here we trekked to Om beach and later left for Kudle beach and camped there. The next morning, we left for Gokarna town and reached Honnavar for lunch,” shares Sreeja.
This educational trek covers forest, beach, sea and river terrains along a stretch of 60 km. The trek, as Sreeja puts it, “Helped us understand the delicate balance of the ecosystem and we learnt the diversity of life. The interaction with the locals helped us get a better perspective of their culture.”
An adventure-loving traveller, a sun-soaking tourist, a nature and culture enthusiast or an avid vagabond, the coasts of Uttar Kannada district offers something for everyone.