We spent nearly two weeks travelling in late September / early October i2009. From Bangalore to Mangalore (some of us by train, some by car) then we drove up the ‘Malabar’ coast all the way to the southern part of Goa by car, stopping on the way. From Goa airport we flew to Udaipur and then flew back to Bangalore.
Click on the photos if you want to see them a bit bigger.
Train to Mangalore
I travelled to Mangalore by train, some of the others by car with the luggage.
The train route from Bangalore to Mangalore is newly open: it was being converted to broad gauge for years. It has been open as an overnight passenger train for a few months now, and for goods trains for sometime longer. I planned to take the overnight train. An exciting thing to do, but a little bit of a pity because I’d heard that it’s a very scenic route over the mountains of the Western Ghats to the coast. There had been one daytime train on the very first day it was opened up to passenger trains, but thereafter only night trains. There were demonstrations about this because it was assumed that politicians were getting money from the bus companies to stop the trains.
But just a couple of weeks before we were due to travel I learnt that it had just opened to daytime passenger trains. Thanks Srikanth131 on IndiaMike! It only runs 3 times a week, but that fortunately included the Monday day we wanted to travel. So I booked the seats.
Yesvantpur Jn (Bangalore)
07:30 First Stn
17:55 Last Stn
I reserved seats in 2nd class AC sleeper (three tier). (The only other class I saw was 2nd class non-AC unreserved seats - the cheapest tickets. There was no 1st class.) The train was clean and comfortable. The children enjoyed the sleeper berths: the top sleeper tier was folded down so they could climb up there and even draw. Bella also slept up there for a while.
This train was full of children and families, a very nice atmosphere. I think the train was completely full.
I’ve never noticed this before: looking out of the train, when we were still on the plains, some of the palm trees had metal bands attached round their trunks, like cuffs. To keep animals from climbing up to the top and stealing the coconuts?
The seriously scenic part of the route was between the stops Sakleshpur and Subrahmanya Road. Also by far the longest time between two stations. From the timetable, this was meant to be just 2 hours and 25 minutes. I think there was a considerable delay, and it certainly felt like much longer than that, I think about 3 hours.
I messed up a bit with the seats. I’d reserved seats for six of us. When some of our group decided not to come on the train, I didn’t cancel their seat because we would have lost a window seat, and also I though the seats were not all together. Turns out we did have six seats together. And when the conductor came round he wanted to know who wasn’t travelling, the other seats were then resold at the next stop. So I lost my window seat. Worth knowing in advance that you can't keep unoccupied seats.
But in the end sitting in the open door way of the train was more fun anyway. There was someone sitting in every single doorway. But the train, through the mountains, was going really very slowly. Sometimes out of the train you could see right across a valley, glimpsing a white river below, and over to the next mountain with tiny waterfalls in the distance. Looking down as went over bridges to nothing below your feet. Sometimes there would be a tunnel shortly followed by a bridge, then a tunnel, then another bridge. I had a great feeling of greenness, fertility, and wetness: a couple of times I had to grab my camera in as mini waterfall fell down the mouths of tunnels. There are apparently 679 bridges and 57 tunnels.
That’s my feet in the doorway in the second photo. The train conductor told us to watch out for this crashed train in the third photo.
When the train went through a tunnel, people would start screaming out of windows so you could hear the echoes against the tunnel walls.
Near station called, I think, Haban Ghatta (near Hassan?), before we got into the mountains, the train reversed directions. Luise noticed that they added two engines to the train (making a total of three) somewhere before we got in the mountains, possibly here. They were removed again sometime before we got to Mangalore. Just shows you how steep the train was going uphill. The best view out of the train was on the right side (facing forward) (so left when the train starts in Bangalore).
We stopped at this little station right up in the mountains, Yedakumeri (sometime before before 15:00). It felt so remote.
Our coach of the train had a badge on it saying made in May 2009. Very new.
One tunnel had the date 1975 on it, which must be when the original narrow gauge line was built.
The group in the car got to Mangalore, at about 4:20pm: two hours ahead of us. We all left home at about 6:15am, so it took them about 10 hours by car. The National Highway was closed at least part of the way, so they did lots of it through the villages.
The train timetable above was wrong for the last two stations. There were only 10 or 15 minutes between the last two stations in Mangalore. The train arrived about half an hour late: not bad, really.
There are some interesting web pages of people trekking this route before the trains started running: Kiran Jonnalagadda and Venkatesh Rangarajan. And some really good photos of the journey: Desh Karthik.
Driving up the Malabar Coast
We stayed the first night, in Mangalore, at the Goldfinch Hotel. Good hotel. The rooms were of a good standard, but the dining room and food were not very exciting.
Next morning we drove from Mangalore to have lunch at the coast near Udupi at Paradise Isle Resort. Good food.
Before Udupi we made a short diversion to the sea. Down a little road I found at random using the map on my phone - by the (respectful) interest that our car got, I don't think many people come down there just to see the beach.
We also stopped at Kaup beach, with a striking lighthouse. Luise particularly like this because her maiden name is Kaup!
Sai Vishram resort
We stayed three nights at Sai Vishram Resort near Baindur. We got a bit lost finding it, driving a little up in to the rolling hills and down again, which was interesting anyway. We then drove right past it since it is hardly signposted. I’d recommend ringing them for directions when you get near.
We loved this place. It’s fairly simple but very comfortable. The atmosphere is good. The food is all vegetarian (and no alcohol). All meals are included. Near the beach there are two rows of tables set out, and the choice of food at each meal is set out next to the tables: a buffet essentially. Rice, noodles, dahl and several veg dishes. Good, tasty food. As many papads (popadoms) as you want. Dosas, chutney, toast and cereals for breakfast.
According to our driver, Sai Vishram means Guru's Resting Place. Every evening there was a pooja, that you could hear it (and almost see it) from our rooms. I sat and read a book one evening listening to it, very calming and atmospheric.
Five minutes walk down the hill from our rooms, past the dining area, a table tennis table, and some hammocks is the beach. Clean and beautiful. And empty.
We had great fun on the banana boat. We’ve been on one before that went quite slowly. This one went FAST, and BIG waves. Personally, I found it pretty scary!
We stayed in the Sun Cottage and Earth Cottage. Nice. The Sun Cottage has a small pool which the children loved. The Earth Cottage is the prettier of the two. The beds were hard, but didn’t seem to be a problem, we all slept well.
On our last day we had planned to go to Jog Falls. We chickened out of this though. It didn’t seem fun to do with children. The drive each way would have been three hours. We you get there you can apparently view the falls from a viewing platform, and then walk up to the top (but not after the monsoon) or down to the bottom (difficult, slippery and leaches). A pity though, we’ve been wanting to see them.
But instead we went out twice on the boats from the resorts. First early in the morning out to sea to see dolphins (we didn’t see any but never mind). And then after lunch to go along the coast and up the river into the backwaters. They have one little “speed” boat and a second inflatable dinghy, both with outboard motors. Whoever is in the dinghy gets wet (me). The backwaters were really pretty, completely clean, peaceful and untourtisty: I'd say much nicer than the backwaters of Kerala. There were trees (mangrove trees?) growing at the edges of the water, thickly, with their roots in the water. Unfortunately we didn’t get any good photos of this.
Coming back from the river was memorable. The mouth of the river has a sandbank across it, and big waves break on it. They took sometime trying to find the spot to go over. Then, when we did, the dinghy tipped right back, bow up in the air, and felt like it was about to tip over for a second. The bigger boat just a few feet in front of us was doing the same: I wondered if it was going to tip on to us.Some other photos of the beach:
We left Sai Vishram on Friday after three nights. On the drive up to Goa we stopped at Murdeshwar: Hindu temple and enormous Shiva statue next to a beach. I enjoyed walking round the temple with the children. The temple was interesting, the children were interested in it, and I love it when people like our children, and are smiling at them!
We past quite a few prosperous houses, even extravagant. Our driver says money from the Gulf, and even from smuggling: gold from Iran: there are big ports near here. I saw women wearing a completely different “sari” from what I’ve seen anywhere else in Karnataka or Kerala - more like a sarong: crossed over at the front and tied behind the neck, with their backs (and a more sometimes) exposed.
We stopped for lunch in Gokarna. I didn’t like it much, but we did have a good lunch here in a cafe at the beach (Prema Restaurant?). The temple looked interesting, but there were a lot of cheap tourist shops. And just one or two backpacking tourists – it’s still very off season. Felt like an overflow of the worst of Goa.
This large neat pile in front of the beach is of plastic water bottles:
We stayed three nights in Goa, just relaxing. And eating fish:
Next flew to from Goa to Udaipur and stayed for 4 nights.
A particularly memorable Lunch in Udaipur: beautiful - sitting under the trees, by the lake, overlooking the lake palace, the city palace and the steps where they were washing and boys playing in the water.
Udaipur City Palace:
Views of the lake:
Walking through Udaipur:
Sas-Bahu Temples near Nagda, a short drive from Udaipur (Sas-Bahu means mother-in-law and daughter-in-law):
Last photos of Udaipur:
Paradise Isle in Udupi where we had lunch on the way seem to be only people offering a houseboat on the backwaters of Karnataka. Looks similar to the houseboats in Kerala. Sounds interesting.