September 06, 2014

GOKARNA DIARIES: AUG'14 - Part I

KONKAN RAILWAY: EPITOME OF INDIAN ENGINEERING


After attending Vaini's Śrāddha (death anniversary) on Friday - August 1, the Chillar Party i.e. Da, Bhabi and me decided to head to Gokarna to spend the rest of the weekend. After our four day trip to Chikmaglur in February earlier this year, the excursion to the temple town along the Arabian coast was a much needed break for all of us. Besides, its proximity to our native place Murdeshwar made it an ideal choice for such a short trip. Considering the fact that Dad was posted here in Gokarna in the late 80s, this place is close to our hearts and going there has always been exciting.

We left for Gokarna from Murdeshwar at about 10:00 in the morning. Though there are many buses plying between the two pilgrim towns along the Karavalli coast, the best option is the Konkan Railway (KR). Not only is it faster when compared to buses, the one hour journey through the heart of the Western Ghats is arguably, one of the most scenic rail lines in the country. An idea conceived in the mid 80s and completed in late 90s after multiple delays, KR is widely regarded as the epitome of Indian engineering. Connecting the port of Mangalore to the country's financial capital Mumbai, the line runs between the narrow strip of the western coastal plan which is sandwiched between the mighty Ghats on the one side and the vast Arabian on the other. As the dark blue colored train crawls through the hills, travelling via an intricate network of creepy tunnels and narrow bridges built over several swift flowing rivers, the view from the window of farmers working in their rice fields and of villagers going about their daily business is breath taking, more so during the monsoon when the entire region is covered by a lush green carpet. Believe it or not, for all this, you just need to buy a ticket worth Rs. 25/-.

We boarded the Mangalore-Margao local train at 10:30 am and reached Gokarna Road station at 11:30 am; the stations on the way include Manki and the towns of Honnavar and Kumta. Gokarna is about 8 km from the railway station and you can cover this distance either in a rickshaw costing about Rs 250 or in a tempo - the local name for the crowded mini-buses which are much cheaper though slower as compared to autos. We choose the latter since it was cheaper and we had all the time in the world. On the way, I was delighted to see people engaged in various farming related activities along the Agnashini river which was was in fury; its brownish waters filled with alluvial soil brought down from the Ghats contrasting beautifully with the green farms. Next, we also came across the salt pans of Sanikatta which are known to attract several species of aquatic birds. The heavy mist hanging over the pans that had been inundated due to constant downpour over the last few months gave the whole place a mystical feeling. After a journey stretching for about 40 minutes, the tempo which by now was carrying people and goods nearly twice its permissible limits, dropped us at the main bus stand, right in the heart of the town.

The Coconut Palms - a common sight along the Western Coast
The Bridge over the River Sharavati - Honnavar
On way between Honnavar and Kumta
Reflections... under overcast conditions 


For more posts in the series: GOKARNA DIARIES: AUG'14, click here (Link)