Kudle-Om-HalfMoon-Paradise - The Great Beach Trek
It was a windy morning and the sun light felt good after a cool night. After polishing off a heavy and a rather European breakfast of muesli with fruits, curd and honey I was ready to trek to the other three beaches with a friend. A water bottle, a cap and a small backpack was all I had with me. The route to Om Beach is straight forward from Kudle. You climb up the southern incline and arrive at a plateau which stretches out for about a kilometer or so. It leads to a concrete road, from here the sea is visible. Just walk down the slope, past the toll booth and take the first left that leads to the steps of Om Beach. The steps make it easier to visit this beach and hence a lot many tourists visit. However, a decent number of cafes and guesthouses make it possible to stay on the beach too. The sun was beating down now so we decided to continue our trail. A small sign leads you onto the trail to Half Moon beach.
There are many trails that seem like the route but what we stuck to the one that lined the coast. The trail ascends considerably towards the beginning after Om and moves at almost the same altitude for a long time. The trail bends sharply to the left once the sea comes into view and then the descent begins. The trail finally ended at ramshackle guesthouse. About 20-25 mattresses were laid out in the sun, probably to get rid of bedbugs. We made our way to the small stretch of sand which curved to form the shape of a half moon. It was a baby beach as my fellow trekker put it. We decided to stop only at Paradise so after confirming the route, we continued walking. There were a few bamboo huts with basic facilities available for staying the night. The final trail disappeared right onto the rocks that lined the sea. A local fisherman confirmed that walking over those beautiful rocks was the only way to get to Paradise.
Well, I had to agree with him. The road to Paradise couldn't be easy for sure. A few langurs watched us with almost no interest as we tried to negotiate our way, trying to classify the various rocks to the extent our limited knowledge of geology would permit. This went on for quite sometime but the tide was receding so at least we had the luxury of time. After negotiating a wide patch we finally came to a point where the rocks ended abruptly. So, we walked towards the foliage and started following a pathway that led away from the beach but seemed like the right one. Trusting our instincts we walked slowly, crunching gravel and dodging thorny shrubs that kept scraping my calves. After walking for a long time and only going further away from the beach, we came across a fork in the trail. One end turned right and descended towards the sea while the other continued uphill. I decided to take the right turn and hoped that it would take us to the shimmering blue sea.
It went downhill and suddenly curved upwards. I was hoping that it wouldn’t take us back to Half moon beach but as we treaded along we discovered that the uphill climb was only momentary and soon enough we were rapidly descending the slope. Within a few minutes, a clearing could be spotted and we rushed towards it. A group of hippies sat cross legged under a make-shift shelter eating pulao. I asked one of them if this was the Paradise beach and he smiled like St. Paul and said “Welcome to Paradise!” I thanked him and moved ahead. Remains of several concrete structures with grafitti on them were strewn all about. A coconut seller informed me that the Forest department had razed all the illegal guesthouses down. The coconut water that he provided was refreshing and we proceeded to explore our own Paradise.
The beach was small but secluded. In a small patch of land, shaded by coconut grove I met a group of travellers who had been camping on the beach for about 10 days. They had built a shrine in the middle and worshipped it. The nearest village was 30 minutes by foot and supplies could be brought from there. A single pipe connected to a fresh water well was their source of fresh water. Seemed like an ideal hippy life in a slice of paradise. An old man selling expensive fruits and some cigarettes would supply the essentials in case they were lazy to trek. Another old man roaming with his goats and carrying a sickle told me that one of the razed cottages belonged to him and during the demolition drive he had injured a forest ranger. He had spent 3 months in jail and was out on bail, charged with half-murder. He was quite nonchalant about the whole affair and brandished his sharp sickle with utmost ease. He told me that he had complete faith in Shiva and hoped that the great Natraja will pull him out of all troubles.
The other travellers who were camping with their kitschy gear and utensils seemed quite content with the setting. They were not paying any rent nor had they sought permissions from the authorities. They were just living there as free men and women of this world. Quite an idyllic life it seemed, befitting only a paradise. Most of them had been in India for over two months and had travelled mostly around the north before climbing over the Vindhyas. Serious campers might want to carry a tent but a hammock is all that you would need. No permission from the authorities doesn’t imply their consent, so one must be prepared to leave the site in case of evacuation. As the season reaches its peak, Paradise will get crowded but only travellers will frequent it and not tourists.
For travellers with heavy backpacks and worn out trekkers, there is a boat service available throughout the day, rates are negotiable in case of a large group but we paid Rs. 500 for two to get back to Kudle beach. The boat ride was short but it also served as a good recap of the routes that we had taken. Also, I felt just like a Boss when the boat moored itself right in front of the Shangrila Guest house where I was staying. Paradise had been visited and the great trek completed. It was time for me to bid goodbye to this beautiful town. So after seeing the Sun set into the Arabian sea once again, I packed my bag and was on my way to Ankola to catch an overnight bus to Hampi - the erstwhile capital of the prosperous Vijayanagar kingdom and the fabled town of Kishkinda from the Ramayana.
Views from the boat