THE START

Contrary to my usualness, I was nearly an hour early at the station to board Maveli Express. Half an hour later, my friend Jayakrishnan also joined. Though the train was half an hour late as it reached our station, we reached Mangalore Central (MAQ) on time – 8:05. Our proposed plan was to get a bus to Kollur; but as we were approaching the platform, Jayakrishnan told me about the Intercity Express that starts at 8:15. We were on the 3rd platform and time was so limited for us to get tickets. Though, I went. But since there was a pretty long queue, I returned without getting tickets.

We boarded the train without tickets. Upon reaching Udupi, we saw the TTE doing his duty two compartments away. Spotting him, Jayakrishnan insisted me to get out and take tickets. After a few moments of swift discussion with him which at first pulled me back to get out since we don’t know when the train will resume its journey, I finally decided to take the risk. I got out, ran up to the platform which was two tracks and a few meters away, took tickets and ran back. Interesting as you read it, eh? What happened later is much more interesting. Yes; as some of you’ve guessed it, the TTE never came. The reason being – we were in the UR coach and TTEs don’t usually come checking in them. Hah!

We reached Mookambika Road/Byndoor (BYNR) at 11:30. The station was still under construction, it seemed. A main entrance, waiting shed, and so full of dust. Hiring an auto, we reached bus stop and boarded a private bus to Kollur by 11:50 (Rs. 30/- per head). The road looked recently tarred. We could hear tiny bits of tars hitting the bus’s undercarriage as we were moving. After an hour sharp, we reached Kollur bus stand.

We walked towards the temple looking for a descent and budget lodge to stay. Taking left from the junction near the temple, we reached Amma Guest House. The lady in charge showed us a poorly lit room with no proper wiring and sans other basic amenities for Rs. 1200/-. We refused to rent it out since it didn’t offer value for money. Getting out, we checked the rates at Seetha Deluxe Lodge which was just opposite to Amma’s. To our surprise, they showed us a neat and well put double room on the top floor with TV – all for Rs. 600/- Man, that was almost like a shock for us! How can two lodges which are so close to each other offer rooms with such a huge difference in infrastructure as well as pricing! As I write this, I’m thinking of making a few profiles in TripAdvisor and other websites to write negative reviews about Amma Guest House. Uh!

THE DARSHAN

The queue to darshan was lengthening as we reached. After an hour in the queue, we were able to get a good darshan by 20:00. Got out by 20:35, had dinner and headed to the bus stand to enquire about the next day’s bus timings to Murudeshwar.

Murudweshwar wasn’t there in our plan until Jayakrishnan told me about the place and the Shiva statue. This happened when we were waiting for our bus to Kollur at Byndoor. The bus we boarded back then was coming from Murudeshwar. So yeah, that’s how Murudeshwar came into our plan.

Since the bus stand was all stranded, we checked for the timings on the notice board. There were buses at 12:30, 12:50 and 14:35.

GETTING LOST IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Surpassing 3 Snooze-s, we woke up by 4:40. Freshened up, had a coffee from a small shop at the junction and went to the Jeep Stand which was a few meters away.

For those who don’t know it yet – Located in the Shimoga District of Karnataka, Kodachadri is a mountain peak that stands at 1,343 metres above sea level in the Western Ghats. It’s an off road to Kodachadri and only jeeps* (8 passengers/jeep) commute to the place. Alternatively, you can also trek all the way up to the Kodachadri through the forest.

We were early birds for the trip. Within half an hour, another 6 joined. We started at sharp 6:30. After a tea break at 7:05, we reached the ‘Moolasthana’ by 8:20. The driver allotted us one and a half hours to trek up and down to ‘Sarvajnapeetha‘ – that is 1.9kms one side.

Except for jeeps, mist and people, nothing else could be seen around. Small temples were seen as we walked further. Priests standing at doorsteps were narrating stories behind each of them. Our trek started right after passing these and a small pond. A pathway by a shop lead us to a muddy and rocky way. One among our co passengers in the Jeep, Mr. Kapil Raj greeted me with a smile. In a conversation that followed, I came to know that it was his 8th trek to Kodachadri. I was happy that I got an experienced feet to accompany. As I stopped to take breath, I saw Jayakrishnan, a few meters down to me.

The pathway soon opened to a hilltop. To the left, I could see vastitude of Western Ghats. Natives from various districts could be heard around, so the feeling of being in Karnataka was out of context. At peaks, I paused to take snapshots, while Kapil Raj moved forward.

I reached a junction where a man was seen selling watermelon, cool drinks and buttermilk under a tarpaulin shelter. 20 minutes had passed by then. Since I don’t have the habit of consuming anything while doing a trek, I decided to proceed through the small way to the right of me. Three minutes of walk and I reached at its end where there was a small idol of Lord Ganapathi which was set and worshiped inside a small cave. In a travel note I read off late, I came to know that it’s named as Ganapathi Guha and there is a tunnel to the left side of the cave that connects to Chithramoola cave as well to Mookambika Temple.

Though I restrain myself from photographing idols in general, the beauty of the place so demanded a click. While I sat on knees to photograph, I saw a priest climbing up towards the right of me. He kept his baggage, undressed the shirt and told me – “Hey, enough. No one usually photograph idols!”

I came back. From where the man sold cool drinks, I took the way up and reached atop another hill. It was sunny. Though, a few more steps landed me in the midst of mist. I walked further and there it was, the ‘Sarvajnapeetha‘, nearly covered in mist, situated 4303 feet above the sea level.

Towards the right, a youngster could be seen preparing lime juice and buttermilk for people who came by. I had a glass of lime juice (Rs. 15/-) and took a few more steps towards the back of the architecture. A guy was sitting there, fitting his shoes. As I looked down, all I could see was mist. He told me that the bearded guy who was with me (Kapil Raj) returned and pointed me a steep route which was unclear. Since I know it’s Kapil’s 8th trek, I decided to take the route and follow him.

It was steep. Small pieces of rocks make it kind of slippery. The camera hung around my shoulder, I placed each step carefully. As I moved ahead, I felt that I’ve lost my way inside the forest. The condition of the path made it tougher to proceed. My common sense tricked by questioning me – How can I get to Moolasthana if I trek down in the opposite direction? Although, since Kapil Raj took the way, I thought it will lead me well. Getting back to Moolasthana through an alternate route which the majority seem to have not chosen pumped energy into me.

The forest was thick. I’d to seek for the help of trees to help myself climb down at places. The thought of getting lost in the forest, getting back to the Jeep by 9:45 and many other related thoughts began to accumulate inside me.

20 minutes had passed when I finally heard Kapil Raj’s voice at a distance. Overcoming panting, I sighed in relief. He was standing at a dead end with 3 other co passengers. By this time, the guy and his gang who lead me there also joined.

‘Chithramoola Cave’ it was – where Adi Shankara meditated. Also, it was the place where Goddess Mookambika appeared before Shankaracharya. And yeah, the way from Sarvajnapeetha only leads to Chithramoola Cave and not to Moolasthana. I was glad that my geographical assumptions were all correct. While Kapil told them that he is going down, they thought that he was taking an alternate route to get back. But well, if they hadn’t mistook his words, I wouldn’t even be bothered to trek down that route. It was obviously one hard of a trek, but all worth it in the end.

Kapil Raj showed me a vertical ladder to climb up to Chithramoola Cave. He warned me about a Viper which was peacefully resting near the Shivalingam. I stepped up carefully. Since I didn’t want to disturb the snake, I limited my moves. After taking a few documentary shots, I climbed down. By this time, everyone else had left the place.

The thought of trekking all the way up to the Sarvajnapeetha and getting back to Moolasthana started to drain down my energy. My calves had already started feeling low. Yet, since it was the only option I was left with, I made up myself to head back. I was gasping and had to stop at regular intervals to energize myself. I sat on woods and rocks in between. Finally after 20 minutes, I arrived back at Sarvajnapeetha. It was getting crowded and sunny. Another round of lime juice and buttermilk fueled energy for my trek down the hill. It was past 10:00 when I reached Moolasthana.

We arrived at Kollur by 12:00. Our check out time was 12:00. So we had a prompt shower to get rid of all the dust that was resting on our legs, packed our bags and checked out. Post lunch, we hired an auto to the bus stand.

The direct bus to Murudeshwar Temple which was scheduled to arrive at 14:35 never came. So we had to board a bus to Byndoor and from there, we got into a Karnataka RTC and reached Bhatkal depot. As instructed by the station master, we took our seats in a bus which was parked. Minutes passed, but the bus never started. When the conductor finally arrived, we came to know that the bus traverses in another route. We enquired again – this time, a man in khaki, who seemed to be a bus conductor, advised us to board any bus that goes via Murudeshwar, get down at the arch entrance, and hire an auto to the temple.

A TEMPLE BY THE SEA

As we stood in awe before the tallest Temple Gopuram in Asia, the Sun was getting ready to sink in the Arabian Sea. The Gopuram consisted of 18 floors. From the ground floor to the 18th, it only took 54 seconds for an elevator! That is like 3 seconds per floor.

After Darshan, we took the lift and went onto top of the Gopuram. The floor offered view towards all 4 sides. The window towards the backside offered an amazing view of the Lord Shiva statue – standing tall at an height of 123 feet. The beauty of the place could all be seen from those 4 windows. I roamed around, taking pictures.

The Sun sunk himself in the vast sea behind the statue thereby putting an end to the day. The sky brimmed in its warm tone.

While walking towards the spot where we kept our sandals, I spotted Kapil Raj. We greeted each other and had a talk about our day. He also introduced us to his family. Bidding farewell to him, we proceeded to visit the Lord Shiva’s statue.

It was dark already and the whole place was lit. I stood by the steps and took a few long exposure shots of the Temple Gopuram as well as of the statue. Later, we went closer to have a look at the statue. Its grandeur made me WOW! The man power and hard work put behind to build such a massive statue is something to be appreciated. It’s truly something which you have to see at least once in your life.

By the temple, there is a restaurant that extends to the beach. We had South Indian Thali Meals followed by a Orange Juice that tasted of sour. I could hardly consume half of it.

We took an auto to Murudeshwar Railway Station (Rs. 40/-). It was 21:00 and our train was scheduled to arrive only at 1:21. But since there was a derailment that happened in the Konkan route the previous day, our train was said to be late. Almost an hour later, Matsyagandha Express arrived and it emptied the station. Stray dogs were there to accompany us. The tiredness put us to sleep at frequent intervals – at the bench and later in the station’s waiting room; thankfully, it was maintained pretty well. I slept on a square table in there, folding my legs to fit myself in.

As time pass by, we came to know that our train is still delayed. We slept, woke up in between to check for the train’s arrival; but it was all in vain through that night.

The Orange Juice I’d consumed started giving me troubles by then and I ended up vomiting – sigh! But well, that soothed me and I could sleep better for the other half of the night.

I woke up to know that our train will arrive by 7:50. As I was getting ready, I saw Jayakrishnan pointing outside and laughing. I peeped and saw Kapil Raj with his family. Man, we were like – WE MEET AGAIN!?

We finally got relieved when the train’s arrival was announced. It’s been 12 hours since we have been at the station. Though it was an irksome night with sleeplessness and unpredictability spread across the station, the thought of leaving Murudeshwar station made my heart weigh more. For a moment, I gazed at the array of mountains laid far away and bid goodbye to the place as well to that night which went by.

SEE PHOTOS.

NOTES

  • *If you are a good rider, you can also ride to the Moolasthana in bike. As we were heading up, though troubling, we saw two guys doing it.
  • STRICT NO TO AMMA GUEST HOUSE, OKAY?
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