Exploring the Karnataka Coast.

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Flag of India  , Karnataka,
Friday, May 4, 2012

Howdy!

Hope you're all well and thriving! The voyage continues over here, picking up the pace a little now.

I feel like a proper nomad at this point - catching a bus every morning for an hour or so, spending each night in a different town or village.

This last week or so, I've got fully off the tourist trail, and have been bussing it down the Karnataka coast, staying at a different town or village every night. Places with names like Honavar, Manki (it was anything but!), Malpe (a large fishing port with a ship building yard, Udupi and more.

I enjoyed some epic walks along stunning palm-fringed beaches which stretch out for miles in both directions, as far as the eye can see - and completely deserted save for little fishing villages every kilometre or so. Here you can see the boats all lined up neatly on the shore, wooden, painted blue or other colours, sometimes with little flags blowing in the wind. I helped a group of guys pulling theirs in, which was fun. You also see people casting nets and pulling these back in - everyone tugging on the rope together.

Halfway through an epic day of strolling, the decision to go and sit in the sea and do absolutely nothing, as the waves wash over me was never regretted. The most refreshing sensation imaginable. The waves lap gently at your feet, with a reassuring regularity of frequency - predictable almost like clockwork, though occasionally a big'un will come out of nowhere and whack you in the face, just to keep you from fallin' asleep .

When it's not the beach, it's the riverside and I've been discovering all manner of beautiful river scenes on the edges of towns, and on the bus between settlements. It's hard to describe their beauty, lined with mangroves, or with jungly foliage, and dotted with emerald islands. Seeing the palm trees reflected, slightly broken up by the ripples, at sunset, with fishermen paddling back towards the shore in little wooden canoes... an image I won't easily forget.

Towns and villages are busy, noisy and dusty only in the very centre. Further out, it's a sleepy village feel and although some live in palm shacks and others more like villas, it seems like everyone's got plenty of space, space which is shared with with what's practically a whole forest of coconut trees which stop only for the buildings. Free coconuts for everyone I guess - but watch for falling ones. Banana plants also are pretty much omnipresent.

The proper little villages and hamlets, meanwhile, are absolutely magical, especially when someone's got a fire going and the smoke dissipates into a haze which catches the rays of sun that make it in between the palm leaves. It's a slow gentle pace of life out there and it kind of feels like you're out in the jungle, which is pretty much accurate anyway. Saw a lot of shacks made from coconut tree branches and leaves, cows and water buffaloes and chickens roaming freely. 

Everyone's got a well in the garden too, even the bigger houses. People out on the beach are making sun-dried fish (like sun-dried tomatoes but with fish instead of tomatoes). While in the rice fields, parched at this time of year, cows roam freely in search of any blades of vegetation they can get their hands on, er.. teeth into. I saw one poor beast chomping on a cactus, looking rather thin - well the rains are on their way to Karnataka soon, good news for everyone I think.

Well the larger towns, there's some pretty colourful and interesting house designs. Makes me think yeah, why can't houses look like that - and hey, they can. And it's popular to have an outdoor flight of stairs up onto your roof so you can sit and chill there, watching the sun go down. I love ambling around through the lanes, just taking in all the sights, soaking up the vibes and witnessing everyday life in action.

But my favourite thing, simply walking about the place, is that people always stop and say hello. "Hello, my friend!", they call out with a welcoming smile. That's awesome - I feel like everyone's my friend now. I'll just be walking down the street and some random person waves at me, I think "Great, there goes my friend".

Along the way, I should mention I've seen some very intricate, psychedelic temples (each one devoted to a different deity, such as Hanuman the monkey god and Ganesha (with his elephant's features), as well as some very ornate mosques and lavish churches. The seaside town of Murudeshwar features a giant metal statue of the god Shiva overlooking the bay - quite a spectacle, with his 4 arms, and glistening in the sun.

The one constant is the cows - they rule the roost, pretty much, though a little hungry this time of year. Crossing the road is a chilled out affair for them. No rush, and no looking both ways either - they're untouchable and they know it. (The worst they'll get from people is being shooed away when they poke their head in your front door, the nosey buggers).

Finished up in Mangalore, a bustling metropolis right at the bottom of the state - felt like I'd come to the end of a long journey. End of a chapter anyway. Goodbye Karnataka - for now.

But a new chapter has opened already, down in Kerala, which will take me all the way to the southern tip of the country. Or it might do.

Or I might wake up and go to the Himalayas tomorrow. We'll see what happens.

Miss you all big time. Hope things are all peachy where you are, that life is going swimmingly that your May has got off to a flying start.

Keep it real, homies
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