Surathkal Beach, India, by Train
By Mridula Dwevedi
The last time I was at a beach was in 2003 at Goa. I wonder how I managed for five long years without going anywhere near the sea! But that is how it was.
So when we were going to Bangalore for a week in the last week of December and Sesha asked me where I would like to go for a day or two, I told him, “to the beach.” He did the tickets to Mangalore (South India) and said beaches were nearby.
I wanted to know more before we went off. I logged in to the good old Indiamike Travel Forum, had some discussions with other members and decided that Surathkal Beach was where I wanted to go.
Surathkal to Mangalore
At one point there was a slight confusion as someone at Indiamike mentioned that Surathkal to Mangalore is three to four hours. Our train was supposed to reach at 8:30 in the morning and we had another train to catch at 7:45 in the evening the same day.
I have become so reliant on Indiamike that I did not check the distance between the two places. Only when Sesha suggested searching the distance online I realized that Surathkal to Mangalore is just 20 kilometers (12.5 miles). So Surathkal it was and I spent 31st December 2008 at the Surathkal Beach.
I have cribbed throughout 2008 that I did not travel much so it was quite apt that I got to spend at least the last day of 2008 at the beach.
Reaching Surathkal from Mangalore
We landed up at the Mangalore Central Railway Station at 9:15 in the morning (our train was late by 45 minutes) and the first task was breakfast. We saw a sign saying ‘canteen’ on the right hand side as soon as we walked out of the railway station ignoring all the auto-rickshaw drivers.
It looked like a worker’s canteen and they served three dosas to a plate with sambhar and another curry all for 14 rupees. We told them we need only one plate between the two of us and they were somewhat surprised.
Sesha did all the conversation as he is from South India and can speak Tamil and a little bit of Kannada. Stomachs full, it was time to figure out how to reach Surathkal.
Sesha is quite reluctant to ask for directions. So, I said to the canteen owner just two words, “Surathkal bus?” He said the bus number is 45, and then Sesha asked in Kannada the directions to the bus stop.
We were told to take a right and keep walking. We saw a bus stopping near the road with number 45 written on it a little ahead and we hopped in.
Later only we realized that we took the bus somewhere in the middle of the city and it emptied when it reached the bus stand. The young lad giving tickets assured us that we were in the right bus and it would take us to Surathkal. The fare was 9 rupees (18 cents roughly) per person!
But where is the Beach?
The bus dropped us at the Surathkal Bus Stand and when Sesha asked around he was told that we can take another bus or an auto to the beach. He decided we would take an auto-rickshaw and he charged us 25 rupees (50 cents approx). Before that I sipped the water from a tender coconut sold on the roadside that cost between 10-12 rupees (around 20 cents).
The auto-rickshaw guy asked for the way at least twice and we were wondering if we would end up someplace else, but soon he found the correct way and dropped us at the lighthouse on the beach. From there it is a short walk down and soon the vast blue ocean is staring at you!
Walking along the Sea
I like being around the sea a lot. Sesha likes to be around mountains. It is not that I do not like mountains, but I like sea equally if not more and it had been five years since I went anywhere near a beach.
The best part about Surathkal Beach is that it is empty. It is not like Goa beaches; the sand is for 10 meters or so but minus the crowds it felt like heaven.
Both of us had backpacks and the sun was high in the sky and it was almost noon. Still we took off our shoes, tied them to our backpacks and walked along the sea. There are small rocks which we climbed, got wet and slipped a little from!
But soon Sesha found coconut tree and decided that he would sit by it and read a book. I dumped my backpack near him and told him I would be back by 1:30 for lunch.
The waves were roaring, there was hardly a soul around and for miles I could see sand, sea and coconut trees.
There is National Institute of Technology (NIT), Surathkal (NIT is towards the right when you are facing the sea) right next door and they have painted a wall saying NIT Beach. However, it is a thoroughfare and I kept walking for quite some time.
There were fishermen boats parked on the beach and their small huts contained their nets and other stuff.
I kept walking just next to the waves soaking my jeans up to my knees. There is hardly any beach wear concept for women in India. In most of the places but I have to remind myself to wear a Capri and a material that dries soon, instead of a heavy jeans that weigh a ton when you get wet.
However, the sun was so bright (even in the winter month of December) that I got wet at least ten times and dried within half an hour or so every time.
The funny part was that my cell phone had full connection (I don’t consider a holiday complete till I lose my cell connection) so I called home (Dad and younger nephew and my sister) and put the phone away from the ear so that they could hear the waves. Hardly anyone could guess what they were listening to!
I reached a place where there were rocks on part of the way and then I decided to head back so that we could have lunch.
Maggi and Omelet for Lunch
The price to pay for seclusion is maggi (Instant Noodles made by Nestle and very popular in India) and omelet for lunch sold from a small shop quite near the lighthouse, but that is something I would gladly live with.
So we had maggi and omelet along with tea and Sesha had a local brand of cold drink too. You can buy bottled water here, but it is a local brand again. With some food inside us, it was time to head back to the beach.
By this time (2:00 in the afternoon) other people started trickling in, but somehow they confined themselves to the area immediately in the shadow of the lighthouse, so we walked to the other side this time. On the left side there are a lot more houses and people use the sea unfortunately as their dumping yard too. Still, after a while the stretch becomes relatively clean.
With food tucked inside Sesha found the shade beneath a boat and decided to sleep for a while. I told him I would be back by 5 pm (it was 3 then) and will walk till that time. And that is what I did.
Fishermen at the Sea
As the beach is quite isolated, I was wondering how safe it was for me to walk alone. Two things made me go on. Any fisherman on the shore did not give me a second glance after looking once and dismissing me for a city woman with a big camera. Then there were women and children playing around their houses, so I walked on and it turned out to be perfectly safe.
For the first time I saw a boat being launched into the sea. Here is a small video of it. It took some 20 people and many minutes to achieve the feat.
A group of fishermen were repairing their net and invited me to take their photos, correctly guessing that I speak Hindi and not the local language.
Soon it was time to head back to Sesha again, and I walked along the shore kicking my feat on the mild sea waves at every step.
I wanted to be at the beach at the sunset, but our train timing was such that I had to leave before it.
We found that if you get out of the beach and cross the road, many buses would stop at the NIT Hostel gate and were heading straight to Mangalore. So soon we were inside a bus, and I could see the sun becoming a huge red ball, only the sea was not visible from the road.
We ate to our hearts content at a local hotel were the bus dropped us and then walked to the train station.
The only thing I would like to change about this trip is to catch the sunset at the beach. However much I cribbed about not traveling in 2008, the last day was indeed beautiful.