It was the month of December and the Adventure Holiday mood was pretty much in the air. So, I along with my friend Amit, set off for a trip to the backwaters of the Sharavathi river in the Shimoga district of Karnataka, India. A dam at Linganamakki in the Shimoga district on the Sharavathi river has resulted in these beautiful backwaters dotted with many islands. The islands are rich with bio-diversity and it can be a lot of fun just island-hopping! They attract a fair amount of adventure tourists, who come to trek, camp and indulge in water sports.
I boarded a KSRTC bus to reach Shimoga, where Amit was waiting for me to join him. Soon after arriving at Shimoga at around 3 pm, I ate some delicious dosas at a local restaurant. By the time I finished my meal, Sampath, our guide for the trip, also arrived.
Reaching the camp-site
Soon, we were on our way to Sagara, the gateway to Honnemaradu, the base village for the camp, Sampath informed us that Sharavathi meets about 30 percent of Karnataka’s power supply requirements, and that the dimensions of the backwaters are 60 km in length and 15 km in width. Being the founder of the NGO- The Sharavathi Adventure Trails, Sampath aims to conserve the rich biodiversity the Sola forests of the Western Ghats while generating employment for the local youth. In order to sustain his endeavor and raise awareness, he organizes treks and water sports every weekend.
We reached Sagara at around 5 pm. At Sagara bus stand, we were greeted by a few locals, who assist Sampath in arranging the activities. A cup of strong filter coffee charged us well enough to undertake a 45-minute bus ride from Sagara to Honnemaradu village.As soon as we reached Honnemaradu, a pleasant breeze wafted through the village.
“The air smelt of a cocktail of strong aromas, especially of betel nuts…. A short walk on a kachha road and voila, we caught the first glimpse of the Sharavathi backwaters!”
It was already dusk, and the sight of the backwaters looked like a scenery straight out of a painting, with rich hues of blue melting the demarcation of the sky and the river over the horizon. The still waters took our breath away. It was getting dark, and we were still at the banks waiting for a coracle to transport us to the camping island. It was about a mile away from the bank and the camp fire was visible from afar. We flashed our torches towards the island, indicating them to come and fetch us. With no signal on our cell phones, it seemed we were truly far away from civilization! Amit suddenly heard someone rowing towards us. I presumed it was a frog croaking in the water!! To our relief, we saw a coracle approaching us. Donning our life jackets, we climbed aboard and held an oar each. For the next ten minutes, we rowed hard enough to send our sweat glands into overdrive. After halting for a couple of times to catch our breaths and soothe our aching arms, we managed to reach the camp-site.
“We made ourselves comfortable near the bonfire.The mirchi bhajji and kashai, a local tea, invigorated our tired bodies.”
After dumping the luggage in our tents, we explored the island for some time. Thereafter, we were treated to a sumptuous dinner – a 3-course meal, no less! We were amazed by the fact that they cooked such delicious and elaborate supper in the faint torchlight! We retired early to our beds as we intended to watch the the much famed sunrise (Sampath vouched for its reputation) the next morning.
At 5 a.m. my mobile phone went abuzz. It took me a moment to realize that it’s not a call, but my alarm! Amit peeped outside. It was still pitch dark, and I went back to sleep. A little later, I heard an excited Sampath frantically calling out to me. I dragged myself out of the tent, and saw that the sun was about to rise from behind the valley. Its golden streaks were already reflecting on the water. It looked like the perfect morning ever! I rummaged through my belongings for the camera, grabbed the tripod and rushed outside to capture the sunrise. While we went about clicking photographs, Amit announced that it was time for the morning ablutions. Sampath informed us that the island we were staying on was meant only for lodging. He pointed to another island opposite our camp and informed that we have to row to that island to freshen up. The coracle was ready, and we boarded it to reach our ‘ablution island’! It had a few make-shift washrooms that looked more like shacks.
After a hearty breakfast of raagi dosa, rice dosa, idlis and kashai, we were all set to swim in the river. Since I hadn’t swum for quite a while, I was excited about this opportunity, especially to dive into the waters from the coracle and the tree-tops, which protruded from the reservoir.After the swimming session, it was time for some recreational kayaking. Designed with a large cockpit for easy entry and exit, the recreational kayaks are a cheap option, and serve as a useful tutorial for the newbies. But what I assumed to be an easy task proved to be quite the contrary! We struggled to maintain the right direction, and for the initial few minutes we rotated at the same place! I improved with some practice, but still was far from becoming adept. We tried our hand at rowing the coracles as well. Sampath explained to us how sailing a coracle is an effective way to enhance team building and develop leadership qualities.
“We went for an hour’s hike to one of the crests in the valley and were blessed by a breathtaking view of the entire backwaters with the Western Ghats serving as the backdrop.”
A cloudy sky and the reflection of the sun’s golden rays on the backwaters provided an ideal opportunity to capture a few picture-perfect moments.