Vishwas Soans, the proprietor met us in Kundapur and led us to a rudimentary jetty. Our transport was a small boat rowed by the caretaker of the island. Loading our luggage into it, we began the trip, fascinated by the quiet and beauty all around. Once we reached the island, things only seemed to get better. The island was quite tiny and one could walk across the length in about ten minutes. There were only 5 rooms in the island and at that point, we were the only guests staying. We got two rooms facing each other. One room had a lovely balcony outside with a view of the river. Before we could even toss a coin to decide who could get the room, SA suddenly developed signs of life from his quiet reverie and dashed into the room to bag it. The girls had no choice. Luckily the other room had a lovely open-to-the-skies bathroom and a shower made of stone. PR and self must have had good one-hour baths the next day in it. SA pointed out the danger of a passing bird deciding to do its morning ablutions over our heads (a theory constructed by quite a few of my male friends to whom I told this story. Makes one wonder if the male of the species has an extra juvenile gene added somewhere).
Once settled in, we walked to the western end of the island where a small hand-made jetty provided a perfect spot to see the setting sun. The jetty could be used to hail any passing boats in case our personal ferry was not around. We just sat there watching boats pass by slowly and the sun change the colour of the skies from golden to an ever-increasing inky blue. Worried, we would not be able to walk back in the dark, we peeled ourselves away from the mesmerizing scene. Near the dining area, just by the river, were two hammocks. All of us took turns lounging in it. Somehow the still air seemed perfect for general bantering and eating the elaborate dinner provided. There was a distant hum of Ayappa Bhajans somewhere but that faded into the background.
When it was time to go to bed, all of us were pleasantly tired and slept off as soon as our heads hit the bed. The guys later on told us they heard something in the dark. We preferred to think of it as divine justice for having grabbed a room by the river without tossing for it.
The next morning, we persuaded the caretaker to take us on a jolly ride in his boat, after dropping off his children at school. All of us trooped in, armed with video and digital cameras and before long, I requested the boatman to let me try my hand at rowing. The river was not too deep. The boatman had a long stick, which he could push to the bottom of the river. Then using it as a lever would propel the boat forward till it had moved about seven feet. Then he would take the stick of the water and repeat the process. The process looked deceptively simple and I grabbed the stick with élan. That was when I realised that water could be extremely resistant and I had to strain every fibre in my body to even get the stick to hit the bottom. This explained why he and the other boatmen we had seen had a physique that would have made the keenest gym goer jealous. After seven-eight attempts, when the boatman sat in one corner and chuckled to himself, I managed to get closer to the process. The boatman then pointed out that we were going against the direction of the current and this would take all day if I continued. Saying so he grabbed the stick and everyone else began to snigger. Finally we had rounded the island and now everyone was keen to try their hand at boating. PR was the most eager of the lot and the boatman showered special favour on her as she spoke to him in a language that was closest to Kannada. He did not speak any other language and so far all communication had been done in a series of wild gestures and slowly spoken Hindi/Tamil. NA and SA tried for a few brief moments before admitting that they had been way out of range while laughing at PR and me. The boatman gave me one stick and gave PR one and let us row for a while. After five minutes, when PR and self had managed to work up a fine sweat, he told us to stop. The boat continued to move and he explained that our efforts so far had been completely useless since the boat anyway had moved with the current. With that he sank to another round of his chuckles. Pricked, we decided to continue till we began banging into the island and spent more time pushing the boat away from the shrubbery than rowing.
The exercise had got our appetites high (not that otherwise there was ever a lull) and we breakfasted heartily. The rest of the morning was spent in reading books/talking/having long leisurely baths/feeding fishes in the river and generally watch the world go by. Lunch was again an elaborate affair. Food had come from Hotel Sharon in the mainland and tasted too oily. We managed to eat a bit, sitting on a bed sheet by the river and then continued our lazing around. Afternoon turned to evening and our driver for the next leg had already arrived. Piling our luggage into the boat, we bade a farewell to Amgol. It was now time to go from the river to the sea.
The route to Gokarna must have been a pretty one, had we done the entire journey in daylight. We did see some of the good parts though. At Marvanthe, the highway was flanked by the sea on one side and by the river on the other. The beach looked inviting, but Vishwas Soans had told us about another prettier beach at Ottinane. We pressed on and eventually came to a hill. From here we could see one of the most striking views of the entire trip. The sea and the skies seemed to merge together. A golden strip of beach separated the sea and the backwaters. We eagerly walked down the 250 steps to the shore. The sea was calm, gently lapping onto our feet as we walked on the firm sand. The only company we had was a family of picnickers collecting mussels. There was an inherent gentleness in the way the air blew, the sea moved and the tall trees that surrounded the coast. Somehow, mere frolicking was not suited to the calmness of the place and we each stood in the water busy with out thoughts. After a while we explored a nearby temple and then as the tide began to come in and the sky got darker, began to climb the 250 steps to the car. Gokarna was atleast 2.5 hours away.