We left Gokarna the next morning, still a little shaken by the previous night’s experiences. Of course the light of the day revealed that the dogs were just silly mongrels, keen on chasing autos and motorbikes and not the ferocious bloodhounds they had seemed the previous night. Our hotel owner also rented out cars and rented us a brand new MUV. After a while we noticed that the driver was petrified to hit the pedal and upon spotting a vehicle one km away, would start working on how to avoid it. He was, clearly, a worried man. It did not take much imagination to figure out that given the hotel owner’s general personality and appearance, it would take a strong man to risk damaging a brand new car. We were dragging our feet to the next stop – Karwar.
We were to stay at the Kurumgad Island in Karwar. The island was a 20-minute ride by a motorboat and located in the middle of the sea. There are two famous resorts in this area – Devbagh and Kurumgad. The latter was cheaper and hence was the chosen place. It was a good choice since Devbagh is actually not an island and Kurumgad is a hill, giving you a beautiful view of the sea from high above. The island was also empty save for us, the cooks and Francis, our Man Friday for the stay. Francis was enthusiasm personified. Just as we would settle into hammocks with a book, he would come bounding up with a string of possible things we could do – each one involving Tarzan-like skills. But that came later.
We had two cottages, adjacent to each other. One was thatched and the other had a more modern roof. SA displaying his usual chivalry and speed chose the better-looking cottage. PR and I trudged into the second cottage and found two huge double beds. Within a minute we were sprawled on the beds and in the next, we were out, sitting on the porch. There was no electricity in the rooms and it was a million degrees inside. As the island had no electricity connection from the mainland, a diesel generator was used sparingly only in the nights. The guys had also realised this and were already sitting outside. There was some time for lunch to be ready and NA wandered into our cottage looking for snacks. Suddenly, he marched out indignantly and announced that since their room had only one double bed as opposed to our two, we would have to switch rooms. With that, he marched back into his cottage, grabbed his huge suitcase and began marching back into the girls’ cottage as the rest of us watched incredulously. Clearly the sun and SA’s spirit had gotten into his head.
Lunch turned out to be an excellent affair. The cook was supremely competent and every meal thereafter turned out to be massive exercises in overeating. By four, the sun had come down and Francis took us to the small private beach on the island for water sports. The first activity was tube surfing, which involved being seated in a tube that was tied to a motorboat. The motorboat dragged you across the sea and you held on for dear life and enjoyed the activity whenever you managed to breathe. We were given life jackets to wear, so really there was no question of any of us dying a pitiful death. However, SA and I did not know any swimming and were a bit worried about falling into the water. PR and NA were more relaxed but they also did not seem like advocates of being dumped in the middle of the ocean. Tube surfing, hence, got over with all of us staying afloat. The next activity was the banana boat ride. The agenda involved being shaken off the banana boat into the middle of the sea. NA and I volunteered to go first, my heart thumping a little faster than normal. When we were in the open seas and the motorboat driver gave the cue for us to let go and fall off, I refused. The driver assumed I was too dense to understand the cue and rather elaborately spread his arms wide open and mock-toppled to his side. I held on tighter. Eventually, after two minutes the driver just cut off the engine and we toppled over.
I was dying. The water was dragging me under. The banana boat was not holding me up and neither was my life jacket. Five seconds later, I had let go of the banana boat, the life jacket’s buoyancy took over and suddenly there I was, relaxed and gently stretched on the water, looking at the sky. If I can think of one ‘wow’ moment for this trip, this would be it. There is no sensation as pleasurable as floating on your back, in the middle of a calm, blue ocean, looking at the evening sky and feeling like the last surviving living being in the world. All too soon, the driver had come over and hauled NA and me back onto the banana boat. On the way back, we fell twice more and eventually reached the shore. SA and PR had a go at the sport too and came back, quite happy.
Francis then told us that we could do wind surfing next. This one involved standing on a wooden board, holding onto a rope tied to the motorboat and gliding over the waters like every macho hero in every action movie ever made. The board did not look particularly safe and none of us dared get onto it. Gently toppling into water was one thing; being thrown off a wooden board rushing at 20 kms an hour was an entirely different thing. Finally, the kayaking began. NA had a kayak to himself and pretty much rowed within five feet of the shore. SA sat this one out. PR and I had a double kayak and after some vigourous rowing managed to atleast get out a little farther into the ocean. We watched the sun set slowly behind the hills for a while and then began to make our way again to the shore. Given the water current, and our rowing abilities, we reached the shore after having gone around in circles atleast ten times. PR managed to hit me on the head in the middle of it and was relieved to find out I was still well enough to row back to the shore. The sun was down by the time we walked back to the cottages to change and dig into the food. After a really huge meal, we sat and chatted meaninglessly and then just quietly watched the reflection of the moon on the sky. It had cast its shine on a large area of the sea, lighting up miles and miles of the deep, sparkling blue and sitting atop the tiny hill, we felt like the microscopic beings that we really were.
The next morning, Francis met us at 7 a.m with a schedule that would involve time travel. We were to go on an island trek, dolphin spotting ride, rappelling and rock climbing and be back by 9 a.m. for our massage. Each of these activities, by Francis’s own admission would take about two hours. So finally, he agreed to do just the island trek. I was wearing sandals without any kind of grip whatsoever and was forced to keep scrambling over the rocks like a monkey. However, given that the route involved climbing up and down various treacherous rocks close to the sea, the rest also had to resort to similar methods. After an hour and a half of some serious scrambling, we reached a small cave. We could get into it, then climb a bit and get out through a hole on the top. It was like living an Enid Blyton novel to say the least. Utterly cool. When we were almost at the end, Francis spotted some dolphins and immediately rushed us to the boat. We got a fairly good view of dolphins going up and down in the water and looking as graceful as they did on TV. Two out of three scheduled activities was not a bad day’s work at all.
The massage however did not go as planned. The masseurs were intent on delivering a longish lecture on the benefits of regular massages (good skin, good blood circulation, long life etc etc). While the talk was informative, the session felt more like a science class and none of us actually managed to relax. Not to mention, the oil stuck to all of us for the next three days.
After a fairly active stay, it was time to move on to our last stop…or atleast that’s what we thought.