Monday, October 20, 2008
Four men in a boat
Many thanks to a marriage ceremony, more so to the punctuality of it, a typical of Udupi district, we were free after 1:30pm on that day and had plans to execute, especially to visit 'St.Mary's Island' near Malpe in the Arabian Sea (West coast of India). After having a sumptous'25±2' varieties in a single meal (seems pretty less! compared to a typical Udupi lunch!!), none of us were in the mood to do any thing, apart from a nap. In fact, Karthick and Sudhira took a brief nap too. Adding more to what seemed an near impossible mission was a mention of 'no boat service in the evening time'! But when the people are born positive, they find some thing in impossible too.
Finally, with quite a bit of networking with Aravind, Guruprasad and Kamalesh, we had a good flash news awaiting us! '4:00pm is the last motor boat to St.Mary's island'. As Amit had gone to Sri Krishna Math, myself, Karthick and Sudhira were anxiously waiting his return. Finally at 2:55pm, we left Sri Kathyayini Kalyana Mantapa of Kadiyali and started walking. There was a kind of 'strict' information from Guruprasad, 'not to get into auto rickshaw' as it is waste of money, since there are city bus service for every two minutes towards Udupi bus stand. So we got into a city bus as soon as we stood in the Kadyali bus stop. In next 8 minutes we were in Udupi bus stand.
I searched a bus with a board indicating 'Malpe' as its destination with 'via' places. All four got into a bus that read Malpe, lo, bus could not move. There was some air block in the engine! Time was ticking or rather I was very conscious about it (a week back my sister presented it to me), it was showing 3:06pm. Four of us were seeing each others' face, but there was a killing smile on all. Next two minutes, one more bus came and in next one minute, we were off towards Malpe.
Its worth mentioning here about the bus service in Udupi. Amazing, awesome and accurate! Extra-ordinary control over the vehicle, sense of timing, above all providing good service. As per the instruction from Aravind, we got down at Malpe bus stand (otherwise bus will go to Malpe beach!which is far off). Took two water bottles and asked the shop keeper about boat timings and way to reach. Time now was 3:32pm. Shop keeper said, the last boat is at 4:00pm and only if stipulated head counts of 30 is reached. He also said to us that we should come early in the morning, so as to see and enjoy this island leisurely. Otherwise, we have to return by 5:30pm as the last boat that brings us back starts from the Island at that time. So we will be having hardly an hour to spend at the Island (about 20-30min is required to reach the Island). We spoke to a autowallah to take us inside the Malpe harbour! Reply was the same old story, but with lot more elaboration (Udupi accent of Kannada! Very melodious to listen)!!
Sudhira led us from the front and we started walking! On the way saw the fisher man folding their fishing nets and unforgettable 'fishy' smell all over the place!! A thought that came to my mind was, even if we miss this trip, nothing to worry!!! Mainly because, as one is on the sea shore, there is always plenty to see, think, watch, observe, photography etc. Later Karthick and Sudhira told me that they were also thinking the same! What a mind match!!
We took an entry pass into Malpe harbour (Rs.1 each), reached the ticket counter. A gentle man was waving his hand to us as to get into the boat very fast. Again, invariably my eyes followed my mind, the time was 3:52pm. My tight lips gave a strange smile to myself! it was similar on others too. The lady at the counter said, Rs. 70 each and totals to Rs.280. We paid the amount and got into the boat. We placed ourselves at the rear end of the boat. Plenty of people, yet the head count was 21!! In another 7 min, a group of 12 arrived and boat started at 4:03pm.
Engine started releasing a blue coloured gas, which went straight into my nose! Then I realised why people did not sit where we were sitting! But as the boat moved, from the shore, there was no sign of this gaseous plume.
As we started moving further into the sea, the dock yard started appearing as a big industrial building, the Malpe beach as an yellow strip along the bluish green sea. I saw the boat going up and down, cutting through the greenish blue water. I also saw that there are ditches and potholes and my god! mini large pond like depressions in the sea. From a distance, sea appears quite, calm evenly surfaced water body (except for those high tide times and during rough monsoon time) and its only when you travel at least a kilometer from the shore, one would realize what actually a sea is! Saw many Brahminy kites circling above, a few Terns, Brown headed gull, a flock of over thousand waders on one edge of the St.Mary's Island. I could able to make it as flock of waders for the very reason that they flew up, took a round and sat again on the same stony shore!
In another 20min, we reached nearer to St.Mary's island. Our boat did not go near to the Island, I thought we have to walk in the water, as I did in Chilka lake during December 2004. Fortunately, boatman did not give enough time for me to ponder over these issues, one more boat came and picked us up and went straight to the island through a roap way system. This is what I really like the people of coastal region (especially from Mangalore and Udupi). In this system, there will be an anchored boat having a rope from it towards the Island (tied around a rock over there) and the other end of the rope is pulled by our boatman, so that our boat reaches the shore. Wonderful! Still we could not completely land on the Island, but made an effort to not get our foot wet! The boatman categorically warned us that we should be back by 5:30pm. I checked my watch, it was 4:30pm. We have 60min to roam on the island. First we thought of going to the place where we saw waders, but as soon as we landed, our mind went hey wards. Indeed, there were at least 10 'young' ladies, welcoming us (In fact, they wanted to leave the place!!)! In a way, we cursed our timing, to quote, Sudhira 'Is this unfortunately fortunate or fortunately unfortunate?' Soon my mind vanished into the title song of 'Kaho na pyar hai', only to be brought back by those standing brilliant rock pillars of the Island.
Next 60 min on the Island is an experience, I cannot express with these limited words of the language. We could able to cover only the north half of the island. The west shore was completely covered with varieties of shells!!! I saw at the end of the trip a guy was carrying at least few kilograms of empty shell in a polythene. What was more exciting to me was the rock formations in the island. Straight pillar like formations, clubbed together with a hexagonal pattern (when you view from the top) to them. I was struggling a lot, as any shot of the rock was against light, in addition, drizzling to ensure, I must keep my camera back safely in its pouch and secure it in my backpack. I simply obeyed the nature's command! but not very soon.
We took some photographs! and started walking back from the eastern shore. This shore line is sandy! unlike the western shore and few people were enjoying the water. We saw a plover on one of those rocks. Took some pictures again. By this time, we heard loud honks from the boat far off from the shore, still it was 5:20pm only. We hurriedly got back into the boat and drizzling got intense. I thought my laptop will get wet and hence stood under a blue tarpaulin of the boat. Soon that tarpaulin tilted and water came pouring on my head! Thanks to my cap! Only he got wet and not me!!
People started pouring in and two boats were full. We were dropped in to the major boat with which we traveled and this bridging boat was simply tied to our boat. Again applause to these boatman for saving the fuel of their boat. Mean time, I saw few more people still on the shore! At this point, my mind again went back to 'Kaho na pyar hai', and started thinking what would those people be thinking...will they get a boat to come back! Or they have to pay more for some private boat!!
As boat started back towards the Malpe shore, drizzling stopped and we were getting wonderful rainbows and sun light from our back. I took out my camera, and started clicking as though to capture everything in next 5min. Finally, we reached Malpe dockyard by 6:30pm.