India - Karnataka

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Karnataka

With the famous Western Ghats range extending South through the state into Kerala, the name Karnataka is derived from Kannada words meaning "elevated land". The Western Ghats are designated as one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world, with the natural forests, cultivated lands, wet lands and scrub lands harbouring a huge assemblage of plant and animal species, many being endemic. Hulgol is a typical Western Ghat village, well known for agriculture and horticulture (especially spice-growing) and forestry. It lies close to the important but peaceful market town of Sirsi.

To the west of Sirsi, the steep escarpment of the Western Ghats offers extensive panoramic views as it slopes steeply down to the coastal plain beside the Arabian Sea, just 70 km by road from Hulgol. The road follows the broad, meandering, mangrove-flanked Aghnashini river to the bustling town of Kumta, centre of the local sea fishing industry. Close to Kumta you will find the secluded coastal village of Pavinakurva, accessible via a wonderful footbridge, where you will meet the fisherfolk as they bring in their catches in brightly painted boats or haul-in their nets along the white sandy beaches.

Your stay in Hulgol

On arrival at Hulgol you can be sure of a warm welcome. We find the Sirsi and Hulgol area delightfully peaceful: a secret undiscovered corner of Karnataka. The communities are diverse but all are welcoming and the farming is vibrant. All aspects of life in the village relate to spices, the mainstay of the local economy. Peppercorns, vanilla, areca (betel) nuts, cinnamon, cardamon and nutmeg abound, as well as jackfruit, bananas and coconut.

The guesthouse, on the fringes of the hamlet, is a comfortable traditional style bungalow, with three twin-bedded rooms. There are ample opportunities for exploring around the fascinating hamlet and spice gardens, or longer walks to temples, waterfalls and just meeting villagers. The diversity of the flora and fauna is fascinating: a wide variety of birds, small mammals, butterflies and fireflies flickering at night.

The Hulgol Community

The Hulgol hamlets are dispersed around the spice gardens and comprise different community and caste groups. The guesthouse is actually in Kalagin Kheri hamlet. The hamlets, with their tiled-roofed houses nestling under shady trees, are welcoming and peaceful but little-visited by outsiders. Homesteads are shaded by tall forest trees and by mango, jackfruit, garcinia, soapnut, cashew and other fruit and nut trees, with crop drying areas and neatly maintained cattle sheds. The people are peace loving and coexist in perfect harmony with nature. It is a rare and inspiring opportunity to spend a few days with these people. They have rich social traditions and different communities together celebrate a number of festivals, which run almost throughout the year. The communities are also rich in traditional skills, such as folk dancing, drum music and Hindi classical music, as well as some handicrafts. The hamlets are connected by numerous, all-weather footpaths through the intervening forests. Endowed with rich resources, Hulgol and the surrounding villages exude a quiet rural charm combined with a vibrant farming system based on spices and tropical fruits.

Ancient ruins

To the east of Hulgol lie the remains of the ancient city of Vijayanagara. Sprawled across the landscape you will find magnificent architecture juxtaposed with unusual, delicately-balanced boulder formations. Stroll through Hampi Bazaar, explore the scattered remains of palaces and statues and visit Vittala Temple, a World Heritage Site.

Your stay in Pavinakurva

This small community nestles amongst the coconut palms just inland from the beach, on a narrow coastal spit of land, backing onto the broad, slow-flowing Badgani river. The village lies secluded under coconut palms next to the isolated sandy beaches fringing the Arabian Sea. The sandy beach sweeps away into the distance, peaceful apart from a few seabirds and the sight of the villagers' boats drawn up above the tide line. Just off-shore is the mysterious Basavraja Durga island, a small wooded rock outcrop that gives extra charm to the coast and is home to the Basavraja fort. Above the shore line the sandy dunes have been planted with Cassurina trees, including grassy shaded areas suited to picnics or just relaxing and watching the ebb and flow of the sea. Unfortunately difficult currents make this an unsafe beach for swimming. The guesthouse is shaded by coconut palms, close to a cashew orchard, with river and distant hill views.

A fishing village

The community members rely on fishing for their livelihood, using small one or two-man boats made of mango wood planking and powered by a single paddle. They paddle the boats out through the surf in the early hours to lay their nets, marked by floats, returning by 9am with their catch to sell at the market near Kumta. Small sharks are sought after. It is a hazardous life but the community manages by supplementing incomes from fishing and farming through employment on the mainland. Now they are hoping to earn additional benefits from tourism.

Kumta

Karnataka has a long history of trading with Arabia, South East Asia and Europe. Along the Arabian Sea coast there have been many important ports. Kumta used to be a port for cotton exports to Manchester during British times, now it has a vibrant off-shore fishing harbour and is a centre for traditional boat building. Just along the coast one can visit the historic Mirjan Fort, built by Queen Chennabhairadevi of Gersoppa in the 16th Century, has been to site of earlier battles and the adjacent port was used to export pepper, saltpetre and betel nut to Surat. Although long-since abandoned, the old laterite harbour walls still provide a pleasant place to take a cup of tea.

Travelling to Karnataka

Your Village Ways holidays to Karnataka or the combined Karnataka and Kerala itinerary include return transfer from Mumbai. This includes taxi transfer from the airport, day stay in a city hotel and taxi transfer to Mumbai railway station; overnight train to Kumta and onward road transfer to Hulgol or Pavinakurva. We can arrange to meet you at Mumbai Airport, to fit in with your flight arrival and departure times, or if you are already in India we can arrange for you to be met in Mumbai, at the place of your choosing, to take you to the station for the start of your journey to Sirsi and the Western Ghats.

We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to India. We offer some general advice and useful links regarding travel, visas, insurance, health requirements.

Information on travel in India

 

Climate and Seasons

The region has a warm tropical climate with three distinct seasons – monsoon, winter and summer. June to September are the main SW monsoon months. The winters are relatively cooler and dryer. Temperatures are warmer during the summer from the end of March to June, with good weather but a chance of occasional thunderstorms.

Winter Season Oct-Mar

For Hulgol it is a good time for walking in the forest and observing the activities in the spice gardens, as well as exploring the beaches around Pavinakurva. The landscape is still green after the rains but becomes drier as the season progresses and the forest trees lose their leaves by February. The days are warm and sunny and air temperatures remaining fairly constant with maxima of 30 to 35 degrees C and minima of 14 to 20 degrees C. There is little rain from mid-October onwards but there can be some showers in January to March. This is a good time for witnessing the harvest of the rice crop, cocoa, areca palm and spices (vanilla, pepper, cloves), with clear skies and starlit nights. Bring a light sweater for the evenings.

Summer Season: Apr-May

Temperatures start to rise, with mean maxima of around 34 degrees C and minima of 22 degrees C. The humidity builds up ahead of the onset of the monsoon and rain showers are common. The forest trees gain their new flush of leaves and one can witness the harvest of cashews, cocoa and first mangoes. Bring an umbrella to guard against showers and a waterproof rucksack.

Monsoon Season: Jun-Sept

The SW Monsoon clothes the area in cloud. The air is humid but is delightfully fresh and the landscape is lush green. The peak rainfall of 500-800 mm occurs in June or July. Temperatures are around 26 degrees C during the day and fall back slightly at night to 21 degrees C.

In Hulgol the rains clear the dust, allowing glimpses of brilliant green rice crops in the fields and fresh foliage on the forest tree. This is the harvesting season for cocoa, nutmeg, cardamom, mangoes and cloves, as well as rice planting. The waterfalls are at their best. Bring an umbrella to guard against the rain and a waterproof rucksack, and beware of the odd leech in damp places. The best time to visit is during the later part of the season, when dry days are more frequent.