Malpe is for the traveller who cares not much for the beach but for the ocean and the inspiration that lies at the heart of the speckled water, writes CATHERINE RHEA ROY

I leaned against the open window of the bus as we trundled through Malpe on our way to Udupi and as the townspeople boarded and got off, their stories came alive and completed the picture. It’s a near regular town with regular folk who lead regular, everyday lives. The kind of town where the men are breadwinners, women are teachers, the girls wear long skirts and braids and the boys play with marbles.

Malpe is not the beach holiday you are familiar with, the one that’s effortless, populated and waiting for you readymade in the shacks that line the beach, with their bountiful English breakfasts and reclining chairs. Malpe is the quiet holiday you talk about, you know, that one where days are spent lazing in the shade of fronds, watching the foamy crests slap the shore; where we explore the length of the coast searching for shells and digging in the shingle while talking of seas and ships and sealing wax.

The short stretch of coastline that hems Malpe — before it meanders off to Gokarna — is mostly empty when we wake up and look through the wide window that allows you a class panoramic view. It’s a relaxed morning and nobody is in a hurry to go anywhere. So we take our time and head to the beach where privately owned boats are making trips to St. Mary’s Island — the primary, may be only, tourist attraction in the area.

It concerned me slightly that there were no life-jackets but the locals, lovers and loners I shared the boat with were comfortable. They also did not mind the precarious angle of the vessel or the wheezing engine or… Or you could leave all your preoccupations on shore, allow the sea spray to tickle your skin and if you get really lucky you will see a dolphin slice out of the water, with the sun resplendent on its back and disappear with a splash into a deeper blue.

As legend would have it, in 1498 Vaso Da Gama landed at St. Mary’s Island on his voyage from Portugal to India. He fixed a cross on the island and named it O Padrao de Santa Maria as a dedication to Mother Mary before he continued towards Kerala. The island itself is small, with columnar basaltic lava that emphasise the landscape; they appear in huddles, like they are sharing a secret or sprawl across hundreds of square feet of water, in columns of varying heights forming an intricate mosaic.

We poked our noses in the rock clusters that protected small, clear pools of simple aquatic life, and clambered onto the rocks, watching out for the slippery ones, avoiding the blistering barnacles and lending a hand where it was needed. We scrambled and hopped from one rock to another searching for the better view — where the water was startlingly blue and the horizon stitched the sea and sky into a single azure canvas.

The island is no secret — thousands have come before us and left, leaving behind jarring evidence of a life that has little inspiration, no room to think and is emblematic of a shapely PET bottle. The trash that litters a part of the beach is disheartening and a wave of disappointment washes over you, the euphoria of a few moments back forgotten and you think it is best that all these little islands and beaches are hidden, they should remain hidden.

The original village by the sea — Malpe is where you can finally pause for a moment and let life catch it’s breath before you have to keep going again. In Malpe the words come more easily and thoughts have more clarity, the ocean overwhelms you and if you are looking for answers the universe will give you a sign.

Getting there

Malpe is (386 km) a seven-and-a-half hour drive from Bangalore and 60 km from Mangalore. It is also easily accessible from Goa and Kozhikode and is reportedly a five hour drive give or take 30 minutes. The closest town is Udupi which is six kilometres away.

Where to stay

Accommodation is available at the Paradise Isle Beach Resort or other home stays in Malpe.

What to do

A trip to St. Mary’s Island, is a great way to spend the day.