Flashback - It was an Eid weekend last year and we were watching "Chennai Express" at my friend Paranthaman's residence, Melbourne. Since I heard that lot of its shooting was done at Palani, Palladam I assumed that the scene where Sathyaraj stops the train to nab his daughter Deepika and Sharukh Khan is that Palani bridge. But when the shot expanded, I was taken aback by the magnitude of the "brook". I thought it would have been a "digitally enhanced" location. Few months later when I watched the Kannada movie "Mynaa", a substantial part of the movie was shot in the Western Ghats forest and the waterfalls played a significant role in that episode. From the movie I learnt that it is called "Dudhsagar" and the nearest Railway station is Castle Rock. Since it was near Karnataka, I was sure that I will visit that falls sometime.
On further googling I learnt that it is a famous for trekking to the falls on the railway track, especially on the monsoon season. The nearest railway station to start trekking are either Castle Rock (before the falls) or Kulem (after the falls). Even though I decided on Kulem, I thought of booking till Kulem for "cushion". The monsoon in Karnataka should be June-August, so I thought of travelling in July. This happened in May and when I checked the IRCTC website I was shocked that all the tickets were booked till the ARP (Advance Reservation period) are open. So the earliest available date was on July second week and all the tickets get exhausted before 9:30 a.m. I asked few friends whether they are coming along with me. They asked for some time to "think" but IRCTC doesn't wait for anybody. So I booked 4 tickets so that if none else turns up, I can cancel them.
A brief introduction about Dudhsagar Waterfalls (text from Wikipedia) - Dudhsagar Falls (literally Sea of Milk ) is a tiered waterfall located on the Mandovi River in the Indian state of Goa on Goa's border with Karnataka state. It is four-tiered. It is 60 km from Panaji city by road and 46 km from Madgaon railway junction by train and 60 km from Belgaum by train and 55 km from Belgaum by road. As the cascading waters appear white like milk, the waterfall is called Dudhsagar, Doodh being the Hindi word for milk.
Legend has it that a beautiful princess lived in the forest (near present day Dudhsagar Falls) in a palace. She loved and enjoyed bathing in a lake nearby and used to drink "sweetened milk" from her "golden jug" after finishing with her bath. One day while enjoying her jug of milk she found herself being watched by a prince, who was standing amongst the trees. Red with embarrassment at her inadequate bathing attire, she poured the jug of milk in front of him to form an improvised curtain to hide her body
We left for Dudhsagar on a Friday evening from Yeshwantpur, where the MAS - Vasco Express passes through. This train starts from Chennai at 1:30 P.M and reaches Yeshwantpur at 9:40 p.m and resumes at 9:50 p.m. I was joined by ever dependable Vaidheeswaran, Joseph and kid brother Vishnu was the last minute replacement. I was little apprehensive about these guys' bonding because I was the only common point for them and they are seeing each other for the very first time. Thankfully they bonded from the word "GO" which made things easy for me.
The train reached Castle Rock station by 9:30 a.m and the train was half emptied as the trekkers (majority from IT companies) got down there for their trekking to falls. It was raining non stop so the station was filled with fog and there was mist everywhere, limiting the visibility. After admiring the beauty of the foggy morning, we started walking on the railway track.
Castle Rock to Dudhsagar is the famous and scenic way, preferred by most of the trekkers. There are around railway 16 tunnels in this route and 3 bridges of which one is very high. Since it was a peak monsoon, we saw lot of mini water falls along the way and they are equally beautiful.
The railway tracks are maintained by South West Railways and it demands constant maintenance / attention because the "hinges" that bind the track and the wooden rails often give away and pose a serious threat to the security of the trains plying through them. So you can see the "mazdoors" walking and striking the hinges with long hammers.
Initially we tried to take shelter under a tree for rain but we ended up getting wet. After a while we became numb that we started walking in the rain itself and by the time we reached the falls we were thoroughly drenched including the inner wears and socks. It didn't bother us but getting our cameras wet was the scaring thought. Because of which we were not able to click more photos almost to a stretch of 10 kms. It is another story that even after so much "protection" water droplets seeped into my DSLR and it took weeks to see my camera "back in action".
There is no "refreshment" available in that stretch that Vaithy started complaining of hunger. We cursed ourselves for not bringing the essentials - an umbrella, biscuits and chips. We passed the Karanzole station by 12:30 p.m and there were few abandoned houses where we thought of taking shelter for a while. But inside the house it was so soiled & urinated that we had to rest in the verandah itself. After resting for 10-15 minutes we started walking towards the falls. By this time the traveller's stream had thinned down and for a while we had doubts about our path.
On further walking we saw a group of trekkers resting under a tree and we were relieved. I have this breathing problem with a constantly blocked nose. Surprisingly I breathed normally after months during that trek only. For the time we walked we didn't feel thirsty at all that our waterbottles were still sealed.
We reached the Dudhsagar Railway station (don't imagine much, it is a one office building and no built platforms) by 3:00 p.m and we got to have tea & biscuits there. Everything is sold for 200% MRP but it didn't matter us because of our hunger. We gorged on the Good Day biscuits and hot tea and checked about the train timings. There was a train back to Castle Rock Station at 5:00 p.m (same MAS-Vasco Express) that stops in Dudhsagar station for a while. There was a huge crowd waiting for that time itself.
We kept on walking and at one point the Dudhsagar waterfalls teased us with a glimpse of her. But after a few feet walk, she disappeared again. After walking for about a kilometer we were welcomed by the board "Dudhsagar Falls". There was a good crowd already occupying the shelter built by the Karnataka Tourism. Near to the side of the railway track, we saw that there were so many people planning for an overnight stay with the camp tents. That place is occupied on the "First come first served basis" so if you are planning for an overnight camping stay, make sure that you come early.
Dudhsagar falls was at her best on the day we went there. Water was gushing down in tiers and it was as if the whole mountain is pouring the white milk. The breeze was ladened with water droplets everywhere that even after so much distance from the waterfalls, the lens started "fogging". It is such a beauty that you can keep staring at the waterfalls for hours together.
There is an another refreshment shop at this place and we had another round of tea & biscuits for our appetite. We were told that many trains stop at the falls (adhoc, not scheduled) and we enquired about the same with the shop owner. He said that it might or might not happen but it is better to walk back to Dudhsagar station.
By the time we reached the Dudhsagar station, we had some time left for the train's arrival. A long goods train towards the Goa direction came to the station and stopped. People were rushing to get into that. But we were waiting for the train to Castle Rock. Suddenly our madness streak struck and we asked ourselves why not try with the goods train itself. None of us had ever travelled in the last bogie of a goods train, so we said "Lets go". We walked till the tunnel and get into the last bogie of the goods train and it woud have been fun if only we were there. But there are so many other travellers waiting in that bogie.
The goods train waited till the Vasco - MAS Express train passed by and the travel to Kulem station started. We were treated with the views of the falls from the distance with the railway bridge in front of that. This route was equally scenic with dense forests and wild brooks even though with lesser number of tunnels and bridges. We reached Kulem station by 7:00 p.m and changed our wet dressed in the station itself. Kulem is a small town that falls under Goa State. We walked in the streets of Kulem and had briyani for dinner. Atlast the (weekly) train to Bangalore came at 10:30 p.m (by 20 minutes late) and we boarded. That's all we remember as we fell asleep almost instantaneously.
It was one of the wonderful trips I ever had and its effect just compounded because of the friends who also had similar inclination towards nature & trekking. Had anyone thrown a fit saying that he can't walk anymore or found the trip boring, it would have put other too off. This is one reason I always prefer to travel alone. Infact I wanted to sit for a while inside the tunnels but Joseph inspired me to walk without sitting even for a minute. I have planned to visit Dudhsagar falls again on September and camp here for overnight. Let me see how it turns to be...