Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dudh Sagar Falls Trek, Karnataka - Goa

The ever-persistent chirping sound of crickets, the lazy croaking of the frogs, the early rising birds on the look-out for food and the steady sound of flowing water streams. It is not every day you wake up to such an assorted collection of sounds. I unzip the opening of the tent and calmly crawl my way out, to avoid waking the others. The sea of green and the milky water stream greet my eyes... and my senses. How I wish I could get a hot cuppa coffee now. Just as I try to evade thoughts of greed from my head my attention is diverted to a troop of monkeys who are making their way towards our camp. They look for food for themselves and their little ones. While the elders are busy raiding all the plastic covers and trash left behind by some mindless tourists, the young ones entertain themselves by flinging from one tree to another and playing rat-and-mouse game. Once the elders are satisfied there are no more food to be hoarded, the troop continue to their next destination.
Just as I begin to convince myself that I’m indeed in heaven, along chugs a 126 tonne, 4000 hp turbocharged, V16 cylinder mean machine to shatter the morning calm. This WDG4 diesel-electric engineering marvel with a top speed of 120kmph pours cold water (or must I say hot steam) on my morning musings. A total of 5 WDG4 engines are required to take the nearly 100-odd goods bogies through Braganza Ghat section. The blaring noise and the heat generated from the train passing barely couple of meters from our tents hardly woke anyone. This could be attributed to fact that most of the troop members were by now immune to the noise by now. The extensive physical activity of walking on the uneven surface of the Railway line was another cause for this lethargy.
My mind couldn't but wander to the previous day. But after much dilly-dallying there were 9 of us who set off from Bangalore to a larger-than-life image of the majestic Dudh Sagar Falls. Timing, logistics, planning and execution for this trip were crucial and thankfully for us, it was spot-on. Train booking at the eleventh hour, buying an extra tent, buying and distributing ready-to-cook MTR packets, eatables and water bottles were all planned and executed exactly as planned. After getting off Rani Chennamma at Hubli Junction we first booked tickets to Castle Rock station in the Unreserved compartment. With one more hour before we can catch our next train (Chennai-Vasco) we had a sumptuous breakfast at the Railway canteen. As expected we made an experience out of travelling in a General compartment after all these years - for couple of them it was their virgin train journey!
After getting down at Castle Rock Station we re-packed our bags by distributing the MTR Read-to-cooks, so that the weight each of us carried was not skewed. After a customary photo at the station we started off along the tracks on our 14km long trek. This was our first Railway trek and it posed its own little challenges. Now even though the surface is not uphill, it can still be a minor inconvenience considering all the gravel and of course human waste. It takes a a while to get used to walking on the planks especially since you have to take short steps all the while avoiding gravel and human waste. Initially you forget to watch the landscapes as you are busy watching the track, but as you make progress the visuals on offer are too hard to resist. Your feet start to strike the right rhythm and your eyes start to wander. The thick vegetation mostly covers the views that Braganza Ghat has to offer. But when it reveals itself, it’s a sight to behold. Even the 9 year old lion-heart in our group takes a minute or two appreciating nature, before he gets going leaving the others behind.
And then there are the tunnels. One after the other and one bigger and darker than the other, with the longest being half a kilometer. And if you get caught in a tunnel with the train passing, that’s an experience of a lifetime. Not only is it a good photo-op but also a hair-raising experience - literally. The heat and noise generated by the engines is so high, it can send shivers down your spine. By the time the train passes you, you would have turned two shades darker and suffer from momentary deafness.
After a lot walking which included a long haul at a mini waterfall, we finally reached the halfway mark - Caranzol Station. Always a group to start a conversation with the locals, we found out from the station master that there would be a Goods train arriving anytime now and heading towards Dudhsagar. The good station master advised us to take the goods train to Dudhsagar and spend some quality time at the Falls rather than walking on the tracks. Apparently they find nothing amusing about walking on the tracks. After a quick group huddle we decided to take the goods train after all, which later turned out as a blessing in disguise. Within no time the goods train arrived at Caranzol and with the station master having a word with the Guard in the train, we bundled ourselves into the Guard's compartment. And thus started the group's first Goods train ride of our lives. With no ticket counters at any of these stations, we got ourselves a free ride to Dudhsagar after cleverly wriggling out of paying the Guard. The waterfalls is another 1km walk from the station. As always, even before we could see the falls, we could hear it. And this always heightens the excitement. We made a dash to the final stretch and Voila! Nothing much has changed about Dudhsagar in the last 18 years since I last saw it in a school trip. Since it wasn't monsoons yet, there wasn't much water - but just enough to have a great time at the base of the falls.
The walk to the base of the falls is very challenging. The rough and uneven terrain can squeeze every ounce of your strength. But the result is much more rewarding that the effort put-in. The view from the base of the Falls is wholly different sight. It looks majestic to say the least. Even the little oasis formed at the point where the water finally reaches ground zero looks straight out of a movie scene. No sooner than we set our first tent, did a forest official come and informed us that we cannot camp here for the night as there will be an inspection by some senior officials. Disappointed by this we had to go back up to the railway track where there is a provision to camp for the night. After the demanding climb back, we immediately set up our tents there and started a campfire and cooked our MTRs. And then one by one crawled into our respective tents and sleeping bags for a good night's sleep.
I was woken out of my reverie by a second troop of monkeys who came looking for food. This batch was much more daring and adventurous than the earlier troop. By this time everyone was up and we had a hard time keeping the monkeys away from getting to our belongings. But they too eventually left and we cooked some soup packets for breakfast. We then lazed around all morning and headed back to Dudhsagar station around noon. And then another first in our lives. After much pleading with the drivers we got a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride in a WDG4 diesel electric engine. The train took us till Castle Rock after which we took another goods train to Londa in the Guard's room.

With time to kill we filled our stomachs with Vada Pavs and hearts with talks that ranged a variety of topics. With friends like these there's never a dull moment. By the time Rani Chennama rolled out of Londa we were already starting to dread the hectic life of Bangalore - the only comforting factor being that we will be re-united with our loved ones. Thank God for such little happiness....

Getting-there: From Bangalore, trains are the best option. Hubli or Londa are the major stations near to Braganza Ghat Section. If you wish to trek, Castle Rock is where you start. It’s a 14 km trek to Dudhsagar.

Must-Do: Railway Trekking is fun and different. Get to the base of the falls if there isn't much water. Camp near the falls.

Must-Don't: Littering and troubling the monkeys (remember we are intruding their territory)

Other Attractions - Ancient Thambi Surla Temple and Tambi Surla Falls (From Dudhsagar go to Kullem and then to Mullem)

My Rating: 7/10


  1. Superb maestro...really wonderful..great moments were moments were scattered all the 48 picked real gems...very neat and perfect narration..worth waiting all the while..

    Landscapes, nature, Railways staff's nature all the deserves a great round of appreciation...

    Script is just awesome..i loved it by heart..

    Buddy you just rocks in every script writing...Sirji..too hi great ho..!!!!

  2. Thanks Sri. As always I enjoyed travelling with our army of wanderers. All the fun we have had, made the journey even more interesting than the destination itself.

    Looking forward to many more such trips...

  3. Wow, Great piece of writing... you gave us a spec sheet of each and every train we traveled !!

  4. Interesting trek. Well narrated.

  5. Hi, PK
    Lovely script buddy. After reading still the dudhsagar spots are appearing in front of my eyes virtually..

  6. wonderful account......makes me pla n a trip here.

  7. Amazing!!! next thing wud be a novel i "the motor cycle diaries".. seriously...I'm waiting for the next trip..

  8. Thanks Sandeep, Anil and Somu. You guys rocked the trip.

    Thank you Niranjan and Sushmita. It's a great experience travelling in goods train/engines and trekking along the tracks.

  9. Wow, wow, wow! I know someone who's made so many trips to this place, I've seen so many pictures of those treks through those tracks.
    Your write up, however, TOOK ME THERE. Your morning sounded so beautiful. I could almost hear that train in the tunnel. And I'M JEALOUS now -- you got a ride on a goods train? That's better than strawberry picking :)

  10. Thanks Ms. Nambiar :)
    I guess we are in a mutual admiration club now :)

  11. Interesting…