Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dudhsagar Waterfalls Trek

Before you plan :

It is very important to know geography of Dudhsagar falls before you proceed and book your train tickets. Dudhsagar lies between Castle Rock and Kullem. Castle rock is last station in Karnataka. This patch between Castle Rock and Kullem is a steep slope of 25 km, known as Braganza Ghat. There are 2 small stations between Castle rock and Kullem - Karanzol and Dudhsagar. (Don't expect signboards, cabins or anything like other stations!)

Castle Rock (0) - Karanzol (7 Kms) - Dudhsagar (14 Kms) - Kullem (25 Kms)

Every goods train going downwards Kullem, halts at these two stations. These are not official halts though, breaks and other technical tests are performed at these points. While coming up, goods trains do not stop at any of these stations due to steep rise - unless there is a crossing. All Passenger trains stop at these stations both ways. Its better to book tickets till Kullem so that you can alight at any of the stations on the route.

Day 1 : Friday 13th July 2012
Pune Station 4.15 pm.

We boarded 12780 Goa express at 5 in the evening. The journey started after some meet and greet as there were few unknown faces. We were 22 members in all - distributed across 3 different bogies. I did not understand the composition of train. Pantry car was between the two Sleeper coaches unlike splitting AC coaches from Sleepers. It was sort of mini trek to pass through pantry car every time!! I couldn't dare look into the kitchen as our dinner was ordered from same pantry. :-). After settled down, firstly we tried to meet our expenses against contribution. Devidas the expert, took charge and made sure that every penny is accounted. Meanwhile, Kedar was busy in attending every pantry salesman. He made sure - no pantry guy goes back with empty pocket and his stomach does not remain empty even for a minute. He has this habit of eating everything that comes to him, since his childhood - he told us later.
Our 12780 Goa Express (More Photos)

We could not discuss details, like - which station to alight at, starting point, end point of trek etc. so we had this session before dinner time. Most of trekkers alight at Castle Rock and trek downwards to Dudhsagar. They arrive at Dudhsagar by afternoon. We decided otherwise - alight at Dudhsagar, spend enough time at the falls and trek back to Castle Rock. We had train to catch at Castle Rock by 5.30 in the evening. This decision paid big time, How? - you will come to know later.

Day 2 :
Castle Rock station 3.00 am.

One TTE was trying to convince us to start the trek from Castle Rock like others. When we decided to stick to our original plan, he asked for our tickets - tickets were till Kulem so he was bit disappointed and disappeared :-). Our 'watch'man duty started as train departed Castle Rock. Me and Abhijeet were standing at doors as others were busy in a competition - whose torch is brighter !!! Train halted at one point where tunnel count was 5 so it was Karanzol station. Even though it was dark, we could easily experience the wilderness of Braganza ghat while passing through those tunnels and bridges.

Dudhsagar Station 3.40 am.

Tunnel count was 10, train slowed down gradually and stopped. No lights, no sign boards, just one goods train on the neighboring track. We decided to jump out. Till all of us could manage to get out, train was already in a full speed. It was mere 30 seconds' halt. When train left away, we confirmed that it was Dudhsagar station and got relieved. :-)

Signboards before falls (More Photos)

Dudhsagar Falls 4.00 am.
Dudhsagar falls is somewhat 1 Km ahead of station, towards Kullem. We decided to head towards falls as other groups decided to have rest at station itself. Dudhsagar station does not provide any shelter and it was bit riskier as rain started to pour. During this 1 Km walk, we had to cross one tunnel. (Tunnel no 11) It was very dark and cloudy so did not matter whether its tunnel or open sky, just a bit relief from rain inside that tunnel. As we came out of the tunnel, roaring sound of falls took charge and nothing else was audible for next few hours - except those whistling WDG-4 engines of goods trains. There are two sign boards named 'Dudhsagar water falls' before the bridge at the falls. Just before second board, there is one shelter upstairs (left side). We headed towards and were much more closer to Dudhsagar. It was just 4 in the morning so we had no option but to wait till it gets brighter. All of a sudden one goods train came from Kullem and passed through the bridge. It was horrifying sound in the dark and many of us were trying to compensate their sleep, were frustrated by that sound !!!

Dudhsagar Falls 6.00 am.
   Breaking dawn : Dudhsagar Falls (More Photos)

It was 'breaking dawn' and we realized that one of our group with 5-6 members was missing. They were traveling in bogie S3. They could not alight at Dudhsagar station as it was too hard to know the halt. We were bit worried about them - but just for a while. As it was crystal clear, everyone started concentrating on Dudhsagar :-). The area around is deep forests known as Bhagvaan Mahaveer Sanctuary so there is alone sound that breaks the silence and that of Dudhsagar Falls. We saw variety of birds out of which I could manage to identify Hornbills only !! 
                           Western ghats from the bridge

Meanwhile, a goods train with more than 100 rakes (I tried to count but gave up at around 80-85) and pulled by 5 WDG-4s, went through rudely. Everyone started hovering around breakfast items so the quick 'bite' was inevitable. Bread - Jam - Ketchup was on the cards, courtesy of Kaiwalya - we had 'cheese' sandwich at Dudhsagar Falls!! Devidas - palak puri was just awesome too, thanks mate. Prashant provided us Apples and cucumbers with lot of love :-) (His sack was much lighter afterwards!!) Monkeys around, also had their share of breakfast as they started becoming more aggressive at the end. It was brighter enough and everyone was busy again capturing falls from every possible angle.

Other groups were also around and the place became much crowded. We decided to capture train passing through the falls. There is one 'viewpoint', 1 km towards Kullem from where whole waterfall and bridge are visible in single frame. There is a tunnel between falls and viewpoint. (Tunnel no 12). We were about to enter the tunnel and suddenly heard a call distracting us - it was loud sound "Chai - Chai, garam Chai !!!" A badly needed cup of tea especially in rainy morning after having such heavy breakfast. It was a small canteen run by Goa tourism department serving tea, some biscuits and beer. Much needed tea break was added to our itinerary before moving ahead. 

Tunnel 12 and 13 are joint tunnels with just a little gap in between. One can find many photographs on internet, taken at this point where small springs fill the gap between tunnels.

                               Tunnel 12 and 13 (More Photos)

Dudhsagar from Viewpoint is something one can not put into words. It is to be experienced and not to be explained !!! I clicked as many photographs as I could :-). Then, the wait for train began with lot of enthusiasm. Meanwhile a drizzle caused sudden drop in temperatures and we came to know that few of our guys were having Umbrellas for the trek :D.  One by one, impatient members started heading back to falls as there were no signs of train from either ends. Me, Harshad and Amit were still optimistic. It was almost an hour at the view-point without train. All of sudden a whistle broke the silence as one goods train from Castle Rock was coming down. We captured 'the moment' and had a great amount of satisfaction for waiting there a while. Return journey towards Castle Rock began with some serious speed.

Dudhsagar Falls 11.00 am 
                         Dudhsagar from viewpoint (More photos)

Viewpoint is 1 km opposite to Castle Rock hence we were to cover 15 kms in next 6 hrs. Our missing group just reached Dudhsagar as they went all the way to Kullem. They had 11 km trek from Kullem to Dudhsagar :-). I advised them to stay at Dudhsagar and board Goa Express at 4.30 in the afternoon. 

We covered first 3-4 kms within 45 mins. It wasn't an easy task to walk between rails. Firstly, you need to have calculated steps as these slippers are very much closer. Secondly, beware of yellow carpet between tracks ! Have brighter torches inside tunnel or stop at every spring en-route !! Some of us already started asking about remaining distance to trekkers coming from Castle Rock. There was alone patch a bit challenging - Escarpment Viaduct. Nothing to worry as such - there was enough space by the side of track, it is advisable to cross via-duct through that side-bridge. Being via-duct, height was reasonable. There is beautiful tunnel at the end of bridge. As we crossed the tunnel, Chennai Vasco express went through, it was 3rd time in row, we were out of tunnel and train passed through!! 

                               Escarpment Viaduct (More Photos)

Karanzol Station 1.30 pm. 

We were 7 kms from Dudhsagar as Karanzol station was in sight. We decided to have a short break at this station. We had chat with one group from Bengaluru heading towards falls. They had stay in their plans hence were well-equipped with sleeping bags and other essentials. We were very much tired and thought of 'remaining 7 kms' made us more helpless. All of sudden, we heard a noise of goods rain climbing up towards Castle Rock. I decided to keep my cam between tracks to have a crazy video, had a second thought but still decided to keep it. Kaiwalya put a coin on the tracks. 

As half of train passed by, speed was drastically decreased. Train stopped at Karanzol and ray of hope came out !! One of the guys at station told us that engine driver may give us lift to Castle Rock. I took my cam, started running towards end of train. We ran like crazy and asked one of the 3 engine drivers for a lift. Yes, we got it without much efforts. It was crossing of Amaravati Express at Karanzol station so this goods' train was shown red signal. 

                        Our first ever engine travel through WDG-4 

We were standing at side deck of engine. This was last of three WDG-4s at the end of train. Half an hour after, we left Karanzol to start our first ever engine travel. It was lot of joy and craziness but only till a tunnel came across. I can tell you, the enjoyable experience turned into horrifying when we entered tunnel. The steam, smoke or whatever those 3 engines thrown out - burnt us totally. 5 tunnels appx 300 - 400 mtrs in length, looked like 3-4 kms in length !!! After couple of tunnels, Me and Kedar had an opportunity to enter driver's cabin. Our beloved driver asked everyone to come in but with lack of space and full of craziness, others decided not to join us inside. 

                                               Here we go !!!
Castle Rock station 2.30 pm

Distance upto Castle rock was covered by train in 15-20 mins. We were looking like mechanics from a garage, especially Sandeep - it was hard to identify him (He had a bath at waiting room later on !!) With quick 'washing' break, we had a much needed snacks at Castle Rock station : Thanks to Harshad for 'Bhel' arrangements. Some of us had a sleep of an hour or so last night so the compensation began at the station itself. Station canteen reopened at 4 pm to have our post-nap tea. We boarded 12779 Goa Express at around 6, leaving Castle Rock behind with lots of memories and some unique experiences. 
Our decision to trek in opposite direction paid in big time. Firstly, we had enough time to spend at Dudhsagar, we got a chance to see Dudhsagar in the dark, in the dawn and in the day-light. Various forms - equally wonderful and explaining why it is called 'Dudh'sagar. Secondly, our dream since childhood to travel inside train engine came true. I think it was experience we will cherish through out our life. 

Londa Station 6.45 pm

Meanwhile Kedar, once again was busy in finding his wallets as he saw pantry salesmen wandering around!! Me and Harshad also joined him and had almost everything that came to us. We went asleep by 9 to wake up directly at Pune Station. This is how day-full, amazing trek ended.  

Day 3 :

Pune Station 3.55 am

The End. 

Conclusions : 
If you wish to alight at Dudhsagar, be ready at the doors when train departs Castle Rock. Count the tunnels, 10 tunnels to reach Dudhsagar station.

Leave on Friday evenings to come back on Sunday morning. This will give you whole Sunday for rests. Walking along track is not easy as you'd have thought. 

Torch is must have thing as tunnels do not have any lights.

View point is something must visit place without which trip to Dudhsagar is incomplete.

Wrap everything inside your bag in polythene, its a typical forest rain - within couple of seconds you get splashed !!!

Trains make much noise while passing through giving you lot of time to get away from the track.