The central plan in visting Goa was to visit Dudhsagar waterfall. We (me, Jayanth and his friend Gopi) took the early morning train from Mangalore to Goa and reached Madgaon (Marmagoa) by 1 PM. The remaining of that day we spent in an express tour of the Goa beaches. This being the off season there were no crowds in any of the beaches, hence the festive atmosphere was also missing
The train towards Dudhsagar was at 8 AM and because of the Indian Railways new rule of not being able to buy an open ticket a day in advance, Gopi had to wake up at 6 AM and walk to the Madgaon station to buy tickets. Breakfast was ‘Pav Bhaaji’ (Goan style) and Mangalore Buns (sweet buns – my fav). We also got some food packed for the journey.
From the information we had collected the train would reach Kulem station in 45 mins and from there it would be another 20 mins by road to Dudhsagar waterfalls. We had been told that the train might not stop at Dudhsagar and it was better to go by road from Kulem.
So at Kulem we alighted and started walking towards the exit, a tea stall guy looking at our attire called us and imparted the information that the train would stop/slow down to a crawling pace at Dudhsagar and it would be really easy to alight the train at that station, so again we climbed back into the same train (we anyway had a valid ticket till a later station). In about 25 mins the waterfall came into view, it was breathtakingly beautiful!
The waterfall starting from about 200 ft above the train track continues for another 100 ft below where it forms a small rapid. Now, as the train approached the Dudhsagar station it showed no signs of slowing down and was steadily chugging ahead at around 10-15km/hr. We had positioned ourselves at the two sides of the train compartment and ready to jump out when the speed and landing terrain favoured us. The best possible opportunity to jump out was at the Dudhsagar station where there was a platform to land safely – here Jayanth who was at the door just didn’t jump; instead he was in favour of jumping out on coarse garvel which I thought was maddening and just didn’t allow him to do the crazy feat. Those were anxious moments. After this stage the train gained speed and jumping out was never in question again! Somewhere after this and before reaching the next staion, Castle Rock, we crossed the state border into Karnataka.
By the time we reached Castle Rock it was 10 AM and luckily for us there was a goods train heading towards Dudhsagar in a short time. When we asked permission from a railway personnel who was conducting a routine check on the train he in turn asked us to get permission from the trains driver who would arrive shortly, then again he told us they would take us without any problem. In that excitement we took some pictures with the train which seems to have ticked off the driver who refused to ferry us the distance later on. It was only after much persuasion he permitted us to climb aboard. It was a fully loaded goods train (38 bogies) transporting Bauxite (Aluminium ore) pulled by 5 engines! We traveled the distance of 12kms to Dudhsagar standing on the side of the main engine. One would think, wow its got 5 engines it should be able go super fast. Going fast is out of the question keeping in view the enormous momentum it would acquire for any sensible braking to work and also the very fact that its got 5 engines would require it to go slow (the remaining 4 engines are controlled from the main engine and I would think there is a negative feedback control system to maintain constant torque). We enjoyed the scenery as the train crawled the distance.
At the waterfall we were alone. It seemed like the waterfall was at its peak, full of water from recent rains. One look was enough to decide we couldn’t get underneath the falls or get to the water pool. We spent some time lazing around and ate our lunch after a while.
What we were able to view from the rail track was just the first part of the falls where water was splashing down from a height of 200 ft, the second part was below the track where it continued for another 100 ft before forming a rapid of sorts.
At the base of the falls we could see some tourists who had reached by road from Kulem. I instantly wanted to go to that spot and I was sure there would be a path leading too, but we all agreed that it would be too risky as it was unknown terrain.
At this point I swapped my 18-55mm lens with the 55-200mm lens and as I did it I noticed a monkey strolling cooly towards us. At first I didn’t realize that half of our food was still lying unpacked, but when it did occur it was too late. I started running towards our food, the monkey stopped and gave me a growl, baring its teeth, and I did some swinging motion and shouted too, the monkey hastened and grabbed whatever it could from the top of the plastic cover and ran. It was the remaining two Mangalore buns which were robbed, thankfully I had ate one by that time.
As it generally happens with monkeys soon there was one more which joined this bandit monkey which tried (in vain) to steal the bun. Within no time the entire troupe made its presence. By that time we had sensibly packed the remaining food into our bags.
The passenger train going towards Kulem, the dense forest cover. After taking the above pic my camera battery ran out.
We walked back to Dudhsagar station to inquire about the next goods train on this route – the station master said he would get the info only when the train starts from Castle Rock. He told us that there was none for another 1 hour and as the train takes 1 hr to reach Dudhsagar from Castle Rock there were none for another 2 hrs at least. He also gave us the whereabouts of the path leading down to the base of the falls – the path starts from the gap between the tunnel (the tunnel has an opening from where the path starts), the tunnel after the waterfall. By this time it was around 1:15 PM and it had started raining. We had three possible options:
1. Wait for the goods train (god knows when it would come),
2. Walk the 12kms to the Kulem station on the railway track,
3. Climb down to the waterfalls base, cross the stream and get to the road where hopefully we get a lift back to Kulem on one of the tourist vehicles.
The majority opted for 3, the riskiest one – for reasons given later on in this post.
Note: following pictures taken from mobile camera.
The gap in the tunnel where we entered the forest, the pouring rain is conspicuous by its presence.
I was completely against this choice as it started raining quite heavily which would make it very slippery, but followed the others, I did. As Jayanth was the sure-footed one, he lead, followed by Gopi, with me forming the rear. Climbing down was fast, it was more of a scampering down and at times I was worried I would lose sight of Gopi, so I hastened ignoring the obvious danger of slipping. The trees, hanging branches and vines gave good support while climbing down. Halfway during the climb we witnessed the formation of the smallest of small streams in the same path as we were heading down due to the downpour, which reminded me that even the water in the stream we were supposed to cross ahead would be swelling with water.
We finally reached the stream after about 30 minutes of climbing down. The stream up close didn’t look all that gentle as it did from the railway track but resembled a rapid. Now that we had put so much effort in reaching this spot the mad ambition in us of crossing the rapid increased. The first try was un-successful – we had managed to balance on all fours in reaching a slippery boulder beyond which the water was gushing in a narrow path and hence very risky. For the second attempt we went a little downstream in the hope of finding the stream spread out but never saw anything like that happening for some distance. Again we came back upstream and climbed a big boulder in the middle of the stream (I slipped and fell into a small sub-stream while getting there, thankfully no injuries), once on the boulder we got a good view of the stream both up and downstream and we couldn’t find any possible safe way of crossing this stream. After this we came back to the river bank and checked the depth of the water at one particular spot by forming a human chain, it came till waist high, we gave up. (2:30 PM) Now again we took a vote and this time (quite sensibly) we decided to climb back to the rail track though we had doubts in our minds of whether we could find the path to the track. Just as we started our way back Jayanth slipped in the sludge and used his right hand as support while landing. Luckily it was not very serious and we continued unabated and after a while we even started recognizing the path. The climb up was more intense and we stopped only to gasp for breath. We finally came back to the same spot on the railway track where we had entered the forest one and half hours back. The first thing we did as we came to the clearing was to strip right down to our underwear and look for any leeches. Yes, Leeches! Gopi found one and he flicked it away, I just found a leech wound on my right thigh – meaning the leech had its content of my blood and had dropped-of on its own. It was 3 PM by then and we had 11.5 kms more to cover in 2 hr 15 mins as the last passenger train from Kulem towards Madgaon was at 5:15 PM.
The walk on the railway track was by no wild imagination easy. We either had to put measured steps on the sleepers (concrete blocks on which tracks are supported) or walk on the coarse ballast. The rain gave us another visit but we were completely lost in keeping the pace and were least bothered. The distance markers which are placed all along the railway tracks helped us a lot in measuring our walking speed and gave us confidence and motivation at the same time. I think about halfway along this route we found a very narrow pathway running next to the tracks, we were just more than glad to use this path for the rest of the distance. When we were about 6 kms away from Kulem we met another group of trekkers (4-5 guys) who were heading towards Dudhsagar. We told them about the ground realities – that there is no accommodation available at Dudhsagar, no trains in both directions… that they will be stranded at Dudhsagar… all the advice was to no avail, they continued towards Dudhsagar. I hope those guys ran into some luck or some common sense.
We reached Kulem with 5 mins to spare before the train started. Seated in the almost empty train I thought about what an exhilarating day it had been and that we were lucky to be heading back in one piece.
Date of travel: 24th September 2009
Place: Dudhsagar waterfall, Goa