Monday, 10 September 2012

Monsoon Dudhsagar Waterfall Rail Trek

              The Dudhsagar trek was a pending task from my must visit places list. I have been planning this for past 2 years but because of various reasons could not execute this plan. This time, the tickets were booked 2 months in advance and finally, I was able to witness gigantic and beautiful waterfall. Our trekking group consists of Me, Renuka (My wife), Pankaj Gupta, Anooj Jangid, Rishikesh Nerpagar, Poonam (Rishikesh’s wife) & Nidhi Gupta (All are colleagues from the same company). I was very excited to catch the action for 2 days. We left Pune on Saturday by early morning train and came back on Monday early morning.

Dudhsagar Waterfall
Dudhsagar Waterfall

About Dudhsagar falls:
           Dudhsagar Falls (दुधसागर धबधबा in Marathi; English translation: Sea of Milk ) is a tiered waterfall which forms a part of River Mandovi in the state of Goa, India, on Goa's border with the state of Karnataka. It lies high up in the Mandovi River's watershed and during the monsoon season, the falls are transformed into one of the most powerful falls in India. It is a four-tiered waterfall with a total height of 310 meters (1017 feet) and an average width of 30 meters (100 feet) and is a 5th tallest waterfall in India. Trekking in Dudhsagar is a famous tourist attraction. During Monsoon, trekkers EITHER select most famous route i.e. from Castle Rock station and start trudging through a Scenic 14 km hike to Dudhsagar Waterfalls along the railway track OR through scenic but less popular from Kulem/Collem Railway station and walk towards the falls which are about 11 km away.
            We decided route one i.e. from Castle Rock station for 14 km trek.  The options to reach Castle Rock railway station are catch train from Pune to either Londa or direct train to Castle Rock railway station. If you reach Londa Junction then there are many passenger trains that run between Londa and Castle Rock.
          We boarded the chalukya express from Pune and reached Londa Junction. From Londa, we took Amravati express and manage to reach Castle Rock station.
         For the return journey, we came back to Pune by Goa express which takes 40-50 sec halt at Dudhsagar railway station.

Our Itinerary of the trek was:
Saturday:  Chalukya express train from Pune at 1:00 AM
                     Reach Londa Junction by 10:00 AM
                     Catch next train and reach Castle Rock station before 12:00.
                     14 km Trek to Dudhsagar waterfall and stay nearby waterfall.
Sunday:     Visit a waterfall and walk towards Kulem so we can see entire waterfall view.
                     Either catch Goods train and go to Kulem or catch Goa express at Dudhsagar.

         Those who are not interested in trek but want to witness such a beautiful waterfall then they can board train either at Castle Rock or at Kulem. Most of the trains halt for few seconds at Dudhsagar. Just make sure about the train schedule.
         There is another route from Kulem. Tourists can hire SUV vehicle and reach the foot of Dudhsagar waterfall. But this service is closed during the monsoon season.

Dudhsagar Fall Trekkers

8th September 2012: Pune – Londa – Castle Rock station – Rail track trek – Dudhsagar railway station
           Our journey began on 8th September 2012. We all met at Pune railway station at 12.30 AM near Comesum Restaurant. The train was scheduled to leave the Yesvantpur station by 1:00 AM but it left the station after a delay of 1 hour.  After our bag arrangement, we slept soon. We all woke up at around 7 and still we were in Maharashtra. We had some snacks and tea/coffee on the train and spent our morning chatting with each other. Finally, we reach Londa Junction at 11:00 AM. We were running behind our schedule. Next train to castle rock was Amravati express (it was also running late). We waited for around 30-40 minutes on Londa station and then boarded the train to Castle Rock. Journey time was 45 min and we reached our starting point by 1:00 PM.

Londa Junction
Londa Junction

Londa Junction

Train on curve

          Castle Rock Station was so beautiful that we took a lot of snaps and then left the station at 1:45 PM. Now our trek begins. The Braganza ghat rail track starts from Castle Rock. The milestones were properly marked all along the route. The Castle Rock station was marked at 25/000. Within few minutes we were walking on the tracks surrounded by dense forests. Hardly after 1 km walk; We came across the first train on the track. There was sufficient space to stand. It was a magical experience with the headlamps of the train piercing through the mist-filled surrounding as if a fire demon breathing fire. It took us 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 foot starts striking to strike the right rhythm and your eyes wander.

Dudhsagar waterfall trek

Castle Rock station
Near Castle Rock Station

Braganza ghat rail track
Braganza ghat rail track

           Soon enough our first tunnel came into the horizon. It was around 200 m long and we had fun crossing it. I had done rail track trek (Khandala to Monkey hill point) earlier so I was quite confident enough while crossing. Fortunately, we didn’t come across any train when inside all 13 tunnels till waterfall. Till waterfall, you have to cross 11 tunnels and 2 tunnels if you wish to view whole waterfall view. Hiking along the tracks is not easy as it seems. One cannot continuously walk beside the track for a long time; you have to switch between sides of the tracks to in between tracks many times. The route was covered with thick mist even in the afternoon time. Heavy rain was playing hide and seek game and sometimes clear weather gave me the opportunity to click nature photographs.

thick mist
thick mist on track

Goods Train

           After crossing 3 tunnels, a (the) tunnel which looks like castle had come across. Until this time everybody started feeling hungry and we decided to take a short break. We ate some snacks which we were carrying in our bags. After our small break, we again started our trek with the full energy. The longest tunnel which we crossed was 491 meter (or maybe 419 meter. Little bit confused about distance). The rail track went through the dense forest, with awe-striking views of mountains and valleys. Mist and clouds hovered all over creating breath-taking views. After 5 km of walking, just before 1 tunnel, we crossed over into the state of Goa. “Welcome to Goa” board welcomes us in a Goa state.

Castle Tunnel No 2
Castle Tunnel No 2

Welcome to Goa
Welcome to Goa

          After a 2 km walk, we reached the Caranzol railway station. From here it’s another 7 km walk to reach Dudhsagar station. We decided to have a 2nd short break at the station. The station was lonely. It is mainly used by railway employees and lineman. Many rooms and structures were almost ruined. We were about to leave and at the same time we heard another engine sound or honk from a short distance. We stayed back on station and the train passed which consist with around only 40 newly made guard wagons. My camera was away from me so I missed the opportunity to capture a photo of such unique railway train.

Caranzol railway station
Caranzol railway station

         We resumed our trudge after resting for 20 minutes in at the station. From here onwards, there were a lot of small waterfalls along the rail line and even more dense forest. Going further we entered into a tunnel and view from the other end of the tunnel was spectacular. A curvy tunnel and when you came out of it, a medium size bridge welcomes you with a breathtaking view. As we were behind the clock by at least an hour, we motivated ourselves to walk faster. Our plan was to reach Dudhsagar station before dark. After crossing 10 tunnels single track splits into 2 tracks and soon we came to know that Dudhsagar station is close by now. Everybody’s legs were paining like hell as it’s not easy to walk on gravels.

Small Waterfall
Small waterfall before tunnel

Tunnel & bridge combination
Tunnel & bridge combination

           At around 5:45 PM, finally, we reached Dudhsagar station. We were aware that waterfall was about 1km from the station. We decided to find shelter first and then visit waterfall tomorrow. There are only 2 shelters available for trekker for an overnight stay near the waterfall. From station master, we got to know that shelters near waterfall were about to full and a lot of trekkers had already set up their tents. We wanted to have a safe shelter as 3 female trekkers were with us. I and Anooj decided to go further and search for any other option. We were a little bit afraid that how will manage our stay but God was with us and we saw a medium size church (St Mary’s church) just a few meters away from the station. A local person out there was not allowing anybody to stay within the church and so he also denied our request. We explained him our situation and finally, he got convinced. We got a very nice, clean and safe shelter even coming late in that area. Later we got to know the reason for him why they don’t allow trekkers to stay in the church. Many trekkers have drinks or smoke in church or if they are with any girls then they use this place for indecent acts act. We were 2 married couple in the group and working employees, he was ready to give this shelter without any cost. We also promised him that we will keep this place very clean or even in better than the current condition and he left for his work.

Dudhsagar Railway Station
Dudhsagar Railway Station

Our stay: St Mary’s church

         Girls quickly cleaned this place and we were ready to settle down. After 40-50 min rest, we decided to cook food for dinner. We were carrying coal and lot of dry newspapers. Pankaj, Nidhi, and Rishikesh started burning coal with the help of newspaper and Kapur (used in prayer for Hindu god and very quickly it burns). We arranged stones to form a stove and our special Maggi program began. We were very hungry and desperately waiting for Maggi. The Other option was rice but it will take some time to cook so we kept Khichadi-rice menu for Sunday Lunch. Everybody was contributing for Maggi and after 20-25 minutes we were ready to eat Maggi. We bought 3 Mega Maggi packets and we ate all one after one. After our first Maggi, we were able to cook remaining packets hardly within 5-10 min.

A pitch dark night, our church surrounded by forest and small water stream with cold weather and we were with our special coal Maggi. It is very difficult to explain this experience in the words.

Special coal Maggi
Special coal Maggi

          A pitch dark night, our church surrounded by forest and small water stream with cold weather and we were with our After lovely dinner, it was time to sleep. We took out our sleeping bags and set our beds. It was 10:30 PM in clock and all were excited to visit a waterfall in the early morning. We were aware that will not get sound sleep as railway line was few feet away from us and this route is quite busy with the goods train. This shelter was St Mary's church so we found a lot of new/used candles. On girls request, we light up 2 of them and went inside our sleeping bags. It is very difficult to explain this experience in the words.
  • Pune to Londa ticket (Non-A/C Sleeper): INR 204/- per person
  • Londa to Castle Rock ticket (General ticket): INR 17/- per person
  • Breakfast at Londa (Idli/bhaji/vada-pav): INR 20/- each
  • Maggi packets(Pack of 4): INR 39/- per packet
  • Coal for burning: INR 20/- per kg in Pune
9th September 2012: Dudhsagar railway station – Dudhsagar waterfall – Pune
         Last Goods train crossed by 12:00 or 1:00AM and then we were able to sleep properly. Me, Renuka and Anooj woke up by 4.30 AM in morning. The reason was, the first train went from the station and few young boys approached towards the church for shelter. As we had already occupied the shelter and they wanted to stay here for 1 to 1.5 hours. They settled down outside the church area. They started playing south Indian music and their party began without any drinks. Thank god that they understood it’s a church. Only a few of them were able to speak English or Hindi (a group of 20 college boys was from Hubli) and somehow we told them that we were tired bcos of the trek and needed sleep. Then they stopped playing their music and dance party and waited till sunrise. All took rest and only Me and Anooj were spying on their activity. Just for our safety.

Way to Dudhsagar waterfall

         On sunrise, they left the shelter and we woke up. After getting fresh from all activities in nature, we had breakfast and then we were ready for our main purpose. The distance between Dudhsagar railway station and waterfall is nearly 1 km. You need to cross tunnel number 11. We all were excited to go there. We took a lot of photographs and went into the tunnel 11 after crossing 1 express train. The very first thing we noticed when coming out of tunnel 11 is the roaring sound of waterfalls on the backdrop of a huge rocky mountain. Dudhsagar falls is a gigantic waterfall, roaring and thundering as water fell on the rocks. We just kept watching the beauty. Now we were in front of huge, white, roaring waterfall throwing an enormous blanket of mist all over the railway bridge and into the air. We took a lot of photographs from the bridge. It was a little bit difficult task to capture entire waterfall in 1 frame. The force of the water was too much for a human being to go near it. So, we admired the beauty of the waterfalls by standing on the track. We were aware that after 10 AM, this place becomes crowded as 2 trains took a halt at station and lot of tourist come to visit. We captured many photos and decided to go further to view the entire waterfall, let’s say waterfall viewpoint.

Train in Tunnel

Dudhsagar Waterfall: Close up View
Dudhsagar Waterfall: Close up View

           To reach to the waterfall viewpoint, you need to walk 2km from Dudhsagar Waterfall Bridge towards Kulem. On the way to this viewpoint, we came across 2 back to back tunnels. Tunnel No 12 and 13 are just a few meters apart from each other having a gap between them where a small water stream falls and sunlight lightens the spot.

Tunnel No 12 & 13.

           After 2 km walk, we reach to waterfall viewpoint. Dudhsagar waterfall view from this point is simply amazing and I don’t have words to explain this nature’s beauty.  From this point also, we were able to hear roaring sound of the waterfall. I clicked as many photographs as I could, with different angles, every member’s solo photographs and many more. We spent around an hour in nature and witness the beauty of nature. When we were about to leave this place, we got to know that a passenger express is going to cross the Dudhsagar bridge. I didn’t want to miss the famous photograph of Train crossing waterfall. All the members were tired and hungry but they accepted my request. After 15-30 minutes long wait, one express train passed over the bridge and I became busy to click that moment. Wow… finally one task from my “Must visit places” was over.

Dudhsagar Waterfall
Dudhsagar Waterfall

Dudhsagar Waterfall
Dudhsagar Waterfall

Train in Dudhsagar Waterfall
Dudhsagar Waterfall with Train

Dudhsagar Waterfall with Train
Dudhsagar Waterfall with Train

            We returned to Dudhsagar Waterfall Bridge after a lot of clicks at the viewpoint and in the tunnel no 12 and 13. We saw a massive crowd near the fall. We were lucky enough to view waterfall when there were hardly any people in the early morning. Around the falls there are many positions to get the view. The one closest to the falls is on the left side of the bridge, downstairs. This is the position where one has to lift his head 90 degrees to see the origin of falls on the edge and feel a splash of mist all over.
          Now we were hungry and decided to cook a Khichadi (Type of Rice) on Coal. We went back to same St Mary’s church. It took us around 1 hour to cook Khichadi and hardly few min to finish that. We got to know from railway station master that Goa express stops at Dudhsagar railway station for only a minute so rather than going to Kulem by engine we preferred to relax there only. Our reservation was from Kulem station and station master told our wagon’s position. We waited there for 2 hours. Most of the tourists had come to the station to catch this train and Dudhsagar station became overcrowded. We relaxed as we had a reservation but the concern was to catch the train. Finally Goa express came at 5.10 PM to the station. After a small struggle, we manage to catch the train.

Dudhsagar Waterfall
Dudhsagar Waterfall from Different angle

Following day we returned to Pune at 3:30 AM, ending one of the most pleasurable rail treks I ever made as of now.
  • Water bottle at Dudhsagar waterfall: INR 20/-
  • Cold drink (500ml bottle): INR 40/-
  • Breakfast (Poha/Idli etc.): approx. INR 20/- per plate

Tips / Suggestions / My observations:
1.  For trekking, Castle Rock to Dudhsagar is the best option to trek (14 km trek on a rail line). You need to cross 10 tunnels to Dudhsagar station and 1 more to reach the fall.
2.  Walk towards Kulem from the fall for 2 km to see the full view of the waterfall.
3.  There is enough space in the tunnel to hide if a train comes in.
4.  Train/Engine makes much noise while passing through the valley so you get enough time to complete tunnel walk or at least to take design about it.
5.  If you are not interested in the trek, you can get down at Dudhsagar station and walk ahead for 1 km to view the waterfall. There is no official stop but every train stops for few seconds.
6.  Stations from castle Rock to Kulem areas Castle Rock – Caranzol – Dudhsagar – Sonalium – Kulem.
7.  Carry extra dry cloth sets for monsoon trek. It is a typical forest rain.
8.  Things to carry for the trek are: Torch, basic medical kit, dry cloths packed in plastic bag, mosquito repellent in case of night stay, dry snacks, Coal or other burning material in case of cooking, rainy jacket and most important is a camera!
9.  On weekend, try to avoid boarding Goa express from Dudhsagar station. As it is the last train for Castle rock and most of the tourist target this train to board it became difficult to catch. Better to walk towards Kulem and board at Sonalium station after 4 km walk from the waterfall. Goa expresses stops for 30-40 sec here.

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.
Pritesh Kulkarni