It is not without reasons that Goa is considered a bad destination during monsoon. There is a lot of rain, and very little crowd, and only a few beach shacks, which makes Goa a special place [See Goa Trip page and Mumbai Trip page for more photos]. I started off in a Paulo Travels bus and got down @ Kanakona. I am not getting in to the reasons why I decided I wudnt take their bus again, since that may amount to defamation :) Anyways, from Kanakona I took an auto and went straight to Palolem beach, my favourite holiday destinaton ever. Auto guys asked for Rs. 40 and I obliged after hearing that its a standard rate from Kanakona to Palolem. Later I learned that there are buses plying between Madgaon - Kanakona - Palolem, every half an hour and u cud've made the trip in just Rs. 5.
Finding an accomodation @ Palolem wasnt difficult at all and so is killing time swimming in this beach. 2nd day, after noon I had to get up from the beach and head to the hills. As a first step, I started hating the only beach restaurant, which serves only costly (fake) continental food and headed for a local restaurant which serves authentic Goan cuisine. A tasty fish thali and bhangda fry there, for just Rs. 50 taught me another valuable lesson : If you want good food, avoid the places where only foreigners frequent, go there only for the ambience.
|Another look@ Palolem
After lunch, I started trying out some numbers I got from the Internet. The first guy I called (from the Tourist Information centre, Panaji, Ph. # +91 - 832 - 224132) authoritatively stated that Dudhsagar is closed till September and I cannot go there now. I was disappointed, but decided to try my luck again. The second number I dialled belonged to the Dudhsagar resort @ Mollem (Ph. # +91 - 832 - 2612238). The lady who answered the call explained me why, if a single person come for trekking, guide charges will become costly and unaffordable. At the heat of the moment, I agreed for whatever rates u want and they agreed to arrange trekking for me (I am not telling u the amount :), but the lesson is ... u go in a group and book well in advance, if u want to save money).
Well, lemme give the background at this point of time. Dudhsagar is one of the tallest and prettiest waterfalls in India. Some claims that @ about 600m its bigger than Jog falls and the tallest in India, which I am not very sure about, but its defenitely a pretty sight. The falls lies @ South - East Goa, very near to the Karnataka border, where Khandepar river, a tributary of Mandovi flows through the western ghats. The falls is known for its milky white appearance and hence the name (in Hindi, Dudhsagar means ocean of milk). There are different ways to access the falls, through a jeep track which passes through two streams, a railway track connecting Londa and Vasco thro' Madgao, which passes right next to the falls and ofcourse, by foot. The railway line happens to be the easiest route from east of Goa (including Bengaluru / Bangalore, Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Chennai) and it is a resonably busy line. Some trains are supposed to stop on its way towards Vasco, but the trains going up usually doesnt, coz of the ascend.
I caught a bus from Palolem (which plies once in half an hour) to Madgaon, which took a little more than an hour. Regular buses ply between Madgaon and Belgaum, which goes via Ponda and Mollem and takes a little more than 2 hrs. One can also take a taxi which mite cost you about Rs. 700 from Madgaon. The resort is just 100m ahead of the Mollem checkpost and I reached there by abt 6'O clock. They have accomodations ranging from dormitories for Rs. 100/head and AC deluxe rooms for Rs. 640 and a nice restaurant which serves decent food, including Goan cuisine. I ordered my parcel for the next day (chappathi/paneer curry for lunch and sandwitches for breakfast), so that they promised to keep it ready by abt 7.30 in the morning.
A Track laid thro' the Forest
Trek started next day morning at about 8.15, after the the resort people dropped us at Kulem (or Collem) railway station. Guide's name was Dayanand and he happened to be a quiet man. After walking along the track for a few minutes I realized that the whole trek will be along the railway track, since the jeep track cannot be taken during monsoon. My understanding was that trekking is generally done through the jeep track and this disappointed me quite a bit. Atleast, there was no need to pay such a high charge for the guide, when all that I need to do is walk along the railway track. (Scope for another lesson here - if u r going during monsoon ... no need of a guide. Just hit the Kulem station and start walking along the track.)
Ek Thithlee ...
Well ... the trek was not as bad as I expected. During the initial phase of the trek, I encountered the Vijayawada - Vasco express, few streams on both sides and some big butterflies, apart from the greenery around. If not for the railway track, it'd have been a beautiful trek. It rained quite heavily at times, but the resort guys were nice enuf to lend me an umbrella, which I happily used :)
Light @ the end of the Tunnel
Since, it is a railway track, the distances were properly marked. Kulem railway station is marked at about 51/300 (I guess, 51.3kms from Londa) and the place I started walking was marked 50/100. After walking for about 6.5 kms (at 43/600) I encoutered my first tunnel (Tunnel #16 from Londa side) and the Sonaulim station at abt 42/600. Sonaulim is more of a cross over, than a station. I doubt if any of the trains going to Londa stops here. After Sonaulim, the railway line started curving around the hill ranges and the guide explained to me that Dudhsagar falls is on the other side of the hill. This got me interested. He also picked up a small bottle of diesel he carried along and applied it all over his feet to take care of the leeches. This sounded like a cool way to take care of the leeches and I followed suite :)
|Vasco Chennai Express
Within a km from Sonaulim (abt 41/500) the Chennai - Vasco express whistled past us and I noticed people keeping the camera back in their bags. Few minutes later, I realized why, when the guide pointed me to the distant hill through a gap in the verdant surroundings, where I got my first glimpse of Dudhsagar water falls. He said, its just the top portion of the falls and still looked beautiful!
First glance of the falls
Past tunnel #15 (a small one) and tunnel #14 (at abt 40/500), I started hearing a roar from the distant hills and soon located it to the ocean of milk flowing down the distant hill. This time the view was complete, including the bridge which was passing right through the middle of the falls. I felt sad, seeing how this man-made structure marred the beauty of the falls.
Dudhsagar in its full glory
After another turn, the falls again got hidden by the hills. Twin tunnels #13 and #12 followed. It was a beautiful sight seeing water seeping through the gap between the tunnels. After the tunnels, I cud hear the roar of the water falls loud and clear and I walked in to the bridge dividing the falls. The falls was a voluptuous one and created a mist all around it. Well .... I dont want to explain the sight ... u got to see and experience it for urself!
Light in between the Tunnels
After the initial excitment and photography session, by abt 12.30 we settled down for lunch in one small shed (may be a rest house or an old station) just next to the bridge. The guide told that we can get into one of the goods trains headed towards Kulem and we waited for some time. The first train, refused to stop and then he suggested walking up to the next station, abt a km ahead.
Dudhsagar up close from the Bridge
The marking in the Dudhsagar bridge indicated 39/100, meaning I already walked for 11kms. After a small climb up the rails for abt a km and past another tunnel (#11) we reached the Dudhsagar railway station (@38/100). The guide enquired the guys there and told that a goods train will be headed to Kulem in abt 20 minutes and shud stop there.
I was feeling pretty tired by then and my legs were aching after walking in the railway track. Damn ... lack of any physical activities was showing up now! Anyways I sat down in the tracks and waited for the next train, which reached us soon. Well ... the driver did not allow us in the beginning but the guide did a good job in buttering him up and so we were headed to the engine room! It was a boring journey back and in a way tiring coz there was no place to sit, no open windows and hot inside the engine room. In about half an hour we reached back in Kulem, called up the resort and headed back.
Though I reached back @ the resort by abt 5, I had no energy for any other activities. After a short sleep and a nice dinner, I settled the bills and headed back to Kulem railway station. I had booked my ticket back to Bengaluru in the Bi-weekly Vasco - Yeshwantpur express, which was supposed to reach Kulem by 10.10 and finally reached by abt 11.10. The return journey was again through the same railway line, but guess I started snoring the moment I settled in my seat! The train reached Yeshwantpur by abt noon, next day. It was a sunday and I had ample time to get some rest before another busy week in the office.