Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chasing the Monsoon - Part 1

Rains - anyone who knows me in real life or any reader of my blog or my posts in Facebook knows that I love em. My love for mountains comes second. And hence the trip to Dudhsagar and Goa in the current season of heavy monsoon is justified with reasons for those who doubt.

The spark-
Don't exactly recall the spark for this trip. I think it just came forward during a discussion with my friend Aswin Pai.

The team-
The final team consisted of 11 people, off which excluding myself, I knew two others. One of them knew 7 others and the other brought his friend. We jokingly referred to our group as sleeper cells. I guess many of us will turn into real 'sleeper' cells in the aftermath of the trip.But that's a different matter altogether.

The plan-
Trek from Castlerock to Dudhsagar falls(15kms) with the luggage, continue to Caulem(8kms) if time permits and then continue to Calangute beach for accomodation.
Next two days, visit every beach in north Goa, see and explore as much as possible until the bus from Panaji leaves to Bangalore on Sunday evening. Monday, all go to office happy and relaxed. Read further to know what really happened.

Day 0
Met the sleeper cells at the Bangalore city railway station and boarded the train(Rani Chennamma Express). After nearly an hour of shifting people around, we all ended up in nearby seats. Cracked jokes, broke ice, clicked photos, weaved expectations.

Day 1
Beautiful morning at Londa. Had pav bhaji and some poor breakfast. Loaded up on eatables. Arranged cab to carry all 11 in the rain, in one Sumo. Fun ride with more jokes,getting to know each others and loaded up on more food and anti-leech supplies. The need for the former was underestimated and the latter overestimated.

Reached Castlerock by 10.45am and started the final dressing up with anti-leech and anti-rain packing. Saw many new techniques to ward off leeches for first time in my 3 years of travel. Felt the tension and anxiety on many newbies. Some proved toughies. The gang that chose to sit on top of the cab while taking jungle routes gave some wild moments to enjoy :) Started off along the rails in the direction pointed to by the train driver, ah I almost forgot being reprimanded for posing for photographs on the train engine without permission. So we started off with nice scolding and the rains picking up almost immediately as all put on the rain coats. Many were new coats and people were discovering methods to keep it on in the gushing winds.
 The start was amazing owing to the thick rains, and fog building up all around. Everyone got into rhythm and kept on. Soon the rains dropped but we happily kept on, using the chance to click photos and crack jokes on each others. I was picking up the fluency on Hindi that I had lost for sometime owing to not practising it :) Soon, we realized the folly of walking with the heavy loads and covered with rain coats. Slowly, one-by-one the rain coats started coming off and groups started forming based on pace. Normal and steady pace for an hour or more.

Goods trains and engines kept appearing on the tracks from time to time. The leading person signals the group to get to the dry ground along the track and it gets cleared in a sweep once the engine is in view. The initial encounters were filled with wonder and excitement, but soon we got used to it and just made sure we kept track of time differences between trains to know if we would encounter one in a tunnel. Some crazy math was also being talked about.
Speaking of tunnels, those are one of the major attractions in the Konkan railway route and the same applies to the section we were climbing. There were nearly 10(the last one was numbered 10 and the first 1, otherwise we didn't keep count) and they varied in lengths, shape,lighting and other special factors. Some had cracks through which light filtered in, creating enchanting shapes for the photographers, not that much successful efforts were made, owing to the need to make pace and pitch darkness inside. Others were bent, pitch dark, filled with litter or had roots hanging down. Some had water dripping in at points, making excellent subjects for photos. It was exciting and challenging at times to walk through these tunnels with the limited light supply we had.

With some short breaks in between for refreshments and photographs, we took nearly 5 hours to reach our destination. At many places we had to leave early to reach the falls before sunset and to avoid being stranded on top of the desolate mountains in the rains. Many newbies broke down and slowed down. But the moment we reached Dudhsagar falls, we were once again filled with excitement. One km ahead lie our destination and we dragged on.

The falls. There is so much I can tell about the falls. I watched the gang which reached earlier relaxing,  munching on snacks and people getting their portraits photographed in front of it. I dropped my bag, took out the camera and climbed on the side railings and lie there for 5 mins looking at the waterfalls without switching on the camera. I observed the v-shaped streams crashing on the middle platform to join once again as one single stream. I also observed the rivulets trying to make new paths all around. There were even some mini Dudhsagars around. The flow was uniform and one could track a sheet of water making its way from the top, getting split by the lone tree at the top(its very high. India's fifth tallest I believe). One could feel the immense force with which the water was flowing from its rumbling and tumbling. My shoddy shoes had resulted in excruciating pain in my feet and ankle after walking 15kms on the uneven rocks laid between tracks owing to the flat and thin soles. I don't remember how long I lie there, but I felt the energy from the falls getting transferred into me, and the pain was dissolved and washed away by it into the jungle. The soul content,and body rested, my mind made many journeys in the short period we were there. Clicked a few photos and walked back to Dudhsagar station to catch the last goods trains scheduled at 6pm to take us to Caulem. Didn't realize that I hadn't eaten a morsel of food that was carried up and it anyway went into one of the other poor guy's tummy :)

Filled with joy and now wearing chappals instead of the treacherous shoes, I felt more comfortable and we all covered the remaining kilometer in a jiffy. At the station we were presented with a troubling proposition. The officials at the station had no way to authorize our ride on a goods train and they were now not sure of its time and also whether it would be a goods train. An engine would not allow 11 people to travel on it. The next confirmed train was at 2AM next day. So our chances of survival hung upon the goods train coming up soon, in the right direction and the guard allowing us in, within 2 minutes that is allowed for stoppages. The rains were picking up, light fading, cold biting, insects invading, food supplies emptied and soon tension was high. Also we had to figure out where the guard coach would stop and after wild estimations of length and number of coaches we started walking towards the expected spot and spread out. Everyone was exhausted and each minute spent waiting on the tracks, fully loaded and wet, filled with anxiety was gruesome. Some were fully exhausted,but were in high spirits to catch the train and escape from the jungle rather than waiting for the next train in the desolate railway station without supplies or walking the remaining 8 kms in the dark and dangerous rain forest.


We must have waited for a good half an hour before heard the rumbling on the tracks from a distance. With the red light on the other track, we had all our eyes on the track leading to Caulem. We even saw a glimpse of the trains headlights coming through a tunnel. I had a sinking feeling that the sound was coming from the wrong direction and when the lights too came from that direction, my worst fears were confirmed. I shared it with the group, but none of us wanted to believe it and so we continued our wait. Finally the train did turn up, but in the opposite direction indeed. Oooops... 
                                              TO BE CONTINUED...


  1. nice man, I envy you :P
    hahaha, nice suspense in the end, waiting for 2nd part :)

  2. Good Work ! You have written first and copied most of the points i was about to write...you scoundrel..anywyz...i will try to do justice ! :) Cheers ! More photos wud be cool !

  3. You had to end it on cliffhanger.. didnt ya? :P

  4. wonderful writeup. Brought the whole experience to life.

  5. Quite an adventure.. Waiting for the second part! :)