After chugging through greenery the train reached Castlerock at around 12.15 PM. We all got ready to walk for 14 kms to reach Dudhsagar falls. The plan was to reach Dudhsagar Falls before dark, camp there, have an early morning view of falls and go back to Castlerock by train the next day. After being briefed by Dheeraj (founder and organizer of HATC), the 38 of us had an intro session. I didn’t hesitate to make a request to not litter and was proud to see the people following it.
Our walk started from Castlerock railway station (altitude 720m) at 12.55 PM. The drizzle and the dark clouds elated me as I didn’t want to make the journey in sun. Excited, we followed the railway track to enter the Brazanga ghat. The route snaked through forest with many curves, tunnels, bridges, streams and breathtaking scenery to top it all. I usually took the trails beside tracks as walking on the tracks took lot of effort: we had to take either measured steps on planks or walk on gravel. Fortunately we did’t find much human waste on tracks and smell was absent too. I engaged myself in conversing with the group and was glad to discover our diverse ethnicity. The rain played hide and seek and the mist was slowly starting to build up. It was soothing to see clouds spread over the mountains. At one of the places we could see a thick band of cloud of about a kilometer in length hanging in front of our eyes. Shouting in the tunnels, clicking photos every time we were stunned by nature, and singing songs which I didn’t know the lyrics of made the day all the more memorable. Walking in tunnels was fun too, the darkness would slowly engulf us and soon we would soon find ourselves in almost complete darkness. We paved the way for few trains en route. I was overcome with a proud feeling whenever I saw “Indian Railways” written on engines. The trains in this ghat section are usually fitted with couple more engines for the extra pulls and breaks. Weather combined with scenery made the 14km walk comfortable. At about 5pm we reached waterfalls to see Mandovi river plummeting 310m in 4 tiers. I didn’t take much time to connect the falls with its name. From the top of the mountain, the falling water looks as white like milk. The whole setting was just a visual treat – a railway bridge overlooking the falls on one side and the mountainous forest on the other. After the bridge, the pavers provided a flat ground. Dheeraj and his team gave quick instructions for setting up the tents. By nightfall we had around 10 tents facing each other with a rectangular blue sheet in between ready. After helping set up the tents I went to the bridge and lay down on a wall which was about 2 feet wide. Although it was a dangerous position, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity as it couldn’t be done during the day (due to other visitors). Listening to the gushing sound, watching the fireflies which compensated for the stars, I let my mind and body relax. Following this we had a sumptuous dinner in the torchlight sitting on the sheet. Few girls were teaching the steps for ‘Lungi dance’ song and I managed to dance to it with others.
On such trips I usually make it a point to enjoy and experience something new. Therefore on being asked about night trekking by Dheeraj, I was more than thrilled. So at 10 in the evening, 12 of us set to go further on tracks for some distance. On entering a tunnel we heard an engine. After waiting for it pass 3 of us started sprinting on the tracks lit by its bright light. I started slowly first and then picked up my speed, it was awesome. We then went to point where we could see the complete length of Dudhsagar falls (during daytime). Even in the night, we could outline the falls and it was a nice feeling to trace it. I don’t know how many people we awoke when we screamed as a train passed by. The view of the train’s lighted coaches when it passed the waterfall was stunning. It appeared as if a pattern of large LED’s illuminated the clouds as it moved. I still remember an instance when I troubled my mom as a kid to see a train in Hubli. She had taken me to the station just to see a train and here I was seeing a train pass the bridge in the night midst the clouds and forest in front of waterfalls. We switched our torches off to acquaint our eyes with the darkness to view the falls clearly. I lay down beside the track and admired the beauty and bounty of nature. I could see the falls until the bridge, but after that a bed of clouds – extended to a distance – covered the bottom part of falls. It was magical, no thoughts could change my emotions, nothing made me sad. It was like I was shielded from everything by nature. In that darkness, snakes, leeches or reptiles could have easily fed on me, but nothing happened. I went for a short silent walk with another person where we saw florescent like things in the bushes and numerous fireflies. Finally at around 12 AM we decided to walk back to tents without torches. Although the shining tracks guided us for a while, I had to keep feeling the tracks in the tunnels to walk straight. On reaching the tents 3 of us slept in one. Due to insufficient number of tents, we all couldn’t sleep in and hence the organizers opted to sleep on the sheets outside. It was hot and the absence of mosquitoes encouraged me to unzip the tents for the night. Every time a train passed by, it woke me both by sound and the vibrations from the ground.
Sunday morning I got up by 4.30 in the morning and was ready to go to the viewpoint with everyone. I did a few breathing exercises sitting on the track itself. Then people spent quite a time on clicking photos for the next FB pro/cover pic. While going back I stepped off the tracks to get massaged by small but powerful falls. The water hit me hard on the back and it relaxed me. We retreated to the tents and packed them. After one last group pic we set to Dudhsagar railway station, from where we boarded train back to our homes. I relived the previous day’s memories while retracing the route. Sitting on the footboard I thanked the beautiful life for the nth time. I bade goodbye to others on reaching Hubli. The phrase “Life is a train” seemed very real as I disembarked from the train. Life goes on. We need to let go off both the happy and sad things. The website meetup.com has been changing my life quickly like never before and I am loving every bit of it. This is the kind of trip I look forward to in the future; you can call it “Shudhh desi masti”. Nature again favored me the whole time, its doing all it can to sooth me and make me smile. On a concluding note I have only one thing to say: Love nature and you will never get betrayed.
Here are a few tips for those interested in visiting Dudhsagar:
- Dudhsagar waterfalls can be reached in following ways :
- By taking a train to Dudhsagar station. Do check with the TC if the train stops at that station. From there it is about a kilometer walk to falls. Note that tickets are not issued at this station.
- Get down at Castlerock or Kulem staions which are at 14kms and 11kms from the falls respectively at either side. Trek from there enjoying the beautiful Brazanga ghat. Carry shoes with a strong sole to walk on tracks. Else, you need to step only on sleepers which will take all your concentration.
- The place near the falls to pitch the tents is limited and it’s first come basis.
- Lastly, the falls is not everything. Enjoy the every bit of the journey; each has its own specialty.