I had at least communicated to half of my world (notice it is my world, not the world :)) of my plan to go on a trek to Doodh Sagar Waterfall with Bangalore ASCENDers (BASC) team. Thanks to Gtalk, Buzz, Orkut, Facebook, and last but not the least my all-time-fav Mobile Phone for my communicating power :)
The fantasy of Doodh Sagar Waterfalls struck me when there was an email forward in my office, sent by a colleague. The beauty of her struck me at the very first instinct seeing her pictures. (Doodh Sagar only :)) Though, I had this craze to visit Doodh Sagar, could not find much info from friends or other sources. Read and discussed, yet could fetch the info that this place was accessible only by a train. To my blessed surprise, BASC organized the trek to Doodh Sagar in early Aug 2010, which I could not make up due some release work @ office, but deep in my heart was wishing against all odds that I could visit this place sometime in a very near future. And, once after seeing the pics of the first group, I made up my mind, that I'm gonna make up for the trek if ever BASC organized it again.
To my wondrous surprise, another trek was organized in early Oct 2010, and emails started in circulation by late Aug 2010, this time gave no excuses to miss this one. Started pestering my buddy Ajay (AJ), right from Day 1 after reading the email from Ram for registration. This time AJ didn't hesitate too, though checked with a few more buddies, they all missed out due to one or the other reasons. So, was awaiting eagerly day by day for Oct 1st to arrive, planning, packing, setting up things, finishing work @ office, etc.
Just a day before the trek, the email from Ram which said, "We could postpone or cancel the Doodh Sagar trek -2 if any untoward situation occurs due to Ayodhya verdict " really brought down my enthusiasm, was just crossing my fingers and praying that nothing such an event occurred either in Blore or anywhere else in the country. After the verdict and calm situation that prevailed, my joy had no leaps and bounds.
On Oct 1st went to office (late) by bike just to ensure that I could leave office early (LOL). Just finished one final meeting @ 4 PM rushed riding back, came back home, packed up some mom-made home-made food :) for the next day or two to survive. Just kept checking with AJ whether he was on track to reach the railway station on time (he left office @ 6 PM only). My bro (Sanjay) said he would drop me to railway station, was happier to save a few bucks!! To my surprise again, AJ had reached the railway station well before I could. Figured out the train compartment, got in, checked the berths, and started seeing the whole gang getting on to the compartment. The first one whom I met was Apoorva (till then I really thought and expected a girl, LOL), then was Jayashree (Jay or J), co uld recognize her easily since had seen their Kolli hills trek pics just a couple of days back, then was Ram added to the list, then Laksh, remember Nadeem introducing himself, then a whole bunch of guys and gals got in, almost lost track of all the names I had heard just a few mins back!! AJ was recognized by Mridula (both ex-colleagues), somehow each one of us started on with the conversation in the bays we were seated in. Got introduced to Allwyn, Hemanth, etc (at that point in time did not remember more names), and I found more of HP folks in the group, at least 3 more of them apart from myself, plz don't frown, just feels good to know someone from the company you work for is also a part of BASC. The train started its journey from Bangalore City Railway station; people started getting comfortable in their seats. Jay requested if she could sleep in my berth, and I obliged, next morning she felt it would have been better if she had not swapped seat with me due to insufficient aeration on the upper berth. Though the folks in our bay slept, the next bay was enjoying in its full swing, speaking on topics starting from engineering subjects (Signals and Systems) to MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Room or Malavalli Tiffin Room not decided yet??) up to late in the night, may be beyond 1 AM. And not to forget here, Navya's close connection with MTR, reasons are not disclosed here... ;).
Day 1: (Hubli Junction – Castle-Rock - Caronzole - Dudh Sagar)
It was around 4:30 AM, people started getting up, freshened up, before the train could reach Hubli Junction, but Navya was the one slept onto glory up until Hubli Junction. After getting down @ Hubli Junction, freshened up, had tea/coffee, breakfast, and boarded the Chennai-Vasco Express to reach CastleRock. This journey was a memorable one, memories are fresh in everyone's mind so not much details here, but still not to miss on Raghu's and Satish's commentary, news, daily horoscope, etc. Not to miss that a lot of pictures were captured by Rajani and Ravi of each of these Kodak moments :). I am pretty sure each one enjoyed every moment of those 2-1/2 hours of journey in that second class compartment of Chennai-Vasco Express. Got down @ CastleRock, rested, changed, ate, took photos, etc all in an hour's time and then with quick instructions from both Satish and Ram, we started our trek on the South Western Railway tracks, here begins our journey of Life on Tracks for another 2 days.
With backpacks on, started trekking towards Goa, the very first picturesque spot was not too far, it was just a few meters from the CastleRock railway platform, an old portion of Railway building fascinated the team to capture pictures out there, and then some more of us tried our hands on pushing a standby train too, with no change in it’s position, captured pics there, just one pic for the album anyways. And not to miss on the pictures that we took on the railway track when there was the train approaching us from the opposite end, I remember the driver of the train honking continuously seeing us on the track, it was fun indeed. Then came the entry to the Braganza Ghat section board, the name itself fascinated a few of us, I'm sure it did strike an idea (to correlate to African Jungles) to Laksh ;). Then we continued our trekking on the tracks, Ram and Satish cautioned us of any trains coming from the back side regularly with their whistles. (Trains are quite frequent on this track, at lea st one train passes by every 30 minutes, either Goods or a Passenger trains.) Got along with our very own Reddy brother (Srinivas Reddy) and AJ, continued our trekking while exchanging thoughts, a few team members, Doctor (fondly called Doctare by our team), Hemanth, Jay, etc, had already gone further. AJ was worried of trains coming on the railway track and requested me to caution if I get to know any trains coming (he trusted me so much just because he feels my ears are more sensitive to train honks since I stay close to Malleshwaram Railway station all through my life till now and have got used to the sounds of trains, which is really not the case LOL ;-)). Discussion was on with our Reddy bro, got to know where he works, which project he works, etc. Going head, we came across our first bridge and then followed by the Tunnel no 1, but by then came the signal from the back end that there was a train (it was a Goods train) from the back side, so it was a chance for all of us pose for a few photographs (as usual) on the bridge, in front of the tunnel, etc. Once the train passed by, resumed the trekking, going forward, after approximately 3 kms, we rested for a few minutes @ one small way side temple shelter for a few minutes. Some of the team members thought it was a Tea shop and expected Tea and juice to arrive shortly (so innocent :)).
Resumed to trek again after the break, moved further into a huge tunnel (not sure of the length, however), we were crossing the almost-zero visibility tunnel with the help of our torches, stepping each of our steps carefully on the cement blocks, received another signal that there was another train again, man this time, we were inside the tunnel and train crossed by, quickly all of us got on to the side of the tracks, leaned onto the wall of the tunnel, rested our hands, and waited for the train to pass-by. Wow, the howl and shout and the noise we made should have really frightened the passengers in the train. (This was the Amaravathi Express bound to Kolkatta.) Train passed by, came out of the tunnel, and all of us looked at our hands and backpacks to find ourselves a model of coal workers, with all the black dust. Again, we did not miss a chance to take a pic ;). Luckily, found a small stream, a little further, to wash our hands and resumed our trek further. A few more meters passed by, we found another small little waterfall, some folks went to just cool their heels in the water, and others continued trekking. We saw some jungle banana plants on the way, saw the signal posts (with both Red and Green signal "ON") covered with rain ponchos, tried to interpret the signal lights with all our crazy imaginations, but still continued trekking. Then encountered the board, "Welcome to Goa," took photos at the spot, climbed high, while getting back down hurt myself while jumping and felt a slight jerk in the knee (though was on my knee cap for my ligament tear an year back), felt a slight pain, which went away by the night :-).
Our life on the tracks continued for another hour or so before we broke out for lunch @ Caronzole (a small little railway station, where all the trains both Goods and Passenger stop by for crossing over). By then already 2 PM, and we had completed 50% of our trekking for the day, that is about 7 kms, the hungry team were encountered by a huge monkeys' team, who were all set and ready to snatch things from us, but we were not ready to give up anything to them since we had carried all eatables in our bags, right from Blore all through. We started having lunch; folks who wanted to cook Cup Noodles or get MTR packets heated up were provided hot water by Ram and Satish, who set up the stove (a tablet stove, a miniature wonder by itself). We decided to finish lunch and then start only by 3 PM towards Doodh Sagar. In the mean time, a Goods train stopped at Caronzole, when enquired about folks going towards Doodh Sagar, most of us were reluctant to go in the train, guess only two or three were interested to take the train, but the unexpected rain worked a miracle and more than 50% of the gang got into the Goods train as it started to rain incessantly. Ram, Raghu, Mridula, Mithila, I, AJ, Jay, Allwyn, Dhananjay, Nagaraj, Vinay, and some more of us took our fellow mates' backpacks with us in the Goods train and started our journey in the Goods train. As our tradition goes, we didn't even miss a chance taking pics on the memorable Goods train journey. Everyone posed with Rain ponchos, umbrellas, etc. Again, the train passed through tunnels, and then as the train moved out of the tunnels, greenery on both the sides greeted us which mesmerized our minds. Within a few more minutes, the guard signaled us that Doodh Sagar railway station was fast approaching. Each one of us took more than we could carry both on our backs and in our hands, got down from the train and started walking towards the railway station. Each one of us definitely were worth to be captured a pic of ourselves definitely to post as Coolies as our alternative profession in the Railway Stations, if ever we encounter another recession in a near future ;-). We all carried one bag on the back side and one on the front, and started walking in the drizzle towards the railway station. Passerby looked to us in amazement, and their amazement had these questions evident on their faces as to "why these folks were carrying such huge loads and where were they heading towards?" At least, we walked half-a-km (thanks to the length of the Goods train, and the guard compartment being the last one) before we reached the Doodh Sagar railway station and after a brief enquiry about the waterfalls, learnt that we had to walk another half-a-km. We all just walked and went further, encountered small tunnel and we could hear the sound of the water from a distance, then we came across two Tea vendors, from whom we bought bananas and drank some Tea, they directed us to their Tea Stall, to camp out for the night for all (25) of us. We just crossed a little further and saw the charming beauty (Doodh Sagar waterfall in her full glory) in the early evening's light, say the time might have been around 4:30. At last, we found a place where we dropped our double-decker luggage at a platform near the Waterfall and both Ram and I went on to check out the place for our night camp. We had two options, one was a built house with no doors nor windows just before the waterfalls, the place was filthy and toilet was stinking, so we did not think about this place even for another second. Then explored the second place just a couple of meters beyond the waterfall, which was the Tea stall arena. This place was no better anyways but had a bigger area and place to camp fire and was a little decent compared to the first one. So, we all dropped in our luggage on the ground floor and went ahead lo oking for the first floor area, cleaned up, made it a place fit where we could sleep for the night.
Then, a few of us went and explored the waterfall to find whether it was safer to get into waters, but unfortunately it was really not safe at the main waterfalls to get into waters. Later, the other gang who trekked all through the distance of 7 kms, also reached the waterfall. Then some of us did get into waterfalls, spent some time, then took pictures out there, freshened up, etc. A part of the gang went ahead and collected some firewood from the nearby place to put up a camp fire. In the meantime, Ram set up the stove, I and Ram started heating up the water for the soup. We had support from other folks who got us water, and provided us all the required things almost instantly, thanks to all of you folks. Almost all of us were really astonished by the power of the small little tablet stove which could cook food for 25 people. Rajani started taking pics of the Tea stall turned into our Kitchen (with myself as the Kitchen King ;)). Trains were still passing by, just a couple of meters away from our kitchen. In a short while, soup w as boiled, and everyone relished two servings of the soup, and then was the turn for the MTR packets. Later, Satish cooked Pasta and Noodles and everyone had a feast around the lit campfire. Definitely, was a fun time indeed. Just after the dinner started the time of formal intro sessions of each of the trek mates, Ram was the host of the show, the team wanted to know more about each other so after person's introduction, two people in the audience were given chance to ask questions to the candidate (LOL, though not an interview). We started to interview each one of them in alphabetical order: Allwyn, Apoorva, AJ, Dhananjay (DJ), Hemanth, Jay, Kotresh, Laksh, Mithila, Mridula, Nadeem, Nagaraj, Naveen, Navya, Niranjan, Rajani, Raghu , Ram, Ravi Chandran, Ravi Shankar (Doctor), Satish Ajjampur, Satish R, Srinivas Reddy, Susheel (I), and Vinay. Some of the memorable and repeated questions: Are you married? Where do you stay in Blore? Why you are still not married? etc. And one common dialogue/comment of the achievements of folks was "Neev yaar yaar madhya iddira anta nodri." With this amount of fun and frolic after dinner, all were quite tired, so all of us seeped into each of our sleeping bags by 11 PM. A couple of folks including Doctor and Laksh slept outside near the waterfalls, but the mist from the waterfalls drew them inside early in the morning. And thanks to the double, triple, and four-engine trains for the night-long disturbance :). Some times it even felt like trains ran over us, which was a frightening experience truly.
Day 2 (Doodh Sagar - Sonalium - Kulem)
Some of the team mates got up as early as 5 AM, some later to that, some at 6; some went out in search of a route that could take us to the ground level of the waterfalls. I and AJ decided that since we had to trek quite a lot for the day and based on my last day’s hurt, did not really want to take a chance in losing out energy early in the morning and decided to brush and take bath in the main waterfalls cautiously. Some of lucky folks, went down, had a wonderful view of the falls, shot pictures of the bridge and waterfalls when the trains passed by, etc. Rajani, Allwyn, Ravi Chandran, Hemanth, Raghu and lot others went and enjoyed out there. Sati sh and another gang wanted to explore if there was a route above the waterfalls, which they did and returned back after a while. In the meantime, we started to pack up our bags, started munching on some dry snacks which we had carried. But the monkeys’ troupe did not like that; they tried all the possible ways to snatch away things from us. Keeping them at bay was one of the biggest problems that morning. Gal folks freshened up and changed inside the Tea stall, and we started our usual business of breakfast preparation in the kitchen. Heated the water and dipped in the ready-to-eat MTR packets in to the hot water vessel. By 9:45 AM, we were all done with breakfast, started packing, and finally by 10:10 AM, started our trek for the day towards Kulem (in Goa). We expected a train to be crossing the bridge by 10:30 AM so all us trekked faster to get a view of the train on the bridge with waterfalls in the background further down a km of distance. We all reached on time, waited, waited, waited, but didn’t waste time as such. Took photographs in various poses, on the tracks, someone getting shot as if they were trying to separate the tracks, someone was exercising on the tracks, others slept of the tracks in a zig-zag fashion, and some in linear fashion. The whole wait was interesting indeed. Then, we decided it was a waste of time to wait further so started moving further. By this time, we had crossed around 2 Kms of distance and the ghat section had passed, and the humidity just immediately after the ghats was extremely high. With the temperatures rising by noon, it became quite tough to trek further. Our stock of water had already depleted. I, doctor, Hemanth, and AJ were in the group and Ram and another group followed us on the back. Nadeem, Jay, Laksh and others were already ahead and had moved further. We reached Sonalium, another small little railway station. To coincide with our exhaustion, a passenger train (Ernakulam–Goa Express) stopped over, I and AJ decided that we will get into the train, as usual, buddies did their best to keep us @ work, dumped their bags onto us ;). After all, “Friends kab kaam aate hain?” We got into the train with no tickets, I checked out my pocket if I had enough bucks if got caught by a TTE without a ticket, AJ kid me saying he would abscond somehow, at least by getting into wash room. However, there was no TTE who came to examine us. The train crossed through a couple of more tunnels, and temperature was definitely at the peak. With this, there was no interest towards photography. Just wanted to reach Kulem, but not just that, the question again was how to spend time till all the folks reached back.
We reached the Kulem (Goa) station with 4-5 huge bags at around 12:45 PM and found the mobile phone networks were in full swing, but sadly we were out of Karnataka and were on roaming but still did not hesitate to make a couple of calls home and to friends, after all we had got full network after almost 1-1/2 days. I really wanted to explore the Kulem town but the question was where to drop in t he luggage, being a small station, Kulem did not have a cloak room, and carrying all the bags was definitely not an option at all. We bought a cool drink, sat and drunk it, just waiting against all odds that someone comes in sooner. Then decided we will finish up lunch, nothing much than Bun and Jam. Finished lunch, and I checked out if we could dump our bags in the railway station anywhere but sadly did not work out, the officials said the monkeys were there everywhere and would tear the bags apart if kept inside too (AJ and I really did not find their response convincing), just started waiting sitting at the station, doing nothing other than some chit chat. The sun was scorching and it was really tough for us to sit in the railway station, we were really wondering how our mates were trekking all through the distance. With this thought in mind, I just started walking towards the one end of the railway platform, and guess what I found out. It was around 2:45 PM, yes, it was a part of our trekking group who were arriving; Laksh, Doctor, and Hemanth were in the first group who arrived. I was extremely happy to see them out there. We exchanged our wishes as if we were seeing after years. Offered them some water and asked them to rest. In a way was happy that some mates had come and other way thought of our relievers had come who would guard the luggage. Suggested them to go ahead and finish lunch in the nearby hotel opposite to the railway station. Later, in a while, arrived Ram, Niranjan, Satish Ajjampur and others. The temperature was soaring so high, we decided to take a dip in the small stream of water close by which Ram and team had spotted while coming on the way.
Along with Ram and Niranjan, I and AJ, went to the stream dipped in cooled our heels, and came back to the railway station. By then it was already 3:30 PM, left our bag and baggage with the folks at the railway station and went out to take a walk around Kulem railway station just to explore what it was like. Took the railway bridge, crossed across to reach the other part of the town, explored for some eateries, but nothing was great as such, reason being it was a Sun day and also it was off season in Goa at this season. I told AJ, if he was hungry, he could try some Fish curry and rice, which was quite famous in that part of Goa, but he hesitated since I planned not to eat anything. We just sipped in some cool drinks again and headed towards railway station by 4:15 PM since there were a lot of gray clouds and we did not wanna get caught in rain and also the train was to arrive in a short while by 4:45 PM, but what really worried all of us is that another gang (Satish, Naveen, Mithila, Ravi Chandran, and Rajani) had still not reached the Kulem railway station. In the meanwhile, the heavy gray clouds could not hold any further, just poured down Cats and Dogs for an hour or two. We were much worried after the incessant rains whether our team folks were caught in between in the rain on the way while trekking or where they might have been struck up somewhere or lost their way, but later we received the message that they were @ Sonalium and would get into the train from there and join us. The train (Delhi-bound Goa Express) arrived and we tried to squeeze in, the first compartment we entered had no space even to breathe, we got down and got into another compartment and squeezed in our luggage, some of them felt going by a Goods train was much better than this journey. And our journey time estimate was 1-1/2 hrs to Londa Junction from where we had booked our tickets t owards Bangalore City. The train chugged off from the Kulem railway station and we all tried to make ourselves comfortable standing and also ensured that our luggage was intact. We reached Sonalium, and the other folks got into the train, and trust me, that was a big relief for all of us who were in the train and definitely for Mridula since Mithila (her sister) was in that group. We crossed by Doodh Sagar again, and we peeped through the windows to get a last glimpse of her before we moved. She was as gorgeous as ever. With Satish along with us, there is no question of feeling bored, I am sure everyone who has been to a trek with him agrees upon this. Tried Bajji-Pav along with a slightly fried green chilly (a local snack) in the train, wow, what a combination, though the chilly was hot, everyone enjoyed it. At last, started engaging the other fellow travelers in our conversation and definitely there was a photo session there too ;). Within no time, we all reached Londa Junction (our temporary destination for another hour or so).
At around 6:45 PM, Goa Express reached Londa Junction, it was still pouring. Our train, Rani Chenamma Express, was expected to arrive @ Londa Junction @ 7:55 PM, so roughly we had an hour and a few more mins @ hand. I and AJ decided that we will try and explore and taste something outside the Londa Junction. With an umbrella in hand and with our backpacks on, we headed straight outside the railway station. To our amazement, the place was just dark and no power all around and the place was nothing more than a small village where hardly anything could be found. Then with no other go, we returned back to the railway station restaurant, and found most of our folks already there. We accompanied them for dinner, ate Veg Biryani, pretty decent food, and headed towards the platform. As we waited for the train to arrive, we all were entertained by both Naveen and Navya with their wrestling skills ;). As the train arrived, we all got into S9 compartment and dumped in our luggage and settled out there. AJ, Nadeem, DJ,
and few others were quite tired so they went off to sleep very s oon. Then started the whole hungama, call it extreme hungama. Starting from photo session of the Gals Gang, to Satish with Gals Gang, whole gang pics, then some games (both Dumb Charades and 7-Up) funniest thing being Naveen entered into the final four list and still did not know the rules correctly. After all this, we all seeped into our berths by around 10:30 PM. The journey back to Bangalore was much better than the forward journey. Around 5 AM, we were still in Arsikere, I anticipated that we may reach by 8:30 AM to Blore, but it was still worse, the train delayed its journey by halting more often than expected. Some folks who were committed to be @ work on Monday started making calls to their managers informing about their delays, some rescheduled their meetings over Blackberry’s and smart phones, but some clever people like me had already applied leave anticipating the delay and tiredness back home from the trek. Altogether, the whole trek was an awesome experience by itself and ultimately when we reached Blore it was 9:30 AM (A big thank you to Rani Chenamma E xpress).
Thanks to one and all for being a part of this memorable trek! Signing off!!
Kindly note: Photos used are of DS/1 organized in August month.