Kulem , Mollem , Tambdi & Surla

Aug 3 2013 : 01:00 PM

We wanted to move on with the rest of our Journey, anyway we will watch DWF again tomorrow on our way back won’t we. Meanwhile, I enquired and someone informed me that Goa bound Amaravati will be in shortly. How can I come back from DWF without taking the trademark shot of train on the bridge with the Majestic falls as the background. There were 2 options, the first one is the typical shot which we would have all seen across the web. The second option, there is a small trail which will take you down between the 12th and the 13th tunnel and you can get a beautiful position to capture the train from below. You can get the train, bridge and full view of the falls from somewhere under the bridge. I did not know how long it would take for me to reach there and would be cross with myself if I would miss the shot and hence decided to take the sure shot capture typical seen all over the web.

We rushed through the tunnels, ( atleast I did for sure ) with our fully loaded backpacks and sleeping bags. My SLR was hanging from my neck and the rain jacket was keeping it safe and my PS was in my left jacket pocket ready for quick release and shoots. I could not believe that I trekked that 1 KM in less than 7 minutes and I could see the viewpoint about 100 metres ahead. As the excitement was getting to my head, I heard the distinct horn of Amaravati express. I really had no choice, but to capture the train from my current viewpoint. Even though I would have liked to take the snap 100 metres ahead, I ended up taking from where I was and was good enough, though not the exact way I wanted it to be. After all trains are the kings here and you have to bow to them _/\_.

An RF's Dream - #Flickr12Days
Boy, I always wanted to click this Amaravati express crossing the majestic Dudhsagar falls — at Dudhsagar Waterfall.
Baldies :)
Headlights on Twin Gooty Baldies with Amaravati express in tow sneaking in through the greenery — at DDS.
One is not enough - #Flickr12Days
Nothing to say. Amaravati Express — at Dudhsagar Waterfall.


Full view of the Majestic Dudhsagar falls from the viewpoint



Mission accomplished. Amaravati went past the falls before my lens, and crossed us in less than a minute. Time to move on. Next stop Sonalium to take stock of our situation and decide what to do. Next 40 mins went without any talk as we quickly moved towards Sonalium. On the way, I found quite a good number of trekkers trekking up from Kulem towards Dudhsagar. One trekker caught my attention, who was actually carrying another trekker on his back. Did not bother to stop him and ask, but looks like one of them had a twisted ankle. Trekking down with my backpack was labor enough for me and just could not imagine doing something like this. In reality if you see our mind is so strong, that you do not realize how strong you can be when being strong is the only option left for you. Our body always has a fight of flight mechanism to fight infections, but a human mind always fights when there is nothing else left. Anyway, I am drifting and we reached Sonalium without incident around 2:30 PM.

A quick headcount and analysis of the situation revealed that majority would not be able to trek upto Kulem which would be another 8KMs. We took a short break in front of the SM office and energized ourselves with chocolates. Based on the Junior SM’s instruction we waited about 50m down the line awaiting a freight to take us to Kulem as one is expected shortly towards Kulem. It so turned out he was right and we heard the distinct EMD horns and saw the mid-level headlights approaching towards us, but the triplets did not have anything behind them. Light triplets. All of us waved to stop, the LP reciprocated, but did not stop. Disappointed and tired we requested the SM to stop the next one towards Kulem and this is what happened.

SM : Kaise aaya Dudhsagar se, (How did you come here from Dudhsagar)
Hum (Us) : Paidal, (By Foot)
SM: Sahi, waise he aage bado, 8 kms mein aa jayega Kulem. (Great, do the same and you will reach Kulem in 8 kms)

A few got really irritated with his style, but 2 mins later the Senior SM whispered something into his ears, which was passed on to me by him like a Chinese Whisper. The message was Engine signal mein ruka hai crossing ke liye. Jaldi jaao aur LP ko pyaar se poochna. Yeh mat batao ki maine bataya. Chup chaap Nikal aur sabko mat batao. Bhaag saala bhaag and I suddenly took off like there is no tomorrow and seeing me others took off mainly to ask me what went wrong. I could hear concerned cries andshouts behind me, but I was a man on a mission. I could see the triplets waiting for a signal. The last 100 metres were the most difficult, Did not ask anyone, just boarded the last Loco and waved at the LP, who did not mind. In the next 5 mins, there were a total of 57 people on the 3 Locos. The LP came out and gave us instructions on how / where to sit / stand and asked us to be careful. Shortly afterwards, loaded BOXN rake crossed us and we were given the all clear. With the terrific notching up and humming behind me, we left towards Kulem and I can guarantee that everyone onboard was thrilled and excited. After 25 mins of meandering and tunneling and waving to all the bikers from Kulem to DDS, we entered Kulem. LP gracefully stopped for us near the station and moved on after ensuring all of us are safe and sound.

So here we are at Kulem , mercy of the DG4 LP’s, all fresh and excited, waiting for our next unplanned episode 🙂

Aug 3 2013 : 03:30 PM

Atlast we are at Kulem — in Colém, Goa.

Ah Kulem. A much needed break. Had lunch, did some stretching exercises, walked around the station, had a chat with the Chaiwala who agreed to make maggi for us next day when we get back here. Oh wait..when we get back here ? where are we going now. A quick discussion ensured that we do not lose focus and decide on our next move, which you obviously by now must have guessed, is still undecided. Quickly we decided that we would go to Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park. On questioning this remarkable decision, it was later explained to us that there is an abandoned house inside the forest which we can use to camp for the night

Lunch ?
Parathas, Bread, Jam, Chapati & Butter – Lunch Time

A couple of our teammates are regular trekkers and getting them along was one of the best decisions I have made in my Project Management career. A few calls later we were informed that 3 Jeeps would come and pick us up from the station in another 20 mins and bang 5 mins later we had them at our disposal. We are not used to such extreme efficiencies and completing something committed in 25% of the time and hence we decided to make the station chaiwala prepare some fresh tea and ensured that we were ready for the Jeep only 20 mins later. We knew we were going to an abandoned house thats all and had no idea where it is except for the 2 folks who have been here earlier.

Freshen Up
Resting & Freshening up time !! — in Colém, Goa.

All of us left around 24 hrs earlier. We were drenched in the rains with sun peeping up every now and then. All the hike / trek / EMD emissions / sweat / train etc made us desperate to have a nice refreshing bath. Finding a working bathroom in an abandoned house seemed to be wishful thinking and so I asked our driver..Kuch Naha dhoke fresh hone ka option hai ? and our over enthusiastic driver responded with a resounding yes and we are all extremely happy that we would be able to freshen up. Imagine another 36 hrs without an option to freshen up..oops a scary thought.

Lazy of What ?
An absolutely lazy looking Kulem

20 mins later we suddenly entered a gated road with typical sarkari style board claiming Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Forest Reserve, Mollem and Animals have the right of way. Honestly, I did not expect this and I was under the impression that we would be staying inside Tambdi, a village near Kulem. Anyway another 10 mins of drive in a narrow road surrounded by extremely thick vegetation, our driver stopped in the middle of nowhere and pointed us to an house with absolutely nothing around for miles. We looked around in the middle of the forest and there it was. My instantaneous reaction was !! Oh God, is that where we are going to stay.. BEAUTIFUL :). He claimed that he had cleaned the place, which seemed preposterous as we realized after entering the house. It was dark, no lights, bathroom, electricity and the floor could not seen as it was covered with papers / bottles / plastic cups / plates and all sorts of nonsense. This was not before almost 17-20 of us slipped and fell before entering the house due to heavy collection of moss and algae. So a cleaning is on the cards albeit a bit late.r

What a Drive
Enroute to Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park — at Mollem.
Beautiful Drive
Enroute to Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park — at Mollem.
A stream enroute to Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park — at Mollem.
Bhoot Bangla
The abandoned house where we stayed for the night — at Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park.

Almost 5:30 PM now and light quickly fading, we decided to pitch our tents outside for those who want to spend the night outside and surprising we pitched them up quite quickly. Around 7 tents in about 20 mins. When we tried to get a campfire up and running, well it was a disaster and we decided to have the campfire with our flashlights.

Less Scary Now
The abandoned house where we stayed for the night
Outdoor Camping
Nice cozy tents – at Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park
Road to Nowhere
The road to nowhere


Freshening up needed desperately.The driver had mumbled something about bath facilities..and we went looking out and right beside our house we found it. It was a lovely knee to chest high deep running stream with an extremely heavy flow especially in the middle of the stream. It apparently originates from a waterfall called Surla waterfalls, to which we will trek in the morning.

The bath lasted around 80 mins. I have never had a more refreshing bath ever in my entire life. Fresh clean running water amidst heavy rainfalls. Absolute pure divine and heavenly bliss. It was a good time for whoever was interested to have a nice chat session in them middle of the stream which must have been around 70-100 ft wide.

Mountain Stream
The stream which served as our freshening up agent

By the time we finished our bath (The only reason was it was dark .. ), a few of us had cleaned the rooms. Now the floors are visible, sanitized with dettol, sleeping mats arranged and all set to have a cozy dinner session.

We had got about 5Pkts of WAX Candles, each packet can boil 3 litres of water to the boiling point and a small stove for boiling water. Dinner consisted of Maggi, Cup-O-Noodles, Chapatis, Parathas, Bread, Jam and pickle. Water for drinking and cooking was from the stream, which I should say was amazing and true mineral rich water.

Fresh Water
Can’t Get Enough

A sumptous dinner followed by intro session with the Bangalore and Pune teams and a bit of games and chitchat and we were all ready to retire for the night. 15 slept in the tents outside and 12 inside the house. As we lay down, the tiredness dawned upon us and were all asleep in an instant. The outside was lit by fireflies and creaking with typical forest sounds. We have another busy day ahead which will start at 6:30 in the morning. The Jeep drivers would be back by 1PM tomorrow (Oh really) It is already 11 PM now and time to sleep. Good night and see you tomorrow

Stop Please !!
No more vehicles beyond this point
Thats one attention grabbing board
No Mining mafia please
Surla's Gift
The Flowing stream from Surla Waterfalls
Free Flow
Pure, Clean and Mineral rich fresh water
Give me more
The lovely fast flowing stream

Aug 4 2013 : Early morning

Sleeping in the forest was a first time experience for me. The night was absolutely silent except for frequent bouts of heavy to very heavy rainfall, however the huge canopy of trees ensured that the ground had not become extremely soggy as they had absorbed a whole lot of the rains.This is going to be a very hectic day and hence we decided to act quickly. Quick rounds of freshening up and changing to appropriate clothes and we were ready by around 7:30 for the final trek of the trip. The trek will be to a place called Surla waterfalls from where the water actually flows down to the streams where we had our bath the previous evening.

Cant Get Enough
Into the Wilderness

This trek was much more difficult than we had expected. We walked along the streams with a steep ascent. There were more than 4-5 occasions where we had to cross the stream to ensure we were on the right path. Crossing the streams were much riskier than we had thought. The water flow was very high and the uneven surface at the bottom ensured that we had to tread very very careful lest being washed away. Fortunately the water was crystal clear and we were able to judge the depth slowly and steadily. The standout crossing was one stream where we had to actually climb a branch and crawl across it to the other end. An adventure worth the risk, but very slow considering the fact that only 2 of us were able to cross at one time or else the branch would break.

Almost an hour of trek and 4 kms later, a few of us felt that we had actually missed the trail and decided to turn back to the base camp. The remaining decided that we would carry on for another 15 minutes and will turn back if we do not reach the peak. All I could say was those who turned back were just plain unlucky for 2 reasons. The first being, we reached the falls in about 5 minutes and second, they missed a sight which was absolutely phenomenal. The falls was nothing in comparison with Dudhsagar, but the surroundings, flow (Which was quite strong) and the mere fact that was absolutely not a soul in sight was a reason in itself that this was indeed special.

The only regret was that there were very very few cameras on board for this trek as we were sure of getting drenched head to foot. There is very little I could do than just relive the memory.

About half an hour of stay at the falls, numerous leechbites and half a mind to stay back for another week, we turned back to our base camp. The return was swift and we were back in about 40-50 mins. It is around 11:00 AM now and the Jeep is supposed to pick us up by 1 PM to drop us back at Kulem. So off we go, quickly pack the tents, sleeping bags and collect the trash, but there is one more thing left to do. Yes, you guessed it right, another 60 mins of pure bliss in the stream in the rains. Another refreshing bath and we were all ready by 12:30 to get back to Kulem. By now this area has become a tourist spot and considering the fact that it was a Sunday, there was a small crowd who had come to enjoy the streams and a visit to templ close by. While, the previous nights bathing experience in the stream was absolutely private, it was not all the secluded and private this morning. But who cares, we had a great time again nevertheless.

Being a tourist spot, we treated ourselves to steaming hot chai and vada pav. A visit to a lovely quaint and small temple inside the forest and we were all ready for the pickup for on our way back. 1 PM was the pickup time, give or take about 15-20 mins. No sign of the Jeeps till 1:30. Well, nothing to worry, Kulem is just about 20-30 mins by Jeep and our train is at 4:20 PM. It is 2:00 PM now and no sight of the Jeeps. We started cursing ourselves that we should have given those folks only about 25% of the fare instead of 50%. We started discussing alternate plans of reaching Kulem. While we would have loved to stay back for another day, it was not all that appealing considering that we have to be at work the next day. 2:30 PM now and still no sign of the Jeeps. Oh my god, we would now have to skip lunch which we decided to treat ourselves at Kulem. We were getting hungry and the Vada pavs seems to have been fully digested.

2:45 PM : No sign of Jeep. Panic sets in. Plans discussed. Extreme measures brainstormed.

Just so you know the Climax, We indeed boarded Goa express back to Bangalore, but the final scenes have not yet been shot.

Aug 4 2013 : 2:45 PM

Still no signs of the Jeep. We are unable to call the driver as cell towers are out of reach. 2 of us dropped our baggage and decided to take a hike on someone’s vehicle to the nearest location where we could manage a mobile reception. So off we go in search of a signal to call our driver. 5 mins into the drive, we find our 3 Jeep folks rushing in. We did not even bother to ask them for any reason. Quickly all are luggages were loaded and we were zipping towards Kulem. 30 mins later we landed at Kulem level crossing to allow a penta header to cross. I did not feel like waiting for the gates to open and walked to Kulem station.

Bathing Time - #Flickr12Days
Train in Rain. Vasco – Kulem passenger.

Vasco – Kulem passenger had just arrived and the station was just the opposite of what we found the previous day. Extremely crowded with heavy rains made walking through the station a bit difficult. I saw a number of passengers skidding on the platform. As the Bangalore link coaches would be at the last, I started walking slowly towards the end of the platform, which in hindsight was an excellent decision.

Now that we have another 35 mins for the arrival of our train, based on a localites suggestion we decided to cross over to the other side of the station and order fresh hot cooked biriyani for our dinner. We placed our order and the restaurant owner decided to walk out by 4PM.

EMD’s napping at Kulem

Fortunately he was back in around 5 mins and we just reminded him of our impending train journey. The man, with absolute serenity and peace with himself started washing and cutting the vegetables he had just got. “Arey madam kyun tension le rahe ho, gaadi panch baje ke pehle tho nahi aayega. Udhar bait jaao aur garma garam biriyani banake detha hoon. Station me jaake baaki logo ko bhi bol do yeh apna biriyani mast hai”. We did manage to get 18 packets of biriyani packed, hot and fresh and managed to make it near our coach by around 5 PM and we saw our Goa express curving into Kulem just in time for us.

Returning Home
A relaxed cruise on our return

S13 was crowded with loads of folks to Londa and Dharwad. Somehow we managed to get into our bays and settled down. Since the train came with bankers attached, we moved off in about 5 minutes. Slowly and with absolute lack of any urgency we curved and meandered all our way to Sonalium for a short halt. We were sitting on the waterfall side of the train and wanted to take one last look at DDS before settling down for the long journey back. Slowly we entered tunnel 13 , tunnel 12 with water falling all over the place. The deafening roar of the falls slowly took over the sounds of the train and there we were watching in awe again at the natural beauty. In a matter of seconds we crossed tunnel 11 and the train came to halt at DDS station.

Anxious Moments
Trekkers anxious not to miss this last train

Our initial plan was to board the train from DDS on our way back and one look outside the train made me shiver that we were lucky enough not to make that decision. The place was crowded like a pilgrimage spot during peak season. There were easily around 700-800 folks waiting beside the tracks to take this last train towards CastleRock / Londa. I was absolutely sure that many would miss the train. To my surprise, I found a railway employee with red / green flag and a walkie talkie and 2 RPF guiding the people to help board the train. The last 100-200 were unable to find a place in the train and the RPF asked them to board the bankers.After thoroughly checking that people were hanging in a relatively safe position, our walkie talkie guy talked into the device and waved the green flag. Next stop Castle Rock and a good amount of crowd reduced. The train is now occupied only twice to its capacity. A short halt, bankers detached and we were off to Londa where a majority of the crowd deboarded and the train became more or less normal.

Mad Crowd
Huge crowd waiting to board GOA express
Bankrupt !
Bankerupt – That is some serious Banking
The Green Lantern
The man with the flag. Without his help around 800 folks would have been left behind

We were detached from Goa express, taken out of PF2, brought back to PF1, Hubli- Nizamudding attached to Goa express on PF2, Goa express left, Waited for Rani Chennamma, Rani Chennamma arrives, taken out of PF1 again, brought back and attached to Rani Chennamma and off we went towards Dharwad / Hubli. Someone remarked “Arey Londa ke baadh yeh stations itna jaldi kyon aa rahi hai” while the Railways were playing Jigsaw with us.

The Biriyani was good. Had a good dinner and settled down to sleep to continue on with our rat race the next day. For some reason I got up at Hubli and saw the amazing station again at night. I started Clicking pictures at Hubli and took the last picture of the trip also at Hubli. Beyond this, sleep embraced me and woke me up rudely at Tumkur where half of the town boarded the train upto SBC. Got down at SBC, split into groups , lost one Sleeping bag. As a part of team went to return the tents and bags, I drifted towards Kempegowda bus station and boarded a nice cozy Volvo to take a 90 min drive in peak hour traffic and drifted into an aimless daydream carrying wonderful and refreshing memories. I dont know when I would make another such exciting unplanned and adhoc adventure, but let me savor this for until then

I hope you had a good time following my blog as much as I had blogging & experiencing it. Signing off and Thank you for your patient read

Back to Square One
Signing off with a fresh looking Hubli Jn. Headquarters of South Western Railway


A refreshing video to sum it up all (View in 1080p)

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