Sea Of Milk – II

The Next Morning :

Peeping Tom
Peeping Tom

Aug 3 2013 :

A good sleep and woke up to an absolutely beautiful morning @Hubli. I had always wanted to see this place and gotta admit that I have never seen a cleaner station in IR network. The million dollar question was whether to have breakfast at the station or should I eat what I got. Finally decided to eat my own breakfast to reduce the carrying load a bit. Well, just after we left Hubli, the same questions arose as to what is it we are gonna do. The train was running around 40 mins late and trekking from CLR to DDS meant that we would reach DDS only around 4 PM in the evening. It was then that I received the call from my Pune counterparts who were waiting for us at Londa.

Mugad - #Flickr12Days
Mugad, A beautiful minimalistic wayside station near Dharwad

There were 11 of them and 16 of us. All 27 needed a place to stay for the night. We all wanted to trek to DDS from CLR,but practicality and the crowd in the train ensured that we did not fall for this. After an hour of discussion, it was settled that we will go all the way to DDS and take it forward from there. Now that the next 3 hrs have been taken care of, I decided to doorplate before someone else occupies my seat. Just as the train moved out from Dharwad, I took to the door and it was a visual treat. Lush green outdoors with ominous looking skies and the Sun peeping out every now and then, added to that the never ending curves. What more could a rail lover need. Absolutely fantastic sight with terrific weather and time just drifted aimlessly. The standout on this section was the station Mugad. One of the most picteresque stations, I have seen. This was one time I wished, I had my SLR while doorplating and not my PS, but hey convenience won this game again.

I'm waiting
DG4 12787 waiting for our Chennai – Vasco to cross
Morning Walk - #Flickr12Days
Morning walk along the tracks with train, greenery and the hills for company
S Curve
An S curve on the way to Londa

Crawled slowly into Londa. The rest of our gang from Pune boarded the train and the discussion continued. In 5 minutes, we reconfirmed our plans and decided to get down at DDS instead of CLR. Needless to say, the door seat was never compromised and I continued with my blissful experience upto CLR.

CastleRock ROCKS !!!
CastleRock ROCKS !!!

After seeing CLR in absolutely a million photos all over the web, seeing it live was absolutely fantastic. I somehow felt immediately that I knew this place inch by inch. It was a long halt of around 15-20 mins at CLR. Majority of the trekkers got down here. The station was an absolute nightmare to look at with the crowds getting ready for their long 14KM trek and hence I moved on to the other side. Feasted my eyes on a load of DG4’s , brakers attached and all clear given. Another 30 minutes and we should be right next to the majestic Dudhsagar right in the peak of the southwest monsoons.

Breaking Rocks - #Flickr12Days
Old Station Building – CastleRock

We crawled out of CLR at a leisurely pace, saw the all too familiar board welcoming us to Braganza ghat section, saw the 2 medical relief vans seen all over the web, saw a lot of trekkers en route to DDS who were all too excited to keep waving at us, which was mutually reciprocated, entered the first tunnel, the second and the rest, saw the welcome to Goa board somewhere before Caranzol, sprinkled ourselves with fresh mineral mountain water from numerous falls and the entry and exit points of the tunnel. The train was in absolutely no hurry and took a nice relaxed 20 mins to stop at Caranzol for the brake testing. It was about time we broke from our blissful experience and get ready to de-board at DDS.

Inviting Home
Entering Braganza Ghat Section

So off we all went, rain jackets worn, rain trousers worn, food and camera repacked to be made easily accesible, bags packed, sleeping bags packed, tents packed and we were all set to de-board at DDS. The train stops for a mere 40 – 60 secs and all the 27 of us have to get down with all our baggage. We entered DDS, the already crawling train showed no signs of stopping. Oh God please dont do this. The train kept on with its 15-25 kmph speed and showed no signs of testing its brakes. While we just about gave up hope, the familar squeak of the brakes being applied and bang it stopped. The steps and outside were wet and slippery. Somehow we managed to quickly get down without slipping. 40 secs later (Yes I timed it) the train left on its way towards Kulem.

Trekking Time (Or is it RF ;))
Just after departing Castle Rock, we meet the first batch of trekkers
Welcome to GOA
Welcome to GOA
Coming soon
All Set. One more tunnel to go

So here I am at DDS station, hardly a KM away from something which I wanted to see for a long time and the excitement was overwhelming. What happens next ?

Aug 3 2013 : 11:00 AM

So here I am at DDS, minutes away from witnessing a grand spectacle from the 5th largest falls in India, but somehow did not feel like rushing towards the falls. Why hurry. I have all the time in the world. Let me a bit far from the madding crowd. Watching DDS is just a part of the agenda and not the whole exercise. I asked my colleagues to move on and spent some time just admiring the beauty surrounding me.

Dudhsagar - #Flickr12Days
Wheelslips ?
Wheelslip & Sanding Location at DDS

Steaming hot tea @ DDS seemed like a great idea. Sat down, relaxed, had a refreshing hot cup of chai which was much better than the one served in the train. Stretched my eyes as far as I can see and I could see our Vasco express gliding past Sonalium and a loaded BOXN rake awaiting clearance. So I decided to wait to capture the freight which obviously would be minimum of 2DG4’s in front and 2DG4’s at the rear.

EMD Fest
Penta EMD awaits clearance at Dudhsagar
Ready to Go
Penta EMD gets clearance

Quickly enough, a penta came silently and waited beside me to have a glimpse of the oncoming beasts. What do I say, it was like Sachin waiting to enjoy Viru’s game (When he was at his peak). Ten minutes gone, the twin beasts emerged and scrambled past the penta beasts smoothly. Penta gets an all clear and moves on. I am left now all alone and it was a good 25 mins since I got down.

From a Distance
From a Distance
The first views of Dudhsagar Waterfalls

Decided it is about time or my colleagues will just dump me and move on. Just as I entered the tunnel, I realised that my flashlight was with another friend of mine. So much for an expensive flashlight. So well I walked the tunnel in the darkness. Slippery, wet and oily, it was a treacherous short walk in absolute darkness, but I had nothing to immediately worry about as there would be no trains atleast for the next 60 mins or so. After 5 mins of very careful walk with a few monkeys for company, I saw light at the end of the tunnel. I could also see a faint streak of milky white substance flowing in the distance. The sound of water was slowly getting amplified.

The other side
Valley overlooking the DDS Falls !!!

I could feel a smile breaking and however hard I try to suppress and act with a matter of fact attitude, that thing just could not be wiped out of my face. As I kept nearing the falls, the sound of water gushing increased, the misty sprays started falling on my face, bags and my lenses. Yes atlast I am here right in front of the majestic Dudhsagar waterfalls, spellbound,awestruck, mesmerised by the strength and beauty of this amazing natural spectacle. I have no words to describe what I saw.No pictures or videos can do any justice to what a person sees here. It is completely out of this world. I stood there right beside the tracks soaking in all the misty sprays and not caring a damn about either of my 2 cameras. This is a moment to enjoy and savor and cherish. Nothing can stop me now. So I just stood there and did nothing for almost 15 minutes. Just watching !!!

Green Everywhere.. Is it ?
A random falls in the middle of lush greenery

As I got out of my hypnotic state of mind, the reality bit me real hard. The place was filthy and crowded. Nobody cared a damn. It was filled with plastic bottles, beer bottles, paper plates, plastic cups, styrofoam cups and what not. There was a guy selling liquor at almost thrice the market price. Why do we do this ? Such a beautiful place completely ransacked by a despicable species called human beings. We try so hard to keep our houses clean. Does it take really that hard to take care of our surroundings as well. It is this lack of ownership which pissed me off. But hey, I came here to enjoy and soak in the beauty and not to be philosophical.

Water Water Everywhere
Between tunnel 12 and 13. There is a path to the left there which will take you down from where you can get a full view of the Bridge, train and the falls

We did our bit for the surrounding. We had got garbage bags where we collected all our trash and took it all the way to our next destination Next came the photo session which lasted a good hour or so. You need to satisfy the needs of 27 folks. By now it was around 1 PM and now it is time for us to move on. The final segment of this trip is filled with lots of unplanned twists and turns. Do not miss out on that as I will take you to a couple of completely unknown treasures near Kulem. Wait for them. Oh well almost, this blog and this adventure is incomplete if I don’t get to see the one thing, I so desperately wanted to view and capture. I was all set to pack and move on to Kulem, while I heard a familiar horn of an ALCO chugging along. Hardly 2 mins and I have close to half a kilometer to reach the perfect spot. Almost reached there, but the ALCO won. This is the best I could manage from a spot 100 metres ahead of where I wanted to be

Amaravati Express getting a shower as it glides past Dudhsagar Waterfalls
Vasco bound Amaravati Express getting a shower as it glides past Dudhsagar Waterfalls

Sea of Milk – I

The Preparation

Started January 2013 onwards.

A trip which I wanted to do for a very long time and for some very known reasons, I was never able to do this at all for almost 5 years. This year come what may, this trip will happen and that is how I prepared myself. This also turned out to be a nice excuse to get all the things that I wanted for a long time. Well you will know that this is an overkill if you see my list below

1. Nice Swiss Champ Knife with 32 functions. Is it really needed ?
2. Super Fenix Flashlight with 650 lumens output (It lit an entire 15 x 12 room like a fresh and new tubelight). Is this really needed ?

In addition to these, I got high end rainwear, footwear, backpack and a whole lot of things which in reality is not an absolute necessity, but well make hay while the sun shines.

Aug 1 2013

Got my salary a day ago, but the excitement apparently does not seem to stem from that fact. 24 hrs to start for my long awaited trip, lots of undecided loose ends. We will stay at DDS, but where ? no idea. No idea if we will trek from CLR to DDS. No idea if we will stay at DDS. No idea if we will get a lift to Kulem. Oh no.. forget trek, shall we get down at DDS instead of CLR. Lots of questions, no answers. Well we decided to hell with all, lets all just go home and pack and get ready. It was a hectic day and lots of stuff to buy. We needed food for 2 days and after lots of deliberation, decided that 1 day stock should be enough. Your sub conscious always tells you , “Arrey bhai, just in case” and you always sub consciously listen to the sub conscious and ended up getting food that would last a family for an entire week, some of which are still at home !!.

2 hrs of shopping and 1 hr of planning, I ended up with a list like this. Clothes, Cosmetics, SLR, Point and shoot,Charger for SLR, Charger for PS, Cell phone and charger, Extra batteries for SLR and PS, extra SD cards, RainJacket, Rain trousers, Ankle shoes, regular shoes / sandal, blanket, sleeping bag, medicines first aid, flashlight,swiss knife, loads of food for 2 days, cooking utensil and well what not. Packed them all and found that I would need one more person to carry it for me. So off goes a lot of stuff and somehow managed to pack them all nicely into a single backpack. What really amuses me is that we pack so perfectly and once you start taking out things from your backpack, you find no place to put them back in. Somebody needs a lesson on free energy here.

It is 10PM now and all set. I want to sleep. I am desperate to sleep and in the excitement I did sleep around 4 am, when my body could take no more. Still those unanswered questions remained unanswered. Some wild instinct told me it will all fall in place. With that in mind, my body slowly took over my brain and dozed me off to a much needed rest in preparation for an exciting 2 days.

Aug 2 2013

The D-Day. Woke up early. Ran through the morning stuff very briskly and quickly. Got the Kids in time for school and off to work with a spring in my step. The first four hours of work was dedicated to finish the work for the entire day. Post lunch our confusion started. We were supposed to board the Chennai – Vasco express that night from YPR. All of us had booked from YPR even though KJM was close to us to ensure we get the YPR quota of 72 berths. And bingo we all got placed in S5. Anyway, now we have 3 groups of people

Group 1 will board at Krishnarajapuram (KJM)

Group 2 will board at Yesvantpur (YPR)

Group 3 will get the sleeping bags and tents on rent and board at YPR

I am a regular traveller on the Bangalore – Chennai – Bangalore line for more than a decade now and I know the pains of travelling on a Friday night to City Railway Station or KJM railway station. It is bumper to bumper traffic all the way from 4:30 pm onwards. Not wanting to take a chance, I decided to take the opposite direction and board the MAS – SBC ICE from Whitefield till KJM or the MEMU just before that. As luck would have it, even this route was congested and it took me almost one hour to reach Whitefield station, which usually takes around 30 mins. However looking at the opposite direction, I think I made the correct decision.

Ray of Hope - #Flickr12Days
Ray of Hope

A colleague of mine was stuck up at Hope farm not knowing how to reach Whitefield station. After my expert tips, which included a since you are very late and may miss this last train to KJM, get under the bridge and cross the tracks and the station would be on your right, I assume that my colleague would call me once reached. As time passed and no calls received, I decided to call up and found out that my colleague just dumped me and took the MEMU to KJM, which included an expedition under a stable freight to the other side and not finding the station and a second expedition under the same freight train with a loaded backpack to find the station just in time to board the MEMU and later followed by me unloading a nice helping of my irritation especially on going under the freight train. However to get back in the spirit of the travel, it was lost in due course, but I still cannot digest the fact that the freight was crossed twice with heavy backpacks. My ICE came 20 minutes behind schedule and dropped me at KJM PF No 4 where I met the first half of the crew, which is 8 members including myself.

Tea Break
Raining … A hot cup of tea & samosa is all that is missing

Our short stay at KJM was seen by Sanghamitra, YPR-Howrah and Tirupati-YPR ICE. We left KJM a solid 50 minutes behind schedule led by ED WAP4 and waited at Banaswadi for another 40 mins to let the YPR Puducherry GR to pass. After an eternity which lasted close to around 80 mins we reached YPR a good 30 mins behind schedule. Since we were in the YPR quota coach, we had the entire coach to ourselves upto YPR. As soon as we reached YPR, the entire coach got filled up in a matter of minutes. 64 of the 72 berths were reserved for the people like us who were going to CLR. You can imagine the time taken by people to settle down with their tents , backpack , food and sleeping bags. I got my dinner there and surprisingly the Veg Biriyani was quite good. By the time we could all settle down, the train was all set to take us towards Tumkur and was already moving out of the platform.

Wet morning
A wet morning just outside Hubli

We decided to run through the train end to end and returned in 30 mins just to figure out that there were around 400 folks in the train going to DDS and almost 100 of them wanting to pitch up the tents at DDS and our unanswered questions came back to haunt us again. Another 30 mins of indecision and we decided to retire for the day as it will be a hectic day tomorrow. So once again as the train accelerated past Tumkur, I slept with the same unanswered questions, but the wild instinct remained.