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)

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.