Thursday, November 28, 2013

Walk along rail tracks from Castle-Rock to Dudhsaagar waterfalls - Part 1

Three of my company staff including me had booked trek to Dudhsaagar falls organized by Bangalore Mountaineering Club. The trek was scheduled on 19th of October while the journey had to happen the previous day. We had packed all necessary stuffs required for the trek (as prescribed by club) and ready to cruise :-). Even though we were aware that the waterfalls will not be at full energy as July monsoon, the main interest was to walk for 15kms from Castle Rock to Dudhsaagar falls. This walk is on railway tracks and cannot be called as trek technically since most part is straighter without any grades. Nevertheless it is unique experience altogether. I have split the blog two 3 sections to depict the three day activity. The volume of sections will vary as per the activity during corresponding day. Get ready to start the walk along beautiful briganza ghats towards the ocean of milk. Hope you will enjoy the virtual stroll ;-)

18 Oct 2013

My friend who booked the trek, had received a mail with list of items to be carried for the walk. Accordingly we 3 distributed ourselves some of the items since 2 of us had heavy camera luggage. Main items were food and water to sustain the long walk under the Sun. We reached Domlur bus stop around 5:30PM and had snacks nearby restaurant to satisfy our hunger. There were many people who planned to alight here. We also had nice chat with canadian friend who also had booked the same. It seems he had trekked in four continents :D including the ice trekking. We were having good times with our co-passengers and introduced ourselves.  The trip was scheduled to start at 6:15PM at Domlur bus stop. Rajesh did proper prediction that it would start exactly start with minimum 30 minutes delay as per Indian standards and it happened too :-). The bus arrived around 6:45PM and we were ready to start :-). Some more pickups along the way and we had one more friend from Australia with heavy backpack who joined us for trek. That was mighty backpack weighing more than 20KG I believe. He had carried his own tents and food and also seemed to be more experienced trekker. 9PM sharp, we were in Jalahalli cross toll gate and bus stopped at one of the hotel along NH-4 near Dabaspet. After having good dinner, it was time to sleep and get ready for next day. Altogether we were batch of 32 people + 2 co-ordinators + 1 driver.

19 Oct 2013

We reached Ramangar around 5:30AM. The club people had booked small lodging nearby the place to refresh ourselves before we could start the trek. Castle Rock railway station is about 30kms from here. We refreshed ourselves here for 90minutes and had decent breakfast. We also bought few water bottles required for the long walk. The bus started heading towards CastleRock railway station. It seemed like the rains have receded completely in this region. The water streams with no intensity were examples for the same. However, the extended monsoon is keeping water streams of Shiraadi ghats and Kuduremukh ghats still alive! The road is National Highway 4A which runs between Panaji and Belgaum. The condition of highway was really bad mainly because of torrential monsoon season but not as worse as shiraadi ghat road. Few kms later, we reached Castle rock cross. From here, 5-6kms interior along narrow ghat road is CastleRock railway station. The road is very narrow that it is difficult even for 2 LMVs to negotiate. We were stuck in between when our bus encountered brick loaded truck. He was adamant to avoid slipping down the road due to heavy load and we were facing a tree. Somehow after reverse and forward, both could negotiate. At some places there are steep hairpins and one has to honk gently to get rid of surprises. 9:30AM, we were in Castle Rock. The sky was crystal clear and Sun was striking the place with full energy. The weather was similar to coastal weather during summer with high humidity. We had small gathering and introduced one another. Later it was time to start :-). Exactly at 10AM, we started walking towards Dudhsaagar. Our baggage seemed to be very heavy (may be exceeding 8KGs) which included camera pack, necessary stuffs, sleeping bags and lunch food. The other stuffs like dinner and camping materials were carried in Chennai-Vasco express from CastleRock which briefly halts at Dudhsaagar station.

Sunrise at Ramanagar
There are two options altogether to walk. One from Kulem which is around 11kms and other from Castle Rock which is 15kms. Most people prefer the latter since transport is good enough. Few people from Goa, take Kulem route. Our walk began with normal pace and we kept moving on. It is pretty much uncomfortable to walk on tracks due to presence of ballast. At some place, trails are present as a brief comfort. As our walk progressed, we encountered our first train which is Chennai-Vasco express :-). After the train passed, we had energy bar before we could proceed. Now comes the first tunnel :-). Had this been monsoon season, there would have been water flowing from top of tunnel. That would have been great experience :-). Nevertheless, watching those tunnels cannot deter excitement! Few photographs here, we moved on. At middle of tunnel, it was complete darkness. We had torches to walk along the darkness. Few people were screaming with joy as they walked along the tunnel. Even inside tunnel, there is small area besides railway track to have safe stay in case one encounters train. Not sure what how will be the condition during monsoon season since water falls from everywhere from nook and corner of tunnel :D. It was really unique experience under darkness without any ghosts ;-). Watch out for human waste along the tracks. They can be surprsing while you walk along the tunnels. In monsoon season, they would be automatically cleaned up by heavy rains and streams ;-). There were many groups who had planned the walk along with us. There were considerable crowd all along the track. I was even surprised see the enthusiam of people with varying age. There were people from kids as young as 10yrs to elders as old as 50yrs :-).

Castle Rock Railway Station

The tracks

One more view!

Few kms later, there we see the glorious vistas of western ghats. We enjoyed the distant view of beautiful rain forests and grabbed pictures too! Western ghats are never boring place to visit and they are paradise on earth during monsoon season. Be it trekking, driving or train journeys whatever you think of, the western ghats are the best place to rejoice. Wherever we had to enjoy the beautiful hillocks, we stopped by and grabbed some snaps. You may stumble if you need to enjoy the hillocks while walking ;-) basically due to uneven surface and scattered ballast. Few more kms, we came across the first alive water spot which had considerable flow. It was flowing behind a small arch. With this we were relieved that we could see considerable amount of water in Dudhsaagar. Till here, all along we could only spot dead water spots. Meanwhile, due to humid weather we had exhausted 2ltrs of water already and there was still around 9kms to walk. Myself and Rajesh drank water here and filled our bottle. That was so great in taste and pure which was straight out of western ghats :-). Rajesh said that this was far better than mineral water! All along the journey we could spot beautiful/colorful butterflies but did not take any pictures :-(. They were pretty much larger in size than which we see in town limits. May be these are kind which could be spotted only in jungles.



exit(first_tunnel) ;-)

One more!

Out again!

Finally some water! Phew...

Amazing rain forests
After first tunnel, here comes the first viaduct :-). There are trails along these viaducts to cross them safely in case we encounter a train. Small platforms are also constructed to have safer distance too! We encountered a cascaded 3 engine loco honking loudly and I grabbed a video too ;-). We encountered few more tunnels and viaducts during our walk. I guess there were about 10 tunnels in number and may be 4-5 viaducts. In one of the major viaduct with tunnel, there was full flowing water spring. It was nearly small waterfalls plummeting through the rocks. Some people were having cool afternoon bath here. After crossing the tunnel cum viaduct we encountered our second train Amaravati express which runs from Howrah to Vasco. I shot video of even that and people were screaming on board to have their presence in video :D. We later resumed our journey and I was photographing both railway tracks and western ghats. Whenever I got opportunity, I shot water springs as well tunnels. In middle of walk, we reached station called Caranzol. I had friendly chat with one of the gangmen of station and he suggested us to plan during 1st or 2nd week of August. Dudhsaagar was around 6.84kms from here as per label painted on station walls. From Dudhsaagar station, the waterfall is around 0.5 to 1km. Few kms back from here starts the Goa state jurisdiction. There was also a welcome board erected by Goa administration. So it is clear that Dudhsaagar lies in Goa state.
Welcome to GOA state!

The Hillock again!

The side view with tracks

Still so much :-( from caranzol

How do you describe :-)

And this one ;-)

The Viaduct
The major water spot

There is always light at end of dark tunnel if it not monsoon season :-)

5kms before Dudhsaagar, hunger started haunting us and we were only 2. We had lost the other person behind. We thought of having food and sync up with him before we could get started. Just before we were having apples. By the time I could eat 25%, a monkey snatched my apple :-). There is no point in fighting with them :D. Even Rajesh lost it but after healthy 60% consumption! My deep photography session had eaten up time more than eating and consequently monkey ate majority of apple :(. Moral of story is finish off eating before you do any activity or else monkeys will finish for you ;-). One can spot myriad of monkeys all along the tracks. I guess they are well aware of trekkers and people who throw food items from train. May be they want different taste of food than what is available in jungles :-). Back to lunch break, the packed food provided by club members was hell spicy with water spots originating from our eyes :-(. Unfortunately we could not finish the lunch due to terrible spiciness :-(. Fortunately for us, monkey nearby started eating them and we were relieved that food was not wasted. We tried to eat as much we can but eventually gave up since it may lead to adverse health problems. There was no possibility to have any emergency health facility nearby here in middle of jungle too! In middle of lunch, we encountered mighty goods train with clanky engine sound. Of-course there were more engines fit to the train (front and back) to power it up the ghats. Usually in ghat areas, trains are fit with engines front and back. They are basically to power the train up the ghats and act as automatic breakers while down-hilling to limit the speed.

You enjoy watching me snatch other's food and now enjoy for yourself :D

Amaravati express along briganza ghats!

The remnants of dead bogie
Once third member arrived and after he had short break, we resumed our walk towards dudhsaagar falls. Hereafter we could see actual signs of water with water dripping from top of tunnel! Their intensity will be very high during monsoon season. The intensity was reduced to droplets now mainly due to feeble moisture content in hills and lack of rain. The spicy food had increased our thirst and we filled our bottles with water dripping from hills. Infact they were really good and tasty. We had plenty of water and kept on constantly re-filling ;-).

Where is Dudhsaagar waterfalls? Its here!

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