Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dudhsagar Falls - An experience of a lifetime!

Hi Folks,

It’s been nearly two months, since I and my adorable wife took the 14 kilometer rail trek to Dudhsagar Falls. I have been meaning to write a travelogue describing our experiences in this trek. As they say, ‘Better late than never’. And so, here it goes.

My wife had undertaken this arduous trek last year as well. It was through her that I got to know about a bootstrapped start-up called Crazy Yatra. Led by the eponymous ‘Crazy Ajay’, this group of motley individuals who share a common passion for travel and fun, arrange for the logistics and make sure you have a ‘crazy’ time on the treks and tours they organize. True to their motto, this trek had indeed turned out to be one hell of a crazy roller coaster ride, albeit for not exactly the right reasons.

About the trek:

The rail trek begins from Castle Rock railway station. A small but important junction on the South Western Railway line at the Karnataka – Goa border. Castle Rock has got an imperialistic air to it; something that’s instantly perceptible once you walk on its platforms and notice the generous doses of British Architectural influences on the Station building. A few blocks further to the west beside the tracks, lies a moss covered wall, part of an ancient ruin that witnesses trains slowly chugging their way towards Dudhsagar. 14 kilometers of trek on the tracks, passing through a series of pitch dark tunnels and evading dollops of dung and ‘shit’ later, you’re treated to a visual wonder. The route itself is also quite scenic, with small streams, and breathtaking gorges between the blue Western Ghats.

Dudhsagar roars! Quite literally. The auditory effect can best be described as ‘boisterously loud’. So much so that for a moment, you can’t hear yourself think! There’s so much turbulence and churning of water that the streams appear milky white from a distance. And hence, the name given to this massive waterfall.

So why was this trek so crazy?

What do you do when you hear a passing statement from a fellow trekker that Dudhsagar has been closed and trekkers are not being permitted an entry? I chose to ignore it, right at the start of the trek. But as we went straight up ahead, we crossed paths with fellow trekkers - wearing distraught faces – informing us that entry to the falls has been banned. Murmurs grew amidst fellow trekkers in the group and the naysayers were already discussing the possible ways to return back to base.

At Caranzol station, which lies midway on the trekking route, we did have our lunch. Ajay, the organizer who was leading us though continued to remain uncertain. There were quite a few times, when I played a devil’s advocate, incessantly bothering him with uncomfortable questions. Are we coming back? But, they say that the entry is not there, na!? I just confirmed with the workers at the station and they say there’s no entry to Dudhsagar now. And there was Karthik, a fellow volunteer for Crazy Yatra. An ever-smiling genial guy. He tried to lift up our sagging spirits. From Caranzol onwards, it was difficult to go on with the trek what with our prospects of witnessing the falls becoming grimmer by the moment. That’s when Ajay came up with a masterstroke.

We were up a kilometer further from Caranzol towards Dudhsagar. That’s when he asked us to take a break and he himself walked all the way to Dudhsagar to assess the situation. Trust him to return with an alternate plan and he did. Half an hour later, I saw him walking towards us with a poker faced expression that’s so typical of him. He waved to us to resume the trek and despite a pestering me, he didn’t quite reveal the plan till we reached Dudhsagar railway station.

Why was the entry banned after all?

Check this link for details

The Moment of truth:

So guys. Officially, there’s no entry to Dudhsagar now. However, there’s a goods train that’s going to stop here in a short while. The moment it stops, we all sprint our way to the Guards Cabin and board there. That’s our only chance! Okay!?’ 

I was worried for my wife, for sprinting on the rocks wasn’t exactly a child’s play. Ajay’s heart was racing. A moment gone wrong in this melee and that would be a big blow for his start-up. Yet, he was icy calm on the outside. Eerily calm, I thought.

The goods train chugged along and stopped. And then, as if in a flash, the entire group of 30 odd trekkers swiftly boarded the Guard’s Cabin. All of us, jam packed and squeezed in as if we were a sheep herd being transported for a mass slaughter. The goods train jerked violently during transit, scaring the hell out of us. And yet, when we passed through Dudhsagar, the deafening roar we heard and the gigantic fall of milky-white water that we witnessed blew our fatigue away. All this super-tiring effort wasn’t for nothing! It was sheer awesomeness…

Nevertheless, there are other means to reach Dudhsagar that are highly recommended. You wouldn’t want to miss one of the tallest waterfalls in the country. And if you do visit the falls, please, please, please don’t carry plastics and dump there!

A word about Crazy Yatra

Ajay & Co – the team at Crazy Yatra, showed admirable courage and persistence in handling the group in such uncertain and treacherous conditions during the trek. Kudos. And I am pretty sure, they must have already learnt from their mistakes (information asymmetry in this case - of no prior knowledge of a blanket ban on Dudhsagar rail trek). However, there remains scope for improvement for Team Crazy Yatra. What would that be? The way they organize ‘fun filled’ activities during transit in the tour bus. Can be much better! Would I recommend Crazy Yatra? Yes. Ajay & Co will make sure you have a crazy memorable time!

signing off,