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A Travel Blog from India: September 2013

Friday, 27 September 2013

Skywatch Friday - Patnitop as seen from Highway

When we planned to drive back from Srinagar to Jammu, our first option was to take the scenic mughal road. But we were not able to convince our taxi driver to take that road. we are not sure why they were reluctant to take that route. Thus we were left with no choice to take the regular highway via Banihal.

But we were not disappointed. It offered glorious views of the mountains and valleys. Here is one to cherish. Patnitop is a cute little hill station close to Jammu. You can make out why this is a charmed place by looking at this picture which was shot in the afternoon.


Triund Trek - A heavenly hike in Himalayas!

We went to trek in Kashmir. But we did it in Himachal. That’s been our story, as we had to abandon our Great lakes trek in Kashmir due to heavy rain in mountains. It is no fun to get stuck in the rain and stay in the tents. 

Our other option was to try our luck in Dharamshala. It was raining cats and dogs when we checked into lovely Chonor house, possibly the cutest hotel in Dharamshala. The forecast wasn't encouraging either. We wanted to do a day trek in the Dhauladhar Ranges of Himalayas. We chose climb Triund.

Triund or Trikhund as it is locally known is one of the lovely peaks on Dhauladhar ranges. At 2875 meters or 9500 feet, it allows you have excellent views of not only Dhauladhar ranges beyond but also spectacular views of Dharamshala and Kangra valley. As the name suggests, it is a summit from where you can see three peaks of Dhauladhar ranges. Triund is the first stop for people who do Indrahar Pass trek on the way from Dharamshala to Chamba. In trekking parlance, it is categorized as Easy to Moderate trek. 

We told Ravi our guide that we would be up early in the morning and ready to trek around 6AM provided the weather is good. He was surprised as many don’t get up so early and don't start the trek before 8.30 AM. We are the firm believers of doing it early in the mountains, as weather in mountains is always fickle. 

We were ready at 6.30 after a cup of tea and yummy Walnut cake. Ravi had come with a cab and we were to drive up to Galu matha temple from where we were to ascend. The drive to Galu Matha temple from McLeodganj was picturesque as we went through scenic areas of Army Cantonment. The last few kilometers of the drive was through cedar and pine forests. We had to stop 500 meters from Galu matha temple as a landslide had blocked the road. Thus, our trek actually started ahead of Galu matha temple. Galu Matha temple is normally the start point for Triund trek as this is where the road ends. Some people start the trek from Dharamkota, which means an addition of another four kilometers. 
Cedar trees swaying in early morning wind
Galu Matha temple - The start point
Yes, this is a litter free zone.
It was a clear morning. The sun was shining and the sky was hearty blue with spatter of few clouds. We were happy and hoped that it wouldn't rain till we completed the trek. There was no indication of rain but in mountains you are never sure. The trail is well marked and broad enough. Soon, we were climbing, albeit slowly. The trail is at an edge of the ridge, which meant it offered charming views of valley with Dharamshala in the distance. Soon the route led us through wooded valleys and we crossed a chuckling stream.

Spectacular view of the mountains basking in morning sun
View of McLeodganj, Dharamshala and Kangra valley - I
View of McLeodganj, Dharamshala and Kangra valley - II
The first few steps on a trek are always difficult. Being a day trek, we did not carry heavy backpacks. The unkindest part of any trek in the mountains is the hard realization that there is always more hills in front of you. It is dispiriting. The question with trekking in the hills is you never know what’s to come. Walking through the wooded trail, series of rolling hills in front of you to conquer, you lose track of how much you have walked already. The fact that these hills are not visible at one go makes you feel whether you will ever reach the summit. You reach the high ground and think you have done it, only to be deceived by another hill in front, which is the one you have to climb. The hill continuously retreat making you think whether you will be able to climb at all. We don't have an option but to march on. That is what we did.

The best part of trek to Triund are the views you will see on the way - luscious and green, to the left and right. On our right was the spectacular view of the valley with clumped woodlands, winding trail, colourful hamlets all made exquisitely picturesque due to distance. On the left was mighty mountains, which are to be climbed. Being monsoon, the snow had melted and we could see dark granite peaks in the distance. We realised the fact that we were walking in Rhododendron forests only when Ravi showed us the trees. The forests are full of them along with Himalayan oaks and Cedars. We had never seen such huge trees of Rhododendron. We were actually in the wrong season and could visualise how beautiful this trek would be in spring when the trees are in bloom. That must be strikingly scenic.

Magic view cafe with peaks in the background. The ridge line is where Triund is.
Lovely landscape of Oaks, cedars and Rhododendrons 
The trail goes through rhododendron forests as you can see in this picture
So we walked. We walked up the mountains crossing streams, on a trail, which at some places is really narrow to allow only one person. We walked over loose stones supporting ourselves with the hiking stick. The rains in the past week had turned the landscape green and many streams were revived though not to fullest of their glory. At a distance over the hills, we could see many waterfalls tumbling down. Halfway through, we reached Magic view café, a small restaurant where you can have some chai/snacks. Located on a cliff, the place provides amazing view of the valley below.

Magic View cafe - the oldest on the trail. The valley view from this place is magical!
Another nice camping ground - the one in blue colour 
Waterfalls gently tumbling down
Another cascade....
The climb from here got steeper and trail was made of rocks. One has to be careful to balance on the rocks and move lest you may fall into the valley. We stopped for a moment and looked up the mountain. Ravi shows us the final destination on a distant mountain - a forest bungalow, which looks pint-sized from the distance. We ask him much more to climb. He says another two hours! Did we have a choice? We trudged on.

Notice the forest rest house in the middle of the picture on the ridge. This is the final point.
We walked through a small stream fed by waterfalls. There wasn't much water and was tumbling gracefully over the rocks. We crossed the stream and climbed a small rock to get into a vantage point for a stunning valley view. The gorge here is really deep and we could hear gurgling sound of water below. At a distance, a cascade of milky white flowed down the mountain. To its right was another tall waterfalls. For the first time on the trek we saw beautiful wild flowers.

Another bite of energy bar and we were now ready for the summit run.

The most picturesque spot on the trek, the water falls, the valley view, wildflowers makes it special
Well deserved break!!

The last two kilometers was hard on the knees. It was sheer climb compared to the gentle trail we had left behind. We were now climbing in real sense. The forest guest house was visible but looked receding with every step. We were curious and excited to see the panoramic views on the other side of the mountain. The weather was still holding good. Rains seemed to have given a temporary break. We could see clouds building up over the mountains. We had to move faster so that did not lose out on the views due to fog when we reach the top.

Another waterfalls...

Rugged granite landscape - notice the clouds cover
The hike to the top was steep, seemingly endless. But it was worth an effort. The wow feeling you get when you reach the summit is every trekkers joy. To hike for hours through cool, green forests, navigating through delicately positioned rocks and reach a summit, which is nothing but a large open space on a ridge, covered in thick layers of grass under a dome of heavenly blue sky with spectacular 360 degree views is an experience to cherish forever. Beyond the valley was bald and endless mountains extending into horizon. Two shops-cum-restaurants are the only tenements on the summit apart from the forest rest house. We had to rush to vantage points to savour the views of the valley on the other side. Fog was filling in the valley. Slowly it engulfed the summit and soon we could see nothing of the mountains. We were lucky we reached in time. Had we arrived few minutes late, we would have been disappointed.

Views of the valley from Triund. Notice fog enveloping the valley

Mules by local shepherds grazing in the meadows

Yes. we are on top @ 9500 feet
We were hungry and had to eat something. Maggi with Chai was god sent. When we were enjoying the Maggi, a group of local villagers with heavy backpacks trudged in. They were local Gaddis or shepherds who were trekking past Indrahar pass to a temple to set up temporary kitchen for devotees coming there for Janmashtami celebrations. We lifted their backpack and it was really heavy as they were carrying rations. They had to walk another two days before reaching the destination. They do it every year and it is amazing to see how faith moves man.

Brinda with Maggi
Guys with the backpacks!
Thick envelope of clouds on the peak meant we had to get out of the place fast lest we would get stuck in the rain. Going down the trail was again a delicate balancing act. An hour passed and valley gets filled with fog. It starts to drizzle. Sooner it turns into merciless deadfall shower from the sky with thunder and lightning playing over the hills. It was steady and heavy rain. There was no place to cover and we walked on. The trail became slippery and a running stream. Many waterfalls, which were dry and non-existent when we climbed, come to life and were all over. The trail near the spot where we had taken a break while climbing is now under water. The trail is nothing but a ferocious stream now. The cascade, which was a trickle in the morning, was now flowing with all fury. The change that was brought by the rain was amazing to believe.  We were not sure whether we would be able to cross it. The water level had increased tremendously. We had two options - to wait till the rains stop or to cross the stream straightaway. We could see the magic view restaurant at a distance. There was no guarantee of rains stopping either. We took a decision and cross the stream, all three hand in hand. It was terrifying experience to walk on slippery rocks in gushing stream under the canopy of waterfalls. But we have to do it. We cross the stream and look back in wonder at the way nature changes in few minutes. Mountains are always unpredictable and we learnt it in hard way.

Is this the same place we saw in the morning? Notice the stream and waterfalls in full flow

Ready to cross!
This waterfall was non existent while going up. It was roaring when we saw after rains. We missed the zoom.
This one too......in full glory after rains
Look at the lovely vistas!
After this point, the trail evens out and is gentle. Rain continued though falling steadily. The boots were full of water and squeaking. We reached the Magic view and shout out to Chotu to get us hot chai. We need it, badly. Energised by Cuppa, we continued on the trail passing by many waterfalls, walking through streams. As we reach Galu Matha temple, the rain takes a breather. But by now we are wet from the waist. The rain cape protects us from getting wet completely. The cab is waiting for us as we cross the landslide spot and get into it. We drive back to Chonor house.

A day well spent amidst lovely vistas of Himalayas. It was truly an adventure and a trek we will always remember. The mountains, waterfalls, streams, meadows, clouds, the gorgeous views all make this a delightful trek.

Getting there

McLeodganj is 12 KMs from Dharamshala which is well connected by air, train and buses to other parts of the country. Triund trek can be done as a day Trek from McLeodganj.

Stay Options

There are many options to stay in Dharamshala and McLeodganj suiting all budgets. We found Chonor House a lovely place to stay.

Travel Tips

a)  Always leave early. Mountains are best seen early in the morning.

c) Wear good hiking boots. Carry hiking stick.

d) During dry season, you will not get water on the trail. Carry it along.

e) Only places to eat or drink are Magic View restaurant and the restaurant on the summit. Food is expensive as they have to carry it all the way from town.

f) If planning to stay in Forest rest house, book well in advance.

g) The open ground on the ridge in Triund has good camping spots.

h) Triund and surrounding mountains will be snowbound during winter. Winter temperatures will be freezing. Carry adequate woollen.

Please check out the other trekking tales on this blog

Dudhsagar Falls - A monsoon trek on railway track!

Five Lovely Treks in Karnataka

Did you like this post? Please share it with friends if you feel it will be of help to them. If you need more information on this trek, please write to us at poorna62@gmail.com

Happy to help.

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Back of the blog - Kootagal Hill

Back of the blog. Here we will share tit-bits and snippets on India Travel which may be useful for a traveller in India. It may be some new information about the place, a new cuisine one can explore, a bit of history, a funny anecdote or a good travel book. Anything connected to Travel in India. 

Very close to Bangalore is Ramanagaram. 

The name of the place may not strike you immediately. If we say that this is the place where the Hindi magnum opus "Sholay" was shot, you will sit up and take notice. Yes, it is the same Ramnagar, which was made immortal by Ramesh Sippy and again by David Lean in "A Passage to India"

For people like us in Bangalore, Ramanagaram continue to charm. The boulders, the hills, the caves and pristine ponds inside the forest make it a good break from humdrum of life in Bangalore city. The rains in the last week have turned the whole area green. We drove through this region last week the landscape was spectacular, though we didn't go to Kootagal hill in particular.

We read an interesting account of travel by B V Prakash to Kootagal hill and legend behind the rocks in Deccan Herald today. We couldn't resist sharing it with you.

Kootagal Hill - Where love endures amidst rocks!

Read on and go there this weekend for stroll among the rocks. You can also make small detour to visit Kanva reservoir, which must be full after a bountiful rain in last few weeks.

Photo Courtesy - Anurag Jain

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Monday, 23 September 2013

Back of the blog - "On Being Tentbound"

Back of the blog. Here we will share tit-bits and snippets on India Travel which may be useful for a traveller in India. It may be some new information about the place, a new cuisine one can explore, a bit of history, a funny anecdote or a good travel book. Anything connected to Travel in India. 

We were browsing in "Select Bookshop", the venerable second hand bookshop in Bangalore. I was looking for some travel books when I saw a book titled "Eiger Dreams". A small book, it is written by Jon Krakauer who is one of the respected mountaineers and also a well-known travel writer. 

There are interesting essays on mountaineering, mountaineers and other adventures. Of the lot, there is one essay, which is all about “On Being Tentbound”. Funny and insightful, Jon writes about being stuck in a tent for days. It’s a quite humorous essay ruminating on the sometimes tender psyche of adventurers, and what can happen to the vulnerable mindsets of adrenaline junkies when, due to weather, their expeditions come to a forced halt. Some of us would have undergone a similar experience while on treks whether in India or anywhere. Reading it surely bring back some memories. 

An excerpt from New York Times review on the book...

"In EIGER DREAMS: Ventures Among Men and Mountains (186 pp., Lyons & Burford, $17.95), Jon Krakauer adopts a strategy much like Mr. Mewshaw's when answering a question asked him by family, friends and even utter strangers: why would you want to risk your life climbing a mountain? In this collection of essays, most of which were written for Outside and Smithsonian magazines, Mr. Krakauer uses subtle tactics: ''I circle the issue continually, poke at it from behind with a long stick now and then, but at no point do I jump right in the cage and wrestle with the beast directly, mano a mano.''

Mr. Krakauer, who is well regarded among my friends in the climbing community, believes that ''climbing strikes that chord in the public imagination most often associated with sharks and killer bees.'' In this book, he aims ''to prune away some of this overgrown mystique.'' And these pieces, which take us from Mt. McKinley to Chamonix to Pakistan, do just that. The title essay, for instance, is an account of a failed attempt on the deadly North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland. This Alpine wall is terrifying, and Mr. Krakauer considers it a matter of ''luck'' that the weather forced him down.

The reader who knows little about climbing will learn much from ''Eiger Dreams,'' but Mr. Krakauer has taken the literature of mountains onto a higher ledge. It used to be that men ''conquered'' mountains in a cacophony of gratuitous chest-thumping. Today, climbers who write feel compelled to experience epiphanies on the summit. Personally, I'm suspicious about this continual and simultaneous achievement of summit and epiphany. It's as if someone told you that he and his lover always have simultaneous orgasms. You'd detect a certain falseness in the claim.

Mr. Krakauer has set out to strip away that falseness. His snow-capped peaks set against limitless blue skies present problems that inspire irrefutable human experiences: fear and triumph, damnation and salvation. There is a beauty in his mountains beyond that expressed in conventional sermons. His reverence is earned, and it's entirely genuine."

Here is a link to the book on Google books. Better buy a copy. Enjoy the journey with Jon! You will not be satiated though!

Photo Credit - Paul Sydney


Friday, 20 September 2013

Skywatch Friday - Road to Gulmarg

We were driving to Gulmarg from Srinagar in Kashmir recently. It was early in the morning. Rains had pounded the hills in the previous week. There seemed to be a breather as we drove. The sky was overcast. There was not much of traffic either. 

The road from Tangmarg is all uphill. Flanked by Pine, Cedar and Juniper forests, this must be one of the prettiest roads in the country. Surprisingly the road condition was excellent. 

It wasn't foggy which meant we got this excellent picture.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Road Trip Vignettes - Colours of Dhabha!

We all have seen it. Our dhabhas on the roadside are the colourful places. Whether it is food or smells or the people, it is a mini India out there. We have had best of the food in some of the nondescript road side dhabhas. We can recount best Alu Parotas we had on the way to Pandharpur from Sangli, tasty rice kheer in a dhabha in Chattisgarh, softest of phulkas in dhabhas of UP, crisp and khadak rotis with dal in Punjab.........the list go on.

On our way from Jammu to Dharamshala, we stopped at Milan Dhabha, one of the oldest dhabha near Madhopur bridge as one cross Himachal Pradesh and enter Punjab. I remember this Dhabha which we used to frequent as bachelors when i was posted in Madhopur in eighties during my first posting in Army. 

We stopped over there for a cup of tea. It was 7.30 in the morning and preparations were on for breakfast which is traditionally parotas with Curds and Pickle. We were in for surprise when we ordered. Surjit, the man asked whether we want have buttered toast along with chai. Why not and he gives us eight slices of toast - roasted in tandoor - with dollops of butter smeared. It was yummy and perfect combination with typical punjabi chai - the best we have had on this trip. 

When we were looking around, we noticed the pictures on the wall. All gods were there and it is not unusual to see such pictures of gods of all religions in our dhabhas. 

Possibly, they are the most secular place in India!


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Goa in Monsoon - Picture perfect!

Goa in monsoon is a quiet place. We all know that Goa is a laid back, easy going and chilled out place.

We caught these folks fishing on a cloudy morning when we were in Goa in August. We were on the way to Morjim beach and were driving on the banks of Chapora river when we caught them enjoying their time in the sun with a rod in hand.

We are not sure whether they caught many. But definitely enough to have a couple of fried ones with afternoon beer!


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Back of the Blog - SAI Sanctuary, Wilderness country in Coorg!

Back of the blog. Here we will share tit-bits and snippets on India Travel which may be useful for a traveller in India. It may be some new information about the place, a new cuisine one can explore, a bit of history, a funny anecdote or a good travel book. Anything connected to Travel in India.

Why Coorg again? you may ask. We just could not resist sharing this amazing place we read about in "Sanctuary" magazine.

It is not for those who look for "Sightseeing" experience in Coorg. It is for those who want experience beyond travel. SAI Sanctuary is one such place. Pristine, unspoilt wilderness spread across 300 acres. As the people behind this initiative writes

"Our Mission is To protect and preserve the last remaining natural Wild Places of the Earth—especially equatorial rainforests—thereby safeguarding our vital water sources as well as the planet’s rich biodiversity of both flora and fauna for ourselves and future generations."

Please keep this in mind when you visit the place. Be a responsible guest in the sanctuary. Here are some pictures from the place.

We haven't been there and will soon go at next available opportunity. Here is the link to their website 

If you are planning a trip to Coorg, you may look at these posts in this blog

Driving holidays from Bangalore - Hill Holidays in Coorg, Wayanad and Ooty

Coorg from the Sky

If you need any help in planning a trip to Coorg, please write to poorna62@gmail.com

Happy to Help.


Friday, 13 September 2013

Skywatch Friday - Dharamshala from Triund Trail

We did not want miss an opportunity to trek though we missed doing it in Kashmir. When we came to Dharamshala, the first thing on our mind was to check about the trek to Triund. 

When we arrived in the lovely Chonor House in Mcleod Ganj we asked them if they can arrange a guide for us to go to Triund. They said yes and we finalised do it on the next day.

It was raining cats and dogs in Dharamshala when we arrived. The weather forecast was not encouraging either. We decided to do the trek if the weather gods permit as it is not pleasurable to walk in foggy mountains. 

We woke up to a clear sky and started the trek at 6.30 AM. This is the first glimpse of Dharamshala from the trail to Triund peak. 

It was spectacular! Please click on the photo to see in original size.

Keep tuned in for a full account of our trek to Triund peak in Dhauladhar Ranges of Himalayas. 

Coming soon.

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Dudhsagar Falls - A Monsoon trek on Railway Track!

Dudhsagar falls. We were there in August in monsoon in 2013. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The falls is at its best in monsoon. Go now. (Incidentally this is the same falls shown in Shah Rukh Khan's blockbuster Chennai Express!) 

Who doesn't remember this lovely rhyme? 

Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day
Little Arthur wants to play

We did not want the rain to go away. We in fact wanted to trek in the rain. Trek to Dudhsagar in monsoon was always on our bucket list. Honestly speaking, trekking in rain is no fun. Then you don't have a choice if you want to visit the falls when rain is pouring in the mountains and the falls is at its magnificent best. We decided to do it.

Our initial plan was to drive up to Hubli, stay overnight, drive next morning to Castle Rock - the start point of the trek - and return back to Hubli by evening after trekking to waterfalls. However this time around, we decided to go by train. Getting reservations at last minute on Indian trains is always difficult. We wanted to try our luck through Indian Railways (IRCTC) website. You know how notorious IRCTC is. Browsing early in the morning, we were lucky and could get the tickets in Tatkal after couple of tries. The last time we travelled in a train was way back in 2000.

Trains are always fun if you don't mind smelly platforms, not so clean coaches..........and of course the loos. We booked in three tier AC coach. Chennai - Vasco express which passes through Bangalore is not an "Important or Star" train for railways. It is more of a fast passenger than an express. Thus, the coach was not new, one which would possibly be discarded in couple years. As we entered our coupe and sat on the seat, we were greeted by the tiny little creatures commonly known as cockroach! Thankfully they were small ones moving around. We smashed few, shoved the luggage under the seat and settle down when a couple walks in. Our co-passengers in the same coupe.

The best part of a train journey in India is human watching. It is an amazing world out there. Our co-passengers - middle aged jeweller and his wife from Bangalore - were going to Goa for a "relaxed" holiday. For our man, Goa was the ultimate destination. He goes there every year to just chill out. He does not want to go anywhere else and Goa is the full and final destination for him. But the couple were interesting and well informed. They were surprised to hear that we were travelling in the train to get down at Castle Rock for a trek to Dudhsagar falls. They had seen the waterfalls many times on their journeys to Goa but had never heard of people trekking to waterfalls. The man was curious.

"How many KMs is the trek"
"14 Kms"
"Are you sure you guys want to do this in rain"
"Yes, we have come prepared." I show him our trekking shoes, rain cape, backpack etc.
"How long will it take to cover the distance?"
"Five hours"
"You guys are going to walk for five hours in this rain???"
"Yes, that is the fun"

He shakes his head. The wife gives a blank look.

After the checking of tickets by TC, we bid good night. Not before checking for couple of cockroaches and smashing them.

I normally get up early while travelling in train. It was 6AM and the train had just arrived in Hubli. A boy was moving around briskly on the platform selling hot tea. Behind him was another selling news paper. A chai in one hand and news paper in the other is always good day to start. After a halt of half hour, the train starts and the journey from now till Castle Rock is lovely. I had done this train journey many times while being posted in Goa in my earlier avatar in Army. I always looked forward to this stretch when i used to stand near the door and enjoy the beautiful vistas. Today was no different. The rains had turned the landscape into lively green. The streams were full and flowing. Fortunately it was not raining. Cool breeze was caressing my face as i stood near the door holding onto the rails. Brinda joined me at the door. We wished the weather would hold good till we completed the trek. 
It is all green between Dharwad and Castle Rock

At Londa, we get the pre-ordered breakfast - order taken by steward on the previous night - of Idli and Vada which was not bad. The breakfast was to be only meal for us till we reached our hotel in Goa. 

The train screeched to halt at Castle rock around 10 AM, half hour behind schedule. We get down and take out our rain cape. Before starting this trek, we were warned of two things by travel bloggers - Rain and Leeches. We had come well prepared with rain cape and covers for the backpack. Leeches, we weren't much bothered. You can't escape them while trekking in monsoon in tropical forests. Being Saturday, a large number of trekkers had got down at Castle rock. We all set out on the tracks. Walking on the track is definitely easier than walking on trails in the hills. You don't have to worry about the condition of trail. You won't get lost here. All you need to do is to just walk. On the track.

The Start point
Soon, we leave the railway station behind and get onto the track. It starts to drizzle. Before long, it turns into a steady and heavy downpour. It is not fun to walk in the rain. I swear. It is not pleasure to walk with rain cape wrapped around you. The sound of sputtering rain on the rain cape is definitely not music to ears. We continued. The boots were full of water. They had given up the will to stay dry. They were soaked and squelching at every step. On the positive side, this is the best time to trek. The nature is at its best. Back to life streams creating lovely waterfalls. Sun playing hide and seek behind thick canopy of clouds. Mist covering the valley. Cute little waterfalls on the side of the track. Stunning valleys with waterfalls cascading from the hilltop. What else can one ask for?

Spectacular valley views with overcast sky

Walking on the track in rain is tricky. It is not difficult. In the rain, the sleepers become slippery and one has to be careful while moving. It is not unsafe either. Yes, when the train comes, you have to get out of the track. When you do so, you have to be careful and watch out. All along the trail there is enough place for one to stay out of the track safely when the train comes. It is easy to notice when it comes. The drivers are aware that there will be people walking on the track - especially on weekends - and will always sound the horn. Moreover, the trains do not run fast on this ghat section which provides ample time to get off to safety when you hear the train's horn. When you are on a bridge, do not rush if you don't find a good place to come off the track. Walk past the bridge briskly but safely and then move to safe place. Do not wait to come off the track till the train approaches you. You will hear the sound of the train well in advance as sound reverberates in the Hills. Wait patiently till the train cross over. You are not in a race here. Walk relaxed and enjoy the surroundings. This is not a busy route and there are very few trains including odd engine combos and freight trains. Yes, you need to watch the shit on the track. But that should not be too much to worry about. In monsoon when it is raining, it gets washed away. Safety is important and not stepping on shit.

We are in Braganza ghat now. We see the glimpse of the first tunnel. Walking in tunnel which is pitch dark means you need to have a powerful torch which we did carry. The dripping water from the top ensured that we walked under canopy of water inside the the tunnel. There is enough space on the side of the track to move even if a train comes. Try and move faster to get out of the tunnel. If not choose a good spot to stay put till the train pass. Walking in the tunnel is definitely an experience. Fortunately when we entered the first tunnel, there were no one in front of us or behind, which meant we were welcomed by an eerie silence and pitch darkness. There are no animals or bats in these tunnels and hence one can proceed without any fear. First tunnel done, we grew in confidence. Whatever initial apprehensions we had got removed and we started walking confidently.

The first tunnel
Brinda - Inside the tunnel
Five KMs on, we leave Karnataka behind and enter the state of Goa.The fourth tunnel is built to resemble a castle. It is a lovely setting. One has to appreciate the aesthetics of the people who built this tunnel. Why on earth did they choose castle for this tunnel? What could be the reason when all other tunnels are bland. Is this because the tunnel is close to a rock which resemble a castle? The track is flanked by rocky terrain, streams and waterfalls on the left side and beautiful valleys with tall peaks and waterfalls on the horizon on the right side. We could spot some lovely waterfalls cascading from the tall peaks whenever the mist lifted. The left side of the track is a treat of small waterfalls all along. It had been raining heavily in the past week which meant all these small little waterfalls were at their glorious best. We did not venture out to walk near these falls as the water flow was heavy. But if you are trekking after monsoon, these are lovely spots to stop for a bite and break.

The Castle
Water falls in the hills ( how we missed our zoom)

We reach Caranzol, the midpoint of the trek. A small railway station, which is more for maintenance of engines than for any passengers. We trudge on even as the clouds open up and rain drench us. The whole valley is mist filled. We could see a glimpse of another tunnel and sort of a bridge. We wait for the rain to reduce and weather to clear a bit giving us some visibility before we start again. After heavy downpour for ten minutes, the sky clears giving us a spectacular view of a bridge with a tunnel at the end of it. We look back to see for any approaching trains and confirming there being none, we cross the bridge quickly and enter the tunnel. This one is drilled through a huge monolith. We admire the skills and guts of railway engineers who made it possible almost 100 years back.

Caranzol Railway station
The bridge and the tunnel - Isn't this spectacular!!
Rain plays hide and seek. We are not bothered. The rain cape has given us good protection so far and shoes though filled with water provides excellent grip on the ground. We continue in the rain and see a yellow board at a distance. We are overjoyed to see a railway station and are sure that it must be Dudhsagar. We are proved correct as we inch closer and greeted by waterfalls on the side as we walk towards the railway station.

The falls is still a KM away from the railway station. We do not want to carry our backpacks. We meet and request the station master if we could leave our backpacks in the railway station. He was initially reluctant. I understood why. He did not want to set a precedence by safekeeping the luggage of trekkers. I tell him that we are also from Railway family - my dad had served in Indian Railways - at which he relents and ask us to leave the backpack. Oh, it was such a relief to remove the backpack and sit for few minutes on a bench in front of Station Master cabin. Next to the cabin was a chaiwallah and we badly needed a hot cup of tea.

Energised by hot cuppa, we were now on the home run. The falls is around 1 KM from railway station and this stretch is beautiful indeed. Rains had given a temporary break and mist seemed to be clearing as well. We cross two back to back small tunnels to hear the roaring sound of the falls. But we don't see any glimpse of it. We are excited and walk briskly. As we walk, we hear the sound of an engine and get off the track. The engines cross us and move towards Castle Rock.

All is well, let the train pass
Dudh Sagur - That's how Portuguese spelt or is it British?
The Engine combo on the way to Castle Rock - notice the water falls in the background.
The penultimate tunnel before the falls
We look up to see the first glimpse of the falls. The sight is actually deceiving as it looks like a small cascade.
The first glimpse of the falls
We walk ahead. Droplets of water from the falls welcome us and after few steps we are in front of the waterfall. It is a WOW feeling. A feeling of accomplishment which removes all fatigue. It is a mighty one. Rains have made the falls into a glorious sight. Cascades of milky white water tumble down rocky terrain. Gurgle of fresh rain water falling from 310 metres fill the valley. It is sheer joy. The mist clears and we get a good view of the water falls. Our joy is short lived as the skies open up and it pours again. Merciless rain. The bridge is wide enough for people to stand and enjoy the sight. One can also climb to a viewpoint on the left side of the falls from where you can see it. Being Saturday, there is a large crowd. We spend half an hour enjoying the vistas of the waterfalls. There is no chance of us going down the stream to take pictures of the bridge with waterfalls in the backdrop. It is risky and we did not want to take chance. We trudge back to Dudhsagar railways station.

The milky Falls - Dudh Sagar - the mighty one!

All the fatigue of trek is gone!!
Spectacular valley view around the falls

The view point next to the falls. Also doubling as shelter for campers
I start chatting with station master. The young bloke is from Orissa and is working in Dudhsagar for last three years. He is happy to be there and is enjoying being in the middle of nature. I ask him when the next train to Kulem is as we wanted to go to Goa. He says that he will put us on a engine so that we reach Kulem faster. He doesn't do that for everyone. Being part of the railway family, he is helping us out. Many trekkers get onto the freight trains or engines to return back. The engine combo - three engines at a time - arrives. He talks to the driver who allows us to hop into the engine in the middle. We throw the backpack, climb the steps and enter the drivers cabin. Along with us two more railway employees also get in. We keep the backpack in the cabin and ask the driver whether we can go out and stand on the side. He says yes, but ask us to hold the handrails. 

Travelling in a diesel engine and in the rain is a blissful experience. It moves slowly and we see myriad of small streams and waterfalls on the way. We cross a tunnel and as soon as we pass it, we are greeted by large cascade of water on us. I look back to see a mini waterfall from the top of the tunnel which fell on us! It was unexpected and thrilling.

The engine ride!
We enter a tunnel........
........and come out with a waterfall on our head!
It is a lovely ride
We could see trekkers from Goa on the trail. We reach Kulem and it is 4 PM. We are wet to the core and i ask the station master when the next train to Madgaon is, the town where we were to be picked by our hotel in Goa. He says, it is at 5.30 PM. We are not inclined to wait and ask him if we can get any taxis. He says yes and ask us to go out of the station to get one. We climb and cross over the bridge. We negotiate with a taxi driver who is willing to take us to Madgaon. We agree on a price and hop into Xylo.

It was a day well spent. A day to remember and cherish. There is a great charm in trekking in monsoon on the railway track. You won't regret and all fatigue will vanish when you see the beauty of nature - Dudhsagar Waterfalls in full glory!

Arun Bhat, a friend of us did the trek to the falls a week back and has done is amazing stop motion video - 3 Minutes - of the complete trek from Castle rock. Please take a look by clicking the link below.

Trek to Dudhsagar - A Fast motion video by Arun Bhat

Getting there

If you plan a trek, you can either start from Castle Rock or Kulem. It is 14 KMs from castle Rock and 11 KMs from Kulem. All trains on Goa - Londa sector stop at both places.

If you are not inclined to trek but want to visit the falls then

a) If coming from Castle rock -

  • It would be better to catch Chennai - Vasco express at Castle Rock at 9.30 AM, get down at Dudhsagar around 10.30 AM. A small trek from railway station will take you to the falls. 
  • If you are planning to go to Goa after visit, you have to catch Amravati Express which will reach Dudhsagar around 1 PM. (Please check the latest timings from station master at Dudhsagar). 
  • If you are planning to return to Castle rock then you can catch Vasco-Chennai express around 3.30 PM or Goa express/Vasco-Bangalore express around 4.30 PM ((Please check the latest timings from station master at Dudhsagar )

b) If coming from Goa side

  • The good train is Amravati Express which starts from Vasco at 7.10 AM and should reach Dudhsagar around 8.15 AM. 
  • If you are planning to return back to Goa, you can catch either Chennai-Vasco express arriving at Dudhsagar around 10.30 AM or Amravati/Kacheguda express arriving at Dudhsagar around 1 PM. (Please check the latest timings from station masters at Dudhsagar station)
  • If you are planning to return to Castle rock then you can catch Vasco-Chennai express around 3.30 PM or Goa express/Vasco-Bangalore express around 4.30 PM ((Please check the latest timings from station master at Dudhsagar )

Time to trek - 5 - 6 Hours

Travel Tips

a) It is good to wear a good trekking shoes. We have seen many walking in normal chappals or sports shoes on the trail. But we don't advise. A good trekking shoe like Forclaz 500 or Forclaz 600 or Woodlands will give you excellent grip on the slippery track. 

b) Always walk on the track and beware of shit spots. Walking on the trail next to track may not be a great option.

c) A high power torch is a must as many tunnels - which are dark - have to be crossed.

d) Take a good rain gear. Walking with an umbrella may not work as it will be windy.

e) Don't worry about leeches. It is part and parcel of the trek. We were lucky. None came near us!

f) Don't be in a hurry. Walk safely. At the same time stop and enjoy the surroundings. It is just lovely.

g) All trains stop at Dudhsagar though there is no authorised stop as such. No tickets will be issued at Dudhsagar. Try and get the return ticket either at Castle Rock or Kulem.

h) There are no cloak rooms to keep your luggage or toilets in Dudhsagar.

i) Except on weekends, you may not find anyone selling eatables or tea/coffee. Make sure you carry eatables with you.

j) Don't venture into the interior of waterfalls or try to climb the rocks or trek down stream. Rocks are slippery and every year there are numerous stories of people falling to death while attempting to climb. Here is one sad story for this year

Pune Girl dies from slipping from rock in Dudhsagar

k) If you are planning to camp during monsoon then there is one shelter near the small church near the station. If you are camping make sure you have all the items which campers generally take along. 

l) Always check out with station master when is the last train. You can always hop on to a freight train/engine by requesting the guard/driver. 

m) Dudhsagar is still a safe place to camp at night if going in a group. Same may not be told for independent women travellers though no untoward incidents have been reported so far.

n) If you are looking for a quiet walk in the woods during this trek, you may be disappointed. Weekend trekkers can be raucous on the track. More so in tunnels and near waterfalls. If you are looking for solitude in the woods, then plan trek on a weekday. Not on a weekend.

If you need any help in planning a trek to Dudhsagar write to us by using the contact form in this blog. Happy to help.

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If you are not a trekking kind of a person but want to enjoy the glory of monsoon in Western ghats, please look at this post in this blog

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Here is a list for experiencing monsoon in India. Click on the link below.

Celebrating Indian Monsoon - A List!

We invite you to read the following interesting posts on this blog

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If you are not game for a trek in monsoon but would love to drive around in Western Ghats, we request you to look at this post in this blog.

Monsoon in Western Ghats - An itinerary to experience it!