Tag Archives: Dudhsagar

Camping in the Indian forests of the African tribes- Dandeli Jungle Camp

Being abundantly blessed with natural beauty, Anshi National park and Dandeli Tiger reserve is one of the first hotspots of the elusive black panthers in India. Apart from its paper mills, Dandeli is also known as the ‘Rishikesh of the South’ for its river rafting in the waters of River Kali. As if these weren’t reasons enough for me to backpack, I got invited to stay at the ‘Dandeli Jungle Camp’. What better way to reconnect the lost bond with nature than camping in the woods? I jumped to grab-in when opportunity struck! This was a Solo-trip that was long due and I had alighted for sunrise at the Dandeli bus stand on a Saturday morning.

After a 30mins drive through the forests to Pradhani, a further off-roading of 2kms from the main road lead me to this simple homestay and camp run in the lap of nature amid the woods. The eerie silence of the elusive woods and the stridulations of the crickets instantly calmed my soul by responding to the deep calls of nature. A basic cottage with all the essential and neat amenities was awaiting me in the midst of the jungle overlooking a farm of areca and mangoes. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be, to feed the wanderlust and nomad in me for the weekend. I was excited to be greeted by Malabar giant squirrels and sambar deer at my doorstep to say the least. One can also avail their tenting facilities with bon-fire if it’s a bunch of friends traveling together. Mr.Dharmesh, the ever smiling owner of the property says that the camp was started by a French lady 3 decades ago from whom he has taken over so that he could settle down in the woods after he quit his well paying job at one of the top-star hotels in Bangalore. He had planned a detailed itinerary for me and I can’t thank him enough for his warm hospitality. After dumping my luggage and a nice lunch, I set out for some exploration.

View from the Supa dam backwaters
View from the Supa dam backwaters

A stroll along the dwindling lonely road on the backwaters of Supa dam offered a panoramic view of the distant hills, only if there was good rainfall- it would have been a gorgeous sight. After a quick stop-over at the tribal shop to relish a glass of kokum juice and buy some jackfruit chips and papads to take back home, I was taken to Syntheri rocks. This is a very beautiful little place located deep in the woods and formed by rich mineral ores that have formed beautiful rock patterns by standing the test of time. A drive to the Kavla caves, A coracle ride in the ferocious rapids of the Kali river, a dip in the natural Jacuzzi, crocodile walk are some of the other activities included in the package that kept me busy through the day. An evening walk in the woods around the property with a personal guide was a memorable time spent identifying the calls of various birds and inhabitants of the forest. The large number of hornbills that fly into their nests in this forest at sunset or catching the sunrise from my window are only some of the fancy things that my stay offered to me.

Syntheri rocks
Syntheri rocks, Photo by: Gowtham Shastry

The next day, Mr.Dharmesh personally dropped me off for the early morning bird watching walk that was arranged at the Dandeli timber depot. This first time experience of birding is something that I will cherish for a long time and is written about as a separate post. A bird watching tour around the depot where over 150 bird species could be spotted on any given day- was the highlight of my trip to Dandeli!

So, the next big agenda was meeting the Siddhis- The tribal community endemic to the Kali reserve region who are believed to be of the African origin. Be it chilling with them over some rustic music or trying their favourite delicacy- the red ant/ termite chutney, the experience is sure to leave one amused and feel time travelled.

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A coracle ride in the Kali River, Photo by: Gowtham Shastry

With so many activities included in the package that kept me on toes through the 2 days I stayed at this property, it is a high recommendation from me. If you wish to extend your stay by another day, you have no dearth of things to do- from river rafting, to a canopy walk and visit to Dudhsagar falls, all can be arranged by the camp guys themselves. After freshening up at the camp, I started my journey back to Bangalore. I took a KSRTC bus from Dandeli to Hubli from where I had booked my train. Whoa! Such a wonderful trip!

Dandeli Jungle Camp’ is an offbeat stay which does not have its own webpage or have direction boards to keep commercialization at check. From the time I alighted at the bus stand till the time I boarded for return, my entire trip was managed by www.dandeli.com through whom my package was booked. The connectivity of public transport within the reserve area is scarce and being a solo traveler, all my travel hassles were taken care by these wonderful organizers.

"Dude-The-Sagar".. Finally..!!

If you have read my previous 2 posts- The railway adventure & Dos and don’ts , you’re sure to have got an insight to the adventure part of the trip..  Anyways.. now the trip part of the story.. 🙂

17 of us boarded MAS-Vasco exprs from YPR on Friday night and alighted at Castle rock station the next morning at 9.15.a.m. Castle Rock is cute little station which divides the village into two- on one side is the railway colony, school, hospital, offices etc. and on the other side is the town(if at all it is called so) with basic amenities like a grocery store and a few petty shops. The station is all green and is a treat to the eyes which just landed from a concrete city.

@Castle rock station- in the midst of the Braganza GhatsART a.ka. Accident Relief Train is parked by the side
@Castle rock station- in the midst of the Braganza Ghats
ART a.ka. Accident Relief Train is parked by the side

We started to walk towards Dudhsagar- encountering numerous waterfalls where we stopped each time to take good photos..

The entrance to Castle rock adventure camp
The entrance to Castle rock adventure camp

A total of 11 tunnels before you reach the waterfalls, plus 2 to reach the view point. The 1st one can be approached by crossing a girder bridge watching a scenic view of the valley.

Tunnel no.7 (3)
The girder bridge
The Rock formations- View from the bridge
The Rock formations- View from the bridge
The tunnel no.2 exit
The tunnel no.2 exit

The 2nd tunnel is the longest-at 624m. and the most beautiful one which resembles an entrance into a Castle.

A waterfall we explored after tunnel no.3

A waterfall we explored after tunnel no.3

With the 3rd one came a waterfall within a vault..

The cave by the side of our way
The cave by the side of our way
The waterfalls within the vault by the rail-side
The waterfalls within the vault by the rail-side
Goa territory starts here
Goa territory starts here

We crossed Goa border after finding our way out of the 4th tunnel.

Goa is just a tunnel away.. yay..!!
Goa is just a tunnel away.. yay..!!

After a long walk there on, we crossed tunnel no.5 where we were sidetracked by a goods train.

Run for life..!!
Run for life..!!

6th n 7th came together, 7th being nothing more than a small arch. Then we crossed 8, 9 and 10…

Light at the end of darkness..
Light at the end of darkness..

Finally we had a ray of hope after this 1..We had reached Dudhsagar station-all tired after a long walk in hot sun while on a monsoon trek 😦

The DDS station
The DDS station

Then, the 11th…. We were all hooting, clapping in joy as we were getting out of this one- And there we saw the 1st glance of the mighty “Ocean of Milk”.. Totally.. It was a a great sense of contentment after a long tiring walk- it was alllllll worth it..!!

Just out of tunnel no.11
Just out of tunnel no.11
The 1st glance
The 1st glance
Torch lights to keep us up all night :)
Torch lights to keep us up all night 🙂

The only shelter available to pitch a tent was already occupied by a large group and we had no choice but to tent in the open.. As we were basking in the glory of the waterfalls, it was soon dark.. We put up a small campfire sort of a thing so that we had enough light to see each other’s face- but the rain gods who did not appear during the trek spoilt sport now. We had to manage the rest of the night with our torches..

It poured cats and dogs the whole night.. The roaring noise of the waterfalls at the backdrop and the loud hooting sound of the train once in every half an hour, the tent pitched right next to the track with the waterfalls on the otherside- It was indeed a night to remember..!!

Next morning, we all rised with the sun and spent some peaceful time beside the violent waters..

The sea-of-milk.. Truly..!!
The sea-of-milk.. Truly..!!

It was already 2 days & 2nights since we last saw the restroom or a bathroom, we looked around to find a little place where we could finish that as well.. A small waterfalls nestled deep inside the woods- We girls just jumped into the water  while the guys kept a watch on trespassers at bay.. 😉

This is where every man wished he was that morning ;)
This is where every man wished he was that morning;)

Mythology says that the “DevaKannikas or the Apsaras are often seen bathing in the midst of the woods  before sunrise.. and if one is lucky, he can see them walk by in wet clothes” LOL… something similar to that, We couldn’t find a place to change, we all wore our jackets and walked 1.5kms towards our tents. On the way, we came across tens of trekkers who desperately stared at us.. Anyways.. the pristine water and the divine girls- deadly combo- Nobody could help the sight.!!

The Apsarakonda ;)
The Apsarakonda;)

We were told that the passenger train would cross the waterfalls by 9.15.a.m. This meant that we had to be at the view point by that time to get that perfect Internet photo..!!

Finally.. We got what we wanted..!!
Finally.. We got what we wanted..!!

And so we did…. After a long photo session and before the crowd who had just arrived in the train would spoil the peace, we headed back to our tents.. We had a round of heavy brunch and slowly packed up.. The initial plan was to walk the track all the way to Kulem, but owing to the cruel sun, we decided to take a goods’ train either to Kulem or Castle rock. We missed the goods’ train to Kulem by a few minutes and so  we had to wait at the Dudhsagar station for the passenger train going towards CLR.

And with that.. Curtains down to our trip to DDS falls..!!!Note:
1. Clicking credits to “Sam”- our official photographer during the entire trip..!!
2. If you’re camping there, carry tents- no matter what season it is.. Be prepared to get mobbed by monkeys
3. There is a guy who sells tea, dinner on Saturdays & breakfast on Sundays
4. You get booze near the shelter on a weekend night
5. There is a restroom (decent enough in the jungle) attached to the shelter
6. Buy a return ticket from Kulem or Castle rock depending on the direction you are heading to..

The railway adventure from Dudhsagar

< 16-Sept-12>

When you are back from a trek to Dudhsagar and talk about a “Railway adventure”- the usual things that strike anybody are train spotting, tunnels, wild encounters, the rail line that passes across the mighty waterfalls so on and so forth..!!! And there is ample information available all over the net about this walk along the railway tracks… So that’s the railway adventure…!!!

“NO…!!! ” I’m not here to speak about such a lame adventure- What if we did not come across any wildlife on our way..? There is always something even better that comes across as a compensation for not having any wild encounters..!!

We were all on our return part of our trip.. and were just happy that everything went on well so far.. And then began the actual adventure unfolding one by one..

Scene no.1:

We were mocked at, at Dudhsagar station when we enquired about the tickets. Why that? We had even requested the person at the ticket counter in Castle Rock to issue return tickets from Kulem to Londa as we did not want to take any chances. But, our requests were all turned down telling that it was not needed. Like every other tourist/trekker who comes to Dudhsagar, we too decided to travel ticket-less till Castle Rock station. There were more than 500 people who got into the Vasco-Nizamuddin express with us- all without a ticket..!! This is nothing unusual as each and every blog on the net speaks about ticket-less travel. In less than 5 minutes after the train had started, the TT came asking for our tickets. We honestly displayed our tickets(from Londa to Bangalore). He told us to show the tickets from Dudhsagar to Londa and we told him this was the only one we had. His voice sounded a little harsh this time. We explained all that we knew about the reason for this kind of travelling.. But now he told us to pay a fine of 500Rs per head. 17X500???? Noway..!!!! Finally.. he took us all to one end of the bogie and settled the scene for a total of Rs.460. That too- Till Londa 🙂 Now it calls for an adventure of travelling ticket-less right..??
But that’s not the case, everybody knows that there is no ticket issued from DDS, so this kind of checking is a major scam happening in these trains..

All ticket-less trekkers ready to jump into the Vasco-Nizamuddin exprs
All ticket-less trekkers ready to jump into the Vasco-Nizamuddin exprs

Scene no.2:

Onboard Rani Chennamma Express:

Approx.9.00.p.m.:  17 of us are playing dumbcharades, all seated in the same compartment and the entire bogie looking at us in awe(some jealous of us for the fun we were having, some surprised of the size of the gang, some enjoying the game with us, and some definitely pissed with the loud noise we were making). 2 police men walk across the bogie without bothering to notice anybody in particular.

Approx.11.00.p.m.:   We all decide to go to sleep as we were all pooped out of the long trek and most of us had to go to office the next morning. All are dispersed from the seats and preparing the bed.

Approx.11.30.p.m.:   Less than 2 minutes before we turned the lights off.. The 2 policemen appear out of nowhere..

“What’s going on here? We have received a call from the control room that there is a lot of noise coming from this bogie. Other passengers have complained about it..!!”

“But, we are sorry Sir, We had stopped playing half an hour ago and were just about to hit the bed”

“What are you playing with all these girls I say? and You.. dressed up like Y*su Chr*sta….” pointing out at XYZ..

XYZ got pissed off and revolted, “Mind your tongue, how dare you talk like that……”

The rest of us dragged him away before the scene got worse..

“Oh not just causing public nuisance, now you are fighting with a cop huh? All of you get off the train at Davangere station and lets talk about it in the station” the Cop asserted..

“But Sir, We will keep quiet now on and take responsibility not to disturb others. We are sorry..!!”

“We don’t know all that, get down at the next station or else pay a fine of 1000Rs. per head”

“Please consider, girls are travelling with us. We can’t get down in the middle of the night and we are on our way back, we don’t have so much money either”

“Just get down and lets see at the station”

This went on till approx.1.30.a.m and the entire bogie was watching the fun with no one even bothering to support us considering that we were all kids(or something like that, atleast out of courtesy)

Finally we all pooled in all the ‘Tens’ we had and settled the matter with Rs.500. A toll for absolutely no mistake of ours..!!

“The Indian Police”..!!! They are more than wild and entertaining who could well give an excellent replacement for the Orangutans- which are critically endangered.!!

Anything for money….. There is NOTHING that can be done to eliminate corruption in our country..!! We all speak volumes about a corruption free nation but we ourselves promote it in absolute helplessness..!! And Ohh?? Safety and respect for women???? what does that mean? I don’t remember coming across any term like that during my journey…