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.

Itinerary:
Friday: Overnight journey from Bangalore
Saturday: Alight at Dandeli town, Drive to ‘Dandeli Jungle Camp’, Visit backwaters of Supa dam, Shop for some forest produces at the tribal shop, Visit Syntheri rocks, sunset hike at the homestay
Sunday: Birdwatching at timber depot, river rafting & coracle ride, (Visit Kavala caves or the Siddi tribal village if you have more time), Leave for Bangalore by evening (direct bus from Dandeli or by train from Hubli)

Details:

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 Kavala caves, A coracle ride in the ferocious rapids of the Kali river, a dip in the natural Jacuzzi, crocodile walk is 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 with a small hike into the jungle 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.

The railway trek to Dudhsagar

If you have read my previous 2 posts- The railway adventure and Do’s & don’ts for a monsoon trek, then you’re sure to have had an insight to the adventure part of my trip to Dudhsagar waterfalls. This post is more on the trip and the sightseeing part of the story..

17 of us boarded ‘MAS-Vasco express’ from ‘YPR’ on a Friday night and alighted at ‘Castle rock station’ on the following morning at 9.15.a.m. ‘Castle Rock’ is cute little station that 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. Since we were travelling in monsoon, the station was all green and a treat to all the eyes that had just landed from a concrete city.

With no facilities available anywhere around the station and even the basic offices closed on a weekend, we all freshened up in the washroom of the railway station itself. This is a point from where our railway trek starts. It is less of a trek and more of a walk along the railway track, all the way to our destination: The Dudhsagar waterfalls. But like they say, its is the journey more than the destination that matters, the entire stretch of this trail is what makes the trip all the more special.

We couldn’t and just couldn’t ignore the gazillion scenic spots that we come across for which we had to stop after every minute or 5 minutes of the walk for a photo. The Castle rock railway station itself was so good looking. This green moss laden station is located in the midst of the Braganza Ghats, in the heart of a National park. Take for example, this ART (Accident Relief Train) parked by the side of the tracks. It is adding so much colour to a photospot.

@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 continued to walk in the direction of Dudhsagar, but were unable to ignore the numerous waterfalls we encountered on our way. We stopped every time for photos. We had to walk through a total of 11 railway tunnels before reaching the main waterfalls. The first one can be approached by crossing a girder bridge laid over a scenic view of the valley.

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

After crossing tunnel no.3, we walked slightly off the track, into the woods to see another large waterfall. Then came another waterfall, plunging down inside a vault kind of a structure built into the cliff.

Top: The vault by the trackside; Below: The waterfall within the vault

The 4th tunnel is special. After crossing this tunnel, we would be setting foot in another state altogether. This tunnel marks the border between Karnataka and Goa.

Top: The first tunnel on the Goa side of the land; Below: The location marked where the actual Goa territory starts

After a long walk from there, we crossed tunnel no.5. While still navigating our way with torchlights on the tracks, inside the tunnel, we heard the hooting of a train approaching us from behind. There wasn’t much time for us to get out and hence, we all decided to get down from the track and stick as close as possible to the wall of the tunnel to stay safe. When the goods train arrived, we literally held onto our dear lives. It was dark inside the tunnel and no place to move.

Run for life..!!
Clockwise from top left: A train passing over the girder bridge before tunnel no.1; Exit of tunnel no.2; Light between tunnel no.6&7; A train inside tunnel no.5

The 6th and the 7th tunnels came together. The 7th one was nothing more than a small arch. Then we walked through tunnel no. 8, 9 and 10.

The 10th one was long and dark. And with exiting it, we saw Light at the end of darkness.. We had arrived at the ‘Dudhsagar station’. This is a de-func station and hence, neither the trains stops nor any tickets are issued for passengers who board from here. However, some lucky visitors manage to get a stop here but, they take a risk with a ticket-less travel. But, this is where we all realized that we were all tired by walking along the tracks. But, the fact that our destination was nearby gave us energy.

The DDS station
The DDS station

Then, we proceeded towards the 11th tunnel…. When we were exiting it, we were all hooting and clapping in joy. That’s because we all got our first glance of our destination. The mighty Dudhsagar: “Ocean of Milk”. The feeling was inexplainable. It was a great sense of contentment after a long tiring walk that was alllllll worth it..!! There was now a sudden spike in our energy levels and we all hurried towards the watrefalls. We dumped all our luggage right there, infront of the waterfall and crashed down in awe. As we were basking in the glory of the waterfalls, it had started to get dark. We looked out for space to unpack our luggage and our tents.

Top: The first glimpse of Dudhsagar waterfall out of tunnel 11; Below: Different views of the Dudhsagar waterfall

The only shelter (a small roofed structure) available to pitch a tent was already occupied by a large group who had arrived before us. We had no choice but to camp in the open, just by the side of the railway tracks. We put up a small campfire sort of a thing so that we had enough light to see each other’s face. But mind you, we were in the middle of a monsoon season in the western Ghats. The rain gods who had been kind on us during the entire hike were now playing spoilt sport. The campfire was put off too soon and we managed the rest of the night with our torches.

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

Next morning, we all rose with the sun and spent some peaceful time in watching the water gushing down violently. Apart from freshening up last at Castle rock, it was already 2 days & 2 nights since we had last seen a decent restroom or a bathroom. We looked around to find a little place where we could finish off our stuff in peace. A small waterfall nestled deep inside the woods is what we found instead. All the girls in our group jumped into the water while the guys kept a watch for any trespassers 😉

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” to think of it from a strangers’ perspective, I guess the scene that morning must have been something similar to that. We couldn’t find a place near the waterfall where we could change into dry clothes. Hence, we all wore our jackets over wet clothes and walked 1.5kms towards our tents. On the way, we came across tens of trekkers who desperately stared at us.. I understand the natural human instinct to drool at divine looking girls who are walking wet after getting all soaked in pristine water. Nobody could help the sight.!!

The waterfall where we took our morning shower at Dudhsagar

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..!! It took us to cross the 2 more tunnels to reach the viewpoint. After reaching there and waiting for a few minutes, we finally got the wallpaper worthy photo that we wanted.

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

After a long photo session of the large group that we were and before the crowd who had just arrived in that passenger train would spoil the peace, we headed back to our tents.. We had a round of heavy brunch (carried from home) and slowly packed up. The initial plan was to walk the track all the way to Kulem, but owing to the cruel sun and the tiring walking experience on the tracks on the previous day, we decided to wait to find a train ride, 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 Castle Rock.And with that.. Curtains down to our trip to DDS falls..!!!

Update as on Year 2019:
• Trekking on the tracks in prohibited as it passes through a National park. There is a risk of a human-animal conflict.
• If you wish to visit the Dudhsagar waterfalls, you can sign up with one of the organisers based out of Londa in Karnataka or Kulem in Goa. They can take you through an authorized trail or a 4WD ride to a nearest point can be arranged.

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…

Monsoon retreat- Jog falls

‘Jog’ is a charmer on all Karnataka tourism promotions. Why not? It’s the second highest waterfall in India after all! A glimpse of the mighty Jog at least once in a lifetime is an unwritten rule for every person born or living in Karnataka. And why not see it take a plunge in all its might? This exclusive visit could happen in no better time than the monsoons. So, my mother, brother and I boarded a KSRTC bus on a Saturday night, such that we could reach Shimoga by 6.00.a.m. A jeep’s ride had been arranged by my mother’s colleague to take us from Shimoga to Sagara town. Sagara is the nearest accessible town to Jog falls.

Our itinerary:
Friday: Start from Bangalore by night to Sagara
Saturday: Visit Linganamakki dam and hydroelectric project, The Jog falls, Tyarekoppa Lion & tiger safari’. Start for Bangalore by night

The details:
When we reached Shimoga, it was pouring not just cats & dogs, it was cows & buffaloes. We could barely see the road ahead and with that, we would just fall into any pothole that was covered under the flooded roads. We somehow managed to finally reach Sagara.

Once there, we thought to see the Linganamakki Hydroelectric project that falls on the way to Jog. There also used to be a cable car ride down the reservoir that we were interested to go on. Unfortunately for us, our visit was timed just about when permission to visit the project was cancelled for some security reasons. Nevertheless, the view of the Linganamakki dam and the scenery around almost evened up for the miss.

Top: the view of Sharavati valley; Below: The Linganamakki dam

And then, with an uphill drive of about six kilometers, we reached the place which was the sole motive of our travel from Bangalore. “The Jog”!! But, there was more disappointment awaiting us on our arrival. It was something that caused us total dismay…!!! The clouds paired up with thick mist had enshrouded the waterfalls completely. And our entire surrounding had just blanked out with mist. There was absolutely nothing in front of us except the mist and more mist… To top it all, it was raining cats and dogs. There was no Jog, nothing. ‘What an unfortunate day for us’, we thought and decided to return after a futile wait.

We turned our backs and started to walk towards the jeep with a heavy heart. As we did, I just happened to turn back and check on our luck with the waterfalls. And yes…. we were LUCKY…!! The mist was slowly clearing out… And we could faintly spot the Sharavathi streaming down in full action.

As we stood for two minutes more, the view was then all clear: The Mighty King (Raja), the Graceful Queen (Rani), the Thunderous Roarer and the Storming Rocket – YES… We saw them! We felt a great sense of achievement, very contrary to what we had felt just a couple of minutes ago. While we got some nice clicks, the mist enclothed the falls, back again. We waited for it to clear out to capture a few more photos because this time, we knew that the action was repetitive.

Jog, from different view points

After a while we walked around to get different views of the falls. We went to the top of the waterfalls, walked down closer to the bottom of the waterfall, locatiosn from where we got the side view of the Jog, and so on… It was quite an adventure in itself to get around these difficult spots, especially considering the heavy rains and the slippery path. But, the excitement of getting to these locations was all worth the risk! After having an eyeful and heart full of ‘The JOG falls’, we decided to say good-bye to the place.

On our way back to Shimoga, we visited ‘Tyarekoppa Lion & tiger safari’. Along with spotting a lot of deer, sambars and peacocks, we also counted on the big cats like the lion and tigers on a safari ride. It wasn’t a typical safari you would have in the wild, but it was more like taking a ride inside a fenced enclosure. But, it is a well maintained place and great if you are travelling with children.

Roarrr, a tiger at the safari

And that was all the time we had with us. We had almost reached the end of a fun day-Sunday and we boarded the bus back to Bangalore at night. We had to gear up for the crazy week that was awaiting us…

Conclusion: An experience of the monsoon in the western ghats and a glimpse of the Jog in the monsoon are retreats that should go into the bucket list of everyone visiting India.