Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Explore Goa: Dudhsagar.

Dudhsagar Waterfalls
Dudhsagar (which literally means "sea of milk") is a waterfall on the Mandovi river, and a must-see destination for tourists. The falls dry up into a trickle during the dry seasons (January to May) but provide an awe-inspiring view during the monsoon season (June to September) - as the heavy monsoon water gushes over the mountain.

Dudhsagar is in a very remote location and not accessible by car or bicycle. I had a number of options to visit the place:
1. Ask my brother to drive me to the falls in his 4x4 SUV (most convenient).
2. Go on one of the tourist vehicles that take people to Kulem by car - and then a bumpy 1 hour ride to the waterfalls in a 4x4.

How about Trekking?

The idea of trekking all the way to the waterfalls came to me when I was chatting with my friend Richard. Richard is a German married to a Goan and now lives in Goa. Richard loves to bike, trek and walk - and he has probably seen more of Goa than 99% of the Goan population. Richard mentioned that he has done the Dudhsagar trek on a number of occasions and even camped overnight at the falls. I was intrigued and felt that if a German can do a trek in Goa, then a fit Goan (that's me) should have no problem doing it too. I asked Richard for more details. Ever the efficient German that he is, his directions were not only precise, they were actually way too precise for me. They went something like this:

1. Get to the Margao train station at 7:50 am. Notice the time. It's not "Quarter to eight" or "Just before Eight". It's 7:50 am.  Very precise. Very German.
2. Get a ticket to Kulem on the local train that leaves at 8:10 am from Margao.
3. Once you reach Kulem (which is the last stop for the local train), walk on the railway tracks for 50 minutes.
4. You will see a dirt track near the railway tracks on the left. Exit the railway track and get on the dirt track. Walk for 2 hours and you will reach the falls.
5. The last train leaves Kulem at 5:15 pm so make sure you leave the falls by 2:00 p.m. in order to reach the train station in time.

So essentially, a 6 hour walk (3 hours either way). Well within my physical limits.

As I was staying at my sisters place in Margao, getting to the station at 7:50 a.m. was not a problem. Well, maybe it was 7:55 when I reached. After all, I am a Goan at heart and Susegad  is in our genes.

Margao Railway Station
I was amazed to learn that the ticket to Kulem costs only Rs. 5/-. That is 10 cents. To put that in perspective, a run-down tea shop charges me 5 rupees for a cup of tea. So for the price of a cup of tea, you can journey on the Indian Railways from Margao to Kulem (a distance of over 50 kilometers that takes around 1 hour). Super.

A group of guys were passing their time by playing card games waiting for the train to arrive. When I took their picture, they started joking and asking me if their picture will be published in the newspaper and cause a scandal because they were caught playing card games.

Guys playing card games while waiting for the train to arrive.
The train finally arrived at 8:10 a.m. It was mostly empty, so I got a nice window seat.

The Vasco-Kulem local train.
The train finally took off. For a local train, it moves pretty fast. The noise of the engine and the beautiful landscape made me sleepy. The weather was absolutely stunning with bright puffy clouds. Great day for landscape photography.

View from train on the way to Margao-Kulem.
People waiting for the train to pass.
We finally reached Kulem at 9:30 a.m. I was planning to pick up some snacks and drinks at the station to carry with me on the journey and was horrified to learn that the shop there only has water and potato crisps. I was cursing myself for not picking up some energy bars in Margao. Now it was too late. The crisps will have to provide the fuel for my body for the next 3 hours of walking.

I started off with my trek. Walking on the railway track is a bit of a problem because of all the gravel.

Walking on the railway track.
There is a small path on the right side of the track, so I decided to use that instead. Walking on the path was much better, even though its a bit muddy due to the recent rains in Goa. I saw a few women returning with wood that they foraged from the forest.

Women returning with wood from the forest.
The women seemed a little worried when I took their picture, but relaxed after I spoke to them in Konkani.

After about 1 hour (I guess I was not walking at the same pace as Richard or Richard does not waste time taking pictures of people walking by), I finally saw the dirt track that Richard mentioned. This track is used by the 4x4 to transport tourists to Dudhsagar.

4x4 taking tourists to Dudhsagar.
As I got on to the dirt track, I was greeted with puzzled looks by the passing tourists. I must have looked like a strange specimen to them. A local walking with camera gear & tripod in the middle of the huge forest. Certainly sane people don't do that?. I put on my dark shades and moved along.

Normally, these 4x4 leave a huge plume of red dust as they zip past. This would be a disaster for trekkers as the dust settles on the body, clothes and all the gear. Luckily, it had rained 2 days back, so the trail was still wet. Walking was a pleasure, though my white shoes complained as they started turning red.

I hit my first obstacle after about 30 minutes. It is a small brook that I had to cross by jumping over rocks. The 4x4, on the other hand, just zipped through.

Small brook on the way to Dudhsagar.
The second brook that I encountered was a bit bigger. This required me to remove my shoes and wade through the water. I had read that leeches might be around in the water after the rains so I was a bit worried crossing the water. I had even carried salt with me in case one of them decided to nibble on my body. Luckily, there were no leeches around.

The brooks provides opportunities for low-shutter speed photography.

ND (Neutral Density filter) + tripod for low-shutter photography.
I finally reached my destination. A big board greeted my hard effort of trekking for 3 hours.

Entrance to Dudhsagar Waterfalls.
As this is December, the waterfalls are not that spectacular as the water is drying up. The beautiful white clouds, and clear day still makes it a "wow" experience.

Dudhsagar Waterfalls panoramic view.
Fast flowing water at the foot of the waterfall.
Water flowing off - to eventually become River Mandovi.
One will be forgiven if he feels that he is suddenly and mysteriously transported to a place in Russia. Everyone seemed to be talking in Russian.

People enjoying the water (mostly Russians).
If there is one thing you can be sure to find anywhere in Goa, it's beer. Even in the middle of the forest, there is no shortage of quality beer. A perfect way to enjoy the natural beauty of our Dudhsagar.

Kingfisher beer.....on the rocks!!!
The area is teeming with monkeys who come for the free food. There are large banners warning tourists not to feed the monkeys, but no one seems to be paying attention to the signs. I warned a few Russians to stop feeding the monkeys - but in the absence of any law-enforcement person in the area, it is very difficult to do anything about it, short of hitting them on the head with one of the big rocks. Sometimes, it was hard to figure out who the actual monkeys are.

Monkeys at Dudhsagar falls.
Time to head back to the train station. I packed my bags, had a beer and some chocolates to fuel my walk back and headed back on the track. The sun was now mostly behind clouds and the forest was getting darker. Strange animal sounds all around. I picked up my pace.

Forest getting darker.
I finally reached the railway track and jumped of the dirt track and continued with my journey on the train track. A passing train greeted me with a loud horn.

Train going towards Kulem.
I met a railway worker. I had passed him earlier and he had given me helpful suggestions. We chatted for a while. He explained how he has to walk all along the tracks checking for any problems with the track. He carries equipment to hammer in any loose clips.

Indian Railway worker.
I finally reached Kulem station - exhausted after my 6 hour trek, but pleased with myself for doing something unique.


Anonymous said...

Very nice travelogue Cajie. I would really love to do this in June but cant think of a 3 hour walk. So can I go by train to Kullem and then take the 4x4 from there. Is it easily available? or do we have to book from someplace. I heard its preferable to do this in Oct Nov. but am visiting end May - mid June. Would it be worthwhile at this time? Thanks. Surya

Cajie said...

Thanks Surya for the compliment.
You are right - Mid June is not the right time to visit the place. The monsoon, most likely, would have started by then. The 4x4 will not go once the monsoons start because the area gets flooded.
Also, if the rains have not yet started, the falls will be just a trickle at this time and it will be very hot.
However, if you can manage it in May, go for it. Go to Kullem and take the 4x4. They are very easily available and well-organized.

Anonymous said...

can we travel till kulem with a bike and park there and then trek to the falls? is parking facility available in and around Kulem railway station.?

Cajie said...

Yes, of course. You can leave your bike opposite the Kulem Railway station. There is a parking area there.
Last year, we did this trek again, but we came to Kulem by car.

enthusiast said...

Hey... it seems to be a memorable experience.. I have a query... m visiting goa in mid June. .. so is it possible to visit dudhsagar during that time..? And in monsoon will it be safe and do we have any option other than trekking. .?

enthusiast said...

Hey... it seems to be a memorable experience.. I have a query... m visiting goa in mid June. .. so is it possible to visit dudhsagar during that time..? And in monsoon will it be safe and do we have any option other than trekking. .?

Cajie said...

June is a definite no-no for this trek. The uncertain monsoons can result in flooding, and could be quiet dangerous.

Aditya Verma said...

Checkout this video on DudhSagar Trek.

Aditya Verma said...

Checkout this video on Dudhsagar Trek