If there is one thing you do not want to do as a college kid then it must be spending money, atleast too much of it. It hurts to take out those little blue and green things with a smiling picture of the father of our nation. Having your college located in a touristy place makes this act all the more painful.
But we are in college. And we need to have fun.
And the most fun you can have while not wondering about your financials has to be a trip to the Dudhsagar waterfalls.
I have been there twice. Each time, we spent less than two blue Mohandas Gandhis.
The 10 kilometer trek does two things.
1. It drains the energy out of you and makes you feel parts of your feet you never realized existed.
2. It draws you towards the pool below the falls like a child to an ice-cream truck.
|The Pool - it makes you wonder|
Such is the appeal of the cold waters of the pool, that you lose all your inhibitions, don't give a thought about the shape of your body, the bits of flab hanging about, and strip down to your lowest level of comfort to get into it.
As you dip your toe into the chilly water, you feel a shiver up your spine. Your feet, still aching from the walk, tingles. As you lower yourself into the pool and find yourself a rock to stand upon, you let out a groan of relief. The buoyancy feels great.
Then, as you go further in, your testicles freeze. For a brief moment, time is suspended and you stand there, half inside, letting the chilly water swamp you. Then the moment passes and you get comfortable.
Now, you take deep breaths and go further into the pool - inch by inch - feeling daggers tear into your skin - by this time realizing that 007's fight in those icy waters in Skyfall would have been impossible.
Finally you are neck-deep in the water. You float lightly, your toes propping your head just above the surface.
To complete the occasion, you take a deep breath and submerge yourself. You come out feeling fresher and your thoughts seem clearer than before. Suddenly, all the tiredness and pain are gone.
|The Trail - Gets rockier and steeper as you approach the fall|
The trek itself is a lot of fun. The only not too good part of the trek is the fact that the trail is also the route taken by the Jeeps. There are small stretches where you have to stand on the very edge of the trail, over a considerable drop behind you, to let the huge vehicles pass. They are noisy, raise a lot of dust and are full of tourists taking pics of almost everything, including the trekkers. Fortunately, they are just punctuation in an otherwise epic and rewarding journey. And as a plus point, they are often full of very good looking (read hot) Russian females. :D
The route goes right through the thick forest. The trees around the track provide a comfortable shade which makes the walking easier in the climate of Goa. The sounds of the forest are very pleasant. Birds chirping, leaves cracking underneath your feet, the slight breeze stirring the leaves and occasionally, something slithering behind the thick bushes.
Then there are the small streams which you cannot avoid getting wet in. Varying from ankle to knee deep, when you come along one towards the latter part of the trek you welcome the cold waters. The pebbles and small stones massage your feet too, making the next few hundred meters easier to walk.
|Our Lunch Spot|
More specifically lunch, which was a modest affair. But the long walk whets your appetite to the point of gluttony. So even the simple meal we had carried with us - two large loaves of bread, a bottle of jam, a jar of cheese spread and a pouch of ketchup - was done in a matter of minutes. We pampered ourselves with paper plates and disposable spoons and set about to make the tastiest lunch ever. We lavished the sweet and citrusy jam and the creamy cheese on the bread. I even mixed up the two. It was brilliant. We happily munched on it, while enjoying the music of the waterfall and the view of the pool and those aforementioned Russians in it. :D
The Return Journey:
The return trek is the toughest part of the day. Obviously, after having walked so much and having had such a great dip in the pool and having eaten one of the best meals of your life, you don't want to ever leave the place. But you are on a deadline. So you haul yourself and tear your eyes away from the falls and start trotting back. This time, the pain kicks in faster and you realize about 15 minutes into the journey that the next 9 kilometers are going to be your toughest.
As always, on the return journey, we take a detour, about one-third into the way, onto the railway tracks. Oh wait, I forgot to mention this. The tracks go right above the fall. It's another exciting thing to watch, a train chug by way above over the falls. So yes, we get on to the track. Now, the tracks are a tougher thing to walk on. Firstly, the adjacent sleepers are placed too close to each other while the alternate ones are too far to pace yourself. Secondly, the sides of the tracks are filled with stones for. Walking on them is no easy task either. But the track route is about 500 meters shorter than the trail. And since we are on a deadline, we decide to take it. Besides, it's fun to walk beside a train. You suddenly admire an engine's immense power and see a kind of beauty in its simplicity.
The first time, we had a good vendor show us a shortcut to a point where we can join the tracks, saving us atleast 20 minutes. This time, we had no such luck and when we got to the tracks we were pretty much in a fix. We had to walk the fastest 7000 meters of our lives on this terrain to catch our train from the next station.
Or we could flag down a train and board it to the next stop.
Which was what happened. Well, atleast four of managed to do so.
|Our ride back - read on for the story behind it.|
A goods train pulled by and stopped at the signal we were waiting under. Eight young guys with backpacks, looking ragged and slightly unruly, politely asked the driver of the train if they could board it. I'm not too surprised that he said no. So we stood aside and let the train go, literally 1 feet away from our noses, and as the rear guard cabin pulled up, we once again asked the guard. He said yes, but only to two of us. But another guy, already on board, also hitching a ride in the back told us to board anyway. About this time, the train gained speed again. Two of us ran and caught it. The guard seemed perturbed. But the stranger pulled those two on. By the time we realized that we can catch it, we were nearly 100 meters behind. Two more of us ran. And did catch it. As I held on to the handle, feeling it pull away from me, I put my faith in my legs and jumped. And managed to slip my foot into the step. The stranger held out a hand and pulled me over.
We sat there on the floor, watching the forest rush by, feeling the wind and marveling at what we had just done. We thanked the stranger and got off at the station twenty minutes later.
On the train we learnt, by overhearing his conversations, that the stranger was a poacher returning from a kill.
Eventually, the rest of the guys made it back just in time to catch the train back to Vasco.
Not many people trek to the place. Both times, we were the only ones doing it. But I'd say you should do it atleast once. At the end of the day, you will be exhausted. Especially if you are a bunch of lazy, unfit engineers like we are. When you get back, you hit your bed hard and sleep one of the soundest sleeps of your life. The next day your body hurts - your shoulders feel rusty and your feet seem heavy. But you feel happy. You have loads of pictures to see, relive and share. And the best part, you have a story to tell to everyone.
|The rail bridge - The falls can be seen from any south bound train from Madgaon.|
|The falls become visible only towards the very end of the trail.|
|It is a thing of beauty.|
As promised, this trip is low on investment and high on returns. A measly Rs. 20 is the cost of the train tickets. Tickets to the fall cost Rs. 20 per person. Camera tickets extra. Carry rations like we did. It's the best thing to do. What we had was for a grand total of Rs. 300, split 8 ways. Add to it one or two bottles of coke or water (Rs. 50 for two cokes) purchased before the trek and the cost of the dinner (Rs. 60 per person) we had back in Vasco (at Kashi Dairy - cheap food, good food, fast service and loads of butter on and in everything, perfect way to end the day) made it probably the most rewarding experience we have ever had Goa.
For a total of Rs. 190 per person. Talk about inexpensive now.
How to get there:
The Vasco-Kulem passenger train, which leaves from Vasco at 7:30 in the morning and leaves back from Kulem at 5:15 in the evening is the beast way to get there. The ticket costs Rs. 10 one-way, and the route from Vasco to Madgaon is very scenic, over the beaches of Majorda and Cansaulim. And on holidays, it is not at all crowded. The 10 kilometer trail begins a short way from Kulem station. The locals will tell you that the trail is closed to walkers. Ignore them. Jeeps are available at the beginning of the trail. We never bothered to enquire the rates.
Dudhsagar is best visited from about October to May. The falls are dangerous and travel is a strict no during the monsoon season. The pool has whirlpools sometimes and it is dangerous to go too deep into it, even if you are a good swimmer. Wear a pair of sturdy and comfortable shoes, with a good grip, that doesn't bite you even the slightest. You might want to remove and carry them across the streams to prevent them from getting wet. Or you can simply walk across wearing them and not mind your feet squirming and squishing inside. The trek can also be done in floaters if you are comfortable walking over uneven surfaces in them.