The Western Ghats is one of the most green and serene places in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world. The area literally bursts with colour each time it rains and I was fortunate enough to explore it during the monsoon season.
I haven’t watched Chennai Express. So, No, the bollywood movie starring Shahrukh Khan didn’t motivate me to visit Doodhsagar Falls (Doodh:Milk + Sagar:Sea). What did motivate me to explore this gem of a place was my absolute love for travel and my undying need to efficiently utilize long weekends. While planning a family road trip to Goa in July 2014, I came across this place and as soon as I read about it and saw the pictures online, I knew I had to head there soon. I was a bit disappointed when I learnt that I wouldn’t be able to drive to this place during my Goa road trip, but the alternative approach gave me all the more reason to look forward to this journey to Doodhsagar which I undertook within a month of returning from my Goa road trip.
Situated in the Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary and Mollem National Park on the Karnataka Goa border, this magnificent waterfall formed by the Mandovi River can be accessed only by train during the monsoon season. I finalized the dates and wrote long descriptive mails (with pictures) to convince friends and colleagues to join me.
And then there were 4. 🙂
Two of my friends boarded the train to Goa from Chennai (the famous Chennai Express) and my best friend (now husband) and I joined them in from Bangalore. Bangalore to Goa is an overnight journey and I anxiously waited for the morning so that I could glance outside the window while crossing the Western Ghats. Castle rock is the last station in Karnataka on this route after which the next station is Kullem in Goa. We had two options here. The first was to get off at Castle Rock and hike on the railway track for 14 km towards the waterfall. This is the popular (read crowded) route. The second option was to get off at the non-functional Doodhsagar station and hike for 12 km towards Kullem station in Goa or back to Castle Rock. We decided to go with option 2 and continued by train.
The journey from Castle Rock to Doodhsagar can really not be described by words. Imagine sitting by the window and staring at all the shades of green you can possibly imagine. In my opinion monsoon is the best season to visit this place and I was thrilled to pass through mossy tunnels and old Portuguese ruins amidst lush greens of the Ghats. This being a long weekend, the place was packed with uncountable tourists on the tracks headed towards the falls. After passing through the winding railway track and crossing numerous tunnels the train stopped at the Doodhsagar station. This is not a proper station and there was no platform so we had to jump off the train which made us realize the importance of platforms.
Doodhsagar Waterfall is 1 km from the station. Walking on the railway track was something new and was definitely not as straight-forward as it sounds. Moreover, the tunnels (which were many in number) were pitch dark with small streams of water trickling down. It rained on and off while we were there but the sound of the waterfall kept us going.
And finally we got the first view of the falls and massive it was. I was flabbergasted seeing the amount of water gushing down this 4-tiered waterfall. It was a priceless moment; standing on the railway bridge with milky white water above and below and enjoying nature at its absolute best. Everything was perfect and then the sound of the mighty waterfall was interrupted by an approaching goods train. Everyone rushed to the sides of the bridge and gave way to the chugging train because thankfully the train operator was thoughtful enough to honk as there were lots of people on the track.
After climbing up to the little viewing platform at the bridge and clicking loads of pictures, we proceeded on our hike towards Kullem station in Goa. The viewpoint where you get the entire waterfall in one frame was 1 km away. We waited 5 minutes and luckily got the perfect view of a train on the bridge with the majestic sea of milk in the background.
The next few hours involved a lot of walking on the railway track, dodging trains and crossing long, dark tunnels. At some point there were dirt tracks running parallel to the railway track with bike taxis plying people from Goa towards the falls. We also wandered away from the railway track to the adjacent forest for snack breaks and discovered many mini streams and waterfalls.
We walked 6 hours on the track to reach the deserted Kullem railway station. We were elated that we reached before sun-down, as planned. Here we had tea and snacks while wiaitng for our night train. The return journey to Bangalore was on the same night so we had a few hours to kill and played UNO at the railway station.
All in all, it was a super hectic day but it was a day well spent with cherished friends.
Some other things worth mentioning:
- Although there are no officially designated camping spots, I’ve read that people bring their own tents to camp near the waterfall. Camping or not, please come prepared, as this place is right in the middle of the forest with no public convenience, no shops for food / water and no network or emergency services. Carry your own water bottles and snacks and please please please make sure NOT to dispose the waste in the forest.
- This is not a difficult trek. It is basically just a long walk on the railway track. But as Mr. SRK puts it, “Don’t underestimate the power of a common man”, you have to dodge a lot of common-man crap (quite literally, thanks to the waste management system on Indian trains). Jokes aside, as you may have noticed, railway tracks have uneven rocks so make sure you have thick soles on your shoes as walking on pointed stones might hurt. Also make sure your shoes have a good grip as the tracks tend to be slippery when it rains.
- There are close to 15 tunnels on the entire route from Castle Rock to Cullem, the longest one being about half a km long! The train operators honk at each tunnel or turn so try to avoid being inside a tunnel when a train passes by. But if due to some reason, you find it impossible to do so, do not panic. Just stick to the walls of the tunnel and wait patiently.