Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dudhsagar Waterfalls - A long wish fulfilled.....

When one hears about GOA, the only thing that comes to mind are the beautiful long stretch of beaches, shacks, parties and more parties... ;) Well most of the people going to Goa might just be soaking up in the winter sun, bathing in the warm sea waters, cooling themselves with chilled beers and partying up till late nights.  Most of the people visit Goa from October to March when its most happening.  

On my first trip to Goa some 10 years back, while talking to one local guy in the bus I came to know that Goa is at its scenic best in monsoon.  This year it just happened that I got the chance to visit Goa in the peak of the rainy season.  I think I should thank Madeleine for this.... ;)  So after 2 days of couchsurfing in Mumbai and visiting Gateway of India, Marine drive, Haji Ali, Colaba and the Borivali National Park we were in Colva, Goa on the 21st morning.  

Colva has been the place for me each time I've visited Goa, but every time its been in winter.  This time I was shocked to see it empty.  No beach shacks and almost no tourists, apart from some locals or people from nearby places who came there for the weekend.  So next day we decided to head to Palolem beach in South Goa.  The most important thing that I wanted to do on this trip to Goa was to go to Dudhsagar Waterfalls.  The reviews on trip advisor and other forums helped me to figure out how to go for it.  While going to Palolem in a taxi, I even asked the driver if the falls were open in monsoon and to my great joy he confirmed it.  Only thing the jeep's are closed and one has to go there either walking or on bike taxi's.  

Finally on the morning of 25th July, @ around 8:00 hrs after having a nice breakfast, we hired a bike and set off to Kulem. Kulem is one of the major railway station of South Goa.  The bike owner explained me the route but some how I didn't get it at all.  So I decided to use google maps on my Blackberry. Palolem to Kulem.  

So our route was fixed.  We drove from Palolem on N.H. # 17 to Cuncolim. Right turn from Cuncolim cross roads and then a left from a ' T ' towards Quepem. At Quepem took a right to cross the main circle and then left and again right to cross a bridge over the railway track and head towards Sanvordem via Tilamola.  The roads are very good except for some places where they are little bit broken.  

Once you cross Quepem, you will come across lots of trucks carrying iron ore from the nearby quarries.  Don't forget to wear a helmet with a front glass or a helmet and glasses to cover your eyes.  In monsoon the work at this quarries is not that much, so you find just few trucks on the roads, but in winter or summer I'm sure you shall come across a lot of them and an occasional traffic jam too.  

After crossing Sanvordem, keep an eye on the google map as at many junctions there are no signboards showing the way towards Kulem.  And if they are, their location is such that you might just skip them.  Twice I took the wrong way and then Madeleine would shout from behind, stop stop there is something wrong.  And so luckily we got back on our right way.  The entire road has paddy fields along both sides.  One can feel the fresh air while driving.  Finally after a drive of about 70 - 80 min. driving at an average speed of about 60 kmph, we reached Kulem.

Soon the guy from the bike taxi association approached us and offered for the drive to Dudhsagar falls.  In monsoon only the bikes are operative.  I tried to negotiate and ask the way towards the falls, but the guy told us that the way is through the forest and you might get lost.  Since we were there for the first time we had no option but to accept his offer.  The whole track was of 14 kms. We had a quick chai and 2 bikes were ready to take us to the foot of the falls. Luckily till now the rains had stayed away.  The bike riders keep spare rain jackets for the pillion rider.  They charge Rs. 500/- for the ride and Rs. 65/- as the entry fee that one has to pay as you enter the forest route. 

To our surprise or rather shock in few min. we were driving just next to the railway track on a 6" to 12" way made by the association of this bike taxi drivers.  Its a pretty dangerous track where at times if the bike slips you just go down and might injure yourself.  At times one has to go even on the gravels lined next to the track as there is no way to drive.  And this guys drive at the speed of 20 - 30 kmph. which sometimes can make you feel scared.  After driving for about  3 - 4 kms next to the track, they dropped us to cross the track and reach the forest entry point.  They drove the bike through a river passing from below the railway track and reached the entry point.  Again our drive started, but this time it was on an extremely bumpy way through the dense forest.  This way is laid with stones and red soil.  Its actually even worst than a dirt track.  Those with a weak back or with a heavy body should surely not try this track.  Its around 10 kms long and one has to cross some 5 small streams and 2 rivers.  

The water level is not very high in the rivers but the flow is quiet strong.  In one of the stream our bike went like half into the water. I said to myself thank god I decided not to wear my shoes. Whole day with wet shoes ? No way.... ;) Finally after a 45 min. drive we reached the last river to be crossed.  The water level was quiet high for the bikes to go through it. So we kept the bikes over there and crossed the river on foot and had to walk another like 20 min. to reach the foot of the falls.

On our way while walking we came across a baby snake jumping here and there.  I showed it to Madeleine and she was like, why did you showed it to me.  Now all the way I'll have to keep a watch as to not stamp over another snake... ;)  I just had got the weak link to scare her... ;)  All the way one could hear the sounds of birds chirping, frogs croaking and some strange sounds of insects.  Finally we were there.

Now here there is a small trap.  If you want to go right up to the waterfalls where the railway track is, one has to trek another 15 - 20 min. uphill to reach there right through the forest and for this the guide will charge you another Rs. 300/-.  While talking to one of the bike riders, he told us that out of the 500 bucks they charge, they have to give some to the railways, some to the forest officers and the rest goes to their own association which will finally divide it equally among all the members.  This 300 bucks that they charge to take you up to the falls goes directly to them.

In between the 2 Portuguese built tunnels.
The falls looked great from down below and so we decided to go right up there.  After climbing through the forest for some 15 min. and passing through the two Portuguese tunnels through which the railway track passes, we reached right up to the Dudhsagar waterfalls.  It was an aww moment.... :) The falls were mesmerizing.  310 mts. in height, the railway track is built right in the middle of the falls.  i.e. after 150 mts. and the rest falls and flows below the railway track.  And we also got company from some monkeys... ;)

One sight on the opposite side of the falls, and you can see clouds covering the green mountains of the western ghats. It was just beautiful. Soon heavy rains lashed the region and fog was everywhere around us.  There is a small shop and a platform built there which normally remains closed during monsoon except on weekends. It serves chai during weekends, winter and in summer months.  The rains were pretty heavy.  But still managed to click some pictures.  Soon we heard the sound of a train coming.

A Karnataka bound passenger train with 2 engines was coming our way.  This was the moment that I was waiting for.  A train passing as if almost through the waterfall and water running down behind.  I was fortunate enough to click that picture which I had seen in some reviews.  Loved it.

After talking with our guides for some time and understanding the geography of the region some what, I would want to visit this place once again.  This time I want to walk all along the railway track from Kulem station, covering a distance of 14 kms and back.  They said it takes around 3 - 4 hours to walk all along the railway line.  But they also mentioned that many times people reach here walking as the curiosity to reach here is immense but while going back they are mentally so drained that they ask this guides to take them back.  But I don't care I want to do it.  So I guess another monsoon trip to Goa has to be done... ;)

The entire trip that we took cost us around Rs. 1250/- per person on twin sharing.  This includes Rs. 350/- for bike hire, Rs. 200/- for fuel, Rs. 1000/- for 2 bike taxi's, Rs. 600/- for reaching the waterfalls with the guides for 2 people, Rs. 130/- entry fee for 2 persons and Rs. 220/- for food, water and chai.  I thought its certainly a good deal for first time.  If one treks all along the railway line, one can easily save Rs. 800/- per person.

Finally at around 15:00 hrs. we decided to return back.  The rains came heavily again and we had to take shelter at a bus stop for like 30 min.  But before that we got totally wet and the cold wind made me shiver a bit.  I looked to see if I could get some chai, but till Quepem I didn't come across any chai stalls. Finally at Quepem, we found a restaurant and a hot cup of chai brought the much needed warmth.  While coming back instead of going to Cuncolim, the road from Quepem straight goes to Baali cross roads which is much closer to Palolem and saves atleast 15 - 20 min.  By 19:00 hrs. we were back in Palolem. 

I would surely recommend this day trip to all those going to Goa.  Its worth visiting especially during monsoons.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Laziness is good sometimes... ;)

Its my first Sunday after a great holiday in Goa.  Last night after coming home after the Couchsurfing meeting, I just didn't wanted to sleep.  Was feeling sleepy, but didn't wanted to sleep.  I guess it'll take few days to come back to the routine of Ahmedabad from the routine of Goa that I got into while holidaying... ;)  

Finally managed to wake up on a lazy Sunday morning, read the newspaper, took my shower and was off to an inauguration invite to one of Ahmedabad's best photography and videography studio.  Lazy to cook, went to Subway for lunch and back home.  My whole afternoon and evening went in front of the TV.  Watched some movies and olympics.  The most interesting thing was on crime patrol.  How an Indian who strays into Pakistan and gets caught.  And how he is than released after spending many years in prison.  Heart moving but true also...

And then out of boredom felt like I had to eat something... ;)  And to my surprise had a wonderful chat with Weronika on FB.  Been a while that we had talked.  So it was really good.  Suddenly I thought of making paneer.  When I was at my host's place in Mumbai, I read a book on cooking wrote by some European girl who was volunteering @ Iskon temple.  The book was all about vegetarian food along with some statistics that why one should quit eating meat.  So finally after 30 min. paneer was ready to be set into a block.  Just waiting for tomorrow morning to know how it tastes.... ;)  

So overall a pretty lazy day.  My friends asked me to go with them to Mother Teressa's missionaries of charity for a small event, but I was just too lazy and still I am.  Watching women's archery at the Lord's right now.  Might be trying to sleep early today to get back into my routine.

Monday, 16 July 2012

'Gangs of Wasseypur'

Last week I finally managed to watch 'Gangs of Wasseypur' - the much hyped film in the recent times.  Made by Anurag Kashyap, it is one more film based on a part of earlier Bihar, but now falls in Jharkhand.  I had just came back from the trip to Surat, tired but was full of energy to see this movie.  Took a shower and rushed to Wide Angle.  Before seeing this movie, my perception about it was that it will just be another movie with gangs of bandits or something like that.  Also never ever before had heard of this place called Wasseypur.  In short my idea about how the movie will be was totally vague. And the hype kind of forced me to see it before it got down from the theaters.

The star cast was very much new but most of them got into their roles pretty well.  The plot of the movie was pretty confusing.  At the end it leaves you struggling to link the different scenes and periods.  In two and half hours the movie shows three generations.  Pretty fast paced, but what it tries to portray in the early half - the mission of the lead hero Manoj Bajpayee (Sardar Khan) to destroy the local minister (Ramadhir Singh), goes completely off track.  The end however tells you that the sequel is not too far. ;)  The movie pretty well portrays the irregularities of running the coal mines in Dhanbad.  How the british founded the black gold, how they used to run and how after independence the local mafia's have ruled the poor miners and how they have exploited the entire region.  

The life of the miners and the owners of coal mines portrayed in the movie reminded me of the book 'The White Tiger'... :)  It just shows why Bihar till few years back (when Dhanbad was a part of Bihar) was one of the most under developed state with inhuman living conditions in most of the villages.  

What really makes this movie worth watchable is the timing of the abusive words used freely.  Right from the starting till the end.  The hindi punches in bihari way were just hilarious.  The timing and the way these cuss words are used, just make it extremely hilarious.  Loved it.  Somehow most of the movies made on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar uses abusive words pretty freely.  Not that there aren't other regions which don't use it in their day to day life.  But for long censor board never allowed movies with abusive words to get released.    Its been ages since the trend setter for such language in the movie, 'The Bandit Queen' was released.

How in the movie, the wife of Sardar Khan, Najma and her anger is portrayed is commendable.  Manoj Bajpayee is seen at his best after his act of 'Bhiku Matre' in Satya.  Reema Sen (Durga), after a failed bollywood career plays the role of being the second wife of Sardar Khan is made to look pretty sexy.. ;) Looks like another bollywood actress taking this route to revive her bollywood career... ?  Well who knows... ? ;)  

Anurag Kashyap seems have mastered the art of making movies that are so very different.  His vision on the topic he chooses is just too good.  Also what is admirable is his courage to showcase the many factions of relationships that exist in a double standard conservative society of rural India, but are very rarely accepted by the society.  Blood, rivalries, gun battles, sex, political crime, coal mafia's and some extremely comic hindi punches make this movie worth watching one time.  The fact that in the recent times the blowing off of the coal mine controversy in India, this movie gives a very vague and small highlight of how such a huge controversy might have taken place in a corrupted and politically controversial country of ours.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Rains are back again this week.... :)

Last Sunday was so much fun.  Going to Sun Temple - Modhera and Ran Ki Vav (Step well) - Patan was just perfect to try out my new gun, Canon 550D. Huich, Nishit, Palak, Anup and myself had a great time posing for the camera and trying first hand at my new DSLR... After looking desperately for some rains to come, we were just left with few minutes of rain drops...:(  But a it was total fun on a humid day.  Reached home at around 18:30 hours, took a shower and lied down for some time but it actually became a 12 hours sleep... ;)  

But come Monday and the rains were back after a long spell.  Its so surprising that where most of the states in India are right now facing shortage of rains, Assam is under floods.  East India is facing floods while West is having scanty rainfall.  Its kind of funny but serious too.  How in the last few years the climate in the entire world has changed and that too drastically.  Anyways I had a good time enjoying the rains.  It was the first time that I got drenched in the rains this season.  Some how most of the times it rains either when you are leaving for work or you are coming back from work.  And its most of the time a heavy downpour.  Never have I been able to understood this particular timing of rains... ;)  

Again when my primary school friends decided to meet up for coffee at Crossword on Wednesday afternoon, it began to rain just like an hour before.  I was like no way, why the rains wanna spoil our meet up.  But luckily just at the right time rains stopped and the sun was peeping out from the clouds with still some drops coming down.  I call it the naked rain... ;)  Yes rains coming down when the sun is shining is called NAKED RAIN.  Other than that I love rains... Particularly on a Sunday or a holiday watching the rain from the balcony, sipping hot tea on the swing and going for a walk when it drizzles is like heaven... :)

A quick one day trip to Surat on Thursday and a sudden plan to watch the movie Gangs of Wasseypur, turned out extremely good... ;)  After a very long time a movie that was totally different.  Can't say whether it had a kind of story or not, but the flow was good and pretty fast too.  Reality of Dhanbaad and how the coal mines over there are operated is shown in a pretty good way. Made me recollect some parts of the book 'The White Tiger'...  But more interesting and funny was the Bihari dialect of Hindi used in the movie... ;) Simply loved it.

And today finally I found a host in Mumbai.  After sending requests to more than 15 couchsurfers in Mumbai and it being declined by almost 6 - 7 of them, I found my host.  She'll be my 3rd Indian host... Looking forward to it.  And right now watching the movie Border I guess for the 10th time... ?

Good night .... :)

Friday, 6 July 2012

My new toy arriving.... ;)

2 years back on my first Couchsurfing trip to the forest of Shoolpaneshwar, I was bitten by the photography bug.  In few months I had bought a new little big advanced digital camera.  Have used it on so many travel trips in India as well as Europe and I enjoyed it.  But since last six months I was itching to move ahead and get on to the DSLR ammunition ... ;)  Ha ha yeah I call it my gun.  Finally after my peak work period of this year got over in June, yesterday I ordered for my new Canon 550 D.  And I'm really excited that it's gonna arrive tomorrow.  

With a trip to the Sun Temple, Modhera under consideration with my friends, I think its going to be a great Sunday to use my new toy and get the feel of DSLR photography.... ;)  With this the moth of July has started great.  Its time to say good bye to the hot summer period, with some medium showers of rain cooling the weather.  More are expected in the days to come.  Lot of new things and new responsibilities at work coming up and its going to be more and more hard work.  Seems like my time on FB at work will be reduced... ;)  Will have to work more hard and spend I guess more time at office.  But as they say, the real fun of partying comes after putting in some really hard work.... ;)  

Its Friday today and on the Friday after the next one I'll be in Mumbai on my way to Goa.... I'm giving this treat to myself after some real hard work of last few months.  I'm very skeptical right now about openly saying about my trip to Goa.  As its been in the past, whenever I've announced a travel trip, it fails most of the time.  But this time I'm leaving that feeling behind and sharing my super excitement here.  Finally after 2 failed attempts of going to Goa in the last 2 years, again for the sixth time is coming fast.  Can't wait.  And this time its gonna be different.  Goa in monsoon.  My dear time, please fly away .... ;)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Money flowing out of a rivulet ?

Do miracles ever happen ?  Yes they do happen.  If not for all, at least for some they do happen.  Last week on some news channel it was shown that some small rivulet in Assam became a money producing mine.... ;)  Sounds absurd ?  Well its true.  Assam right now is flooded with rain waters but still people living around this small wetland were making merry.  This small rivulet was flooded with currency notes of 1000 Rs. and 500 Rs.  There were people diving in to find as many currency notes as they can.  People stopped by to see whether the notes were true or they were fake as some one might have thrown all his fake currencies to escape being caught by police.  But a spectator who said he was working in a bank and had enough expertise to differentiate between fake and real currency, confirmed that all the notes coming out of the rivulet were genuine.  

Ever saw a water body throwing out currency notes ?  Well for the people around the wetland it was nothing short of a miracle.  From where the money came, no one knew about it.  There were only speculations.  Might be that some rich guy must have got rid of his black money from the fear of being caught by the IT department ?  Or the floods might have brought a big pile of cash from some rich man's house... ;)  No one knows.  But people had a ball collecting the money from the wetland... ;)  For them I guess its nothing short of a miracle.  

This reminds me of another miracle or whatever one can call it.  It goes back some more than 15 years when this thing happened.  And it happened all over the country.  All the idols of Lord Ganesha were drinking milk.  Yes idols drinking milk offered to it ?  Yes its true.  I had myself along with my mother and sister offered bowls full of milk spoon after spoon and the milk didn't got spilled on the floor but the idol drank it.  People were running to the temples to offer milk to the idols of Lord Ganesh.  Though the one that I offered was of Lord Krishna... ;)  Read the whole story here ....