A waterfalls that is regarded as one of India's most beautiful body of falling water. A waterfall that is easily the highest falls in South India falling from a height of 1000+ feet in 4 tiers and in the top 5 highest waterfalls in the country. And probably the only waterfalls in the country this high, which flows under a commercial railway bridge. Yet this waterfall garnered fame & attention mostly because of a small scene in a Bollywood movie and not because of it's location, height, beauty or cuz of the incredible journey it takes to get there.
Nevertheless the Dudhsagar Waterfalls, an incredible looking falls at the Goa-Karnataka border, is a nature's wonder and probably the most beautiful sight in India, that most people haven't heard of or been to. Even a lot of people living within the vicinity of the falls haven't seen this beauty, which is absolutely surprising and appalling at the same time. Just like most things, people tend to over look what they have in their backyard and go looking for stuff elsewhere in the world. Covid certainly has changed that and hopefully Dudhsagar gets witnessed by a lot more people than it deserves to, in the near future.
I know that a lot of people look at Goa as a party central, to get drunk and have fun in the water. Goa is thought to be a destination of sun, sand and the beaches no doubt. Considering that the last time I was in Goa was nearly 25years ago, that's exactly the image I had in my head before I got there. But as I made my way through the Mahavir Wildlife sanctuary via Belgaum, it already surprised me how green it was along the route. So, having been in Goa for a few weeks and not going to Dudhsagar falls would have been a criminal thing to do.
And also that it was the end of monsoons in the region, Dudhsagar falls was to be in its prime. I had made up my mind of hiking to this place before I headed back, rain or shine. And boy, what a day we had chosen to do so. A beautiful misty morning to begin with, a bit of sunshine in the onward journey and an enjoyable amount of rainfall on the hike back. A perfect mix of everything that anyone would want to go through during the amazing experience.
Starting the day at 6 am we had to drive from Cuncolim in South Goa to the entrance point of the Dudhsagar hike at Kulem train station. No sooner did we park the car, than we had a couple of men approaching us as guides and that they could take us safely to the falls. I had already done enough research on how to get there and back, so I kindly denied their services and told my friends to trust me, which they had to without much of a choice 🙂
Thus we set off from Kulem station around 8am walking along the train tracks all the way. It was about an 11km hike each way and almost all of it was on the train track. We were going to come across a handful of passing by goods trains enroute, to which we had to go off track and wait it out on the side. There was also an off-track route which would have taken us through the forest etc but we needed to have permit from the forest department for that. Obviosuly we didn't have that and so it was going to be walking on the track all the way.
Until this day, I had never walked on a railway track for more than 10 seconds as it usually involved walking across on a railway crossing. But walking on the tracks all through this distance was an experience on its own. You end up walking so much on the stones that after a while it feels super strange to walk on a flat piece of land. What made it more enjoyable was the fact that there was so much greenery around. An insane amount of lush green foliage, under an overcast sky and add some birds chirping along with the flow of water at a lot of places. All of these made it for a perfect natural bliss during the hike, that no words can express.
I didn't really have any expectations about the hiking journey itself, but I did hope it was going to be a good one. Cuz just like a lot of things in life, expectations can disappoint but hope never does. Whenever you hope for something, anything that comes along tends to be a bonus. Having said that I had read up that there'd be atleast 6 tunnels on the way before reaching the falls & was expecting to find them sooner or later, but didn't know where I'd encounter the first one.
It took nearly 2hrs and 7kms into the hike before the first tunnel appeared. Being prepared for this, we did have torches with us to cross through these tunnels safely. It was beautiful experience walking through pitch dark tunnels and being able to literally experience the cliche "light at the end of the tunnel" idiom. Given the longest of the tunnels was just about 150mts in length, the torches weren't really necessary and the experience of walking in complete darkness was magical to say the least. Although the "disappointment" was that after the first tunnel you subconsciously expect each tunnel to get progressively longer or more enjoyable for some reason, which wasn't the case at all.
Anyway after walking nearly 11.5kms, letting atleast 4 trains pass us, crossing half a dozen tunnels and probably hundreds of native monkeys, Dudhsagar "station" arrived. A station that is not for passenger trains but just a quick pick up and drop of the track maintenance guys on the goods train. An appalling sight of plastic rubbish welcomed us before I could hear the sounds of the waterfalls gushing down and open my eyes in awe. Standing on the railway bridge and watching the water fall from 1000ft high and in layers was just incredible. From one angle it felt like a huge bridal veil. And of course the waterfalls very aptly deserved its name "Dudhsagar" which literally translates to Sea of Milk. It definitely looked like milk being poured from the top and it was carving its way along the rocks.
There were probably a couple dozen 'visitors' who all had hiked the same path but at different times in the morning. We spent a good hour or more just enjoying the serenity of the fall and its surroundings. The quietness around allowed us to hear the falls more crisply. Although we did have to watch out for the monkeys creeping on us every now & then, trying to dig into the bags in search for some food etc. I sat down for a while with my feet in the water & to my surprise a school tiny fishes started to nibble my feet away. Felt a little wierd at first but I started enjoying it. It almost made me feel like I was sitting in a natural Thai Fish Spa and that I was due for a pedicure.
After spending about 90mins or so at the falls, our return hike started. At the exit of the 5th tunnel water drips from the mountains to make for a natural shower. Soaking myself under this to rejuvenate before the return hike, was so pleasant. Additionally the 5th tunnel, which is 120mts long, is dead straight. It's so amazing to walk in this one, as you can see the tunnel's end at a distance yet in the absolute darkness it feels like it's very far away. On the return journey we did take a stop for lunch and half the way later our energies were kind of drained out. Thanks to some heavy rainfall it made the hike back a little more enjoyable. We even tried hitch hiking on a passing by goods train to which we were very humbly denied. But yes 3.5hrs later we made it back to the starting point under the still overcast skies and we couldn't be more happier than resting our butts in the car for a while before we started driving back. We celebrated that evening with a couple of pints of beer and literally put our feet up all night !!
Now having experienced the world's largest waterfalls at Iguazu South America earlier in the year, I was sure that no other waterfalls in the world could WoW me as much as Iguazu did. Dudhsagar definitely didn't wow me that way but it certainly did excite me in ways that Iguazu couldn't, particularly the journey of getting there and back. Iguazu creates an anticipation from the moment you enter the gates and it hardly takes 20-25mins for that anticipation to be killed, be it on the Argentine side or the Brazilian side. It takes nearly 4hrs at Dudhsagar to experience the wait. Dudhsagar Falls is a mesmerizing beauty on its own and thoroughly deserves an ovation of sorts. When you're at the base of the falls and look up, you can't help but to have a smile on your face in admiration of what you're witnessing at that very moment and being grateful to be one of the few people to have had the opportunity to experience that sight, sound & smell of nature.
In all, the entire Dudhsagar Hiking experience of walking the tracks, crossing pitch dark tunnels, rejuvenating under the natural showers, trying to hitchhike on the goods trains, getting drenched in the rains, hearing the sounds of nature, all of this along with enjoying the waterfalls at its base was something that no money could buy, no words could express and certainly no one else could feel it for you except for yourself. I haven't hiked a lot in India as such yet, but I doubt there'd be a better one day hike in the country than the Dudhsagar Falls hike. It's definitely something I highly recommend and something that needs to be witnessed and encountered by as many people possible. It's that worth it.
Here's a bunch of photos from the hike:
For details on how to reach the falls click on one of the links below: