It almost didn’t materialise, thanks to a derailment at Castle Rock. Thankfully, a weekend later, after announcements had been made online & in the press, we were set.
I met with Clinton (at long last!) during this trip, and his dedication to matters relating to the environment, wildlife & waste management is truly inspirational.
Anyway, to get back to my account, I met up with Clinton in Margao, & we then made our way to the railway station, where we met two more participants. A quick ticket purchase, lunch (delicious by the way, & right at the station, reasonably priced), and we boarded the train to Collem. We met another participant on the train, & yet another met as at Collem, making us a grand total of six, just right for a trip like this. Too large numbers detract from the experience. Size does matter, you see.
The train journey took us through some spectacular countryside, but also, sadly, we saw huge swathes of land turned to wasteland by mining activity. We crossed a once-beautiful river, now turned into a horrible brown sewer. Shame.
At Collem railway station we made a few last-minute purchases, & then we were on our way.
We followed the railway tracks for a while, and then took a path that led us via a village called Sonauli, & then on to the foot of the falls. Clinton reckons it was a trek of about 13-14 km.
A word to the wise: make a check list for a trip like this. I hadn’t worn appropriate footwear, so I slipped & slid a lot of the way. Also managed to slip into a stream so my backpack (with my dry change of clothes & my phone) got a dunking.
I also didn’t remember to bring along a torch. Thankfully there were 3 torches between the six of us, so we were all right.
By about 7 pm or so, we set up camp as it was getting really dark. Clinton had brought a tent, which we pitched fairly easily, even though we all suddenly became experts on the subject, each with their own rationale for how it should be done & why. Eventually only two of our group used the tent (even though it could easily have accommodated four, perhaps even five) ; the rest of us preferred to sleep under the stars. We did use the tent flap to keep our gear safe & dry, though.
We also got a fire going, using dead wood from around the area to fuel it. It was a real job casting about in the dark for just the right logs & branches, as it pitch dark by then. It was a still, cloudy night, with just the occasional hoot of the train engine to break the silence. Heavenly.
Then it was supper time. Some hot noodle soup (courtesy Clinton) to complement the cold packed meals the rest of us had brought along.
By the light of the camp fire (and along the way earlier) Shrini gave me an impromptu photography lesson, for which I am ever grateful. Really learned a lot, thanks.
By about 10 pm or so we hit the sack. We slept like logs, most of us. The fire must have died out in the early hours of the morning.
In the morning, when we woke up (7 am or so), we cleared the area. We gradually began to be joined by a family of hungry monkeys. Nevertheless, we managed to wash down some hot lemon tea & to roast some sausages, using the tent pegs for skewers, before one of the monkeys ran off with the rest of my breakfast.
We then headed for the falls, a good steep climb taking us to the middle where we were able to get a swim or a dip. Bands of curious monkeys followed us some of the way. The scenic beauty here is truly breath-taking.
Our senses rejuvenated, we climbed further until we got up to the level where we encountered the railway tracks again. More stupendous views of the falls, above & below us.
We then wended our way to the Castle Rock stop, where in a matter of a few minutes a train engine very obligingly turned up, and stopped to let us all board. This was a nice slow train, so it lent further opportunities for picture-taking, butterfly-watching, etc. A good hour or so later, we were back in Collem.
Lunch at the station; about an hour and a half later, we got the train back to Margao. This time Shrini showed us his origami skills, two specimens of which are still safely with me.
All too soon, we were back in Margao, where most of us dispersed.