In a journey we always find the fellow travelers intriguing. For a small time of the journey our humanly world is limited to them. A chain of countless unanswered questions starts popping out of our brains. We answer them in our thoughts. We have many answers for a single question. We go from one answer to other in the quest. Correct answer is too far. After the tiresome process of the assumptions and failures we begin the process of asking questions and getting correct answers.
Then there are dreams for a journey. Falling for someone in that just one look like Shahrukh does in Dil Se at Halflong station, meeting a Geet on train or seeing a pale looking girl selling baskets at Dehra station like in the story by Ruskin Bond. One thing is for sure People who travel with us make the journey more interesting.
A trip to Dudhsagar has been one such memorable journey. We were to begin our journey in Goa Express which was late as being late was one of its mundane activities. The peculiar smell at the Pune Station was around which in itself is a collection of different smells including the track side shit and pee, the vendors selling channa chor and tea and coffee, beggars who did not bath since ages amongst other odours whose source could not be traced. A lot of other people were waiting.
Jhelum Express was parked on the platform where Goa Express was to arrive. It was there for a long time and I don’t remember to which godforsaken place it was headed. News on the platform was that our train won’t arrive unless this whole mass of iron and steel gives way for our train. The only thing I could do till then was to eat some bhel and watch other happy people; happy probably because they also were headed to Dudhsagar. Others looked overzealous and I assumed their destination was Goa needless to specify the obvious reasons. Jhelum Express finally started crawling and Goa Express arrived. All the happy and overzealous faces now boarded the train.
It was an overnight journey and sometime around 4 in the morning we were supposed to be getting down at the Castle Rock station. At the wee hours most of the people got down at the Castle Rock station and other few were to begin their journey to the falls from Kullem. It was all dark, the fog made things merely visible and it felt shivering cold. We got down at Castle Rock station in spite of our earlier plans of off boarding at Kullem.
Castle rock is a beautiful station with European style architecture and interesting history. It served as an important station where documents verification among other things would take place for people travelling from British India to Portuguese ruled Goa. Avinash and I decided to take a stroll in the dimly lit station while Pratik decided to take a nap in the waiting room. We could barely get the whole picture of the station in the pitch black darkness and wondered where the population would be staying.
We passed a couple of times in front of the control room and found a guy a little fat and short sporting a non-shaped small beard speaking in Kannada to the official at the station for a long time and it seemed he was well acquainted with the person. He off boarded from the same train that we did and were sure he was from Pune but could speak a different language. We joined the conversation.
I did not understand Kannada. From the looks of the train attendant we gathered trek along the tracks from Castle Rock was not advised as it had rained heavily and wildlife besides the track had no mercy. By wildlife I mean only the leeches and we had no appropriate shoes to walk or any flash lights to get a good sight in the dark tunnels. Our hopes of having good, healthy and adventurous hike were shattered. We decided to wait for the next train to take us to Dudhsagar which was still had 3 -4 hours to arrive.
After the train attendant was gone to perform his duties towards the Railways we began speaking with the bearded guy (whose name I do not remember). After the formal introduction and the discussion about the weather our train of talks switched the track to the lengths of track this guy had covered and we realized he was a traveler of sorts and it was 5th visit to the Dudhsagar. His earlier visits were concentrated more on the jungle safari around the forests of Castle Rock. He was a lone traveler and had traveled from Pune to the other end of the country to Sikkim with a back pack and a sleeping bag. His mode of transport was a General compartment in any train with minimal cost. He never hired a hotel room. It was his sleeping bag and the waiting room of a train station.
This stranger told us more stories of his travel across the country. The real question from materialistic people like us then came “How did he manage to get money?” So he answered that he organises treks and trips for some part of the year and money earned is utilised for his travels for rest of the year. We were startled with his passion for travel. It was a kind of story we had only read, seen on a screen or had a dream about.
Visibility improved with time and talks at the station. There was still some fog. We decided to get into the hamlet for some breakfast. As we climbed the stairs somehow reminded me of the Cat town from ‘Kafka on the Shore’ which was only a one way journey to the town. I wondered whether we are in for a similar thing and I would not have worried for a day or two as the town was picturesque. We had breakfast and were able to catch a train to Dudhsagar just in time.
– Sumit Chinchane