Which Train?

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Adventure, Green Route, Travel

Green Route

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Green Route is the famous segment along the Bangalore and Mangalore railway line in India, within the pristine part of Western Ghat mountain ranges often called the trekker’s paradise.

This is the segment on the railway track from Sakaleshpura to the Kukke Subramanya Road station. This is a unique beautiful spot in the whole railway track because of the dense green forest in which it is situated. This stretch of the track with length about 52+ km has around 50+ tunnels( 59 to be exact ) and bridges with length varying from few metres to 945 meters and height varying from few metres to 200 + meters. The tunnels are absolute terrestrial abyss.

This is one of the most picturesque spot (route) in the Western Ghats of the South Kanara and Hassan districts of Karnataka. You can either start from the Sakleshpura or Subramanya Road Station. The trek is famous for the absolute wilderness that one may encounter during the trek and the beautiful rivulets, landscapes and breath taking bridges. The trek is also famous for the frequent encounter with the wild elephants in the Gundya and Sakleshpur range. One has to be very careful during the walk in Yedukameri forest. Elephant-human encounter is very common in this place.

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Why did I jump?

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Adventure, Green Route, Idiocy, Travel

Friends, before I tell you why I jumped, I will have to recall what happened till the moment I jumped.

Me and 6 friends( Sharan, Vasudev, Ashok, Mahaveer, Prashant and Rajendra) from my company had planned a 4 day trip covering Puttur, Subramanya, Dharmastala, Udupi, Gangolli, Murudeshwara and few other beautiful places, since we had 4 day long weekend(on account of holiday on varamahalakshmi festival and Independence Day), to get away from the boring corporate life.

On the first day we were to travel in the Green Route train from Bangalore to Subramanya, and visit my friend’s home at Puttur and stay there. We started at 7 30 in the morning from Yashwantapur, barely boarding the train in time. Since the Green Route is supposed to be a feast to the eye filled some of the most picturesque places in India, I had borrowed INR 22,000 Nokia N8 mobile which has a 12 megapixel camera from my room mate who works at Nokia, to capture the beauty of the Trekker’s Paradise.

The train travels from Bangalore to Subramanya via Sakleshpur. It is after Sakleshpur the real beauty the Green Route will be revealed. From Sakleshpur, the train will travel over 50km in the mountain area littered with jaw dropping slopes, fighting its way through the forest, passing over numerous old bridges, crawling through 59 pitch black tunnels some of which are longer than the train itself, to reach Subramanya.

My friend Sharan who is a very good photographer, had advised that after train reaches Sakleshpur, all of us should take seats near the steps of the train to get an awesome view of the place, to click some memorable photos.  Since I had a 12 megapixel camera cum mobile in my hand, I was also eager to get a vantage point. As soon as the train left Sakleshpur, me and my friends who brought camera raced to the steps and took seats both to the right and left of train, so that we wont miss either views. I took seat near the steps in the middle of the compartment and my friends sat towards the end of the compartment. The journey from Sakleshpur turned out to be one of the most memorable in my life.

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The train gradually climbed its way through the ever increasing slopes of the mountains. The views were spell-bounding, mother nature at her best. Everything i saw was green, gradually enveloped by the whiteness of the fog which was actually the cloud. YES, we were moving through the clouds.  One minute train is moving on a firm ground, the next minute skating over the narrow bridges straining to keep its balance like a gymnast, careful not to fall. When I looked down from the bridges  it gave me false sensation of flight, the ground passing swiftly hundreds of feet below me.

Suddenly all of us were engulfed by the blackness of the tunnel, the abyss, not a single ray of light inside. Sound of the train intensified, bouncing off the walls the tunnel, into a deafening noise. Many people inside the train started screaming, half out of excitement, half out of fear. Just when I felt like a blind, the light from the other end of the tunnel reminded me otherwise, the feeling exhilarating. The path was filled with many waterfalls, which were the result of downpour everyday. I took many photos and videos, fully utilizing the 12 MP mobile. I was enjoying every moment of the journey.

Its at this moment the story takes a twist. Some guy came to me with old camera, asking me to take his photo, with train and the beautiful scenery in the background of the pic. Even though there wasn’t much space, I somehow managed to take a very good pic of him, which he could actually post on a matrimonial site. The guy thanked me and I resumed back to taking photos with N8. He also stood there beside me, enjoying the view.

Then all of sudden this guy exclaimed ” Look!!!! Waterfalls !!!!” as though he was seeing the waterfalls for the first time in his life. He swung his hand like a pendulum, to point at the falls, doing something stupid, something which I never expected. He knocked the N8 mobile off my hand !!!!!!!!!!!!!.

Next thing I know, the 22,000 INR mobile is slowly flying through the air, like those slow motion movies, the distance between me and the mobile increasing every second. The train was moving on a bridge which was curling left. Since the bridge was quite long, it had those extensions on the sides where people could actually stand if they stranded on the bridge when train approaches. The last thing I saw out of the corner of my eye was that the mobile fell on one of these extensions, struck one of the upright railings, and to my luck, ricocheted back and barely managed to stay on the edge of the extension.

My mind was racing with thoughts, shocked by what happened just a moment ago. I was damn sure that the mobile was there on the bridge but the question was, “how to get it back?”. The first thing that came to my mind was to pull the chain of the train. I shouted at the guy who knocked the phone to pull the chain. He did not respond. I guess he was as shocked by the events as I was. Then I got up and raced inside the compartment, searching for the chain. I searched left and right, then finally saw the chain.

I wasted no time, I just went to the chain and pulled it with all my might. Nothing happened!!!!! The train didn’t slow down. I pulled it again and again. Still no result.

Then I did something stupid, something idiotic. Whether it was because of the thought of losing one month salary, or the effect of watching too many action movies, or some shitty idea racing through my mind, I don’t know, but I did something I am sure none of you would have done.

I jumped out of the train!!!!!!

What happened after I jumped?

Friends, you might find it hard to believe, even I find it hard to believe. I really jumped out of  the train.

When I tell you I jumped out of the train, I just want to make a couple of things clear. Firstly, you might imagine the train to be traveling @100kmph. Wrong!! Since it was a hilly area train was traveling a little slower, may be around 30-40kmph. But still it was traveling faster than the Volvo buses in Bangalore. Secondly, I didn’t blindly jump out of the train. I took a calculated guess before jumping, making sure I would land on my legs and not on my head. I am not bragging about my jumping skills here, just giving you picture of how I jumped(even though I know it was foolish). Having made myself clear, lets get back to the story.

I reached the steps of the train, then jumped to my right in the direction the of the train. I managed to land on my legs, but the momentum pulled me in the same direction, my body struggling to find balance. To keep myself from falling I took some 5-6 steps, then fell with my hands outstretched like a rugby player. My hands were a little bruised, but fortunately I was alright.

At that time only one thing was in my mind, the mobile. I got up and started running towards the bridge, against the direction of the train. Theory of relativity indeed holds good, with the train traveling in the opposite direction I felt like I could easily beat Usain Bolt. The train ran past me, but I kept running towards the bridge. From the moment mobile fell off the train, the train had traveled considerable distance covering more than half a kilometer. The bridge was not nowhere near.

I just kept running, unaware that every second the train was traveling further away from me. Finally the bridge came into sight. I ran till the bridge and stopped. The bridge was very narrow, with nothing to hold on either side. I walked carefully watching every step. The bridge was atleast a hundred and fifty foot tall. A slip on the bridge would mean certain death. The fear took over me and I started to crouching instead of walking. Finally I reached the extension on the left side of the bridge, the mobile lying on it.

I picked up the mobile and examined it. Except for a dent on the back panel it was alright. Thank god it was alright. I have to give credit to Nokia, even though they cant improve the mobile performance, they can certainly make it hard enough. I was relieved. I felt happy that I don’t have to lose one month salary to buy a new mobile to my roommate. I just wanted to tell my friends I was alright.

Wait a minute!!! Something was wrong.

Where are my friends??? Then suddenly the bitter truth came back to my mind. They are on the train. The same train from which I had jumped. After seeing the mobile I was so relieved that I had forgotten that I had jumped from the train. I kept the mobile safely in the pocket and started running towards the train. I just didn’t have any clue about where the train would be by now. I kept running towards the train with the same speed I had ran away from it. I ran and ran and ran. But where is the train?

Then I realized that I had not informed any of my friends before jumping from the train. All of them were at different places when I jumped. They didn’t even know that I had jumped. What an Idiot I was. I just kept on running, blaming myself for not informing them. Finally the train came to view at more than 500meters away from me.I felt relief momentarily.

But still something was wrong. The train hadn’t stopped. It was still moving. I ran for another 100meters, the train eventually getting farther and farther away from me. I couldn’t run anymore. I was exhausted, struggling to breath. I watched as the train gradually disappeared in the distance ( Later I came to know from my friends that the train had actually stopped for a few minutes. Some one had informed my friends that I had jumped. But, some other guy had misinformed them that I got into the last general compartment after jumping from the train. After that my friends had actually went and searched the whole general compartment for me. In the mean time train had moved, assuming I was on the train).

I didn’t know what to do. Then once again, something clicked in my head. The Mobile. I can call my friends and let them know that I was left behind. I took the mobile from the pocket and searched for my friends Sharan’s number and called. Again something was wrong. There was no network in that area. There is no Vodafone network from Sakleshpur till Puttur. The train had travelled a lot of  distance from Sakleshpur, and I had not seen a single station from Sakleshpur till here. And it started to rain also.

There I was in the middle of the rain, with a mobile in hand with no network, no means of communicating with the external world. A pair of railway tracks the only sign of hope to reach civilization in what otherwise is a mountain rigged forest . I had to rely on my instincts to reach Puttur, ironically the same instincts which made me jump from the train.

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I couldn’t think of anything. My mind was overwhelmed by the series of events that had happened in the last 15 min. In the last 15 min I had tried to pull the chain of the train and failed, jumped out of the moving train, ran more than one and a half kilometers, missed a train and I was in the middle of a no man’s lands. I was not sure whether these events really happened or I was daydreaming. I pinched myself to make sure it was actually happening.

I had two options. Option 1– Travel back towards the Sakleshpur, which I knew was over 10kms from that place, with no station or any form of human establishment, which I had noticed from the train.  I knew the train had crossed exactly 6 long tunnels and atleast 10 tall bridges till that point. Option 2– Head in the same direction of train hoping to find some station on the way, taking my chances. But I didn’t know whether there were any stations in between Sakleshpur and Subramanya. Since it was a hilly area, I doubted it. I also knew that from Sakleshpur to Subramanya there are exactly 59 tunnels, which means there are 53 more tunnels to come.

I was not sure what to do. I stood there for sometime weighing my options. I knew Option 1 would surely lead me to Sakleshpur. But part of me longed otherwise. For a moment I thought about it. I was already in a fucked up situation, how much more fucked up can it get? I took Option 2- Follow the train.

I didn’t know whether it was a good option, I just kept moving in the direction of the train. To my right was a breathtaking view of the mountains, littered with white clouds. On any other day I would have stood there enjoying the view marveling at mother nature’s beauty,but not today. I crossed a few bridges, every bridge had the same kind of extension similar to the one the mobile had fallen. I went through one tunnel, a small one less than 100meter long.

I had traveled more than a kilometer. Then I saw something which made me very happy. Option 2 had paid off. At a distance I was able to see a station.

Kadagaravalli Station

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Adventure, Green Route, Idiocy, Travel

After I had traveled probably more than a kilometer, a station came to view, a couple of hundred feet ahead. I can’t explain how happy I was. I had no hopes of finding any station in the middle of the rain forest. I was indeed damn lucky, because there are hardly 4-5 stations between Sakleshpur and Subramanya. That’s approximately 1 station for every 10 kilometers or so, and I was lucky enough that the mobile had fallen near to one of the station.

I saw a man cutting the grass which had grown on the sides of the railway track, wearing one of those plastic bag pull over kind of thing over his head to avoid the rain. From puzzled look on his face, I could tell that he was not used to seeing people wearing jeans walking on tracks everyday. As I went near him(Manju), asked me in Kannada ” Yenaytu Swami?” ( What happened?). I briefly explained the story.  I asked him the name of the station. He told me the station name is “Kadagararvalli”. When I then asked him how to reach Puttur, he told me to meet the station master(SM).

I went to the station and saw two men inside a room watching TV( Yes, they had TV there also!!). Board on the door read “SM’s Office”. One guy(R K Paswan) came out and asked me who I am in Hindi (Later I learnt that he was from Bihar and he was not the station master). I told him the story once again and asked how to reach Puttur. He told me that the train I jumped was the last train that day and there were no train till next morning. My hopes of reaching Puttur faded. It was 2:00 pm local time. If I was on the train, I would have reached Puttur by 4pm.

I was not sure what to do. Then I thought of calling my friends and asked if they had a landline there. There were no landlines, but one guy had mobile with Airtel connection. Only Airtel network is available there, and I took the mobile from him and called my friend Sharan. Response came as Out of reach. Then I tried calling Mahaveer, Ashok, Vasu, Rajendra but couldn’t reach any of them. My friends did not have Airtel connection either. I was concerned about my friends that they will be concerned about me. I will not  be able reach them till they reach Puttur i.e till 4 pm.

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Then a guy named Madhu Kumar who knew Kannada (he is from Mysore, my hometown) came out of SM’s office and asked me the same question. There were two more elder persons named Puttuswamy and arjun nayak, I told them the same story to all of them. Then told me “If something worth more than 8000 rupees falls from the train, you can pull the chain without having to pay any fine”. If the train had stopped when I pulled the chain, I need not have paid any fine. I asked Madhu Kumar if there was any other way of reaching Puttur. He asked me to go back 7 km in the direction which I had come, then take right turn near some landmark( I don’t remember the name) where I could find a small village. From there I could board a bus to Puttur.  As there was no other option, I decided to take it.

I thanked them and started walking back in the same path I had come. I traveled around 500m, and then say two stray dogs beside the track. I am a little afraid of dogs. Even if I continued, the thought of so many bridges and tunnels came back to me. The thought of being stranded on one of the bridges with a dog scared me little. I started back towards the Kadagaravalli station, and at 2:30 clock reached there. I told Madhu Kumar what happened and they laughed at me. They laughed at a guy who wasn’t afraid of jumping from a train but afraid of the dogs. I asked if anyone could accompany me till I reached the place they had indicated. No one was willing to come with me. I guess they wanted me to give some money. But there was a problem. I had a single 500 rupee note. If I give it them, I won’t be left with any money to reach Puttur. I kept asking them if there was anyone way to reach Puttur.

Then someone operating the switchroom (room where they can see where the trains are using some equipment) notified that a goods train is coming at around 3:45pm. Madhu Kumar told me that there will be a brake room at the back of the goods train, and I could travel on that till Subramanya. Normally outside people won’t be allowed on a goods train, but Madhu Kumar told me that he will request the person operating the brake room to drop me at Subramanya. The goods train was my last hope to reach Puttur on the same day. I gave my friends numbers to Madhu Kumar and requested him to call my friends after 4pm and let them know that I was safe and I was coming to Puttur on a goods train. I stored Madhu Kumar number in my mobile. I took some photos of the station and the people there.

The goods train came at 3:40. They asked me run to the last compartment i.e. the brake room of the train. The train will only stop for 2-3 minutes at the station waiting for the green signal, and I had to board it before it starts from the station. Madhu Kumar requested the brake room operator to drop me at Subramanya. I thanked Madhu Kumar and others, then ran to the brake room and boarded it. The train started moving after two minutes and I waved a happy good bye to all everyone at Kadagaravalli Station, as the train slowly ran past the station.

Even if you don’t want to read this post, don’t miss any photos in the slideshow and the video. Some of them are truly marvelous. Most of you may never get an opportunity to click such photos, and to be part of such a memorable journey in your life. There are a lot of photos, so it might take some time to load all of them, so wait for it.

The brake room of a goods train is nothing like the normal train compartment. Except for a small room in the middle of the compartment, it is completely open. I took seat on a small extension, with the goods barrels completely visible infront of me. The train was traveling quite slowly compared to the train from which I jumped. The brake room operator was communicating with the driver using a walkie-talkie to co-ordinate the braking of the train. I was not allowed inside the brake room.

The view from the goods train was even more spectacular than the passenger train. In passenger train, the view is restrained to a maximum of 180 degrees. But since the goods train was like an open air theater, I got a 360 degree view to enjoy and admire the mother natures beauty. I couldn’t have asked for more.

On one side was the breath-taking view of the mountains covered with forest, washed in soothing green, disappearing into the whiteness of the clouds. It seemed like a painting by the hands of the almighty, with only green and white colors in his palette. The train moved through the forest, twisting and turning like a snake leaving a trail of tracks behind. Some bridges spanned half the length of the train, gradually curving either to the right or left. When the train passed over one of these bridges, I could see the whole train ahead of me gliding slowly hundreds of feet over the ground. I took hundreds of pics to remember such an delighting journey.

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The tunnel experience was even more enthralling. I could see the whole train infront of me gradually disappearing into the mouth of the long tunnel, compartment by compartment, finally to be engulfed by total darkness. The visual senses go numb inside the tunnel with absolutely no light whatsoever. With the sound of the train bouncing back off tunnel walls giving a scary aura to an already scary place, I felt like I was moving through the stomach of a hideous monster, only to be thrown out of the other end of the tunnel unharmed. And there were 53 such tunnels still to be crossed. I cannot forget that feeling.

After some time I moved to the other side the brake room, to the absolute end of the train. I could see the tracks left behind the train as train moved forward. I talked with brake room operator, and came to know that he also had worked in Mysore for 1 year. He told me that train will be reaching Subramanya in half an hour. I enjoyed the 30 minutes admiring the place, in the mean time clicking as many photos as I can. .

The train slowly inched forward towards Subramanya. It finally reached Subramanya at 5:45. I was filled with a mixture of happiness and sadness. I was happy that I was getting near to my friends. I was sad because such an awesome journey had come to an end. I thanked the brake room operator and headed towards Puttur.

I started walking, thinking what my friends would be doing right now. Then I thought of calling them. I took my mobile out. Damn, still no network. Then I begged someone at the station to give his mobile and called Sharan. I guess he was relieved after he heard my voice, the feeling mutual. I told him that I was at Subramanya and was heading towards Puttur. He just told me how to reach them.I took a bus from Subramanya to Uppinangadi. It was an hour journey o the bus. I just sat back and recollected what had happened from morning.

I still had a feeling that I could wake up anytime on my bed, all these events could just be a dream. No, it was not a dream. Every thing that had happened was absolutely real.

But Yes, I had been through a dream journey.

Reunion

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

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Finally I met my friends at Uppinangadi. Everyone was happy and relieved. I could see it in their faces.

I don’t know how my friends must have felt for ruining their train journey. Sorry guys ( Sharan, Vasu, Ashok, Mahaveer, Rajendra and Prashant). This blog is my attempt to make up for that mistake. I hope you had a proper train ride with me after reading this blog.

And thanks to Sharan and Vasu for organizing such a wonderful trip.