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Down, Down, Down - and Back Up Again

We took the train (or it took us, rather) all the way to Talguppa, though we could alternatively have chosen to alight at Sagar, a somewhat bigger dot on the map. After a simple breakfast of idli and ubbittu at Talguppa, we got on to a bus to Jog. The 15-km, 1-hour hilly ride was uneventful except for a 15-minute halt when the driver announced that the break wire had snapped and half the passengers got down to look at the underbelly of the bus. “If the brake wire has snapped, we ought to reach Jog in double quick time,” said Amit.

The Falls, when we finally got there, were spectacular. The three main falls, Raja, Rocket and Rani gushed forth and cascaded down 900 feet of dark rock face, which was covered in patches of green, mainly moss. A fourth jet, Roarer, inset between the first and second of the three and somewhat lower than the others, spewed forth equally vigorously. Off to the left, in the distance, another fall was visible, and to the right, nearer by, yet another. Smaller falls and streams could be spotted in you wandered around a little.

The three main falls all come crashing down into a common pool of rather muddy brown water, about 40 m deep. This is the monsoon - and a good monsoon at that – so Jog is at its best these days. The strains of mist that keep rising, obscuring the falls, then drifting gently apart to reveal them anew, one at a time, only add to the charm of the setting. It rained intermittently, and at times it poured, so, although we had brought our wet-weather gear along, in the interests of keeping the cameras dry, we spent a lot of time under the covered verandah which offered, when the mist allowed, a quite satisfying view of the falls. Finally the rain stopped and we ventured out to do some serious photography. Then, we stopped for lunch at one of the nearby shacks, which offered the extremely appetising fare of bread-omelette, poori sagu, veg pulao and Maggi noodles. This is supposed to be washed down with either insipid coffee or a sugar syrup which incidentally had some tea in it.

Thus fortified, we set forth again. Yogish, by chatting with the local vendors, discovered the path down to the foot of the falls. Though we were warned that it would be wet, slippery, mossy and generally treacherous, as it was still raining and pouring intermittently, we decided to be brave and ventured down the path. Down and down we went and then we went down some more. The path was easy enough, consisting of stone steps, many of which had water rushing over them and not too many mossy, slippery bits. But it certainly seemed never-ending – and this was only the way down! (Though whether the way down is worse or the way up is a moot point.)

At first I stepped gingerly, trying to avoid the gushing little streams and tiny cascades that came my way, in an attempt to keep my feet dry. Soon I had to give up the unequal struggle and resign myself to a day of wet feet. After this the going was much easier.

Vendors at the top warn (apparently in an attempt to persuade you to buy their wares, consisting of snacks and cold drinks) of a 4-km trek “up-and-down”, which is likely to take two hours. The trip down took me about 45 minutes, but this really depends on where you stop. Amit, still trying to keep his feet dry, stopped when we were so far down that we were actually walking in a stream which ran across the sloping valley floor to join the main pool of water. Crossing this stream would mean getting wet up to mid-calf level at least.

I persevered (once the feet are wet, wet jeans is hardly sufficient disincentive) until I was in up to my knees and under threat of being in up to my neck at the next step in case I lost balance and fell. Then, reluctantly, I turned back. I had joined a confluence of streams pushing their way past bushes, through rocks and over and under stones of all shapes and sizes, in their attempt to get to the main pool of water. I had been part of that movement, but, unlike the rushing waters, I had not made it. Getting soaked and then facing a 12-hour journey before getting dry again, was a daunting prospect.

We started the long, long ascent, but it didn't seem so long on the way up. The steepest parts were at the bottom, and once past those, it was only a matter of keeping on going and soon enough you would get there. It took me, in fact, just a few minutes less than the trip down, despite a few brief breaks for the heart to slow down and the breath to catch up.

At one place on the way up, we were faced with a sheer sheet of water pounding down a 15-foot vertical rock face. The water had cut steep, uneven steps in the rock. No way I was going up that, I thought. Besides, I hadn't come down that way, surely. A look around revealed the truth. The path took a detour around the vertical section, crossing the neck of the miniature waterfall at the top, by means of a narrow ledge that led to a few palpitations but nothing worse.

And then we were back at the top, hearing the vendors shouting “up-and-down 4 km” in three languages without pausing for breath. We stopped for a cool drink, as I squeezed out my sopping socks and put them on again. Then we reversed our steps of the morning – bus to Talguppa (the same vehicle, in fact, whose brakes did not cause any further delays, luckily), toy train to Shimoga (the same Guard, as chatty as this morning or more), and finally, the late train to Bangalore. Amit, to my horror, changed in the train (the umbrella not having been sufficient to keep him altogether dry “up-and-down”) with the aid of naught but a towel. My raincoat having been rather more useful, all I had to do was to get out of my wet socks! Tired but happy, we went to bed and were all asleep in no time at all.

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Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.