It’s been bad news about the deficit rainfall in the Northern parts of India so far this year. What started as a slow and perceived deficient rainfall even in Southern India, especially coastal Karnataka and Goa, ended up being surplus by mid July. Although late, copious rains have filled the State’s reservoirs. I witnessed heavy rainfall in coastal Karnataka, Goa and generally the Western Ghats area during this monsoon season during my travels there. I encountered swollen lakes and rivers, broken embankments and general flooding all over the coastal areas between the Western Ghat mountains and the Arabian Sea.
(Muddy swollen rivers all along the roads in coastal Karnataka)
I took a short, well deserved break, in between hectic hospital visits with my dad and the timing coincided with the delivery of my new apartment in Goa, so I decided to head over there by road from Mysore. My plan, although hastily arranged, was to leave Mysore early morning and head up to Jog Falls by lunchtime and after a couple of hours there, we’d leave for Goa and reach the same evening. Jog falls is best seen when the monsoon fury is tapering and the Linganamakki dam over the Sharavathi River is full. Jog Falls is also the highest plunge waterfall in India, falling from a height of about 829 feet. My trip was in the middle of the monsoon and hence what I saw was quite a spectacle but perhaps wasn’t at maximum flow/volume of water.
(Jog Falls July 2009)
Setting out early in the morning from Mysore on an overcast day, the day promised to be a comfortable ride till we started to hit the roads going to Shimoga and believe me, astronauts may have had a better ride on the lunar rover on the lunar surface. Portions of the Highways were badly pitted. My driver also managed to nick a bus, damaging the rear door a bit, while negotiating through the crazy labyrinth of streets that make up Shimoga. It was just after noon when we reached Sagar and Jog Falls, which was perfect, schedule-wise.
I was told by friendly local touts who hang around offering to take photos of people with the falls in the background, that one can view the falls from at least 5 different places. I managed two locations on this trip, the idea being not to spend more than two hours in Jog, after all I had to head down the mountains to coastal Karnataka and Goa the same evening.
(Here's a short video I took of Jog Falls)
The main view of the Falls is from a viewing area directly in front of it. The tourism guys have built platforms and steps to accommodate a large number of people who come to view the falls. The main area also has some accommodation facilities and restaurants. Another popular viewpoint is the one from across the main viewing area, in a place called the British Bungalow. I guess the Brits built it during their heyday in India, the small Bungalow now eclipsed by a large new edifice that will serve as an inn or hotel in the near future. If time permits, I recommend an arduous climb down the steps to the foot of the falls when the weather is right. Don’t forget the even more arduous climb back, up to the car park/bus stop area! I had done this trek long back and it was more arduous then, I don’t remember the steps being as good as it is now.
(Another short video of the falls from the main viewing area)
What was mesmerizing was all the mist created by the water falling from such a great height. Clouds of heavy mist would drift in and out, occasionally blanking out the view of the falls and the surrounding hills completely and then vanishing mysteriously. There was intermittent drizzle from the rain, nothing that drenched us but enough to create a magical atmosphere overall. It's no wonder male and female leads in Indian movies break out into song and dance routine in such locales, the environment makes one want to sing and dance! I wouldn't try it, having been born with mediocre voice and two left feet..
(View of the steps leading down to the foot of the falls and the falls viewed from British Bungalow side)
The weather, the journey so far and the views - all combined to give me a good appetite as we headed for one of the two restaurants that were available at site. While the food wasn’t great and ambiance lacking, a hungry stomach can pack in anything. But this is where we as a country, lose the plot. Karnataka tourism can do so much more to improve facilities in such a popular tourist destination but one wonders why nothing is done.
The best thing was the timing of this trip, although unintentional, it is during this time that few people visit the falls. Crowds of visitors had stayed away, maybe because there weren’t any holidays around the corner and perhaps most people visit during the end of the monsoon period. It was quite peaceful for us and that made the visit quite memorable. I had not seen Jog Falls in twenty-five years and had quite forgotten how spectacular it really is. I hope the pictures and video does some justice. The trip down the Ghats to Goa and back will be posted next. That was one rough ride I'd never forget!