When we reached Mollem forest office, we were offered two stay options. One was at the rest house next to the office, and the other in a tent smack in the middle of the forest.
Without batting an eyelid, we chose the more romantic option. But it came with a caveat. We would have to fend for ourselves without a cook, as he was away on census duty. This meant that for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we would have to walk a mile to the nearest restaurant in Collem village.
The path to the village passed through a river; and since there was no bridge on the river, we had to wade through knee-deep water every time. Regardless of these minor difficulties, we moved into the tent.
Right outside the tent was a forest clearing, a meeting place of kinds for birds. We counted 23 different species taking turns to perch on the trees. That's about when we discovered that birds follow a hierarchy -- different species perch at different heights on the tree. The basic principle being, the bigger you are the higher you perch!
The evening was spent at the rivulet that passed through our campsite. The water was shallow enough for us to sit on the riverbed and allow the water to give us a gentle hydromassage.
As I lay in the flowing water, I realised why a river is like time. No two moments of the river are the same. It comes from the past, touches the present and flows into the future.
Out of nowhere the crystal clear water suddenly became muddy, and dried leaves and twigs flowed past me. Looking upstream, I saw a horde of monkeys swinging on the overhanging branches, and plunging into the rivulet. Accepting their first right to the river, I retreated to my abode.
The ride to the famous Dudhsagar waterfalls took us through pristine evergreen forests. The jeep crossed the river thrice and stopped at a point from where we'd have to trek. We started walking along the riverbed, which was lined with gigantic rocks.
The sight of the largest waterfall in Goa inspired mixed reactions in me. It was a breathtaking free fall of a thousand feet straight into an evergreen valley. But this magical fall was cruelly sliced into two by a railway line built by the British in a moment of madness.
On our way back, we stopped to visit the infamous Devil's Canyon. Here, the water from Dudhsagar river flows through a canyon carved out of rocks. The water in the canyon is still, almost like a sheet of glass reflecting the blue sky above.
Since there's no board that warns you of an impending death, you are tempted to jump. And if you do, you plunge into an unseen whirlpool that drags you through a labyrinth of underwater passages till you reach a point of no return. Many unsuspecting lives have been lost here, every year.
After our tryst with the Devil, we returned to the base camp. While crossing the river on our way to Collem for lunch, we were shocked by the legions of picnickers who had descended on to the riverbanks. They were cooking, eating and drinking, leaving behind an unsavoury trail of garbage. Broken glasses, wrappers, plastic bottles, carrybags, and other assorted litter were being thrown into the Dudhsagar river.
Silently I thanked God that rivers don't flow backwards, for then the filth would have flowed right back to the breathtaking Dudhsagar falls.
Gangadharan is a wildlife writer and photographer. He is the president of Junglelens, an NGO working for nature and wildlife conservation
How to get there
By road: Take any bus that goes from Panaji to Karnataka and alight at Mollem check post, just 60 km away. By rail: Alight at Margao. Take the bus to Ponda and then to Mollem, a total distance of 50 km.