There is something special about schooldays memories. Yet, most of school memories for me somehow, are sort of still, black and white photographs, like past moments frozen in time. Around 1954-55, I had toured Karnataka region, as a school going lad, on an school excursion. Whatever little memories of that trip remain with me are like black and white, still pictures. One of the pictures from that tour that remains permanently etched in my memory is of a huge water fall, very wide, with 4 or 5 distinct water flows. I had seen this water fall then, from a cliff on the opposite side of the water falls. I can vividly remember, the water falling over great height and creating a mist that had filed the entire valley between me and the fall on the other side. This water fall was one of the world’s highest water falls and was known as Gersappa falls then. I am recollecting this old and long forgotten memory, because our plan for today, includes a visit to this water fall. This waterfall is widely known today as “Jog falls”. I was told a story by someone yesterday, that this fall is called “Jog falls” because the contractor for a large dam built upstream of the falls in 1964, was a firm from Pune with this name. After checking up the history with my computer, I know for sure, that this story is absolutely rubbish. Gersappa is a small village on the banks of Sharavati river located about 16 miles east of coastal town of Honavar. “Jog” also happens to be a name of a nearby village. The falls were always locally known as Jog falls and this name was made official later.
I am on my way to Jog falls. State highway number 93 goes from Sirsi town to a place called Siddapur. The stretch of this road from a village known as Kansur to Siddapur passes through dense forests. At Siddapur an interior road to Mavingundi branches off. We take this road up to Mavingundi town and then join National Highway no.206, which takes us right up to a bridge on Sharavati river. After crossing this bridge, vista point for the Jog falls, is just a kilometer away.
Our vehicle comes to a hault. I get out of the vehicle and look around. Karnataka state tourism department has developed a huge parking space here with all kinds of tourist amenities like wash rooms, restaurants and places available for lodging around it. There is a well built stepped path, which takes a visitor right up to the edge of the cliff and around it’s periphery.
My mind again goes back to fifties, when I had come here to see the famous water fall. There were hardly any amenities during those days. Our bus had stopped in an open space and we had carefully walked along a path under direct supervision of our teachers. On reaching the edge of the cliff, which was known as Watkin’s platform, what I had seen with my eyes, can never be forgotten. Ahead of me, was a deep cleft or a gorge at least 1000 feet deep. On the other side of the cleft, a sharp rocky cliff shaped like a hook with an handle was seen. From this rocky cliff four giant bodies of water were jumping or crashing down at least eight hundred feet. The water bodies were so big that they had formed white sheets of water. A huge cloud of white mist was formed from the water, which hammerd down the cleft, with a tremendous force. The mist was so thick that sometimes half of the fall disappeared behind it. And finally what I still remember was the massive roaring sound made by the water, which I could hear even where our bus was parked.
The Gersappa falls of the fifties can be seen these days very rarely only in rainy season (July-August). This is primarily because the Sharavati river has been stopped by a huge dam named as “Linganmakki dam”, constructed in 1964, about 6 kilometers upstream of the falls, this dam has reduced the water flow going down the falls. Only during rainy season, when the dam reservoir is overflowing, one can see the full fury of Gersappa falls.
Having known that I would not be able to see the glory and the majesty of the yesteryear’s, I am sort of resigned to see, whatever that remains, of a much depleted water fall. I move along the stepped path and go right up to the edge of the cliff. Ahead of me again is the same deep cleft and the same rocky cliff shaped like a hook with a handle. Its almost mid day with Sun blazing from overhead. I am able to see clearly pools of water formed by the water falling from the top, the river and rocks in the bed and there is no mist. Not even traces of it. May be because it is mid day, the mist has disappeared, or with depleted quantity of water falling, it never forms now. Without the mist, the Gersappa or Jog falls have lost their mystery and the magic for sure.
The four falls still exist. The ‘Raja” or the King fall, is also known as Grand fall or Main fall or Horse-shoe fall. It falls over the cleft, 830 feet down in an unbroken sheet, from deeply cut back right side of the hook shaped cliff, forming a little white mass, a mere trickle of water, sweeping a smooth and graceful curve and finally looses itself in clouds of spray as it hits the pool of water at the bottom.
About 1000 feet to the left and still in the bend of the hook, is the second fall. This one is well known as the Roarer, because of the noisy fury it used to create. Now a days it falls meekly from a point somewhere half way down and meets the water of Raja fall almost at the bottom. During days of its glory, Roarer used to fall from the top of the cliff and it’s water used to hit against the Raja fall somewhere mid air creating that mystical and magic mist in the cleft. As I see it today, I feel that it should be called whimperer and not Roarer. The third fall about 700 feet left of Roarer and in the handle of the hook, is known as “ Rocket” and has fortunately maintained somewhat of its previous glory. It first falls a sheer drop of about 100 feet on an projecting rock and then rockets itself into the cleft to turn down later downwards in a graceful sweep 700 feet down. 500 feet to the left of the “Rocket” fall, a gentle fall earlier known as “La Dame Blanche” or popularly known today as “Rani” or queen fall, glides quietly over the slope looking like a white strip of muslin.
Gersappa or Jog falls used to be compared with the major water falls in the world. It is no longer comparable even with the mid sized water falls of the world and can be considered as a major water fall of the world only during days of monsoon fury.
On the right side of the “Raja fall” I can see some nicely built Bungalows. I do not know whether these are the old structures or have been built in recent days. This is the site where one Captain Cruickshank of the garrison of Royal Engineers, had built a masonry bungalow in 1868 for high ranked British officers. In those days, view of the falls from this place was something out of this world. It was so close to the fall that the roar of the water sometimes used to shake the windows and the doors. Today, I am doubtful whether the falls can be even seen from this site. The roar of the falls now turned down to whimper, may not be even heard today.
I go around various vista points and nicely constructed suspension bridges around the periphery of the Watkin’s platform. I have to hunt for a place so that I can get all the falls from top to bottom in a single photograph. I find a place, but the photographs disappoint me thoroughly.
I get into the vehicle again and we leave for our onwards journey. We branch off to a road on right going to a place called Kargal, just before the bridge on Sharavati river. I pass through another bridge on a river like water body. This is a man made river and takes the Sharavati waters to the head works of the Hydro Electric Power generating project run by Karnataka Power Corporation. I am now traveling southwards on this road, which runs through the land situated in between two huge water reservoirs. On my left, is the lake formed by Sharavati river itself, because of the Linganmakki dam and on my right, is a reservoir called Talakalale, which is actually a sort of storage reservoir for the excess waters of the river. The road has been laid for a continuous stretch along hill tops, which stand as a barrier between these two water bodies. The entire area between these two water bodies is now densely forested. Many of the jungles here must have come up during last half a century, since this dam was built. I pass through Kargal village. Few kilometers down the road I see a narrow earthen track, which can barely allow our vehicle to pass. There is a welcome arch with a gate, which incidentally is closed. A sign board on the arch says that “Welcome to the Muppane Wildlife Sanctuary ”. In reality, we are locked out of it. There is some confusion. We are told that we should have obtained entry permits at the Kargal village, through which we passed through little while ago. After further confusion, heated discussions and further delays a forest guard finally appears with the keys. After spending about 30 to 40 minutes on the roadside, appreciating the beauty of forest land, we are finally let in.
The vehicle turns, heaves and whimpers as the narrow earthen track turns at impossible angles and inclinations. We are now in the middle of a dense forest. After traveling roughly 3 kilometers I see some open space ahead for parking. Vehicle is parked and I get down. I look around on all sides, but only thing that I can see around, are thick forests, not allowing even sun light to filter through. Ahead of me, I can see an even smaller earthen track, going deeper into forests. To negotiate this track, one needs a station wagon, which we do not have. I have therefore no choice but to move on foot along this track. In spite of heavy forest cover, walking along this track is a pleasure. Traveling down about half a kilometer, I see a huge body of water. The water and the trees create a scene of pristine beauty.
This place is actually a tourist camp organized by the tourism department. There is guest house and space for tents. For jungle lovers, this is one of the ideal spots to spend few days. The water is clean and absolutely tranquil. It is possible to cook here, swim and spend time without any hassles of the modern urban life. I am not sure whether this body of water is the Linganmakki dam reservoir or the Talakalale balancing reservoir. However my guess is in favour of the latter. It is of no use asking anyone, because no one knows for sure. The tourist handouts talk only about Linganmakki reservoir, so it could be just that also.
After spending some time here, I am now on my return journey to the resort. As we pass through the Jog falls area once again, I wonder that in future what may remain in my memory? The Gersappa falls that I have seen as a school going lad or the pathetic water trickles of Jog falls, which I have seen today. You may as well guess the answer. My school days Gersappa scores over Jog falls any day and on any count.
(To be continued)
17 November 2011