Kolkata to Baripada, Odisha with Simlipal Forest, Nilgiri Hills & Chandipur Sea as inspiration
Why Odisha Why Simlipal
First, second and third we needed to escape the commotion of metropolitan life. Also we desired to be refreshed from the daily chores of suffering and agony of hospital and wellness care. Thus we decided to travel close to nature and chose the neighbouring state, Odisha and the largest forest, a hill and the sea . So Simlipal was our major choice this time. And Nilgiri hills with a sprinkle of Chandipur on sea. Above all the history of Moghalmari was the top up.
Rural Bengal once more
Thus our journey began by car from Rajarhat. At an afternoon (3pm) from my wife’s then working hospital. So I took the Belghoria expressway to reach delhi road and ultimately Kona expressway. Then we crossed the Rupnarayan River by Kolaghat Bridge and reached Deulti at 4:07 pm. I crossed Debra and deulti enroute.
And we traversed to Kharagpur continuing on the Mumbai Kolkata highway taking snapshots from the speeding car. Then not entering Kharagpur we took the left hand road, Simlipal calling us. By approaching dusk we were at Baksol. We had succeeded in covering the Lodhashuli forest in stark daylight after moving through Jamboni & Gajashimul.
After Netura Bazar we reached Pheko. Our car crossed the Dulung river to arraive at Sardiha. I was in a fix . Whether to continue with the National highway (NH 49) to enter Odisha through Jharkhand in a longer route. Or to take a shorter route Hatibari road (SH9) adjoining Gopiballavpur to directly enter Odhisha from Bengal. We decided the first considering darkness and safety. But soon I was disturbed by the utterly wretched state of the national Highway itself at that stretch. From Sardiha through Mantabani I reached Dharisol to cross over to Jharkhand from Bengal.
Through Jharkhand to Odisha
Moving through Panishol, Jhanjhiya, Kharamauda, Paiknagri, Matihana and Kaliya we came to Bharagora an intersection of NH 18 with our NH49. From Baharagora square, Rajabandh , Jharkhand we continued left along NH 49 to reach Kuldiha.
Proceeding towards Jamsole we went through Kadomohanpur, Ghat Dubrajpur, Bankati, Sashan, Paruliya to arraive at Banabura. Then at Banabura crossing Subarnarekha river we reached Jamsola to see the setting sun.
Odisha but drive for Baripada
In Odisha from Jamsola to Badpal, Purunapani, Pathuri , Paniposi and we were at 4 road intersection called Bombay Chowk locally. We left NH49 taking left along Balasore Baripada Jharpukhuria road (NH 18) . After Andhari, Buramura , Kuliana, Jampada and finally at Khetrapatna in Baripada.
However on entering Odhisha we had tea and evening snack from a road side shanty. In fact the place had a strange cosmopolitan look with truck drivers and trucks from all over the country. We reached Panthanivas Baripada at Khetrapatna at evening 8:20 PM. My wife ordered an early dinner as we had to skip our lunch being in hurry. After contacting our simlipal tour operator we went early to bed.
Simlipal a nature apart Day 1
Baripada to Simlipal
Next day morning leaving our home driver and car at Panthanivas Baripada we started in a jeep. Our new local driver knows the Simlipal forest. We started after paying our tour operator. Moving along Baripada Jharpukhuria road we took the first right turn at a 4 road crossing. He was driving straight keeping the Simlipal Tiger Reserve Forest Head office in Baripada at left. Crossing the Burha Balang River through Laxmiposi we reached Pithabata. Without seeing any of Baripada sites like the Jagannath Temple or Balidiha Dam we hurried for the entry gate . Our forest department approved guide was picked up enroute. As always I checked with the drinking water adequacy.
The Pithabata gate was closed with the man at the ticket counter yet to arrive. Thus we went to visit a small spring at Govindrachandrapur outside the reserve area. In other words Sitakund waterfall, a desolate place with an abandoned Sitakund Guest house amidst the jungle. Further more there were tall trees with large bee hives at various stages of formation. Simlipal in Mayurbhanj has a deep relation with Nilgiri and we will visit both.
After return to Pithabata we visited an orphaned baby elephant rescued by the forest officials and named Bablu. We used a toilet facility but it is something over nothing only.
Pithabata Gate to Nigrida Checkpost of Noana or Nawana Range
The Pithabata forest gate to simlipal reserve was at last open. It was Shiva ratri day and just beyond the gate we saw local women assembling in a Shiva temple probably only one in the reserve. Also we came to know that the villagers residing inside the forest area had separate permits for entry to the reserve area. We took left to be in the Bari Mathha Polo Road. There was a waterbody near.
As we entered the forest we saw men using blowers and brooms to remove dry leaves to the gutters on both side. Surely they were burning them in a controlled way. From them we learnt this was necessary to prevent the spread of forest fires.
Surprisingly as we crossed the Lulung River, a small stream and could see hills amongst forest cover. Besides we also drove over small water ways under the gritty road. And saw some makeshift wooden Machan atop roadside trees probably used for night watch.
Nigrida Check post to Noana Village through Ligrida
We stopped at Nigrida check gate ( Bhajam check gate) of Nawana range as officials issued us permit after checking our night bookings . Though a viewing site for Malabar Giant Squirrels we couldn’t see them but hear few. In fact we saw some wild monkeys instead . Trees were damp with orchids on them. More bee hives.
As we drove through Ligirda, Simlipal, Odisha local children from hutments rushed out to greet our car. They were utterly poor but to my ashtonishment none asked for money. People there seemed as free as nature and less pampered by the ills of civilised life. The houses were barely made of mud and forest wood.
Woods were barely reclaimed having an unpolished look probably indicating the lack of saw mills. All around you could see a brown cover more gritty than soil. But yet it has luxurious trees, vibrant with colours telling the story of untapped minerals in the soil.
Noana or Nawana
Enjoying the jungle trail we travelled to Noana. But Google navigation was almost impossible at most places just as there was no mobile telecommunication. Saw some monkeys at Khadkei, Odisha.
At a place we were travelling by a hilly terrain with dense forest and sharp bends. But none of the hills has proper names like the Nilgiri we are to visit at this trip. To add with it Brown dirt from the moral road. I felt thankful I had kept our car and driver at rest in Baripada. It is the experience I had gained from our previous hangovers at Ajodhya hills specially Murguma.
At some places in the forest the trees were covered with bee hives. Almost all of the trees. At some places none. It seemed bees too prefer to built settlements like human cities and villages. Moving further we reached a clearing with almost no human huts but sparse cultivation fields mostly fenced to keep away domestic and forest grazers it seemed. It appeared queer too see red flags on such fences. Our guide told us it a warning to cattle owners by the cultivates. I felt happy to witness such primitive form of life so true so close to nature.
Barehipani Fall View point and Muktapur Canteen at Barehipani
We reached Barehipani Fall view on Budha baling river at 3pm after traversing 5kms. It was a majestic view to see water fall from such great height of about 400m. Though we missed the splendour as water was sparse not being rainy season. 750 m above mean sea level a part of Budha Balanga river.
Balanga river originating 25 Kms south of Barehipani. It reaches the sea between Chandipur & Buribalam Sea Beaches. Here the minimum temp 7 degree centigrade at winter and maximum 35 degree centigrade at Summer. To point out we couldn’t use the wooden watch tower as it was old and debilitated.
We had our lunch from a vegetarian community center , Muktapur Canteen in Barehipani 5kms from the Fall View Point. The coupon was prebooked at Pithabata Gate at Rs. 100 per meal. It is run by Maa Laxmi, Maa Basuli and Maa Janani SSG, an appreciative endeavor.
But only after much plea I got an omlet to be eaten in a hideous way. Astonishingly the toilet facilities were good and we freshened up. We started out from there and saw few Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) .
Chahala a core area and Brundaban
We reached Brundaban 12 kms from Muktapur Canteen and 17 kms from the Barehipani Fall View point. Immediately we hurried to Chahala another 3kms to the left. Certainly we reached Chahala at 5:35 pm. Saw Malabar Giant squirrels at the highest branches of the tallest trees. I used my binoculour and zoom lenses too get to see them as also some wild birds. Red Jungle fowls were roaming on way.
Returning back to Brundaban alighting from the car we climbed a watch tower to see some more wild birds. We found the Brundaban checkgate closed and was hurrying for our night shelter. Joranda fall view was only 32 kms but considering time we had to postpone Joranda for day after altering our initial plan. Though Jashipur Gate 37 kms from there but we were thinking of returning by Pithabata itself unlike most tourists.
Reached Khadkei at 6:38 pm. The sun was setting and it was a lifetime gift to bear witness to jungle birds on sky returning home. The chirping made us happy. As we moved to clearer parts of the jungle saw human settlements. Ones that seemed almost uninhabited till now had suddenly come to life like in fairy tales. You could see blinking lights at great distances amongst the dark jungle landscape.
Arraived at Kusumi at 7: 29 pm. Sun had set and saw a beautiful fire to clear a space for the village market. In such spaces you feel the human evolution of using fire in contrast to animal kingdom. We crossed a wodden platoon bridge over Khairi river in dark of night to reach our night stay at Gurgudia. I was in Gurgiria range of Karanjia division of the Simlipal forest.
We drove just to the front of our rest room. The single room was just too spacious with 2 toilets and 2 washrooms. But the solar electricity was not enough for charging phone and camera batteries. We called the service man who consented to help us. Astonishingly all the doors and windows had a separate mosquito net door and window frames. We asked the men for cofee and chicken pakoras.
I wanted to photograph the night sky and asked our guide to take us some place with no lights. He took us to the Khairi river, one named after the famous tigress Khairi. KHAIRI was domesticated by Saroj Raj Chaudhuri and his wife. He was the first wildlife conservationist of Odisha and founder director of Simlipal National park.
It was pitch dark and startlingly cold. I took out my tripod and Nikon DSLR and started taking pictures. Alas I forgot torch or laser marker. Had to use the camera flash for planning compositions. we could see the lights of Kumari resthouse on opposite site of the Khairi river. Yet I got a sea of stars ones to relish.
Had a sumptuous dinner at our room. And was asleep soon.
The story in store the next two days of the travel series appears in Part2. See you there soon