Showing posts with label FRH. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FRH. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Jodachua - On a Jungle Trail, Chasing the Wilderness in Balasore, Odisha

“The Jungle Law is a law without exceptions. Only the strong survives. Animals are following it, human societies are following it. It is the law of the beast, and it knows neither reason nor compassion.”

The gateway to Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary
The gateway to Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary
As our SUV trudged over the bumpy road, I pondered on the paradoxical existence of the human race, deeply engrossed in Stephan Attia’s The Balance of Justice.

We were heading to Jodachua Forest of Odisha near Balasore – an old travel interest which had long been on my bucket list. Unticked.

The bumpy ride to Jodachua
The bumpy ride to Jodachua
My five friends were jabbering, but I was unmindful of the cacophony going on at the back. As I looked up from my book, the light of the high noon seemed profound, but was mischievously hidden by the tall trees and greenery around.

The red soil had traces of endless social calls - perhaps some jungle enthusiast on the lookout of raw nature. There would be a slight bristling every now and then; we could hear birds fluttering wings, cricket chirping, leaves rustling, and the feeble sound of water flowing somewhere.

Signs of endless social calls
Signs of endless social calls
The rest was calm, serene, dead silent.

The journey seemed never ending. But, somehow, I had already fallen in love with it. No, I wasn’t bothered about the destination and neither about the accommodation. I could live in this moment forever.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but, it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway.
The welcome signboard
The welcome signboard
Finally, we came to a halt, not that I despised it. This was the core of the jungle – dark, solemn, and with a rather surprising human establishment that looked more like a conflict between man and Nature, isolated from the forest by a deep-dug trench.


The guest house in Jodachua
The guest house in Jodachua
There was smoke coming out of a little thatched hut, indicating all possibilities of good food. We don’t have to depend on jungle berries and raw meat, then – I laughed to myself. A concrete building was shown to us; the authorities pointed it out as our accommodation. Decent.

Inside, there was a large dining space, flanked by two huge rooms – airy and well-lit. We were told light wouldn’t be available all the time as solar power generator was the only means of acquiring electricity. Ah! The perfect nomadic life I had wished for!

A cook had accompanied us to Jodachua. He carried with him a bagful of potatoes, onions, and other edibles. It had been a while since I tasted food cooked by someone else. Although meat was a strict no-no there, I was totally basking in this morsel of blessing, wishing it to last for long.

Outside, upon the clear grounds was a little garden – the pain invested in nurturing it, very evident. The building had a terrace; we chose it to witness our chitchats, observations, and of course, the way we had given the agony of our everyday life to the winds.

"NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky, And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die." - Rudyard Kipling.

Post lunch (a delicious one), we took a small trip along the jungle trail. We were told there were wild elephants on the loose. Sadly, we saw none, only smelled their obnoxious BO. The cold was settling in and the darkness was getting creepier. So, we came back to the pavilion to be greeted with piping hot black tea.

Jodachua, will you be promising tomorrow? We’ll eagerly wait for the sun to come up.

After a dreamless night, I woke up to a lovely morning. Beyond the window of our room relaxed a pond and an artificial salt lick in all wildernesses. On lucky days, one could see bisons gleefully gulping water there. Yes, we were fortunate to spot the animal, but not endowed with enough good luck to capture it in our lenses.

The salt lick beyond the trench
The salt lick beyond the trench
Rather, we had a chance to click a giant red squirrel! I bet the rodent, too wanted to get clicked. Its inquisitive eyes, quick, abrupt motion, and quivering whiskers were fun to watch; its long bushy tail attesting to its uniqueness all the more.

A Giant Red Squirrel in Jodachua
A Giant Red Squirrel in Jodachua
The sunbeams were peeping in stealthily through the dark, dense forest, like crisp streaks of shining swords. I approached one of them, stood in the light, feeling warm and cosy amidst the morning mist.  – A heavenly feeling!

Sunbeams  through the forest canopy
Sunbeams  through the forest canopy
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness,” – John Muir.

Indeed, the wilderness was alluring, inviting us to explore it bit by bit. Could we resist trekking on its grounds? The adventurer in us was screaming out loud. Little did we know that we’d be in for a bombshell!

Thus began the trek
Thus began the trek
What began as a happy, zealous, thrilling endeavour, soon turned into a nightmare when we lost our way deep in the forest. Okay, we had a guide to guide us. But, he wasn’t familiar with the trail either. The more we tried getting out, the more the forest seemed to gobble us up.

And then, we lost our way in Jodachua forest
And then, we lost our way in Jodachua forest
We were wrapped up in insecurity and a constant fear of the unknown, of encountering wild animals, of being bitten by snakes, of dying of hunger and thirst, of desperation, and of the possibility that we’d never be able to escape from the place.

“The forest did not tolerate frailty of body or mind. Show your weakness, and it would consume you without hesitation.” – Tahir Shah, House of the Tiger King: The Quest for a Lost City.

The network signals in our phone went missing, adding to our woe. After six long hours of roaming in the forest without proper direction, we were tired and exhausted and almost gave up. But, like they say, every adventure is worthwhile and life begins only at the end of our comfort zone.

We stopped searching for the human trail. Instead, we started looking for the one made by elephants, which was sure to lead us back to the little civilisation we came from. There was enough BO and faeces to guide us.

The route was difficult; sometimes we had to cross thin, flowing streams, and at other time, the road was all rock covered. But, eventually, after about another hour, we were able to see an artificial salt lick – a sign that we are pretty close to human habitation.

The signals on our phones were feeble, but present. Somehow, all those mobile network commercials claiming the omnipresence of signals appeared like a big, bad joke for the moment. But, by now, we had found our way back to the guest house. Our tactic had worked!

Finally, we found our way back!
Finally, we found our way back!
This is one an experience that I’d like to cherish, fear, and feel happy about – all at the same time. It taught me the power of teamwork and will. It taught me how the strength of the mind is way more intense than that of the physique.

“The creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back, for the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack,” - Rudyard Kipling.

Indomitable were we. No, we are no pro trekkers. We all have our small, humble families. We are people who toil in nondescript corporate corners and get choked with what the world calls ‘work pressure.’ It’s unbearable, but we have to carry on.

Needless to say, this trip was a respite. We were on top of the world – thrilled, elated, exhilarated by our success. We wanted to celebrate and let the world know about our share of adventure. The tiredness faded away and evanesced when food was spotted.

There! We have spotted our accommodation. Yay!
There! We have spotted our accommodation. Yay!
Energy being restored in us, we were now ready to head to Russia Dam in Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary. The locals call it ‘Rissia’ and rate it on a level with Dal Lake in Srinagar. Indeed, the location is no less than a paradise.

As the sun started setting, the water in the Dam turned a bright blue, extracting the dark of the growing night sky and flaunting the orange of the sunlight above it. This was just the cherry we needed on our travel cake. It absolutely made our day.

Sunset in Rissia Dam
Sunset in Rissia Dam
Not much of wildlife could be noticed. Despite that, Jodachua will remain in our memories as a bittersweet episode that taught us an important lesson – there’s more to life than making virtual connections over the Internet. There’s Mother Nature, waiting to be discovered. As the day ended, we hopped onto our SUV riding through the jungle, humming a sweet melody.

Celebrating our safety in Rissia Dam
Celebrating our safety in Rissia Dam
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

The next day marked our retreat with a visit to Kuldiha FRH and the Panchalingeswar Temple near the Nilagiri hill. They say Sita, wife of Lord Rama, had enshrined the temple during their exile. Don’t know much about this place and the information is a direct rip off from Wiki. Apologies.

FRH Kuldiha
FRH Kuldiha
Tents in FRH Kuldiha
Tents in FRH Kuldiha
Panchalingeswar Temple in Balasore
Panchalingeswar Temple in Balasore
Wish to visit Jodachua or Kuldiha?
  • Visit this website: www.kuldihasafari.com
  • Or contact this person: Manaranjan Das (9439300312, 9937332552)
That's our chauffeur cum guide cum cook. Interesting person, he is.
That's our chauffeur cum guide cum cook. Interesting person, he is.
Little tips: 
  • Remember to carry a camera, or else, you’ll miss some wonderful snaps.
  • Apply a tick repellent before you go trekking in the forest. You don’t want to return with some nasty tick bites.
  • Don’t carry, cook, or consume meat. You’ll attract wild animals, which won’t be pleasant.
  • Trust your guide, but mark your own way for a safe return.
  • Carry long, sturdy sticks with you so that you can trek easily.
  • Don’t get into the forest in slippers. Wear shoes.
  • Most importantly, don’t panic when you get lost in the forest. Take inspiration from us.
You shouldn't forget your camera, lest you want to miss some awesome snaps
You shouldn't forget your camera, lest you want to miss some awesome snaps
Mushrooms in Jodachua forest
Mushrooms in Jodachua forest
Want to know what my friends have to say about the trip?
Here are their Facebook profiles. Contact them if you need more information.
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Goodbyes are never good. We'll miss you Jodachua
Goodbyes are never good. We'll miss you Jodachua
Picture Credit: Susanta Paul.