Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. 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.
Follow me on: 
Goodbyes are never good. We'll miss you Jodachua
Goodbyes are never good. We'll miss you Jodachua
Picture Credit: Susanta Paul.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Reshikhola, East Sikkim: The River Flows in You

Ever seen any place which makes you say, “To hell with everything, let’s live here forever!?” Never?
Reshikhola by the River Reshi
Reshikhola, a paradise unexplored
Well, then you should definitely visit Reshikhola – the beautiful valley resting on the bank of River Reshi near Kalimpong in the Darjeeling district of North East India. Apparently, the land earns its name from the river. ‘Khola,’ on the other hand, is a Nepali word for ‘stream.’

River Reshi in Reshikhola
By the River Reshi
About the place:

The valley with the rock strewn river and its gurgling waters separates the state of West Bengal from Sikkim. It lies in the midst of dense forests, cold, calm, fresh, and serene. In fact, to reach the riverbanks you will need to trek your way through the forests downhill. Isn’t that thrilling?

The beautiful heaven - Reshikhola
Setting step in a heaven, enjoying the beautiful Reshikhola
Somehow, it reminds us in every way of a typical Yash Chopra movie location.

Activities:

It’s an ideal escape from the humdrum city, or in Thomas Hardy’s words, ‘far from the madding crowd.’ It’s where you can birdwatch, take a dip in the cool river waters, indulge in angling, try your hand at photography, enjoy a bonfire, relish barbecued meat, go hiking, set up a tent for a night’s stay, and do so many amazing things! The land is full of scope for fun lovers.

Enjoying Camp Fire at Reshikhola
Enjoying Camp Fire at Reshikhola
Accommodation:

The biggest luxury is the series of cottages that are on the river banks. If you are wishing for the comfort of traditional hotels in Reshikhola, you better not visit it, because there is none.

At Reshikhola
Savoring the Awesomeness of Reshikhola
The accommodation facilities are all eco-resorts with basic amenities, but very cozy rooms. Dining spaces are available and the food is awesome.

Reshi River Resort
Reshi River Resort
How to reach Reshikhola:

Enjoying the sun at Reshikhola
Enjoying the Sun at Reshikhola
The place is a four hour cab ride, both from New Jalpaiguri, the nearest railway station, and Bagdogra, the nearest airport. A few kilometers ahead lies the beautiful little village of Rongli, which is the heart of East Sikkim.

Trekking in the trails of nature
The trek uphill
From there, you can plan a visit to Dzuluk, view the Old Silk Route and then proceed to the snow-clad Gnathang Valley.

Waiting for the cab at Reshikhola
Ready for the Dzuluk-Gnathang Trip
Best time to visit:

Avoid visiting Reshikhola during the rainy season. Summers are the best time, and Winters are equally enjoyable.

With our chauffeur
Finally our chauffeur has arrived. Off to Dzuluk now!
Visit this mesmerizing heaven; discover Nature at its very raw!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Noh Ka Likai Falls, Cherrapunji, Meghalaya: The Leap of Likai

This waterfall is famous as the tallest plunge falls in India and the fifth highest waterfall in the country. With a height of 340 meters, the majestic Noh Ka Likai falls is located in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya.

Noh Ka Likai Fall, Cherrapunji, Meghalaya
The majestic Noh Ka Likai Falls
'Noh Ka Likai,' translated, is 'The Leap of Likai.' So, what's behind this name? Read on...

"Likai, a Khasi woman, was the resident of village Rangjyrteh, located upstream from the present-day Noh Ka Likai fall. Her husband, a porter, had died, leaving Likai and a little baby daughter behind. She had taken up the porter's job herself to make ends meet, and life was difficult. So, the other women of Rangjyrteh persuaded her to remarry, which she did.

But, the new husband was a green eyed monster, jealous of the attention Likai showered on her baby. So, one day while his wife was out, the monster killed the baby, chopped her up, threw away her bones and cooked her flesh. But, he forgot her little fingers in a kwai (areca nut) basket.

When Likai came home, he offered her the prepared food, which she ate and relished. Out of the habit of chewing kwai, she reached out to the basket only to find to her horror, the severed, little fingers of her daughter. Likai realized what she had eaten and was full of remorse. Hurt, heartbroken, desperate and furious, she cried all her way to the edge of the waterfall, screaming with anguish and agony, and jumped to her death."

Thus, a name was coined and a legend was born.

Noh Ka Likai Board
The legend of Noh Ka Likai
Setting aside the tragedy, Noh Ka Likai is a trekker's paradise. Don't just look at it from the top. Take the stairs and the trekking trail to the base of the fall and relish the beauty. No worries if you don't like to trek. There are other options for bird watching, photography, angling, swimming, and camping, too!

For the best view, avoid the rains and visit Noh Ka Likai during September-October. Here's a video of the beautiful waterfall:

 Video source: YouTube
Incredible Meghalaya, incredible India!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture, Shillong, Meghalaya: Inner Peace Found

When you are in the Scotland of the East, you cannot miss Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture (SAIIC). Well, to be very frank, I've never understood spiritualism. So, for those who really are into it, this place has it all. As for me, I had to Google a lot of things after I came back. :)

This particular institute has link ups with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu. So, you'll find pictures and symbols of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother everywhere. One thing which is bound to attract any layman like me towards the ashram is the ambiance. Its very peaceful and quiet. There are rows and rows of flowers (you aren't supposed to pluck them!) and a big meditation hall. Once you're near it, you can smell the fragrance of burning incense in the air. The inside of the meditation hall is beautiful, all wood finish. Avoid making any kind of loud sound as it is against the ashram rules.

My experience inside was no less than reading a Dan Brown novel. There's a big metal circle at the center of the hall, decorated with flowers. They call it the "Symbol of Center of Education", the effective manifestation of Ishwara (God) and Ishwari (Goddess) in union. Tough to understand, I know.


To decode this symbol, you need to understand the other two very important symbols, Sri Aurobindo's symbol and the Mother's symbol. Sri Aurobindo's symbol is represented by an ascending and a descending triangle.

Photo source: http://www.sriaurobindoashram.com

It is explained as: "The descending triangle represents Sat-Chit-Ananda. The ascending triangle represents the aspiring answer from matter under the form of life, light and love. The junction of both - the central square - is the perfect manifestation having at its center the Avatar of the Supreme - the lotus. The water - inside the square - represents the multiplicity, the creation."

Again, the Mother's symbol is a circle with petals.
Photo source: http://www.sriaurobindoashram.com

This also has an explanation, "The central circle represents the Divine Consciousness. The four petals represent the four powers of the Mother. The twelve petals represent the twelve powers of the Mother manifested for Her work."

 Sitting beside the Symbol of Center of Education

Leaving the heavy topics aside, the ashram is a wonderful place. It has a large conference hall and shops which are known as "Divine shops". You can buy a variety of items which come all the way from Pondicherry! My personal choice is Auroshikha agarbatti. Try it...its wonderful!

There's a duplex inside the ashram and they call it "Meera Cottage". Its a guest house. So you can book your stay there and enjoy. They also have dormitories and a clean canteen too.

Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture is much more than what I've described. Intellectual or not, you are sure to love the place. So the next time when you are in Meghalaya, go to Bivar Road, Shillong and do visit the place. I bet that you'll get a lot of things to ransack the Internet for!! :)

New Market, Kolkata, West Bengal: Let Me Shop a Little More

 Photo source: http://akankshasinha.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/shopping-in-kolkata/
New Market...I’ll call it the shopaholics’ heaven. Old, famous and busy ever, this place is just where you’ll want to be if you are on a shopping spree. Also known as the Hogg market, this place has everything, yes, everything to offer. From food corners to jewelery shops to gadgets and gizmos, well, the list is endless, and that too under one roof! Bargain as much as you want here. It is THIS liberal!

Once you are there, just devour the whole of the market...there are over 2000 shops. Girls! You will find shiny jewelery stores offering you earrings, from the tiniest studs to large jhumkas, bangles from a large range of colors, neck pieces, bling blings, anklets, toe rings and what not! Match these with your clothes and wear! Speaking of clothes, you’ll also get a wide range of clothes, from kurtis and leggings, to saris, salwar kameez, tops and t-shirts, pullovers, jackets and belts, jeans, gowns and the list goes on. Further, you’ll never get soft toys as cheap as in here.

So, if you love to own and display a huge bunch of these at your home, like I do, then New Market is the name! And guys don’t panic. You have your share too! You get all kind of gizmos you were dying to own. Don’t have money for an I-pod?? That’s OK. You’ll get something as good as that in New Market! You have a wide range of footwear too, from simple sandals to kolhapuris to high heels, shoes and boots. And buying bags, small or big, clutches or backpacks, athletic bags or baguettes, laptop bags or slings, is always welcome and never regretted! And don’t only keep searching just on the surface. There is an underground shopping mall too, the Simpark mall, fully air conditioned and elegant. I bet you’ll not want to come out of it.

Photo source: Kolkata Chromosome
Accessories and clothes aren’t the only things here. You have almost all necessary items for your household too. Bin bags, laundry bags, pen stands, tables, table covers, sofa covers, dining mats, dinner sets, cutlery, bed lamps, wall hangings, you’ll find practically everything for decoration, including fresh flowers.

Once you are done with your shopping, you can enjoy a glass of fresh lime soda or the more natural lemon juice with pudina. Taste Kolkata’s age old delicacy...phuchkas with tamarind water. Lick a kala khatta. Enjoy a cup of lemon tea at the entrance of Simpark mall. Actually you can comfortably sit there and sip while the wind blows. Have authentic biryani with raita in restaurant Aminia or Nizam’s and do order a pudding in your desserts. But for a better taste of desserts, visit “Scoop”. You can also go for Bengali food in Kasturi or Radhuni restaurant. Chicken and pizza lovers, you will not want to miss Dominos and KFC here, right?? Try momos at “Wow! Momos”. Ice cream and fruit juices corners are everywhere. Beat the heat with these. Well, I have listed just a few. There are lots more. Just explore and discover! There’s even a fruit and vegetable market. Go on....try this as well!


So travelers, remember this address. Its Lindsay Street, Esplanade, Dharmatala, Kolkata. Have a happy and safe stay! Shop till you drop and smile!

Pipili, Puri, Odisha: Color, Color Everywhere



There's this little town in the temple city of Odisha, hugely famous for its applique work. Beautiful lampshades, colorful hand bags, bright wall hangings, letter holders, little purses, cushion covers, bed sheets, umbrellas, you name it and you have it! The market place itself is a distinct heaven of colors. Have you noticed the photographs below??

The market place of Pipili
The shops at Pipili
Applique work of Pipili is actually patching cloth design in other words. The locals have named the art form as 'Chandua'. So, what they generally do is cut pieces of colored cloths into various beautiful  shapes and apply these onto another cloth called the master fabric.

Wall decors inside a shop
The themes have usually originated from the temple city. So, you'll notice a lot of items with the art work depicting Lord Jagannath, specially the wall hangings. No ritual inside the temples in Odisha is completed without a Pipili Chandua. Even the great Chariot festival of Odisha known as the Rath Yatra demands canopies and umbrellas from Pipili. This famous place has also etched its name in the Limca Book of Records to have manufactured the 'Longest Thematic Applique Work' of 54 meters in the year 2004.
Colorful lamp shades
The most spectacular of all the art work in Pipili are the lamp shades. Complement these with a bulb and the decor's even more beautiful. You can also go for the multicolored umbrellas designed with Pipili art work. And then you have bedsheets, handbags and carpets too!

Don't hesitate to spend your money on one of these. In fact you can buy as many as you want! The price is going to be easy on the pocketbook. I mean it's flatteringly cheap. :) Buy anything here and that too without burning a hole in your pocket!!

And yes, when you actually happen to visit this place, do give a sure shot look inside the shop and the workshop as well. The workers toil day and night to create the beauty that you see outside. Respect for such hard-working beings!

Workers in action at a shop
Devi Applique Workshop is one particular shop here that I love. Not that the other shops aren't that good. In fact, some other shops are even better. But, the shopkeeper here, Mr. Dilip Bera, is one interesting guy. He'll never let you go empty handed. Now don't feel conned! He's a good salesman! And what's more! He even offers free gifts sometimes. ;)

Mr. Dilip Bera, the ever-smiling shopkeeper
A beautiful piece of Pipili art work
So, don't miss Pipili if you happen to visit Odisha this time. It is one of the most famous amongst all Odisha tourist places Do shop a lot there! I'll go, check my new Pipili buys! You know, I cant resist myself from checking the stuff again and again. Tempting, these are! :) I'm seriously Pipili-fied now! Tada!

Sudha Car Museum, Hyderabad : Creativity Beyond Brilliance

Can you imagine riding a king-size bed, or a helmet, or even a cigarette on road for real? No?? Well then, you are in for a surprise at Sudha Car Museum, the only hand-made and absolutely wacky car museum in the entire universe!! A pun in the name, Sudha Car Museum actually derives its identity from Mr. K. Sudhakar. Hold on! This guy had manufactured a ginormous red tricycle, the largest in the world, which found a place in the Guinness World Record! Eyes popping out?? :) Check the picture on your right....!! Yes, that's the one!

So, I was in the pearl city some years back when this museum happened to me (thanks to the boring conference in HiTech City :P). Though the air-conditioned hall in International Convention Centre sounded cosy, Sudhar Car museum was much more refreshing and unconventional.

Walk around the place and you'll find weird looking vehicles, bikes, cars, buses, cycles...all in working conditions!! As a matter of fact, you may catch a glimpse of some of these running on road! You'll see footballs, tennis balls, cricket balls, a whole snooker board, a Nikon DSLR, a shivling, a toilet-seat, a computer, a cup-and-saucer, a giant Christmas tree, a big yellow bed, a giant wheel....take a break.....its a huge list! Wait, all of these are vehicles! Sudha Cars had made a Rolls Royce out of a 1100 cc engine! And a computer car out of a Kinetic Honda engine! And had come up with a 60 kmpl condom car specially for the World AIDS day! Oh.My.God!! It was amazing enough to not let me have a second thought about the camera fee. Yes, photography is chargeable! But, I took as many as I wanted. These, I am sharing with you all. Experience creativity, people! :)


Something very cute was discovered! Click!

So the next time you are in Hyderabad, make sure you visit this place. The address is 19-5-10/3/A, Bahadurpura, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh 500064! Hyderabad reminds me of yummy biryani. I'll go and get some now. Stay updated for more posts... :)

Psst! This beauty was in the workshop then (prohibited area). Click! Shhhh!! Tee hee hee!! :D ;) :P