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Old 27th August 2015, 21:07   #1
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Default Chhattisgarh Chronicles

Think of your life as a waterfall; it may come crashing down at some point, it may have its ups and downs, but in the end, it will continue to flow.

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Chitrakote Falls was always on my radar since hearing that it was the widest waterfall in India but given the location which was bang in middle of naxal territory, my apprehensions were on an all time high. I would plan for it and then deviate to something else over the years. This year though I made up my mind to brave through my apprehensions and planned a trip to Chitrakote through Nagpur. I thought I would do a round trip through Vizag / Hyderabad but given the paucity of time (had just 7 days in hand) I decided to trace my steps back the way I came in.

So essentially I was to drive 1500kms to Jagdalpur and return exactly the same way back just to see a waterfall and this took a ton of convincing to get wifey on board.

Finally, everything was planned, booked, packed and we were ready to go…
The plan was simple…Mumbai - Lonar - Nagpur - Kanker - Chitrakote (Jagdalpur) – Nagpur - Aurangabad - Mumbai.

Day 1 : Lonar
The Mumbai-Pune expressway was acting up over the past few days but got some sound advice that it was all well and good so we started out as usual at 1am from our pad. Ten minutes into the drive and the heavens opened up…the rains accompanied us right up to the expressway which had very sparse traffic even lesser than normal and it was a breeze till Talegaon exit where we branched off towards the Chakan-Shikrapur road which is a nice 2-lane road that joins the Aurangabad highway bypassing Pune. The Nagar bypass was in a good condition as was the Aurangabad and Jalna (surprisingly good) bypass. Made it to Aurangabad/Jalna by 9am where the 4-lane highway ends and it was around 100kms to reach my destination for the day…Lonar.
The bad roads started around 15kms before Sindhked Raja but it was slow and steady progress before I got stuck in a massive traffic jam for a palkhi procession moving towards Shegaon. Thousands of “warkaris” were walking, camping, praying, dancing all over the place and we were stuck there for around an hour before managing to crawl out and reached Lonar by around 10am.

Start of the trip...0.0 on the ODO.
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Somewhere after Sindkhed Raja...a palkhi procession to Shegaon which jammed up traffic for a good hour.
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The MTDC at Lonar is situated right on the edge of the crater and is surprisingly neat and clean. Small cottages wrap around a central hall where the reception and restaurant are located. While checking up we met up with a guide named Ramesh who agreed to take us down to the crater and around Lonar for a dekho!

View from MTDC, Lonar...can see the edge of the lake at the top.
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Cottages at MTDC, Lonar
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We freshened up, had an early lunch and started out with Ramesh to trek down towards the crater. The sun was bearing down on us and there was no sign of rain in the air. The first stop was the view point.

Plague at the first viewpoint.
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Lonar Lake
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Then started the long trek down to the crater bottom through broken steps, thorny shrubs and 6 inch long millipedes!! I huffed and puffed my way down ( which I realized later was the easy part!) to reach the first pitstop on the way, a 900 year old Shiva temple with another recently excavated shrine nearby. We met a cool ‘baba’ who was on a foot trip from Kanyakumari to Badrinath staying wherever he found “anand”!! He spoke impeccable English and seemed other-wordly…so detached yet happy! He invited to stay for lunch which the resident preist was preparing….’tis was a tempting offer but we respectfully declined, wished him well and moved on after a 15-20 minute tete’-a-tete’.

Thousands of 4-6 inch millpedes abounded all the way
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The easy way down....getting back up was the chore!
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This little fella was screeching his lungs out...among the other noises were peacocks wailing and the occasional hyena laugh (as per the guide but I have my doubts)
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Ancient Temple halfway down the trek.
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Cool Baba....seemed and sounded so happy and detached!! On a walkathon from Kanyakumari to Badrinath
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Walkway around the lake....this is where the stench hits ya'.
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Reached the lake and the first thing we noticed was the stench...like a thousand rotten eggs! The guide was going on and on about the geological wonder that Lonar is…the rocks, the alkaline (ph) level of the water, the algae it harbors, the birds that feed on that algae and all the gyan…while I was more worried about the climb back.

Lake upclose!
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Seems these birds feed off the algae that thrives in the lake.
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Algae upclose.
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Another ancient temple beside the lake...was told there were 14 all around the circumference.
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All coiled up!
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Company on the way up...
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Last edited by nix1976in : 27th August 2015 at 21:10.
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Old 27th August 2015, 21:25   #2
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Moving around the circumference, we visited a few other temples which were in derelict condition before finally turning back. The guide told us he will take us up on the easier route which was easier said than done. This turned out to the ‘harder’ route…so huff puff huff puff and some more huff puff….must have taken 10 pitstops and lost a ton of sweat ( is that alkaline too??) before finally falling over to the road right across the MTDC resort however the guide was not done with me yet and tempted wifey with yet more temples. This time there was no trek, I just needed to manoeuvre the Xylo through the narrow streets of Lonar village.

Reached the top...finally!
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We stopped outside a quaint little temple called “Motha Maruti”. Legend has it that the temple is over 700 yrs old and since then the 10-12 feet sleeping maruti idol was covered with ‘shendur tel’ i.e. sindoor and oil over the years. By 2006, it resembled one big saffron block and no one knew what lay under it. That was when it was x-rayed and some experiments were carried out and it was discovered that an idol lay under it and a cleanse was ordered by the ASI. It is estimated that around 3.5 tonnes of sindoor mixed with oil was removed from over the idol before its real form was revealed.

Motha Maruti
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This non-decrepit pic shows the idol covered completely in sindoor and oil.
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Next stop was the Surya temple allegedly vandalized by Allaudin Khilji (this kid was really destructive). The temple is set on a small hillock and is set in the hoysala style similar to Belur and Halebidu in Karanataka. It has some lovely sculptures and since the weather had cooled down a bit, I could enjoy walking around admiring the place.

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Day 1 done at 583 kms on the ODO.
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Coming back to MTDC, I relaxed my tired aching legs till dinner and crashed for the night. On ward to Nagpur tomorrow!

Last edited by nix1976in : 27th August 2015 at 21:26.
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Old 27th August 2015, 21:47   #3
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Day 2 : Nagpur
Independence day started nice and early…watched NaMo’s speech over tea and then checked out around 10.30am making our way towards Mehkar.

MTDC Lonar...parting shot!
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Entrance to the Lonar protected area.
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Independence Day walk-bye on muddy roads in the village
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Saw a small stall by the wayside and decided to stop for some breakfast which was some of best Poha I have ever had!
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The drive was quite uneventful and the rains stayed away. The roads were pretty good from Mehkar to Karanja Lad to Amravati from where it’s an excellent 4-lane expressway to Nagpur and we reached our destination by 6pm.

Water water everywhere but no rain in sight!
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Lovely 4-lane from Amravati to Nagpur.
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Had a sumptuous dinner with my kin and crashed for the night!.
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Day 2 done with 364 kms on the ODO. The real journey starts tomorrow.
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Old 27th August 2015, 22:32   #4
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Day 3 : Kanker.
I love staying in heritage hotels and opportunity presented itself in the form of Kanker Palace which is just before Bastar and around 350 kms from Nagpur. So I decided to break my journey at Kanker for the day. From Nagpur it’s a 4-lane highway till Rajnandgaon through Bhandara where we branched off to the rural roads to take the Dhamtari-Balod-Kanker route.
It’s a lovely 2 laned road through the verdant countryside amidst green paddy fields all the way. The roads are lined with small villages and one has to be a bit careful about the unmarked speed breakers.

Nagpur Railway overbridge..
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4-Lane smooth highway till Rajnandgaon through Bhandara
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Near the turnoff towards Dhamtari
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Water was quite abundant in all the rivers despite the dismal rain.
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Bam Bam Bhole!
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Country Roads take me home....to the place i belong!
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We reached Kanker around lunch time and settled in to the sprawling palace. Met up with Jolly, one of the scions of the royal family who took us on a personal tour of the palace and showed off his cars!

Kanker Royal Insignia
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Kanker Cottages
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Kanker Palace
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Palace room with an ancient restored Pankha.
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1940's Ford jeep with a 60's Enfield behind
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Dodge Desotto
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The bikes upfront...
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The porch..
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Inside the darbar hall.
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The school started by the royals.
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Had a sumptuous lunch of some local desi chicken and generally relaxed the day off chatting with the royals about the local way of life and how the tribals are changing for better or worse.

One piece of advice they gave us very strongly was to stay away from police and political caravans as they are the ones which are most likely to be targeted by the naxals.

Watched Arnab screaming his lungs out for a bit on the idiot box before crashing for the night.

Day 3 done after adding 377kms on the ODO
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Last edited by Aditya : 29th August 2015 at 13:14. Reason: Rule #11
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Old 27th August 2015, 23:17   #5
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Day 4 : Chitrakote
We just had to cover around 160 kms for the day to reach Chitrakote. Was advised to take the Kanker- Keskaal-Kondagoan-Bhanpuri-Chitrakote route thereby avoiding Jagdalpur.

Had a leisurely breakfast at the palace and moved out by 10.30am towards Kondagaon. Keskaal ghat is a breeze to drive up on and we reached Kondagaon in quick time. The local arts and crafts shops were yet to open so we thought we would have a ‘dekho’ on the way back and moved on. Signages in chattisgarh are fantastic and we had no problems in locating the turnoff towards Chitrakote from Bhanpuri.

Lovely roads towards Keskaal ghat before Kondagaon
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Welcome to Bastar
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Rains finally...
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Interior Chattisgarh...
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Lotus Bloom
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AS soon as we turned off there was a local market at but we were too early for it and the folks were just coming in. We were asked to wait a couple of hours to sample the chapda or red ant chutney! But we city folks are always in a hurry so we moved on.

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Wherever we saw a police jeep which were aplenty along the route we would speed up or slow down as needed to stay away from them…my apprehensions were again at an high given the dense jungle around, the narrow road and police jeeps

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The guys at Kanker palace had told us that it was market day at Tokapal on the Tirathgarh route too but we decied to check in at Chitrakote Dandami Tent Resort run by Chattisgarh Tourism and then decide whether to go to market or not.

As soon as we reached Chitrkote we could hear the roar and see the spray from the waterfall and stopped for a bit to gaze at the falls but we were going to be here for another day so we decided to check in first.
We reached the Chitrakote resort early for the 2pm check in and decided to have lunch at the in-house restaurant which was when a posse of policemen armed to the gills walked in followed by a dozen men in white…guess what the local BJP MLA Santosh Bafna of Jagdalpur who is also the tourism board chairman had decided to meet some of his supporters there. So we had lunch with around 75 cops and politicians in the only place on earth where we were advised to stay away from them!!!

We had double quick lunch and checked into the tent…very clean, very nice fittings and furniture and overall a lovely place. We were just settling in when we heard some noise and saw that the next tent was assigned to the MLA to freshen up and was surrounded by the cops...’tis was getting ridiculous

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We shelved the plan for Tokapal since we were told that there would be 2 markets on the next day on the titrathgarh route itself…one at Ursibeda and the other at Fulpathar near Tirathgarh.

Rested up for a bit and the decided to walk down to the falls. The resort has created a lovely paved walkway along the edge of the ravine with vantage view points. We walked for around 30 mins reaching the falls and stayed there till after sunset. The falls are lit up with halogens at night and its quite a treat to be able to view the water even after sundown.

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Waterfall view from the walkway
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At the edge...
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Night view of the lit-up Chitrakote.
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We returned to the tents around 8pm for another sumptuous dinner of local desi chicken and crashed for the night with Arnab still screaming his lungs out!

Day done after adding 154kms on the ODO.
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Old 28th August 2015, 09:37   #6
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Day 5 : Tirathgarh.
After breakfast, we decided to walk down to the base of Chitrakote falls as the folks there told us it was around 100 steps and I was super confident after my stint at Lonar.

The Chattisgarh Tourism Tents
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Met this little fella perching outside the tent!
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So off we went…it was a really easy trundle down to the base where there was a small white sand beach as well. The views were lovely and falls looked immense from that angle. We spent around an hour there before starting the climb back up…huff puff huff puff and then again some before being over taken by a couple of wiry local women with a huge bundle of firewood on their heads…and I hang my head in shame

(So I am gonna start shaping up soon starting Monday…next Monday).

Views from the base
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Sandy beach...lovely white sands!
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These guys kept us company!
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The huffing and all the puffing to get me up and back over!
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Back up and the view seemed even more mesmerizing
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Coming back to the parking area, we started towards Jagdalpur. Entered the city a bit before finding the Tirathgarh road…as usual the roads are lovely all the way through.

We were on the notorious Sukma road and signages said we were in Darbha…so apprehensions at a high again as we munched up the miles before turning off the main road into Kanger Valley National Park. The last few kms were a lovely drive with hundreds of butterflies milling around till we reached the parking spot and discovered that we are in for another climb down

Enroute to Tirathgarh...Darbha and Sukma getting upclose!
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Lovely country roads inside Kanger valley national park.
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A waterfall enroute before reaching Tirathgarh
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Woodfired bhajiyas at the parking spot near Tirathgarh
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As usual wifey bounded down the steps while I trundled down in despair as I knew what goes down has to come up too…

Compared to the muddy waters of Chitrakote, Tirathgarh has pristine white water. It’s a step waterfall, I mean literally, water over the years has carved out steps on the slope over which the water flows down.

Here too …elaborate view points and fancy bridges have been created and one can relax at ease given the sparse crowds.

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Again some massive huffing and puffing to get me out and back up over
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View from the top of Tirathgarh falls...
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Ancient Shiva Temple as viewed from the top.
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Coming out, we decided to visit the local market at ‘Phulpathar’, we were told to take a small left just after the welcome arch of Kanger National park for 5kms. So there we were again, on a narrow village road with no idea of what we were getting into. After a slow 15-20 min ride we reached the market area only to find that it was still assembling and only some snack and vegetable shacks were set up as yet. We were again asked to wait a couple of hours to sample the chapda.

Towards the local market off the main Jagdalpur road
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And they seem so relaxed!
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And again we are early for the market to serve us any Chapda!!
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Last edited by Aditya : 29th August 2015 at 13:23. Reason: Rule #11
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Old 28th August 2015, 09:55   #7
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Wanted to make it back to Chitrakote before dark, so moved back to the main road. I always wanted to buy a authentic tribal bow and arrow, not the wooden ones at the art ’n’ craft shops but the real deal however everywhere I was told that they have been banned since naxals started using them in warfare with the administration and also that the ones remaining are worshipped by the tribals as their heritage.

However, I asked around the road if anyone knew of a bow and arrow for sale. Met with a few puzzled looks and advise that no one will sell his bow there since it was his livelihood too. We stopped at a small shack by the wayside to get some water and asked him too if he knew someone with a bow and arrow and lo and behold as voice from inside the shop asked me “kitna doge” and I said “kitna loge”!!!

Turned out a tribal guy enjoying his mahua inside the shop was willing to let go if the price was right. So I packed him in the car and off we went off the highway to his village of Kamnaar. Enroute, I asked him what he did for a living and he said he was a politician and my apprehensions were back with a bang!!

He took us around 3kms off the highway to a 10-hut village where were like mini-celeberities and the entire village turned up to see the city buffoons. The guy, Budhu Nag quickly showed me his bow and 4 arrows which I was immensely happy with. He the fashioned a rope from the bark of a nearby tree and strung the bow neatly. I shot off a few practice shots into a papaya tree and was happy to see the arrowheads get stuck deep.

Budhu Nag stringing the bow!
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And voila we have touchdown!
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So we settled the bargain and dropped off the merry man back to his shack for carrying on his party and moved on towards Jagdalpur. We called team-bhpian Avinash Acharya (RavenAvi) to see if he was available to catch up and he graciously took time out from his schedule to drive us around Jagdalpur and showed us the old Bastar palace and the Jagdalpur wall before dropping us off to the shopping district where we purchased some local merchandise.

Avinash's new pride...the Hyundai Creta
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The Danteshwari temple at Jagdalpur.
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Old Bastar Palace...now a college
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Main Chowk at Bastar
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Jagdalpur wall...features a tribal wedding procession.
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By now it was past sunset before we finally set off towards Chitrakote hoping that the last market of the day at Usaribeda was still on and we could sample some chapda. Alas, everything shuts down by 7 and we were left high and dry!

Made it back to Chitrakote, whiled some time away at the lit up waterfall before making it back to resort for dinner and settled in for the night…Arnab still exercising his vocal cords!!

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Look at the waterfall! See how the shadow scroll. If you believe me, we'll stay together.

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The Chai stop with the best location in the world!
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Day done with 198 kms added on the ODO
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Last edited by Aditya : 29th August 2015 at 13:27. Reason: Rule #11
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Old 28th August 2015, 10:19   #8
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Day 5 : Homeward Ahoy…
Initially I had decided to spend another day somewhere in Chattisgarh but the drive back was easy so we decided to hike it back to Nagpur for the day. Started around 10.30am, stopped at the government handicraft shop at Kondagaon for a bit , then at Borgaon dhaba for a late heavy breakfast of some amazing parathas before making it to Nagpur by around 6pm.

Some parting shots at Chitrakote before staring back home!
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Chattisgarh Countryside!
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Amazing parathas and dal...highly recommended!
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Bam Bam Bhole!
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Enroute to Nagpur!
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Sunset somewhere in Nagpur
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Day done after adding 536 kms on the ODO.
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Day 6 : Home!!
Again the initial plan was to break journey either at Shegoan or Aurangabad but I kept driving and driving and then some more..started from Nagpur at 10.30am and made it back to Mumbai by 1.30am but not before getting stuck at Mumbra by-pass for an hour in a massive traffic jam of container trucks. Drove on the wrong side all the way till the Thane toll and then it was quick work via Ghodbunder to my weekend pad at Vasai for 3 days of R ‘n’ R.

Green Bee Eater
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Somewhere near Sindhkhed Raja.
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Cloudy Sunset
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Day done after adding 920 kms to the ODO to mark the end of a 3134 kms adventure!
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Last edited by nix1976in : 28th August 2015 at 10:20.
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Old 28th August 2015, 11:27   #9
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!

Brilliant! Especially the Lonar lake part. I was this close to visiting but had to turn due to paucity of time. The beauty of Chitrakoot is of course not to mention.

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Old 28th August 2015, 17:37   #10
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Mother of perfection! I'm in disbelief because this travelogue has everything you could ask for. Great pictures, detailed and light narration and interesting interactions. Heaven for the eyes! The shots taken from inside your car rather aptly had a "divine watermark" on the bottom right and this picture got my stomach firing up like a V8

It's sad that the naxal fear keeps people from visiting these beautiful locations, but I guess the best gems are the most difficult to reach.

We had double quick lunch and checked into the tent…very clean, very nice fittings and furniture and overall a lovely place. We were just settling in when we heard some noise and saw that the next tent was assigned to the MLA to freshen up and was surrounded by the cops...’tis was getting ridiculous
This bit had me on the floor! Talk about circumstances trolling you!
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Old 28th August 2015, 18:14   #11
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Very well written log and crisp pictures.
Wonderful photography and narrative,among the best that i have read here.Made me feel as if i undertook the trip, thank you.
That multi color algae and the Baba scream swag!
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Old 28th August 2015, 19:07   #12
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Amazing photographs, the waterfalls looks like Niagara Falls
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Old 30th August 2015, 10:33   #13
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How safe is it these day to reach the place?
My in laws are in Bhilai and we have been planning a visit there for the longest time.

Just that driving there with family, somehow scares me due to the naxals.
But the falls kind of seems calling me, everytime I see a picture !!
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Old 30th August 2015, 15:06   #14
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The roads less traveled

Fantastic that you drove from Bombay to visit the falls. Takes passion and courage.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 30th August 2015, 16:09   #15
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Holy Shit, It's the most beautiful Travelogues I've seen ever. Last time, I thought the same, but this one is above all. Especially, those pictures, your narration and most of all, your braveness to go through the naxal areas to see the mother nature, Just Brilliant.

My special kudos to your wife for helping you to make your dream possible. I guess, Without her help and courage, this wouldn't be that easy.

P.S: Ever considered to work in Wild Life channels? You are perfect fit for that.
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