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Old 9th November 2007, 13:44   #1
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Default Mahua & the road to Sukma Part 3

By mistake, I posted Part 2 as a reply to some of the comments/queries arising out of Part 1.
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DAY 2 – 14th July 2007 Saturday – Happy Birthday DAD

It was close to 0130 am and still no signs of sleep; I thought I was just drifting off to sleep, when a mosquito decided to play spoilsport. Ranga in the meanwhile had got up, sat on the bed, and was dozing off intermittently, his snores providing ear- jarring acoustics. Feeling bored and irritated, I switched on the TV and watched pencil thin models strutting their stuff on FTV. Ranga, disturbed by the glare of the TV screen, woke up.

‘What happened? Not sleeping?’
‘Nopes – I can’t get any! These damn mosquitoes are not allowing me to sleep!’
‘Want some Odomos?’
Cool! At least Ranga was carrying mosquito repellant. I was stupid enough not to pack in a tube of Odomos, very well knowing the fact that we were heading into the tropical countryside. I smeared generous amounts of Odomos on all exposed parts of the body – this did little to alleviate the problem. The mosquitoes were back, albeit a bit more cautiously. Let the sleep be damned! I would rather get up early and be ready by 04:30 am in time for the first darshan of the lord at the temple.

By 04:30 I was up & ready, having had a hot water bath and feeling rejuvenated. Took out the car and drove slowly past the hotel security personnel sleeping on the driveway – they got up abruptly to find out who’s going out.

Making my way through the narrow lanes, I reached the base of the temple – which was slowly coming to life with a couple of early morning devotees making their way up the steep steps while the shop owners were busy cleaning their shops and preparing for the day ahead. Having parked the car on the other side of the road, I purchased a coconut and some other Puja paraphernalia for about Rs 20/- and slowly made my way up the steps. The wandering mendicants and beggars on the sleep were just getting up, and some of them were counting their previous day’s earnings.

The doors to the sanctum sanctorum were yet to be opened so I bade my time near the entrance; I asked a couple of Pujaris there, if I could perform Archana; negative. You could get it done only after 7 am when the temple reopens.
Giving me company for the early morning darshan was a mid-aged couple with the gent clad in sanyasi attire. The bracket mounted fan whirred away noisily even as the rest on the environs were silent- overall a very soothing atmosphere.

Shortly after 5 am, the doors to the sanctum sanctorum were opened; As I was making my way inside, a small boy (who I presume to be a trainee priest) asked me for the coconut; he swiftly broke the coconut into two; put the pieces back in the cover and gave it to me. I joined the rest of the devotees who were made to sit in an order, a few feet away from the idols of the lord.

Presently the activities began. A group of priests sitting on either side began reciting hymns mostly from the Gita, and some hymns I presume from Lalita Sahasra Namam (1000 names of Goddess) over the microphone. I closed my eyes and a silent prayer ensued – praying for the well being of dad in particular and loved ones in general. After about 15 minutes the priests were done with their hymns, and slowly dispersed from the sanctum sanctorum. I went out into the atrium, sat there for some time, and then went back on my way to Punnami.
There was no point in getting sleep now. I spent my time at the lobby, watching the antics of a kid and his sister playing around with toy guns, darting in between the sofas, while their parents and grandparents were seated on the other sofas in the lobby. I was feeling hungry now, but had to wait till 07:30 am before I could get complimentary breakfast offered by the hotel for guests staying over at the hotel.

I checked up on Roopesh & Pareeksheet – they too had a disturbed night’s sleep and could sleep only from 4:45 am. Ranga in the meanwhile had got up and was getting ready.

Shortly after 7 am, all of us went to the temple for darshan. While I stayed put in the atria, the other three went inside. We checked up the museum which had on display, ornaments for the Gods, right from the time the temple was set up by Ramadas. We then headed back to the hotel’s restaurant where we had complimentary breakfast of Puri – Subzee & Masala Dosa washed down with cups of hot coffee & tea. We then packed up and after Ranga collected his deposit, we set out towards Jagdalpur, with Pareeksheet behind the wheel this time.




(W.r.f pic above, Roopesh (in white Chudidar), Pareeksheet and Ranga (stepping out) all set outside Punnami Bhadrachalam for the long ride ahead)

We topped up the car’s fuel tank at a fuel bunk on the main road, took the right T- junction and headed towards Nellipaka. We were expecting the roads to be anything but smooth, and we were correct. As soon as we left Bhadrachalam, the wide road narrowed down, and the ordeal of uneven roads and bumps began almost immediately.







It was raining intermittently, and the countryside was a dash of green, with the Godavari giving us company for some time, to our right. After Nellipaka, the road veered left while the Godavari continued its straight course, towards Koonavaram.

Having stayed awake for close to 40 hours continuously, the rock & roll of the car acted as a perfect lullaby, and I tried hard not to fall asleep. Not now at least, with uncharted territory coming up, and lots of pics to be taken. A small tea stall on the roadside looked inviting enough, and we pulled over for a short tea break.
In front of the small tea shack, on a couple of wooden benches, sat a group of village youngsters idling away time, laughing amongst themselves over a joke. An ageing septuagenarian, and his wife were running the tea stall. The old man felt rather elated on seeing a group of well-to-do men congregate at his shack for tea. He pulled up a couple of wooden benches for us to sit on while the old lady starting preparing hot tea in right earnest. Ranga & Pareeksheet busied themselves in taking pics of the shack, the old man, and the group sitting by. A kid, who had just come in on an errand to take back some tea, was all smiles, slightly nervous though, as Ranga & Pareeksheet made him stand still for a couple of shots.
The hot cup of tea on a cold, rainy day rejuvenated us – we paid up, got some tips on the road ahead from the old man and were back on the road.

Presently we came to the junction where the road to Jagdalpur takes a left while the road to Sileru and Vishakapatnam continues straight. We crossed over to Chhattisgarh at Konta and there was a stark change in the landscape. Gone were the yellow autos that used to play in AP – they were replaced by rugged TATA 407s and Boleros – a telltale sign the roads ahead? We passed through bunkers and camps – fortified by barbed wires and sand bags – with the inmates (most of them Salwa Judum workers?) looking out at us suspiciously. And almost immediately after crossing Konta, as if to welcome us, the roads went from bad to worse; for the next 6 4 odd hours, the Indigo was to face the toughest test in its life. We were on an apology of a road, supposed to be a NH at that. In most of the places, the road was non-existent – we had to gingerly make our way through deep pools of water – worrying what lies beneath. At the same time we had to give way to those numerous trucks, which laboriously tackled the inhospitable terrain; some met with disastrous consequences. All along the way we could find heavy trucks bogged down deep into the soft soil. The intermittent rain didn’t quite help matters and at one time I fervently sent up prayers to help us cross the ordeal called NH 212, without incident.




The landscape was nice though; we were running very close to the Orissa border, with the Sabari River acting as the boundary between Chhattisgarh and Orissa. We halted at some places en route for the customary break, and exchange of drivers. And of course there were the customary halts for security checks. At one point, when I was behind the wheel, I overtook a truck and managed to sneak in underneath the barrier at a check post when a young lad called out to stop. In his early teens and dressed in army fatigues, with a .303 slung across his shoulder, the boy tried to act important

“Check post dikha nahin kya?”

I blabbered an inconsistent reply:

“Kahaan seh aaye ho?”

Bhadrachalam

Kahaan jaana hai?

Jagdalpur

Dickey kholo
He checked up on what we were carrying, seemed satisfied and demanded Rs 10/- from us.
Before leaving we were curious as to who he was
Kaun ho tum? Salwa Judum?
Police” – he replied, with an air of authority. ???

Nevertheless, we reached Sukma in proper shape and began scouting the place for a decent place to eat. After driving for a few 100 metres, we came across a welcome sign: ‘Sri Durga Bhavani Hotel” which had ‘Andhra Hotel’ written figuratively all around. We trooped inside and had full meals served on plantain leaves – the food was the regular Andhra fare and the items tasty enough. Ranga & Roopesh had a generous helping of fish curry as well.

Feeling satiated and refreshed after a heavy meal, we resumed our journey to Jagdalpur. The road thankfully was in a much better condition and we were cruising comfortably at around 75 to 80 Kmph, slowing down to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass through, and of course for the occasional pic.

I had been driving for quite some time, and the heavy meal made me sleepy. Pareeksheet took over while I settled down at the back to catch up on those precious few winks.
After some time, we asked around for directions to Tirathgarh waterfalls, as we were getting close to Jagdalpur. The lack of proper signboards to the falls was frustrating enough, but thankfully the locals were helpful and gave us correct directions.
Soon we drove up to the end of the road and parked our car – I could faintly hear the sound of gushing water. As we walked down the slope, we the sound became more pronounced, and soon we saw the majestic Tirathgarh waterfalls –water cascading the depths ferociously.






Having clicked some pics from the top, we took the moss-covered flight of steps leading to the base of the falls. The falls looked even more majestic when viewed from close quarters. While Roopesh & I went closer to the falls, Pareeksheet & Ranga set up their tripods at vantage points.



Having spent close to half-an-hour at the base of the falls – clicking away or just sitting back and taking in the beauty of the surroundings – we decided to head back, as we had to reach Chitrakot Water falls by late evening. Climbing the steps took its toll – blame it on our sedentary lifestyle, for running out of breath rapidly.

We settled down at a tea shack a few metres away on the road – even as the lady went about preparing hot Elaichi tea, we watched the antics of a pair of pigeons – 1 fellow was walking around on 1 leg only and we couldn’t understand why. As we sipped our tea, we chatted up with the driver of a Mahindra Commander jeep who had come on hire carrying luggage of a state minister who was on a private trip to the park nearby. He asked us where we came from and on hearing that we were from Hyderabad he remarked that he too had gone to Hyderabad some time back.
Well what were his impressions of Hyderabad?
Bahut Bada hai. Hamarein Jagdalpur se bhi badaa!

Auto waalein jagah naheen deteh gaadi khada karnein ko!”
(It’s a bigger city than our Jagdalpur – Your Auto guys don’t give way at all!)

True buddy! The (dubious) fame of Hyderabadi Auto wallahs had spread far and wide indeed.

After about 35 Kms we came across a closed Level Crossing gate signifying that we were closing in on Jagdalpur, which is situated on the Kottavalasa – Kirandul iron ore line of the East Coast Railway. All of us got out our cameras and soon enough an iron ore train led by three electric locomotives went past us at a good speed towards Jagdalpur. As it sped away, we clicked away furiously. Later, as we crossed the gate, took a right turn on the road to Jagdalpur, we could spot the freight train far away, slowing down a bit. The tracks were to give us company for some time.

To me Jagdalpur conjured up pictures of a rustic little town in Chhattisgarh complete with 1 main road, 1 station road and a statue of Gandhiji, but boy was I proved wrong! The town was big enough, with broad roads, a thriving truck industry and rows of up-market houses. There was much more to Jagdalpur that I thought.
Having got the directions to Chitrakot falls (in the meanwhile, I had called up Mr. Tiwari who was the in-charge of the Log Huts, and informed him of our arrival), we headed out towards the falls. Roopesh was driving, and I was in the back seat, in a semi-comatose state and didn’t quite pay attention to the wide and smooth road we were now traveling on – obviously Chhattisgarh tourism wanted to showcase Chitrakot falls. Impressed! After about 45 minutes, we caught sight of a river running parallel, to our right – the Indrawati; a couple of shacks on either side of the road, and then that sight – a vast expanse of muddy water gushing down the rapids signaled the arrival of Chitrakot falls –Wow! Never had I seen anything like that.



Taking a left in front of the under-construction PWD guesthouse, we hit a muddy track and proceeded slowly. Roopesh swerved the car left and right intermittently as he tried to avoid the slush, but then came the big daddy of them all that caught us unaware! The car conveniently plonked itself deep in the slush as Roopesh floored the accelerator hard trying to nudge the Indigo out, but in vain. The front wheels got stuck deeply in the slush, and no amount of gear shifting – forward or reverse would work. We were in deep trouble now. I stepped outside only to plonk my foot in deep slush.
Tossing my sandals aside and rolling up my khakis, I got out my torch and swung into action. Tossing my hands under the muddy water, I tried to arrange some stones and a stone slab, under the right side front wheel, in order to give the car some traction; Roopesh started the engine and floored the accelerator but the wheels kept spinning and would not budge. Roopesh gave up.

In the meanwhile Tiwari appeared with a rechargeable lantern cum torch and tried to take stock of the situation. I was really pissed off at the turn of events, and trying hard to keep cool, took Tiwari to task demanding an explanation why the approach to the Log Huts should be in such a bad condition. Tiwari tried to calm me down, and offered to get in more hands from the Log Huts, in order to push the car out of the slush. Even as he went back for help, I got in and tried to start the car; bad – the gear lever, which was now in reverse, was stuck up and wouldn’t budge. Oh no – don’t tell me that the clutch plates have given up! Any such situation now would be catastrophic! We had to get help from Jagdalpur and then the next day being a Sunday – the availability of mechanics itself was a big ???
By this time, helpers from the Log Huts had arrived and started pushing the car from the back. No progress! They then went to the front of the car and tried pushing it back; I joined them and with Roopesh behind the wheel once again, we pushed, pushed and really pushed for all our worth. The car started moving a bit and then slowly the front 2 wheels came out of the slush! Hurrah!! I checked the gearbox and it was working just fine! Phew!! Saved!

My white T-shirt was now dotted with a fine spray of brown mud; my hands and feet were covered with slush, the floor under the steering wheel resembled the landscape beneath – but I couldn’t care less. Backing up the car, I took a detour, came up again on a side path, and parked the car in front of the barbed wire fence of the Log Huts. The folk at the log huts carried our luggage to the huts, even as I searched around for my sandals that I had tossed away a few minutes back. They were safe, in the hands of one of the Log Huts staff. I instructed Tiwari to arrange as many buckets of water possible so that we can wash off the slush from our hands and feet before entering the Log Huts.



Log Huts seemed quite impressive as we entered the expansive lawn. To our right, about 4 to 5 masonry huts were in various stages of construction. A few feet away from the last masonry hut, stood a wooden log hut, raised on stilts. Adjacent to the log hut, was an observation post with a canopy, from where you could get a good view of the Chitrakot waterfalls at a distance. A couple of masonry huts were again, under construction to the left of the observation post. The huts that we would be staying in for the night were perpendicular to the observation point and the last two masonry huts. To the left of our huts were 2 more wooden log huts, and behind them were the service quarters. All these log huts and the service quarters were connected with a cement pathway.



The log hut that we would be staying in for the night were divided into two units, with a common verandah over looking the huge lawn in front and the Chitrakot falls at a distance. As Roopesh & Pareeksheet went in & occupied the left portion of the log hut, I removed my mud stained T-Shirt and busied myself in washing away the caked mud from my feet and arms. Ranga, in the meanwhile had occupied the right portion of the hut. Tiwari - courteousness personified – enquired if we would be having hot Tea and some snacks. Affirmative. He suggested that we close the door of our portion lest insects get inside.



I had a quick glance at our portion of the log hut. This was a single room with double beds, and a table fan. The attached bath had a WC partitioned off by a curtain – to its side were the shower, couple of taps and a washbasin.

Hey beware” – Ranga sounded out an alarm

Don’t step beneath the shower! The floor is weak there and might cave in!”

As I gingerly placed a foot on the floor beneath the shower, it slightly moved down. Apparently, the support systems beneath had gone weak owing to the moisture an/or faulty construction and I for sure will not be having a bath underneath that shower for sure.

We felt that the quality of construction was not up to the mark – inferior to the superior construction employed in APTDC’s Jungle Bells resort at Tyda - things could have been quite better.

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Phew!! Let me take a breather here. Hope I am not boring you guys!!!
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Old 9th November 2007, 17:26   #2
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Great account, like the first part.
How are the facilities en route - petrol stations, restaurants, puncture shops?
Any stories of unsafe conditions, es[ecially beacuse of the naxal problem?
Is night driving OK?
How are road signages?
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Old 9th November 2007, 18:17   #3
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Nice Account and excellent explanation but I still feel that you should keep the same thread for the travelogue...

As I understand Bhadrachalam - Konta - Jagdalpur is NH (asking this coz there is no mention in the map, need to update it), you mentioned NH212 but I think there is some correction (NH212 is Mysore - Calicut highway)...

Abhi
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Old 9th November 2007, 19:40   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Nice Account and excellent explanation but I still feel that you should keep the same thread for the travelogue...

As I understand Bhadrachalam - Konta - Jagdalpur is NH (asking this coz there is no mention in the map, need to update it), you mentioned NH212 but I think there is some correction (NH212 is Mysore - Calicut highway)...

Abhi
It is NH202 from Bhadrachalam till Bholpalpatnam, and NH16 from thereon. Looks like a typo. But Konta-Jagdalpur is off NH202 and not a NH.

Abhi, throw away your Eicher Road Atlas, that uses coordinates of 20 years ago when your Dad started out in Survey of India (no offence) - check out the IMS district maps of Chattisgarh, they have the correct info.
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Old 9th November 2007, 19:59   #5
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Where exactly do you turn off the Jagdalpur to go to Tiratgarh Falls?
Looks like roads around Jagdalpur are good - I have heard that teh road north of Jagdalpur leading to Raipur is a fantastic road. Any idea about the condition of NH16, or am I jumping the gun on your account?
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Old 9th November 2007, 20:51   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Where exactly do you turn off the Jagdalpur to go to Tiratgarh Falls?
Looks like roads around Jagdalpur are good - I have heard that teh road north of Jagdalpur leading to Raipur is a fantastic road. Any idea about the condition of NH16, or am I jumping the gun on your account?

Its almost near the 37th Km milestone on the way to Jagdalpur from Sukma. There are no proper signboards to indicate the branch - off point; you need to ask your way around. Locals are very helpfull in this matter.

Yes, even I have read that the road from Jagdalpur to Raipur is superb; but couldn't quite confirm as we did not venture north of Jagdalpur.
NH 16 from Jagdalpur is in an excellent condition for about 20 odd Kms from Jagdalpur, but after that and upto Gidam it is pathetic. Gidam - Bijapur section is equally pathetic - at some places you find decent stretch of road though. After Bijapur, NH 16 is no more a road, just a straight dirt track>
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Old 9th November 2007, 20:54   #7
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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Great account, like the first part.
How are the facilities en route - petrol stations, restaurants, puncture shops?
Any stories of unsafe conditions, es[ecially beacuse of the naxal problem?
Is night driving OK?
How are road signages?
Facilities enroute were ok. I recollect having seen petrol Bunks at Konta & Sukma - distance between these two is around 70 Kms or so. In between you do have small towns like Dornapal where you have puncture shops. Signages again are inadequate. You have to do a lot of asking around.

Driving at night is a strict no no. Even during day time be prepared for a couple of security checks; Gun totting policemen, bunkers and Salwa Judum slogan abound in plenty.
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Old 9th November 2007, 21:19   #8
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Default Mahua & The Road to Sukma - Part 4

Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Nice Account and excellent explanation but I still feel that you should keep the same thread for the travelogue...
Abhi
Point taken Abhi.. Remaining parts will continue on in the same thread.

So we take off again
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After having bath, I joined Ranga & Roopesh at the lawn. Pareeksheet was setting his camera and tripod to capture some night shots. Presently one of Tiwari’s staff brought in a tray containing cups of hot tea, along with Onion Pakodas. Relishing the tea, after a hard day of driving was a good experience, and the cool country air coupled with the distant roar of the falls added to the experience. We were the only guests in the resort at that time; however another guest was expected. Roopesh fished out Rs 50/- note and ordered for a bottle of Mahua – the local drink of Bastar.


Presently we noticed the headlights of a vehicle at a distance; the vehicle came in our direction turned right went behind the staff quarters, and was just about to come on to the lawn when an agitated Tiwari rushed at it, gesticulating wildly to the driver, not to get the vehicle on to the neatly manicured lawn. The Driver backed his vehicle (A TATA SUMO) on to the nearby rocks, and soon, a middle-aged gent along with a lady and a small kid got out. They were the occupants of another log hut for the night – the gent was a government official and close to the state’s tourism minister – obviously on a free jaunt.
Having given order for dinner and on getting to know that it would take close to half-an-hour to get the dinner, we decided to check out the water falls. We were free to come back whenever we wished to; dinner would be there for us.

Accompanying Tiwari and his rechargeable torch cum lantern, we headed out into the darkness towards the falls. The falls were illuminated at night by various strobe lights, but now that it was close to 9 pm, the lights were switched off. Taking us close to the falls, and asking us to hang on for a while, Tiwari went back, to get the lights switched on. Of course, there was a solitary light still on, and we sat down near the edge. Ranga & Pareeksheet had taken out their tripods as usual and were adjusting their cameras, for some night photography.

Presently the remaining 4 lights were switched on and the falls were lighted up – the effect of light on the water gushing down was amazing and I couldn’t quite recollect seeing a similar sight in the recent past. As the waters gushed down with infinite energy, the resultant vapour formed into tiny clouds that slowly evaporated. Overall a superb experience! Pareeksheet & Ranga’s night pics came out well too.

After spending close to an hour near the falls, we headed back to the Log Huts. Presently dinner was served. Tiwari & Team arranged for a complimentary Bastar dish, the name of which I cannot recollect now. We ordered the regular compliment of Rotis and vegetable curries. Roopesh & Ranga tried out Mahua – and it was not much to their liking. I was simply too tired to continue after having a sumptuous dinner, and not having slept for close to 40 hours- so bade the rest goodnight, went up to my room and the bed, rolled over and was deep in sleep soon

Day 3 Sunday July 15th

Ranga woke me up by 06:30 am –

Aren’t you going to take some shots of the falls from the log huts?

I got up rather sleepily, stirred around for some time, freshened up, ordered some tea, and took my camera for some shots of the falls. The best views could be had from the under-construction masonry huts, to the left of us.

The observation point also offered some good views. I took various shots of the falls from various angles. Soon morning tea arrived, and we sat lazily on the veranda of the log huts sipping it. We ordered for Aloo Parathas & tea for breakfast and since it would take some more time, Tiwari volunteered to take us around to show some spots of interest around the log huts. Picking up our respective cameras we followed Tiwari as he made his way to the open countryside behind our log huts. There was another masonry structure under construction – that apparently would be a bar & restaurant offering a good view of the falls.



Passing a huge water tank, we went to the edge of the high table land that we were on currently, and then took a rocky footpath as it rapidly descended to join the banks of the Indrawati.







The path was quite steep and slippery and we had to exercise caution while descending. Having descended completely, the path ran through sparse shrubbery before ending on the banks of the Indrawati. As we reached the banks, to our left we could see the tableland high up, and the river took a right turn, to disappear in between the ledges.





Tiwari recollected having bought a Japanese tourist to the same spot sometime ago. The Japanese was so impressed, he went back, organized camping equipment, came back and stayed put for a whole day - obviously impressed by the quiet environs and nature at its unspoiled best.

After spending time and taking pics from various angles, we headed back on the path that we came.
Roopesh, Pareeksheet & I could climb up the rocky path without much difficulty and waited on the rocks above even as poor Ranga huffed and puffed and slowly made his way up. By the time he joined us on a rock on the tableland, he was panting badly and was hungry as hell. Tiwari had plans to take us to a small waterfall a kilometre or two away, but we decided to shelve the plan as we were running out of time, and had some local sightseeing as well to do, at Jagdalpur. We followed Tiwari, as he took us on a different path, to the log huts.
Breakfast would be ready in another 15 minutes, so I went in for a quick shave & a hot water bath.

As the breakfast was being prepared, we showed some of our pics to the official whom we had seen yesterday night. He had a look at some of the shots, and then went into a sales drive propagating the uniqueness of Bastar. He suggested we visit the famous Narayanpur Tribal Haat as well as the Barsur Ganesh Temple, which according to him has the 2nd biggest Ganesh Idol in the entire world. The pictures we could take at the Narayanpur Haat would be priceless he told – some of the westerners would pay at least 10 Lakh rupees for those pics he bragged. Eve as hew was harping away on the USP of Bastar, Tiwari got in four sets of Chhattisgarh Tourism Board promotional material containing pamphlets (Most of them in Hindi) about the various tourist spots in Chhattisgarh – a VCD was also included in the pack – all for free! After he (the official) left we settled down for breakfast in the lush green lawn.

After having hot Aloo Parathas, pineapple juice & tea for breakfast, we decided to trek down the tableland to get a closer view of the falls, accompanied by Tiwari. I requested Tiwari to arrange for someone to clean up the interiors of the car, which were beginning to look really awful now.

Taking a steep drop from one of the under-construction log huts, Tiwari took us down another path on to the banks of the river; now were really close to the falls and could see it in its entirety; but then the ravage caused by man - those supposedly romantic outpourings etched on rocks and those plastic bottles and plastic covers strewn around – dampened the atmosphere.






Clambering onto a rocky ledge near the falls, we took some close-up pics of the falls and after spending some more time there, climbed up the steps up to the PWD guesthouse under construction. Walking up to the crest of the falls, we spent some more time there, taking pics. In spite of being a Sunday, there was not much of a crowd at the falls. While the remaining 3 stayed there for some more time, I walked back to the log huts, removed my T-shirt and sprawled lazily on the lawn and simply relaxed.

The rest 3 followed; and after another round of Tea, it was time to pack up. Calling Tiwari for bills, we settled the bills and paid him a combined tip of Rs 500/-, which was very much worth it considering the personal attention he & his staff, had bestowed on us during our stay at the Log Huts.

Having checked that our entire luggage was inside the boot, we bade goodbye to Tiwari, and on taking directions from him about small water falls en route, we set out towards Jagdalpur. After enquiring at a few places about the Chitradhara waterfalls, we took a right turn at a place 20 Kms away from Chitrakot, and drove up the road as it ascended the rolling tablelands. Even as we were driving up to the falls, my mobile phone rang. It was Tiwari on the line and apparently we had forgotten some of our stuff (Ranga’s Battery charger and belt) at the Log Huts.

Taking another right turn, we came to a spot where the tar road ended and a mud track led to the falls. Sensing that it would be risky to take the car along the mud road, we parked it to the side and went in to check the Chitradhara falls. Having seen the Chitrakot & Tirathgarh falls, Chitradhara looked tiny in comparison. Nevertheless, it’s a perfect place to have a bath and laze away. A group of youngsters were having a booze party near the falls.

We decided to head back to Chitrakot and collect the items from Tiwari. Heading back, we found Tiwari waiting near the PWD guesthouse, collected the charger & belt from him, thanked him and resumed our journey to Jagdalpur. After about 45 minutes, we reached Jagdalpur and headed straight for Sanjay Market area where our hotel, Hotel Rainbow, was located. After a few enquiries and a few wrong turns, we turned left onto a narrow alley, and turned right into the driveway of hotel Rainbow.
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Old 9th November 2007, 21:52   #9
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We scouted around for a place to take a quick meal, and on finding a hotel with a board written in Telugu, we stopped and enquired if there was anything to eat. Yes, Dosas and tea were available, but would take some time. Just as I had parked the car and walked in, Ranga called out. Apparently the rear left window of the car had gone for a toss, and now could not be rolled up. After trying unsuccessfully to roll it up, we left it as it is and settled down in the hotel for a well-deserved meal and rest.

We repeated our tale of woe to the hotel owner who lent a sympathetic ear.Oh no there isn't any petrol bunk in Dantewada; you have to go to Gidam once again.
And where do we get a mechanic for our car?
In Gidam again!

Well well Dantewada had a computer education centre but no petrol bunk! Strange!Having finished with the dosas and tea, we drove back to Gidam, and enquired about a mechanic. Only 1 mechanic in town and he was busy fixing up a jeep and asked us to wait for an hour and a half. We filled up the fuel tank, and drove up to make the customary phone calls at a local STD booth.

Mom was all relief when I called up. They (Mom & Radha – my wife) were getting all worked up & worried on not getting any information from me for the past 24 hours. I told mom to relax and explained the situation. The other 3 communicated the situation to friends and Ranga to his office as well.

After waiting for nearly 2 hours, we could get some attention from the mechanic – even then he didn’t touch our vehicle and instead got one of his boys to go underneath and check up. They tweaked around with the tie rod, tempered it a bit and fixed it back – we went for a test drive but the noise from the fan wouldn’t simply die down. He checked up and told us not to worry – some dirt had gone inside the fan, and so the noise. Half-heartedly and with few choices left, we paid him Rs 100/- had food at a nearby Dhaba (it was close to 10: 30 pm now) and headed back to Dantewada and checked in at Hotel Madhuban. We couldn’t roll up the car window, so draped the car cover on it – I removed the detachable CD console from the car. We checked into our respective rooms and retired for the night.


DAY 5 Tuesday JULY 17th

We were up & ready by around 06:00 am and checked out of the hotel. Went straight to the famous Danteshwari temple for a darshan but came to know that the temple would open after 7:00 am. We prayed to the goddess from outside and drove away on the road to Bailadilla – Pareeksheet was behind the wheel now. A few Kilometres from Dantewada, we came across a Y junction where the road to Sukma branched off left while the Bailadilla road continued straight. Giving us company on the Sukma road was a Mahindra Bolero – at one point we overtook it but it overtook us back and after sometime disappeared from sight. The rest 3 of us were sleepy and dozed off only to get up again at Sukma, where we halted again at the same Durga Bhavani hotels for breakfast consisting of hot Idlis, Dosas & Coffee.

Roopesh took over the wheel now and the journey to Konta continued – the same road that appeared insurmountable to us a couple of days back were now cake walk – obviously – anyone who had been on the Bijapur Madded section can tackle any roads no matter how bad they might be. We covered the distance to Konta – about 70 odd kilometres, in about an hour and half. In the middle we were again stopped by a CRPF patrol party – same questions asked and answered.

At Konta we again stopped for a round of cold drinks – it was getting hotter and I took off my T-shirt and took over the wheel, and drove in my sweatshirt. The presence of Telugu signboards and yellow auto- rickshaws indicated that we were back in AP. The road was bad enough, but by now we had gained a sort of immunity from bad roads, and I drove on in gay abandon, maintaining consistent speeds of around 60 Kmph. The 60 odd kilometres to Bhadrachalam were covered rather quickly, and a long queue of trucks waiting on the road near Bhadrachalam greeted us, as we took a right turn into Bhadrachalam town, finally pulling to a stop at a restaurant.

Back in AP, we switched on our mobiles and called up friends and home. We all ordered for full Andhra meals and devoured away hungrily. Post lunch, Pareeksheet again took over as we left Bhadrachalam, took the Borgampad route, stopped near the banks of the Godavari for some pictures of the temple at a distance, and continued on our way to Khammam. In the meanwhile I quickly settled up the accounts and arrived at approximate figures to be paid by each one of us.

We reached Khammam by around 03:30 pm, and reached the railway station. Ranga would stay put in Khammam for about 2 hours and would then catch a Vijayawada bound train at 05:00 pm. He would get to Vijayawada in about 2 and a half hours, and from there, would catch an overnight train to Chennai.
We had some cold drinks and picked up mineral water. Bidding good-bye to Ranga, Roopesh took over the wheel this time as we made over way slowly out of Khammam, on the road to Suriapet. It was getting hot and even though the rear left window was down, we switched on the Ac to check if we could get some respite from the heat. – No chance – we switched off the A/C and continued driving.

Reaching Suriapet we took a left turn on the NH 9 towards Hyderabad – Traffic was not that high and we crossed a number of VOLVOS belonging to APSRTC and private companies heading to Vijayawada and beyond. We wanted to take a break at the same place where we had stopped on our way to Bhadrachalam, and so decided to drive slowly till we spotted the place and pulled over for a quick wash & tea.

I took over the remaining leg of the journey and maintained consistent speeds of around 85 to 90 Kmph. It was around 07:30 pm when we finally came to a halt in front of my apartment at new Nallakunta. We all exchanged high-fives and congratulated each other and the car for having made the trip incident free. Having unloaded our entire luggage from the car, I backed up the car into an adjacent parking slot; went up to my flat and knocked the door.

Mom was pleasantly surprised to see us earlier than expected and welcomed us in. After a few minutes, Roopesh & Pareeksheet took his car and drove away towards Gachibowli. I called up Ranga to check up on his position. He had take a lodge at Khammam and was co-coordinating with VSP, to get a berth on the Hyderabad – Chennai Charminar express expected at Khammam at around 10:15 pm

After a quick bath and some hot coffee, mom & I drove down to the Airport to pick up Radha & my kid – who were to come down from Chennai by the night Indigo flight.
Even as I waited near the arrival lounge to pick up Radha – mom continued to wait in the car, due to the faulty window. Many of the onlookers were surprised to see the car in such a pathetic condition.

Hello Madam. Where had this car been? It has not been raining here at all since the past few days? ” – The parking lot attendant offered to get the car cleaned up.

Oh don’t bother” - My mom replied

It had been to hell and back!

--------------------------------------------
Concluded
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Old 9th November 2007, 23:13   #10
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Do you think that these bad roads are a result of the monsoons or is it a permanent thing?
Any reason why you did not want to try returning on NH16 through the Bholpalpatnam, and then NH202 to Bhadrachalam? Or is that road (after Bijapur) even worse than the Sukma route? (as you say, a dirt track)
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Old 10th November 2007, 12:32   #11
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Do you think that these bad roads are a result of the monsoons or is it a permanent thing?
Any reason why you did not want to try returning on NH16 through the Bholpalpatnam, and then NH202 to Bhadrachalam? Or is that road (after Bijapur) even worse than the Sukma route? (as you say, a dirt track)
Well Its a permenant thing. At some places we did find repair work being taken up, but thanks to the prevailing Naxal - Government conflict, the repair works are very slow.

There was no bridge across the Godavari near Bhopalapatnam, as has been wrongly depicted in the Eicher Road Atlas. Had it been Summer or even Autumn, we could have taken a chance and driven on the dry river bed so as to get to the other side of the river, and continue the journey to Warangal. But it being monsoon time, the rivers were in spate, and we had no chance.

Also we decided to rush back before dark, as after sunset, it was not advisable (according to the locals) to drive on those roads.
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Old 11th November 2007, 08:13   #12
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Abhi, throw away your Eicher Road Atlas, that uses coordinates of 20 years ago when your Dad started out in Survey of India (no offence) - check out the IMS district maps of Chattisgarh, they have the correct info.
Sir, I didnot encounter any better maps other than this in bangalore (personally asked for the same in Landmark, FOrum Mall), hence, regular updating my atlas with pencil

Of Topic: Just for Information
Some of the major surveys done by my dad in his first 20 years(1966-87), remaining 20 yrs he was lecturer / instructor to the new joinees.
1) Indo-Bangladesh Border survey (we went there too in Agartala side in 1984, I was 5 yr old then, it was surrounded by jungles and wild life, it has lots of stories - attack by wild elephants, sleeping with snakes, wildest thunderstorms etc etc, kabhi milke bataunga)
2) Chikballapur - Bagepalli - bangalore survey in 1986 (he came here a month back and I went to show my office in Hebbal, Even before the hebbal flyover, he prompted, I think I know this place, right turn will take you to chikballapur right? I was like WHAT? We did survey after Jakkur to AP border, he told he jeeped/walked/climbed Nandi Hills atleast thrice a month when they were camping in Chikballapur)
3) Sundarbans Border Survey: That was indeed very challenging and adventurous after the Indo-Bangla project...They were always surrounded by 4 BSFs with loaded guns inside the jungle to protect any attack from Royal bengal tigers...
3) Yadagirigutta - Ghatkeshar - Bhongir - Aler - Raigir , that region and many more...

Abhi
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Old 11th November 2007, 09:40   #13
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Sir, I didnot encounter any better maps other than this in bangalore (personally asked for the same in Landmark, FOrum Mall), hence, regular updating my atlas with pencil

Of Topic: Just for Information
Some of the major surveys done by my dad in his first 20 years(1966-87), remaining 20 yrs he was lecturer / instructor to the new joinees.
1) Indo-Bangladesh Border survey (we went there too in Agartala side in 1984, I was 5 yr old then, it was surrounded by jungles and wild life, it has lots of stories - attack by wild elephants, sleeping with snakes, wildest thunderstorms etc etc, kabhi milke bataunga)
2) Chikballapur - Bagepalli - bangalore survey in 1986 (he came here a month back and I went to show my office in Hebbal, Even before the hebbal flyover, he prompted, I think I know this place, right turn will take you to chikballapur right? I was like WHAT? We did survey after Jakkur to AP border, he told he jeeped/walked/climbed Nandi Hills atleast thrice a month when they were camping in Chikballapur)
3) Sundarbans Border Survey: That was indeed very challenging and adventurous after the Indo-Bangla project...They were always surrounded by 4 BSFs with loaded guns inside the jungle to protect any attack from Royal bengal tigers...
3) Yadagirigutta - Ghatkeshar - Bhongir - Aler - Raigir , that region and many more...

Abhi
Abhi, your dad must be quite an encyclopedia! The Sundarbans survey must have been the project of a lifetime.

Yes, the best maps are the ones we make when we drive around on our own - for instance, I trust my own log books. Of all, I found the IMS district-wise maps of each State very good, they are available in all stores here in Bombay (try Strand Book Stall in Manipal Centre, their Bombay store has it). The only hitch is you may get only Karnataka and the neighbouring states. TTK also nw publishes district-wise State maps. Apart from IMS, I find the maps published by N C Kansil also good (State maps, not districts).


Over a period of time, I have collected most states - wherever I go, Leh or Darjeeling, I head for a book shop and pick up as much of the local maps as possible. In case you want any maps, let me know, I will be happy to buy and send them to you. One tip is, check out the airport book stores, they definitely have a better map collection than the larger city stores.

In the meantime, the Survey of India itself publishes some fantasic mpas, called the Trekking Map Series, which have detailed maps of mountain regions like Kulu, Badrinath, etc, which are also great on road detail. I guess they have similar maps for the roads too, I tried to buy some time ago, did not succeed.
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In the meantime, the Survey of India itself publishes some fantasic mpas, called the Trekking Map Series, which have detailed maps of mountain regions like Kulu, Badrinath, etc, which are also great on road detail. I guess they have similar maps for the roads too, I tried to buy some time ago, did not succeed.
This will help me a lot...I knew Survey of India used have map exhibitions in Uppal campus in Hyd when I was a kid and they had a sale counter as well to buy maps...
I will ask my dad if we can buy some maps right from SOI...If possible, I will try to buy it...

Abhi
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Old 18th November 2007, 10:31   #15
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I was reading today morning's HT on Maoist problems in Dantewada District on Chattisgarh (the "Liberated Zone") and some info on roads there:

The whole South part of Datewada District (bordering AP) is off bounds to the Indian establishment - police, administration, etc - and entirely under the control of the Naxal-Maoists. The only road that is still with the Indian government is the road that PVS took - the Konta-Sukma road. The entire interior roads ae closed to all but the Maoists. Particular mention is made of villages like Chintalnar which is off this road.

Another mention is made of Pamed, which is off the NH202 (road to Bholpalpatnam and Bijapur). Apparently, after Pamed, no cars are allowed and the journalist who walked 2 kms into the Naxal area was asked to retreat, else face the consequences.

There is menton of mines strewn across the Chintalnar road - "heavily littered" with Claymore landmines and "relentless sniper fire". Pamed is the place where ambushes between cops/ paramilitary forces happen frequently. The police station at Bijapur was ambushed and is "the last representative of the Indian State in that area" meaning the area west and south of Bijapur is totally out of bounds to all but the Maoists. Police officers there feared that they "would be wiped out". "Policemen posted in these parts say that there are seveal areas deep in Bijapur and Dantewada districts where they have not ventured for two decades."

There is also a further warning from a CRPF official not to cross Sukma where "you will find the last petrol station and the last bottles of soft drink""It's a war and forget winning, we do not know how to fight it."

PVS, kudos on completing a great trip, hope to follow your lead, terrorism be damned, but yes, let us take care!!!
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