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Old 3rd February 2008, 00:55   #1
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Default Orissa's Unknown Forests [Kolkata-Kuldia-Satkosia-Bangriposi-Kolkata] -->> Part 1

Offbeat places always have their charm, and when one ventures into very less travelled and unknown forests then it becomes fascinating to say the least.

It has been around 3 months after the North Bengal 2200 km tour, immediately the day after I took the Safari LX 2.2 VTT delivery on October 15, 2007. A couple of smaller tours were there like to Santiniketan and Haldia, but those were not that would again test the true potential and do justice to the title "Safari LX 2.2 VTT-TMT" The flawless performance of 2.2 VTT till now with absolutely no issues also gives confidence to go anywhere.


Orissa is not just Puri or Bhuvaneshwar or Gopalpur. The interior of Orissa being less travelled is totally unspoilt and thus came up with the route:
Kuldiha 2 days [off Balasore] - Satkosia Gorge 3 days [off Angul] with Bangriposi as a rest stop for the last night.


Day 1. Monday Jan 21, 2008

[Kolkata - Balasore - Kuldiha - Approx 350 km]

We were a total of 5 people and 2 small kids - Me and my wife and our 3 year old son, My friend and his wife and their 5 year old son and my friend who works at Haldia Petrochemicals.

So on a Monday morning, picked up my friends from North Calcutta and took the Nivedita Bridge to connect to the NH6. NH6 as usual was good though with some traffic, we were doing around 100-120 kmph constantly - breakfast stop at Kolaghat. Took the NH60 then just before Kharaghpur for the road to Balasore. This part of the road should count itself to be one of the best roads of India. Speeds close to 120-140 kmph were maintained easily - sparse traffic helps a lot.

NH60



However as one approaches Balasore the work is still going on with diversions galore and potholled roads being the norm. Collected the forest entry papers from Balasore Forest Office [lost around 1.5 hours there as the clerk prepared the papers at that time itself and was filling up a whole lot of papers and making again copies of those]. So with a bunch of papers and went back on NH60 and some distance forward took a left turn from Shergarh - then via Nilagiri [again a stop as we collected the car entry papers over here] and Sujnagarh reached the entry gate of Kuldiha. The striking feature of this journey was the way the landscape gradually changed - the hills and hillocks came up and the vegetation became more dense.


It was around 3 pm we reached the Kuldiha Main Forest Gate and being locked and finding no one, I honked twice and then waited, no one still shows up. 10 mins later and after a cigarette I was about to walk enquiring about to the few huts that I could see, the person [a boy] who was supposed to be manning the gate came running up. He took one set of papers and told us to proceed to Jodachua - the forest rest house that we booked - could not say the distance - and whatever I made out from his language was that it is going to take around 30 mts or so. Told us not to take any turn but drive straight to come up to Kuldiha Forest Rest house and then from there to the right for Jodachua.


Kuldiha forest hits you like huge mass of trees, trees and trees with clearance just as the road itself and this starts from the main check gate itself - the core area being almost as large as the main forest area. Very few forest authorities will let you loose like that and the very idea of a self-drive and in the process of finding out the forest rest house is exhilarating to say it mildly. The jeep road [with elephant dung coming up quite often] winds itself through the dense forest with crossings coming up in between which again lead onto much less travelled jeep roads. As said, drove straight and enjoying each and every moment of the unexpected long journey through the forest.

Kuldiha Forest Road



With time now being close to 3:45 and with the first sign of dusk coming up and almost after 45 mts of travel [approx speed of around 15-30 kmph] my friend's wife first started to feel tense and that being contagious, my wife started to feel tense. This whole 45 mts of travel we came across no one, not even a forest guard, and the feeling that I must have taken a wrong road started coming up - the gloominess and approaching dusk - a tinge of fear that one associates with jungles came up. It would be impossible to go back to the check gate and then go again as surely by that time there will darkness all around and I just hoped that this road wherever it leads to should at least come up to a forest gate, the road leading to a forest rest house seemed to be a miracle at that time, and not to a watch tower with a dead end.

Everyone was quiet inside the VTT, the uncomfortable silence and the palpable tension - with the kids being blissfully ignorant - just a bit apprehension also started in me. I started driving fast, the last 5-10 mts or so at around 60-65 kmph and thats a lot inside a forest, the thought of coming up a watch tower with a dead end road made me go quick - so that could turn back take any other road at a cross-section as long as some daylight was there. Just then, lo and behold, suddenly the Kuldiha forest rest house materializes, almost from nowhere - A collective sigh of relief from all the occupants and everyone was smiling again recounting the experience.

Kuldiha Map


Kuldiha FRH is main place to stay and is furnished, the rooms are well maintained and spacious. Solar lamps being the source of light. The Kuldiha FRH was booked for that day itself by another person from Calcutta and who is coming up every year in this place for the last 7 years. As he had booked long before I did, we were given the other FRH at Jodachua. The guards directed to the road that branches off to the right to go to Jodachua which was around 10 km from Kuldiha. So here we go again along unchartered forest roads.

The drive to Jodachua was relaxed as after all we had our first reassuring contact with the forest guards and we knew the distance. Again however, this 10 km small journey was not without its fair share of adventure. Along the forest road, a small culvert bridge came up with the earth on top of the culvert not being wide enough for the width of Safari. Stopped in front, saw that the only way is to go full speed with stable hands with not an inch of wavering - the rear tyres then jumping off the curve of the culvert to stable ground and not falling in the rut. Backed up and did just that again we were on your way to Jodachua with cheers and sense of relief again returning.

Kuldiha Forest Road - 2


Then just as the Kuldia, the Jodachua FRH materialized from nowhere. It was around 4 pm and here thus ends my first day of driving, silently acknowleding Safari's stellar performance.

Jodachua is the backup FRH which are given in case the Kuldiha FRH is booked, and there is a big difference in facilities and infrastructure. It has 2 rooms of moderate size with a common dining area joining the 2 rooms. Running water is not available and the hand pump is the main source of water. Water for bathroom is carried are given by bucket. Solar light as usual. The salt lick was just around 100-150 feet from the backside of the FRH. Food ration we ourselves are supposed to bring carry along which the guards cook - for that night we shared whatever they got, rice, dal and a simple aloo sabji. Also gave them money for desi chicken [not broiler] and other vegetables and tea for the next day which they will ring the next morning - and we shared our food with them for the next day's lunch and dinner.

Settling down soon we chalked out a plan for the next day [Tuesday] with the superbly friendly forest guards for elephant tracking and also seeing the water holes and going to watch towers. Just then I asked if we could do anything today, may be a small trek just to see and feel surroundings as there was about half hour of faint daylight. One forest guard then says that if we would want to phone, we were surprised as we had lost mobile connection even before going into the Kuldiha sanctuary and had told before our respective parents that we wont be able to phone at least for next 2 days.

The forest guard informs that we could walk for around 30-40 minutes to small patch in the forest where surprisingly BSNL mobile connection comes. We 3 boys grabbed this opportunity with all the eagerness and went along the forest path with the guard armed with a big lathi. He said mainly bears may come up on solitary travellers and wild pigs but I seeing him being confident, was enjoying the surrounding. The trek was again through dense forests and now could hear the different forest noises, it was almost dark and suddenly a rustle here and a strange noise there we would strain to see what but the dense forests is just like a wall, you could barely see through and the darkness made it sinister. After going on for around half hour the guard says to check the mobile from now on and after walking for another 10-15 feet suddenly some of the mobile connection bars started showing, our respective necessary calls were done. Just around 30 feet of that forest road the BSNL mobile connection comes and then it becomes off on either side. It was complete darkness with moonlight [full moon was a couple of days away] yet to percolate through. Definitely, the confidence of the guard made the short trek quite pleasant.

The rest of the day we spent watching the almost full moon rising above the forests and it was to be seen and felt.

Full Moon at Kuldiha


The day ended early with the simple dinner in dimly glowing solar lanterns. Went to bed early, thinking when was the last time I went to sleep at 9, though falling into deep sleep soon thereafter.



Day 2. Tuesday Jan 22, 2008

The next day all of us got up early, again enjoying the first rays of sun among the trees and going along with the forest guards and seeing how they prepare the salt lick - again a different experience. Having done that and after tea, as per plan we went to see Rissia Dam just on the periphery of the forest.

Rissi Dam




Then going out of the forest check gate we went on to a small hamlet where we had our breakfast - small sized singharas, aloo vada, and some kind of dal vada - all hugely tasteful. After that again took another small road through tribal village huts that leads on to another check gate and thus entered the forests again.

Another forest check gate


We now headed back to Kuldiha, talked with the guards there about when to come up for elephants - their salt lick around 100 feet feet from the FRH and were told to come up exactly around evening time as everyday without fail bisons, elephants will be coming up in the salt lick. Saw the map of Kuldiha and based on that we made a plan of going to the forest watch tower that we passed on the way to Jodachua. Again crossing that culvert with speed, we came up to Gadasimulia watch tower. A small stream/rivulet went by that tower - went down to the stream and we spent around 1.5-2 hours - again doing a small trek inside a forest along the rivulet.

Water Tank at Gadasimulia Watch Tower






By the time we returned back to Jodachua it was time for lunch. Rather than take a bucket loads of water inside the bathroom, we boys bathed over at the hand pump itself, the ground water kind of warm and refreshing - again a unique experience.

Our water source


One guard was there at the FRH, while the 2 had gone for their beat. Lunch [chicken being the main course] was delicious - people from Orissa are known for their cooking. As we were ending lunch suddenly a call comes up in the wireless at Jodachua telling that the elephants have come up at the salt lick - we all scramble on to the VTT and I drive fast though carefully and in 15 mts or so we are at Kuldiha. Just as we are reaching the Kuldiha FRH, one guard whom we saw standing around 100 metres from the FRH and waiting for us comes up excitedly and immediately tells us to stop the engine.

VTT-TMT at Kuldiha FRH


We all jump out run to the watch tower as silently as possible. It was a sight to behold, a small group of elephants [around 5 or 6,including a big tusker and a small cub] are there on the salt lick. We watched mesmerised as the elephants dusted through the earth for the salt. Suddenly they look at the direction of watch tower and they vanish into the forests.

They headed parallel to the forest track and we along with the forest guard tracked the group for some metres. With elephants gone and after having tea at Kuldiha, we waited patiently for the bisons and deer. As dusk falls, a bison comes up, looks straight at watch tower - we again at our silent best, and then proceeds for its salt intake.

Bison


With day 2 daylight coming to close we headed back to our Jodachua FRH.

The rest of the evening/night we spent chatting among ourselves and gossiping with the forest guard beside a bonfire, aptly listening to their varied experiences with wild life. Again had a simple but hugely delicious dinner and we were at bed by 1030 pm for an early rise.

Then as we boys were ruminating and discussing all the feelings and experience, I had an idea. As the salt lick [though this was new and elephants come up rarely over here, the Kuldiha salt lick being the oldest and being more known] was just at the back side why dont we park the VTT at the backside directly overlooking the salt lick and spend sometime, may be around 2 hours inside the VTT - listening to the forest noises and have an experience which will be unique. The idea was lapped by all and without the ladies knowing [they were in the other room along with children and we 3 boys shared the other room] and soon we were inside the VTT. It was an experience of a lifetime, the moonlight forest along with the varied strange noises gives a totally different experience which is impossible for me to describe. Suddenly after around 1 hour or so we hear one distinct noise coming up from right side from where I was seated. We strain ourselves and there we see a wild boar come up, just around 10-15 feet from the VTT, sniffing the ground and foraging for food. It was there for around half hour or so and then went back to the direction of the salt lick before vanishing off into the forest. With another unique experience for us to savour we went back to our room for night's rest. The different strange and peculiar noises are something that still rings in my ears, night forest sounds are totally an experience by itself.

VTT-TMT as it checks out of Kuldiha on Tuesday


Thereby ends day 2 and next we start on early morning for a 400 km journey to Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary via Angul.

Last edited by adc : 3rd February 2008 at 01:04.
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Old 3rd February 2008, 09:03   #2
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Awesome write-up, good photos, and great car
With travelogues like these, traditional car magazines should be scared.
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Old 3rd February 2008, 09:21   #3
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That was grreta write-up, looks like I am gonna have to visit there...!!!
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Old 3rd February 2008, 09:58   #4
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nice before and after pics of the safari. used like its meant to be used.
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Old 3rd February 2008, 11:23   #5
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Solid workout for your VVT adc. Fantastic report!
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Old 4th February 2008, 01:48   #6
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hi adc, that was one interesting write-up. Must - visit places I must say, going by your experiences. Thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old 4th February 2008, 03:35   #7
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Nice report.
Loved the last pic.
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Old 4th February 2008, 09:22   #8
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Very nice travelogue and good pics too!
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Old 4th February 2008, 10:23   #9
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Excellent travelogue and nice pics !

One small question, How much does one have to pay to get the Forest Entry Papers done and for the Guest House accomadation?
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Old 4th February 2008, 10:50   #10
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Nice writeup! Brilliant pics. I agree, the last pic shows that you have been using your Safari the way its meant to be.
Can regular cars do this trip?
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Old 4th February 2008, 10:59   #11
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Awesome. This is some reclaiming!

I would have loved to see the pics/video of culvert crossing but I guess all focus at that time was to cross it.
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Old 4th February 2008, 11:22   #12
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Unusual and brilliant. Kudos to your family too
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Old 4th February 2008, 11:37   #13
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Fabulous travelogue!!
What about the Angul pics?
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Old 4th February 2008, 14:12   #14
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Excellent Travelogue adc, it was fun to read...
Nice safari experience Indeed !! Nice pics too...When are the Angul pics coming?

Abhi
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Old 4th February 2008, 14:38   #15
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fantastic travelogue. the last pic of the beast is very good. by the way can we do the trip in an esteem or will it get stuck?
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