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Old 19th March 2020, 21:18   #1
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Default A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha

For majority of folks, erstwhile Orissa(Odisha) has always been about the sea shores and the migratory birds of the wonderful Chilika. The perception changed slowly when Simlipal, Daringbaari and Bhitarkanika came to the fore and people slowly but surely started to explore the forests of Odisha as well. The forests are always intriguing because of their nature and that one always has the fear of the unknown lurking in some part that makes the experience thrilling and breathtaking both at the same time.


It is with this backdrop and little apprehension about the facilities that we decided to explore the Aska and Bhanjanagar side of Odisha which we later found out, is also the gateaway to Daringbaari! The actual place we decided to stay was Saluapalli Nature camp which is part of the three Blackbuck Nature camps of Ganjam district consisting of Saluapalli, Charmeria and Bhanjanagar Nature camps. The intention was to stay inside the jungle camps and yet near to the Blackbuck sighting areas. The idea was exciting and so it seemed to us initially and which later turned out to be a mighty surprise. Well, letís leave the surprise for now and focus on the initial journey ,shall we


A teaser picture to start with
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-2b3216fd8e7249d090958baedadcfb86.jpeg


This time we were a group of friends out to explore the lesser known forest areas of Odisha. It was a convoy of three cars and consisting of nine adults and four kids, quite a handful considering the forest areas we were to visit! Oh, before that the planning process took us through the Odisha eco tourism website and which took sometime to navigate through and get to our desired destination. After much deliberation through the meandering ways of the website, we managed to book the Saluapalli Nature camp consisting of two air conditioned rooms and three tent houses for two nights. There was a plan to spend one night at either Rambha or Puri as well since the Bengali in us wouldnít think of bypassing the sea when you are so near

So armed with a confirmation for two nights and one unplanned night, we started our journey with excitement.

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Old 21st March 2020, 01:33   #2
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Default Re: Giant Squirrel and the tree house- forests of Odisha

Start of the journey

The estimated drive time to Bhanjanagar from Calcutta according to Google was around 12 hours ( 650 kms approx) through Khallikote (SH 30) and around 13 hours ( 610 kms approx) through Cuttack (SH 65). We decided to take the Khallikote option since the surface of the road was supposed to be good all along besides travelling through the NH 16 for as long as possible was the plan because of the ease of travel through the four lane highway.

As is the norm for us now, we all started around 7.30 in the evening from our respective places with myself little early since I had to pick a friend from his Konnagar residence which is around two hours in peak time traffic from my place. Rest of the gang started and reached Kolaghat- our first stop for dinner by around 9.30. I had to negotiate some single lane traffic of the old GT Road and some bad stretches from Konnagar till NH2 touchdown at Dankuni. Nevertheless, made it to Kolaghat by 10.30. Dinner was over by 11.30 and we were on the roads again. Food option included the usual tandoori rotis and some chicken and vegetable items. Spending some time and we started at around midnight from Kolaghat with some drizzle for company. The drizzle accompanied us till Belda and the progress improved afterwards. Meanwhile,one interesting thing to be added here is that one amongst us is a driver who can manage to outrun the convoy by a long shot at any given point of time. So as his wont, he was the first to stop after crossing Bhadrak for a chai break. The rest of the cars arrived soon after and we all enjoyed a mini break at a roadside dhaba. One important thing to note here is that there are some culverts on this route with uneven joints and if not noticed properly, a suspension jarring sound and thud, both are guaranteed! The surface of this road has deteriorated over the years, but it is manageable to maintain decent speeds. There were diversions as well since work was going on and i can hazard a guess that the work is still not complete.

Baahon at the break of dawnA giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-3c84f7eda6f445e88ffd4794febf015e.jpeg


Chai break over and we crossed Cuttack at the break of dawn and were cruising along the NH 16 crossing the Puri Bypass and on to the long flyover over the Bhubaneshwar city. Since we were travelling with a pack of kids the morning breakfast stop needed to be decent but the problem was that we were too early for the decent places to open! Moving on and searching for a stop we ended up eating at those road side tiffin stalls lining the highway. Must admit,the sweets were very good specially the famed CHENAPORA and the breakfast consisting of Vada with a tangy chutney was kind of okay given the circumstances. Kids enjoyed the food and that was important. It was after some lazying around that we started our onward journey and soon we were at the point of intersection of NH 16 and SH 30 which goes towards Aska and Bhanjanagar. Meanwhile ,the SH 30 is a dream to drive on, although a two lane road but the surface is newly laid and the fresh tarmac is laid till Khallikote.The road is wonderful till Bhanjanagar passing through Khallikote, Kabisuryanagar, Aska notified areas. The Saluapalli Nature camp just branches of SH 30 just before you reach Bhanjanagar and you have to keep a eye on the board locating the camp. I certainly missed the location since the tarmac was that good to drive



Saluapalli Nature camp with two air conditioned rooms
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-20190816_125850-copy.jpg


Inside the Saluapalli Nature camp
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-20190816_143632.jpg


Sky was about to pour when we were near Saluapalli
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Baahon posing with glee
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ScŤnes en route Saluapalli
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Baahon inside the Saluapalli Nature camp
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View point inside Saluapalli Nature camp
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Tent house front
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Tent houses erected inside the Saluapalli camp
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-20190816_125929-copy.jpg

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Old 22nd March 2020, 18:32   #3
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Default Re: Giant Squirrel and the tree house- forests of Odisha

Here comes the surprise

We reached Saluapalli camp one hour after noon after much misadventure where we missed the lane branching off towards the camp and traveled till Bhanjanagar Nature camp before making an u turn! And after reaching the camp, got the biggest jolt when the caretaker refused any booking at all even after showing the booking receipt. We were at our witís end after the long journey and with kids and ladies, it was a mess which we couldnít anticipate at all. It was a pandemonium before we realised that the caretaker doesnít have any authority and we need to speak to higher authorities of forest department who were responsible for the booking at the first place. It was an official holiday the day we reached and so it became even more bizarre. Finally, one from us who is also from Bhadrak started pulling some strings right from the topmost ranks of the forest department to make sure that our booking stands. After much argument and deliberations, finally our stay was confirmed but with a rider- since we paid for AC rooms and there were not enough rooms at Saluapalli, we were told to stay at Kaliamba rest house or the Giant Squirrel house some eight kilometres inside the jungle and that we will be delivered the food from Saluapalli because the Kaliamba rest house doesnít have a kitchen! Our booking was for the rooms which included our fooding charges as well but it was all vegetarian and it was never mentioned in the original booking.

It was a bitter pill to swallow even before the tour started. Our man Friday from Bhadrak decided to check for the facilities first at Kaliamba rest house before we checked into the place. Before that we had to order lunch since it was almost past three while all this mayhem regarding our booking was going on. Two AC rooms were opened for us to get freshen up, the kids and the ladies had a harrowing time while we bickered for the room confirmations. Nevertheless, after checking on the facilities at Kaliamba rest house, it was a collective decision to stay there with the food being delivered by the service guys from Saluapalli. Meanwhile, Kaliamba rest house had two big rooms with AC and a beautiful tree house with AC but after reaching there found another twist in the tale

You can use only one airconditioner at a time from the available three since there is no transformer to take the load of three airconditioners simultaneously! Luckily, the rest house is deep inside the jungle and hence the requirement of airconditioner was somewhat less plus the tree house didnít require airconditioner at all. Finally made it to the Kaliamba rest house or the Giant Squirrel homestay and it became a blessing in disguise because at least our stay would be less chaotic than what it would have been at Saluapalli.


Tree house was pure love
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-2c2cdc797e544e71a423417c12b5d427.jpeg

Kaliamba rest house deep inside jungle
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-65bf7ca0a40d4bc2ac873585a49c0a26.jpeg

Giant Squirrel home stay or the Kaliamba rest house
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Another view of the tree house
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The route to Kaliamba rest house goes through deep jungle and the drive is thrilling somewhat over the unpaved red soil. The place is accessible through a short cut as well from Saluapalli but that is strictly for cycles and two wheelers only. The service guys use that route to deliver food and other requirements of guests. All in all finally made peace with all the arrangements despite of many lacunas. The tree house was nicely made but arrangement all across the rest house was basic but clean. So the setting was good for a nice adda amidst the jungle and that made up for the initial disappointment .


This is the road to take to reach Kaliamba rest house or the Giant Squirrel home stay
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-4303e0ef3719449193901ec749449009.jpeg

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Old 23rd March 2020, 01:10   #4
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Default Re: Giant Squirrel and the tree house- forests of Odisha

The day of reckoning- search for Blackbucks

After a wonderful night amidst the jungle, it was the day when we were to look for the Blackbucks. Some of us woke up late and soaked up the wonderful atmosphere sipping tea sitting inside a jungle. The tree house was a standout for enjoying the beauty of the surroundings for the views it offers. The only problem was that we have to move ourselves to the Saluapalli camp just for the breakfast and that was a royal pain for sure since it was not feasible to cook the Pooris and Omelettes and bring them in a tiffin carrier eight kilometres away to the Kaliamba rest house. We decided to have the lunch early at the Saluapalli camp and leave for the Blackbuck habitat afterwards.

The nearby Bhanjanagar Nature camp is also wonderfully situated beside a water body and one can spend a nice time there too. Since primary objective was to find the Blackbucks, we decided to go near the Charmeria camp which according to the locals, has a wide area where many spotted deers and blackbucks roam around in their natural habitat. The kids were most excited since this was to be the first time when they would be seeing animals in their natural habitat. Now the problem was that it started raining and it delayed our start somewhat. We reached the habitat area and searched in vain for the animals and not one was in sight!

Thick clouds just before our start for the Blackbuck habitat area
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-42e41e9bfca14584b3cd0367cf295810.jpeg


The road towards Aska wildlife notified area
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-08aca1841802461290cfa6beeaa2dfa8.jpeg


Just when we thought that there was no chance of any sighting of blackbucks and were about to return, we found one local guy and asked him around. He directed us towards a non decrepit road used by locals to look for blackbucks just beside the state highway SH30. As directed by him, we entered the road only to find some local boys playing cricket. Just when we were all disappointed and planning to return amidst the rain, we found a herd of spotted deer and blackbucks and voila, all our disappointment went up in a jiffy

Here are some pictures of what we saw in the rains, not much for the glamour but that we all enjoyed the majestic sights, specially the kids. Itís altogether a different feeling to see animals in their natural habitat and not inside some cage! I personally do not favour animals in the zoo and is of the view that animals should be best left in their natural habitat but then the perils of city life necessitates the setting up of zoos perhaps.


The herd just when we saw it
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-2548f278025f467594a3d771e9b0f6c6.jpeg

Indian Grey Hornbill
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The herd of deers again
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The majestic blackbuck in the natural habitat
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-793467d036fa4bc29911fb7770522d94.jpeg

The convoy of cars posing amidst the wild
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-25cbeb7ad8544eecb999fb47302deb7d.jpeg

Blackbuck again, this time posing for us royally
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-7f1312a678194f5cb9da4ee97fbe5a68.jpeg

The day was well spent in the wild and on the return we enjoyed some local chai and snacks at Aska town.The evening went on to be even better since we got to enjoy a delicious mutton meal(ordered separately) along with the set course delivered in large tiffin carriers. The night went along well with good food and the decision to stay at Puri was made the next day to enjoy the sea shore.

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Old 23rd March 2020, 02:18   #5
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Day of the high seas

After two days inside the jungles, it was time for some waves and what better way than to spend the night at Puri. We decided on a newly opened place on the Puri-Konark marine drive road named Wild Dunes Resort. One friend from our group had previously talked with the manager of the resort and he sold us a dream. So accordingly we started around 9.30 in the morning and reached in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch of crabs and prawns at the famed Chilika Dhaba. I somehow found the food too oily and spicy for my taste buds but then thats entirely my viewpoint.

It was raining cats and dogs during the evening but we still ended up driving upto Konark and Chandrabhaga beach. Although rains somewhat marred the occasion and we had to make a hasty retreat to the resort. The place was newly opened and it showed. The rooms were semi finished and the service was awful with no coordination at all. The little said the better, coming from the lofty standards of Sterling or Holiday resorts or for that matter, the BNR hotel , it was a big letdown. One should avoid the place like a plague since the place can at best be termed as a mid way motel where one can stop for some refreshments and nothing else. The staff were inefficient and food was not so great as well. Anyways, bad experiences teach us lessons as well but we learnt it the hard way on this trip. Some pictures for you all to see amidst the gloom

Moving towards Puri on NH 16
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-372bd8350c8045b49e317d722dbb171d.jpeg

On the Puri Bhubaneshwar bypass which was a fantastic drive
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-8f897b4b1c7e4f9eac25ad65b5a39007.jpeg

Someone just found a wonderful place to laze around
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-f22439cb4cd043daab84c79eb861a126.jpeg

Chosen drink for some on a beach though I am not too sure!
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-32139c924d474a668bd16692a57635bc.jpeg

Another one was not so lucky!
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-40e7f96ceaaf42dda120320dfaca4b5b.jpeg

Symmetry
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Some spectacle of fries, KFC would be running for cover
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-f69edb7bf1ae4778a94d157bd6f024c5.jpeg

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Old 23rd March 2020, 03:22   #6
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Some snippets from the entire journey

The next day began with the usual clutter and we checked out of the so called resort by 10 in the morning after breakfast. Roamed around Puri and shopped for the usual suspects near Swargaduar. The famed Khaja packed and it was time for the move back to Calcutta. Stopped for lunch midway at Puri bypass at a place which had its name changed from Odishika earlier to Pothika restaurant. They serve sizeable and delectable fare for the price they charge. Returned to Calcutta after the usual run and reached home by 10.30 in the evening. Some points to ponder :

1. The eco tourism projects of Odisha government are great on locations but service and amenities are left lot to be desired for the price they charge.

2. That a confirmed booking voucher can be refused by a facility run under the forest department of a state is unthinkable.We would have been left in the lurch if my friend hadn’t managed to get hold of the higher authorities!

3. The locations are beautiful to explore if only the services are better handled which I hope will get better in the coming days and I would like to believe that we were unfortunate somehow.

4. The food quality served in the nature camps is basic and doesn't come with any frills. We had to order separately and pay for whenever we ordered for some non vegetarian dish like mutton and chicken.

5. Never venture into a new property unless it’s by a reputable chain of hotels. Wild Dunes Resort was an experience we would like to remember and forget, both at the same time

6. Some places have the capacity to make you forget everything bad and Puri is one such place, one look at the sea and everything is good again. It will take some time for Puri to get back to its old self after the battering it received during cyclone Titli and I hope it happens soon.

7. Some wonderful pictures for this travelogue were shared by my friend Arpita and i cant be thankful enough to her for the gesture.All the pictures of animals here are clicked by her.This is perhaps one rare occasion when i forgot to take my camera on a trip somehow and it is because of her that i could use some of the pictures here.

Scenes of devastation were very pronounced
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-20190818_113948.jpg

Sad to see so many trees uprooted
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-20190818_114050.jpg

Bridge over the Baramati
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-20190818_172433.jpg

A lovely sight while returning back to Calcutta
A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha-7e99e196067241348caf224ed8f6efb0.jpeg


A bitter sweet journey was over and in these times of COVID-19, it was nice to pen a travelogue just to remember that everything eventually gets better. No matter what difficulties we face, perseverance always bears fruit.I sincerely hope that everyone adheres to the precautions regarding COVID-19 and wish all the best to everyone to remain bonded(maintaining adequate distance) and strong in these times. This too shall pass and as far as i am concerned, this is the best time to remember that the DRIVE TO LIVE and LIVE TO DRIVE is the same whichever way you look at it

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Old 23rd March 2020, 05:12   #7
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thank you for sharing
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Old 23rd March 2020, 08:38   #8
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Default re: A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha

Wow !!! A visual treat to the eyes with stunning photographs and excellent narration. Odisha has so much diverse places from hill stations, sea beaches and forests that one may not require to venture to far away states for a vacation unless otherwise required. Excellent Travelogue and rated 5 stars.
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Old 23rd March 2020, 12:46   #9
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Default Re: Giant Squirrel and the tree house- forests of Odisha

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Originally Posted by ABHI_1512 View Post
Meanwhile, Kaliamba rest house had two big rooms with AC and a beautiful tree house with AC but after reaching there found another twist in the tale

You can use only one airconditioner at a time from the available three since there is no transformer to take the load of three airconditioners simultaneously! Luckily, the rest house is deep inside the jungle and hence the requirement of airconditioner was somewhat less plus the tree house didnít require airconditioner at all.

Finally made it to the Kaliamba rest house or the Giant Squirrel homestay and it became a blessing in disguise because at least our stay would be less chaotic than what it would have been at Saluapalli.
Wow, thats one place which I would never mind to move into!

Looks very serene and peaceful. I'm sure it was a wonderful experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. I'm everyday surprised with Odisha. Its always been on my list of travel destinations, but I was aware of things only on the coastal side.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ABHI_1512 View Post
Some snippets from the entire journey
1. The eco tourism projects of Odisha government are great on locations but service and amenities are left lot to be desired for the price they charge.
Yes, sadly this is true. On our last trip to Dandeli, we paid through the roof for a safari with minimal facility, rickety vehicles and not really the best service for the money charged.

Quote:

2. That a confirmed booking voucher can be refused by a facility run under the forest department of a state is unthinkable.We would have been left in the lurch if my friend hadnít managed to get hold of the higher authorities!
Lucky you could get a hold of higher ups via contacts. This can leave one in a fix if there is no other option left.

Quote:
3. The locations are beautiful to explore if only the services are better handled which I hope will get better in the coming days and I would like to believe that we were unfortunate somehow.
Quote:
6. Some places have the capacity to make you forget everything bad and Puri is one such place, one look at the sea and everything is good again. It will take some time for Puri to get back to its old self after the battering it received during cyclone Titli and I hope it happens soon.
At the end of the day, this is what matters. The location, the ambience, the environment of the place wins over all the other short comings.

Thanks for sharing this lovely report with us man, looking forward to more such for you.
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Old 25th March 2020, 00:54   #10
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Wow !!! A visual treat to the eyes with stunning photographs and excellent narration. Odisha has so much diverse places from hill stations, sea beaches and forests that one may not require to venture to far away states for a vacation unless otherwise required. Excellent Travelogue and rated 5 stars.
Thanks much for the kind words haisaikat, yes Odisha has some excellent locations and it’s forest side is unexplored much but the lack of quality staying options and facilities will have to come up good to attract travellers, regards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackwasp View Post
Wow, thats one place which I would never mind to move into!

I'm everyday surprised with Odisha. Its always been on my list of travel destinations, but I was aware of things only on the coastal side.

Thanks for sharing this lovely report with us man, looking forward to more such for you.
Yes, that’s the best part of it. No matter what, if you have to enjoy a place, you will have to let go of the shortcomings. In our case, the tree house and it’s surroundings helped a great deal and also the sea beach
Thanks for the good words blackwasp, appreciate it, I am sure you will love this part of India, regards.

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Old 27th March 2020, 01:15   #11
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Default Re: A giant squirrel & the tree house - Forests of Odisha

@Abhi
Wonderful travel. Loved the pictures. Partly thanks to your friend.
Odisha is one place I want to explore. I had apprehensions on many parts of the state but travelogue in tbhp is reassuring of a trouble free travel.
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Old 30th March 2020, 23:58   #12
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@Abhi
Wonderful travel. Loved the pictures. Partly thanks to your friend.
Odisha is one place I want to explore. I had apprehensions on many parts of the state but travelogue in tbhp is reassuring of a trouble free travel.
Thanks for the good words, Odisha is a wonderful and you should explore it without any apprehension at all. I am sure we will see some real nice pictures from your end, regards.
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