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Old 21st May 2023, 17:42   #1
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Jeep Trailhawk's journey to Koraput - Odisha's best kept secret

Prologue


Christmas was just around the corner. The north wind had started to blow. Light woollens were out, Kolkata was getting ready for the festive season, the air was filled with the aroma of delicacies from Nahoumís and Saldanha. And our travel bugs were beginning to get restless. Christmas was on a Sunday this year. That means our options were limited. We were looking for a serene place with natural beauty where we have never been to and by chance we stumbled upon the name ĎPutsilí - a remote village tucked away in Koraput district of Odisha.

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View of our tents in Eco Retreat Pusil (Koraput)

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Jeep Compass Trailhawk on the way to Adaba


Planning


Koraput is a part of Odishaís tribal belt in eastern ghats and home to bauxite mines. Itís famous for having Odishaís highest point - the scenic Deomali hills. The place is adjacent to Araku valley of Andhra Pradesh. We started doing a bit research to firm up the itinerary and found there are 2 ways to reach there - a)via NH16 and then taking right at SH4 just after Srikakulam in Andhra OR b) via NH16 and then taking right to the scenic NH326 from Berhampur in Odisha.

After checking in Team-BHP forum ( thanks to BHPian SayakC), we decided that we will go via one of the routes and return via the other. We decided to take break at Bhubaneshwar during onward journey and to halt at Sonapur beach (near Gopalpur) during our return journey as itís quite a long journey from Putsil to Kolkata without any halt.

Our plan looks like following: -
Day 0 : Start after office and reach Bhunabeshwar at night
Day 1 : Bhubaneshwar to Eco Adventure camp in Putsil
Day 2 : Enjoy the hills and greenery of Koraput
Day 3 : Putsil to Eco adventure camp in Sonapur
Day 4: Sonapur to Kolkata

Itís roughly a 2000 km trip. Our Jeep Compass trail hawk is nearing another service. We did all the mandatory checks needed and decided to do the servicing after coming back. Finally, we started our journey to Bhubaneshwar after office on 23rd evening. And little did we imagine that this was going to be one of our most scenic drives in the country.


Kolkata to Koraput Road Trip Part 2/2


Kolkata to Koraput Road Trip Part 1/2

Day 0 : Kolkata to Bhubaneshwar



As the dusk sets in we started driving through Maa flyover towards Kona expressway. Thankfully, Satragachhi bridge has just opened today for all traffic. We crossed through 2nd Hoogly bridge , Satragachhi flyover, Kona expressway and finally merged on to NH16 and started driving towards Kolaghat.
Just as when things were going smoothly, about 2 km before Kolaghat we had a tyre puncture -- or so did we think. There was no puncture and the valve seems to have come off. After getting the valve tightened by a local mechanic and re-pressurising the tyre, we started again - but not before losing 45-50 minutes.. Itís already 8 PM and we decided to take a dinner break at KFC Kolaghat .

After a 30-40 minutes dinner break we started again. Hotel Ginger Bhubaneshwar is about 376 km from here. Crossed Debra toll at 9:20 PM. Once we crossed Kharagpur, the bumps and diversions began to appear. On crossing Belda toll, the road condition deteriorated further due to 6 laning work, and accentuated by series of bumps at short intervals. At 10:45 PM we entered Odisha after crossing Jaleshwar toll. As we drive towards Balasore the road condition continues to be frequented by diversions . Also, speed limit of 80 kmph is strictly followed in Odisha - but given the road condition there was not much scope of exceeding that limit. We crossed Balasore rail gate at 11:45 PM. One may take right from rail gate to go to NOCCI residency which is the best place to stay in Balasore near the highway. Throughout this stretch from Kharagpur to Balasore, the culverts are ill designed with sharp edges and one has to be cautious if they donít want their heads to hit the roof of car.

We refuelled from a nice JIO fuel station with clean toilets after crossing Balasore . There is some improvement in road condition after Balasore and we could pick up speed . Reached Bhadrak at 1:10 AM and again got some diversions just before Bhadrak .

We crossed Mahanadi bridge at 2:30 AM and Kathajodi bridge after another 10 minutes. Finally we reached Ginger Bhubaneshwar at 3 am. We covered a distance of 490 km from Kolkata to Bhubaneshwar with a fuel efficiency of 16.5 kmpl . Already we were delayed - so without much ado we called it a day and tried to get a quick nap for 3-4 hours so that we can start tomorrow with full vigour.

Day 1 : Bhubaneshwar to Putsil (Koraput)



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En-route Bhubaneshwar to Srikakulam - us along with Trailhawk

We got up a little later than we planned. Enjoyed a good sumptuous breakfast at Ginger. Putsil is 493 km from here . While planning our itinerary, we thought of starting at 7 AM from Bhubaneshwar - but seldom everything work as planned. Itís already 8:45 AM post breakfast. Going via Srikakulam will take 45 mins to 1 hour less than going via NH326. If we go via NH326, it may be dark in the last part and we wonít be able to enjoy the scenic beauty of NH326. Whereas, going via Srikakulam will allow us to reach Putsil just before dark. So we decided to go via Srikaulam and come back via NH 326.

We started at 9 AM from Ginger, Bhubaneshwar. Itís a pleasant morning with 23ļ C outside temp. As we merged into NH16 and started driving towards Chillilka, gone are yesterdayís bad roads . From Bhubaneshwar itís an excellent 6 lane road with good surface. As we drive towards Chillika , the landscape becomes accentuated with small hills and greenery on both sides. At 11:30 we crossed Berhampur and passed the point from where we should have taken a right turn towards NH326 had we followed the other route.

At 12 noon we crossed Odisha and entered Andhra Pradesh near Ichchapuram. Soon we could spot a massive white Shiva-Parvati statue atop a hill, Sidhi Konda, on our right side. This very much resembles the Shiva-Parvati status atop Kailashgiri in Vizag . In fact, Vizag is about 230 km from here. Next town Jadupudi is 17 km from here. Also itís sort of a milestone for me as this is my first self drive with my own car in a South Indian state. We crossed Ichchapuram toll and re-fuelled diesel in IOC Swagat pump. We checked with petrol pump stuff whether there is any good dhaba / restaurant nearby and they suggested Hotel Vaisnabi which is about 6-7 km from here. However, we could not spot the dhaba as we continued our drive towards Srikakulam. Crossed Laxmipuram toll at 12:50 pm . The roads were wide with excellent surface adorned by green farm lands on both sides and small hills dotting the horizon.

Itís 1 pm and we were getting hungry . There were small eateries by the roadside but we kept on looking for a better one. At 1:30 PM, as we approach Madapam toll plaza, we could spot a cluster of eateries and small shops just before the toll plaza . We decided to take a lunch break here at Sri Gayatri family restaurant. The restaurant has both AC and Non-AC sitting area with both veg and non-veg options. Though the AC sitting area is small and a bit claustrophobic, the food quality, quantity and the service is good. Another good point is that the toilets are clean and very well maintained as well.

At 2 PM ,we started again and crossed Madapam toll plaza. Putsil is 183 km from here. Soon after crossing the toll plaza we could spot a big Hanuman statue on our right, just before crossing River Vamsadhara. Later on we came to know from locals that the height of the statue is about 170 ft and it is the tallest hanuman statue in India (though we have not verified this).

As we continued our drive towards Srikakulam, NH 16 bypassed the main town of Srikakulam and crosses river Nagavali. At 2:20 PM just after Srikakulam , we took a right at Chilakapelam junction towards SH 4. Putsil resort is about 150 km from here. The road continues to have a good surface - only now it has become a 2 lane road without any divider. However, the scenic beauty all around is breathtaking. This is also known as Bobili-Parvatipuram road. Traffic was sparse . It does not seem to be winter at least in this part of India as the outside temperature soars to more than 30ļC. There are many fuel pumps in this route - so no need to worry about fuel.

We reached Rajam town at around 3 PM. From here Vizianagaram is 49 km on left . We drove straight from Rajam for about 40 km before reaching Ramabhadrapuram at 3:40 PM. Here, we merged onto NH 26, leaving behind SH4 that went towards Bobili and Parvathipuram. There is a big signpost at the junction showing direction and distance to various points. The famous Shiva temple atop hill Paramma Konda was 15 km away to our right. Vizianagaram Fort is 49 km from here if you go straight without turning right to NH26. As we continued driving on NH26, the landscape opened up, offering stunning vistas of the surrounding hills and valleys. We crossed Vegavathi river after about 15 minutes, and soon arrived at Salur. Beyond Salur, the road ran through dense forests on both sides, with the chain of verdant hills seemingly closer than ever.

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Ascending ghat section of NH 26

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Trailhawk after ascending the ghat section


Soon we started ascent on the picturesque Ghat roads. Itís always exciting and fun to drive on Ghat sections. Itís a scenic drive on winding roads surrounded by hills and forests. We have to dodge some heavy trucks which were struggling on the bends. Itís already 4 pm - at times sun rays were directly hitting my eyes through the windscreen and at other times itís dark shadows. Our destination is another 65 km from here. After ascent, we reached a spot which has a birdís eye view of the entire region. We parked our car, enjoyed the view with some cold drinks and took a short break.

At 4:30 Pm we re-entered Odisha in Koraput district as we were greeted by a huge signboard welcoming us to Odisha. From here our resort is 60 km and Koraput town is 73 km. As we began our descent down the ghat roads, we were awestruck by the breathtaking scenery that stretched out before us. In 5-10 mins we reached the town of Sunki. We continued driving as the shadows started to lengthen. Each turn revealed a new wonder, leaving us eagerly anticipating the rest of our journey through this picturesque landscape.

As the day started drawing to a close, the landscape transformed into a breathtakingly beautiful scene. Dark shadows stretched across the road and the rolling valleys and verdant hilltops illuminated by the setting sun, created a stunning contrast of light and dark. This entire region is a part of the Deccan plateau, an area well known for its natural beauty.

Just after 5 PM, we pulled into a petrol pump to refuel. The sun was now casting its last golden rays across the valleys and hills, creating a truly mesmerising sight. At 5:30 PM, we took a right turn from NH26 towards our resort, where there was a large signboard showing direction towards Koraput Eco Retreat. NH26 continued straight ahead towards Semiliguda. Eco Retreat Putsil is 16 km from here. It's a 2 lane road but very well maintained and accentuated with signposts of Eco Retreat Putsil all along. Soon the entire landscape opened up as we kept on driving in the last rays of dusk adorned by small hills at a distance.

As we made our way towards the resort, we relied on the signposts that were placed at regular intervals, ensuring that even a first-time visitor would not have any difficulty in finding their way. However, just 5-6 km from our destination, we encountered a signboard that was placed in such a way that it was difficult to discern the correct direction in that low light. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn to the right. Thanks to a local villager - we realised our mistake, reversed course, retraced our way back to the main road, and finally took a right turn towards the resort.

As we continued our journey, we reached the village of Dudhari and decided to check with the locals to ensure that we are on the right track. We came to know from locals that the road leading to the left of Dudhari would take us to Damanjodi, where we could access NH 326. It was interesting to learn that had we come through NH 326, we would have reached Dudhari either directly from Damanjodi by the road on left or via NH26 and Semiliguda and then taking the same route as we did from NH26.

Itís almost dark when we reached the village of Putsil. The resort was only 2-3 km from there. At around 6 PM, we arrived at a bifurcation where one road veered off to the left while the other was illuminated by vibrant neon lights. This was the path leading to the resort, and the last 1 km of the road was all brightly lit, making for a comfortable arrival.

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Bonfire at Eco Retreat

Finally we reached the gates of Eco Retreat. It has an open parking outside the gate with 24-hour security. As we parked our car and got down, we could feel the chill in the air. Immediately we put on our warm clothes and hopped on a battery-operated golf cart to make our way to the check-in area. At the reception, we were greeted by the resort staff with a smiling face and a welcome drink. After a brief checkin formality, we were taken to our Swiss tent in a golf cart. There are 2 types of tent - Premium and Deluxe. The tents were lined on one side of a large lawn . We went inside our tent and were pleasantly surprised by the neat and cosy decor. It was spacious and well-appointed, complete with a comfortable double bed, attached toilet at the back, and a sit-out area in front with netting to keep any pesky bugs away.

We were told that we missed lunch but coffee and snacks were ready. So after settling in, we made our way to the dining hall. This entire area is on a flat topped hill open on all the sides. As it was dark we could not enjoy the vistas. It was also cold outside. We could see a stage , an open bar, some entertainment areas , cycles etc. The big dining tent was at the other end of the lawn. As it was too late for snacks there were no other guests in dining hall except us. The steaming coffee refreshed us after a tiring day. While having snacks we had a brief chat with the restaurant manager. We learnt from the restaurant manager that his team came from Bhubaneswar. They will be stationed at the hilltop for 3 months from December till February. Everything is of temporary construction, built on a land which belongs to the department of Mining, Govt of Odisha. We learnt that all the structures of the resorts viz. tents, office, dining hall will be dismantled after the winter season. Every year they set up this only for 3 months of winter.

We came out of the dining tent and walked towards the lawn. The staff was kind enough to make arrangements for the bonfire, and it was a welcome addition to the chilly night. It was very cold at the hilltop especially due to the wind. So we gathered around the fire and met another bhpian from Bangalore ( bhpian awaneesh). A local singer belted out some old Hindi melodies to keep us entertained. The crackling of the firewood, the hissing of the flames punctuated by the howling wind, added a sense of wildness to the experience.

As the evening progressed, we began to feel the fatigue from our long drive from Kolkata, and decided to have early dinner . The dinner was a lavish spread of delicious veg and non-veg items. After a well-spent evening and sumptuous Christmas eve dinner, we retreated to the warmth of our tent and crashed out for a good nightís sleep.

Day 3 : Koraput


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Landscape with Deomali hills


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View of Koraput district from Eco Retreat

Itís Merry Christmas today. The day started with a beautiful sunrise from behind the hills that surrounded our resort. And we were simply awestruck by the view as we came out of the tent to see the sunrise. The entire resort is perched on top of a flat hill, offering an unobstructed view in every direction. The landscape is characterised by a chain of verdant hills, with the magnificent Deomali Hills - the highest point in Odisha at an altitude of 5780 ft - dominating the skyline.

We have been informed by the resort that after breakfast they have arranged transport to take us to visit Rani Duduma falls. Frankly, we came here for relaxing and enjoying the fresh air in the hills - not to throng crowded tourist spots. However, anticipating that the journey could be quite scenic and the fact that we are first time in this part of Odisha , we decided to go for it. We met our fellow travellers- one was the bhpian from Bengaluru and another nice family who really likes to travel and knows every nook and corner of Odisha.

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Rani Duduma Falls


To see Rani Duduma waterfall, we retraced our yesterdayís path all the way up to NH 26. Then we turned right towards Semiliguda. Just before reaching Semiliguda, we saw a road going towards right towards Damanjodi from what is known as NALCO crossing. From Semiliguda we turned left and travelled about 25 km to reach Rani Duduma fall entrance at Nandapur. There was a short walk upto the waterfall in a comparatively hilly region. The waterfall itself was not at all noteworthy, especially this being winter season. On top it was too much crowded. However the journey through the picturesque green valley, occasionally passing by little hamlets and cultivated lands was something to remember.

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Enjoying some cycling after a long time

We came back to the resort and had our lunch. Initially we thought of going to Deomali hill top - but later decided to stay in the resort and enjoy the views - rarely did you get a chance to place in such a place. The afternoon was very well spent doing various activities like archery, cycling and going for a small trek up the hill eventually culminating with a lovely sunset.
It was Christmas night and the resort management had organised a cultural program which comprises of music, dance and magic by local artists. It was fun and everyone enjoyed it thoroughly. There was a pleasant chill in the air which was in perfect harmony with the festivities. After dinner, we took a stroll around the property and went to take a look at our Jeep. We would leave Putsil tomorrow and go to Eco Retreat Sonapur. Sonapur is 330 kms away via NH 326 and it may take approx 8 hrs drive from Putsil.

Day 4: Putsil (Koraput) to Sonapur



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Trailhaw's return journey from Putsil


At 9:15 AM we started from Putsil. Today we will be taking scenic NH 326 from Damanjodi and go to Eco Retreat Sonapur via Berhampur . The weather was bright and sunny with temperature about 21įC . We went past the bifurcation from where one road goes to the right towards top from where one can get a good view of Deomali top . Then in 2 km we passed through Putsil village. The drive is indeed very scenic and the clear weather has made it even better.


Jeep Trailhawk's journey to Koraput - Odisha's best kept secret-34.jpeg
Dudhari village


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Road to Damanjodi from Dudhari


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A clear blue sky and verdant landscape


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Damonjodi village


From the village of Dudhari we took a right turn towards Damanjodi. Koraput is known for its industries - NALCO at Damanjodi and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) at Sunabeda being most important of those. Yesterday we checked with a local driver that this road is fine - only a km in between has bad patch. The other alternative via NH26 to Damanjodi will be 15-17 km longer . As we drove, we found the route to be extremely scenic accentuated with few small settlements. The road is dotted with eucalyptus trees (it looked like so) and deciduous forests on both sides with a view of undulating green topped hills in front . We came across a patch of dirt road for 1 km - but it was not that bad also. Then the landscape opened up and we could find us surrounded by greenery and hillocks all around. Itís a perfect azure blue sky. We could also see NALCO factory at a distance. Approach road to Damanjodi runs through settlements and has precariously placed bumps - low GC cars need to be cautious. We took a right turn at Damanjodi towards NH326.

Jeep Trailhawk's journey to Koraput - Odisha's best kept secret-43.jpeg
Trailhawk's view of the bauxite mining landscape near Kakiriguma


After passing through Damanjodi, there is a fork from where the road on right goes towards NALCO Kakiriguma mines and the left road goes towards Kakiriguma.town. I think if one takes right it would take to Chandoori Sai Guest house which is an awesome place to stay in a tribal setting - but I am not sure. We took the left road. Roads are undulating and gives an excellent view when you are at the crest. We took a short break at one of such spots, had some coffee and clicked some photos before starting again. Traffic is quite sparse with some trucks carrying industrial material and some local bikers. After sometime we could spot a motley group of crowd along few roadside eateries and some vehicles - may be they work in Kakiriguma mines. We could see rail lines for transporting materials to and from the mines. We merged into NH326 just before Kakiriguma and made our way through Kakiriguma town and its crowded marketplace .

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On NH326 - verdant landscape stretched out adorned by hills at a distance


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Crossing one of the many rivulets


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Often driving under a canopy of trees

At 11 AM we started getting first glimpse of the ghat section. We drove through lust green forests and verdant hillocks on both sides of the road. Road swerves through thick green cover underneath a clear blue sky. Reached Laxmipur town at 11:10 AM. We could spot a college on our right and a IOC pump on left. Just after Laxmipur, there is a bifurcation from where a road on right goes towards Parvatipur / Almanda / Narayanpatna . We drove straight towards Rayagada. Every bend and every corner looks even more beautiful than before. However, we could not spot any good eateries as of now.

We could see many solar cells as well. In some places we drove under a canopy of trees. Temperature has risen to 28įC. Soon we exited Koraput district and entered Rayagada district. . Crossed Seriguda and entered Rayagada town at 12:15 PM. This is a big city with lot of industries like JK Paper . Two well known good eateries near highway are Hide Out and Bistro OD 18 . However those are not located exactly on the highway. As we were not yet hungry we continued our drive. Sonapur is about 230 Km and Vizag 198 km from here.

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Through the thick green cover


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A bird's eye view in Rayagada district


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Gomuda Bridge over Antarjhali river


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Undulating roads rolling through hills and forest


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Kenduguda Bridge

After crossing Rayagada we started to ascend through winding roads dotted by thick forest on both sides. Road condition is excellent. We passed through places where the landscape opened up with both sides covered with harvested paddy fields and the entire horizon is covered by chain of verdant hills at a distance. After Ramanaguda we kept left at a bifurcation. At 1:30 PM we passed Sanabangi and then reached Gomuda bridge over Antarjhali river. Undulating black top road running through verdant hills and forests - itís a fascinating drive as we crossed Kenduguda bridge .

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En-route Adaba


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Toward's Adaba Lake


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Azure Blue Adaba lake complemented by a blue sky

We crossed one more village - Goibandha . We could spot a primary school, a temple in the village. After crossing the village the forest becomes more dense and green cover became thicker. We took a break and ate our packed lunch which we brought from our resort . Then we started driving towards Adaba. The approach to Adobe is simply as good as it can get. We were mesmerised by the azure blue lake nestled in the midst of a verdant valley dotted with hills and deciduous forest. Being multiple times in Pangong and Gurudongmar , I can tell you that the beauty of this lesser known lake is no less than those famous ones.

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Through Lohagudi forest towards Taptapani Hot Springs

We reached Adaba town around 3 PM . After crossing Adaba lake, one road goes towards left to Daringbadi, also known as Kashmir of Odisha. We continued straight on NH 326 and reached Mohana after 18 km . Mohona is also an important town. After crossing Mohana there is a bifurcation. The right fork goes to Chandragiri which is famous for its Buddhist temple and known as mini Tibet of Odisha. We drove along NH326, which goes left, towards forest of Lohagudi and ghat section of Taptapani Hot Springs. Taptapani is famous for its perennial hot springs in an idyllic location .

After crossing Taptapani we drove straight towards Berhampur. We merged to NH16 after Berhampur. 10 km from Sonapur we took a left and exited the highway. We drove straight , cross a bridge over backwaters and reached Sonapur sea beach. Then we took left and started driving through semi gravel road along the beach as last rays of dusk started to fade away . Reached Eco Retreat Sonapur around 6 pm. The tents were similar to that of Pusil - well decorated and cozy Swiss tents with all the amenities. The location of the tents at Eco Retreat was excellent, there was nothing between the sea and the tents except a thin strip of sand. In fact the roar of the sea was so profound inside the tent that it took us some time to get accustomed to it.

After completing the check-in formalities, we had some snacks and coffee and roamed round the beach for some time. There was a party going on. We listened to the music for a while but found that it was too loud. We sat on the beach in front of our tent and enjoyed the cool breeze while watching the white waves in the dark. After dinner, we went for a walk on the beach before calling it a day.


Day 5 : Sonapur to Kolkata



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Sea beach at Eco Retreat Sonapur


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Sunrise at Sonapur

Next day morning as we came outside the tent we realised what a location it is. The resort is located on a small strip of beach sandwiched between the backwaters and the sea and much away from the hustle bustle of the main crowd of Sonapur beach. It has all the outdoor activities like archery, volleyball, football etc. There was a life guard for 24x7. We spent couple of hours in the sea and then prepared to start our journey back home after a good breakfast.

We started at 10 am from Sonapur. It was a scenic drive along the sea till main tourist point. From there we retraced 10 km road and merged into NH16 . Then itís a straight drive upto Kolkata. We crossed Chillika lake area around 11:30 AM. At around 1 PM we reached Bhubaneshwar and decided to take lunch at Mainland China. This restaurant has an excellent location , right by the side of highway, good food and clean washrooms. Once we crossed Bhadrak we completed 45K km for our Trailhawk. We reached Jaleshwar toll at 6:50 PM and crossed over to Bengal. Rest of the trip is uneventful as we reached Kolkata after having an hour dinner break at Express Dhaba Kolaghat.

Epilogue



This entire journey and the destination is indeed a find for me. This route may not be that popular but what it has in store is mind boggling . We are indeed happy that we have chosen to visit Koraput and will try to visit more such non-hyped places in future. Last caution i have - remember Odisha speed limit is indeed really strict - so be careful.
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Old 22nd May 2023, 11:46   #2
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Re: Jeep Trailhawk's journey to Koraput - Odisha's best kept secret

Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing!

I had been to Koraput and Damanjodi back in 2000. At that time, I traveled on a scooter from Sunabeda to NALCO. That ride is still fresh in my mind!
Wish I could visit that place again sometime in future!
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Old 23rd May 2023, 13:04   #3
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Re: Jeep Trailhawk's journey to Koraput - Odisha's best kept secret

When you are on the road in a car that keeps you comfortable for so long, it does not remain a car anymore. It becomes a mate. The Trailhawk is indeed an outstanding machine.

Really enjoyed reading the travelogue. Beautiful pictures. Its amazing how travelogues teleport somebody from home to the journey itself, and you feel like you are a part of the road trip. Thank you very much for sharing!
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Old 30th May 2023, 11:24   #4
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Re: Jeep Trailhawk's journey to Koraput - Odisha's best kept secret

A very nice read and kudos on making this long journey. Having lived my childhood and growing up in Damanjodi, Nalco township, this post indeed brought back a lot of fond memories.

Last edited by IvanBiv : 30th May 2023 at 11:24. Reason: Alignment
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