Mahua & the road to Sukma

#1 Jul 27th, 2007, 07:54
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Every time I drove down the Warangal Highway (NH 202), near No: 6 Junction at Hyderabad, the milestone ‘Bhopalapatnam – 275 Kms, caught my attention. NH 202 beginning at Hyderabad passes through Warangal and Mulug, finally joining NH 16 (Nizamabad – Jagdalpur) at an obscure and remote little village, ‘Bhopalapatnam’ situated close to the Indrawati River in Chhattisgarh state’s Bastar district.

Circa 2003, Dad, Mom & I had been on Dad’s official vehicle – a Toyota Qualis, to visit the Ramappa temple, an ancient 11th century temple, situated at Palampet village, about 70 Kms from Warangal, on the NH 202, with a detour after Mulug. During that time, as we took a left from NH 202, towards Palampet, I saw the highway going straight, towards Bhopalapatnam, and thought to myself, that one day, I will come down this very road, from the obscure Bhopalapatnam.

That thought began to manifest itself again, 4 years down the line, when I called up my IRFCAn friend Roopesh Kohad (Also on IM as Roopesh_Kohad), on his cell, and expressed an intent to visit Jagdalpur, and return to Hyderabad via Bhopalapatnam. Roopesh expressed interest, and soon we initiated a mail thread amongst our private Gmail Ids, planning and working out the trip. The third person to join us was Ranganath Eunny, another IRFCAn from Chennai, who too was interested in visiting Chhattisgarh, and was waiting for the right opportunity to do so.

Bharath Moro (IM – Sifar) & VSP (IM - VSP27759), were occupants 4 & 5 on the trip, but slowly Bharath dropped out citing prior work commitments and VSP also dropped out citing more-or-less the same reason as Bharath – filial responsibilities. To cover up for VSP, we extended an invitation to another close friend – Chennai based IRFCAn and freelancer ‘Poochi’ Venkat. Poochi was all set to join us – but also had to bow out at the last minute, citing an urgent assignment at Nepal. After some dilly – dallying, Roopesh co-worker & friend Pareekshit Singh became the 4th member of the trip.

For sure, we knew that the roads in & around Jagdalpur were not going to be smooth; in fact, bad roads were a given. Our vehicle of choice for the 4-day trip will have to be sturdy enough to withstand the battering on Chhattisgarh roads; at the same time it should be spacious enough for the four of us to have a comfortable ride; should have ample space for our luggage and last but not the least, should be economical on our pocket.

Initial vehicles of choice were my Maruti Esteem & Roopesh’s Santro. But I had to quickly rule out the Esteem, as I had to spend close to Rs 10,000/- to replace its’ ageing tyres; and then a petrol vehicle is not exactly the vehicle on long runs; especially if you can afford a diesel. Modern – day diesels with all their turbochargers and Common Rails offer on-par performance with petrol vehicles and cost cheap to run as well.

Just as I was racking my brains on the vehicle of choice, a bulb lit up somewhere. My BIL had a diesel TATA Indigo; all I had to do was to swap cars for 4 days. I checked up with my BIL and he had no issues letting out his car for 4 days.

Having finalized the vehicle, I got busy making the necessary travel arrangements. Trips to the nearby Chhattisgarh Tourism Board (CTB) office at nearby Domalaguda became more frequent- phone calls from the officer in charge, Kumar Satyam more so. Over the next couple of weeks, I would be regularly giving updates on the mailing list about the progress done, information collected over the net and so on & so forth. Ranga & Roopesh occasionally chipped in, with their inputs.

I made an advance payment for 2 Wooden Log Huts run by the CTB at Chitrakot waterfalls – and also arranged to block 2 rooms at Hotel Rainbow, a supposedly up market hotel at Jagdalpur.

All of us, after prolonged discussions, had drawn up the following Itinerary:


We were targeting a late noon departure from Hyderabad, at around 1500 hours or so, so as to reach Bhadrachalam by around 2200 hours and have a good night’s sleep. The next morning, we were to have an early morning darshan of Lord Sri Ram at the famous Bhadrachala Ramadas temple, and proceed to Jagdalpur. Accordingly, Ranga booked his ticket on the noon Indigo flight from Chennai to Delhi via Hyderabad that was to touch down at Hyderabad at around 1210 hours. After having lunch with a friend, he was supposed to join us at my place – the starting point for the trip. Roopesh & Pareekshit would be arriving at my place by Roopesh’s Santro.


Finally the much-awaited D Day dawned – the 13th of August 2007. I had taken an off from office on that day, and spent the morning packing up my suitcase and a travel bag. At around 1230 hours, my BIL’s driver pulled up with the Indigo; I spent the next hour getting useful tips from the driver and also purchased a set of fuses and a spare headlight bulb. After making sure that the spares and the vehicle papers were in order, the driver handed over the keys of the Indigo, took my Esteem, and drove away.

Ranga’s flight had a delayed departure of about 50 minutes; he was not expected before 1300 hours. Roopesh & Pareekshit came in by around 2:30 pm, and I helped Roopesh park his car in my car’s parking slot, in our apartment. All of us were set, and waiting for Ranga, but he was nowhere to be seen. Calls to his mobile drew a blank. Finally, after about 15 minutes we got through – it seems his mobile had run out of battery; the slow pace of food being served at Green Park, Ameerpet (where he was having lunch with a friend) further added to the delay. After talking to him, we decided to get going right away, and pick him up at Shankarmutt.

Having set out trip meter to 0000 we started off when the clock on Indigo showed 4:02 pm. We pulled over near Shankarmutt where Ranga & his friend were waiting for us. Quick pleasantries exchanged, we placed Ranga’s backpack and tripod case in the boot; picked a pack of cigarettes, bade goodbye to Bharath & Ranga’s friend, and set off.

I tanked up the Indigo with Xtra Mile diesel at the neighbourhood petrol bunk and slowly made our way through the rush hour traffic, through No: 6 Junction, Amberpet, Dilsukhnagar and LB Nagar. I did a final check up on the tyre pressure on a highway petrol bunk before flooring the accelerator. Soon we were cruising at a decent 80 to 90 Kmph on the sparsely populated NH9. Giving us company on & off was a Hyderabad – Jagdalpur private bus, and some fast moving Ford Fiestas and a Skoda Laura, which zoomed past us.

After driving for about 4 hours, we pulled up at a small highway dhaba for a tea and a smoke. It was a small dhaba – a small porch and a water tank to the left; paddy fields and a barn where some tethered buffaloes lazed around, completed the pastoral setting. The tea had an earthly taste to it – a perfect accompaniment to the chips and cup cakes that we were carrying. A smoke and some quite moments later, Roopesh took the wheel, and we were off on our way to Khammam.
At Suriapet, which is equidistant from Hyderabad and Vijayawada (137 Kms from both the places), we bade goodbye to NH9 and took a left on to the road, which leads to Khammam and beyond. The road was good enough with not much of traffic, and soon at around 8:50 pm, we reached Khammam. Enquiring on the main road, for a decent place for food, we were directed to Hotel Sindhu, a few metres to our right, in a small lane. Having parked our car in a small compound adjacent to the hotel, we went up to the 1st floor, to the A/C section and found a corner table for us.
Roopesh, Pareekshit & I ordered the standard veg fare consisting of North Indian Curries and Rotis, while Ranga settled for a chicken biryani. The food was OK and was served pretty fast. It was around 09:45 pm by the time we wrapped up with our food.
As we made our way out of the hotel, and onto the compound, we were surprised to find the compound gates locked by a chain and padlock combo. While we were figuring out the next course of action, a fruit seller seeing our predicament came to our rescue and undid the chain and opened the gate. The gate was not locked – the padlock was just a deterrent to prevent more vehicles from being parked in the compound.
I took over the wheel again, and soon we were out of Khammam on the nearly desolate highway. It was pitch dark outside, and save for the headlights of oncoming vehicles, it seemed we were the only humans in the surroundings.

As we were going through Kothagudem town, a police patrol team on routine night patrolling pulled us over; and asked us for identification. I was expecting this situation- after all we were close to the epicenter of Naxal activism, and the recent Naxal-police encounter in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh forests didn’t quite help matters. Our car boot was opened up, and all our backpacks and suitcases were checked; the patrol team did get suspicious over Pareekshit & Ranga’s tripod cases; but a quick explanation helped – satisfied, the patrol tem waved us off.

We sped past Kothagudem Thermal Power Station (KTPS) at Paloncha town, and after taking a couple of wrong turns, we sped past Borgampad town, and soon the lights of Bhadrachalam town glistening over the placid waters of the Godavari caught our eye. We were tempted to pull over for some night photography, but decided otherwise – it was not a wise thing to do given the tense conditions prevailing.
Soon, we crossed the Godavari Bridge and pulled into Bhadrachalam town at around 11:40 pm – sparsely populated as usual with the lone tea stall and a few passengers wearily making their way through the main throughfare to the nearest lodge – obviously having arrived by the night bus.
We pulled up in front of the Gitanjali lodge on the main road – dad & mom had suggested this lodge- they had stayed here on their previous Bhadrachalam trip and found the lodge to be quite comfortable and economical and had recommended the same to us. However, the façade of the hotel was not quite to our liking and neither was the room rent Rs 500/- for a double bed non-a/c room. The receptionist refused to offer any discount; so we decided not to offer him our patronage; headed straight to APTDC’s Punnami hotel, located a few hundred metres to the left from the main road (Towards Khammam side).

We pulled up into the Punnami and checked up the room availability position. Luckily there were some non-a/c double bed rooms available, and we decided to check them up. Impressed with the room and the facilities, we came down and even as Ranga paid the advance, Roopesh & Pareekshit checked up on the luggage being unloaded; later I backed up the car in the parking lot; giving it company were a TATA Sumo & a Chevrolet Tavera. The trip meter read 321 Kms.

Roopesh & Pareekshit took a room while Ranga & I occupied the second room. The room was decent enough according to Bhadrachalam standards – the beds were neatly made up; the loo & the bathroom were neat and dry, and the balcony opened up to a view of the lawn down below. Across the compound wall, a row of shops lined up the road – ‘Ramoji’ Watch Shop and others.

Ranga & I took turns in ‘unloading’ and freshening up. We occupied our respective beds, and soon Ranga was snores galore. I however had a tough time catching up on those precious few winks.
Last edited by machadinha; Jul 27th, 2007 at 08:37.. Reason: merged threads, adjusted title
#2 Jul 27th, 2007, 07:59
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Mahua & the road to Sukma - Part 2

DAY 2 – 14th July 2007 Saturday –
Happy Birthday DAD
Happy Birthday ROOPESH

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 going to sleep?
Nopes – I can’t get any! These damn mosquitoes are not allowing me to sleep!
Want some Odomos?

Thank goodness! At least Ranga was carrying mosquito repellant with him. I was stupid enough not to pack in a tube of Odomos. 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 Lord Sri Ram, Lakshman & Sita Ma.

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 & Pareekshit – 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 busy with his morning activities.

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 for darshan. After darshan, 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. Back in our rooms, Ranga & I formally wished Roopesh a happy birthday, and Ranga handed over a copy of Bill Aitkin’s travelogue as a birthday gift. We then packed up and after Ranga collected his deposit, we set out towards Jagdalpur, with Pareekshit behind the wheel this time.

We topped up the car’s fuel tank at a fuel bunk, 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 continued, veering 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 was rapidly falling into sleep. I couldn’t afford to go to sleep, not at least now, with uncharted territory falling ahead. 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 youngsters idling away time, laughing amongst themselves. 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 & Pareekshit busied themselves in taking pics of the shack and the old man, and the group sitting by. A young chap, who had just come in on an errand to take back some tea, was all smiles, slightly nervous though, as Ranga & Pareekshit made him stand still for a couple of shots. The hot cup of tea on a cold day rejuvenated us, and on taking some directions from the old man, we paid up, bade goodbye and were on our way again.

Presently we came to the junction where the road to Jagdalpur takes a left while the road to Sileru 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 ply in AP – they were replaced by TATA 407s and vehicles of a more rugged variety – an indicator of the state of the roads that were to come by? 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 was fervently praying to the almighty 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 enroute 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 khol
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. Bloody Liar!

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, but the items were tasty enough. Ranga & Roopesh helped themselves to 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 effortlessly at around 75 to 80 Kmph, slowing down to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass through, and of course for the occasional photograph.

I had been driving for quite some time, and the heavy meal made me sleepy. I handed over the wheel to Pareekshit, and settled down in the back seat for some sleep.
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 enough and gave us correct directions.
Soon we drove up to the end of the road and parked our car. As we walked down the slope, we could hear the sound of rushing water becoming more pronounced, and soon we saw the majestic Tirathgarh waterfalls – with the water forcefully gushing down the rocks at an amazing speed. 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 at from close quarters. While Roopesh & I went closer to the falls, Pareekshit & 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. We climbed up the steps and soon ran out of breath – blame it on our sedentary lifestyle.
Having made our way to the top, we settled down at a tea shack a few metres away – 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!)
Well well, the 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.

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. Impressed! After about 45 minutes, we caught sight of a river 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!

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 e tried to avoid slushy patches, but then came the big daddy of them all that caught us unawares! Roopesh floored the accelerator hard and tried to get the car out of the slush, but in vain. The front two 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 opened the rear door and stepped outside only to plonk my foot in deep slush. Niceties be damned; I need to get the car moving at any cost!
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 and stepped out.
In the meanwhile Tiwari appeared with his 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, 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 come and tried their hand in 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 opened the boot and 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.

The initial mishap notwithstanding, Log Huts seemed quite impressive as we entered the huge 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 point 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 after the observation point. 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 log huts, and behind them were the service quarters. All these log huts and the service quarters were connected with a cement pathway.
Last edited by machadinha; Jul 27th, 2007 at 08:05.. Reason: merged threads
#3 Jul 27th, 2007, 08:06
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Mahua & the road to Sukma - Part 3

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 & Pareekshit 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.

As I went in to our portion, a towel – clad Ranga was arranging his belongings. I checked up the interiors. There 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 and a couple of taps.

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 have 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.

Pressures within the body started building up & I quickly needed a release. I was in a semi squat state as I went about doing my business – half afraid if the WC would cave in due to the pressure. Thankfully it did not – the flush though effective did not quite solve the purpose, owing to the tilt angle of the WC – I had to cover it up by flushing in more water from the bucket. I followed it up by a quick cold-water bath and came out feeling really refreshed.

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.

After having bath, I joined Ranga & Roopesh at the lawn. Pareekshit 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 & Pareekshit 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! Pareekshit & 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 – now we had a female dog for company. Roopesh, Pareekshit & 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.

I had already arranged for two rooms to be blocked at the hotel, and the receptionist acknowledged our booking. Pareekshit & I checked up on the rooms on offer – a double bed air-cooled room cost Rs 380/- a slightly better version cost Rs 480/- what was the difference? – A carpet on the floor – rest of the facilities was the same in both the rooms. We had no intentions spending Rs 100/- extra just for carpeting, and decided to take the Rs 380/- rooms. Ranga paid the advance, and we told the hotel staff that we would be checking in a bit late – got back into the car and drove towards the anthropological museum, about 2 Kms away from Sanjay Market.

Bad luck, the museum wore a deserted look with only a few cows munching away at the grass. It being Sunday, the museum was closed. We now had to hunt for a Computer centre where Ranga had to burn the contents of his camera; his camera was getting hung up too often and he decided to take a back up of the pics already taken, onto a CD. Who knows the camera might even damage the photos already taken?
We found a Computer Centre ‘Danteshwari Computer Centre’ and thankfully, the guy was having a few systems with the requisite software. Even as Ranga got busy transferring his pics from the camera to the hard disk and burning them, Roopesh & Pareekshit checked up their mails. An employee of Microsoft, Roopesh was quite flabbergasted to find windows Vista on one of the systems. On enquiry, it was revealed, that it was just a screen saver, not the original Vista.

Having completed the CD work, we now scouted around for a place to get our car washed and have a mechanic check up our car, especially after the battering it got, after being bogged down in the slush yesterday evening. It being a Sunday, a majority of the mechanics and servicing shops had closed down – a solitary garage was open, but its mechanic was nowhere to be seen. Luckily a HP fuel bunk was opening and we topped up our car tank with diesel and got the air pressure checked. Finding a restaurant near the fuel bunk, we had a late lunch there consisting of Chhole Bhaturay and Tea. A majority of hotels, the Honda Showroom, the petrol bunk and the service stations were run by enterprising Punjabis.

Having tanked up our stomach, we headed across town to the Railway station, situated at one corner of the town. We almost went up to then end of the town on the Raipur road, only to turn back and take a left before hitting the road to the station. The approach road to the station was wide, with a railway dispensary to the left and some railway quarters to the right, all covered by a canopy of trees. The station building though huge looked run down, indicating its not so important position among the townsfolk. Served by the solitary 1 VK & 2 VK passengers (running between Vishakapatnam & Kirandul& Vice-versa), Jagdalpur handles mostly iron ore freight bound for Vishakapatnam.
#4 Jul 28th, 2007, 00:14
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  • rangss is offline
#4
For those who wish to saty at the lotg huts, here is the address:



Contact:
Ram Narayan Tiwari
Chitrakote Log huts
Chitrakote Village
P.O. Lohandiguda
Jagdalpur - Chhathisgarh
...and I took the road less travelled.
#5 Jul 28th, 2007, 00:20
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  • rangss is offline
#5
For those who wish to know who is who, here is a snap of the travellers.

L to R - PVS Praveen, Roopesh Kohad, Pariksheet and yours truly!
Attached Images
team.jpg 
#6 Jul 28th, 2007, 18:47
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  • shahronakm is offline
#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by rangss View Post For those who wish to saty at the lotg huts, here is the address:



Contact:
Ram Narayan Tiwari
Chitrakote Log huts
Chitrakote Village
P.O. Lohandiguda
Jagdalpur - Chhathisgarh
Can you please provide contact nos. also.

Ronak.
#7 Apr 28th, 2008, 17:38
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  • snonymous is offline
#7

Problems with tourism in Bastar / Dantewada

Enjoyed reading "Mahua & the road .." as well as the parallel thread "Drive to Chattisgarh ..". At last, some real information from real travellers.

A few years ago the better half and I planned an adventurous 2 week trip to "Indravati NP and the jungles of Bastar". We booked [but fortunately had not paid] our flights which included arr. Vizag, scenic train ride to Jagdalpur, visits to Indravati NP [!!!!], Chitrakoot with stay in log huts, Barsur ruins, Kanger NP, Kanker forest, Narayanpur petrified forest, Sitamarhi forest then upto Raipur for our return flight. We got all the info from the Chhattisgarh tourism and govt sites.

One inconvenient little detail conspicuously absent from all these wonderfully enticing sites is about the real and present Naxal problem, and the fact that most of our proposed destinations are out of bounds for civilians and most certainly for tourists.

A very decent gentleman from one of the C'garh travel agencies, who also happens to be a local wildlife enthusiast [I think his name was Akhilesh Singh], very kindly told us the truth and advised us not to come there at the time as most of these jungle areas are land mined and out of bounds. Fortunately we had not paid for our flights, trains etc, so we changed our plans and discovered a new paradise elsewhere.

I do hope that the Naxal problems in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere get resolved. Todays news covers the Planning Commissions proposals, I pray that the concerned govts and the centre along with the Naxal leaders co-operate and develop this region to its full tourist potential, bringing peace and prosperity to its people. I would love to visit the unexplored jungles of Chhattisgarh some day, sooner rather than later.

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