Sunday, January 10, 2010

Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary (Angul Side)

Mrs Iyer asks Raja Chauhary, an aspiring wildlife photographer about his next venture towards the end of the movie ,Mr and Mrs Iyer. Raja answers “Lobang , a forest in Orissa on the banks of a gorge full of Crocodiles on river Mahanadi ” .“My my where is this place” I asked myself.I never knew that this line would create a curiosity in me that will keep on flickering for last seven years. This incident happened way back in 2002 and in 2009 end I got a chance to see the beauty of Satkosia.

Entrypoint at Pampasar

We had booked one of the tents in the eco tourism complex in Tikarpada and after having wonderful experience at the Nayagarh side of Satkosia it was time for capturing the gorgeous Satkosia from Angul side. Let me honestly accept that me and Bubun were not that much excited to come to this side after experiencing Nayagarh side. Reason was that its much crowded this side and so chances of sinking completely in the beauty of Mahanadi was less. I collected the forms from the Ecotourism office in Angul and reached Badkera on the Sambalpur Highway. After having an Okay type lunch in the Dhaba, we moved quickly towards the Entrypoint of Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary. It was already getting dark and we were late by 4 hours. Time for reporting at the eco tourism complex at Tikarpada is 12 in the afternoon(I was not informed about the same). We collected our entry permits at Pampasar Check gate and proceeded towards Tikarpada. Road inside the sanctuary was superb.We reached the complex around 6 in the evening. The whole place was setup on the banks of river and is surrounded by the tall hills of Satkosia. On the front side we could see the forests where we had been the previous night. I tried to sink in the environment but the small Raja Chaudhary inside me didn’t allow that to happen as i went on imagining and imagining the dawn at that place. How it would look like in the morning...which shots will be the best...whether there will be mist in the morning....these are some of the questions that i was asking my self. I and Bubun sat over there in the banks till 8 in the evening and were discussing the tiger stories. We decided to take a stroll on the banks and then come back for dinner. sometimes you need to take a call on whether to be an admirer of nature or lover of hot steamy fish curry. We choose the former and hence suffered. We were told that dining hall had been invaded by a group of fish loving Bengalis and hence we had been left with some chilled, half broken Meerkalis. Never trust Bengalis when hot steamy fish curry is prepared in kitchens(on a lighter side).
Our tent was a small cozy one with 2 beds and to our surprise there was a toilet behind the tent with a commode. With outside temperature dipping to somewhere around 10deg, the blankets were like gifts of heaven. Time for us to retire to bed after another hectic day. The silence inside the forests are sometimes quite frightening but at the same time if you listen carefully, sound of dew drops falling from the woody trees of Sal and Mahogany on the dry leaves will revitalize your senses. The fragrance of wild flowers mixed with the chill of the winter air will make you ask questions like “Is it worth staying in Cities and running after the “A” ratings in the PMS exercises of organizations which hardly care about you. There may not be Tigers roaring always, but you can sense its presence around. Now that’s what I call a Leader. The leadership competency can’t be taught in the most expensive Programmes that Corporates are blindly spending on and making the Trainers their “Apple of the Eyes”. I am sorry to state this being in the HR function. The black striped, yellow furred beauty may be kilometers away but the King of the Jungle will have it’s rules clearly written on every nook and corner of the Forest. The rules set by the King of the jungle are imprinted in your mind even though there are no so called “Vision, Mission and Values” printed on glossy cardboard cuttings and fixed on false walls of security. The corporates are the most insecure and so are the employees. And here is a king who actually lives like a king with a pride unlike the CEOs of organizations who are busy calculating the pay perks, attending High Teas and travelling in Business Classes. “What am I doing?” was the question I kept on asking before falling asleep amidst the beauty of Satkosia in a setting flanked by gorgeous bottle green waters of Mahanadi, surrounded by the wooded hills engulfed by the setting mist and lighted by the twinkling fireflies. It was one of the wonderful nights that I have experienced in recent years. I thanked the “Raja Chaudhary” in me.

Inside our Cozy Tent

As the alarm bell rang at 5 in the morning, we were on the banks in a flash. The setting was perfect and I was unable to control my excitement. The mist rising from the frozen waters of Mahanadi was unbelievable. This setting was what I had exactly expected last evening and had told Bubun. I was able to sense what the place was going to turn in to coming few minutes. We both waited and my long term enemy, impatience had completely overpowered me. I was unable to wait for the Sun to rise and so was my friend who in decades had got out of the bed so early to see the beautiful sunrise at Satkosia Gorge. Camera was ready, shutter was rearing to open up, cells were heating up to pump in energy and more importantly fingers were readily placed on the button sensing the smoothness of the alloy. From behind the Garhjat range of hills, came out the sun lightening the mists. The way candle flickers, sun had set the water flickering. One of the most amazing sites that one can come across. In matter of 10 minutes i captured something like 100 photographs and from every possible angle and point. In the morning winter, mist on the river was rising as if somebody had put the whole area on fire. I felt so overwhelmed and rich. It was my Orissa. So beautiful and so much treasure hidden from the rest of the world and perhaps from Oriyas living in Orissa itself.

Amazing Satkosia at the dawn

For your desktop

Gorgeous Gorge

Colours of Satkosia

Enjoying the Sunrise and Cofee in one splendind Winter Morning....
a dream come true

Fireworks on water...unbelievable

Baisipali Side standing tall


I am blessed to be here

After having breakfast , it was time for us to leave the eco tourism complex at Tikarpada and move towards exploring the rest of Satkosia. Some of the places on the itinerary were Kandhaida Game tank,Bhimdhara,Purunakot and of course who can forget Labangi Forest Rest House.Reason....Rahul Bose had described its beauty in the movie Mr and Mrs Iyer.

Coming Up....
Day 2 at Satkosia in detail with photographs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Satkosia Baisipali Gorge Sanctuary (Nayagarh Side)

“Its in genes”, they say and slowly I have started to believe Crick and Watson’s DNA Stranded model. My grandfather, Late Shree Banchanidhi Naik had walked through these forests of Orissa protecting Wild Animals during 70s as Divisional Forest Officer and would have felt proud had he seen me making forests and sanctuaries of Orissa my second love. Perhaps one of the codes if you decode in my genes would be WILDLIFE.I have never seen him and I am sure he would have felt even more proud to see his grandson exploring the virgin and serene forests of Nayagarh, town being my ancestral place. Back in August this year, idea of coming to Baisipalli Sanctuary and leading a laidback life amongst wilderness of forests at least for 2 days came. calls....letters and continuous enquiry from different quarters led to the final plan. 18th of Dec me and Siddhu were supposed to leave for Bhubaneswar from Pune. Bubun was to join us at Bhubaneswar. On the target were Baisipalli, Satkosia and Bhitarkanika. 16th evening I came to know that I will be travelling alone to Bhubaneswar. Siddhu because of some unavoidable circumstances had to part away from the plans. On 20th evening,me and Bubun left for Nayagarh. Plan was to leave for Nayagarh around in the evening and reach there at 6. After meeting my relatives over there for half an hour, we were supposed to leave for Chammundia,a place inside Baisipalli Sanctuary.Route to be followed as per Road Map was to Daspalla and then to Chammundia. But I was told at Nayagarh that the route is not that good and in the evening it may not be that wise to travel to Chamundia, the entry point of Baisipalli Sanctuary. I took the advise and we stayed at my Aunt’s place. This gave me a chance to visit our ancestral property at Lenkudipara, a small village about 5 kms from Nayagarh Town towards Orhgan(Odgaon).Early in the morning next day ,around 5:30 we left for Baisipalli along the other route ie Khandapda(Khandapara),Gania and then to Chamundia FRH,the entry point of Baisipalli Sanctuary.Every thing was fine until we reached a place called Diyakanpari. To our shock, the Bridge over Brutanga River was broken.From that point Chamundia is some 4 kms. “Oh God so near yet so far”; I said to myself and enquired with the local Chaiwala about any other route. One old man said that he will make us cross the river at another place and will charge fifty rupees for the same.With all the excitement of crossing the river, we did began our journey in Bolero.

Broken Bridge on Brutanga River

As we reached the river at one place, Driver Pravash and the old man crossed the river walking which gave me and Bubun a lot of confidence that our Bolero will be able to cross the river which was half knee in depth.

The point on Brutanga River where we crossed to other side

There came the second shocker....our vehicle was in the middle of the river , stuck in the sand and flowing water.Brutanga had a lot of surprise in store for us. After trying for half an hour with no result,driver gave up and was cursing us for this fate of his vehicle. To our delight and hope, we saw some forest guards coming from the other side of the Bank. They were from the Kimbharkani Beat House in the sanctuary.Our Mesihas had brought some wooden planks with them. Perhaps they knew the technique. But this happiness was short lived. Even their attempt was futile. I crossed the river and reached Kimbharkani village to find some help and hopefully the sole tractor present. We had planned of bringing the Tractor to pull the vehicle out of the river. Tractor owner Rabi Narayan Sahu was quite hesitant to put his tractor at risk. But it was so nice of him to assure me that he will help me out and will put all his efforts to bring out the vehicle. He called some 7-8 guys from the village and we reached the point where the vehicle had got stuck. With all the efforts and enthu; Bolero pulled out of the river with full throttle. We thanked the villagers and the forest guards and drove down another 4 kms to reach Chamundia entry point of Baisipalli Sanctuary.

Villagers pumping in full energy

After showing our permit to the Ranger, we occupied the room at Forest Rest House which had typical British type archaeology.This Forest Guest Houses are reminiscent of Raj where in Gora Sahebs would come in frequently along with the princely kings for Shikar.Though Chamundia does not belong to that era as it was established sometime in late 60s.

Chamundia(Chammundia) Forest Rest House

As Bubun was getting ready I was eager to gather in forest guards and have a chat. Mr Satpathy, the Ranger came and told us about the plans.I was trying to impress them by saying that I have a lot of idea about Forests of Orissa and was so happy to have come to Baisipalli Sanctuary and photograph it for the first time. He said “ But this is not Baisipali Sanctuary! This is Satkosia Sanctuary.” I had gathered all the confusing information from Net and wrongly interpreted everything. First of all buggers don’t visit places and put all the copied material and secondly, they should have little sense of writing contents or else people who would follow them would be in mess. Luckily for me it was not a mess as i wanted to take some pics of this side(Nayagarh) of Mahanadi. Whole crowd visits the Angul Side of Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary and I was told by one of the Forest Guards that we were the first visitor since March’09. This was a sense of pride for us. Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary is divided in to two parts, one Angul Side belonging to Angul Forest Division and Nayagarh Side belonging to Mahanadi Wildlife Division.

Without wasting any time, at 10:30 am we left for Boat Ride on Satkosia Gorge from Badmul. Its the place on downstream of River Mahanadi where the Gorge ends and slowly becomes wide. So we had to travel upstream. Plan was to go ahead till Binika(Binika) , 22 kms up where the gorge starts.Satkoisa means Sata Kosa or 14 Miles i.e roughly 22 kms and is supposedly one of the deepest and longest Gorges in Asia. As we drove down the road towards Badmul Beat House, one of the forest guards ,Raut babu accompanied us. At Badmul Beat house we were again joined by one Boat man and his assistant. That was the first time I had the spectacular view of the Gorge. Journey on the boat started towards upstream. Great river Mahanadi flanked by hills on both sides was so calm and serene; perhaps at its beauty best at this place during its whole course from Chattisgarh to Bay of Bengal. We were told that it was almost 150 ft deep at some places. That did send a chill down the spine. This chill slowly graduated to freezing point at the first sight of a 15 ft Crocodile basking on the right bank.

As we gradually moved up the stream and approached Kuturi (Kutri) on the left bank, sun was setting creating a sparkle on the river. We had skipped our lunch and moreover who cares about lunch when Satkosia is beckons you. But the boat ride became more enjoyful when pakoda was taken out from the bag. Bubun had hurriedly packed some pakodas from Bethia Sahi near Badmul. Boat ride on the majestic Mahanadi, deep bottle green waters of the Satkosia gorge, basking crocodiles on both the flanks and gulping down pakodas sitting on the boat listening to Crocodile and Tiger Stories from the Boat men.....I felt like a king.

We had to return back from Kuturi as it was getting dark. I could see tents hooked up at a far distance on white sands. That was Eco tourism Complex of Tikarpada in Angul Side of Satkosia. We were supposed to go that side next day and bookings had already been done.As we moved down stream river became more wider and wider.It is narrower at Tikarpada and wider at Badmul.By this time Crocodiles had become our friends and sightings had become quite usual.We anchored our boat near Badmul IB. This IB as parched on a height and sight of the gorge down below is awesome. One can just sit and sit through out and there is no doubt that Shakespeares would emerge out everyone’s soul just by viewing the awesome sight down below. Bookings of this IB is done at Khurda PWD office. This is actually situated in the core area of the Satkosia Tiger Reserve.

Badmul IB...spectacular view of the gorge

We thanked our boatman and promised him to come back in the night for a Safari for some animal spotting. Raut Babu had already passed on the information to someone in Kuturi FRH that we were coming for a night safari to Kuturi around 10 pm. We returned back to our Rest House at Chammundia. Had our lunch comprising of awesome fish curry and rice. Food was awesome prepared by the Chowkidar of Chamundia FRH. After the lunch as Bubun took rest, I went out to see the local Chamundia Bazar, around 10-12 shops and a small post office that’s it. That was perhaps the smallest post office that I have seen till date but good thing is that at least there was one.

Our Night Safari started

It was 8 in the evening and as usual my curiosity to hear Tiger Stories had led to some 3-4 people sitting on the verhandah and anecdotes flowing like a free flowing stream. There are not many Tigers in the reserve, may be some 6-7 and they are finding it hard to survive. Good thing is that there is very less almost nil poaching that is happening currently thanks to the awareness amongst villagers in the core area due to various programmes and campaigns run by Forest Department.Wood Mafias have become dormant because of widespread opposition from the villagers.So hopefully after 4-5 years one may get to see more tigers here.

By 9, we did leave for Kuturi in our Jeep and were accompanied by 2 forest officials. As we entered the core area around 10 in the night, there was thick fog that had settled on the road and visibility was somewhere around 10m. A new salt lick has been constructed at Kutri. We all entered the forest on foot and walked for almost 600 m to see the salt lick. Some porcupines had crossed the path just sometimes back leaving behind some half eaten harida fruits. There was complete darkness except for flickering torch lights. It was complete adventure as you don’t have any idea about what lies ahead on the path and inside the bushes nearby. There is a small waterfall inside the forest and gushing sound of water was indicator of that. After sighting some wild boars near the saltlick we bid adieu to the Kutri Forest officials and returned back to Chamundia FRH. On the way back we could see the broken Forest Guest House at Kutri which had got damaged during the last monsoons.Tired of the whole days activities, it was time for me to snore in peace (horrid for others).

Next Morning it was time for us to leave Chamundia and move to Tikarpada on the Angul side. Route to be followed was Chamundia-Ghuguripada-Daspalla-Gania-Rajakia Chaka-Narsinghpur-Budhabudhi Ghat-Hindola-Angul-Birkera-Pampasar-Tikarpada.Travel back till Ghuguripada was one of the worst experience for our poor driver. We took a village road to Ghuguripada about 10kms from Chammundia .Again another bridge at Ghuguripada over Burtanga(Brutanga) river was broken but atleast there was a cement platform over which we could cross over the river. As we crossed the river, I could see the Hiils of Satkosia in the backdrop standing tall and with pride hiding one of the unexplored spectacular gorges of the world-Satkosia.

On the top of Buddha Buddhi ghat

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