Sunday, 12 April 2020

Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary ,Odisha (11-14 Mar 2020)

In search of new nature destinations, I came across some youtube videos on Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary in Odisha. In the Cuttack district of Odisha, the river Mahanadi is very wide with lofty hills on both sides covered with thick forests.This 14 Km long (Sat-seven and  , Kos means approx. 2 Km , thus the name Satkosia meaning 7 kos or 14 Km) stretch of river Mahanadi is the abode of mother nature.After a long wait, our Satkosia tour plan finally realised.
We started from Korba at around 11.15 am by road. Our route was Gevera-Pantora-Champa-Birra-Bhatgaon-Saraipali-Sohela-Barpali-Binka-Manamunda-Boudh-Charichhak-Banigocha-Daspalla-Gania-Sidhmula-Narsinghpur-Kamaladih , a total distance of 550 Km . The road upto Champa (50Km) was a challenging one , but  rest of the road was in good condition . Ahead of Champa , we halted near a roadside pond for a lunch break. Sitting beside the picturesque pond we relished our home made food.

Passing through Birra , Bhatgaon we next halted at Manjeet Dhaba,Saraipali for a short tea-break.The road upto Saraipali was OK with occasional bad patches here and there. Manjeet Dhaba,Saraipali is a good place with lots of choice for meals and snacks and also a good scope to improve the cleanliness. From Saraipali to Sohela the road is excellent , a four lane highway (AH46 Mumbai-Kolkata) and driving is a pleasure. At Sohela we halted for a few minutes to enquire about the road conditions towards Barpali and Boudh. A local shop-keeper informed that the road is good and so we left the four-lane highway and turned right towards Barpali.The road was good , although narrow, and enjoying the Hindi film music we drove further, crossing Barpali and halted at Binka for a coffee. From Sohela onwards we could feel the beginning of Odisha culture , the dressing style of the people and road sign-boards in Odiya. Binka is a small Odiya town and we halted in the market place for a coffee at a roadside tea-stall. Sipping the good coffee we could witness a beautiful sunset behind the lush green paddy fields on the other side of the road .

This part of Odisha has excellent irrigation facilities , thanks to river Mahanadi and the mighty Hirakud dam(Sambalpur).Even in mid-March all the paddy fields were lush green. Language here is a bit problem because almost 50% of rural Odiyas do not understand Hindi although they are helpful and understanding through gestures and signs.
As the evening colours set on the sky, we continued our journey towards Boudh.The road was a broad state-highway and the condition was excellent.Driving in off-side areas has its own pros and cons.The traffic is less and generally other vehicles give way, but on other hand the villagers flock on the road side and hardly anyone hear the vehicle horns.We reached Boudh at around 8.00pm. 

Situated on the banks of river Mahanadi , Boudh is a district headquarter with all necessary facilities like hotels, petrol pumps, restaurants ,banks etc.We had a night halt at Hotel Parijat palace .
 Food in Boudh was quite cheap. A Rs.20 plate can buy 4 medu-wadas or 5 idlis or 4 uttapams etc. and good tea (tapri-style) for Rs.5. Next day morning , we had these local snacks and at around 8.30am , we continued our journey on NH57 (Boudh-Khordha) to Kamaladih , our final destination in Satkosia forest division.The road was excellent and we passed through small towns and villages.

 Although Google-maps was guiding us the way , we occasionally stopped to confirm the road conditions from local drivers.As we passed through the town of Puranakatak , the roadside local-market was packed with farm-fresh vegetables like brinjals,bananas , bottle-guards,pumpkins etc.Further , after Charichhak the road passed through thick forests and ghats.Crossing Banigocha, we reached  Dasapalla , where we left the national highway and turned left towards Gania. Although a state-highway, the road was in good condition and we could maneuver easily.After Sidhamula , we crossed the river Mahanadi and could admire the vast expanse of its river banks.The road from here was narrow and passed through many small villages with shady gardens of bananas,coconuts,jack-fruits etc.Occasionally we stopped at junctions to inquire about the road directions(relying on Google-maps can lead you into worst roads).We reached Narsinghpur , a tehsil place at around 10am , and drove further to the village of Kamaladih on the banks of river Mahanadi.
At around 11.30am we reached the Satkosia Hill View resort located in the village of Kamaladih.Village Kamaladih has a government high school, a bank , various shops and is connected with regular bus-services to Cuttack (120 Km from Kamaladih).Also Kamaladih/Narsinghpur is well connected with Angul(a district place).

Satkosia hill view resort is spread across seven acres of land and has ten well maintained cottages and a kitchen with dining space for the tourist.The resort is landscaped beautifully and stands overlooking a hill which is thickly covered with forests.All rooms are with attached toilets and  maintained neat and clean.We had booked two rooms at the resort.
After refreshing ourselves , we had a tasty lunch and later had a rest in the afternoon.

In the evening, our resort owner Shri.Mihir Ranjan Dalua , arranged for a boat-safari in the river Mahanadi.The 8-seater speed boats are owned by the forest department and they took us along the river upstream , through the most beautiful part of river Mahanadi.Both the river banks were bordered with lofty hills and thick forests.We could spot a few crocodiles in the river.

The boat-driver informed that the river in that part was more than 100 feet deep.The fifty minutes boat-ride costed Rs.2500. Later we climbed a forest  observation tower and spent a good time admiring the sunset , the forests and the birds. The mild winds , the chirping of the birds and fragrance of the forests made it a memorable experience.


We returned to our resort and ordered for evening tea and some snacks.We spent our evening walking on the meadows and were delighted to see various delicate flowers , show plants and fruit trees nurtured in the resort garden. We lazily relaxed on the mesh hammocks , various swings , a short heighted tree-machan and rustic bamboo benches.We were served with hot pakoras and refreshing evening tea.

We ordered for our dinner and went to our rooms to freshen ourselves.Dinner was served at 8.30 pm and its specialty was soft wafer thin home made chapatis.
During the day , the place was hot and humid , but in the evening the cool breeze was very soothing and we went for a evening walk in the village. Back at the resort , the fire-flies were dancing on the trees and we sitting on the bamboo benches, we gazed at the star-lit sky. It was such a memorable day.
The next day we had planned for a full day jeep safari.The resort manager Shri.Dalua had arranged for a Mahindra-Bolero vehicle. At about 8.00 am we finished our morning breakfast of upama and tea. We set out for our jeep safari at 8.30 am.The driver and his companion were local residents and communicating with them in Hindi was  bit difficult. Nevertheless they showed us even the small little known places and did their best to explain them. We passed through forests with roads bordered with paddy fields and intermittent tribal villages.Our first destination was Shishu Pathar dam. It is a earthen dam with wide spread backwaters surrounded with picturesque forests and hills . The dam waters is a primary place of bathing and washing for the tribal villages.


After spending some time here, we moved to our next destination that was Budhi dam. It is a man-made dam surrounded with hills and forests. The meagre waters were surrounded with marsh lands and it was an excellent birding site vibrant with Kingfishers,egrets,cormorants,pond herons,Storks etc. The dam wall was a superb vantage point to watch the birds and we spent a about one hour  at this place. With a heavy heart we had to leave the place for our next destination Maa Budha Budhi Thakurani temple situated atop a hill . 

The long winding road traverses the ghats and passes adjacent the small temple with commanding views of the surrounding valleys and hills.This place is popular among the locals and small groups of local residents flock the place all around the day. A few local hotels were selling small-bananas and snacks like urad-dal wada , pakodi served with fresh chutney of tomato,green-chillies,ginger,garlic and coriander.Sweets like khoya laddoo , bundi laddo etc were available.
We moved further towards Tikarpada. Crossing Bantala we had to stop at Pampasara at the Forest dept. entry gate.Here we bought tickets to enter Tikarpada wildlife sanctuary . 

From here onwards, the road passed through thick forests . Being a hot afternoon, we could not spot any animals.Crossing the villages of Tarava and Purunakot, we reached the village of Tikarpada at around 12.30 pm. It was a hot afternoon and we walked slowly towards the Crocodile park gate.On the way we saw a chained-elephant standing in the premises of the forest dept. quarters.Our driver informed that the forest dept. employees use the elephants to patrol the forest areas.The Crocodile park is situated on the upper banks of river Mahanadi.The river was gushing with crystal clear waters with vast sand-beds on its adjacent sides further bordered by thick forests and hills.The vast sand-beds are lively with River Terns and River Lapwings.


The Crocodile park is a breeding center for Muggars, Ghariyals and Terrapins(small tortoise). Once they grow upto a significant size, they are released in river Mahanadi.The park has tall shady trees , tourist watch-tower and fancy benches . The park is a natural home to many bird species.Lazily spending around one hour at this place, we left for our long return journey.On the way at Bantala, we took a lunch-break at Hotel Rahul .The veg. thali served here is typical Odisha style and tandoori rotis are delicious.
At around 6.00pm we reached Deojhar waterfall.It is situated deep inside the forest and from the main road , we trekked on a forest track for about 20min. to reach this waterfall. In the cool shades of the forest trees, the crystal clear waters flowed with a sweet murmuring music . Stepping in the cool waters , we felt refreshed and we were happy that we visited this place. Splasing in the waist deep puddle, we could not resist ourselves from sitting below the main stream  shower. The pleasantly cool waters , electrified the bodyAs the darkness of the evening, set in the forest, we had to leave the place.


On our return journey to the resort, I was just checking my Whatsapp messages and I came to know that , it was Shri.Mihir Dalua's (our resort manager) birthday. By that time, we had already passed Narsinghpur(the tehsil place) and were on the rural roads.We stopped in a general store in a village and bought a Cadbury Dairy milk chocolate as a birthday gift for Shri.Dalua. We reached the resort at around 8.00pm. The full day jeep-safari tour costed us Rs.3,500/-. As we met Shri.Dalua , we greeted him with birthday wishes and the resort swung into  happy vibes. Shri.Dalua ordered for a birthday cake and we had a small birthday function in the dining space of the resort.
Earlier in the day, we had planned to leave for Bhubaneshwar in the evening.Since we returned late in the evening, we cancelled our plan of driving to Bhubaneshwar and decided to stay in the resort for the night. We requested Shri.Dalua to arrange for our night stay. Inspite of having his other guests , he kindly arranged two rooms for us . At around 9.30pm , we had a nice dinner, and we retired to our rooms.
The next day we woke-up early and went for a river-cruise in the downstream side.Once again Shri.Dalua arrange for a boat , which was a long traditional boat powered by a petrol engine.



As the boat sailed over the shallow waters we watched the birds along the sand banks and the morning mist was mingling with the hill-tops.We reached the other side of the waters which was a very wide sandy beach.We removed our foot-wears and walked bare-foot on the sands.We had long walks and watched the birds on the sandy banks. On this side of the river , was the Satkosia Sands Resort and we visited its restaurant for a cup of tea. Later we spent the time lazily on the water banks.The river water was very clean and we had to defeat our urge to take a bath in the river because we had not taken extra set of clothes.Finally we boarded the boat for our return journey.We could watch the aquatic birds and terrapins(small tortoise) basking on the river rocks.It was such a fine morning.

We returned to our resort rooms and quickly got ready . We packed our bags , had the morning breakfast and set for our journey back home.
Photo courtesy :
Rajratan Dupare
Sahil Nimsarkar