Once a traveller, always a traveller

8th Dec 2016

December 2016. 7 spirited women. One journey. 7 stories woven together to create one common chapter. Destination Daringbadi.

Flashback. June 2016. It was a time when I was experiencing or should I say, learning to cope with the circumstances of staying alone. I will talk about my experiences about that phase some other time. So here I was, summer of '16, at Kolkata, randomly searching around, when I chanced upon this Facebook travellers' group. What was special about this group? It was exclusively for women. I found it pretty interesting. I never really gave it a thought as to where this would lead me to, but after joining a couple of meetings, I realised here was my chance to follow what I have never had the chance to do earlier - to travel and see new places, take my camera around and showcase moments. Not to mention the camaraderie that we shared within the group put me in a zone comfortable enough to move out (literally!) of my current comfort zone.

So, in December, we took that much needed off from work (many of us hold regular jobs) and 7 of us set out to Daringbadi - a hill station is Odisha. This was our first overnight trip.

I researched a bit about the place before starting out. Daringibadi is a hill station in Odisha - a state of eastern India. It is widely known as "Kashmir of Odisha", situated at a height of 915 m in Kandhmal district. The place has pine jungles, coffee gardens and beautiful valleys. Daringbadi is set in a beautiful spot surrounded by thick rain forests with wild animals, and is a popular summer resort. As per locals, during the British rule, there was a Briton named Daring Saheb (as the locals would call him) who had discovered this place and named it followed by his own name as Daringbadi (der-ing-baa-di), "badi" means village. Some officers pronounced it as Daringbadi (Daa-ring-baa-di), so it turned into Daa-ring-baa-di from Der-ing-baa-di.

As per our itinerary, we boarded Yeshwantpur Express from Howrah station in the evening of 8th December and reached Behrampur early the next morning at around 6:30 am. The resort where we had done our bookings in picked us up from the station. On the way, we stopped by the Rushikulya river. After a 4 hour drive though plains and then hilly terrains, we reached Deers Eco Home, that was going to be our haven for the next couple of days. Check in was smooth and soon we were served with a sumptuos brunch of Puri and aloo ki sabzi. The resort has just the basic facilities - I was a bit concerned about the absence of geysers, knowing that the days are cold. I heaved a sigh of relief when we were told hot water can be arranged. And arranged it was. We had guessed that the place was not that well developed, so being mentally prepared from earlier on helped us to not to expect the luxury hotel feel here. Having said that, I would add that the service rendered to ensure comfort to tourists is praiseworthy, not to forget mentioning the good homely food. You will easily get rice or chapati with dal, some fried veggies, fish, chicken, mutton or eggs - whatever and however you like. And when I had the company of 6 sprightly women, what more could I possibly want?

Towards Mandasaru Viewpoint

Photo of Daringbadi, Odisha, India by Tiara Dhar

After a short post lunch rest, we set out for Mandasaru viewpoint. Mandasaru is an Eco tourism Center located 12 km from Daringbadi. It is home to an array of medicinal plants, animals and birds, and is a trekkers' paradise. What caught my attention was the narrow ridge between two majestic hill ranges that can be seen from here. We stayed till sundown and returned to the resort. We had tea along with the usual chitter chatter in one of our rooms. We were given 2 adjacent rooms, both with one king size bed and one extra bed that we were only too glad to accept. We knew we would need the rooms only when we wanted to sleep, while most of the time we would anyway spend in each others' company, so we were happy to huddle in one room during the waking hours! The night though, was shivering cold, we were told later that the temperature that night had touched 4 degrees. It is said that Daringbadi experiences snowfall during December end or January months. Fact is, it is the only place in Odisha where freezing of dew occurs during winters. As the temperature goes down below 0 degree early morning, the dew collected on the grass, leaves and the ground turns to ice at low temperatures. That is popularly called as snowfall :-)... We were given extra blankets and were carrying our stoles and scarves as well, so we were thankfully able to settle in for a comfortable sleep.

The ridge - Mandasaru viewpoint

Photo of Once a traveller, always a traveller by Tiara Dhar

Early the next morning 4 among us set out for a walk to the nearby village. The view of sunrise right outside the resort was breathtaking. It was a nice outing unlike the usual hustle and bustle of city life. Christians contribute 60% of the total population and are the largest religious community in Daringbadi. Several homes had stars decorated in their front-yards, that being the Christmas month. We watched birds and took pictures of the early morning rusticity. After breakfast, we prepared for a long day as we got dressed in our trendiest outfits, shades and hats. The resort arranged a Tata Sumo for taking us for sightseeing.

The Sal trees of Daringbadi

Photo of Once a traveller, always a traveller by Tiara Dhar

Pine forest

Photo of Once a traveller, always a traveller by Tiara Dhar

We started with Dashinbadi waterfalls and then the coffee plantation which also houses a garden of spices, especially black pepper. We travelled amidst pine forests and Sal trees to move further on to Duluri river. We passed by Kiritkuti - a centre for Emu birds' farming. Next up was Lovers' Paradise - a romantic and solitary picnic spot with a small stream. I found the place somewhat untidy thanks to the thoughtlessness of the picnickers. I wish some steps be taken to ensure that the pristine surroundings of this place in particular be upheld. That said, I still believe it is a beautiful place, where I found ample opportunity to try slow shutter speed photography of the stream.

The brook at Lovers' paradise

Photo of Once a traveller, always a traveller by Tiara Dhar

If you have another couple of days to spare, you can plan a visit to Phulbani - a 2 hour 15 minute drive from Daringbadi and to experience life at a tribal village. We returned to the resort for lunch, and took a short nap.

Sunset from Silent valley , that provides a bird's eye view of Daringbadi town

Photo of Once a traveller, always a traveller by Tiara Dhar

In the evening, we drove to Silent valley - the sunset point. The magnificent view that this place has to offer is unmatched. Sitting quietly atop a rock, watching the sun go down amidst a series of hills that bathe sometime in orange and sometime in different shades of blue, is a feeling that cannot be described in words. It is also an echo point, we watched in amusement as a little girl who came with her family pronounced "I love You"... and the voice returned - crystal clear :-)

We returned to the hotel and started preparing for our journey homeward. We were to start at 3 am to be able to catch our train Falaknuma Express at 7:30 am. The descend to Behrampore was quicker and we made it 3.5 hours. On the way, we crossed wild boars and cats, and perhaps one or two mongooses as well. It was a thrilling drive :-)

At Behrampore, we purchased eatables for the return journey and boarded the train which came in a little later than right time. Some more laughter, and a lot many more stories later, we reached Howrah at around 6:30 in the evening. As we parted ways, we carried the fresh memories to our homes and talked about the trip to our friends and family for several days on. Trips such as these can strengthen in you the virtues of adjustability, good will and care while travelling in a group. For me, it was more of a "coming of age" kind of trip - the beginning of a journey of self-discovery and understanding the purpose and true meaning of my life. Yes, there has always been a traveller in me, that perhaps even I was not cognizant of, until now. And traveller, I will always be.

(Note : All images are copyrighted by the author)

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