The much awaited little-uncharted train (Balasore to Bangriposi Local, which can neither be found in Indian rail or any other portal but still runs) chugged in at Balasore on a chilly December morning. Contrary to my notion of a vintage rake even if it arrives, it was found to be a brand new glitzy one with aerodynamic nose pattern and it cost just Rs. 25/- for a 107 Km ride. We were elated to find enough room to sit with our luggage on the seat even and squeaky clean. It took us meandering through the rustic, picturesque landscapes of Mayurbhanj with warm sunshine on our shoulders and company of tribal village folks up to Bangriposi the quaint little town in next 3 hrs.
We were heading for our year end escapade to Simlipal National Park, which is still not frequented if not heard even after being so close to Kolkata, Jamshedpur and Bhubaneswar. We checked in the Khairi Resort and went out for an evening recce in the periphery of the Simlipal Tiger Reserve in a three wheeler. It took us for an evening stroll along the Budibalam River and villages amidst vast expanses of meadows with hillocks in backdrop.We witnessed a breathtaking sunset sitting idle on the bank of Budibalam as the crimson Sun dived behind the hills dispensing majestic aura and heavenly bliss.
Next morning, we departed in the wee hours in freezing clod in a Bolero for our day excursion to Simlipal. In no time we were crossing the Ghat roads. Crossing the Bangriposi Ghati we descended to the undulating meadow with sights of high hills in the horizon. We drove through the sylvan landscape for next couple of hours and we reached a small settlement of Jashipur which serves as the western entry point of the national park. Soon we entered the park through Kaliani check post in the Gurguria range.
Simlipal started to unfold its enchanting beauty as we continued to make inroads. Uneven meadows , azure sky and forested hills all around already stole my heart. I did not expect to see a tiger or even any other creature but the unspoiled nature already made my day. It is not entirely dense vegetation apart from the hill slopes. Numerous villages adorn the valleys and meadows inhabited by tribal populace who once were hunters now turned conservationists with immense effort of the forest officials. Roads inside the park though unmetalled but very well preserved and directions/major attractions are clearly stated along the trails.
Our first stop was Uski falls. It is a nice little cascade where once can climb and get close to the pool. The environment is serene and quiet. We moved towards the big one, the grand Barehipani. It is deep inside the STR and the Budhabalanga River diving from a steep cliff almost 1000 ft into the ravine below. It was a sight to behold. The base of the waterfall is only approachable by foot for few hours. Day tourists can enjoy the scene from far on the other side of the hill.
Delving into the wilderness, our four wheeler climbed to the higher reach of the Simlipal, the Nawana range where another beautiful waterfall Joranda is situated. We roved through the core area with dense vegetation and defining silence. With the dusk setting in. we reached the view point of Joranda. One can see the Joranda falls from the top much alike the Nohkalikai Falls of Cherapunjee, Meghalaya. Towering cliffs hang over the deep gorge.
Now its time for animal watching. We moved to the core area the Chahala Range with last rays of the Sun. There is a meadow where animal sightings can be done though we could not sight one and with almost hundred tourists chatting/screaming and flashing their cameras expecting a catwalk of tigers. Though a stay at night in the old Royal beat house must optimize the chances of spotting a wild animal.
We left Chahala as the night set in piercing the darkness of dense woods with stars galore atop. Little we could manage of the vast, rich biosphere reserve in a day, but the hills and falls, meadows and trails, birds and flowers of Simlipal continues to draw me even after a fortnight. Countdown starts till I come again sooner than I myself can imagine.
This trip was originally published on Tales of Trails