Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Day 9 - Chattarpur to Satapada

I wake up at 3:30 and am out of the lodge at 4:45.

It is still dark. My fear of Orissa is now showing up! I see every man on the road as a potential chor. I stop at a tea stall and there is a man there with ruffianly looks. He shows me the road to NH. I am deeply suspicious of his intentions - in my mind's eye I imagine that one of his accomplices is waiting in the dark corner, with a shiny dagger in hand (for effect). Nothing like that happens!

I am soon on NH5. On the road, it is the same story w.r.t. my bag. The elasticity of the cord is reducing day by day - and so are incidences of the bag falling off the carriage. Somewhere a lorry driver asks me to stop, probably to ask for directions, but the fear of Orissa has got so much to me that I dare not stop. Instead I shout kuch nahin pata and speed away. By 7:00 I have reached Rambha Ghat - time for a mini-snack ! I ask the shopkeeper about the dacoits of Rambha Ghat and they all rubbish the claims of the outsiders... The resourceful shopkeeper draws a slight parallel between Veerappan.

I reach Rambha Ghat from there, and the whole story of dacoits turns out to be a damp squib! The ghat itself is only about 4 km long at the max!

My target is to reach as near to Puri as possible, after having a good look at Chilika lake. I have found by that there is a motor boat from Balugaon to Satapoda at around 9-9:30 AM. There is also a motor boat from Balugaon to Krishnaprasad. Krishnaprasad is about 20 kms away from Satapoda and Satapoda itself is 50 kms away from Puri. My idea is to do boating at Chilika, then take the boat to Krishnagiri and cycle till Satapoda.

4 kms before Balugaon, I see a board leading to a tourist office. This place is Barkul, the official boating site of OTDC (Orissa Tourism Development Corporation). I park my cycle near the lake and get into the tourist motor boat. The boat has a capacity of about 40 people, and a ticket costs 150 Rs. The trip is a 3 hour ride - first to a bird "sanctuary", then to the Kali temple and back. The unpleasant thing about the boat is the terrible sound the engine makes. This is a real turn-off!

After travelling sometime, we see a lot of birds sitting on the water. As our boat approaches, the birds start flying away - a whole lot of them. What a sight! Say hello to the bird "sanctuary" !

It is generally hot and humid. The water in the lake is not very deep - maybe 5 to 6 feet. Sometime later, we are pointed towards dolphins - or more accurately - the water splashed around by the dolphins. The dolphins are quite far to make any real difference.

Two hours of bird watching and we land at the Kali temple - constructed on a island in the lake. A boy in the boat tells me that the view of the dolphins will be better at Satapoda. I am excited by this - it is my next destination, after all! Half an hour later, we are back at Barkul with the clock showing 12:20.

I continue from there and reach Balugaon at 1:05. There is a naval base at Barkul, and a Gurudwara as well, but I have no time to search around for them. The motor boat leaves for Krishnaprasad at 1:30 sharp - with my cycle on the top of the boat!

The only difference between the tourist boat and this passenger boat is that the tourist boat has a better shape and better seats. The noise levels are equally high - and the engine is the same as well.

Durgacharan Swain turns out to be a talkative lad. He does some work at the local newspaper office. He sings well too - says he sings at a local orchestra. He started off by helping me load my cycle on the top of the boat. We are soon talking non-stop.

A typical orissa guy is curious about electronics items - from my mobile phone to my digital camera, my cycle and even my helmet! He also has this idea that everything is his to use - case in point, Biranchi (remember my stay at Rajahmundry?) used my mobile phone. Durga also tries; and I am not amused!

We see more birds as we go. Durga is carrying a binocular with him (the cheap sort sold on M G Road) - but that doesn't help since the birds are far away.

For time-pass, Durga sings a few songs - tum to thehere pardesi saath kya nibhaoge turns out to be his best. I treat him to a few of my own.

We reach Krishnaprasad by 2:45. The road after this is rural. The only good thing is that even though there are plenty of potholes, nobody dictates your pace there. Every hump, bump and hole is mine to negotiate, at leisure! I can't cycle to Satapoda, as I had originally believed. The road ends at Janniguda and from there, I have to catch a ferry to goto Satapoda. The last ferry from Janniguda to Satapoda is at 5:00, so I better hurry!

Enroute to Janniguda, I stop only to eat a few jilebis. I finally reach Janniguda at 4:35 and I sight the ferry at the dock immediately. It is coming for the last trip of the day. My cycle sits on the ferry. It gets a bus, a jeep and a motorcycle for company. Satapoda is on the opposite bank. At 5:00, the ferry sets off and reaches Satapoda by 5:30 - quick and cheap (at Rs 9 for me and my cycle combined).

The sun has already gone down - and with it, my chances of seeing the dolphins. I get a room in OTDC hotel for 100 bucks (the normal rate is 150) - consideration for a "poor" cyclist. I lie down for a short rest but wake up only at 8:15. A visit to the restaurant to have food turns out to be a pricey affair. I eat my fill of parotas and curry. My tip of Rs 5 surprises the waiter (I am a cyclist after all, and considered poor!) . After lunch, all that is left to do is sleep!

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
4:40 10676.4 Chattarpur
5:40 10683.5 Ganjam/Tea Stop
6:40-7:00 10697.4 Rambha/Mini-snack
8:15-8:30 10715.9 Narayani/Dhaba
8:50-12:20 10719.9 Barkul/Boating
1:05 10726.3 Balugaon
1:30-2:45 On the boat to Krishnaprasad
2:55 10726.3 Krishnaprasad
4:35 10747.4 Janniguda
5:30 Satapoda

Lots of boating today - generally fun; but did not turn out to be as exciting as I had expected...

Tomorrow, I will see the famous Jagannath temple at Puri, then the Sun Temple at Konark - and hopefully end up at Bhubaneshwar.


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