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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Travails of a traveller – part iV

Thank you for being a patient reader of all the three earlier parts. Yes, this one has taken a long time in coming, and I can only hope that it will be worth it.


2.00 am – HOORAY! We are at Chandipur. That angelic man who helped us in Balasore has already booked us into a nice, government hotel called Panthaniwas (In Oriya, Pantha means traveller, and niwas means shelter – so literally, a shelter for travellers.). We go to our rooms and freshen up immediately. (Of course, immediately means about 20-25 minutes in case of the female contingent.)


The excitement of being at a beach resort is catching on, and we decide to make a quick reconnaissance of the beach. We walk to the beach, which is nothing but a strip of wet sand. We start walking towards the sea, and walk on for nearly 500 m, into what should have been the sea, experiencing nothing but wet sand, which makes soft, squishy sounds beneath our feet.


Dejected, we turn back, thinking Uncle Murphy has been at it again.


However, the receptionist at the hotel explains that Chandipur is a very unique beach. It is located on a continental shelf, meaning the ‘beach’ stretches for nearly a kilometre into the sea. So, when the tide is out, you can actually walk a kilometre out to sea, without even getting your ankles wet. And during high tide, right at the beginning of the shore, you’d have the water lapping at your ankles.


We are also told that we’d have to wake up at 6 am, because the tide only comes in from 6 am to 9 am. Hence, we decide to crash, and try waking up early next morning.


7.00 am – I am rudely shaken awake, by Amitabh. Some of the others are already up and dressed, whereas the rest are moving around aimlessly, bleary-eyed and sleepy. I give Amitabh a rude shove, and wake up. Even though we’re dog-tired after our earlier (mis)adventures, our excitement gets the better of us, and we walk to the shore.






However, there is no shore left!! The water tugs at our heels, inviting us inwards.  It is an amazing sight, to watch the sun rising over the horizon, and water all around. The gentle breeze caresses us, and the symphony of the waves on the shore is musical.





Too weak to resist the lure of the water, we wade in.


stepping into the sea



Some members of the gang (including yours truly) are somewhat reluctant to venture ‘too far’. But then, being called a ‘wimp’ or a ‘sissy’ can really stretch you beyond your limits. That’s what happens, and we go on ahead. And then, it becomes a riot! Pulling people into the water, dunking them, splashing around like a bunch of kids, is what we’re doing.





this is approx half-way inside


To be honest, it is a pretty uncanny feeling to be standing nearly half a kilometre from ‘safety’ right in the middle of the water. (Unfortunately, we have kept our cameras on the shore, to prevent damage to them.)


After an hour or so of fun, we get back to the hotel to bathe, and get some (much-needed) breakfast. Then, it’s time to pack our stuff and push off.





Before that, after my bath, I inadvertently end up applying jasmine oil (UGH!!) to my hair. Yikes!!


posing on the beachhealth-conscious!more posing  


After breakfast, we sneak away for a few minutes to click some pictures, while the rest of the members finish with their packing. We also find the time to sip some sweet coconut water.


after the water subsides, this is what remainsWe then decide to go back and see what remains on the beach after the water has subsided. Surprise, surprise!!


There are kids playing cricket at a place, where an hour ago, we were considering playing water polo.


Heck!! There’s even a man on a scooter. But he ‘scoots’ away before I can click him.





10.15 am - Since it’s still pretty early, there’s no point turning back for Jamshedpur. So, a decision is made, to move to ‘Panchlingeshwar’ – a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is supposedly an hour’s drive to reach there. Before that, we are told that we must visit Mirzapur – the place of confluence of the River Budhabalanga with the Bay of Bengal.


It sounds interesting, but only till we get there. As soon as we reach Mirzapur, the overpowering smell of fish hits us, attacking our olfactory systems with a vengeance. For connoisseurs of fish, there are fish of every conceivable shape, colour, and size. But, we’re all almost universally turning one single colour – BLUE because of the lack of oxygen reaching our systems.


We see fishing trawlers being built, but hardly register anything else, thanks to that fishy smell.


12.00 pm – After an agonisingly rough ride, we finally make it to Panchlingeshwar. However, we are rather disillusioned to find that to get to the temple, we’ll have to climb some 200-odd steep steps.


We debate about whether we want to go up or not. Eventually, we decide to give it a shot. More than the temple itself, there’s the lure of a waterfall in the jungle beyond, which acts as the decisive factor for us. So, here we go again!


1.00 pm – Whew! After climbing some 100-odd steps we have now reached a point where people are queuing up to pay obeisance to what seems to be a stream of water. It must be ‘holy’ water because people are drinking it, and filling it up in bottles. Since Amitabh and I don’t quite believe in the conventional concept of God, we debate a lot, before eventually queuing up (purely out of curiousity).


Since the line seems too long, we eventually drop out, and I casually saunter upstream. To my shock and surprise, the water is flowing through a ‘dam’ of paper plates, empty Pepsi bottles, tetrapacks, and other assorted garbage. Talk about dumb faith!!


We express our views about how faith leads people to do silly things, and then decide to pursue the quest for the missing waterfall again.


1.30 pm – We’ve just been told that the waterfall is another two kilometres away, in the jungle, and we’ll need to hire a guide to take us through. I couldn’t care less!! To hell with the waterfall… let’s chuck it, is my line of thought.


Fortunately, ‘groupthink’ kicks in, and everyone agrees to go back. We stop for tea and snacks at the eateries just outside Panchlingeshwar, and then bundle into the cars for the ride back to XLRI.


4.00 pm – I’m tired… I’m hungry… and I’m bored… And these people are preventing me from cracking any more PJs. How do they expect me to survive? Anyway, we’ve had a pretty tough time with those damned waterfalls, but still, I don’t quite want to go back to the academic rigmarole. I wish we had just a few more days before life goes back to the normal humdrum. *sigh*


9.30 pm – We reach back into those hallowed portals. After a long argument with the drivers, we settle their (inflated) dues, and go back, to regale all and sundry with our adventures. There have been some amazing memories forged during this time, and we’ve all got to know each other better.


Hopefully, the next trip happens sometime soon…


Deepti Thomas said...

Hey, you sketched the entire travelogue in sucha picturesque manner that never for a min did I feel that I wasn't around to experience it..(especially this one..)
Only Ayn n J.K.R could manage to do that!!!
Simply beautiful..
such was the resilience and resolve displayed by ur entire group, that even Chacha Murphy the end.. ;-)

Sauron said...

Wow! Being compared with Ms. Rand and Ms. Rowling is an honour, though completely undeserved... But, hopefully, some day, some time, I might get somewhere close... :)

Scriber's Web said...

Looks like you are having a great time! Love coconut water:)

Sauron said...

Yeah Scriber... it was an awesome time! Though with the kind of academic schedule there is, it feels as if I visited that place ages ago... and not just 2-3 weeks back...