I use the word potential because, stretched over an area of 2750 square km, which is much more than the other national parks like Kanha & Bandhavgarh in India, Similipal is yet to be declared as a National Park.
Hosting India’s second tallest waterfall(Barehipani Waterfall), huge beautiful Pine forests , beautiful and gorgeous aviaries(both migrated and domicile) and many more beautiful panaromic views ,Similipal is the most neglected and under estimated region of eastern Odisha.
However, being a neglected tiger reserve was a blessing in disguise for us(Me,Jeetu,my son ,Alok and Kaustav), as we got to explore the forest right on our foot unlike other national parks.
Having seen 2 of the best national parks of India while having a lavish stay at the TAJ, Similipal definitely ranked much below, but a welcoming site of an untouched road quilted by the fallen dry leaves of the spring diverging into the sunset raised the liking bar for the place quite spontaneously.
On our way we also met the 350 year old SAL tree(Here i try to personify the tree because I can imagine him being witness to 350 year old heritage and given a chance to speak,how many wonderful stories he would have to say.:))
Similipal has 4 lodging stations Jamuani,Gurguria,Kumari and Ramatirtha.Jamuani is considered the best owing to its nearness to the core area.However being best also means we had to book it at least 2 months prior to our arrival.So we settled down with Gurguria first day and Kumari the Other.
Day 1 at Gurguria
The eco friendly cottage at Gurguria was decent enough but priced slightly on the upper side(approx 5K for double bedroom/night including food).However ,the vast stretch of the jungle ,as far as our eyes can see ,just right in front of the cottage made up for it.After a long wander lust in the jungles and the Salt Lick to see the mighty beast guided by Nihar(our super nice guide), we were slightly disappointed when we could not even sight a deer.So we got back and decided to enjoy the woods sitting in the portico of our cottage,listening to wishlist songs of each one of us ,watching the stars ,traversing back the path of life and hearing stories on few glasses of wine .However,Jeetu, guided by his social networking power ,unconditional love for the wild life and an insatiable thirst of wandering in the jungles, managed a forest ranger who was nice enough to take us on a night safari against his duty norms.Although we dint see even a soul but moving around fearlessly in the pitch dark jungle was nothing less than meeting the mighty beast.
A trek I wished lasted few more hours….
Long Pine tress, chirping birds,the husky noise of the fallen dry leaves ,the dazzling rising sun and the aroma of the fresh air is the eureka moment when we tend to feel that “Yes ,this is happiness”.We had an intoxicating time in the pine woods wandering aimlessly,collecting pines,raising our head against the sun to see the tip of a pine tree,listening to the music of flowing river ,discovering flora and fauna and listening to few jungle stories from Nihar.
Day 2 at Kumari
After shifting to Kumari we immediately ventured out for our next trek,this time to the den of the King Cobra..Had i known before that we would be going down around 3-4 kms on a steep cliff,without having anything to grab on for support as it was covered by dry leaves, I would not have taken my son along.But then” Ignorance is bliss”.Had I not taken him I would not have known that he is much more smarter than i think and he did a wonderful job climbing down and up without complaining even once.
While the guys became the dare devils and entered the house of the King and said “Knock! Knock! Are you there??”.I and my son rested on a stone near by and watched the water of a small creek fall effortlessly.
Back at our cottage the dusk slowly changed into night listening to music,chit chatting ,debating on long pending topics,having pakodas ,looking at the far away jungle and imagining different wild life activities that would have just begun.And as we started to call off it a day, Jeetu took us out for another night safari.Everyone(specially Alok), although bone breaking tired did not want to be left behind and later on be a part of the remorse for missing out on anything.
Next day,the boys had another morning trek and sighted some wonderful aviaries while i lazed around in my cottage with my son.On their return we checked out and started for home.We planned to reach by 6:00 P.M.However, at 6:00 P.M in the evening we were crossing past civilisation(clearly understood as the sound of the drums beats being played in some one’s home started fainting in the background), treading on naturally laid stones of a small brook ,ending up in the middle of no where, sitting behind the bushes near a salt lick ,moving as less as possible and waiting for the animals to show up(as dusk is considered the best time).And i must say, it was one heck of an experience.
Apart from running our wild imaginations and drawing images of different animals in the dark,we could not get much,but that was an experience which still dilates my pupil with excitement when i narrate it to someone and it also abides by the saying that the journey is more beautiful than the destination.
On our way back we followed the sound of the drum beats and reached the house where some pooja celebration was going on.People were inebriated ,merrily singing ,playing drums ,dancing and also not missing to smile at us.The pitch dark back drop with only 2 bulbs to illuminate the whole function reminded me how we waste resources in our “urban society”.We tend to forget that its not the amount of lighting/glamour you provide but its the people around us who makes the arena happy and enlightened
And as I entered into the network zone after 2 days i realised that sometimes, its really necessary to slow down a bit ,live in the present,cut off all the beep sounds of our mobiles,feel each breath we take and celebrate life in the woods because it is totally worth a memory