Road trip always excites me since the time I drove from Arkansas to Atlanta in 2011 for more than 12 hrs. This time I was really looking forward for a road trip with my Maruti Swift for 7-8 hrs of driving.Though I can easily drive much more than that yet I have to think about my lifeline (Sophie, my 1 year old labrador). It will be difficult for her to go beyond 7-8 hrs in her first attempt. After some limited research and suggestions from friends, we finalized our destination to be Keonjhar, a small town in Orissa about 350 Kms from Kolkata. It’s mostly a place, where nature and scenic views are abundant. Waterfalls, dense forests, mountains and lush green paddy fields welcome tourists to this serene place. Unlike earlier occasion this time did no homework before the trip. At the very last moment one of my office colleague Avik along with his wife agreed to come with us and hence we opted to hire a bigger car. I was very happy as this was the first time I will be driving a Mahindra Scorpio (easily one of the evil beast on Indian roads). I had booked 1 AC suite and 1 AC deluxe room for two families in the OTDC Panthanivas Keonjhar. Good part was they welcomed Sophie which is hard to find in India (pet friendly hotels).
Day1: So the moment of truth finally came on last Saturday morning. We (Me, Avik, Sanchari, Wife, Shephali and Sophie) started at 8:30 am from Kolkata. Traffic was really less and we covered good ground quickly, I was driving at a modest speed of 100km/hr till Kolaghat. This is where we took our first break ie around 10:00 am. Had tea and Aloo ka parantha considering a brunch. After crossing Kolaghat I drove a bit fast around 120 Km/hr for the next stretch till Kharagpur. Just after crossing Kharagpur the scenic drive started.Lush green paddy fields were spread on both side of the road for miles after miles. Inside our Scorpio people were also upon cloud number nine singing songs and enjoying every bit of what nature offered them through the window panes.From this very moment the delay also started. Almost after every 10 kms we stopped to click some amazing landscape which nature had to offer. The road till the end of Bengal was just fantastic. However, Orissa welcomed us with a horrible stretch of 20 kms of road which was worth forgetting.This was also the place called Baharagora.Soon after came a short spiral stretch of road which we climbed uphill to Bangriposi. Right there was a point from where the 360 degree view of the plain land was visible and it was too good.As you can understand, we stopped a lot on the way and this eventually delayed us in reaching our destination. Crossing Bangriposi we saw a troop of monkeys all around our Scorpio. Took some quick snaps and off we went. By this time sun was also setting. We were still few 50-70 kms short from Keonjhar.Crossed Jashipur and again on full throttle finally reached OTDC Keonjhar.It was so damn relaxing for me after a solid 8 hrs of drive. Also realized driving 12 hrs at a stretch in USA was far less stressful than driving 8 hrs in our backyard.
The room where we stayed was just fantastic, spacious, clean and ticked all points per my checklist.It was already evening and there was no scope to explore any
further.After checking in we ordered egg chowmein since we did not get any proper place to have lunch.When we are hungry any food becomes delicious and the chowmein
was really well made.So with a satisfied tummy around 6 pm it was time for relaxing. Sophie in between was dog tired literally and dozed off in no time .The hotel had a wonderful terrace space, the best I have ever seen in many different places I have been to. Luckily our room was just beside the terrace and considering very limited presence of tourists this was an entire personal space for us. As it happened Avik had already made some arrangements what a driver needs after a tiresome day. We all sat on the terrace and slowly but steadily built the mood for a perfect relaxing night. Whatsapp though was more than ever due to Happy Diwali exchanges and few close ones who really kept me busy.As we were into our 2nd or 3rd peg I discovered Avik as a brilliant singer much more than a great tech savy IT folk. But again the trigger for him were those 2 pegs and looking into the eyes of his beloved wife. For me it’s more than 16 years so nothing much came out
understandably and as always I preferred to be a great audience all along. Dinner was served on the terrace and and I hardly remember what it was. Came back to my
room and slept immediately.
Day 2: Woke up early. I am usually an early riser though whatever time I sleep at night. The weather was excellent and I was lucky enough to watch the sunrise amidst the
trees from our terrace.Sophie and my wife played, I took few pictures of them as Sophie was at her acrobatic best.Then went for a short morning walk along with Sophie. Came
back and had tea, luchi torkari as part of our breakfast. Today the plan was to see all the waterfalls. Started with the farthest one being 60 Kms from the hotel. So
all of us started around 9 for Khandadhar falls. The journey was really scenic , crossing green patches of paddy fields on both sides, mountains far away forming a
nice landscape. Again a bright sunny day and we took pictures all along the way. Avik and Sanchari were in their best of moods and I framed couple of good ones
inspired from DDLJ along the mustard fields. After a joyous ride amidst jungle and tribal villages we finally reached at the Khandadhar falls. It was almost 700m walk
from where I parked our Scorpio. Sun was red hot and it was mid day. Everybody almost had their tongues out just like Sophie while reaching to the top. But once we
came and saw Khandadhar falls all our efforts were paid off. It was a wonderful scene with no tourists present at all. This amazing nature’s gift just to be shared
among us. Also there was a soothing cool breeze with mist of water coming from the falls. First time I kept my camera aside and soaked in all the happiness nature
had to offer. After 10-15 mins of mesmerizing feeling regained a bit of energy and off I went for some photography of the falls. There was a double rainbow for
the taking and obviously the high point of our tour so far. While we were returning back we were very hungry and unfortunately there were no good food options. Needless
to mention the place is surrounded by villages and tribal areas but we managed to get a hotel (easily 1 star rating in zomato or less) but as mentioned when you are hungry
any food tastes good. I had rice, dal and sabji for 30 INR only but with the hospitality of the hotel owner I would easily rate them 4 out of 5. 1 I decucted as there
should always be scope for improvement for everything in this whole world 🙂 After a satisfying lunch had an even more satisfying sootta before we started for our
next waterfall destination Baraghagara. The road from the highway A46 which went 4 Kms straight to Baraghagara was quite narrow and covered with dense forests on
either sides. One point forgot to mention that so far and till the end we never followed GPS in this trip. It was only old school by getting the direction from one of
our colleague Soumya who visited this place and in these 2 days just getting the directions in a paper from the hotel staff. Now not so funny part we missed the Bara
ghagara and came 1 Km beyond to find a local tribal person with an axe waiting in the jungle. We both did not understand each other but key word was baraghagara and we
somehow convinced him to come with us. He had the most innocent smile and he ensured to show us the waterfall from 2 different points. Then I also ensured to drop him where I picked him up. After a final good bye we came to our last destination for the day Sana Ghagara. Just as we entered the parking and got Sophie out,suddenly from nowhere a stray dog came attacking, it was a terrifying experience. Sophie being pampered over a year now forgot to least defend herself. I was standing and fighting in between the stray dog and Sophie. I shouted did everything that I could do to ward off the beast, however, still he managed to come from behind and tried to pounce on Sophie. Just when he was about to go for the kill I managed to gave a hard kick at his face and it went away, Sophie
was unhurt with just one faintest of scratch. But it was enough for us to end our day trip. I got scared and immediately called her vet but he gave me confidence that
there was nothing to worry as Sophie had all the vaccinations done. Although I don’t have a kid but understood that day how much they mean to the parents. After an
hour of concern slowly I became normal and then Sophie also went to sleep. There was absolutely no plan of having drinks that night, but the terrace and jungle
environment made Avik and me to drive to the main town and bring our ration to enjoy the evening. Not much songs tonight but it was all discussions which went on till late
night and finally again had dinner on the terrace, yet one more time I don’t remember much what we had 🙂
Day 3: Again woke up pretty early only to see Sophie shivering. Really got scared and called up my vet once more. He again told us nothing to worry. Still my wife
decided to stay back with Sophie to make sure she gets rest and rest of us went to Bhimkund. It was another 60Kms to some other direction from our hotel. Once again a scenic drive to the place. In between we got down at Baitorini river and did some photography. Reached Bhimkund around mid day.It was hot but the watch tower gave us a shade and also a 360 degree view of the entire area. Bhimkund is a beautiful natural water reservoir on the River Baitarani.It is also said that Bhima had taken bath in this
reservoir. The place has lot of large rocks and makes it a unique attraction altogether. We stayed around 1 hr and then came back to the hotel. After having lunch
which I do remember 🙂 ( rice,dal,aloo paneer) we took Sophie and my wife for the post lunch session attractions. Just a couple of Kms from our hotel was Rajbati, which had
a wonderful view of a lake nearby and a temple in between the lake. Unfortunately due to the timing we could not enter the Rajbati. After that we came to the hill Top
which gave us a panoramic view of the Judia hills. At sunset time it was picturesque. Wished time stood there. Then we dropped Sophie and my wife to the hotel and rest
of us again went to take revenge on the dog at Sanaghagara parking lot. Once we went there, saw that beast. He started barking as soon as we exchanged eye contact. Good part was he was chained that day. We did the boating and it was almost dark when we got a glimpse of the wonderful Sanaghagara falls. As all good things come to an end so did our
trip. Covered all the planned point of interests and came back to the hotel. That night we stayed sombre and just enjoyed the ambience for one last evening. Took
dinner early and went to sleep.
Day 4: I was really feeling not the best to drive back again to that same daily mundane life of mine, but had no other option as well. Avik was equally or probably more frustrated.
However, out of sheer frustration started driving at full speed.While going, it took us 8 hrs but with the constant high speed we made the return journey in only 6 hrs. At
one point clocked 140 km/hr while approaching Kolaghat. Had our lunch beside Sher e Punjab dhaba and came back to Kolkata without much traffic to spoil the mood.
Overall a wonderful trip and thorough enjoyment. The high points being me driving a Scorpio for the first time, scenic views, Sophie enjoying, having drinks on the
terrace, listening to songs from Avik, double rainbow at Khandadhar and the company of Avik and Sanchari. Low point will be the small 15 mins of time when Sophie got
attacked by that dog.