04-Sep-2008 -- SARANKUL
Riding high on spirits, as we had successfully finished our first CP visit, we drove on to Sarankul for our next confluence. Nayagarh, the district headquarters was the nearest point where accommodation was available. We reached Nayagarh dead in the night of the 3rd September and got very decent rooms at the Hotel Trinath. We started very early next morning, I, Sahil, Kasinath and our two local’s friends, Dilip and Birabar. We drove towards Sarankul, the road from Nayagarh being excellent. The small village of Sarankul is the abode of Lord Shiva, and the Ladubaba Temple stands right by the side of the road with a big tank adjoining it. After getting the blessings of the Lord, we drove further on towards the CP. The crisp morning air was invigorating and energizing. It had rained the previous night and there was a certain joy of killing the small rain puddles on the road by whizzing fast over them.
There was greenery all around, the farmers were plowing their fields with oxen and urging their beasts on in a chanting sing-song way. Women were washing clothes in the roadside streams and bathing their children. I climbed on the roof of our Scorpio, Garmin in hand, and took photographs. There was a picture postcard scenery all around, the green fields, the hills on the horizon, the tops of which disappeared in the small fluffy white clouds, the trees by the roadside which formed a canopy over the road.
We soon reached a point where the distance reading gradually starting increasing, signifying that we were going further away from the CP. We stopped at a Filling Station in the village Kadalibandha and parked our vehicle there.
The GPS indicated that the CP lay 350 meters from the point at the base of a small bald hill. I and Dillip, who had got his motor cycle, scoured the roadside for any path leading into the forest. About 100 meters North from our station, we found a narrow strip, with animal tracks. Our closer inspection yielded a few footmarks and cycle tyre treads. We steered the Motorcycle down the road and tried negotiating the meandering strip, but could only drive for around 80 meters. We soon had to dismount and left the mobike leaning against a tree and trudged our way thru the dense foliage which was like a solid wall. We had both come armed with the GPS only, as this was supposedly a recce mission. We were to find a route, and the others would follow.
The previous night, I had tried explaining to Dillip and Birabar the reason for our visit, but most of what I had said went over their heads. They had a lurking doubt that we had some ulterior motive. In fact, Dilip hinted that the Maoists, who had a few months earlier laid siege to the town, killed fourteen policemen and taken away a whole cache of arms , and taken this way out. He said that most of the ammunition had been dumped around the area, possibly buried for being retrieved later when the heat had cooled down. Deep within, he doubted our intentions, and had come along only to ascertain our intentions for visiting a vague spot in the forest.
We made slow progress through the morass of branches and thorns, going round in circles. It was soon evident that we could only penetrate the dense jungle shrubs with the help of machetes. The confluence point could only be reached by our bashing thru the close-packed foliage of the jungle, which consisted of sharp thorns, branches that lashed our skin, and almost no tracks.
However the GPS showed the CP to be only 120 meters away, pointing towards a dense clump of trees with a lot of man sized undergrowth. We thought it better to retrace our steps and make it back to the road, and then look for another approach.
We reached the place where we had kept the mobike. The GPS reading showed that the confluence point was only 90 meters away towards the west. With a lot of difficulty was managed to turn the bike around, and I sent Dilip away with instructions to get the others along with the cameras. I also asked him to borrow a few machetes & axes (koturi and tangia, in the local parlance) from the nearby village.
Left all alone, I realized how silent the forest was. There silence was soon punctured by the sound of chirping crickets, a bull frog croaked nearby, and the distant barking of dogs could be heard. The woodcutters, who entered the forests for firewood, were usually accompanied by mongrels who always warned them of any animal in the vicinity.
After nearly an hour, my patience ran out, and I too started to make my way out of the forest. The path seemed very different from the one I had taken while entering, but I took the rising sun as a reference point and went westwards. Soon I could hear the noises of the vehicles on the road, and suddenly the forest gave way to a clearing, not very far from where we had ventured in.
I had hardly stepped on the road, when I heard the sound of our Scorpio coming towards me. The boys had taken some time in getting the implements, and had arranged a pair of evil looking machetes, a small axe and some thick bamboo sticks. We took the fresh bearings, the GPS showed the CP to be around 160 meters from one point of the road. We stopped at a point 150 meters from the Odogaon Fire Station (why a fire station is stationed in a jungle remains unexplained) and embarked on a straight line route, slashing our way thru. The bamboo sticks were the most useful, as we just thrashed the shrubs around and flattened them to the ground. After all five of us had walked over them, they remained horizontal, although a few obstinate ones gradually made their way back to the vertical positions.
The walk was characterised by the awkward vegetation. The tree canopy made it a bit difficult to get a good reading with the GPS. The shielding effect of trees caused the GPS unit to `freeze’ because it could not receive enough satellite signals, making heading in the right direction difficult. Within 80 metres of the point, the (now un-frozen) GPS direction indicators became less reliable, as, just with all units, they need a period of smooth travel in one direction, in order to give a bearing. This was impossible in this terrain. Instead, the unit was now switched to show actual latitude & longitude figures, requiring mental calculations as to what direction should be taken.
We soon reached a small clearing which seemed the only tamed patch for miles around. The CP was right next to a small mango tree. In fact when we hugged the tree, we got the correct bearings. The GPS was getting a response from only five satellites. However, we soon managed to hack our way to zero out the coordinates, and have an EPE of just 13 metres (12.80 metres when we took the picture).
There was a small table top bald hill on the north. The south was scrub land which terminated at the road. East stood a short banyan tree. And on the west too the scrub land stretched from the edge of the clearing.
There was a strong odor of decaying flesh, and Dilip hinted that a hyena’s den was nearby. This made most of our group to pack up early. Sahil soon discovered a path from the edge of the clearing and the distance back to the road was done in less than ten minutes.
Our feet and legs were damaged with many scratches and our clothes were dirty and dusty. The itchy brambles clung on to our trousers causing a lot of discomfort. However it was a very satisfying morning and our trip was all over before noon. We returned to Nayagarh, happily, all the difficulties were quickly forgotten after we had taken a shower in the hotel, wearing clean clothes again and with the photos of the successful confluence visit inside my camera.
- Duration: 50 minutes (until we were back on our route)
- Distance of car parking: 800 meters
- GPS height: 160.40 meters
- Description: Hilly area, with abundant shrubs and elephant grass. The site was a thick forest which has been recently decimated.
- Given Name: The Second Confluence of Orissa
- Time and date at the CP: 08:30 AM 4th September 2008
- GPS accuracy: 12.00 meters
- Temperature: 27 °C