Jirang: The Road Less Travelled
Have you ever saw a photo a friend posted on Facebook or Instagram which left you wondering where the place is? We live in a beautiful country and there are lots of places which are off the radar as we are all busy sight-seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra, India Gate in Delhi and Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. So, this festive season, plan your trip and travel the lengths and breadths of our country and find joy in the offbeat corners of it. If you already have a place in mind then do share the details in the comments section below or, if you don’t, then this blog post is exactly what you need to get started. Don’t forget to watch the video at the end and share your thought in the comments section.
Last month on Independence Day I with my travel buddies from xkmph.com planned a ride to Gopalpur, a popular beach destination in Odisha. The main objective of the ride was not tourism or sight-seeing. As Gopalpur, was nothing new to us and many of us have already been to this beach town before. The only intention behind the plan was to ride and to have some fun being together after a while. We could have gone to Digha beach 180 km from Kolkata instead, we opted for Gopalpur, 600 km from Kolkata.
Before the ride, Sadh, co-rider and a very good friend tweeted about the ride and got a quick response with pictures from an Odisha travel community suggesting to visit a place called Jirang, 80 km from Gopalpur which he shared with us and we kept it in our mind to visit if time permits.
The plan was to start by 8 pm and to reach Rambha by sunrise to see the beautiful Chilika Lake (another very popular tourist attraction 50 km before Gopalpur). However, things didn’t turn out as was planned as two of our friends couldn’t reach on time and among them, Chandra was new on his first long ride and that too on his Bajaj Discover 125 cc motorcycle. He was wearing a formal shirt and trouser with his formal boots which he wears when he goes to work. His helmet was one of that local made non-branded without any safety certifications way bigger than his head. If his required size is ‘S’ he was wearing ‘L’ and the visor of the helmet was a screw loose on one side, meaning, Chandra cannot toggle the visor close/open. It will remain open all through the ride.
We started past 12 am and planned to ride as long as we can, but Chandra was struggling to keep up. Not his fault, being on his first ride. Without proper gears, he was nervous which was slowing us down. So, we stopped a little after Kolaghat and explained him some basics. Arijit being the most responsible of the lot became his tail so that Chandra doesn’t leave behind. Starting from there the problem with Chandra was gone. Kudos to Chandra as he was proactive enough to act on the situation and kept himself up with the lot and next we stopped at Balasore during sunrise for tea. From Balasore, Gopalpur is still a far cry of 350 km. Being late we also missed the best time to be on the Chilika Lake which is a 300 km from where we were. So, we decided to give it a shot during sunset. By the time we reached Rambha, it was noon, the sun was right above us, we were exhausted after riding the whole night and it didn’t make any sense visiting Chilika Lake at that time so, we continued towards Gopalpur. Being the weekend right before Independence day Gopalpur was flocking with tourists, chances of getting a hotel near the beach were not an option. So, we accommodated ourselves in a hotel on the highway 8 km from the beach.
After a brief rest, we went to the beach. The beach was crowded full of tourists, eateries, and souvenir stalls as if some carnival is going on, projecting a look of the fully commercialized beach. We started looking for some space and headed towards the Lighthouse. The sun was setting on the horizon making the sky lit up with soft hues of orange and golden color. We all got busy with our cameras and captured the different essence of the sea till dark. Although, after treating ourselves with a dramatic and spectacular sunset the traveler inside us was not fully satisfied. We came back to the hotel being determined to visit the beach next morning during sunrise when it will be less crowded.
Next morning we woke up at 4 and went to the beach and found it so different than last evening. It was not due to the lesser crowd but for something which we saw for the very first time in our life. Huge boats parked is a common sight on the Gopalpur beach. However, if you will go in the morning you will see how those life-sized boats were dragged into the sea by humans. A herculean task which requires enormous strength as it needs to be dragged through the sand into the sea fighting against the waves to reach a point where it will float to be sailed forward. Something which is a daily task for the people here and the sight of it with the sun rising on the horizon left us in awe.
After several hours on the beach, we came back to the hotel and the whole day was ahead of us nothing particularly planned. Chilika lake was an option but it wasn’t that inviting that time which left us with the only choice of visiting Jirang. After breakfast, we started our bikes and headed towards something new and unknown. Locals directed us towards Behrampore city which will lead us to the highway for Jirang. Riding through the haywire of Behrampore city was an unpleasant experience but it didn’t last long and in a while, we left the city behind as we hit the highway towards our destination. The tarmac was smooth and the terrain was curvy, with every turn the landscape surprised us with its beauty dotted with hillocks all around which reminded me of similar experience in Munnar in Kerala. There are numerous blogs and articles on the web about the pleasure and thrill of riding in Munnar but you wouldn’t find a single of Jirang highlighting the same. Now that, I have ridden in both the places and trust me riding here is equally thrilling and fun compared to Munnar. Our first stop was at Taptopani hot spring and it is believed that the water that comes from it have medicinal properties. There is also a temple built around the hot spring. Taking a bath was not the plan so, we roamed around for a while and moved forward.
Riding along the valley with tall trees perched on either side and an occasional sight of a villager lugging ahead with his cattle, every scene made for a picture-perfect postcard. Situated at an elevation of about 3,200 feet above sea-level on a plateau of Eastern Ghats, this region is a traveler’s delight, springing up a surprise at every corner. An hour after we saw the first glimpse of Tibetan settlement, the lively colorful prayer flags swinging in the backdrop of the picturesque valley. After Chinese invasion, Tibetans were forced to flee and took shelter in India. Jirang was chosen as one of the settlements as it is cooler than other regions of the state. It also houses the Padmasambhava Mahavihara monastery, is the largest Buddhist monastery in South Asia inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 2010. Due to timing, we couldn’t visit the Monastery and headed towards the Khasada waterfall. A narrow off-road stretch took us to this spot where we saw the flowing cascade of water gushing out from a wide cliff that captivated our eyes.
Some facts about Jirang
- The nearest airport is in Bhubaneswar, 260 km away.
- Nearest railway station is in Berhampur, 80 km away.
- Own private vehicle or a rent a car.
- Local transport in form of Bus is also available from Berhampur.
- Taptapaani has a government guest house and is a good place to stay.