A tale of Jeerango in the Eastern Ghats

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Being a Traveler, an Adventurer, a Nature Lover leads me into exploration. After roaming across a number of beautiful, historical, naturally astounding places around the country in the recent years, I just took a break, and to a great extent this break happened as a set of situations, than a non-execution. I still traveled, but that was just mechanical, Hyderabad to Berhampur and vice-versa. Well, in the recent months, this loop has ended, and I am back in form. And, this is a very long post, be cautioned before proceeding.

I just had a great bike trip along the eastern ghats of South Odisha, in the second week of August this year(2017). It was just awesome, 2 bikes, 4 friends and the eastern ghats, a total of 300+ kilometers of ride. I had been dreaming of this ride since years. This was supposed to be extra-special, as I spent my entire childhood and early adulthood around this place. A day, when I roamed around the hills just like that had never happened. And you know, it happens exactly when it has to happen. You simply can’t do it, just because you want it. And even if you end up doing it, you might just do it in the most unexpected ways. But sweet, if you feel it. Finally, it just happened. The timing was perfect, it was just about the mid of the rainy season. The depiction does have several proofs of this timing, stay tuned.

We four, me, Trilochan (Amit), Duryodhan(Duri) and Baburao(Babu), started off soon after having an early heavy lunch instead of the breakfast (can be termed Brunch). The trip I had in my mind was like this. First, we would go to a Buddhist Monastery, called “Padma Sambhava Maha Vihara” (me and Amit were inherently in a spiritual exploration, where as Duri and Babu were more into the Adventure and Nature aspects). Second, we would enjoy the beauty of a nearby waterfall “Khasada”. The Buddhist Monastery at “Jeerango” (Jiranga) is one of the biggest in South Asia, and “Khasada” is a locally popular picnic spot with a waterfall. The idea of the trip was to spend some good time, have some great photographic moments in the journey, capture them in the naked eyes and network free minds. Just the hills, the waterfalls, their sweet chip-chap sounds, the ultra oxygenated air, and the ultimate greenery. For a nature lover like me, this is bliss. I can possibly live there until my last breathe.

We did not plan much on the trip, although considered the route in such a way that we go one way and return the other way round. So that, the exploration doubles up, the fun doubles up, ultimately the experiences double up. Me and Amit had searched the location on Google Maps and it showed up to be just about 100 kilometers. If you go south from Berhampur for about 60 kilometers on the national highway and then take a right and enter into the hills via the state roads of Andhra and Odisha, it takes another 40 odd kilometers to be there. We went ahead to the south, till Barua (a small town in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh) and then took a right slowly heading onto the eastern ghats.

The destination places were previously visited by me, but at some tender age. When I told my dad about the plan on bikes a day before, he enquired with some people and recommended a good and safe route to take. However, my craze on exploration was more convincing and we decided that we would return in that route that dad told, but we would go along the other route, which Google Maps is suggesting. And, this instinct on Google Maps penalized us for some good. We landed up at a dead end, the route being closed uphill with our destination being shown on the other side of the hill. (Please refer the map snapshot for the route details.) We had to change the route by talking to local people, taking their advices, no internet and no maps were to be trusted. That was already noon, and we had expected to reach the destination by 1p.m., this certainly seemed not happening to me. However, I said to my friends, “Come on guys, we explored these beautiful hills, that’s our prize, don’t worry we would lead a different route and reach the destination in an hour or so.” We took the slightly lateral route via “Goppili Junction” and then towards “Chandragiri”, but on the way we came across a blue board, which had “Gandahati” in White. Coincidentally, Amit had visited this place some years back. He said the road along leads to a nice waterfall called “Gandahati”. I quickly suggestively questioned, “Shall we go? Is it worth?” He said, “It is a good one, big one”. “And it’s rainy season man, we must go”, I replied by nodding my head, and called Babu and Duri back as they had gone slightly ahead. We took a U-turn, and quickly entered the way to a Heaven.

It took about 10 mins (about 7 k.m.) into the hills to reach there. The route was slightly tougher as it was under maintenance. The moment we reached there, we could listen to the wonderful blistering sounds of the falls. This was simply amazing. We were completely dumbstruck by the astonishing beauty of this magical place, the chilling water droplets in the air, the Natural Air Conditioning. The beautiful rainbows being formed under the falls, the surrounding trees and the smell of the air. All complemented each other and the experience was…. I am losing out on words, but some experiences are not meant for reading or watching, they are only worth experiencing. However, I have posted a video and I firmly believe you would enjoy that. Our pain and rerouting had paid off. We intended to go to “Jeerango” (for A Buddhist Monastery), and landed up in “Gandahati” (A beautiful Waterfall).

After spending about an hour, I suggested to move along. It was more like a compulsion than a will. But, we wanted to reach our destination and not lose ourselves elsewhere. In our hearts it was saying to stay back and take a bath and just enjoy the waterfalls, till it dawns. But, the determination or the rigidity of thoughts made us start off again. Everybody suppressed or managed their feelings and synced for the planned destination. It was a small group, so making up the minds was not a big deal. Yes, this was definitely foolishness to be overconfident and head onto a place as such on an unknown route without any research. But, we enjoyed this foolishness. Sometimes we don’t need to be smart and intelligent. We just need to be ourselves.

We returned back to the main road towards “Chandragiri”, we continued towards “Jiranga” village. After about an hour of ride we reached, Google Maps was indicating that this is the village named “Jiranga”, and it was 3 p.m by then. My memory was not connecting somehow and I failed to recognize this place. But, we went ahead and saw a school in the entrance of the village, and Jiranga was mentioned there. This gave us a shy of relief. Then we tried locating the Buddhist Monastery just by roaming around, and could not find it. After a few minutes, we talked to the villagers and I said to a fellow villager in Odia, “Bhaina, eita Jiranga aka na? Mandira ta kouthi?” - “Brother, this is Jiranga right? Where’s the temple?” The villager responded, “Maa nka mandira ta na, epate jao.” - “Maa’s temple right, follow this way.” I said, “Na na, Maa nka nuhan, Buddha Mandira ta katha pocharuchi.” - “No no, not Maa’s temple, I am asking about the Buddha Temple.” He responded with a smiling face, “Tame bhul Jiranga ku asijaicha, seita ta Chandragiri Jeerango, aau tame asicha Ramagiri Jiranga.” - “You have arrived at the wrong Jiranga, that one is Chandragiri Jeerango and you have arrived at Ramagiri Jiranga.” This was a bang on us. Our faces turned yellow in a moment. Even after so much of it, we did not reach there. We were all hungry and tired by then. The questions like, when do we reach there, and when do we start the spiritual/natural exploration of the place, left us bugging.

We did not have much options left for food, as it was too late, none of the rare hotels were open in any of the villages. We quickly asked, how do we reach the other Jeerango, and how far is it? How are the roads? All at a sudden these factors seemed very critical. The Eastern Ghats are historically considered not so safe after dawn, due to various factors. Maoists have had a not so great history. The wildness of the jungles, the availability of no mobile network, were things to be cautioned about. If a bike fails, we are gone. It could just have rained as well. These issues could become big, really big. With all these thoughts running in the background, the main thought was to the return to home safe. We had an option to proceed further or return back through the route we went, but either supposedly costed the same distance (of 150 kilometers) according to maps and the local people. We had to quickly decide on it. On one hand we knew the path we came through (we could return this way safely, but with some difficulties), and on the other hand we didn’t know where exactly we were leading to (but, we could still find our destination and then get home safe). We had various thoughts of negativity, because of the tiredness and hunger. It was already 150 kilometers of ride done, with about 60 k.m. being in the rough Ghats. The roads were quite tough to ride and getting exhausted was easy. We took 5 minutes to decide what to do, and finally made up our minds to move ahead and not back. Meanwhile the petrol was also exhausting in our bikes, we had to refill it as well. We enquired about the onward path and people optimistically told that there is a filling station ahead and also we would reach the actual Jeerango some kilometers afterwards. On the same route at a village (if I recollect the name properly, it was “Sundorabo”), we had some snacks, “Aloo Bonda and Besan Pakodi”, at fairly low prices. This was the much needed energy booster, and hunger killer. Before that, we had taken a small break at another smaller village and gotten hold of some biscuits and water, but that had not helped much.

Finally at about 5 p.m. we reached Jeerango, this time the actual and intended Jeerango and also found the route to the Buddhist Monastery named “Padma Sambhava Maha Vihara”. It seemed we had entered a different country altogether. The “Tibetans” have a very different lifestyle when compared to the typical Indian one. The structure of the houses were different too. There were so many varieties of dogs in the streets. The people looked different, they looked Tibetan. My friends Duri and Babu still do not understand much of the difference and call them “Chinese” though. There was still one fear that was slowly rising, if we would get an entry into the Monastery or not, as it was too late. But, we had taken so much of it, and God could not be so cruel. We got an entry. Me and Amit were trying to learn about “Goutama Buddha” and Duri and Babu were seeing how different world could be, with these Red/maroon wearing priest like people, The Monks, who were roaming around and practicing their religious acts. The campus was beautifully maintained. During that short exploration, we interacted with a young monk, just about 15-18 years old. He shared us some knowledge about the Monastery and Buddhism as well. By the time we almost explored the campus, it was almost 6. It was already too late and from there it would still take about 120 kilometers to reach our homes, we had to skip “Khasada”, and come back as soon as possible.

We drove fairly well, even in the tiring evening, we had to reach back home safe and early and show our faces to our parents. They would already be expecting us much earlier, this thought was coming more and more the closer we were getting to our homes. As we had mobile network back, we had informed that we would reach a bit late, probably at about 6-7 in the evening. However, we reached by 8 p.m. to our homes safe, eventually. Though we all ended up tired in great pains, we still were happy and joyous even at the very end of the day. While saying bye to the day, Duri was still a bit disappointed at me as I had informed him that we would return by 3-4 p.m., much before evening. So he had possibly made some other commitments for the evening. He is a simple and a non-tech guy and making him understand all these aspects was difficult, how Google maps had turned out to be. However, I just told him, I did not do it on purpose and said sorry. He said in his very Odia-Telugu influenced Hindi, “Dooston mein ye sab chalta re…”, and assured that I need not be sorry. There are actually two villages named, “Jeerango” and “Jiranga” with a proximity of about 40 kilometers in the Eastern Ghats across the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh borders and at both the locations “Google Maps” shows the pictures of the monastery and the waterfall “Khasada” respectively. This error somehow lead us all for this randomized journey. However, I have reported for correction, it might take some time.

Thank you so much for your kind reading. I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

And yeah, Bhargav is back.

Trivia:

  1. The bikes consumed about 8 liters of petrol each.
  2. We covered the Ghats of about 150 k.m. in a duration of 6 hours, taking breaks, photos, enjoying the greenery and air.
  3. We had decent body pains for the next couple of days, and kept remembering these moments. (The roads were certainly tough in our onward journey, but the return was smooth.)
  4. Baburao joined us in the very last moment for the trip, and he enjoyed a lot with this being a complete surprise package.

A collage and a video:

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