Jagdalpur is the land blessed by mother nature with its dearest of children, the life-giving water. These waters in the form of luscious streams plunge down, spreading its youthful charm as gorgeous waterfalls to spread the aura of mystery within the forest. The forested district of Bastar is irrigated by these streams embellishing it with the tint of blue within the lushness of greenery and the ruggedness of the rocks. Come with me to explore this land of waterfalls.
I have turned into the biggest procrastinator these days, delaying every possible work and even drafting my travel experiences. This has resulted in the late post of Jagdalpur. And now, when I am back to my desk let me share my memorable experience of Jagdalpur that was supposed to come as a series of posts on Chhattisgarh.
It is always said that “better late than never”. Many of my readers by now have gone through my previous posts on Chitrakote Waterfalls and Raipur. So we started from Raipur towards Jagdalpur in the vehicle with the knowledgeable driver (as I mentioned before on my previous blog, read to know.)
The not so broad roads were not in very good condition neither they were in that bad shape. There were diversions through certain patches as the road construction works were in progress and hopefully by now the well-paved roads are ready to welcome the vehicles.
Patches of farmland kept passing by and so did some villages and towns till we reached Dhamtari. It was the ancestral home of our driver and he said the place is famous for its Mung Dal Vadi. My foodie soul got tickled and I asked him to stop at someplace to have a bite on the famous snack.
We started again and asked our driver to take us to the Bastar Palace, the anthropological museum and the Venkateshwara Swami temple before taking us to the hotel in Jagdalpur. Now it was the real test of his knowledge of roads. Alas! It seemed to be the same as it was for Raipur. He knew nothing other than the main road.
The spotty internet connection made it difficult to locate our desired destinations. Finally when Google Maps failed Human Maps came to help. After reaching Bastar we enquired from people to reach the Bastar Palace.
The Bastar Palace was built by the rulers of the Bastar State when the capital of the dynasty was moved from Barsar to here. The large palace building painted in white and blue definitely makes it exceptional as our mind tends to follow the general conception of a palace enriched with lavish artworks and valuable stones and embellishments.
The simple yet elegant palace remained hidden behind the market area and seemed to be a commoner’s place. The main hall of the palace had portraits of rulers since the Kakatiya dynasty. Large animal heads in taxidermy decorated the walls of the palace hall. We were not fortunate enough to explore the other parts of the palace as they were closed for renovation.
It was a Monday and Google Maps showed that the anthropological museum was closed for the day so we went towards the Venkateswara Swami Temple with the help of the maps. After a certain bend within the forested road, we lost track as the Map was saying we reached our destination while there was no temple in sight.
Finally, with no Human Map help around we decided to head towards our hotel in Jagdalpur and thus retire for the day. Next day we started early towards the Kanger Valley National Park. Thankfully our driver knew the roads.
The Tirathgarh Waterfalls, the Kanger Dhara, Kotumsar Caves and the Kailasa Caves are all located within the Park. The main road from Jagdalpur intercepts the National Park with the road to the Tirathgarh Waterfalls on the right and the road to the others on the left.
To visit the destinations on the left one has to hire government vehicles from the entry point of the Kanger Ghati National Park. The cost of hiring a vehicle for two hours was Rs 1500. Within these two hours, they will take you to Kanger Dhara, drive beside the Deer Park and take you to Kutumsar Caves. They do not include the Kailasa caves within the package.
On enquiring about the Kailasa Caves they said that personal vehicles are allowed to go there but is discouraged due to occasional Maoist disturbances. So we dropped the idea of the Kailasa Caves and stuck to what was available at hand.
We first headed towards the Tirathgarh Waterfalls taking the road on the right. There were a lot of vehicles in the parking lot, speaking of the number of people who climbed down to the base. The view from the top from where the water seeps down through various cracks and crevices of the rock creating the magnificent waterfalls was awe-inspiring.
Then we descended down along with large groups of people towards the base of the waterfalls. With so many people around it was really difficult to get a crowd-free picture of the handsome white waterfall. The deep gorge and the rugged topography of the hills were so different from anything that I have seen before. The vibrant green cover on them enhanced the beauty and the depth and the flow of the gorge made it appear unearthly.
We returned back to the main entrance of the Kanger Ghati National Park to hire the gypsy vehicle that is allowed within the Park. After a wait of 45 mins, it was our turn to board the vehicle to the forest. This time we took the left to enter the dirt track within the forest. The forest mainly comprised of Sal and other tall, mixed deciduous trees, thick at some parts and thinning down at others.
Thus we reached our first stop within the forest, the Kanger Dhara. This is a cascading waterfall where the Kanger river, a tributary of Kolab river, rushes through multiple tires in between the gorge of layers of horizontally bedded slaty and calcareous rock formations. The view was astounding but the drivers were in a great hurry and did not allow people to relish the moment for long watching the beautiful sight.
Again we were through the forest with some tribal huts seen sporadically out of nowhere and some tribals with heaps of firewood on their shoulders walking back home. Searching for birdlife seemed futile, not a single chirp was heard nor any fluttering seen in the greens. We passed by an enclosed area where some Chital and a couple of Sambhar were kept in captivity. This is what they call Deer Park.
Now we reached the Kotumsar Caves. The Kotumsar cave is a limestone cave system formed on the Kanger limestone bed beside the Kanger river basin. A narrow vertical fissure within the wall of a layered hill serves as the entrance of the 200 mt long tunnel, with multiple sidewards and downwards passage.
I tried to climb down the vertical fissure through the stairs but after a certain point it became narrower and the guide asked us to sit and crawl through a certain part to proceed forward. It was naturally dark and the ever-narrowing space triggered my claustrophobic sensation that I was suppressing till then. I gave up and returned back from the hot humid restricting space to the open air to feel fresh and alive.
I presumed it to be similar to Borra Caves of Araku Valley or the Baratang Caves of Andamans in terms of the available space and dared to take over my claustrophobic feeling but I lost. It is strongly advisable to those like me not to venture into this extremely narrow cave opening as there are no medical facilities available in any worst-case scenario.
The Kanger Valley National Park trip was over and we were back to the entry point where we left our vehicle. It may not be a very fruitful trip but it was enjoyable enough with the experience of a different kind and definitely, the ethereal beauty of the Tirathgarh Waterfalls and its surrounding landscape made its place in a corner of my memories not to be erased ever.
The next day we headed towards Chitrakote Waterfalls en route Chitradhara Waterfalls, Mendri Ghumar and Tamra Ghumar. But despite various drivers explaining him the route to these in-between places the other day, our driver was equally lost as before. We put on Google Maps and very comfortably reached Chitradhara Waterfalls. We did take some Human Map help, just to reconfirm that we were on the correct track.
To our dismay, the Chitradhara Waterfalls seemed to be seasonal and there was no water left. Some construction work and some huge amount of garbage dumped in the vicinity and its associated stink did not give us a good opportunity to watch the view of the landscape properly. So we returned back on the road towards the Chitrakote Waterfalls.
Google Map and the reassuring Human Map brought us to Mendri Ghumar, a few kilometres off track the road to Chitrakote. It is again a seasonal waterfall only witnessed during the monsoon. The dry view of the barren landscape suddenly ending into a more than 100 feet deep gorge was intimidating enough. As we approached closer the forest-covered view of the gorge below the scene gently eased off the displeasure of the sudden dip in the topography. What an awe-inspiring view it was – soul-stirring as well as enthralling.
A few kilometres ahead of this was the Tamra Ghumar. Tamra Ghumar is again a seasonal waterfall fed by a seasonal stream. The country road led us to this natural wonder. The location was immensely calm and peaceful. To our surprise, the stream had a considerable amount of water in it which resulted in the 70 mt falls that we were longing to see.
Finally, we had the time to sit on the rocks under the shade of the trees for some time to watch the water burbling through the rocky bed below the gorge within the forest. We did not expect this non-seasonal flow and took it as the blessing of mother nature bestowed upon us. Relaxed and content, we moved to our final and most sought after destination of Jagdalpur – the Chitrakote Waterfalls. (I have already shared my experience in Chitrakote Waterfalls in my previous post, read it here.)