112.ODISHA. (6) Chandipur, Bichitrapur & Chandrabali

Our last stop was at Chandbali and the next one is Chandipur separated by a road distance of 130 Kms. via the town of Bhadrak. Chandbali is not connected to Chandipur by a coastal road. Consequently, we travel by a road which is under repair or reconstruction from Chandbali to Bhadrak. A difficult and tiring drive through a number of villages. On the way, we attend to a tyre ‘pumcher’ before we reach Bhadrak.

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Bhadrak is a sizable town, a District Headquarters. What attracts one’s attention is a Dargah on the road as one approaches from the Chandbali side. The Dargah is the final resting place of two Sufi saint brothers.

This place is called Gulshan-e-Ghouspak and consist of a Mosque reportedly built by Allaudin Khilji and the Mazaars of the two saints. The Saints do not claim any antiquity. They came to Bhadrak in the ‘dark days’ (according to the shrine’s website) of 1960s and spread light and relentlessly performed miracles mostly on the medical side. The younger brother who appears to have been more popular died in the year 2013 in Delhi, followed by the elder brother next year. The magnificent edifice of the Dargah came up thereafter.

The importance of these saints lies in the claim that their lineage is through Shaikh Abdul Qadri Jeelani of Baghdad (who was a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammad) and hence they belong to the Sufi order of Quadriyya.

Outside the shrine one can see various shops selling the offering to be made at the shrine as well as the take-aways. The business appears to be brisk on both departments.

We continue through the town of Bhadrak and move towards our Chandipur. I will remember Bhadrak forever for one simple reason : at a fuel station they put diesel in my petrol tank and then started suggesting that I am a fool to buy a petrol driven car when diesel is cheaper. I realized my mistake and continued driving with about 6% diesel in the tank.

Chandipur is also known as Chandipur on Sea. It is known for two things: firstly, it is a major military establishment involved in the missile testing facility of the defence department and therefore out of bounds for the general public. The other claim to fame is that the beach here has the longest inter-tidal zone. The sea recedes five kilometers at low tide. This allows the visitors to walk up into the sea as much as they can during the low tide.

It is said that this feature allows a wide range of marine organism to live in this range, especially the shellfish and crabs. One can find a few varieties in the food stalls on the beach and around the village.

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There is not much else at the place to be seen. There is a Lighthouse but it is located in the military area and cannot be visited. This one on seen from the beach was initially mistaken by us for a lighthouse but turned out to be a watch tower or a radar.

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The most convenient place to stay the night at Chandipur is the Panthnivas, the OTDC facility. The tourism department has built a large visitors area with an amphitheatre overlooking the beach which is always crowded by the day visitors brought in by various tour operators. Our Late President presides over the place gracefully with his rocket station not far away.

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As we were looking at the fishing harbours, we are directed to another village called Balaramgadh which is on the banks of the river Budhabalanga, a few kilometres north of Chandipur. The river which meets the sea here has spurred a boat-building industry, perhaps the only one in Odisha.

We visited the place at low tide and hence did not witness any fishing related activity.

We stay the night at the beach and proceed the next day to another seaside place called Chandrabali, again hosted by the OTDC Panthnivas overlooking the ocean and a river. This resort has made the best use of the empty egg shells.

As we approached Chandbali from the Highway to the west, we could, for the first time, see this tall grass being carried around and wondered what it was and the purpose for which it would be used. Upon enquiry it was explained to us that these are the stems of the Jute plant. After removing the fibre for making the gunny bags and other jute products, the stems are sold. The main users are apparently the growers of ‘paan’ who use the stems to make the covering for the paan growing areas as we had shown in an earlier post.

Chandrabali is near to a border place called Chandaneshwar where the state of Odisha ends and West Bengal starts. Chandrabali is on the bank of river Subarnarekha where she meets the Bay of Bengal. The meeting point of the river has created a huge sand bar and a longish lagoon which can be crossed on foot during low tide but needs a boat at high tide. Most tourists prefer to cross the bar and approach the sea. It is worth doing it for the sake of witnessing one amazing creature.

The beach hosts a large number of shy red Ghost Crabs which dot the landscape until you approach them up to about 10 meters when they disappear in their nests under the sand. This is not the only place where this crab can be seen but among all places we saw it, this beach has the highest concentration of numbers.

Here is a short video of the crab at lunch:

The beach looks beautiful at sunset. This place deserves better attention than it gets.

The little forest between the river and the OTDC Panthnivas where we stayed attracts several bird species.

 

Green Barbet:

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Chandrabali village has a Shiva temple and substantial number of pilgrim visitors but despite its beach has not developed as a tourist place. This is largely because the town in West Bengal just across the border called Digha offers much better facilities and connectivity from Bengal side.

The only other place one can visit with Chandrabali as the base is the Bichitrapur Mangroves which the Odisha Forest Department is trying to develop as a sanctuary. The sanctuary area is a depleted mangrove forest facing the Bay of Bengal which hosts numerous mangrove-oriented  species of marine life and birds. The Forest Department hires boats. The people who accompany you are not trained in wildlife viewing and understood only Oriya language, seriously affecting our purpose in visiting the place.

We still manage to see a few crabs and birds.

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Fiddler Crab in display.

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Hermit Crab  with a rock growing Barnacles.

The Red Ghost-Crabs are found here as well.

 

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Stork-billed Kingfisher.

The locals use the mangrove forests as their firewood stores which perhaps lead to the depletion of the mangroves. However, the efforts the people are making to haul the dead (killed?) trees through the muddy waters is indicative of extreme poverty of the people.

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Apart from the firewood, the locals also depend for their livelihood on the other products of the mangroves. Among them would be the edible crabs and shellfishes.

The Bichitrapur Mangroves are approachable and may afford opportunities to study the ecosystem closely from the nearby villages.

 

With this our coastal travel in Odisha comes to an end. Tomorrow morning we make an entry into the state of West Bengal.

Text : Suryakiran Naik suryakiran.naik@gmail.com

Photographs: Surayakiran Naik & Veena Naik

Videos: Veena Naik

 

 

 

99.ANDHRA PRADESH. (3) BAPATLA-SURYALANKA, NIZAMAPATNAM.

Our original plan to stay at Chirala beach has gone haywire as no accommodation was available that Sunday afternoon. The nearby beach of Vodareru did not welcome us either and we were advised to go and find accommodation at Bapatla. Bapatla is a typical small town which has an engineering college.

As you enter the place various models of manual bicycle/tricycle vehicles attract your attention, a feature that will continue till the end of our tour in West Bengal. Here is a goods carrier which can comfortably double up as passenger carrier. I don’t know how they manage in the rains.

What do we do in Bapatla? The Engineering college is not likely to admit us. There are not many things to be seen here. Right? Wrong. Every place in this world seem to have something to offer as its own.

Here is a hearth, a cooking place which uses the rice husk very effectively. In fact, rice husk (and groundnut husk) can provide a lot of fuel for the rural people. The rice husk is commercially available in bags.

Probably that is the reason the Rikshaw puller we saw above is able to get a good meal at an affordable price at such places. We, coming from Pune found the breakfast ridiculously cheap. And it is GOOD and fresh, and it is not using any fancy plastics- this leaf is good enough. In Andhra they rarely serve Masala Dosa, most of the time it is the plain Dosa with Chuttney.

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The serving leaves under the paper, usually yesterday’s newpaper but the application forms for mobile phone connection serves the purpose better.

We had, whilst checking on the places of in this part of the world on the internet come across a place called Suryalanka or Surya Lanka. We thought we will drive down from Bapatla for a few minutes and continue on our way. When we actually land at Suryalanka, we change our mind. The beach is quite good. When we say, a beach is good, please also consider the fact that both of us are born and brought up in Goa.

We make a reservation at the APTDC’s Haritha Beach Resort for the next day and return to Bapatla for the night halt as we have already booked at a hotel there, but not before we see this fried-fish market at the beach.

A variety of fish is available on the beach, ready to eat and at fiercely competitive prices.

The next day we return to Suryalanka. The Haritha beach resort is as close to the beach as possible. If it is any nearer water will enter the rooms at high tides. That is the reason probably they are built on stilts. Just in case.

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If you are a keen observer you will, late in the evening, find the lights from two different lighthouses from the middle of the Suryalanka beach- to your right (which is south) is the Vodarevu lighthouse we visited yesterday and to your left (the north) you see the lights of Nizamapatnam lighthouse. This is made possible by the crescent-shaped beach starting from north of Chirala and ending south of Nizamapatnam.

The beach is quite a busy place during the day but later in the evening as people return to Bapatla and other places.

The beach is sandy but the colour of the sand is not white. It is yellowish and a lot of black.

The seawater is pumped from the beach to the private ponds in which prawns and shrimp are grown. Here you can the pipelines going across the beach. At first glance they look like fishing nets which they are not.

The RED GHOST CRAB, a creature so famous in Odisha and West Bengal coast makes its first appearance in this area. It is a fabulous creature, very shy though.

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The Crabs that we ate here are a different species. They are the Mud Crabs which were caught in the estuary a mile away from the beach. This is the freshest seafood one can have. Mud Crabs live a couple of days out of water, very sturdy creatures!

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And here is how they are cooked at the Suryalanka Beach.

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There is a method of cleaning fish- removing the scales which we observed here. The fish are rubbed on a stone. This would require some skill to make sure that you remove only the scales.

The Statue Culture of Andhra Pradesh starts appearing near Bapatla with some force. Between Bapatla and Suryalanka you will find this statue of Mrs. Indira Gandhi modelled on her grand-daughter.

At Suryalanka beach and the Haritha resort you can’t fail to see the Rose-Ringed Parakeets. They are in large numbers.

Our next port of call is Nizamapatnam. As the crow flies Nizamapatnam is hardly 15Kms from Suryalanka. As I mentioned earlier the light from the lighthouse there can be seen from Suryalanka. However, there are two creeks in-between and therefore no road to connect the two places. The shortest road is via Bapatla and is 40 Kms.

We first gothrough Bapatla and then branch off on a country road. Driving through the countryside is a pleasure. We skip the Nizamapatnam town and head for the coast.

The fishing harbour and market are located on the mouth of a creak. It is a sizable and busy fishing harbour.

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The harbour has a ice-loading bay whereby the fishing boats can get the ice directly into the hold.  This is a labour saving innovations which many of the fishing ports in India have not adopted. The process is done manually and it is quite tedious. At times the loaders have to rally across several boats to get to the target hold. Unfortunately at the time of our visit it was not operational.

The warehouses/ Cold Storage are is quite extensive giving an idea about the importance of this harbour.

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The fishing harbour are seems to have expanded in the near past at the cost of the Mangrove forest surrounding it. One can easily see the encroachment on the Mangrove habitat.  If this continues on a large scale there will be the harbour and no fish.

The entire fishing port area is dominated by the trade in dry fish. Fish of the low value not commanding good price at the retail market is dried. The deciding factor is the transport cost and the cost of ice.  You can’t spend money on transport and face a situation wherein there are no buyers at the end.

The dried fish has two end users. The major one in terms of quantity are the manufacturers of fishmeal used extensively as protein-rich poultry feed. This is the low quality , high volume and high weight catch. It makes sense to dry it. It is sold in bulk.

And then there is the edible dry fish which commands good price depending on where you sell it. The Ribbonfish and the Bombay Duck can make you rich if you get the right market.

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And if you have the time, inclination and knowledge, you can make ‘premium’ dry fish. It needs the efforts to clean, remove the innards and then dry. This lasts longer and as I said is a premium product.

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The cheap  bagged dry fish mostly meant for the factories with ready money will continue to dominate the market until some value addition is cleverly done.

Nizamapatnam has a lighthouse. I am not sure if it serves any useful purpose other than providing employment to a few people. This applies not only to this lighthouse but to all of them in these times of GPS etc. This one is very close to the harbour and not a problem in reaching.

We are done with Nizamapatnam, named after the Nizam of Hyderabad the erstwhile ruler.

Dont you want to visit the town?

No, Thank you. We are tired and have to drive quite a bit before we stop for the day.

We come back to the main road and see these ladies selling something off their aluminium pots.

It is Toddy ( will convert into an alcoholic beverage if fermented). It is a healthy drink rich in nutrients before fermentation. We taste some.

It is the sap of this palm tree. We use the sign language to confirm the source.

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We continue, leaving behind a fish-rich place.

Text by Suryakiran Naik

Pictures by Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik.