It was a scorching day in Bhubaneswar when we set off for Daringbari, dubbed as the Kashmir of Orissa. Daringbari, the only hill station in Orissa, could have been reached in many ways, but we chose the safest option, a Tata Indica, which would stay with us all along the journey, and would take us back to the capital.
At Khallikote we left the national highway 5 (Kolkata-Chennai) and took a somewhat rugged road to enter into central Orissa, one of the most backwards region within India. As we moved ahead, the typical rural India, unveiled all its beauty, with farmlands, canals, and colorful tribes. The rolling hills which were there in the backdrop, till then, became more prominent indicating we were moving in the right direction, towards the highlands, towards the Eastern Ghats.
It was only at Sorada, that we started climbing the ghats, and suddenly we were greeted by cool breeze, twittering of birds and all the wilderness of the world. The road was definitely less traveled, and it became quite obvious when we nearly collided couple of times, on the U-turns, with the trekkers coming form opposite side. No body was expecting us at that time!
We reached Daringbari around 1.00 p.m. and it was love at first site! It’s a vast plateau tucked away in the Eastern Ghats, around 3000 ft above sea level, and as long as we could see, there were hills, hills and more hills in all possible shades surrounding the entire valley. There were very few staying options at Daringbari, so the first thing we did was to look for a place where we can unpack ourselves, and luckily we got a nice cottage in the vicinity of the main market. Amazingly even in the mid-summer noon the place was pleasant and it didn’t take us long to freshen up and hit the trails.
There were sleepy hamlets hidden in the wooden slopes, and finding one or two such villages out, was a real fun. The kandha women with tattoos in their face and huge metal earring were a shutterbug’s delight, but alas, they were so shy we could hardly take a snap of them. We rambled aimlessly through the pine, sal, eucalyptus plantations and realized we were certainly in the lap of Mother Nature.
For more traditional tourists though, there were sight scenes like hill viewpoint and coffee garden, and both were worth a visit. The coffee garden, especially during the winter, with its red berries and white flowers turns into a colorful vista.
The next day we wake up with the chimes of the church. It was Sunday, and the kandhas, who were predominantly Christian, were gathering for the mass. As we trotted down to the main market for some breakfast, we saw the tribes flocking from nearby villages to take part in the weekly ‘hat’. It seemed that the sleepy little town had suddenly turned to a festive mood, and the chaos was a welcome change in an otherwise silent valley, the valley that had already won our heart, with its tranquil beauty. We had to leave Daringbari that day, but became sure that the magic of this little known place would haunt us till we visit it once more, may be some other day, some other time!
Location: Daringbari is located in Kandhamal district in Orissa. It lies 250 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, and 130 km northwest of Berhampur.
Climate: Ideal for tourists throughout the year. Winters could be chilly and the minimum temp could dip below to 3-4 degrees.
Best time to visit: Winter, when the coffee garden with its red berries and white flowers turns into a colorful vista.
Where to stay: There is a PWD Bungalow with two double-bed rooms, at Rs 100 per bed. A new Panthashala accommodation has recently been built with four double-bed rooms, at Rs 100 per bed.
For bookings, contact Orissa tourism office at Bhubaneswar or Kolkata. A newly built private accommodation with 3 double bed cottages at Rs 300 per room is also there. Or just land up at the ashram at Daringbari bus stop.