My last day in Bastar, land to I feel deeply attached. Unlike other mornings I got up little late, called the hotel guy to prepare my invoice, gathered my belongings those were strewn all over the room, folded my backpack. The hotel guy who was originally from Bihar became a good friend of mine when I shared my Bihar stories with him. While I was clearing my dues, he again asked hesitatingly “Kahin tum Patrakar to nahi ho (Are you not a journalist?). Checked out, left my backpack at reception, stuffed typical south Indian breakfast (Courtesy to Andra which is not very far from Jagdalpur). In the last day I planned to have a trip to Kanger valley national park, precisely to Tirathgarh waterfalls. Kanger valley, one of the last tracts of almost virgin untouched forest is predominated by Sal and teak copses with canopies so thick that Sun rays barely find its way till the ground. Ghati got its name from the river Kanger which flows through the national park. All said and done, Kanger Ghati is also heartland of Naxalite guerrillas.
Undulating folded rocks in Kanger Vallley park
After preliminary inquiry at Bus stand I learnt there is no direct bus till waterfall and will have to walk 5-6 km to reach the falls. Hopped into the bus which supposedly dropping me 3 km before the waterfalls. Bus took the Geedam road and then NH-221 onwards to Darbha. After an hour, bus took road winding uphill deep inside the dense forest. Vista was magnificent but endless paddy fields were now distant sights. Kanger is one of the densest forests of the country and trees are so high that you can hardly see the canopy. Post monsoon, forest was greener, overgrown, and slightly damp with roaring perennial water streams slinking their way through veiled landscape. Another sight was CRPF (Central reserve police force) scanning the roads with mines detectors. As said before, Kanger Ghati is the land of Naxals and if you are looking forward to meet some then extend your stay for a while in any village. Many of the recent naxal attacks took place in this region only. That said, I did not find any annoyance/discomfort for the travelers. Bastar is totally safe for the tourists and too much in menu that you will hardly ever think about teensy disturbances.
Tirathgarh falls from the top
Bus reached Darbha, quaint village in the middle of the forest. Darbha has all the possible amenities government can establish in a village. Later the bus took another route in reverse and dropped me at the entrance of Kanger Valley Park. Fortunately, a Jeep guy was going in the same direction and dropped me 2 km before the falls. Remaining distance I walked and reached Tirathgarh falls which was crowded with Jeep loads of tourists. Located in the middle of Kanger Valley National Park, Tirathgarh waterfalls is one of the magnificent waterfalls of Chhattisgarh. On the river Mugabahar which is one of the tributaries of River Kanger, White color of water cascades from the lush green hills led to earning sobriquet "Milky fall". Opposite to waterfall lies a revered Shiva temple set on a hill top which attracts thousands of pilgrims. Hills surrounding the waterfall are splendid and offer a lot of independent trekking opportunities in the wild.
Ancient Shiva Temple at Tirathgarh
Incandescent Sun and mussy damp atmosphere drained me and made my walk not as easy as I thought. Guzzled couple of cold drinks from makeshift stalls, I descended down to the waterfall where all the trippers were finding solace. Unlike Chitrakoot falls, one can easily reach at the top of the falls and even follow the upstream which comes from the deep jungle. River was soft-flowing giving plenty of swimming and splashing opportunities. On the top of the falls, I walked entire width and then ventured inside the jungle following the stream to reach the lake which is supposedly the origin of the river Mugabahar. Later, I descended down nearly 100 stairs to reach the bottom of the fall. Mid-noon sun glittered over the splashing streams reflecting an ivory white amid leafy green. Contrary to Chitrakoot falls which changes it color every season, Tirathgarh remains milky white through-out the year. Ridge opposite to waterfall boasts a miniature shrine of Lord shiva which is highly revered and frequently visited by pilgrims.
Bike ride back to Jagdalpur
From the ridge, there are stairs down till the bottom of river. High boulders are scattered in the valley deviating the flow of rivulets. From that point, river almost disappears in the bosky forest but it tempted me to follow further. After a futile attempt and two, I ascended the stairs and sat-back in a restaurant to contemplate about return journey. Ordered some oil dripped snacks and started hunting my chances to get a lift. Vehicles passed but none offered me a ride till the main road. Finally I was walking wake, waving hands to every vehicle passing by. In the end a biker stopped and agreed to triple till the main road. These guys shared many legends, stories about these forests, discussed their thoughts on Naxal infliction in the region, Chhattisgarh as a whole and then some interesting stuff about Bastar haats like cock fighting in the woods, local wine from rice etc. also hinted that forest near Narayanpur is denser. Conversation went so engaging that they dropped me till Jagdalpur.
It was about time. Sun showed its affinity to the Western horizon. I collected my stuff and ran to the railway station to catch the afternoon passenger train to Orissa. Here I was at Jagdalpur railway station in the ordinary coach of an outmoded train and suddenly I receded into fleeting glimpses of Bastar and Chhattisgarh. Images of locals dancing in Dussehra, jolly face who exchanged glances and blushed abruptly, reticent tribal lady on the way to Barsoor and all beside the endless green of ocean flashed and disappeared. Observed a thrust and train left…. Outside the window seat, I was absorbed by the infinite tract of paddy fields. TT came, tapped my back, joined me gazing outside and said “Dhan ka katora bolte hain ise (Chhattisgarh is called bowl of rice)”. With heavy heart I left Bastar and Chhattisgarh, a state I avoided for long but finally embraced… or was it otherwise... Now with the train, I was moving onwards towards the Eastern Ghats.. to the state of Orissa… Orissa… I chuckled..
Beginning of Eastern Ghats
River Mugabahar flowing into Kanger Ghati
From the bottom of Tirathgarh waterfalls
Stone Carving at Tirathgarh