It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the department. We were discussing about weekend trips from Raipur over a cup of tea. We finalized on a short drive to Barnawapara National Park on the same afternoon. Our plan was to ride to Barnawapara, 130 km from Raipur, explore the park and local area. I was accompanied by Hindol who was my pillion. We started around 2.00 pm in the afternoon after lunch. From Tatibandh chowk we took the bypass road and headed straight towards the Sambalpur highway. After leaving the busy city traffic we cruised for 2 hours to reach Banskunda, around 96 km from Raipur. After a tea break the sign board towards Barnawapara and Sirpur welcomed us as we deviated towards the left from the national highway. The next 30 km drive was through the jungle as we experienced sunset on the go. After crossing Sirpur we headed towards the village. We reached Muba’s Machan camp at around 6.00 pm in the evening.
We had checked online that they provide Machan’s for the stay. Machan’s are elevated platforms on which the rooms are constructed. On enquiry we were saddened to know that all the Machan’s were booked and we had to settle in a cottage. The resort lawn had a giant banyan tree with trails heading towards each machan into the woods. We followed a trail to get a feel of the area. We were stoked to hear croaking of egrets. We followed the sound and ended up on a small pond. The trees next to it had thousands of egrets on them. We had found a nesting area. Camp fire was arranged in the lawn. There was a descent crowd and each group had occupied a fire hole. The temperature dipped as we sipped on hot tea. The sky was clear and star studded. After a sumptuous dinner we discussed about prospects of a jeep safari next morning with the manager. We headed back to cottage at around 11.00 pm.
Hindol woke me up at 6.00 am in the morning. It was still dark as he ventured out with the camera to snap stars. We dressed up and headed towards the park gate. We were staying on the western end of the national park and had to drive 25 km through the jungle to reach the tourist centre and entry point. Our manager had warned us that wild elephants and beers were common in that route early in the morning. We drove along the jungle trail and stopped at several areas. While riding two sambar deers had crossed the road in a flash. We spotted birds and spotted dears on the way. After an hour ride we reached the gate and booked a gypsy for two of us. Availability of gypsy was not an issue. After taking the national park permit we headed inside. We drove inside to find a leafless white tree on the edge of a water hole. It was a Indian ghost tree. The weather was pleasant and we came across another waterhole to spot a group of bisons hydrating themselves. The barren barks of the trees were erect over the surface of water. I could spot a white throat Kingfisher on it. I was told that tigers were not present in the park. But occasionally leopards were spotted, though infrequent. Elephants and sloath beers were commonly seen according to our guide. We stopped at several spots and hoped for a spectacular sighting. After around 3 hours we came back and had breakfast with Pakoris. It was 10.30 am, we planned to head back to our camp.
On the way back we stopped at Doda checkpost. We enquired whether we could explore a jungle trail which headed towards the left. The forest guard allowed us to enter after we showed our permit. We drove through the forest and reached a lake. There was a watchtower and a viewpoint along the lake. I had put the camera on a time-lapse only to find that we were being followed by a forest rangers car. We were informed that two wheelers were not allowed inside that area and we had to move out hastily. Post safari we had breakfast at a dhaba. A dog walked towards us had a unique left eye. He was most likely suffering from a complicated cataract. Being a Game Of Thrones fans we diagnosed it as a white walker (just kidding !!).
The long drive back to the camp took an hour and half. We tried to take a short cut to our place and came across a broken bridge over a stream. Since my Ladakh memories were still fresh, I could not resist crossing it. Hindol, though an adventure enthusiast found it wise to cross on foot and photographed the action. We lost way after that. After 45 min of road hunt and crossing three villages we returned back to our place for lunch. After a sumptuous vegetarian lunch we started our ride back towards Raipur via Sirpur.
Barnawapara National Park-
Distance- 130 km from Raipur on Mumbai Kolkata highway
Entry from national highway-
1. Banskuda (98 km from Raipur)- The road goes through the forest via Sirpur (which I will cover in the next blog). We stayed near Aurai village at the western end of the national park. There are only two camps/ resorts in this village- Muba’s Machan and Moira Jungle lodge. We stayed at Muba’s Machan. Cottage (including breakfast, lunch and dinner)- 2000 INR for two. They have Machan’s at 5500 INR for two. The facilities, food and camp site is good. There is a outdoor swimming pool. The main entry gate of the forest is 20 km from the camp. The early morning drive through the jungle was exciting.
2. Pithora (120 km from Raipur)- This route heads to Barnawapara village which has few hotels near the park entry gate
National Park fees- Gypsy are available at 1300 for 3.5 hours. Park entry+ camera fees for two- 150. Self driven cars were allowed inside the park till end of January 2018 (as informed by the ticket office)
- Dhakund Falls (during rainy season)
- Group of monuments at Sirpur (next blog)
- Kodar Reservoir