The normal flying time is about three hours 10 minutes via Raipur, but that day it took us 11 hours to reach our destination. Perhaps this was almighty’s ways of testing us and the airline’s determination to reach us to our destination in good faith and against all odds.
Nights are cooler at the state capital. The next day despite better options we roughed it out in a Private bus to Puri and that is the best way of travelling. A lot of information is imparted by the fellow traveller’s plus time passes with the cool breeze blowing in early in the morning and in being entertained by the antics of other travelers.
The hotel had a lovely view of Puri beach and despite camels and the ponies wandering about in the sands, the beach is one of the finest we have seen . The sea was cold and the air was cool despite the sun ‘s rays on us. The sea water was clean with varying shades of color from beach front till as far as our eyes could travel. Crabs taking a stroll in the sand as soon as a wave receded . Submerged knee deep in the sea and watching our antics , there was this dog.
Day three was a mad rush to reach our pick up point to wait for the Orissa tourism conducted tour bus before 6.30 am and till we got into the bus at 6.45 am I had bitten thru 3 finger nails in my left hand . The guide was a font of information plus he had practical tips to give us to avoid tourist traps. What beautiful names places in Orissa have….Ramachandi temple, river Kusabadra behind the temple. A little further on is the Chandrabagha beach and a little more inland is Konark sun temple.
Konark ….. kon i.e.angle in hindi and ark is the name of sun in sanskrit. We were advised to order our breakfast at the OTDC canteen and then go and visit the temple, so that by the time we came back to the canteen the breakfast would be hot and ready to eat at our table - very practical man, our guide. The temple was awesome, with giant stone wheels and the sculpture reminiscent of Khajuraho. At places there was erosion of the sculpture due to passage of time, and re-construction activity was in progress. It was worth every minute of the 45 minutes we spent there.
Udaigiri hill from where you can see the battle field in which Emperor Ashoka fought and then renounced all war and went the peaceful way. There is a huge buddhist shanti stupa built on top of this hill by Indo- Japanese collaboration . The monument towers over the hill. We also saw Dhaulagiri caves and adjacent across the road was the khandagiri hill. Both the hills have caves sculptured out of the rock face of the hill. Some lovely sleek skinned black faced monkeys were loping in between . We captured the beauty of these last two hills with our eyes and stayed put under a tree with cool breeze blowing on us, away from the dry heat.
It is said that one has to visit Lingaraj temple before visiting the Jagannath Puri temple, and it is amazing how this actually happened to us. Camera’s , shoes, leather belts, leather purses are not allowed inside the temple so we had to take turns in visiting the temple. Inside the temple I came across my namesake – seshnag.
The tourist bus was full of middle aged and elderly people and the thought of walking thru’ the Nandankanan zoo in the midday heat with temp at 42 degrees C was daunting prospect. Moreover most of the birds, animals in the zoo would be having an afternoon siesta deep inside their caves, shelters ; so we veoted the zoo and zeroed in on the Kalpana square shopping area.
Beware of restruants that advertise A/C ..the dining hall is a/c less as “the current has just gone off”. We fled back to Puri in our a/c bus via Pipili ( famous for its appliqué work ) and Sakhigopal temple promising ourselves lunch at Puri. As soon as the bus neared Pipili our guide announced with great fanfare ' Who wants to get down and shop at Pipili ?.... 11 pairs of eyes were fast asleep and only a few snores greeted him, but the 12th pair - a child's gaze was the only response he got for all his trouble.
Going in a cycle rickshaw, shopping at Swargadwar beach and visiting the Puri Jagannath temple while side stepping the pandas is a tale waiting to be told another time.