Sunday, June 15, 2008

Next weekend you can be at ... Laxmipur

The Telegraph, June 15, 2008

Laxmipur is a hamlet in the hills in the wild western part of Orissa. It was unheard of by tourists even a decade back. The launch of the 160 km-plus Koraput-Rayagada line put it on the map of those willing to go off the beaten track.

The new line branches off the Kirandul-Visakhapatnam route through the Araku Valley, covering Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The tracks were laid mainly for transportation of minerals mined in the region and development of tribals who populate the stretch.

The route, with numerous waterfalls and over 40 tunnels, is one of the most picturesque in the country. The 1.5-km tunnel near Tikri is the longest on broad gauge tracks in India. There are also more than 50 bridges.

At an altitude of 3,000 ft, Laxmipur is surrounded by thickly forested hills. The forest envelops even the station, which is 3 km from the village. It is deserted after evening, when wild animals often drop by.

According to the station master, a stray dog that lived in the compound was carried away by a leopard in front of his eyes. Bear, hyena, wild boar, neelgai, sambar and peacock are some of the other inhabitants of the forest.

Several streams gurgle through mango, jackfruit, mahogany, tamarind, sirish and akashmoni trees to merge with rivers like the Marbeguda, Apreboda and Godlam. There are several water bodies which are frequented by animals. Tribals constitute the only human presence.

Clouds stretching several kilometres hang over the hilltops from monsoon to winter. This has earned Laxmipur the epithet of Darjeeling of Orissa. Nights can be cold even in August-September.

Damonjodi, Kakrigumma, Tikri, Rauli, Lilligumma, Bhalamaska and Kentuguda are some of the stations near Laxmipur that are also known for their wild natural beauty.

The largest bauxite mine in India is at Damonjodi. Bhalamaska was named after bears that overrun the forest.

There are many places of tourist interest in the vicinity. Koraput, Kolaba, Gupteswar, Duduma and Chitrakoot and Tiratgarh falls are worth a visit.

Howrah-Koraput Express touches Laxmipur. If you are staying at Rayagada, get off there. Cars are available on hire for the 60 km-plus journey to Laxmipur.

Rayagada and Koraput have plenty of hotels. Contact the divisional forest officers at Rayagada and Koraput for government-run accommodation. There are also a few lodges at Laxmipur, along the Rayagada-Koraput road.

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