November 2005: As part of a larger two-week trip that included Bangladesh and Bhutan, a friend and I also visited the bustling, chaotic city of Calcutta and Simlipal National Park in Orissa State, one of the least visited states in India. This was our itinerary.

Day 1-2

Arrive Calcutta 5:45pm, explore Calcutta and spend the night in hotel. Depart Bhutan next day.

Day 3
After a week in Bhutan The flight departs to Calcutta at 11:15 am. On arrival at Kolkata International airport assisted and transferred to Kolkata railway station to board the train to Balasore. Departure 1525 hours. Arrival at Balasore 1925 hours. On arrival at Balasore railway station  assisted and transferred to hotel. Overnight stay in the hotel at Aranya Niwas. Evening jungle hike near hotel.

Day 4
Simlipal National Park:Take morning and afternoon jeep safari including visit to the deep forest, full of greenery and natural beauty, and Barheipani & Joranda waterfalls, followed by Gudu Gudia an excellent place for bird watching, Chahala having the hunting lodge of Maharaja of Mayurbhunj and salt pits an excellent place for wildlife viewing. Overnight in the Aranya Niwas.

Day 5
Simlipal National Park: In the morning move for the morning jeep safari in the park to explore the wildlife animals in the park. After lunch  transferred to Balasore railway station to board the train back to Kolkata. Departure time is 1550 hours. Hotel

Day 6
Depart Calcutta to Bangladesh border (Benapole)

Day 7-8
Return to Calcutta after week in Bangladesh, night in hotel and depart next day

 

Simlipal National Park

Calcutta

Every traveler should experience a city like Calcutta at least once. We stayed in a basic hotel inside the city where the streets were so congested with people, cows, rickshaws and monkeys that our taxi couldn’t enter and had to drop us off at corner and let us walk a few blocks to find a hotel. The city was total and utter chaos and an assault on every one of the bodies five senses. The streets were a hot crush of humanity, and poverty. A sense of desperation existed that was so pervasive that dead bodies would be left on streets for days before being collected. People lived on the razer edge margin of survival, and it seemed that life harbored little value. Our hotel was even more depressing, and we had to settle with the one that had the fewest cockroaches living inside. Outside our window was the constant buzz of people, honking, and chaos and it took all of our energy to just go outside an explore for one-hour increments. But Calcutta is what I came for, it is what travelers seek, a place that is as different and exotic as any place on Earth. It definitely wasn’t relaxing, but it was fascinating. 

 

Funeral procession in the streets as family members carried a dead body

A small altar to a Hindu God, a common sight on the dash of all taxi cars

Rickshaw driver carrying a group of men through the streets. This is technically banned because of the perception of it being demeaning in Calcutta but it is still a common sight because the rickshaw carriers claim they have no other form of employment. During a heavy rain when the streets filled up with water, we also hired one of them to carry us through the flooded streets.  

Simlipal National Park

I chose Simlipal National Park because it is a large forest of Sal known to harbor a large population of tigers and to also be the home of tribal villages. It is a park seldomly visited and it leaped out of my travel guide and grabbed my attention. To get there I organized our stay via a local fixer in Calcutta and we booked a train ticket from Calcutta that dropped us off in a small city from where a pre-arranged driver picked us up to take us into the reserve where we stayed for a few days in a very basic forest reserve bungalow. During the day we drove through the park looking for tigers and bear but all we ended up seeing were lots of sambar deer. We also saw some incredible waterfalls and one that we were able to swim in. The most fascinating part of the trip was visiting the tribal villages, where although the tribes appear to be no different than any other Indian, they still maintain many of their traditions and customs and also have their own distinctive languages.

Rural streets

Rural streets

Road construction done by hand from cheap village labor

Simlipal National Park wildlife

Waterfalls

Waterfall

A sacred waterfall we swam in next to a cave dedicated to the Hindu monkey God

A sacred waterfall we swam in next to a cave dedicated to the Hindu monkey God

Simlipal National Park wildlife

Me being attacked by frisky sambar deer

Our bathroom in our bungalow

Tribal Villages

We enjoyed spending a day interacting with the tribal people inside the park. We visited a school of children and taught them about San Diego and also visited some of the homes to observe their way of life. These villagers were very shocked to meet foreigners a very rare occurrence in this part of India.

Tribal village of Orissa

Tribal village of Orissa

Tribal village of Orissa

Tribal village of Orissa

Tribal village of Orissa

Tribal village of Orissa

Tribal village of Orissa

Tribal village of Orissa

Return to Calcutta 

November 2015: Ten years later I returned to calcutta as part of another trip to India with my girlfriend Paula. The city seemed much more modern and organized but still was plagued with poverty, but it wasn’t as staggering as it was before. This partially because it had been relocated, I heard. Paula and I visited some of the Hindu temples along the Ganges River.

Ganges River

Dakshineswar Kali Temple built in 1847

Worshippers kissing the Cobra idol 

Paula at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple  

Dakshineswar Kali Temple builtin 1847

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