Sunday, December 11, 2016

Rajhans Island: A Cast Away’s Hidden Paradise In Chilika

Rajhans Island Odisha FB

Rajhans, a thin stretch of sand separating the Chilika lagoon from the open waters of Bay of Bengal is one of the many islands dotting the lake mouth at Satapada. A geographic wonderland which still remains Odisha’s best kept secrets will give you a rather otherworldly feel. Infact, Rajhans Island provides a perfect recipe for a day’s casual wandering. Here’s my take on this gem of a getaway!

 

“One fine March morning when the sun was yet to arrive & the first pink light was trying to pierce between the spring fog, two of my friends and me were joyfully stranded on the calm waters of Lake Chilika. Before embarking on our journey, we just had a vague idea of this relatively undiscovered travel destination. But we had anticipated since long to head towards a serene getaway & to spectate the sight of rare Irrawaddy dolphins which frequents this place.

 

As we calmly advanced on our boat journey, the morning with its dash of seductive colours unfurled in front of us. While the old boatman solemnly sat near the rear end with a bidi on his lips, the blue kingfisher that perched on fishing nets got bored of our silent spell & flew away at last. Perhaps our boatman was mad at us for waking him up at 4:30 in the morning. Or perhaps all boatmen were in such a mood in misty mornings like this.

 

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Curiosity ever growing as that in a child, we sat in the boat for over an hour to catch a glance of the Island or the Irrawaddy dolphins alike. For we knew that even the last of migratory birds had left the winter haven of their lake, heading towards their home up North.

 

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“So?” asked the bidi-smoker, breaking our silent pondering.

“What? When do they come?” we asked, getting anxious about why dolphins hadn’t shown up by then. “Don’t you have any special whistles to call them?” we further prodded the boatman.

 

He laughed; the man finally did let out a laugh.

Let’s go to the island over there. The one with all those long and slim trees. For maybe we will get some dolphins on our way back” our boatman replied.

 

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Now the sun was properly on the horizon and the lake was in its dazzling blues. As our solitary boat arrived at the shores of Rajhans Island, thousands of little red-crabs scurried through the sand, burying themselves in sandy-holes. Probably wary of our untimely visit to their place.

 

Two hours of boat ride and 18 kms away from Satapada, we were on an island named after Raja-Hamsa, the Royal Swan. Overall the island posed a spectacular sight of sun, sand and crystal clear water. While the swaying casuarina trees were like music to our ears, few men at the ramshackle shops were preparing to come to life. Moreover, freshly netted stuff-fish, crabs, shrimps were ready to be caught and cooked by the shack masters’ as a relishing treat for them & the island visitors.

 

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But the beautiful island lay in front and off we strolled as the desolate island opened up layer by layer, before us. And then we heard the eternal echo, the crashing of ocean waves. Yes. We could see the meeting point! On the other bank of the Island, was the Bay of Bengal breaking its strides on a stretch of a gorgeous and melancholic beach front. There wasn’t a soul to be seen for miles, a place where our footsteps shall be the first even if many have walked before. “You are the Robinson Crusoe and this is your moment on the virgin sand.”

 

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While somewhere they were roasting shrimps and crabs for our meal and our beer was in cold storage, we dug our feet in the wet sand of the isolated beach. Unadulterated bliss! Well, the perks of visiting a beach early in the morning are that you have the landscape to yourself.

 

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And thus on our way back to Satapada, we waived goodbyes to all the living souls present there, to the crabs as well. Our not-so-sombre-anymore boatman was merrily greeting the boats coming in from the other side. Not only that, he gradually opened up about life on the fishing banks in general, the simplicity of the fishing folk, strange large winged birds coming in winter & the Chilika itself, a mother to all who depend on her.

 

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It was around 4 pm & the lake had turned a shade lighter in the sunlight. A large herd of buffaloes were entering the water in a perfect queue while a tall heron stood focused on one leg, waiting for something to pop up from the low marshes. As we followed the aerial trajectory of the white egret over our boat, we heard the shrill whistle of our old boatman. He was pointing over to a place in the water. As we looked, we saw a couple of …Well, dolphins cruising through the lake surface. Yes, there were dolphins. And finally we had spotted them, rendering the best way possible to culminate this trip.”

 

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HOW TO REACH:

Cross the Chilika Lake on boat from Satapada. Rajhans Island is at a distance of 18 kms from Satapada. The nearest rail head to Satapada is Puri Railway Station (50 km). From Bhubaneswar, it is 108 kms away. It will approximately take 2.5 hours to reach Satapada , and from there, you can take a boat to reach the Rajhans Island which takes about another hour or so.