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Next weekend you can be at ... Satpada

Satpada is a tiny island village on the eastern side of Chilika, India's largest inland lake, spread over 1,100 sq km. It is one of the base points for tourists visiting various small islands scattered on the lagoon, such as Rajhans, Arkhakuda and Krishnaprasad Garh.

Satpada is only 50 km from Puri and takes less than three hours by road. Old but colourful temples, mostly dedicated to Lord Shiva, dot the way. The entrance to the temples are adorned with lion idols ' considered a symbol of power. Drivers make it a point to stop at some of these and offer puja for a safe journey.

A daylong tour is conducted by the Orissa Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) from Puri to Satpada and back. But it's a far better idea to stay for a couple of days at Satpada, in the midst of nature.

Putting up at the OTDC Yatri Nivas is a pleasurable experience. Spend moments of solitude on the lawn or the garden or simply sit in the veranda for a magnificent view of the expanse. The quiet surroundings complement the leisurely lifestyle of the local residents, mostly fishermen.

A walk across the harbour offers a panoramic view of the lagoon encircled by hills, the water changing colour with the passing clouds and shifting sun.

A museum houses the historical relics of Satpada, along with miniature models of the places to visit and information on the flora, fauna and dolphins.

From Satpada, a simple sailboat takes you to the heart of the lake, where dolphins can be spotted. In winter, migratory birds from Manchuria and Siberia take shelter at Nalban ' the centre of the lagoon.

Rajhans island, at the mouth of the lagoon, is one-and-a-half-hours away by boat. En route, one can see the thatched huts of fishermen on the other islands.

Rajhans is a small strip of land which has the lagoon on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other. A trek along the beach can even take one to Gopalpur-on-sea.

Fishermen fry pomfret and tiger prawn on the beach and sell them to tourists at amazingly cheap rates. A cup of steaming tea goes well with the fare.

Night arrives early at Satpada. And it stays ever so silent. You can, however, take a walk through the fishermen villages and stop for a sip at the tea stalls.

Going:

Puri, 50 km away, is the nearest railway station. The closest airport is 110 km away, at Bhubaneswar.

Staying:

The OTDC-managed Yatri Nivas has comfortable rooms and directly overlooks the lagoon. For reservation, contact Tourist Office, Utkal Bhavan, Phone: 22443653

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