I was mesmerised by the view. The sun was sinking slowly behind the Eastern Ghats, bathing the emerald hills in crimson light. So spectacular was the sight that for a moment, I lost track of time and place.
I have seen sunsets at several well-known tourist spots on the Himalayas, but what I witnessed at just 3,000 ft above sea level and a mere six hours from Bhubaneswar, could hold its own against the best.
And to think that I was initially apprehensive about visiting Daringibari for a weekend. I have always loved going to Orissa and I am fascinated by places with serene, natural beauty, but doubts still crept in when a friend suggested this little-known hill station for a getaway.
The doubts were firmly put to rest long before I returned to the city. Not for nothing is Daringibari called the Kashmir of Orissa. For starters, the climate is just right. The summer temperature seldom crosses the mid-20s. And winters can be quite cold. It is not uncommon for the mercury to dip as low as 2'C.
The drive from Bhubaneswar was very pleasant. The last 22 km, along Daringibari Ghat Road, was especially enjoyable. The trail extends like a ribbon through a dense Sal forest.
We checked into the Orissa Tourism Development Corporation's Panthanivas. After lunch, I came out to the balcony and immediately realised that we were well and truly in the lap of nature. The forests, hills, meandering roads and the tranquillity seemed designed to soothe the tired city soul.
Situated in Khandamal district, the hill station is home to Kondh tribes. About 1,150 households of this tribe can be found in the neighbouring Belghar village.
Tribals comprise more than 80 per cent of the region's population. Bondas, believed by some to be the most primitive tribals in India, reside here. They are known as Nakates in the region.
Many tourists visit Belghar village to enjoy the scenic beauty and learn a bit about the tribal culture. For its variety of flora and tourist appeal, Belghar has been declared an eco-village.
The Belghar sanctuary is a dense tropical forest, where visitors can catch a glimpse of wildlife, primarily in the form of elephants.
There are other places of tourist interest at Daringibari.
We visited the world's largest black rock, stretching over a radius of 3 km. The local residents believe that walking around the rock brings eternal peace.
Lovers Point is a secluded picnic spot adjacent to a gurgling stream.
For a bird's eye view of Daringibari, trek to the Hill View Point, from where I watched the breathtaking sunset.
Kotagarh sanctuary, located in the Baliguda sub-division of Khandamal, is rich in its bio-diversity. For those interested in wildlife, this is a must-visit. Tigers, elephants, gaurs, sambars, spotted deer, red jungle fowl and several kinds of reptiles can be seen here.
There are other spots of tourist interest around the hill station, but we could manage only this much on a short trip.
I came back to the city vowing to return to Daringibari soon.
Daringibari is about 300 km from Bhubaneswar. A six-hour drive from Bhubaneswar rail station will get you there
The Orissa Tourism Development Corporation's Panthanivas. For reservation, call 22443653. There are also air-conditioned cottages amidst a pine forest. For booking, contact Sofia Wilderness Safari (55217261 or 9230517162)
Hill View Point, Belghar eco-village, Kotagarh sanctuary, the huge black rock