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Next weekend you can be at ... Bangriposi

Winter can be quite a tyrant! And weíre not talking about the cold North Wind or layers of uncomfortable woolens. Itís about the beckoning mellow sunlight, the cool rush of scented breeze on your face, the sudden absence of languor and the contrast of the sombre office room and the open fields outside. Winter invites you to travel, even if for a weekend.

A good option could be Bangriposi. Just 228 kilometres from Calcutta, it is the perfect getaway to recharge your batteries for a short while. A quaint hamlet nestled in the foothills of the Thakurani hills (of the famed Simlipal range), Bangriposi is on NH6 (Bombay Road) and a four-hour drive from Calcutta.

True to its name (Bangriposi means pretty lass of the mountains), nature has painted every frame with a lot of care in this hill-bedecked landscape. A good place to stay could be Hotel Bangriposi, the best-located lodging facility in the region. The last hotel before the hills begin, it is famous for rustic hospitality, wood-fired delicious meals and the sheer backdrop of the hills.

From here a hike leads to the Bonbibi or Kanak Durga mandir in the hills. More than being a place of worship, this place offers a fantastic panorama of Bangriposi. Also, only seven kilometres away is the famous Buribalam river and 20 kilometres away is the Kuliana village, where rural artisans struggle to keep the dying dokra art alive.

You could also do a day trip to the Simlipal forest from here, especially since the forests close again in March. Simlipal National Park is a 2,750sq km sanctuary and a Project Tiger Reserve. Situated in the Mayurbhanj district, the parkís hills, waterfalls and dense foliage hide almost 95 tigers and a number of other species like leopard, gaur, elephant, langur, barking and spotted deer, sloth bear, mongoose, flying squirrel, porcupine, turtle, monitor lizard, python, sambar, pangolin, crocodile and the four-horned antelope. Around 230 species of birds like the grey hornbill, Indian Pied Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian trogon, red jungle fowl, hill mynah, peafowl, Alexandrine Parakeet, and crested serpent eagle are found here. The national park is also home to a large number of reptiles, including snakes and turtles.

The spectacular Barehipani waterfall, with a 400-metre drop, and the Joranda waterfall, with a shorter drop of 150 metres, is so beautiful that one is forced to reflect on natureís majesty. Besides the fact that thereís a lot of wildlife to be seen in Simlipal, thereís also a wide range of local flora. The park boasts at least 82 species of orchid, many of which are on show at the small display at Gurguria.

The national park has a core area of about 850sq km, where most of the tigers are concentrated. What youíre more likely to see are elephants, monkeys, deer and birds.

The other attractions of the Simlipal National Park are the mugger crocodiles at Jashipur, apart from the scenic Barehipani and Joranda waterfalls.

Since staying at Simlipal is not an option anymore, Bangriposi is the perfect hideout to use as a base to explore this national tiger reserve. Bangriposi is also natureís gem on its own. Enjoy the hills, waterfalls, rivers, temples, caves and experience natureís amber blanket at Bangriposi! Disclaimer: if youíre looking for five-star luxury, this is not the place for you!

From Bangriposi you can also visit Deokund, which is 65km from Baripada and 110km from Balasore. Itís an enchanting place with a series of waterfalls and a Shakti shrine set against the outer periphery of Simlipal. Around 64 km from Bisoi, there is the beautiful Sulaipat Damon river Kharkhai. If you donít want to go that far, you can see Bankabal Dam, which is just 9km from Bisoi.

Going

Buses leave from Press Club (on Red Road) in the afternoon for Baripada and from Babughat in the evenings for Keonjhar. The former will take you till Bombay Chowki, from where you can take a trekker to Bangriposi (14 km). The latter will drop you in front of Hotel Bangriposi and OTDCís Panthasala. By train, get down at Balasore and take a trekker to Bangriposi. By road, keep to NH6 without taking any turns.

Staying

Hotel Bangriposi is a good option. Booking at 4B Pratapaditya Road, Rashbehari, Sonia Apartment, Flat-4A, 4th floor, Calcutta-26. Phone: 9831309512. Orissa Tourism Development Corporationís Panthasala is another option.