Deomali hills: Sneak peak into serenity

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  • Published 24.01.11

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 23: Deomali peak, with an elevation of about 1,672 metres from sea level, is the highest peak in the state. It is situated close to Doodhari village, 35km from Koraput.

The beauty of the hill range and picturesque 5km-long flat surface atop the mountain, where an ‘m’ shaped peak can be spotted, would leave a lasting impression on a visitor’s mind.

The best time to visit the hills is either during summer or winter. Only during the rainy season, tourists can face problems due to bad roads at certain patches.

The nearest airport is Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, 200km via road from the district headquarters town of Koraput. The town is also well connected with trains and bus routes from the state and Andhra Pradesh. One can also take a bus from Bhubaneswar, 500km away. These days many tourists are also opting for train services from eastern, south-eastern and southern railways.

A person visiting Deomali hills should ideally stay in Koraput, also known as Sabara Srikhetra of Orissa. The Jagannath temple in the town is one of the best in the region.

Hotels such as, Raj Residency, with a tariff of Rs 500 to Rs 1,400 can be a viable option. However, staying at the guesthouse of the Jagannath temple could also be an experience of a lifetime as the Deomali hills can be seen from the temple compound. The charge for a double room (non-air-conditioned) is Rs 250 and for one with AC it is Rs 400. Deomali is 60km from Koraput and one has to pass though another small town called Semiliguda on way to the peak.

Reaching Deomali takes around two-and-a-half hours by luxury cars. The two-way journey and stay for the entire day is manageable with Rs 1,500. One can reach the hilltop that resembles the runway of a tabletop airport. The ‘m’ shaped peak is Deomali and one has to climb it in a group to enjoy the most.

Senior forest department officials said the state government had built 10 watchtowers with transit accommodation facilities. But after the growth of Maoists activities in the area, the towers were blown away. Now, the destroyed structures remain as mute spectators of those ghastly acts.

“Travelling to Deomali during the day time is safe and visitors can enjoy the most in winter and early summer days up to March,” said an official.

Pradeep Mishra, wildlife researcher of the forest department and local resident of Koraput town, said although on top of the Deomali hills rare plants are seen in plenty, the area is full of reptiles such as gecko and snakes.

“I have seen at least four varieties of rare orchids on top of the hill. The environment in the hill range is ideal for proliferation and survival of the orchids like that of Similipal Biosphere Reserve in north Orissa. As orchid species are sensitive and act as bio-indicators for a biological system, their existence also tells about the floral richness. Many varieties of rare and endangered medicinal plants are also seen in the hill ranges,” he said.

After visiting Deomali, one can plan a trip to other popular attractions nearby such as, Nandapur, 25km from Similiguda, famous for its ‘batris simhasan’. According to history, the erstwhile king of Jeypore Vikramdev had built the structure and now a beautiful Ganesh temple is there. It is 22km from Jeypore town.

Other attractions include a place called Subai for its Jain relics. Rani gumpha is also famous for its ancient caves and Jain relics. Of late, it has become a beautiful picnic spot.

Another place nearby is Gupteswar, famous for its Shiva lingam. It is 60km from Jeypore. The famous waterfall of Duduma near Machhkund reservoir is not open for public due to increasing Maoist activities in the region.

Another place called Gulmi is 15km from Kotpad. It is renowned for its hills with green cover, streams and a beautiful valley.

People can also visit the Chitrakoot Falls, 50km from Kotpad town inside Chhattisgarh. Locally, it is called as ‘mini Niagara’. It is on the Indravati river and there is no entry fee.

“The Deomali experience has always been a special one. You should be there on top of the peak to see the surrounding, experience the clouds, the grassland type ecosystem and scenic localities. Although now I stay in Hyderabad, I cannot erase the memory of my first visit to the Deomali peak,” said Ravindra Verma, who works with an IT firm.

Biologists Pratyush Mohapatra and Prasad Dash, who used to conduct surveys in Deomali hills, felt there are 345 species of plants in the hills, including herbs, shrubs and trees. The hill ranges are rich in both rare and endangered medicinal plants such as mallotus phillipensis, colchespermum religiosum, hypericum geitii, kalanchoa pinnata and viola scandens. Species, which are specific to these hills but not found elsewhere in the state include habenaria grandifloriformis, emilia zeylanica and gynuura lycopersicifolia. Piperomia quadrifolia and plectranthus barbatus, widely used as medicinal plants, can be spotted on the hilltop. Similarly, exacum bicolor, a rare medicinal herb, also grows in abundance on the hilltop.

Reptiles seen in Deomali include more than 20 species of snakes. Sri Lankan stripe-necked snake (liopeltis calamaria), earlier seen in the Western Ghats of Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu (Tinnevelly Hills), Karnataka (Mysore and Bangalore), Madhya Pradesh, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is also found here.

Anyone interested in the tribal lifestyle can learn a lot from the nearby areas in Deomali as tribes such as, Kandhas, Parajas, Bhumia, Malis and Bhotras, reside in the adjoining localities.