Published: 02nd November 2017
For about 20 days, photographer Udayan and team had only one task. To travel the length and breadth of Odisha and capture it's cascading waterfalls
Photographer Udayan Sarathi and his team undertook a tumultuous journey to document 35 waterfalls in Odisha and found beauty at every step
Nature offers beauty in abundance. Some of these are in plain sight, while others are tucked away in a quiet nook, away from prying eyes. To find both kinds, photographer Udayan Sarathi, with a team of four, travelled extensively within Odisha in search of one of Mother Nature's most beautiful creations - waterfalls, with a mission to document the state of the waterfalls along with the details of how to get there. "Odisha is filled with treasures of nature, it has a lot of offer," says the 31-year-old, and to unearth these treasures, Sarathi even started a fundraiser campaign on Ketto. Not only was the Department of Tourism, Government of Odisha (Odisha Tourism) ready to support the campaign in terms of providing the know-how of how to get to certain waterfalls, the Aditya Group also provided them with a vehicle for the road trip. Their bags were packed and the team was ready to rev up their engines and kickstart the trip on October 6, 2017. And to flag off the journey, the Minister of Youth, Chandra Sarathi Behera and the Director of Tourism, Nitin Jawale were present at the Kalinga Stadium, which was the starting point of the journey.
Sneak peak: Picture of the Bada Rabandara waterfall clicked by the team
On your mark
When we first spoke to Sarathi, he was somewhere near Similipal, searching for an elusive waterfall. While a visit to one waterfall was cancelled, another was added to the list and rains were playing the spoilt sport. "It's a bit depressing," he admitted, especially when the only defence they had against the rains were umbrellas. He predicted that rains may further dampen their plans, but still remained positive that they would be able to document at least 25 waterfalls. But they overshot their target. After driving 4,500 km, they covered 35 waterfalls in 13 districts. Oddly, "even though it was raining in most parts of Odisha, we did not face any rains at the waterfalls," he said. Looks like luck was on their side.
Best finds: Districts like Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar proved to be treasure troves for waterfalls as they found close to 15 waterfalls in both these districts
We had the chance to interact with Sarathi after his journey too, on October 24. The journey clearly had him smitten with Odisha all over again, "a place filled with natural beauty and scenic places, it can easily give tough competition to any other state," he said. But it must have caused them some pain during the journey? Unscalable hills, treacherous parts or slippery slopes? The merry bunch, who otherwise love hiking in the mountains, thought that, "the real baddies were the stairs. The most challenging ones were those at Ghoomar Waterfalls in Nabarangpur. Especially for one of our team members, Sumant Lenka. The chain of his camera bag snapped and his camera went tumbling down the waterfalls," he recalls, still hoping that the camera is repairable. But no matter how taxing the day, the team needed in the evenings to wind down with old Odia songs and some hot tea. And before turning in for some well-deserved sleep, they would plan for the next day.
It was an exciting road trip and a lot of planning has gone into it. We would cover two to three waterfalls a day sometimes and were still ready to explore more the next day
While during the trip, they were impressed with the quality of roads in Odisha, what dampened their spirits was the litter around the waterfalls. Plastic bags and garbage dotted the otherwise beautiful landscape, which was not at all a pleasant sight. Also, Udayan tells us about how the approaches to the certain waterfalls have been paved with concrete and converted almost into recreational parks. He voices his opinion against the artificial beautification of waterfalls with elements like fences, railings and stairs, which could cause it to look like an artificial park. "A thoughtful approach needs to be maintained while developing the waterfalls as tourist sights," he opined, adding that there is a certain distance that needs to be maintained while viewing a waterfall. Using soaps and shampoos should be banned at the waterfalls too, after all, it isn't a bathroom for tourists.
Behind the scenes: The team documenting waterfalls
But the real task for the team begins now as they need to edit the innumerable pictures and videos they've taken, while also creating a written database along with Odisha Tourism of all the information they've gathered. They are thankful to Tourism Director Nitin Jawale, who encouraged and helped them with coordinating with Local District Tourism Officers who provided them with more information and needful assistance when required. They are also thankful to Aditya Patra from the Aditya Group for the vehicle they used, which made the trip possible and the fundraisers who helped their campaign take off.
As the youngest of the lot, this expedition was my first experience to do something big. Thus, I was extremely positive about the trip. Even when my camera gave up on me, we still managed to complete our mission and I fulfilled my role of shooting videos and documenting the waterfalls. I was very excited as I got to experience nature's beauty of my own state
Sumanta Lenka, Professional VFX artist and works with Odisha Tourism
I had a good sense of achievement after the trip as every waterfall was a challenge in its own way. For example, we knew that there were three waterfalls inside the proposed tiger reserve in Sunabeda, in the Nuapada district of Odisha, but we couldn't go inside as the Maoist influence is prevalent there. But the state of several waterfalls in terms of littering is dismal and the Odisha Tourism has promised to send letters to the concerned agencies
Durgesh Singh, Wildlife tours leader, trained naturalist and a wildlife photographer
Most waterfalls had a lot of litter around them and were suffering from uncontrolled tourism as well as ill-conceived construction of infrastructure that is insensitive to the environment. We will be suggesting positive interventions to the government. Ecotourism has tremendous potential in Odisha, not only as a measure to showcase the state's natural wealth, but also as a major revenue generator. We need to revisit the manner in which ecotourism is conducted in this state
Aditya Chandra Panda, award-winning naturalist and wildlife conservationist
It is high time we vigorously promote Odisha as a holistic destination and make it known that we have many things to offer other than temples and beaches. The hinterland of Odisha can be a traveller's fantasy. Speaking of our trip, the long and arduous treks to and from the waterfalls were a huge physical challenge. Intermittent rains also made life difficult on some occasions
Malay Patra, Software developer and entrepreneur
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