|Chandni chowk at Jagdalpur|
Chhattisgarh (or at least the southern part of it) could have been an excellent driving destination from Bengaluru. With a halt at Hyderabad/Bhadrachalam, one could have covered this distance in 2 days. But unfortunately, Naxals prowl the area between Konta and Sukma in Chhattisgarh making this journey risky. And naturally the National Highway here is in a pretty bad condition. All these factors made me drop this plan of driving to Chhattisgarh few years ago.
This time I decided to reach Chhattisgarh from Vishakhapatnam. Getting train ticket from Araku to Jagdalpur in Bastar district was not a problem as most of the tourists return back to Vizag from Araku. The train leaves Araku at 10:50AM and reaches Jagdalpur at 4PM meandering through remote hills and valleys dominated by tribes. It is a great experience to see “real” tribals in each station. They try to sell variety of local fruits for ridiculously low price. But if you want to have proper food, it is better to carry something from Araku as the only major station on the way is Koraput. This is the only place you get bottled water. Though only one passenger train runs on this track, the route itself is busy with goods train carrying minerals. At every station, you can see a good train waiting for signal.
|A lake seen from train|
But, why should one visit Chhattisgarh?
For waterfalls and forests!! It is a state larger than Bihar or West Bengal or even Tamil Nadu!! And nearly 40% of it is covered by forests. Road conditions are much better and the Government seems to be trying hard to promote tourism.
Is it safe?
The name Chhattisgarh is synonymous with Maoists and the problem is real. But most of the tourist areas we visit are outside the control area of Naxalites. The battle is in the deep jungles of the state. And it is not easy for tourists to venture into Naxal territories. Things have improved a little over past one year as attacks on civilians have reduced. The issues that we might face are when railways stop their services when they get information about Naxal movement in the area. Then we have to use some alternate mode of transport to reach the destination. And other issue is when Maoists or Political parties call for a bandh. The main reason for band would be to protest against the death of Naxals or police/civilians.
|Kolab reserviour near Koraput|
But in general, I feel that it is quite safe for tourists in Chhattisgarh as long as he sticks to the normal tourists trails.
Stay and travel
For Bastar region, Jagdalpur is the starting point. It is connected by train to Vishakhapatnam, Bhuvaneshwar and Calcutta. Jagdalpur has wide range if hotels that fits into various budget requirements. Hiring a private taxi is the best mode of travel. Public transport and shared cabs are also available for popular places.
|Hills near Koraput (Taken from train)|