I had been hearing quite a lot about this village resort in Orissa. So, last Christmas holidays, I decided to forgo the city parties and the chilly Kolkata winter and experience a completely different lifestyle for a change. I usually prefer renting a car for short travels. I had been using Savaari car rental service for a while and I feel Savaari has outstanding service at some of the best prices I have explored. So, my cab was at my door on Christmas Eve.
This resort I am talking about is in Balasore district in Orissa, about 262 Km from Kolkata city. Before my travel, whatever I retrieved from online research was enough to get me hooked. There is a small tribal village called Kantabonia, about 37 Km west of Balasore and occupied by the Santhal tribe. On one edge of the village, surrounding the Kuldiha and Tenda Elephant Reserve lies this eco-village resort. With hills on one side and forests on the other, this looked like ultimate serenity.
It took me nearly six hours to reach via NH 16, with all the morning traffic and road work in Kharagpur.
The resort and its surroundings
Driving through the remote countryside with banana plantations and paddy fields, when I finally landed at my destination, I was awestruck at the beauty of the place. While I have been so such kind of resorts before, this was way different than one can envisage. A far cry from anything commercial, this place looked like a part of the surrounding nature, only enclosed by bamboo fences.
The entire setting is made in the form of tribal homes, with mud and thatched roof and other natural materials like bamboo, coir, and rattan. The pathways of red soil were left raw and untouched, only lined with pebbles to demarcate from the cottages. There was no sign of any fancy urban trapping. While everything was made eco-friendly, they were equally a treat for the eyes. Every hut had a small verandah where oil lamps, lanterns, and tribal trinkets adorned the ceilings and doorways. The walls were beautifully painted with colorful ethnic motifs. Even food was served on earthen tableware.
The view opened up to the Nilagiri Hills and the adjoining forests. While there were few tourists around the property, the only sound I could hear was the calls and chirpings for various birds or the trumpeting elephants from the nearby wildlife sanctuary.
Talking about the sanctuary, I must say, this forest reserve definitely enhances the experience of Roopark. Within a drive of just 40 minutes through the villages and fields, you can reach this famous elephant reserve of Orissa. These dense forests at the foothills of the Nilagiri Hills are home to leopards, tigers, Sambar and spotted deer and a huge population of elephants. Birds like hornbills and peafowls roam around outside the forests as well.
A respite from the regular
By sundown, the place assumed a completely opposite ambiance. Lit by candles and lamps, the village appeared like a page out of those folklores I have grown up listening to. A group of dancers was invited to perform at the resort. As the lead drummer introduced his rhythm, the women circled and matched the rhythm with their perfect footwork. The heavenly trance of the music, the glow of the oil lamps, and the chorus of the cicadas adding to the party took me away from my life back in the city, at least for some time.