We’ve been at Chilka Lake for a two day break. We were really looking forward to eating mud crabs (the size of a steering wheel) at the famous Chilka Dhaba and Abroozi was probably least looking forward to the trip. But that’s until he saw the world’s second largest lagoon. He could smell the water and dived right in. For two days straight his Labrador genes were bristling and reveling in having unhindered access to the water. This is a bird watcher’s paradise with birds migrating all the way from Siberia. Along the way we caught a glimpse of life in rural Orissa.
Chilka lake, in the state of Orissa on National HIghway No.5 on the eastern seaboard of India, is 350 kms from Vishakapatnam, around 6 hr drive.
The lake is so huge it looks more like the sea. The banks look muddy and dirty but that’s just the brackish deposits from the lake. It is actually very clean, just a little boggy. The lake is also home to the rare Irawaddy Dolphin but we didn’t spot any. We did see a very large wild boar, just paddling about in the water. I think our Abroozi with his enthusiastic diving in to the water, scared him off.
We saw plenty of birds and the dazzling dance of flocks of birds migrating retiring home for the evening. They fly with such precision, never bumping in to each other even at such high speeds. It was hard to capture them on film in the evening’s fading light. I like this one of (I think) a variety of stork.
We had hours of fun in the evening walking along the banks of the river and playing with Abroozi in the water. He just didn’t want to leave. We eventually had to trick him out of the water.
We stayed at the Officer’s Mess at the Naval Base at Chilka which is a training station for sailors. As part of their training they practice their seamanship by daily sailing these Montague Whaler boats. You don’t see many of these in the navies of the world. They were first designed in the mid-nineteenth century to hunt whales and then later used by navies as a smaller boat to hoist by hand on to the bigger ships. They are 27 feet and can take 6 rowers or sailed with two masts. So many whalers in such good condition is not a common sight.
The base is a very secluded area and there’s really not much habitation or facilities around. The forests are quite rampant with the houses of training officers scattered around. And a few painters have got together to paint animals on to the rock formations. It’s easy to just paint an animal on to a rock. It takes a real artist’s eye to find the animal that suits the rock formation. Here are some of their creations:
Our trip coincided with the two days of the festival ‘holi’. Holi celebrated in cities and villages as a harvest festival, abounding in legends, too many to tell here, where basically people get all crazy and coloured powder is flung on your friends and passersby. I for one hate holi, all that colour stays in your hair for months. All along the way the revellers were quite sozzled on bhang (a mix of the flowers and buds of cannabis, usually in milk). Perhaps the only country where millions are legally allowed to consume cannabis for festival purposes. Here’s a couple of guys who made it on to their cycles:
Chilka dhaba featured on the popular food show Highway On My Plate (HOMP) on NDTV Good Times. Rocky and Mayur, the robust presenters, attempt to eat at the low cost dhabas that litter the thousands of kilometers of India’s highways. NH5 is thought to be the dhaba-less highway but there is one, Chilka Dhaba that serves great crabs and prawns. At least they used to 10 years ago. Apparently, since the TV show featuring the dhaba, the owner is resting on his laurels, has totally let himself go, made no improvements to the place but the customers keep flooding in because of the TV show. And the crabs were disappointingly small. But we managed to get some large mud crabs from the local fisherman. Land crabs are very sweet compared to sea crabs.
On the way home we caught this very common Indian sight – the Indian rollercoaster ride.
So that was our trip to Chilka.