We reached Berhampur at 12:35 AM on 13th August 2006. Our first destination was Gopalpur On Sea that is at a distance of 16 Kms from Berhampur (Also referred to as Brahmapur). The station was small but clean. We decided to spend the night in the second class waiting room and then proceed to Gopalpur at day break. The second class ladies’ waiting room had a few cement benches but there were only male occupants. We saw a police man on the platform and informed him that were only men in the ladies’ waiting room and expressed our apprehension about spending the night there. He politely directed us to the first class waiting room and told us to spend the night there instead. We paid five rupees to the lady at the door and went into the waiting room. A few women were already sleeping there. There was a single cot and a stout woman had occupied it. A young girl of about 17 years had placed a few chairs together and was resting on them. There was a huge circular table at the centre of the room and a few wooden chairs were placed around it.
There were a few chairs placed against the wall and we stretched ourselves on them. Though it wasn’t very comfortable, we were too tired to complain. Uma fell asleep within a few minutes while I was finding it very difficult to sleep. There were three women in the room who were very loud. I requested them twice to lower their voice but it didn’t have any effect on them. To add to this, two men who seemed to be related to one of the women would walk in every few minutes and I was noticeably irritated. But this didn’t affect the men in the least. They walked in whenever they felt like. Finally at about 5:30AM we woke up, had our bath and got dressed. The water in the bathroom was cold but I had no choice. We left the station at 6:30 AM. The ticket collector at the gate was surprised to see that we had arrived at 12:30 AM and were leaving the station at 6:30AM. He probably was wondering what we were doing for about six hours in the station.
We had to take a private bus to Gopalpur from the old bus stand. After walking for about five minutes we asked a passerby how far we had to walk to reach the bus stand. He informed us that it would take us just about another five minutes. We walked for about half a km and then asked another passerby how long it would be before we could reach the bus stand. He informed us it would take us another five minutes! People in Orissa seem to be fond of the number five! We hired a cycle rickshaw which later seemed to be a good idea as the old bus stand was far away from the railway station. We took a bus to Gopalpur and it took about an hour to cover just 16Kms!!!
Gopalpur is a sleepy little village. Gopalpur got its name from an 18th century temple dedicated to Krishna (Gopala). Once a prominent trading sea-port, during the British Raj, Gopalpur has transformed into a quiet and relaxed place. The crumbling walls and pillars of the harbor, are a witness to its past glory of commercial activity. It has been growing into one of India’s prettiest beach resorts.
Fortunately it wasn’t raining here though it was raining heavily in the other parts of Orissa at the time. It was a bright and sunny day though at times the sky looked a bit clouded. We asked the conductor on the bus to direct us to the youth hostel and were informed to walk straight and we would sight the youth hostel.
There is a pretty little mosque (or was it a madrasa?!) on the way to the hostel. There was also a twin storied building that was in ruins. It could have been a British office as Gopalpur was an important port during the British rule. It reminded me of the old building in the movie “Nagina”…
We passed the old youth hostel on the way to the new youth hostel. It looked like it would crumble any time. We had seen the photo of the new youth hostel on the internet but were still unsure how good the building would be. On arriving at the new youth hostel, we were glad that it was a nice little place situated right beside the sea. We were allotted a double room that looked very comfortable. We checked into the youth hostel and returned to Berhampur to take the bus to our next destination Tara-Tarini and Jaugadh.
On reaching Berhampur we found out that the private buses weren’t plying as the union was on strike. A tourist operator informed us that it was an attempt to depose the travel minister. Surprisingly, the only means of communication in Orissa is private buses. The government buses do not ply to even the places that are popular with the tourists. One of the tourist operators informed us that there was a bus to Bhairavi and we could go there instead as there were more temples in Bhairavi as compared to Tara-Tarini. We decided to take the bus to Bhairavi but then within few minutes all the bus operators joined the strike and so we had no option but to return to Gopalpur . We returned to the hostel and since we were tired, we slept until 5:00 PM. I had read that there was a good light house where we could spend about two hours enjoying the picturesque island. The warden at the hostel informed us that the light house would close to the visitors at 5:30PM. We were a little disappointed as we realized we would probably not be able to reach the light house before it closed. We walked briskly and reached the light house at 5:35PM. We were now only hoping that we wouldn’t be sent away without being allowed to climb the light house. We reluctantly went in and enquired if we could go up and watch. The three men at the ticket counter said we could. This was the first good thing that happened to us since we had arrived at Gopalpur. We paid the nominal entry fee of five rupees and climbed the stairs. It is a pity that we are not allowed to carry our camera with us to photograph the beautiful island. We watched the island from the top of the light house for about 20 minutes and then decided to play in the sea.
It was a wonderful evening and there were a lot of people at the beach. We walked on the shore for sometime and ate ‘chana masala’. It was turning dark and we felt it would be a good idea to return to the hostel before it turned completely dark. We had vegetarian chowmeen in a restaurant and returned to the hostel. I watched the light house from our hostel room for sometime and then fell asleep.
After a good night’s sleep we were all set to go to Barkul. The tour operator had informed us the day before that a private bus would leave to Barkul at 8:30AM. We checked out of the hostel at 7:00AM and took the bus to Berhampur.