2020 India – Odisha

Part 2 – Odisha

My Air India flights had not been as bad as I had feared and after having picked up my luggage I arranged a taxi to the Konank Nature Resort, my home for the next two days.

The trip from the airport was about 50 km but when we arrived at the destination the Nature Camp I had booked was nowhere to be found… fortunately I had their phone number and when my driver called them the camp turned out to be 7 km back…. This is definitely the first time for me a location has been wrongly advertised on booking.com

Anyway, not much later I was dropped at the camp which turned out to be located close to the beach. It turned out I was the only guest but I was welcomed in a very friendly way after I recovered from the confusion for which I was given no proper answer.

The confusion however would only turn bigger during the day as worldwide events concerning the Corona virus started to unfold. India had temporary suspended al visas for new arriving foreigners till the 15th of April. Those however already in the country were unaffected and allowed to stay. So far so good.  It much later I read that the US had also taken rigorous measurements and blocked all European visitors to enter the country. As a result of this loads of flights were being cancelled.

I was really worried what the result of the Indian visa suspension would be. The next 4 weeks I would not have any problems continuing my journey (unless the situation changes again) but in the end I definitely want to fly home… the only thing I could do now was to write an e-mail to Emirates, knowing that is of little use as the situation changes daily, if not hourly…

The afternoon went by fast as I was trying to get some more information on the matter. At 20:00 dinner was served, a tali full of Odisha specialities. They not only looked fantastic, lots of grilled vegetables, but the taste was to die for, something completely different than I had eaten the previous three weeks.

After my daily chat with Vladi it was time to go to bed, a bed that was far to firm and uncomfortable for my liking. Fortunately it was only for two nights…

Against my expectations I had slept well and after breakfast an auto rickshaw was booked. After he did not show up Laxmidher, the manager of the resort, offered me to bring him on is bike. I did not have to think long about that offer, it was a new adventure after all. This is India, expect the unexpected.

Instead of driving directly to the Konark Sun temple we stopped at another temple close to the sea where a lot of activity was going on. As usual with “living” temples there were a lot of colourful statues and paintings whilst priests and worshippers were praying and chanting. I loved the serene atmosphere and could easily have stayed a bit longer.

But Laxmidher had other plans. On the way towards the sun temple he madee another stop at the Chandrabaga fishermen village. About three thousand people live from what the ocean offers them. The families lived in small simple houses (or should I say huts) and the whole place was amazingly clean. At the beach I witnessed some fishermen preparing the nets and boats for another trip to the sea early next morning. What an extraordinary experience.

Next stop was the famous Konark Sun Temple. The pride of Odisha. Conceived as the cosmic chariot of the sun god Surya, this massive, breathtakingly splendid temple was constructed in the mid-13th century, probably by Odishan king Narashimhadev I to celebrate his military victory over the Muslims. Around the base, seven rearing horses (representing the days of the week) move the stone leviathan on 24 stone cartwheels (representing the hours of the day). The temple was positioned so that dawn light would illuminate the deul (temple sanctuary) interior and the presiding deity.

I spent quite a while at this mesmerising place and although it could only be admired from the outside the stunning carvings were absolutely worth the trip. Unfortunately the museum was closed as it was a Friday so I went to a restaurant instead, had a bite to eat and something to drink while I waited for Laxmidher to pick me up and bring me back to Konark Nature Camp.

The government’s decision to temporarily suspend all visa’s had an enormous impact on the tourist industry as they were flooded with cancellations. Many hotels and resorts decided to finish the season early as it did not make any sense to stay open without guests. 

This was also the case for Ravi Yoga Resort and Little Cove Yoga Resort, where I would be spending the last two weeks of my holiday. Ravi already let me know I would be his last (and only) guest of the season and Pardeshi informed me Little Cove would be closed early due to all cancellations. 

He had kindly offered me to travel with him to his new resort in Nashik. I was really touched by this offer but considering the continues changes and uncertainty in the world I decided to go home a week early than planned, just to be sure…

I was sat to miss all my friends and Pardeshi at Little Cove as I had been looking forward seeing them again after a year but I was convinced it was the best decision. There is always a next time… 

Spending a week with Ravi and enjoying his yoga classes will be the perfect way to finish of my trip and on the bright side of things, I will see Vladi one week earlier than planned.

So once the decision was made I changed my Emirates flights and booked a new flight from Goa to Mumbai which gave me plenty of time to check in for my connecting flights. Still full of adrenaline I had some difficulties to fall asleep but finally it worked out.

Next morning after breakfast I settled my bill and waited for the auto-rickshaw. Not completely to my surprise it was far too late. It I could not be bothered about that. I enjoyed trip to Puri and checked in at my hotel which was directly at a busy beach and boulevard.

After I settled I went for a stroll and enjoyed the activities. When I discovered a bar and couldn’t resist to pop in and enjoyed two beers. Then I continued my walk and slowly returned to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

The atmosphere on the beach was completely different than what I had experienced before. It was a beach like so many in the world where people gather to have a good time, still this one had it’s typical Indian flair.

Later I found a nice restaurant where I dined under the stars, unfortunately the food was rather dull but I must admit I have been spoiled the last couple of weeks.

Another night went by and another day of adventures had begun. There were a couple of sites I was interested to see and fortunately an auto-rickshaw is never far away.

After breakfast i took an auto-rickshaw to get to the Jagannath Temple. This mighty temple is home to Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), an incarnation of Vishnu and built in its present form in 1198. Unfortunately the temple was closed to non-Hindus but I was delighted to breath the buzz and the atmosphere surrounding it, no reason the be disappointed. 

The next stop was Raghurajpur Village, known for it’s artists who create the most beautiful paintings on palm leaves, canvas and wood. I was demonstrated the technique and enjoyed the frescos covering many of the houses. Being contacted though by so many people who wanted to show me their art (in the hope for a sell of course) was a bit overwhelming though. Still I’m glad I went and although I admired the skills of the artists I managed to leave empty handed…

Back in Puri I went to the beach. Beaches always attracts people and Puri is no exception to that… It was so great to see the locals enjoying themselves with sun, sea and sand. Some things are simply the same wherever on the globe… Just the amount of people on a beach differ.

Back at my hotel I checked my mail only to find out there was a message from the next place where I would be staying for the next four days which stated that they cancelled my booking as there is a state directive tourists are no longer allowed to travel freely in Odisha… 

Minutes later I received another mail where the next resort cancelled my booking for the same reason.

When I checked the Emirates website I saw that the list destinations with flight cancellations has been expanded, no India or Germany cancellations yet but what’s next?

Everything is so uncertain and things change by the hour. I have shortly considered to fly to Goa early but would I be able to return home on the 3rd of April?

Spending the last week with Ravi at his new yoga resort was something I was looking extremely forward to but with everything going on it is a risk I simply cannot take as there Vladi was getting increasingly worried about me coming home….

I was in peace coming home a week earlier than planned, as I had changed my flights only two days ago…. but with this decision I was not happy at all, I was devastated to leave my beloved India early but let’s face it, did I have another choice?

So I, once again, changed my flights and made sure I had a good connection to Mumbai. Once all was arranged I was ready for a drink, well more than one…

Next morning I was still busy packing my suitcase when the reception called, the taxi was waiting for me although 45 minutes early. Were they so eager to get rid of me? As a result of leaving early I had to wait before I could check in for the first flight of the day to Mumbai.

It was the beginning of a long waiting process while as soon as we had landed in Mumbai I had another 11 hours of waiting time ahead of me till the next take-off. A couple of beers and some chats with other travellers made time go by quickly though. The best thing however is that I was able to meet my friend Talita, Ravi’s wife, at the airport for a short chat. Also she headed home early having to leave Ravi behind at this new yoga resort.

During the flight to Dubai I dozed a couple of times as by now I was getting exhausted. Fortunately there was only a layover for 2 1/2 hours so that was not too bad.

We landed in Dusseldorf at half past twelve in the afternoon, More than 20 hours after I took off in Bhubaneswar, I was exhausted. I thought it was strange there were no health checks on arrival, no quarantine recommendations, nothing. Also there was a large amount of people in the NON-EU citizen queue in front of customs, in spite of the fact the Schengen countries had closed their outside borders for non-EU citizens.

The best thing however was when I met Vladi who had been waiting for me for over an hour. It was so nice to be back in his arms again and to be together in those crazy and uncertain times.

It was good to be home, even though it was 3 1/2 weeks before my planned return. In a situation like this it’s better to be home than far away in a country where health care is not at the same level as used to. Also it is so much better to be with the only you love instead of 9000 km away.

I should not complain at all as a matter of fact. In spite of the premature abortion of my trip I had enjoyed 4 fantastic weeks and had seen so many things and experienced so much it had been worth the trip by itself. But honest is hones, this has been the most dramatic ending of a trip I have ever experienced.

Hopefully the COVID-19 virus will be conquered soon and when that has been taken care off I’m sure I will return to India again… However, this was the last time I have planned a two month trip as I have noticed it is far to long to be away from Vladi. The impact on hime and myself is simply too big to warrant such an extended trip. It was obvious to see the enormous smile on Vladi’s face the moment I told hime I would be home in two days time and once everything had sunk in I was happy to be home.

India, I will be back!