APJ Abdul Kalam had stayed in the NSTL GH in March 2009. I felt honored making an entry in the same Visitors’ Book. Breakfast was at the NSTL with Thulasi and his family; Ganeshan, Vijayan and Krishna Kumar had come to greet us on Vijaya Dasami and see us off. The stay at the NSTL GH was very comfortable and Krishna Kumar took personal care to ensure that it remained so. After loading the bags in the car and taking a few pictures, to pry open memories in the future, we (Thulasi, Nandini and Vishu in their car) left from Visakapattinam – the last South Indian city for some time to come – for Bhubaneswar. The NH 5 between Visakapattinam and Bhubaneswar, a distance of nearly 430 kms, is a peach of a drive – discounting the yet to be completed 100 kms stretch between Ichchapuram and Balugaon. Despite the light to heavy showers en route the drive was done in fair time. If Thulasi stays on as a pace setter for the rest of the journey, I may complete the trip in less than 60 days!! One of the major concerns I have in the building of the National Highways is that information about rivers, about certain locations and even State boundaries are not put up adequately. In fact, I wanted to take a snap at the AP-Orissa border. There was no signage indicating the end of one State and the beginning of another.
The gaiety of Vijaya Dasami could be seen all along the route with people and vehicles decked up. A drive through the city of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack later in the evening helped appreciate the splendor of the pandals and the various programs that the Pooja organizers had got up. There were people everywhere and many roads were cordoned off to facilitate better pedestrian movement. One got a flavor of the enormity of the Mahanadi River even at night.
The Rambha Chilka is en route to Bhubaneswar. The Chilka lake is the largest brackish water lake in Asia, spread over nearly 120,000 hectares. Fishing, water sports and boating attract tourists to Chilka. This gives an opportunity to people like Sushil Behera, who has completed a tourism course from Trivandrum, is a member of the National Geographic Society and is proficient in many languages.