The Jhumka dam and reservoir are located in the Chandaka forest in Khorda district, Odisha. During the rainy season, it’s impossible to hike on the bank of the reservoir, but the rest of the year, the water level subsides and one can have a nice walk along the shore of the lake. The reservoir is a short drive for me and I usually go there with my dog, Bongo, once a month for a hike.

Every time I have been to Jhumka reservoir for a hike, we walk on the grassier side of the lake for about a couple of kilometers and then turn back. The other side of the lake is covered by a thick forest with uneven terrain extending to the shore of the lake. On multiple occasions, the thought of hiking around the entire lake has popped into my head but pushed it away due to not being adequately prepared or there not being enough time before nightfall.

On Saturday, Feb 24th, I decided that I’d like to hike the entire loop. I started from home early, at around 2 PM with Bongo. It was a cloudy late winter afternoon, quite pleasant to go around. I did not want to eat before we started the hike, so I packed some lunch for myself.

We started our hike at around 3 PM from the grassy side of the lake adjoining the dam. The shores of the lake near the dam are a popular picnic spot amongst the locals and, unfortunately, quite filthy. Once you walk a few hundred meters there is less litter and just green grass. This side of the lake is always a pleasure to walk. It has a scenic shoreline with rolling hills covered by grass. If you feel hot at any time, you can take a dip in the lake.

After walking for about 45 minutes, I felt hungry. I sat on the grass and started having lunch while Bongo took in all the new smells. The reservoir is a hot spot for birds. They come here to cool down, catching some fish or insects. I spent some time admiring the scenery and listening to the birds.

To cross over to the other side of the reservoir, I kept walking along the bank until I came across a very narrow stream of water that I could jump over. There was no bird activity here which made the place feel eerie. I noticed a group of cows grazing nearby, but they quickly scattered upon seeing me and Bongo approaching. It struck me as unusual, considering cows are typically accustomed to human presence. Could their skittish behavior be a result of other nearby predators? Luckily, I didn’t come across any throughout the hike. I had hiked 3.2 km before crossing over to the other side of the reservoir.

The beginning of the hike on the other side was easy. There was enough space around the reservoir to walk along the banks. After walking for a kilometer, we had to find a route within the forest as there was no shoreline to walk on. This part of the hike was tough. There were no trails through the forest, and I had to make my own way. The forest was full of bamboo trees, and thorny shrubs. To avoid them, I had to crawl on the forest bed for quite a bit of distance. I had Strava running and decided that it would be best to keep making my way through the forest parallel to the shore of the lake. Since I had GPS and maps, I was confident of not losing my way.

Progress was slow and tough. After hiking through the forest for an hour, I had multiple scratches on my arms, my shirt was torn and thorns had found their way into my boot. The thought of turning back and retracing my steps crossed my mind, but I kept pushing myself to keep moving forward for a few more minutes. At times, the shoreline was wide enough to walk on, but after a few hundred meters, the path would be blocked by dead bamboo trees. I thought of swimming across, but with a bag on my shoulders that wasn’t possible. So it was back to crawling on the forest floor again.

It took me over an hour to hike 3 kilometers through the forest. Bongo handled everything well, but after hiking more than 8 kilometers he appeared exhausted. Once out of the forest, we walked adjacent to the shore for a few hundred meters before we were met with another filthy picnic area littered with plastic. The lack of toilet infrastructure meant that there was human poop to navigate around as-well.

Strava route map and splits
Activity details from Strava

It was past 6:30 PM by the time we made it back to the bike. Even though I was exhausted, hurting from all the thorns that I had brushed against, dirty and generally very itchy I was glad that I pushed through and completed the loop. Over the next few days, the wounds healed, but the itchiness persisted. It took a week for the itchiness to go away. I am happy that I completed the loop, and I look forward to doing it again in the summer months.