View as we head to the mountains
Excitement filled in me with the very thought of adventure. The jungles gives me an instant vivid picture of childhood days in the North East! Yes, we planned for the Dooars – one of the breathtaking jungles of North Bengal, India
It was a late night train from Sealdah to Jalpaiguri by Darjeeling mail. Winter was just making its final retreat & the weather was absolutely brilliant. We had a pleasant journey.
I could feel the fresh air on reaching Jalpaiguri . Antare Sherpa the driver a jovial guy lead us to his Marshal for the rest of the journey uphill. He will be our guide as well. We were late by few hours with few breaks for a flat tyre – unpredictable but no choice. Otherwise, the journey to Mutri (we chose this place as the base) was pretty good. After nearly 10 years or so I got to experience the hills. It was indeed breath taking!
Murti River at the backdrop from our hotel room
It was noon when we reached the Govt. lodge – Murti Banani with the Murti River gurgling as a beautiful setting at its backdrop. After a quick shower and lunch we were off for a jungle safari to Gorumara National Park at around 3.00 p.m. in an open jungle jeep. We had a great time and got to see an entirely different side of Gorumara. As the jungle grew deeper we could hear a variety of birds chirping & sound of animals. Our guide helped us identify. From the watch tower we could see few rhinos, deer & peacock.
The sun now was descending and everything around was growing creepy and quite chilly; our guide changed route for an experience of local folk dance. We settled down around a podium. Tea and snacks were served. With the beats of drums & singing the dancers came alive. Later we joined the troupe & danced with only one simple step. It was fun & pretty tiring but that made us feel warmer in the cold. Finally we bid adieu and descended 2 our jeep. We asked the driver to hood up as it was becoming too chilly. We all huddled to each other to keep warm, crossing miles of the jungle and reached the lodge. We ordered hot tea and some sumptuous snacks and decided to spend rest of the evening chatting till dinner, before we retired for the night.
The next day we planned to go for a long ride. Early morning our driver was on time and so our next excitement is set to unravel.
We crossed Sipchu – a forest village where the houses are made of wood and about 2 feet above ground. Almost all the houses are adorned with flowering pots in their verandahs. They remind me of my childhood days. The ongoing GNLF’s protests and bandhs seem to have entered this village. They set up camps too, to spread their voices to the eastern section of the region. My heart skipped a beat fearing risk. Shortly two shaktimans zoomed past us and our guide said that the army was here to stop these protestors from going beyond this village. From the very start when we decided to trip to North Bengal the crises was boiling in Darjeeling and some adjoining areas and my in laws were pretty apprehensive about it. We took enough information before the travel.
Well, after we crossed Sipchu, our uphill journey started. We crossed Kumani – another village. On way we saw hills of Cardamom & Rubber plantations. The beauty of seems to be coming alive. Saw two girls walking & learnt they generally walk 2 to 3 km to their home. That again reminds me of my childhood when we used to walk 2 km to school. Life is indeed very simple on the hills.
We reached Garibashaka View Point. The view point is adorned with a small open pavilion with thatched roof with bamboo seats. It is here, from where we could see way down below River Jaldhaka and the sounds seems to be quite turbulent even though part of it has dried up, being winter. A few yards beside the river we could see few official quarters of the electricity department of the Jhalong Hydel Project. Everything around was so scenic and serene.Its only the sounds of the river that made the whole area so captivating.
Brilliance of Autumn
We took off to our new destination and our downward journey began. The roads were too narrow, made me feel scary. We stopped often when we wowed to the ever changing picturesque landscape we came across and captured them. We reached Bindu, also known as Zero Point, from where we could view Bhutan border. Bridge constructed over Bindu Barrage is the connecting route of India & Bhutan. Just beyond the barrage, high up we could see the whispering Jaldhaka flowing crossing the barrage. We climbed down to however far we could but not to the river. The rumbling waters was quite prominently strong and it was not advisable to venture. The nearer we were to the River, the ripples was more clear and bellowing down through huge boulders. Bhutan was just few walks away. We wished to visit but the security at the Bhutan checkpost was away for a brunch. So we were not so lucky.
Dalgaon View Point
Dalgaon View Point was our next destination. It was now an uphill journey. On way we came across Cinchona, Epicace, Cardamom and other medicine plantations. The more we were moving uphill, our excitement seem to increase. There were villages and I was pretty surprised to see that people had made their habitation so high up. We came across a very very old woman – the wrinkles were so prominent, made me wonder how old she might be. She was seated by her house for the warmth of sunlight.
When we reached Dalgaon View Point, it was already 12:30 p.m. It’s a section of the hill flattened & landscaped with flowers.It is from here one can have the best view of the neighboring hills. The watch tower at the edge, gives a much wider view around. The pine trees, the bamboo grass used as hedges makes for a magnificent sight. We then explored the jungles walking through the pine path way. Every where the shrubs and grasses seem to brighten everything around – the hues were the red-yellow-brown combination of the winding winter. We never wanted to go back. It was already 1.30 p.m. when we decided to descend.
Our return journey took less time as we moved down hill. We crossed Matelle Tea garden and came across miles of Gattamala grass – the locals grow this grass to soften the soil for tea plantation. Among the stretch of tea plantation there were Shirish trees among to shade the tea plants.These I learnt from our own driver-guide 🙂
It was already 3.30 p.m. when we reached our lodge. After a shower and lunch we ventured to the Murti River. The water looked still from far. On reaching it was knee deep & the current was quite strong. We collected few pebbles as memory.
Early the next morning at 6.00 a.m. was our 3rd day. It was Chapramari Wild Life Sanctuary . The travel was freezing. We spent an hour or so as we expected to view wild elephants. We ended viewing some hornbills, eagles, peacocks, Mithuns & wild hen.We were not so lucky this time.
Elephant making a hurried escape
Our next destination was Jaldapara. Jaldapara Tourist Lodge was our next stay. After a quick lunch we started off to our new venture. We took along a guide for our tour to Chilapata forest. The winding routes among the forest cover and a trail of other tourist cars kept us feeling safe. After a long ride, our guide sensed some elephant herd moving inside the jungles and most of them had crossed. Watching them wild is the prime attraction. We stopped in the middle of the jungle when our guide said we need to have patience. We had to wait for half an hour or so and was lucky to see a wild elephant hurriedly crossing the road. What magnificent it was! On our return back we stopped over at Baniajhora River where a large stretch of land on the other side looked amazing where most wild animals graze. It was already 6.30 p.m. & getting dark. We couldn’t view any animals, so we decided to return back to our lodge, but undoubtedly the trip was very refreshing.
It was Elephant ride the next morning at around 6.00 a.m. to Jaldapara Reserve Forest at Hollong. It was in fact the most thrilling experience of all the ventures. The dews were still fresh on the grasses, shrubs & trees. The jungles reverberated with the cooing of the Peacocks. The mahout was making strange sounds to track the animals he wanted to show us. We maintained silence and it was only whispers when ever we were curious 🙂 After two hour long ride we came across face to face with barking deer & rhino & a coiled up python! Well, it was an experience I’ll treasure.
Winding up, don’t forget to drop by at Bapi’s restaurant for the mouth smacking bengali cuisines – from chital, AAr ,Chingri, Ilish, Patha maghsho., etc, at Mal Bazaar. And of course the famous tea leaves for friends and relatives! Ciao friends! Will come back with another of my travel experience!