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Old 2nd June 2015, 06:58   #1
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Default Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

When we finally parked our car on Sunday, the trip-meter reading was at 1385 km. We drove off from the same parking lot thirteen days ago on May 19. It was not an unplanned vacation neither a fully planned one. We had two fixed destinations: our family home at Malda and in-laws house at Birbhum. However, this travelogue is more about the detour of 750 km that we ended up taking through the captivating region of Dooars!

The mountain, the river, the wild
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... the grazing cattles
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... and the flowers.
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The companions,
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the man and the machine.
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Dooars or Duars:
The region at the foothills of Himalayas in the state of West Bengal and Assam is referred as Dooars or Duars. This region forms a natural gateway or the 'door' to Bhutan. Evergreen Dooars is breathtakingly beautiful and it has numerous places of tourist interests.
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The last moment planning:

Initially, we had planned to drive on Sunday to Malda. However, I couldn't finish the work that I wanted to finish before the weekend. It meant that I had to be in office on Monday as well. So we postponed our drive to Malda for Tuesday. Meanwhile on Sunday, while discussing our upcoming drive, we thought that if we squeeze out a day or two from both Malda and Birbhum then we could drive up north from Malda for few days. As discussed, I began scouting for accommodation. It turned out to be easy as I had very limited options! Online bookings were made for the first night at WBFDC Mongpong and for the next two at WBTDC Murti.

Our car Maruti Estilo went through its annual full-service at Starburst Motors, Kalyani about a week ago. The day before the journey, I also got the car refueled up to the brim. Then tyre pressure was checked for all tyres including the stepney. I also checked the levels of engine oil, brake oil and the coolant.


Day 1: Drive to Malda
Home-to-home distance: 268 km through NH-34

We began our drive at 5:15 am. Our plan was to reach Malda and have lunch at home. The morning was misty. We were making modest progress as four-laning work for this stretch of NH-34 has began recently. We were held-up briefly at Ranaghat and Shantipur railway crossings. Eventually we reached Krishnanagar at 7 am and felt a strong urge for a tea-break.

Morning mist
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Approaching Krishnanagar
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We resumed from Krishnanagar almost immediately after the tea. The next few stretches of NH-34 up to Baharampur were in bad shape. So progress was expected to be rather slow despite having some amount of already 4-laned stretches.

Behind the wheel
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Rural Bengal
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Green horizon
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Meanwhile, our daughter Reeha had woken up from her sleep and had started feeling uncomfortable due to motion sickness. So we decided to stop and take a short break after Debagram. We had our breakfast packed with us. We then used this break to fill up our tummy. Meanwhile Reeha had started playing with a flock of chickens near a house where we had stopped! This led her to recover rather quickly.

Let's have a break!
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We resumed our journey after 20 minutes or so. We made slow but steady progress through a mix of good and bad roads.

Approaching Baharampur
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We crossed Bhagirathi bridge at Baharampur around 10:15 am. The best stretch of NH-34 was waiting in front of us!

Shibpur toll plaza
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Blissful drive on NH-34
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We were rapidly approaching towards Farakka through excellent surface of NH-34. A black cloud was slowly forming and soon it started to drizzle. However, it didn't last long as the sky started to clear up.

welcome drizzle
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Beautiful Bengal
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Ballalpur RoB
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We crossed Farakka barrage over Ganges at around 12:25 pm. Soon we were greeted by a massive jam while approaching Kaliachak. It took us almost an hour to take the exit from NH-34 at Kaliachak. We reached home finally at 2:15 pm.

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Last edited by gmhossain : 6th June 2015 at 09:32.
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Old 3rd June 2015, 06:56   #2
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Day 2-5: At home
We spent next four days at home with my parents, family members. It was peak of summer. However, one major attraction of Malda in summer is mango! The district of Malda is often referred as the Mango Valley as it produces some of the most delicious varieties of mango. In these days, I feasted on mango in every meal starting from breakfast to dinner!

Day 6: Kaliachak to Mongpong
Driving distance: around 310 km using NH-34, NH-31

As planned, we began our second leg of drive on Sunday. It was around 5:15 am when we moved out of home. We took the route via Mothabari instead of going through Kaliachak. The surface of this route was better. We planned to join NH-34 just before Malda town.

Mango valley of Malda
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Within few minutes of landing on NH-34, we faced a long snarl at the approach to Malda town. It was only around 6 am. Even for NH-34, it seemed unusual to me. As suggested by a passer-by, we drove through few interior town roads to rejoin NH-34 after Rathbari More.

Traffic snarl approaching Malda town
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Through by-lanes of Malda town
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We crossed over Malda town at around 6:45 am. The next stretch of NH-34 up to Raiganj was in advanced stage of four-laning work. Although toll operation had not yet started, some stretch was already delightful to drive!

NH-34 post-Malda
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At around 9:35, we began our drive through the town of Dalkhola. This place is known to be a bottleneck on NH-34. So we had planned for an hour of buffer time for Dalkhola. Lucky us! We zipped through the town and crossed the infamous railway crossing without even stopping!

Through Dalkhola town
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Unexpected meeting with a Distinguished BHPian:

After crossing Dalkhola town, we began our drive on NH-31. Soon we reached and stopped at BP Dalkhola for food and fuel. We were pleasantly relaxed as we were running an hour ahead of our plan. We were waiting for our food to arrive. Then I noticed a gorgeous black Scorpio to arrive and stop just in front of our car. A gentleman came down from the SUV and asked whether I am a member of Team-BHP! I answered in affirmative rather excitedly. He introduced himself as Sheel. It was a great pleasure to meet Sheel in person whom I knew online since I became a member of Team-BHP.

At BP Dalkhola
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With DBHPian Sheel
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Somehow I was not in best of my mood since morning. However, meeting with Sheel, followed by a delicious food at BP Dalkhola had changed my mood rather dramatically! Around 11 am, we resumed our drive from there. As we were progressing towards north, the landscape and weather both were changing visibly. Lush green surrounding and pleasant weather was simply mesmerizing.

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Reeha's tryst with Lajjawati (Touch-me-not plant)
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Pineapple field
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Approaching Siliguri
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Drive through Sevoke:
We crossed Siliguri at around 1:40 pm and soon we began our voyage through Sevoke. The drive through Sevoke was simply an awe-inspiring experience.

Beautiful Sevoke
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Last edited by gmhossain : 4th June 2015 at 20:39.
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Old 3rd June 2015, 22:52   #3
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Sevoke to Mongpong:

At Sevoke, we thought of having a light lunch at a roadside hotel as we already had a heavy brunch. However, the lunch tasted rather pale specially after the delightful food that we had at BP Dalkhola! Anyway, we then headed towards iconic Coronation bridge to enjoy the surrounding views as we had ample time in hand to reach Mongpong.

Estilo's first ride on Himalayan road
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Iconic Coronation bridge
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Teesta river
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After spending some gala time near Coronation bridge, we began our drive towards final destination for the day. It was around 3:30 pm, when we finally checked into our WBFDC cottage.

Way to WBFDC Mongpong
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WBFDC Mongpong
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Encounter with an HVKian:

It had been a blissful day for us. However, it seemed that there were more surprises to come. While checking in, I was told that we were the last guests to arrive for the day. Others had already checked in. There were only four cottages at WBFDC Mongpong. While parking our Estilo, I saw two parked cars: a Mahindra Quanto with badly damaged door panels appeared to be caused by a recent accident and a white Maruti Wagon R with "HVK" stickers on it! Both had number plates from Kolkata.

After freshening up a bit, we went out near Mongpong check-post for a stroll. While we were waiting at a tea-shop, a gentleman wearing a "HVK" t-shirt approached me and asked: "Are you gmhossain of Team-BHP?" Holy lord! Yes! There were no words to describe the excitement! Apparently, he had noticed the Team-BHP stickers on our car. Afterward, I enjoyed a long conversation with him. He and his family were heading towards a remote home-stay at Sikkim in the next morning.

Guess who?
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The Second Encounter:

We were feeling bit tired in the evening. So we requested them to serve our dinner in the room. The service boy was bringing different food items one by one. In this process, suddenly he started whispering to say something! He repeated his words almost in the same manner. I didn't understand a single word. However, I could realize from his expression that something was unusual. So I went out of the cottage almost immediately to see what's wrong! The next scene appeared more like a movie scene! In the dim light of the night, I could clearly see a lonely elephant standing just about 30 feet away from us! I was speechless for a while. After sometime, others too came out of their cottages. The elephant in the meantime, had decided to walk away and it disappeared rather rapidly in the darkness!

The place where the elephant stood!
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Old 5th June 2015, 22:17   #4
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Day 7: Mongpong-Gorubathan-Mal Bazar-Murti

The morning
After a sound sleep, we woke up quite early in the morning and decided to go for a walk in the surrounding areas. The weather was very pleasant and it was soothing for the soul. Road was devoid of any traffic in the morning. Two dogs from the neighborhood decided to give us company for the entire walk.

Early morning
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Wild flowers
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Mongpong
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Back to the cottage
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Drive to Damdim:

We checked out from WBFDC Mongpong at around 11 am and our final destination for the day was Murti. It was an hour drive from there. So we were in no hurry and we decided to take a detour towards Gorubathan on the way. In the meantime, other two cars Quanto and Wagon R both had moved out. While having a chat with the owner of the Quanto, I got to know that they had an accident on their way to Siliguri from Kolkata. Both doors on the passenger sides were jammed due to the damaged door panels. However, they had decided to continue their week-long road trip as the vehicle appeared to run just fine. That was a spirit of road-trip!

Reeha with her leafy cap
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Shades of green
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Headed towards Damdim
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North East Frontier Railway
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Drive through tea garden near Bagrakote
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Damdim-Gorubathan-Damdim:

At Damdim we took exit from NH-31C and started our drive towards Gorubathan. We didn't have any definite plan. So we drove, stopped, drove whenever we wanted. The drive through surrounding greenery of the tea gardens was an experience of a different kind.

At Damdim crossing
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Tea graden
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Tea leaf
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Collecting souvenir
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After spending some time at Gorubathan, we decided to return to Damdim and head towards Mal Bazar from there.

Loaded enough?
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Flowers
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Lower Fagu tea garden
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The companions
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Himalayan backdrop
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Lunch at Mal Bazar

By the time we reached Mal Bazar, it was 1:30 pm. We were feeling very hungry. However, we could not locate any big restaurant. So we decided to have lunch in a small hotel that we could find. It was quite clean and appeared to be run buy a lady who was basically multi-tasking as cook, waitress and so on. When we asked about available food options, one of the item she mentioned was Chhoto macher begun chorchori (a special fish recipe prepared with brinjal). Without second thought, we ordered for one along with rice, dal etc. It turned out to be amazingly tasty.

However, there was a small problem. Our daughter Reeha isn't fond of fish and she wanted to have an egg. Unfortunately, there was no egg item available. The lady then approached us and offered to make her an omelette which she refused to have. Reeha said "no, no, boiled egg...". The lady then said no problem. She went ahead to boil an egg quickly for her. After a short while, the lady came back with a peeping hot boiled egg. However, Reeha wasn't impressed and she told her that you didn't listen fully. She wanted "..boiled egg and then fried". The lady gave her a big smile and said "sure I will do that for you". Reeha was elated when her cherished egg preparation was delivered.

We enjoyed the delicious lunch with a feeling of fulfillment. Then, it was the time for bill. She asked just Rs. 140 for all three of us! I was confused as it seemed rather low to me. So I asked her again which she confirmed. In life, we need money to buy many things but there are something which are truly priceless. This sweet memory from this small hotel will linger around in our mind for long time to come.

Through the town of Mal Bazar
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Refueled our car at BP Mal Bazar
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Old 6th June 2015, 10:19   #5
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After food and fuel at Mal Bazar, we drove sedately to our resort at Murti. The road was good and beautiful. It took us half an-hour or so to reach there. Murti Tourist Resort by WBTDC was a relatively new property. There was also a WBFDC property, called Banani at Murti.

Murti Tourist Resort by WBTDC:

We checked into WBTDC Murti at around 3 pm. We were given a wooden cottage with AC. While booking online, I felt this government-owned resort was bit expensive at 2.7K per night with taxes. However, we found the exterior and interior of the cottage was well maintained and quite cosy.

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Our cottage for next two nights
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WBTDC Murti
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The resort had nicely maintained and well decorated lawn. Reeha had exciting time playing there.

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The evening at Murti:
After having afternoon snacks, we went to the bank of Murti river to spend the evening. Being summer, the water level at the river was shallow and we could walk through it. The river bed nevertheless was bit slippery.

Murti river
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Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary on the other side
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Slowly the evening was setting in and the darkness was covering the entire surrounding.

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After returning from the river side, we went to the cafeteria and gave order for the dinner. My wife wanted to have a veg meal and I asked for a chicken curry. However, we were thoroughly disappointed with the food. The bowl of vegetables was stale. When we showed it to them they replaced with some other curry. Even chicken curry tasted rather pathetic to me. Usually, it's very hard to make chicken curry that tastes bad at least to me. WBTDC apparently had outsourced catering for the resort to some local restaurant. Anyway, after this we decided to have lunch outside and have only rice and dal for the next dinner. We went to bed rather quickly as we planned to drive to Lataguri for jungle safari at the Gorumara National Park in the next morning.

Last edited by gmhossain : 6th June 2015 at 23:05.
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Old 6th June 2015, 18:25   #6
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Day 8: Murti-Lataguri-Murti

The morning began with the sound of alarm bell. It was 4 am and outside was dark! Last night we made a plan to go for jungle safari in Gorumara National Park in the morning. To complete paper-work and related formality for the safari, we needed to reach the ticket counter of Nature Interpretation Center at Lataguri by 5:30 am. Or at least that's what we gathered after talking to the receptionist and a little bit of googling in my phone. Lataguri was about 18 km away from our resort and I was not sure about the condition of the road. So we thought of starting our drive at 4:45 am and planned to reach there by 5:15 am or so.

The morning thunderstorm:

While we were getting ready, the sky was getting brighter. The darkness was slowly receding. However, soon I noticed that the sky was in fact getting dark again. A black cloud was seen to be forming. Within few minutes, a strong wind started to blow, together with severe lightning. Soon it started to rain. Our mood turned rather gloomy. The thunderstorm continued for more than an hour. It basically meant that our plan for morning jungle safari was effectively washed away by the thunderstorm!

Finally, the rain stopped just before 6 am. The sky was still cloudy. I felt bit disappointed with the turn of events. However, I thought of going out to enjoy the rain-drenched nature. My wife and daughter stayed back in the cottage.

Rain drenched lawn
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The Sun was playing hide-n-seek
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Compensation by Nature:

In the last evening, I was pondering over a question: was Murti an overrated destination? There was a beautiful river, a lush green surrounding and a wildlife sanctuary across the river. However, the same was true for almost entire region of Dooars. After spending a night there, I was still not convinced about the special distinction of Murti.

While I was walking alone in the morning along the river bank, the nature slowly appeared to become kind. The sky started to clear rapidly. In the next few moments, Murti started to unfold its beauty in front of my eyes. It simply blew away my doubt about Murti. The morning rain had dramatically increased the visibility. The Himalayan backdrop was profoundly clear. White cloud appeared to touch the ground. I gave a call to my better-half to come quickly to the river bank. It looked like the nature has decided to compensate us in its own way.

Heavenly Murti
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Simply Dooars...
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Eventually, the sky became fully clear and Sun started shining brightly. The Himalayan backdrop which was clearly visible earlier, started to fade away. We began to walk back to our resort. On the way, we discussed that if there were no thunderstorm, we would have been in jungle safari by then. However, then we would have never knew the true beauty of Murti.

Glittering river
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The revised plan for jungle safari:

While having our breakfast, we started discussing on possibility of having another try for jungle safari. We were supposed to drive back to Malda on the next day. The distance was close to 350 km and there were couple of known bottlenecks on the way. We also did not want to drive in the night. In other words, there was no possibility that we could go for safari in the next morning. So only option that we had was to try for the afternoon safari.

Drive to Lataguri:

We had planned last night to have our lunch anywhere but in our resort. So we thought of having our lunch also at Lataguri. Accordingly, we began our drive around 10:40 am after taking shower at the resort.

Headed towards NH-31
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On NH-31
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A section of the route from Murti to Lataguri runs through Gorumara National Park. We enjoyed its breathtaking natural beauty on our way.

Through Gorumara National Park
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We reached Lataguri at around 11:10 am. There I gathered that the ticket counter for afternoon safari would open at 3 pm. We would need to go to a different counter of Forest department which was about a kilometer away from Nature Interpretation Center. In the meantime, the sky had started to become cloudy again.

Last edited by gmhossain : 6th June 2015 at 23:25.
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Old 7th June 2015, 00:04   #7
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th June 2015, 00:30   #8
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

OHH!! what greenery. It will beat Kerala it seems.

Roads too are awesome.
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Old 7th June 2015, 02:10   #9
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

Wonderful photologue. Looking at Dooars after quite some time.

The roads seem great. These used to be pathetic. And the greenery, thankfully, has stayed the same.

Thanks for taking us on this journey!
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Old 7th June 2015, 02:52   #10
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

Awesome photos!!! Thank you for sharing these images!

And you seem to have the finest back country roads available in WB :-) !

How did the car perform?
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Old 7th June 2015, 10:51   #11
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

Beautiful travelogue

Ideally, I would like to pen a travelogue like this and read travelogues of the same nature. Has all the ingredients I wish for. Road photos, Car photos, nature pictures and with details. Only thing missing is food pics, but then, there is always next time.

And meeting you was a pleasure as well. Hope to catch up soon

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Old 7th June 2015, 11:51   #12
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

Beautifully captured everything about those places. Looks like you got a moist climate all along your journey. Beautiful lush greens!

Just curious, what are those cottages on stilts (second pic from your first post)?
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Old 7th June 2015, 14:32   #13
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

Quote:
Originally Posted by vdi View Post
OHH!! what greenery. It will beat Kerala it seems. Roads too are awesome.
Thanks vdi! I guess, Kerala is unique in its own way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aryasanyal View Post
Wonderful photologue. Looking at Dooars after quite some time.

The roads seem great. These used to be pathetic. And the greenery, thankfully, has stayed the same. Thanks for taking us on this journey!
Thanks Arya! Indeed, the roads in Bengal have been improving lately. Specially the state highways are better maintained now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by john doe View Post
Awesome photos!!! Thank you for sharing these images!
And you seem to have the finest back country roads available in WB :-) !
How did the car perform?
Thanks John! Estilo performed beautifully. It has been a very reliable car to us for last four years. Actually, I am a sedate driver. So terms like low-end toque are alien to me!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheel View Post
Beautiful travelogue

Ideally, I would like to pen a travelogue like this and read travelogues of the same nature. Has all the ingredients I wish for. Road photos, Car photos, nature pictures and with details. Only thing missing is food pics, but then, there is always next time.

And meeting you was a pleasure as well. Hope to catch up soon
Thanks Sheel! Indeed, we have missed food pictures. Sure, hope to meet you soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
Beautifully captured everything about those places. Looks like you got a moist climate all along your journey. Beautiful lush greens!
Just curious, what are those cottages on stilts (second pic from your first post)?
Thanks! If I am not wrong these cottages were for tourists. However, I was still quite far away from those.
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Old 7th June 2015, 17:07   #14
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

At Lataguri:

We reached the designated ticket counter for jungle safari at around 11:30 am. We had more than three hours in hand. My wife and daughter decided to go for souvenir shopping. I parked our car near the ticket counter. There I met a gentleman who had just arrived and was planning to go for safari. While we were chatting he asked where I was coming from. I said "Kalyani". He then replied saying that "the world is round". Later he mentioned that he was a professor at Kalyani University! He and his family had arrived in the same morning for a trip to North Bengal.

After a while my wife and daughter returned. However, I didn't see any shopping bag in their hand. I thought may be they did not find anything interesting. Then she told me that during lunch we should take our car to the shop to pick up the stuffs that she had already shortlisted. After lunch she would go for next round of shopping!

We had a sumptuous lunch at a roadside hotel. The menu included a delicious fish curry called Pabda macher jhol. Then we drove to the souvenir shop. Among the stuffs that I picked up in the car were tea, locally produced fragrant rice, wooden toys,... . Then we drove to the ticket counter around 2:30 pm. At 3 pm, we paid the requisite fees for the Gypsy and forest charges. A senior couple from Amritsar happily agreed to share the ride with us.

Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-img_47821.jpg


Jungle Safari at Gorumara National Park:

Finally, our Gypsy began to roll at 3:40 pm. All uncertainty since morning towards our safari came to an end. Personally, I had no expectation of seeing any animals. However, our daughter was excited. She had already complained to me that at Mongpong I did not call them early enough to see the elephant. They could only hear the noise when the elephant was leaving.

The Gypsy
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and the Riders
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We had our first sighting rather soon. A peacock! I assured myself that at least it won't be a perfect zero this time!

A peacock
Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-img_4856.jpg

In next two hours, we could not spot any other animals. The jungle nevertheless was simply stunning. It was feast for the eyes.

The trail
Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-img_4818.jpg

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More two-legged than four-legged one
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The silhouette
Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-img_4838.jpg

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Wild flower
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Food for elephants
Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-img_4865.jpg


Towards the end of safari, however, we turned lucky. There was a prized spotting. An elephant!

The prized spotting! An elephant
Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-img_4887.jpg

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An evening drive back to Murti
Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-img_4917.jpg

Through the jungle
Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-20150526192510_26.75498_88.78224_1000008.jpg

Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature-20150526185109_26.72938_88.77618_1000008.jpg
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Old 8th June 2015, 14:36   #15
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Default Re: Dooars - A blissful drive to the lap of nature

Awesome Sir! Excellent travelogue and pictures to match. Kudos to Estilo on successfully completing the first Himalayan trail.

One note : The wooden toys in Lataguri/Gorumara are not locally built. I was in Gorumara in March this year. There I found the same toy as it was selling in Nainital when we traveled in Oct 2014.
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