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|7th October 2008, 14:06||#17|
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Sorry folks. You know the rules, I am still a newbie. All posts will have to go through the moderators. Even though they do approve these pretty fast, I am off my computer by then. A bit busy nowadays with the Durga Pujas.
Let's see how much I can manage today. Shall try to be quicker.
Day 3 continued
The rains continued to lash as long as we were in the higher land. Once we started getting nearer to the plains it started to get drier. There had been no untoward incident on the route and we started to relax a bit.
Even stopped for a photo shoot. First view of the plains. Chel river flowing through.
To the plains.
We didnít realize that we were being sucked by leeches while we were busy shooting. I had two on me, my father a couple as well and my brother had three. While trying to knock them off our skin took the opportunity to shoot some more pictures. Not sure about the name of this place but it spelt something like Phaparkathi. I am sure I am wrong as I couldnít google the place.
Another stop by this falls on the Chel river.
We reached Damdim at about half past five in the afternoon and had our first tea-break on the plains. Alam said that we were now out of the trouble zone. Though it was a relief, it was sad to see the hills gradually fading in the background. Over even before we had started to actually relish them.
My father received the awaited call from Siliguri. He turned to us and asked, 'would you like to stay inside the forest for the next two nights'? I couldn't believe my ears. When getting a booking amidst the forest was so difficult and had to be done at least 6 months in advance, here we were getting one in a day's notice! Both me and my brother jumped at the news. 'There won't be any electricity during the night' my father added, 'Will that be a problem?' 'Problem' how can that be!! We vigorously drove our point home, we were happy to stay without electricity inside the forest. 'Well, Mr Agarwal will get back to us once he has checked if the accommodation is available' my father said disconnecting the cell phone. Now, couldn't he have said that earlier. I was sure we would be spending the next day in some concrete jungle. It was impossible.
We continued on our journey towards Madarihat as suggested by Mr Agarwal over the phone. In any case, we shall be staying there before moving into Jaldapara forest range the day after.
We were travelling on the NH31, (NH31C I guess more rightly, the NH31 is the one passing through Mainaguri - Gayerkata - Falakata). Passed Malbazar, Chalsa and as we approached Nagrakata, the road indeed started to deteriorate. It remained as such for the next 10 kms or so. We were passing intermittently through tea fields and then through the long stretches of the reserve forests. It had started to get dark by now and we could hear the sounds of the night from the forests. Traffic was sparse on the route. We hoped to see a few wild animals darting across the road, but there were none.
With the cloud cover, the sky was completely dark and I was enjoying the journey.
We didn't realise that there wasn't any cell phone signal. Only when my father received 22 missed call alerts near Beer Para that it became evident. He called up Mr Agarwal in Siliguri and was told that the booking was finalised. We should go to Madarihat, a person will be waiting for us at the petrol station who will accompany us to the forest. We should buy anything we felt necessary as once 12 kms inside the forest it will be quite difficult to be out again in the night. And there won't be any cell phone connection. He also asked what would we like to have for dinner, now this was some very privileged service we were getting. My father requested him not to trouble himself and we were going to have whatever was available. Mr Agarwal said, it would be chicken curry and rice then. 'Hope that will be good enough for you'.
We reached Madarihat at about 7:30 pm. At the petrol station a boy of about fifteen was waiting to take us to the forest. On inquiring on when and how he shall return home, he said he will be back with the cook. The cook had been dispatched just a few minutes earlier to the cottages. That was the reason for Mr Agarwal insisting on the menu. We were not going to a hotel but to some forest cottages. Came to know that these had come up pretty recently from the forest department. Located in the South Khaoirabari forest it is close to the leopard rehabilitation centre.
We bought a few necessities, an extra torch, mosquito coils and some snacks. Called up the doctor in Kolkata and got some antibiotics for my mother. We were all set to spend the night in the forest. Moved away from Madarihat towards Beer para, maybe about a kilometre before the entry to the forest.
As the headlights shone on the signboard, it declared the entry to South Khoirabari reserve forest. We couldn't see much in the pitch darkness with the headlights being the only source of light and the occassional lightning flashes in the sky. Looked like it was going to rain. We had a winding mud track through the forest in front of us. It was feeling scary with the night getting inside the Spacio. On Alam's insistence as I rolled up the windows, the boy sitting at the back told us not to bother. 'We don't have anything big in these forests. Whatever we have are caged.' For some reason, half the excitement evaporated. So it was safe.
A few kilometres into the forest we saw a forest ranger patrol car, checking for any illegal tree felling. Came to know that the forest had been almost cut clean before the forestry department took the initiative of regrowing it back with Sal trees. The forest was quite young. Not much we could check in the darkness.
After a long journey in the dark, we could see the solar powered lights at the cottage. And as if to welcome us, it started to rain. I had heard about the heavy rains in these Himalayan foothills, but had no idea how heavy this could mean. We waited in the Spacio as my brother and father went to complete the formalities. I could hear a river nearby. Asked Alam, but he had not been to these parts before.
Couldn't see much in the dark and the heavy rains and so blindly followed my father and brother to our designated cottages. These I found were single roomed with two big-size beds in each and an attached bath. The cottages looked new and were extremely clean and well-maintained. It was almost 10 and time for the lights to go out. However since we had just arrived, they decided to keep them on till we had settled down for the night.
Dinner was simple and delicious with the promised chicken curry and rice. They had a separate shed which served as the kitchen and the dining hall, very rustic but served the purpose brilliantly.
It was now time to sign off for the day. Everyone was extremely tired and wanted to drop on the bed. The ordeal was now being outside the mosquito nets, more since the lights were kept on while we were out for dinner. The room and bathroom were filled with insects of all colours and sizes, bugs I had never seen before. My parents were unperturbed. They had seen such things in their childhood when there used to be more trees around than human beings.
As the lights went out and I lay on my bed, I could hear the sound of water flowing somewhere very near. The rain was still continuing though a drizzle now. The night was alive with sounds, of insects and night birds. Satisfied with the outcome of a trouble-torn holiday, I floated away into a distant land.
|7th October 2008, 17:06||#18|
Join Date: Sep 2008
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The rains had kept the night quite comfortable and even without the electricity woke up very fresh in the morning at 5:30 am. I was dying to see how it looked outside and curious about that flowing body of water.
My parents were already up and sitting in the verandah. I scrambled out of the mosquito net and joined them outside. I was greeted by this.
The cottage-front from the river bank.
There were three cottages, named, Puja, Prem, Prakriti. We had Prem and Puja to ourselves, Prakriti was empty.
The river, as I learned later, was called Buri Torsha. Villagers were fishing in it looking for that elusive and hence expensive Boirali fish. We were told that this is one of the best fish available around and one of our senior politicians from Kolkata very specifically has these served whenever he is visting these areas of Bengal.
In the morning went for a walk round the place.
River and the cottages from the bridge.
For the chowkidars and drivers
It even had a playground for the kids. Went to visit the leopard rehabilitation centre. Here the leopards are kept in an overgrown cage where they can freely move around. They have a ride in this protected area in six sitter battery operated vehicles, which they call a safari. The ride costs Rs 50 per person. They also had a few big cats here, the Royal Bengal Tiger, but their enclosure was being repaired and the tigers had been put in cages. Managed to have a long shot of this one.
The safari was planned for the afternoon.
By 10 am it had started to be hot and very humid which didnít allow us to walk around much. Better option was to stay at the cottage which my mother immediately opted for. The antibiotics had started to take effect but she still needed rest. We spent some time in the forest before getting back to the cottage.
Mr Agarwal came along to visit us bringing along a friend of his. He was from Madarihat only and his work had taken him to Siliguri the day before. He came forward as a very nice person, no wonder he was so helpful. We had realised by then that he was a very popular person in those areas and hence all the special privileges we got. We thanked him for all he had done.
Lunch was another lavish affair with a huge menu of home-style cooking.
Post lunch, took out the chairs and sat on the verandah, by the river. I didnít have much to do, so kept on clicking my camera at random.
Could hear a lot of voices as visitors poured in to the rehabilitation centre and villagers and picnickers alike took a dip in the cold river water. The cottage area was however secluded. By afternoon, the crowd had started to disperse returning the peace of the place.
Went for the leopard Safari at five. Realised it very late that my camera for some reason had shifted to the night-mode and I was not panning due to lack of space.
The evening again was spent peacefully in front of the cottage. A flock of storks were taking refuge in the trees across the river. Lazily watched them settle down for the night.
But there was no respite from the trouble. We heard that there had been violence in Beerpara during the day. There was a clash of GJMM supporters with the police, some bikes were burnt and people injured. The news was not good as we had to go through that same area the next morning. The tension remained as the dusk settled in and we prepared for another exclusive night in the forest.
|7th October 2008, 21:08||#19|
Senior - BHPian
Although the writeup is good as ever and the photographs do justice to the scenery, but I have a feeling you, as well as a few others, are not going to like what I am going to say next.
I am not making concessions to you on the grounds of these being your single digit posts numbers, because you had, as in your own words, studied the character of this forum for quite sometime now. A forum that says "redlining the Indian automotive scene" must have things to do with things automotive or things we do with them. You may argue, it can be extended to how we use them as public transportation, but thats where I draw the line.
Technically, a travelogue can be an account of any travels that have been undertaken. As it is people from our region have a penchant for excursion. At any given time of the year, visit any tourist interest in India you would find Sumo-loads of them (wearing monkey caps and mufflers irrespective of geography). They take a train, then a bus then rent a Sumo or Bolero driven by a local and visit almost every nook and cranny of mother India. Many of them turn out to have interest in photography and a flair for writing. Plenty of such literature is/were available during the book fair that we intellectually celebrate. Slowly those are also creeping into the web. But shouldn't there be a difference between the numerous "bhromon kahini"s (Travel Stories) versus that being posted on Team-bhp.
The key word here is "Public transport".
Generally a travelogue here, should have a vehicle that you or your family steered to a destination. Now if the journey involved all eyelids closed dreaming, heads nodding left and right and the mouth open while the poor driver (unrelated to you) took you to your point of interest (Oh he also woke you up at certain viewpoints) would that qualify to be a good travelogue on team-bhp?
Half of the charm of visiting an unknown place gets lost when you hitch up with a local (read: guide/ driver) who spoon feeds you all the information that one would have loved to extract by interaction with multiple people from various points. Moreover does it help someone who would want to take his own vehicle to these locations?
check this out, you'll know what I am talking about (Same geographical location)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...th-sikkim.html (10 Days - Darjeeling, Kalimpong,Gangtok and North Sikkim)
Having said this, I would have no qualms of this being written by Alam from his perspective of shouldering the responsibility of a few strangers through trouble-torn areas, not all of which was totally his backyard. I would appreciate that travelogue even if it did not have pictures or the writing not as elaborate. Lets invite Alam!
Last edited by 1100D : 7th October 2008 at 21:09.
|7th October 2008, 23:11||#20|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Chennai / Dubai
You may be right if you want to strictly follow the objective of "redlining" "the Indian automotive scene".
But by that definition, some other topics such as "International Automotive Scene" and "Shifting Gears" in the forum are way off the mark.
In my humble opinion, most threads in the Travelogue section have some brilliant narrative, great information and wonderful pictures that I have so far failed to get from anywhere else in the web.
Due to a very high quality of moderation and control, this forum has only excellent threads and corresponding posts. This exceptional feature of the forum has helped in the growth of its membership to more than 30,000.
I for one would not want any restrictions on the line suggested by you.
After all, redlining in the context of automotive only means 'pushing to the limits' and not redlining as in 'containment'.
|7th October 2008, 23:20||#21|
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@1100D - a bit harsh. the member here has taken the time to record his journey in pics and is taking pains to write it down for us. I enjoyed reading it, and like GT above said, i dont find good travelogues of india anywhere else on the net. this is one of them.
|7th October 2008, 23:27||#22|
Join Date: Sep 2008
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Thanks for enlightening me, I shall keep this in mind in future.
Well, unfortunately Alam wasn't able to do the write-up so he had personally requested me to do so (you believe that, don't you?) I may have missed out some tiny-winy bit details about the drive. Unless and until I was on the steering wheel myself, the experience would have been nothing different for me if someone from my family was driving the vehicle.
As for people willing to take their own vehicles, this will be helpful. Yes, they will have some idea on what to do in case they face a GJMM strike in the hills. They will find an internet cafe and send me a message...'Help Lumina, what to do next??'
Stay tuned for the rest of the story, with the kind permission of the moderators though. Should I continue?
PS: other than my mother and the kid, noone else was nodding in their sleep. I may have had my mouth open a number of times though...awestruck.
Last edited by Rehaan : 8th October 2008 at 11:01. Reason: Hi Lumina, no need to quote an entire large post, you can edit out the unimportant parts or leave just the 1st and last line.
|7th October 2008, 23:50||#23|
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Your photography compositions are extremely good and narration is very engaging. So keep it going.
|8th October 2008, 00:06||#24|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Aug 2005
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I can understand 1100D's point of view and would not refrain from saying that I do support it. Even I was a bit disappointed when I saw the public transport in this thread, but @Lumina, your writing and photography skills have lent an uniquness to this thread which is really enjoyable. So requesting you to please continue...
|8th October 2008, 00:08||#25|
Senior - BHPian
However, what we need to agree on is what does team-bhp represent. A collection of people associated with the passion for things automotive and driving. What does the passion for driving endow us with? The ability to travel. When we do that travel, what do some of us do? Write a travelogue, take nice pictures etc. Thats why we have the travelogue section in Team-bhp. Its like a by-product of driving.
Now there is a substantial section that subscribe to the club of wanderlust outside the domain of being an automobile afficiando. Their travels could also be documented on a travelogue without even a hint of giving anything with wheels any more respect than a tool for transportation. There isn't any hint of this travel involving either the drive or the vehicle for passion. Its a general travelogue.
|8th October 2008, 00:38||#26|
Senior - BHPian
On one hand you have the Sikkim Travelogue, where we know the person writing it has also indulged himself (and us) in these as well
Your passion for automobiles or driving isn't something that we question. But knowing @Lumina (how many years now?) I dont see anything coming on those lines in a million years from now!!
But yes, good travel information. There is dearth of information outside hence Team-bhp is the one-stop-shop for all our needs! Is there a plasma TV section?! (But ofcourse)
|8th October 2008, 00:52||#27|
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: CCU & Kitchener
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Lumina, do continue with your travelogue. I get the point mentioned by 1100D, but thats being a bit strict.
I have thoroughly enjoyed your travelogue so far. Keep it coming. You have excellent narration skills and good photographic sense.
I am myself a huge fan of the forests of Dooars and have been there consecutively for the last 3 years, 2005-07, (all in December). I can expect what is coming next. I have also spent nights on forest watch towers, looking out for the elephant or the bison herds.
One advice that I would like to give here is, if possible, when travelling to Dooars, try to avoid a driver from Siliguri. Try to get one from Chalsa or Madarihat area. They know the forests like the back of their hands. The drivers from Siliguri are too scared to venture out in the night, even on the Lataguri-Chalsa highway, let alone in the forest.
I am getting kind of tempted to write one of my own, from the 3 visits that I have made so far.
|8th October 2008, 01:51||#28|
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Lumina, I am planning a trip to these areas in October end. Please Please finish your travelogue soon, so that I can finalise the trip.
And Oh, forgot to mention A BIG THANK YOU, this write-up is "Ma-Durga" Send
|8th October 2008, 09:00||#29|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Lumina, great account and fabulous pictures.
Are there still night driving restrictions in the Chalasa area? I remember being stopped while driving from Shillong to Darjeeling a few years ago on the pretext of there being insurgency and terrorist movements across the India-Bhutan border.
Will also appreciate if you give us a summary of the route you took, so that we can plot our drives accordingly.
|8th October 2008, 09:49||#30|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Dec 2007
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Great travelogue, Lumina!
A wonderful place and the photos has caught the beauty of the place! (Not sure if the photography guru's might agree, but, for my untrained eyes, they are GREAT )
And you do have a good narration skill. Keep it going...
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