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Old 11th December 2008, 06:51   #16
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Thanks for the ratings. Hope I will not disappoint you though this is a very small extended weekend trip. Talking of film cameras, I will also keep my F60. I do a lot of slide (E6) photography and it would come very handy.

The forest bungalow inside Gorumara can be booked from the Forest Dept at Writers Building. Plan to stay there next time, if contacts can be worked out.

Its really thrilling to come from the Jatra Prasad tower in the evening. Most drivers tend to leave early in order to avoid driving that section in the dark. I have a somewhat fixed driver whom I always hire when I go to Dooars. He has senses sharper than a guide. He does the reverse. He coaxes me to stay back late and leave last. That way, we have come across a tusker once right on the road.

Its really sad about the state of roads around Mongpong. I have seen that road silky smooth in 2006 and before and I drove a fully loaded Bolero at ~100kph on that section on our way from NJP to Buxa. Thats another travelogue to write. (I almost always ask the driver to let me drive while he sits beside me. Having known him for some years, he happily obliges).
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Old 11th December 2008, 07:30   #17
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Default Bengal Duars Railway and Khunia Reserve

Coming back to the trip. As I had mentioned, I planned to visit Jhalong-Bindu the next day, but had to change plans due to political unrest.

Today we plan to have a early morning trip to Khunia reserve, visit a tea garden and then spend the rest of the day around Murti. I got up early in the morning. The sky was just getting lighted. Came out of my room and found a few enthusiastic members of my team were also up. Its always magical to see a day start in the middle of a forest. Me and a handful of others decided to relish the experience in a very different way.

One of the early risers
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If you have been to Lataguri, before you arrive at the resorts from Chalsa/Murti, there is a narrow guage railway line that you will have to cross. This is the old Bengal Duars Railway line, laid way back in 1902 by the British, to transport tea from the Assam Valley. The southern portion of this line now falls in Bangladesh. This line, is however , abandoned now. At Lataguri, one end of the line goes inside Gorumara forest, while the other end winds its way behind the resorts, through the forests.

The latest Spiderman DVD
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0027-large.jpg

We decided to walk along that line and follow it inside the forest. Nobody uses that line any more except those villagers who go inside the forest to collect wood. We decided to walk along that line for some time. It was a very high risk thing to do as we could have encountered wild animals any time, but whats life without some adventure? It was a magical experience to hear the birds atop the trees, the sky was getting brighter and it was the start of another day. The ground was wet with overnight frost and while I was very alert about wildlife coming around, I would not hear them coming as there wont be any sound from the leaves on the ground.

We walked for about 45mins and then decided to go back to the resort. It was also time to get ready for the morning safari. The cars were ready by 6am and off we were to Khunia. We took the Murti - Khunia road. There was fresh dung from elephants on the road side, still smoking in the winter morning.

The Khunia watchtower is unique in that area. It has very less tall vegetation coverage around and the visible range is quite far.

Our convoy rolling in at Khunia, nullifying all chances of sighting
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0026-large.jpg

This maximizes the change of sighting here. We waited for around 30mins and then we found out a few bisons grazing happily in the morning sun. First, there was 4-5, then 10 and then I stopped counting.

Few bisons
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Few more
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Took a few shots at them. After staying there for around 1 hr, nothing else came by. It was time to leave. We came back to the resort and hot puri-sabji was waiting for us.

The Bengal Duars Railway
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0021-large.jpg

To be continued..

Last edited by Saurabh M : 11th December 2008 at 07:36.
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Old 11th December 2008, 08:16   #18
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Mesmerizing...and that last shot of railway track is stuff for gallery. Waiting for more.
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Old 11th December 2008, 09:01   #19
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Amazing

Last pic is breathtaking.
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Old 11th December 2008, 10:22   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1100D View Post
Heh! Heh! That makes the three of us. However my Rebel 2000 is thinking of rebellion, however, I have not been able to totally rule out its future usage.
Rebelling Rebel! But in my opinion you had some of the best shots on your father's Canon (forgot the model). The sunrise sequence at Kanyakumari and the sunset at Kovallam are awesome. Pity it's damaged.

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Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
Talking of film cameras, I will also keep my F60.
Mine still in store as well, have a few films lying around (even a couple of B&W ones since I wanted to learn film processing, but then lost the opportunity and finally better sense prevailed and I went digital..was almost on the verge of going broke by then!). It's going to stay and be used. In fact had clicked on it last year on the Mirik/Jorepokhri/Darjeeling trip. Even my dad's Minolta makes it appearance at times. It's metering though had problems, was repaired, and then again went haywire. Somehow my brother still managed to squeeze decent pictures out of it before he too went digital last year.


Now lot's of reasons to get in touch with you Saurabh before we plan our next trip. I was already bowled over by my first visit to the forests (wild life or no wild life). Getting the opportunity. there surely is going to be a next one, but this time it will be planned differently (though am sure this still will be on public transport as a few people may want to inquire ).

We had to severely restrict our visit to a few areas as because of the problems in the hills and the Dooars a number of watchtowers had become inaccessible. People couldn't move out of the region and all resorts were full (at least someone was doing good business). Need another trip and a few more as well.

Glad that materials are building up on T-bhp now. I had searched the forum before my visit in June but was surprised not to find any.

Keep this coming and don't forget to log your other trips too.
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Old 12th December 2008, 16:14   #21
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Saurabh
No post from you. Meanwhile, wanted to get some local funda from you about Maithon. Going there tomorrow with a few friends and family. Wonder if you will see this before tomorrow morning our time.
Sudipto
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Old 12th December 2008, 19:41   #22
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Sorry, had a major project go-live last night. Will post the rest of the travelogue today.
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Old 13th December 2008, 08:08   #23
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Default The tour ends

Lets continue with our journey into the forests of N Bengal. As planned, after breakfast, we left the resort and visited a nearby tea garden. But this was not what the guys were looking forward to, since morning. I had told them that they better brush up their swimming skills. All of them were wondering, where on Earth will they get to swim in the middle of a forest

The clear water of Murti
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0029-large.jpg

Well, from the tea garden, we came to Murti and parked the cars along the road and walked under the bridge that crosses the Murti river, and there it was...their swimming (pool).

The bridge on the river Murti
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0034-large.jpg

While most of the wives and children chose to walk around and explore the surroundings, the enthusiatic once, because of the hint from me, had brought towels and another set of clothes with them.

Strolling along the Murti
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0030-large.jpg

They jumped right into the river and had a great time splashing around. Seeing them, the drivers jumped in as well. It was hilarious to see them drive us back to the resort in wet clothes.

Excitement!!
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0031-large.jpg

After lunch, we left for Chapramari Reserve. Chapramari has never disappointed me before and I was praying that this time, I am equally lucky. As we rolled over to the tower and the cars were being parked, one of the guides came running, saying that there is a Rhino that has been around the saltpit for the last couple of hours, happily grazing away. We tried to maintain utmost silence and took up our positions on the tower. There it was, basking in the Sun and grazing around, totally oblivious of the large number of people looking at it (or was it utmost ignorance to lesser humans). I did not count how many shots I took of it with my 300mm, but soon that lens became a binocular (or monocular) for those who did not have a binocular with them. In between taking shots, I was letting people take a peak at the rhino through my lens. Some of my guys asked me to charge them 10/- per view

Rhino at Chapramari
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0008a-large.jpg

Its quite unnatural to get a rhino at Chapramari. I have seen elephant herds there before. Came to know from the guides that this rhino has strayed from the Bhutan hills and the forest authorities are trying to send it back there. Whatever it was, we were very lucky. The rhino stayed there for about an hour and then gradually moved away in the deeper and darker parts of the forest. It was also getting dark for us. We headed back to the resort.

In the evening, under the full moon, we had a campfire. Everybody participated and it was booze and songs flowing.

The bonfire warming up
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0021-large.jpg

One of the guys had carried a guitar and it came to good use. This continued late into the night.

Those who still had the "spirit" flowing
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0024-large.jpg

After bidding good night to all, I retired for the day. It was a day very well spent.

Next morning, we had breakfast and the rest of the day till lunch was left free to roam about. Some of the guys went to visit the deer park opposite to the resort. We left the resort after lunch.

Its time to go home
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0011-large.jpg

After going through the ordeal of the bad roads, we stopped at Mongpong. The team had a brief walk around the area and the Sal forests. As the sun was setting against the woods, it was time for us to leave again for NJP. We took Darjeeling mail and reached Kolkata next morning.

Sunset at Mongpong
DOOARS - A Return Journey-fip0027b-large.jpg

Overall, the trip was excellent. I was happy because the team was very content and happy. For most of them, it was a first visit to a forest and they enjoyed to the brim. I had earlier taken my team to Sundarbans and Digha (for the couple of years that I managed that Account), but never did the team enjoy so much.

So, as another travelogue comes to an end, hope you have enjoyed. Before signing off, let me leave you with an old friend of mine, who paid a visit to me as we chatted sitting on the veranda of my cottage.

See you soon...again
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Old 13th December 2008, 08:20   #24
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Wow...some fun filled outing you guys had. And again the last sunset was a beauty. Thanks for sharing the travelouge.
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Old 13th December 2008, 15:09   #25
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Wonderful travelogue and some very nice pictures!!!
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Old 13th December 2008, 21:57   #26
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@Sudev, TheOne : Thanks for your comments. The place is indeed very beautiful.
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Old 15th December 2008, 00:30   #27
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Nice travelogue Saurabh. This is my native place, your travelogue made me homesick.
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Old 15th December 2008, 07:42   #28
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Nice travelogue Saurabh. This is my native place, your travelogue made me homesick.
Its great to know that you are from that area. It has become my favourite over the last few years. Where exactly are you from? Would be nice if you can share some experience of yours. There is not much info on N Bengal in TBHP.
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Old 15th December 2008, 12:32   #29
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Thanks Saurabh for a nice travelogue. Dooars has remained pristine by default. It is ill connected. Has very minimal tourist infrastructure. And there is no government promotion. All this has been good for us tourists who love to venture out of the ordinary and prefer off-beat destinations.
Now that tea gardens have been officially allowed to get into hospitality business I think some amount of promotion of this region will happen. Harsh Neotia has already tied up with Makaibari and some exclusive holiday packages are being sold. I am sure more will follow soon. Keeping fingers crossed.
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Old 15th December 2008, 20:27   #30
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Now that tea gardens have been officially allowed to get into hospitality business I think some amount of promotion of this region will happen. Harsh Neotia has already tied up with Makaibari and some exclusive holiday packages are being sold. I am sure more will follow soon. Keeping fingers crossed.
Yes. Tea tourism is one important step that needs to be taken, atleast to save the hapless tea estate workers. If you travel to Samsing-Suntaleykhola from Chalsa, you will pass tea gardens extending for kms, which have been abandoned. It really makes a very sorry sight.

Some serious steps must be taken to revive the tea industry or atleast, provide alternate means of livelihood for the labourers. Almost all major tea gardens have fabulous bungalows. Serious effort needs to be taken to rent them out and generate some money for the welfare of the labourers.
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