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Old 18th September 2021, 18:29   #1
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Default A Monsoonal Symphony in Netarhat

Days and Night In The Forest

In the monsoon of 2021, we visited the beautiful state of Jharkhand. Why the Chota Nagpur plateau was dearest to many of Bengal’s writers, poets and film makers was not known to me – and this trip to those hills did answer many such questions and more. The hillocks that dot the western part of Purulia get more prominent as we head West towards Orissa and Jharkhand. And the predominant tribal population of these hills that have led an isolated life, has preserved the viriginity of these places well. I can only surmise that the forests of North Bengal, in the days of the yore was either difficult to reach or hadn’t achieved fame and it is easy to see why these hills of the Chota Nagpur plateau bountiful in forests, wild life and being nearer to the bustling city became regular haunts. The thoughts of the journey, brings a chuckle to my face, remembering the nice times spent and topped up with a dinner with resident D-BHPian Saket and family. And so we go back to where it all began.

In these times, planning well in advance does not arise..The ‘which place to go’ remained undecided till a week before the journey but the availability of accommodation at Netarhat and the active support received from Saket helped use to zero in on the Netarhat-Betla-Ranchi triangle.

***

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Kash phools, that herald the arrival of Durga puja.

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11th Sep, 2021: Calcutta to Netarhat

So, on the11th of September, at 0600 HRS we rolled out from our home. The exit from Calcutta was smooth. But the familiar feeling, the rush of blood when the car caresses the highway and then with white kash flowers that are blowing in the moist, monsoonal wind, blue skies interspaced with cotton like clouds added an extra bit to joy to my already happy self. Why the smile turns into a grin when we step out of the city isn’t possible to define.

Ideally we would have loved to stop at Kolaghat for breakfast but being very early we gave it a miss. Instead we had our breakfast at a dhaba near Jhargram, which reinforced my belief that our highways are dotted with many a hidden food gem.

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The first sighting of the blue hills.

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Up, close.

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Breakfast at Jhargram.

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I am a sedate driver and if the roads are good, I try to ensure that the average speed - including the food, bio and photography breaks – hovers around 50 kmph, which I was able to maintain courtesy the excellent tarmac. This was the third time in 2021 that we were traversing NH 6 and I knew that the road post Kharagpur turns into stretch of undulating hill tops, tropical forests and in this season, kash flowers- which is soothing to the eye. Of course, kash has a spiritual connection with Bengalis since it heralds the arrival to the Durga Puja season.

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Climbing the ghats of Netarhat.

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Except for the short stretch near Jamshedpur which continues to remain bad, the journey till Ranchi was smooth. We took the ring road as suggested by Google maps which was slightly different from the one suggested by Saket. So, at one of the exits, we stopped the car – it was 2.30 PM – and asked Saket for directions. Thankfully, we were headed in the right direction.

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Breakfast at Arunodaya Guest house.

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Meadows and cultivation fields at Netarhat.

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The pine forests.

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The sky, which was sunny sometime back, had turned cloudy and shortly thereafter it started to rain. The road too had turned into a 2 lane highway, with a mix of good and bad stretches. We were treading on rural Jharkhand and small villages, livestock, cultivation fields and giant trees took the place of ugly urbanization.

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Pre-wedding photoshoot at Upper Ghagri waterfalls.

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The photographer.

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Wild flowers growing beside hill tracks.

The final stretch of the road leading to the ghats of Netarhat, running up and down, swinging right and left, was straight out of a painting. And once we were up the hill, the rains had stopped, tall conifers stood on the road sides shrouded by a veil of mist. It can be said that sans the sights of Kanchenjunga, certain places of Netarhat does indeed resemble the hills of North Bengal or the climb up to Darjeeling. It was finally at 1800 HRS that we checked into our abode for the night – Arunodaya Guest House.

Last edited by sayakc : 21st September 2021 at 10:33.
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Old 18th September 2021, 18:47   #2
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12th Sep, 2021: In and around Netarhat
Prior to the trip I had purchased a butane gas stove– it was time to put it to good use. And what better way than to christen it with some chicken curry. The morning remained misty, but around 8ish the mists cleared and revealed a blue, sunny sky.Even though sunny, it was cool and a light wind cheater would have been of much use. And it was around 11ish that we finally left the hotel.

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View from the Koel view point, Netarhat.

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Our picnic kitchen.

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The pine forests at Koel view point is indeed very beautiful.

The list of places which we visited at Netarhat were: The Pear Orchards, Netarhat Lake, Pine Forests, Upper and Lower Ghagri waterfalls, Koel View Point, Sunset Point and topped that up with the verdant blue skies and green forests. The Lodh falls, Jharkhand’s highest waterfall, teeming with monsoonal produce is worth a visit but we chose to skip it, instead focusing on our picnic amidst the pine trees of the hill station.

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Netarhat abounds with dak bungalows and Forest rest houses. Whereas there is red tape in booking the forest rest house, the dak bungalows can be booked through the Latehar Tourism website. Infact, we had originally tried to book the Palamou Daak Bungalow, but only 1 room was available during the scheduled dates. As we found out, at the top, it is a plateau and there are several meadows and fields. And with the air free of dust, one can view the plains and hills far away. This is like some points on the Gorubathan hills or Pankhabari road where one can view the plains.

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The result.

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Netarhat lake.

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View from the Magnolia sunset point.

Around 1.30 PM we reached Koel view point and set up the kitchen amidst the shade of the tall, pine trees. It took us an hour and a half to get the food ready. Menu was Rice, cucumber-onion salad and chicken curry. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a great meal in the lap of nature. The light and compact stove reinforced my belief in the trial that it was put through. Around 4 PM we headed to the sunset point and stayed there for a while – sunset was quite some time off. And finally retired to our hotel at the end of a long, long day around 5.30.

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Netarhat is blessed with meadows.

13th Sep, 2021: Netarhat to Ranchi via Betla

One of the movies that left a deep impression on me was the movie “Aranyer Din Ratri” (Days and Nights in the forest) by Satyajit Ray – which was shot in the vicinity of Betla Forest. And the Kechki Sangam, Forest Rest House became my areas of interest ever since. And today was the day when we would visit those places.

The weather wasn’t good, unfortunately. Initially it was misty but then it started to rain. And it was around 1000 HRS when we left for Betla and onwards to Ranchi. Most of the road used to be under Maoist influence and Saket suggested us to cross these areas before dark. With the drizzle accompanying us, we wound down the hill slopes – the tall pine trees looking mistier than ever. There I shot a few photos of the forests and the car, during while I found one of the fog lamps to have conked out. From a recess in the forest one can view the distant hills and on a clear day, it would have looked awesome. And then I find it difficult to explain, to the naked eye are the hills blue? Or greenish blue may be?

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Returning to the hotel.

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Mists rolled in the next day, making the place resemble Darjeeling.

Gradually we rolled down and took the road towards Garu. During the almost 2 hrs that we required to cover the approximately 70 kms distance between the foothills of Netarhat to Betla, we were hamstrung with a number of bad stretches, heavy rain and elephant corridors. And though there were several villages enroute, excepting a few commercial autorickshaws, we hardly met a private vehicle from the opposite direction. There are check post barriers, which previously used to remain closed, but we found them to be open.

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The forests in this part is to be seen to be believed – dark and deep. And the advent of an elephant or a carnivore cannot be ruled out. We did find a few local villagers though, who, were riding their motorcycles in the pouring rain. Coupled with bad roads, the journey did take a lot of strain on us and we were relieved when we finally reached the Betla forest checkpost. Meanwhile the rains had stopped as we took a tea break. Apart from the forest safari, the Betla forts is worth a visit and if you are a fan of Satyajit Ray then visiting the Kechki forest bungalow too is worthwhile.

Last edited by sayakc : 21st September 2021 at 10:39.
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Old 18th September 2021, 19:03   #3
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13th Sep, 2021: Netarhat to Ranchi via Betla (Contd.)

From Betla we followed google maps to the Kechki Sangam – which is now flooded with muddy water. All of these rivers are monsoon driven, and if one comes during the winters they are hardly more than a stream, but now they are ploughing through the sandy river bed. As we headed towards Ranchi and onto the NH (I don’t remember number) the road condition becomes patchy and maintaining good speeds in a hatchback remains a problem. It remains so for around 80 kms. We had lunch at one of the line hotels, where I had one of the best fish curries in recent times. Finally, we reached 4 laned highways from where Ranchi was 50kms. It was around 1700 HRS when we finally checked into BNR Chanakya, Ranchi and the first feeling that a good hotel gives you is warmth and comfort – which we received in a great measure. We had a great dinner and retired for the night.

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Good bye, Netarhat.

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Fantastic roads as we go down the hill.

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The deep forests on the way to Betla.

14th Sep, 2021: In and around Ranchi

After the arduous journey of the previous day, my mother and son didn’t want to travel. So, wife and me went on a drive to the Jonha and Sita falls. Jonha is indeed a great one to see but the huge number of steps to climb can be a deal breaker for many. However we were rewarded with a great view – the view of these waterfalls during monsoons is striking.

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Villages enroute.

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North Koel river.

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This day was our son’s birthday and during our return from Jonha we went to the market to buy some gift for him. My car was also facing a problem, where the battery terminal was getting disconnected occasionally hence fixed that too. It was almost dark when we reached the hotel. The hotel had decorated one of our rooms with balloons and they also arranged for a superb cake which won our hearts – and the entire story was a surprise for our son – who got thrilled seeing the decorations.

I had been asking Saket to come and pay a visit. And later in the evening Saket said he was coming with his family – this was great news for us. The kids played and we had a great family conversation.

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Tea break at Betla.

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I had a peek inside the Betla gate and it did look beautiful.

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15th Sep, 2021: Ranchi to Calcutta

Yesterday and today there was depression which triggered off intermittent rains in the Jharhand. Heard from folks in Calcutta too that it was raining heavily there too. So, after a buffet breakfast, we bid adieu to Ranchi at 1000 HRS. We visited Dassam falls on the way, which was even better than Jonha.

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Jonha Falls.

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The surrounding hills around Jonha.

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Quintessential maggi break after climbing up.

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Mists engulfing hillocks.

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Dinner with Saket's family.

We found big hillocks which were engulfed completely by cloud and mist. With such great sceneries and curvy roads, we had a great drive all the way. At Ghatshila we had a very light lunch and then a tea break at Kolaghat, after which we reached home around 1900 HRS.

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Dassam falls.

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Last edited by sayakc : 21st September 2021 at 10:48.
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Old 22nd September 2021, 05:31   #4
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 22nd September 2021, 10:07   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sayakc View Post
But the familiar feeling, the rush of blood when the car caresses the highway and then with white kash flowers that are blowing in the moist, monsoonal wind, blue skies interspaced with cotton like clouds added an extra bit to joy to my already happy self. Why the smile turns into a grin when we step out of the city isnít possible to define.
A symphony interspersed with beautiful pictures and equally brilliant words. You have possibly put words into every possible travellerís thought process by the highlighted words in your post. As I always say, you have a way with your words but we also got to know this time that you can rustle up some mean chicken curry while on the road and utilising a butane stove.

While I have not seen the falls around Ranchi in full flow, your pictures are kind of redemption for me and the Kaash and food pictures just reminded me that itís the most eagerly part of the year for us travellerís. Wonderfully penned down log of an equally eventful journey. Thanks for sharing,

Regards.
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Old 22nd September 2021, 11:27   #6
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Just awesome! Have been thinking about a trip to JH, your TL now gives the impetus to do so!

Didn't realize that there were pine forests in the area. The chicken curry picnic in that kind of a setting must have been sublime!
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Old 22nd September 2021, 11:32   #7
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Beautiful !! Like always, you have discovered another hidden gem for us to explore. The itinerary looks perfect & would like to do this trip soon.

The pictures as usual are outstanding. In some of the pictures, it does look like you are traveling in Darjeeling. Chota Nagpur Plateau is indeed beautiful.

Rated 5*

Cheers,
Pawan
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Old 22nd September 2021, 11:43   #8
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Incredible pics and description! Thank you for showcasing a weekend destination from Calcutta, which is not in the top of mind of most people. Your travelogue will be of immense help in planning a trip to Netarhat.
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Old 22nd September 2021, 12:01   #9
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Thanks for sharing this! Brings back memories from childhood. Had visited Neterhat from Ranchi with my parents while I was in grade 9th I believe. Stayed at the Forest Dept guesthouse and the misty mountains are still embedded fondly in my mind. Well taken pictures, I must say!
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Old 22nd September 2021, 12:22   #10
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STUNNING STUNNING STUNNING.

I did not know that the central part of India had such mountains.

Am now on Googlemaps figuring out the driving time to Ranchi
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Old 22nd September 2021, 14:26   #11
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Stunning photolog Sayak da, you got marvelous weather. The open lunch at Koel View Point is the best part of Netarhat I think. Thanks for sharing.

I have done these circuits separately, 2 days for Ranchi and 4 days for Netarhat and Betla circuit.

Remembering my trip cannot resist myself from posting some pictures of my trip:

On the way to Netarhat
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Netarhat Forest Bunglow
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Palamou Dak Bunglow
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Magnolia Sunset Point
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Betla National Park
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Famous "Aranyer Din Ratri" Keckhki Bunglow
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Jonha Falls
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Dassam Falls
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Hudru Falls
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Sita Falls
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Old 22nd September 2021, 14:47   #12
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What a fantastic travelogue!! You have put down your experience in words as beautifully as it could have been. And some beautiful captures too. In fact, some of the pictures have an uncanny resemblance to our NE trips. After reading your extremely well scripted travelogue, I feel like visiting Netarhat again!

It has been a long time since we have been communicating over PMs, messages and calls, but it was indeed very heartwarming to meet you and your family. There are a lot many hidden jems in and around JH, so I am sure you can plan a few more trips soon.

Regards,
Saket
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Old 22nd September 2021, 18:39   #13
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What an amazing travelogue. Just loved it. The pictures are absolutely stunning.
It is very helpful for anyone who is looking for a getaway from Kolkata.
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Old 22nd September 2021, 19:53   #14
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Amazing.

When a travelogue came from you, I knew it's going to be an engaging read & this one is no different. The breathtaking pics are the icing on the cake. Rated 5*.

Jharkhand and Purulia looks beautiful in monsoon.

I target these places during March/April to chase the Palash.

Last year I was at Purulia in September, just after the monsoon. I was amazed to see the greenery along with abundant Kash bloom.

The added attraction in monsoon is the lush green scenery with the waterfalls in full flow.

It's difficult to choose, when it's best to visit these places! So from last year am targeting to visit once during Palash & again during monsoon!

Kash, post monsoon.

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At the time of Palash.

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The matching car color was definitely a coincidence.

Last edited by Samba : 22nd September 2021 at 20:12.
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Old 23rd September 2021, 06:58   #15
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Default Re: A Monsoonal Symphony in Netarhat

Quote:
Originally Posted by sayakc View Post
Days and Night In The Forest

I
Super awesome travelogue. Beautiful pictures, and I always love travelogues with pictures of food
No joy in travel unless accompanied by good food.
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