While pursuing my Masters, I started loving travelling more than I ever did. The reason being the company of friends like Suprabhat and Subhomoy. Be it a semester break or Durga Puja holidays, Subhomoy always suggested us to book tickets to NJP (New Jalpaiguri) because there are many places in North Bengal which can be reached easily from NJP. It was the end of the spring semester of 2010 and the tickets were as always booked for NJP; we just needed to decide some destination from there. Finally, Subhomoy came up with a plan for the Dooars trip (Jaldapara-Buxa-Jayanti).
We planned for a 4-day trip for a group of 4 friends: Suprabhat, Subhomoy, myself and Bijit. We did not get accommodation at Hollong Hut at Jaldapara but, booked the WBFDC room at Rajabhatkhawa and private hotel at Jayanti. Subhomoy booked a car for all the days we would travel in Dooars. Apart from all these arrangements, I bought my first digital camera (a Panasonic Lumix FZ35) before this trip.
On the scheduled date, three of us (except Subhomoy, as he intended to board the train from his hometown Maldah) started from Sealdah (SDAH) railway station. Subhomoy joined us later at Maldah.
When we woke up, it was raining. We were enjoying the rain over a cup of hot tea. But all of a sudden, Bijit spilled his cup from his middle berth over a co-passenger lying below him. The co-passenger, with all reasons, thrashed Bijit a bit. We were chuckling silently from our “Upper Berth“. Finally, we reached our destination: NJP railway station.
After breakfast at NJP, we boarded in the cab, Subhomoy booked and started our journey. The rain-drenched greenery kept on amazing us. On a river-bridge, we halted for a photo-shoot. That is an advantage of having a reserved cab for you – to halt wherever you feel necessary.
Finally, we reached Jaldapara and Subhomoy started calling all of his contacts for accommodation options. After some discussion, we opted for a dormitory room at Jaldapara Tourist lodge.
We took a bath, had lunch and a little rest. By 3 PM, we were again all set for the evening safari at Chilapata by our own cab. Chilapata is located on the bank of a dry river and on the other side of Jaldapara forest. We enjoyed the view of the river, passing fishermen, lush greens of the forest and the mud paths cutting them apart.
At Chilapata, we visited two watch-towers but couldn’t get a glimpse of any wilderness. Maybe due to this, Bijit got bored a little and fell asleep in the car. Although I got almost shocked at that as he was one of the self-proclaimed nature-lover from the campus we belong.
While returning, we saw a peacock. This was my first time in a jungle so, I cherished it.
Soon, we finished our safari and I was a little down. Bijit was trying to lighten my mood mimicking the tree from the far.
Finally, we returned to our dorm and took some rest. During dinner, we booked a Jeep safari from the hotel in the next morning slot. We had a hard time sleeping that night as the lodge had been on rent for a marriage ceremony which lasted till midnight.
Due to late sleep, we were late in waking up. After breakfast, we took our cab and reached near Hollong hut from where Jeep safari starts. Within the first 5 minutes, we saw one rhino soaking himself in the canal water. Subhomoy told us that they do it often on having metabolism issues.
After a while, the rhino started moving inside the jungle gradually and we also continued our safari.
Jaldapara showed us why it is considered one of the best safaris held in this region. One after another we saw: peacock, eagle, hog, deer and gaurs.
After finishing the safari by late afternoon, we came back to Hollong hut. It comprises of 6 rooms, many of them always stay booked for Government officials. The hut premise consists of a stream often used by wild animals to drink water.
After the safari, we came back to our dorm, had a bath and lunch. Then, we started for Rajabhatkhawa. On our way, we saw numerous tribal fishermen catching fishes in a peculiar fashion.
With a close watch, we understood that the fishermen had poisoned a particular part of the river. It would make the fishes come out of the depth of the river to breathe and that was when they would get caught.
On the other side of the road, I snapped some photographs of colourful butterflies.
Finally, by early evening we reached Rajabhatkhawa. We waited near the entry point for a guide we contacted for Rajabhatkhawa-Buxa-Jayanti trip. On his arrival, we left for Buxa Jungle Lodge of WBFDC.
The WBFDC lodge at Buxa is located in nature’s lap. It was full of trees, flowers, fruits and birds.
After putting all our luggage in our room, we came to know about some train-accident hitting some elephant. To know how the elephant would get rescued, we rushed to that location.
But we couldn’t find anything maybe as we were late or we didn’t locate the place. Dejected, we went to some nearby watch-tower instead to test our luck. We spent some time over the tower, located beside a stream and core of the forest.
With the series of refusal, we planned to enter a little deep inside the forest. We reached another watch-tower and the tower-keeper informed us that a herd of elephants were visible. In a hurry, our cab driver, excited and frightened, honked while parking the car. Fortunately, the sound did not reach them or they ignored. We ran to the tower-top and quenched our eyes. I got some photos before my camera battery ran out.
We returned to the lodge and went for a walk around. We walked to the railway station, nearby constructions and way-side stalls for tea. I liked the green foliage all around us and took photos of some birds.
Afterwards, we returned to our room. We spent the evening listening to stories from our guide until dinner-time.
Even the Sun didn’t rise when the rain started. I came out to the lawn when the rain stopped by 7.30 AM. But, the rain resumed again.
We finished breakfast and got dressed. But had to wait until the rain stopped. Finally, by 10.30 AM we started for Buxa fort. The Bhutan King used this fort to protect the famous Silk Route. Later during British rule, it has been used as a high-security prison & detention camp and was considered as the most notorious and unreachable prison in India after the Cellular Jail in Andaman. Several eminent revolutionaries like Krishnapada Chakraborty, Forward Bloc leader Amar Prasad Chakraborty and poet Subhash Mukhopadhyay were captivated here. We reached Santalabari by 11.30 AM and the motor-able road ends here. So, we started hiking up to the fort. The path ahead had deep jungles on both the sides and we kept on hiking.
With the increase in height, the weather started getting foggy. After hiking for half an hour, the path started getting steeper.
But, we rarely had times for feeling tired as the flowers grown on side-by plants kept amazing us.
The weather was getting hazier gradually. Soon we reached a stream and understood why this area is foggier. The tremendous humidity made the place a good hunting ground for leeches. Our guide rescued one cow from a leech and we moved on.
We took rest beside the stream and started hiking again.
Soon we reached a wooden bridge and followed by that, some localities started. After walking for ten more minutes, we reached the fort.
In front of the fort, there lies two scripts: the first from the prisoners to Rabindranath Tagore and the second as a reply of the first.
We entered the fort. It is almost a ruin and hardly possesses any testimonies intact from history. But, some renovations in the recent past has been made.
A large banyan tree covered the fort from the backside. The tree amidst the fog creates a mysterious scenery.
After visiting the fort, we came back to the locality and had coffee with some snacks. After resting for half an hour, we started returning to the base: Santalbari.
From Santalbari, we took our cab to Jayanti. Jayanti is a small forest village within Buxa Tiger Reserve and located beside Jayanti river. The Beauty of Jayanti is increased because of the Bhutan hill on the opposite side of the river.
After enjoying the beauty of Jayanti for a while, we had our lunch.
After lunch, we planned for a safari at Buxa tiger reserve with our own cab. Hence, we had our guide also with us. But, having a local guide was mandatory.
After driving through the tiger reserve for hours, we did not come across any wild animal. We only enjoyed the natural beauties.
Moreover, we lost our chance to visit Mahakal cave due to monsoon. Rather, we moved on to Kalpokhri. It is a sacred pond for Buddhists and showcased amazing bio-diversity.
After finishing the Buxa reserve safari, we returned to the bank of Jayanti river once again. We roamed for hours near the river before leaving to Rajabhatkhawa.
We went for a morning walk as we didn’t have many places to visit for that day. Relaxed, we, walked towards a nearby railway checkpoint.
Due to nature’s intervention, every single detail of the morning seemed too beautiful: whether it was the passing herd of bores to the postman cycling to reach his office.
We had a booking at a jungle bungalow which eventually got cancelled. Subhomoy discussed the matter with his uncle and came up with an alternative to visit a tea garden near Siliguri. Our cab-driver also had some pre-booked trips on that day. Hence, after checking out from the hotel he dropped us at New Alipurduar (NAQ) station. We waited at a tea stall for a while as the train was late by an hour.
Finally, we boarded on the train, we booked and reached Siliguri station by lunchtime. Subhomoy’s uncle also booked one sumo for us. We had our lunch and then travelled nearby temples before reaching the tea garden (I can’t recall its name).
Apart from visiting the garden, we got a chance to closely experience the processing of tea as the factory manager was a friend of Subhomoy’s uncle.