The request came so abruptly that I didn’t care for the first time. But when Riya was asking for 2-3 consecutive days for an immediate day’s outing, I had to respond. She wanted a trip where all of my lab-mates from Kharagpur can relax for a day from the daily ordeals. I suggested a trip to Jhargram or Bishnupur where most of the remaining people suggested common trips like Digha or Mandarmani. But due to timing issues, I convinced them all one-after-another for a Jhragram trip.
Jhargram is a suburban town located just 50 km away and conveniently connected with rail-routes. The places-to-visit are also well-known as Krishna and Prasanta already went there last year. Hence, without planning much we got carried away with our work until it was the day before. Surprising me, the lab-mates, who appeared to be reluctant about the trip to me, started inquiring repeatedly about the trip. Left with no other choice, I intervened and proposed a rough idea. Robustness of the plan-made-in-haste fell silent as we had no return train by when we were supposed to back. Giggling, I had to sit again for a while, to make a final draft where the simple Jhargram trip scribbled into an adventurous Jhargram-Belpahari trip. I often do so: found some extra time and so, add some extra places to eventually make the trip longer. My wisdom on such cases are based on Google map predictions and after many failures in tests, I invented some assumptions to make it real: multiply the travel time by 1.5 and add visiting time as prescribed by my own rule-set (10 min for temples, 20 min for heritage, 30 min for natural beauties and a long hour for zoo or museums). It more-or-less works as the deviations compensate each other if you can smartly choose the places-to-visit one from each category. So, the timeline would look something like this:
Though this time, I planned to play safe and dynamically modify the plan as required; keeping one thing straight and simple: to start by early morning in Ispat Express from Kharagpur. After a week full of depressed and overcast weather, Kharagpur just got its chilled atmosphere back by mid December. To attend the day-long trip, unwillingly I had to attend a bathe session followed by a run-to-station with some of my lab-mates like a pool car which go on catching ignorant children drenched in early-morning sleep to their schools.
Then came the nicest moment of my life: a few late fellow travelers and a later train. Such anomalies are often procured with a sip of tea, only felt better in the morning breeze. Soon enough, all except one joined the group and we were eagerly waiting in platform for the train already late by 40 min.
Tearing the distance apart within 30 min, our excitement reached Jhargram station.
Exams were over in the school; school students with parents were all over the Jhargram station ready to have breakfast, find cabs and so on. we concentrated on the vehicles in the parking lot and spotted one Omni which would be fit for our group. On inquiring, the Omni driver Arupda (Contact: 9932557760) came with his Omni (WB50 7073). We offered the tourists an unexpected competition: 7 University students on a Monday trip; they were at no place. They booked Boleros, we booked Omni: 0-1. With a 1 goal margin, we started playing defensive like conventional Indian football team. We had our second breakfast and had selfies distorted by jealous losers cutting our frames. We bargained a little to find a negotiable charge for the trip we discussed and finally started by 10 am.
Jhargram is a big town provided with all sorts of facilities – medical, sports or entertainment. The presence of urban cacophonies hence are quite predominant in this region.
As soon as we left Jhargram, the cityscape vanished with a trail of natures dotted with a few tourist cabs.
The hide-and-seek was going on as we entered another town: Binpur and Silda.
After Silda, we took a village path again.
After passing through towns and villages, we reached our first spot: Tarafeni river dam by 11.15 am.
In capacity as a dam, Tarafeni is not a big contender …..
….. but we were happy with the dusty dry barrage.
Arupda suggested us to take a look on the barrage bed, so ….
….. we did the pitch analysis. Some construction work was going on there and due to that water was blocked.
We took a few photos and soon started again.
After some ups-and-downs at the first spot, all members started feeling sleepy at their couches where, I was discussing on the villages and people of Belpahari with Arupda and at times, captured some signs of the daily life of the villagers under a sunny winter day.
By 12 pm, we reached our next stop: Ghagra waterfalls.
Amidst wild greenery and rocky pedestals, it is an amazing waterfalls and I imagined how beautiful it would get during monsoon.
We spend some quality time here witnessing the rocks and the stream.
The gurgling streams of Ghagra lashing against the craggy rocks offered us a rare glimpse of nature’s glory.
We spotted some local tribal people catching fishes on relatively upper part of the stream where the water was almost still.
The scorching sun made us weary and thirsty. To amaze us, we found there one ice-cream vendor and couldn’t give away such delicacies out of our grasp. Afterwards, we started for Garrasini hill. After a drive of 40 min, the hill appeared in front of us.
By 1 pm, we reached the hill-base. The road-sign said, the hill consists of 2 temples and 2 caves. The sun was getting hotter so, we started climbing.
After walking around 10 min, we got the first temple: a Vishnu temple. From here, the path got steeper.
After hiking for 20 min, we reached the hill-top and a Shiva temple.
I found some sign for the caves and went downsteps via another trail but couldn’t locate the caves. After sometime, I also left the idea and started climbing back to the base.
By the time we started for Khandarani lake, blazing noon left the village paths almost empty …
… and we were leaving the last sign of the hill.
By 2 pm, we reached our next destination: Khandarani lake.
In some other part of the day, the lake would look a lot more beautiful but with the blistering eyes of the sun staring at us, the lake come to us in silhouette.
It was time to move on to get a glimpse of some heritage History had left behind for us.
We reached Belpahari and had lunch by 3 pm at a wayside hotel. The food was good but they overcharged us.
We were driving towards Chilkigarh now and the road quality was too good.
Finally we entered Jhargram town and reached Chilkigarh raj palace by 4 pm. We had to hurry a little as the Jhargram mini zoo would close by 5 pm and hence, was quickly roaming in the palace complex.
The rajbari complex consists the main palace which now turned into a government health center, a number of temples and a smaller palace where the current people of the raj dynasty stays.
The temple near the palace gate is a Shiva temple. In spite of its architectural riches, the temple is counting its days before getting lost in oblivion.
On the opposite side, there are a few rooms left abandoned …
… and a Jagannath temple endangered by surrounding jungles.
We visited another temple where evening prayers were going on.
We came outside soon, crossed Dulung river to reach Kanak Durga temple.
The Kanak Durga temple is located inside a park named Kanak Aranya (forest). We reached there by 4 15 pm, booked the entry ticket (per head Rs 5) and parking charge (per car Rs 50) and visited the temple. The temple is renovated in recent past where as the old original temple dates almost 500 years.
There are many recreation options (like boating) which we couldn’t cherish due to lack of time and almost rushed towards the zoo now.
The mist started surrounding the places slowly and trail of villagers were returning to their home after day-long work.
Finally, we reached the Jhargram mini zoo by 4 45 pm (entry tickets were per head Rs 15 on weekdays and 20 on weekends). We visited spotted deer, nilgai, elephant, bear, cheetah, striped hyna, peacock, wolf, ostriches, emu and numbers of snakes.
We didn’t have any more time at the zoo and paid the parking charge of Rs 20 and left for the Jhargram rajbari.
From the rajbari, we reached Jhargram station by 6 pm. It was time to bid good-bye to Arupda. He charged us only Rs 2100. The departing train was scheduled after 30 min so, we had our evening snacks and tea.
The JGM KGP Special (Junglemahal MEMU), scheduled to depart by 6 35 pm, came by 7 pm and in between, we calculated our per head expenditure which was only Rs 600 per head.
The train departed by 7 15 pm finally. By the time, we reached Kharagpur the girls were deciding what they would buy when they would come for the Jhargram mela (fair) during 26th January and the boys planned for another trip: Bishnupur or something else; still now I cannot remember what we discussed.