Category Archives: Travel

Night on a stranded boat in the Sundarban forest

It was a Mokar Sankranti day (January 15, 2017). We were hopping from one island to another island in Sundarban delta during our sightseeing tour in Sunderban. I heard from local villagers that tigers are very active during this time for catching his/her pray.

Sightseeing in Sundarban -our day long tour in Sundarban Jungle 

We have traveled all the day to visit many islands in Sundarban delta like Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Do-banki camp. We have seen herd of deer grazing inside jungle, deadly crocodile taking sunbath near river bank, and distant view of Bonbibi temple near swampy river bank. We are eagerly waiting for a chance of tiger darsan. But it seemed that it is not there in our luck.

Crocodile on sea bank at Dobanki Camp

Crocodile on river bank at Dobanki Camp

In the afternoon, our boat reached Jharkhali ghat, and this was our last spot of our day long sightseeing tour in Sundarban. We have spent here about 1 hour and have seen tiger rehabilitation center, mangroves nursery cum cultivation field. When returned boat after seeing all these, it was evening 5 pm. We boarded on boat for return journey to hotel in pakhirala, our night halt in sunderban delta. Many tourists stay at Pakhirala village before going out for sunderban sightseeing.

Spectacular sunset at  Jharkhali – our boat in trouble 

We have observed a spectacular sunset on the back of deep jungle in Jharkhali. Our driver informed that our launch engine has developed some problem, and they are attending the problem. It may take some time to start. We told driver to rectify the problem first. As we need to take 3-4 hours water ride through deadly forest abound with snakes, tiger and crocodile. Our boat should not stop in the middle of the jungle. It is better to stay back for complete check up of boat. Other fellow boats departed with tourists for reaching hotel destination in Jungle Island.

Sunset in Jharkhali ghat - distant view of jungle on the other side of riverbank

Sunset in Jharkhali ghat – distant view of jungle on the other side of riverbank

We are the only boat still tugged to jharkhali jetty ghat. Our cook serves the evening tea on the boat deck. Cool breeze has started blowing and brought chiller all around. We all male members sit on the deck waiting for boat to start. Local folk song on a loud speaker is coming from some unknown destination in jetty side and reminding us petha-pully’s days in our days. In Kolkata, culture of pitha-pully on mokar sankranti is almost over. We are now at jharkhali, enjoying vicarious felling of the festival and winter chill just sitting on the boat.

Our boat journey started in night through deep jungle

It is 6:30 pm. Boat driver comes from engine room and informed that they somehow managed to repair the fault. But, he also cautioned, problem may happen again. We tell them not to be in hurry. Our boat now set out for next 3-4 hours journey through deep jungle to reach our jungle cottage in pakhirala. Dkukuda, our team member, ordered some benguni chop as evening snacks. Cook also informed that chicken rice would be served in dinner.

Our boat is sailing through river, and deep jungles on sides become more mysterious now. As if they come close to us. Driver told us not to stand on front boat deck in night. All female members have taken seats inside the cabin. We all male members sit together on the top deck and waiting for benguni and chilly chops for evening adda. A small light is lit on the deck. We sit on the deck with our second driver to listen some histories of Sundarban and any interesting stories of tigers attacks and local folklore. Hot beguni chop and chilly chops added energy in our discussion.

We are busy in evening add on top deck- stories of Sundarban made the adda more interesting

We are engrossed in evening adda on the top deck- stories of Sundarban made the adda more interesting

Boat journey experience in night through deep jungle – talking to nature and sky 

Our launch is sailing, twinkling stars are watching us from vast night sky on the mystic jungle. Some of us are looking into dark jungle for possible eye contact with wild beasts. Histories of local tiger attacks from driver made us glued to discussion.

Our boat stuck on river bed – deadly jungle around 

But, all of a sudden, we fell a sudden jerk. Some of us managed to balance to stand on our feet. All of us become alerted. What happened? We come to the side of top deck and tried to judge the fact. Our boat engine has started giving unusual loud sounds. Then, with a big jerk our boat stopped. We light our torch, and found on our utter surprise that water on both sides of our launch become muddy. Driver looks nervous. And later he informed that our boat touched riverbed because of low tide. We need to wait for high tide for more water level.

We try to gauge where we are in dark night in deep jungle. After some glances, we have realized that we are stuck up in the middle of river. On both sides, jungles are about 800 meters away. So it is not a small river. Driver told even big river in Sunderban may have low depth during low tide. Our team member head Khokada try to see the depth of river using bamboo stick. Driver hinted possible crocodile attack, if we go close to water level. Our adda on boat, still continued. However, we are looking into deep jungle to check whether we could feel any presence of wild beast. Our female members also started asking about what happened and when we would reach  safe zone. We know this place is not safe even we are in the middle of river.

Our boat started after incidence

It is about 7:45 pm, dark night rises and become more thick with cold breeze flowing over the river and jungle. After some time, we feel someone is shaking our boat. It starts undulating. Driver informs that water level is rising due to high tide ahead. We get relaxed and news is communicated  to female members in cabin as they are nervous. After, 15 minutes, out boat seems   that it gets untangled from the river bed. Driver has started the boat. We are all relaxed and some of us go to cabin for rest. Temperature dips further due to cool breeze. Hence, I feel difficult to spend more time on top deck, even though there is cover on the top deck.

Our boat stranded again near a narrow creek 

Our boat is sailing though jungle. We thought we finally got rid of the deep jungle. From the deck, we could see moon on the horizon. Few members are sitting on the top deck  to enjoy beauty of deep jungle in moonlight. All are relaxed and some members taking nap due to day long tiredness. I don’t know what time it is. Again we hear a screeching sound. And our boat is undulating due to some obstruction. This time jerking is more. We all come on the front deck. Again, our boat stopped  after big jerk. Same thing is happened again. We are again stranded. River water around boat becomes thick with mud.

We are very close to jungle – beasts are roaming 

To our utter surprise, we have found now that we are in relatively Narrow River. And our launch is hardly 20 meter from deep jungle in left side. Now we are very close to jungle. Driver requests us not to stand on front deck. Hence, we come onto top deck. Discussed with Driver why same thing is happened again. He narrated that he took shortcut through narrow river and hoping that water in high tide might have come here also. Explanation was not convincing as it is dangerous to stay in narrow river in this deep jungle.

However, we have no other choice than waiting on a stranded boat. Moon by that time appears above the horizon, and with dim moon light we could see riverbank and nearby treacherous narrow creeks flowing into deep jungle. Some unknown night birds are crying inside the jungle. We become cautious as we heard bird twitter may indicate the presence of tiger in jungle. Lady members have started loud discussion in the cabin.  Our lady team member Bela boudi lost her temperament as she got frightened and telling other members tigers is definitely going to kill us or some local looters will loot valuables. We are pacifying them and assuring them nothing would be happened. As we are very close to Pakhirala.

In fact, all members on the top deck are also nervous. It is 9 pm night. What would happen if we would have to spend the whole night here. We already feel the presence of unknown beasts roaming and watching us from nearby jungle. Anytime during night they can swim the river and attack our boat.  We are all discussing all possible outcomes and praying to god that show us path.

Something is approaching our boat from jungle side- we are nervous- what is that? 

All of a sudden, we hear some sound coming from left side river bank. Something is swimming or filing water to reach our direction. For a moment, it sends chill through our back bone. We don’t have any fighting instruments. Then how could we fight with beasts. Sound becomes clearer. From top deck, we look on to river water for any eye (may be tiger’s eye) coming close to us. Drivers also become nervous. Out two cooks are wrapping cloths on small bamboo sticks for making fire torch. We are all ready with some possible darshan (visit) of wild beast. We switched off all flight to locate eye on the river. Fire torchs are ready. We are counting each second with deep breath. It seems that time is refused to move ahead. Yes, after few minutes, we could locate the source of sound. By that time it comes close to our boat

New jungle visitor near our boat !!

No it is neither tiger or other wild beast. It is a small fishing boat. Two local fishermen with minimum dress braved the freezing cold water, catching crab for livelihood. They also got surprised to see us here. Our driver communicated with them. They inform that we would get higher water level soon and can reach big rivers confluence ahead. They speed away and vanish  into deep jungle. Driven tell us to keep silence and switched off light as this place is covered with dangerous animals. It is 10 pm. Moon become bright in the mid sky. In moon light, surrounding jungle looks more mystic and dangerously beautiful. After some time, our boat starts undulating and finally got enough water level to sail through. At last,  out boat starts sailing and enter into Vidya river. From there, we reach Pakhirala whining 40 minutes.

We reached safely at our jungle lodge

When we reach Pakhirala jetty chat it is 11 pm. Our hotel care taker is anxiously waiting at the jetty ghat. He gets relaxed after confirming our safe arrival. We are also happy to arrive safely at our jungle lodge.

Jakpur- Journey to The Valley Of Rose Garden

It is a non-descriptive Railway station located 5 km from famous destination of engineers IIT Kharagpur. Hardly any people know that this place is famous for many flower nursery gardens. There are at least 4 to 5 gardens are located here supplying varieties  of flowers to many national and international destinations. Most famous of these gardens is Puspanjali Nursery in Jakpur.

If you have few free hours  in the evening, planning to spend in a flowers gardens located in rural environment, then this is really a good hang out place for families during weekend.

Today is 26 the January, 2017. We plan to spend some free time in rural village for enjoying rural environment. I got some reference of this place from my friends. We set out from IIT Kharagpur campus by 3 pm and reach Kharagpur bus stand. From stand we take private auto to reach Puspanjali Nursery by 4 pm.

Jakpur Puspanjali Flower nursey

Jakpur Puspanjali Flower nursey

Puspanjali Nursery is build over a 20 acres land. It is big nursery and house of hundred varieties  of rose. There is no formal entry tickets. You just step in and local nursery people helps you to locate different types of flowers. We found 2 rose gardens full of various types of roses. Besides you can see how nursery people are treating  various types of flowers including roses.

Flower decorated house inside Nursery

Flower decorated house inside Nursery

Varieties of flowers in the garden

Varieties of flowers in the garden

Sapling of flowers

Sapling of flowers

We located a big pond located right in the middle of garden. Left side of the pond, there are many small gardens with varsities of flowers. On the others side we find fields cultivating saplings of flowers.

Big pond inside the garden - nice village environment

Big pond inside the garden – nice village environment

It is really worth to spend 1-2 hours there. We came out from nursery by 5:15 pm. We found a small village market near nursery. We finished our evening snacks there. While coming we could not find any transportation.we walked about 2 km to reach Jakpur station. And returned Kharagpur  by Medinipur local.

We spent some time in local market in the evening

We spent some time in local market in the evening

Travel tips to reach Jakpur

1) It could be a popular picnic destination during winter.

2) You can reach Jakpur from Kharagpur/ Medinipur by local train and get down at Jakpur station. From here nursery is about 1.5 km located along the road connecting NH2 and jakpur station. You can reach there by 20 min walk or by auto. But we have found  very few autos there.

From Jakpur, you can get up Medinipur local at 6 PM evening for Kharagpur, There are very limited trains stop at this station. Only slow Medinipur and Kharagpur local train stops here.

3) Pushpanjali nursery opening time till 5 pm

4) Best time  to visit : during winter (December and January)

5) Other side of Jakpur station, you can visit  famous Maa Manasa mandir. This is a popular pilgrimage destination.

Hence, if you have half day time, you can enjoy following things in Jakpur

A) Maa Manasa temple

B ) Puspanjali Nursery- a famous nursery

C ) Enjoy bucolic simplicity and village life during village walk.

D) Off course a popular picnic spots during winter.

For Jakpur Maa Manasa temple visit, please look into this blog post:

https://gobindaroy.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/its-my-journey-to-connecting-with-rural-mythology/

Trip to Sundarban – a forest journey to experience presence of tiger and legends of Bonbibi

Our trip to Sunderban- experience in enjoying swampy forest infested with Tigers, snakes and crocodiles. 

If you like to explore Kolkata and nearby tourists places, it would not be completed without visiting Sundarban, the largest delta abounded with deadly snakes, crocodiles, and Royal Bengal tiger. This time I have got tour offer from my friend Chiranjib and Arijit (Khoka). They offered a group tour to visit Sundarban on hired boat. I immediately agreed, as I know that I can’t visit this place as a solo traveler or in a single family. It’s better to go in a group. Hence, we planned our 2N/3D tour in Sundarban during 14th January to 16th January, 2017.

We are so excited to explore this forest delta in a group. We planned a lot for maximum coverage of this Delta with limited time, budget, and safety.

Journey from Kolkata to Sundarban

You cannot reach Sundarban directly by train or bus. Nature has projected this dense forest from human invasion by separating it by series of rivers and tributaries.

From Kolkata, the last rail head is Canning station. And there are plenty of buses from Kolkata taking you to Gosaba. From Gosaba you can take boat for Sundarban.

In our case, we reached Canning railway station via Sealdha. From Sealdha, there two morning Canning train (6:30 am and 7:42 am) taking you to canning station by 9 am. We are 20 members in our tour. We boarded into 6:30 am local from Sealdha. It was like picnic mood on train. We were excited for possible meet with tiger in deadly forest. We reached canning at 9 am.

Our team at Channing station before starting out journey into Sundarban Forest

Our team at Canning station before starting out journey into Sundarban Forest

Sundarban Trip #1 ; Canning to Dhamakhali journey

This is second lap of journey on land. From canning you can reach either Dhamakhali or goskhali or Gosaba by auto or bus. But our launch is waiting at Dhamakhali. Hence, we come out from station and headed towards auto stand.

Outside the station, we have seen a big signboard telling snake bite help lines. It signifies the terror of snakes in the local people. Some of us got frightened and looked for tiger bite help lines. But no sign of it found nearby. It seemed tigers never allowed its prey to call helpline. If one comes under his jaw, he has to donate his life. Anyway, we are boarded on auto for Dhamakhali for 27 km ride through villages on the both side.On the way we crossed Matla river.  Initial 17 km journey was smooth. Next 10 km journey was a bumpy ride through fish ponds (vaery) on both sides. Finally, we reached Dhamakhali after 1.2 hours journey at 10:30 AM.

our boat at Dhamakhali , other side is Sandeshkhali

Our boat at Dhamakhali , other side is Sandeshkhali

At Dhamakhali

Our guide on board Sujanda greeted us there at nearby lodge. All foods are loaded on the boat. We have found Barasat – Dhamakhali are also plying in this route. But from canning station, it is best to come by either Canning- Dhamakhali bus or by shared auto service. It was 11 AM, and finally we started for an island called Pakhiralaya sundarban deep inside the forest.

Our family on boat and all team member in full mood to meet tiger at jungle. Khokada is danchinh on the deck

Our family on boat and all team member in full mood to meet tiger at jungle. Khokada is dancing on the deck

Sundarban Trip #2 : Journey from Dhamakhali to Pakhiralaya

It was a 4 hours journey by boat. We are sailing across river Raymangala. Spread of river was big. Still we could see the distant villages. Breakfast was served on the board. We are all getting settled inside cabin and chair are placed on the top deck for jungle views. After few minute sailing, we entered into deep forest area and both side of the river was covered with jungle. Mobile signals got disappeared. In between tea and snack are severed. We are planning final Sundarban travel trips for next 2 days.

Our boat journey towards Pakhiralaya along Raymongala River

Our boat journey towards Pakhiralaya along Raymongala River

Mangrove forests welcomes us from both sdies

Mangrove forests welcomes us from both sdies

Lunch time came; we finished our lunch on deck with spectacular jungle views, occasional views of fishing boats, and swampy river banks. Jungle views were not intimidating so far.   Kids in our group become impatient to see tigers and other wild beast. We made them clam by saying wilds are sleeping after lunch. Since we are going against high tides, our boat speed was slowed. About 3 pm we reached Pakhiralaya spot. The whole day journey to reach the jungle resort island made us tired.   We are expecting lots of pakhi (birds) would on site. Inspire a hanging and almost broken stairs from jetty chat welcomed us there. Cemented stairs from jetty also tilted onside. You need have a great balancing power to reach the bank while using this jetty ghat

Pakhiralaya

This is a beautiful island just close to Sajnekhali Island. Most of boats from Gosaba, Godkhali, and Dhamakhali take halt here before starting jungle cruise. When we walked in the village market of Pakhiralaya , it was 5 PM. From jetty Ghat , we could see the distant view of Sajnekhali. In fact, it is opposite of the river. In Pakhiralaya Island, we checked 2-3 hotels for the night stay. Finally, we selected Hotel Mangrove Inn. We booked a 18 bed dormitory for night stay. It was really a very nice dormitory with ample space and 4 toilets. Food counter were located in opposite lawn in the garden. In fact, this my first experience to stay at dormitory. All families were sharing fears and fun together about tomorrow’s jungle adventure. We went bed early for regaining full energy for tomorrow’s day long cruise deep inside the jungle.

Pakhirala jetty ghat

Pakhirala jetty ghat

We are reaching Pakhiralaya Sunderban

We are reaching Pakhiralaya Sunderban

Pakhiralaya market- enjoying evening walk in the market

Pakhiralaya market- enjoying evening walk in the market

Hotel Mangrove Inn - in Pakhiralaya

Hotel Mangrove Inn – in Pakhiralaya

Enjoying Garden Dinner in lawn of our hotel Mangrove Inn

Enjoying Garden Dinner in lawn of our hotel Mangrove Inn

View of Raymonganala and nearby island from Pakhiralaya Jetty ghat

View of Raymonganala River and nearby islands from Pakhiralaya Jetty ghat

Sunset at Pakhiralaya

Sunset at Pakhiralaya

Sundarban Trip #3: Journey to deep forest in Sajnekhali Island                

Next day morning, we get up early; boat is waiting in the river. After tea break at hotel we headed towards jetty ghat at 8 am morning. In the morning, we could see a clear view of Sajnekhali Island from Pakhiralaya jetty ghat. We will go to that destination first. Out launch started and anchored at Sajnekhali Island.

We are at Sajnekhali island - journey started from here

We are at Sajnekhali island – journey started from here

From here we entered into the tiger reserve forest. Our guide obtained pass for all members from here. Before venturing into jungle, we have to take pass from forest department here. The famous Sajnekhali tourist lodge located here. But you have to book in advance. Our boat anchored in a protected jetty ghat.  Nobody lives on this island outside this protected area except wild beasts. Inside the forest office, you we have seen Mangrove Interpretation center. Crocodile pond,  Bonobibi temple, and  wild lizards pond.

Mangrove Interpretation center

Mangrove Interpretation center

Normally, forest office charges 30 per head for park visit. But for one day pass per boat, entry fees are included. I enjoyed mangrove concentration center. Tale a photo of all types of mangroves as this will help me to identify mangroves deep inside the jungle. Park is open till 4 pm evening. After 30 minutes stay at Sajnekhali Island , we boarded on boat  for next spot Sudhanyakhali.

Map of Sundarban - I found this map very useful

Map of Sundarban – I found this map very useful (this was displayed in front of Interpretation center)

Sundarban Trip #4: Sajnekhali Island to Sudhanyakhali journey

Standing  at Sajnekhali  ferry ghat,  we could see distant view of Pakhiralaya. Boat driver told us that sometime tigers swim this river to reach the other side of villages. We again boarded on the boat and finished our breakfast on the deck. Boat started sailing for  Sudhanyakhali  camp. After 15 min drive, we reached the core area of forest. Now we are sailing along the Vidya Rivers. Both sides of the river are covered with dense forest. We could see different types of mangroves on the left bank. Our boat is keeping 20 ft distance from the border line of deep jungle. We now can see many infamous creeks entering into the deep forest. Entry paths of those creeks are covered with nets so that fishing boats cannot enter into deep jungle for crabs and honeys. If lucks favors, we can see the glimpse of tigers at the swampy river bank.

Our journey towards Sudhanyakhali - many boats are joing with us

Our journey towards Sudhanyakhali – many boats are joining with us

On the river bank near the jungle, we observed board indicated name Pirkhali, driver informed we are now leaving main stream of vidya river and take left side tributary to reach Sudhanyakhali . Now real thrill has been starts. Here jungles on both sides come close to our boats. Rivers is not wide here. We see many types of mangroves both side. Notably golapata, sundhari, Goran all covered both river banks. We observed many big fruits are hanging from trees. But, could not identify what type of trees these are. All lady members came on front deck; all are enjoying mild sun burn on the deck. They started antakshari on board. Boat is meandering through tributary. I was on front deck reading local book about Bonobibi and local folklore.

irkhali -our boat takes left trun towards Sudhanyakhali camp. Deep forest both sides.

Pirkhali -our boat takes left trun towards Sudhanyakhali camp. Deep forest both sides.

Jetty ghat at Sudhanyakhali camp

Jetty ghat at Sudhanyakhali camp

Tea was served on board.  I was reading history of Bono bibi, Dakhin Roy, and Maajonghi. It was an awesome experience to read local history while sipping tea and watching deep forest in both sides of the boat are crossing by. Suddenly, our boat stops near a creek. I wondered what happened. Guide whisper “sir, just look through the creek. We saw small team of dears grazing on the land inside jungle. We stopped there and suddenly they departed that place. We saw some undulation of tree tops on the backs. Guide hinted driver to start boat and   take it to the mid river. Later guide informed that there might be wild beast around. Since river is narrow, it better to maintain safe distance from riverbank.

Different types of Mangroves in Sundarban

Different types of Mangroves in Sundarban – I mentioned here as I used this image to locate different types of mangroves during jungle journey- Just look at Hental and Keora – both are favorite place for tiger habitat

I felt unlucky as we could have stayed there to see a tiger to kill his pray. However, guide advised to maintain safe distance for safety. This is very popular place for tigers watching.

Old ship parked at Sudhanyakhali camp

Old ship parked at Sudhanyakhali camp

We reached Sudhanyakhali after 1 hour boating. We observed a old ship anchored in this place, it may be  a victim of infamous Aila storm that ravaged Sundenban delta few years  back.. There is a watch tower and observed a panoramic views of mangroves all around , narrow stretches of creeks, and deep forests. In this place, Forrest office nicely presented various mangroves plantation with proper labeling.   We stayed there for 30 minutes. While retiring to jetty ghat we paid our tribute to Bonbibi darga.

View from Sudhanyakhali watch tower - tigers are coming here for drinking water

View from Sudhanyakhali watch tower – tigers are coming here for drinking water

Sundarban Trip #5: Journey to Dobanki

View from Sudhanyakhali watch tower - tigers are coming here for drinking water

View from Sudhanyakhali watch tower – tigers are coming here for drinking water

After Sudhanyakhali , our boat took the main journey through core jungle area in Sunderban.  Driver informed it take another 1-2 hours journey to reach Dobanki camp. Our boat took more narrow path of a tributary. Jungle on both sides comes close to our boat. We keep our eye open for looking beasts on the river bank. This area is really dreadful  dense forest and uncanny silence on both sides make nerve alert for any possible darshan of wild beasts nearby on the river bank.

Dobanki Camp journey - jungle on both sides come close to boat

Dobanki Camp journey – jungle on both sides come close to boat

We are at Dobanki Camp

We are at Dobanki Camp

Our family at Dobanki Camp -just before starting canopy walk

Our family at Dobanki Camp -just before starting canopy walk

In sunderban, there is a popular saying, you me be looking for tiger on river bank or in jungle, but Dakhin roy (tiger) is watching you from deep jungle. Kids stopped playing now. All are anxiously waiting for some darshan of wild animal either in jungle or river bank or in river. I was standing on the front desk of boat. All of a sudden, our team manager Chiranjib silently pointed a swampy land see through the creek. Yes, we observed a big crocodile (about 2-3 meter long) taking rest in sunlight on the bank. Our boat stopped engine and went close to creek. Yes, I could see the giant crocodile taking sunbath on riverbank.  We stopped sometime there. On the way we saw deer and wild hen. But we could not find any trace of Royal Bengal tiger.

Crocodile on sea bank at Dobanki Camp

Crocodile on sea bank near Dobanki Camp

On the both sides, we found various types of mangroves sharing the riverbank and water was covering the base of dense mangroves forests. After 20 minutes water journey we reached Dobanki  camp. This is very popular tourist spot in the deep jungle. Boat left us on jetty connecting to the forest office on the land. Both side covered with iron mesh as this is located just deep inside the forest.

Canopy walk at Dobanki camp

Main attraction of this place is canopy walk through a 20 feet elevated path through the deep mangroves forests. After disembarking at jetty, we went to watch tower. From here you can have spectacular view of Sunderban deep forest. From the watch tower,  we took elevated path covered with iron mesh. We could see food steps of many wild animals roaming near the path. Someone tells we may see tiger in this area coming for water in the morning or in evening time. But it was 2:00 PM  pm. Hence no trace of tiger around. We all are stranding on an extended platform near path. On the bottom below 20 feet’s there is deep jungle. . All of asudden we heard a sound as someone smashing bushes nearby. We got curious, but we are feeling safe as we are inside mesh. Then suddenly we saw a big deer coming out of one side of jungle and quickly vanish in other side. That was really an awesome experience to see animal are roaming in deep jungle and we are inside a case to watch their lives.

View of Canopy walk from watch tower at Dobanki Camp

View of Canopy walk from watch tower at Dobanki Camp

We spent another 30 minutes there and moved to jetty ghat to board the launch. It was 2:30 PM by that time. Our next destination is Jharkhali.

Sundarban tour#6: Journey to Jharkhali

This place becomes increasingly popular among Sunderban tourist in the recent time. This is famous for 3 reasons. First, it is close to forest area. In fact, you get many boats to venture into islands deep inside the forests. Second, this is most famous for recently built tiger rehabilitation center. Forest department keep wounded tigers here for treatment and release them after necessary treatment . Third, it is very nice picnic spot just very close to hear of Sunderban jungle.

Our journey towards Jahrkhali - confluence of rivers

Our journey towards Jahrkhali – confluence of rivers

From Dobanki camp, our launch entered into a large river confluence. Here we could vast water body on both sides of our launch. It seems 2-3 rivers meet here. We were on our boat deck. We finished our lunch on the boat before disembarking on land. After 1 hours water journey, we reached Jharkhali around 300 pm. From the launch we could see distant view of tiger rehabilitation center, mangrove forests and   watch tower protruding out of jungle top.

Jharkhali island - distant view of watch tower from boat

Jharkhali island – distant view of watch tower from boat

When reached jetty and observed local mela organized in the name of Bonbibi. Path connecting to jetty, covered with food stalls and are selling foods to travelers. Many boats from deep jungle islands stopped here with jungle tourists for tiger Darshan.   Moreover, this is well connected with Kolkata and other places in Gosaba.

After some brisk walk along the fields which are used for cultivating different types of mangroves in sunderban, we reached a tiger rehabilitation center. Entry fees is RS  30 per head and open up to 4pm ( they sell ticket up to 4 pm) we entered the center and observed watch tower on the right side. It was closed then because of renovation work. We saw one big royal Bengal tiger which was taken here from forest for treatment few weeks back. In the whole day, we at last saw tiger of Sunderban. It was a vicarious feeling as this tiger is real tiger just taken from forest and would be released to forest soon.  On the back side of tiger camp, we saw two forest bungalows for tourist. Kids from our team spend some times for rides in nearby park.

Tiger rehabilitation center at Jharkhali

Tiger rehabilitation center at Jharkhali – this tiger would be released  into jungle after treatment

It was 5 pm by then and park was closed for visitors. We came out and moved to jetty for our return journey to pakhirala. It was sunset time. We were again on boat for return journey. Evening tea was served and we were observing sunset over the jungle.

Sunset over the Sundarban jungle at Jharkhali

Sunset over the Sundarban jungle at Jharkhali

Driver informed technical problems in our boat. Hence, we started late around 530 pm from jharkhali to our jungle destination pakhiralaya . Darkness already covered the river and nearby jungle area. It was Makar sankranti night. Cool breeze was flowing over the river. Jungle becomes more mystic. We are on the top deck of our boat.  Moon would  come appear in the sky soon. Driver told it would take 3 hours to reach pakhiralaya .

Both sides of the river were covered with deep jungle. Regular tourist boats were absent by then as we were late to start our boat due to technical problem in our boat. We started after sometime, when main driver informed that boat problem was rectified. So we gathered happily on the top deck of the boat in an adda mood with our co-driver  and listening old folklore and historical narrative of jungle, tigers, and struggle of local people.

But, after few minutes journey, our boat got stranded on the river bed due to low tide. We had to spend fearful 2 hours on a stranded boat deep inside the forest. It was 8 pm night. Big moon declared her presence in sky. In the moon light deep jungle on both sides looked more romantic and equally dangerous. After some time, high tide came and we started our journey. When reached pakhiralaya, it was 10 pm night. Care taker of our hotel stood at jetty ghat and anxiously waiting for us. We foot onto jetty and be assured that we were safe. Our day long journey ended with a tasty dinner and finally went to bed safely. We tanked Bonbibi for ensuring our safety during this Sunderban trip.

We could not get change t o have look of tiger in jungle, perhaps,  tiger was might be watching us through the narrow jungle creek. Watching tiger on river bank may be the next event  in our next trip in sunderban.

Sunderban sightseeing and travel tips: 

Sundarban tour guide: Some important information for travelers:

1) Best time to visit Sundarban: From September to March every year. In winter, there are greater chance of seeing tiger, crocodile and other animal on river bank. In September, weather would be more humid. But you can enjoy heavy current of rivers. It is better to avoid rainy season and summer time. In summer, there is always chance of facing Kalbaisakhi (local Strom). It is dangerous to venture into jungle through river path during this time.

2) How to reach Sundarban ?

You can reach Sunderban delta through various routes. We have reached Sunderban via Dhamakhali. But, it is better to reach core jungle via launch thorough Gosaba or Gadkhali. From these places, you can reach Sajnekhali by launch in 2-3 hours.

3) Where to stay in Sunderban ?

Based on my travel experience, I have found pakhiralaya is the best place to have night halt. There are about 35 different budget hotels in that location. We did not book our hotel in advance and it was Saturday night. Hence demand was peak. Still we managed to book our hotel there after checking 2-3 hotels. We stayed in Hotel Mangroves in and it is very close to pakhiralaya jetty chat. There is small market near jetty ghat. We did our evening shopping here. In fact, I always look for books shared local folklore and fables. This land is famous for Bonbibi. Hence, I grabbed a copy of Bonbibi upkhaan ( legend of Bonbibi) written by local author.

Again for hotels in pakhiralaya, I feel you can try your luck if reach here in non pick season.

4) Approximate budget for Sundarban tour

It depends on which travel agency you have chosen to visit there. We spent about INR 2500 per person for 2N/3D tour. It is very cheap as it was managed by our local friends group. This tour cost INR 4000 – 5000 if you book from outside agency.

Please check their itenary before booking the same. In fact, if you have about 20 members in your team, you can arrange your personal trip by hiring boat and cooking facility from local market.

5) Some myths and facts about Sunderban tiger and sunderban tour

Sundarban tiger facts

Some interesting facts  you should know about Sundarban tiger while you meandering though deep jungle creeks for quick meet up with tiger.

When you cruising through treacherous creeks in Sundarban, you keep yourself alerted for possible darshan of dakhin roy (local name of sunderban tiger). But, what is the best time to get darshan (visit) of a tiger?

I have shared some facts of Sunderban tiger, especially their habit and daily touring activities. Here are some interesting facts

1) Sundarban tiger moves 4.6 km per day.

2) Home range popularly  designated  by the area where tigers catch their preys is  57 sqr km (female tiger) to 110 sqr km .( for male tiger)

3) Peak activity of tiger. In Sundarban, tigers are very active during morning I.e. from 5 am to 10 am. Hence , you are peeing into deep mangrove forests near hetal tree or sundari trees during this time. There is good  chance to get welcomed by tiger. So be careful this time. When we visited Sundarban, we knew that we could see tiger in the evening or night. But in night tigers to to bed after day long marathon. Hence, most of reports of tiger attack in sunderban happened between 7 am and noon.

Sunderban tigers prey base mainly consists of deer. Deers are diurnal in nature. That forces tigers to hunt preys in morning. Hence, tigers are very active in morning. However, tigers in Russia and in other part of SE Asia are nocturnal in nature as prey base are very active in night.

4) Though tigers are good swimmers, still they are reluctant to cross big channel or rivers. Tigers in swampy forest like Sundarban cross about 5 channels or creek per day. In fact, in Sunderban preys are so abundant, a tiger , can satisfy its hunger after few hours of strolling.

( source, public library of science journal. 2017) reported in times of India.

How to reach Sundarban from Kolkata

There are many ways you can reach sunderban. I have found many questions raised online about route information for reaching sunderban

A) Reaching Sundarban from Sealdah

Sealdah is the second most busy train terminal in Kolkata. From Sealdah many trains run up to canning, the last railway station near Sundarban. Every one hour you get Sealdah-Canning local to reach canning station. From here, you can take bus , auto to reach various islands near Sundraban’s core jungle area. Best way to reach these islands just take bus or auto for either Dhamakhali, Gosaba, Godkhali.

Canning to Dhamakhali : you can reach Dhamakhali from canning by auto or bus. It  is a 28 km journey on road and you can take either bus or auto to reach Dhamakhali. Just come out from Canning Railway station, you can get bus from main road connected to station. You can ask anyone for bus direction. In the morning, you get 2-3 buss from Canning Railway station for Dhamakhali.

However, if you like to avail shared auto, then you need to walk at least 200 metre towards Matla bridge to reach auto stand. They talk about 10 people per auto. Charges 30 rs per head for 28 km journey. If you get sitting place in bus, better you avail that as the last 18 km road near Dhamakhali is really very bad. Plan your journey  accordingly. From here you can reach Pakhirala in 4-5 hours.

Canning to Gosaba : This route is good. From here you can reach Pakhirala in 2-3 hours by boat. You can plenty of buses and shared autos to reach Gosaba.

Canning to Gadkhali : this very nice route. Road condition is very good. From here pakhirala is also 2-3 hours boat journey. We booked auto from this place while returning to canning station. The whole auto can charge rs 400. -600 for booking.

I strongly suggest to avail this route to reach Sundarban from canning station.

B) Reaching Sundarban from Howrah : if you reach Howrah railway station, from there you can take bus or taxi to reach Sealdah station. From Sealdah  you take local trains to reach Canning station.

C) Outside Bengal: if you are coming from the rest part of India outside Bengal. Then you can take trains to reach either Sealdah or Howrah station. Once you reach there, you can take trains for Canning and follow the directions mentioned above.

By Air) Nearest airport  in Kolkata is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose international airport (Dum Dum Ariport). From here you can take cab to reach Sonakhali, Canning, Namkhana, Raidighi. From here can access waterways to reach sunderban jungle.

D) Bus routes for Sundarban:

From barasat  :  if you like to catch bus from Barasat, Airport, VIP  road or Ultadanga ,  you get Barasat Dhamakhali state transport bus to reach Dhamakhali. From there you get launch to reach the heart of sunderban delta. Again, this is a long road journey.

From Husnabad : few boats are plying between Sundarban and Husnabad route via Ichamati river. But I am not sure how much time they take to reach popular tourist destinations in sunderban.

By bus from Calcutta city : many buses are plying on a daily basis between Kolkata ( K. C. Das at Esplanade) and Sonakhali port near Sunderban.

In my opinion, train journey is comfortable to reach SundArban from Kolkata.

 

Ranchi tour: Journey to a land of waterfalls where legend and history creates an aura.

Ranchi is a land which is famous for its  history, legends, natural beauty and hometown of famous cricket MS Dhoni. This is holiday season, travel crazy Bengali’s are out with backpack and kids to enjoy holiday locations in and around Kolkata. This winter I have chosen Ranchi because it is close to Kolkata and many historical events are attached with this state capital and  small hill town near Kolkata.

Ranchi history : Some interesting facts about Ranchi 

As per local legend, Ranchi name was derived from “Archi” when a local farmer farmer drove out an evil spirit with bamboo stave. Evil shouted Arhci before leaving this place. And this place become Ranchi.

Since Ranchi is a part of the Chota Nagpur plateau, Many water falls are created by river at the edge of plateau. Ranchi is popularly known as the “City of Waterfalls” because of its numerous waterfalls, the most well known of which are Dassam Falls, Hundru Falls, Jonha Falls, Hirni Falls, and Panchghagh Falls.

Through this blog I like to share my experience with my readers and helping them to select Ranchi in your next short tourist destination.

hundrufalls-in-the-city-of-water-falls-ranchi

Hundru falls in “The City-of-water-falls” Ranchi

Ranchi tour guide: Why have I selected Ranchi for our short family trip?

It is again subjective decision based on your taste. I have selected this location of top three reasons.

1) It is very close to close to Kolkata and tucked away by 430 km by train route. So for 2-3 days break, you come here with your family. It is a over night train journey.

2) It is a right place if you like enjoy history of Chinnamasta devi and beauty of hundhru falls. History and nature are same place to take your breath away.

3) From here you can go Netarhut to enjoy pristine beauty of hill town and unparalleled experience of watching sunrise and sunset. From here you can go for Betla forest trip.if you have 4 to 5 days time , you can plan Ranchi- Neturhat-belta forest trip. Hence history, jungle and hilltop views all are offered at the same location.

How to reach Ranchi?

Kolkata Ranchi route

Kolkata Ranchi route

Ranchi is well connected with major cities by roads, air and rails. But question is “how to reach Ranchi from Kolkata?”We have reached here by train from Kolkata. There are 3 main train running daily from Ranchi and Kolkata/Howrah.

  • 18628/Ranchi – Howrah Intercity Express (via Dhanbad)
  • 18616/Kriya Yoga Express
  • 12020/Ranchi – Howrah Shatabdi Express

I found Kriya Yoga Express more suitable for tourists as far as timing and pricing are concerned.

Hotels in Ranchi: How to find best hotels in Ranchi?

I like to share my honest experience with readers in this post. Since I was traveling in peak time in last week of December 2016. I was little bit apprehensive about availability of good hotels in that place at reasonable price.

Hotels in Ranchi Station road area.

Hotels in Ranchi Station road area. You can find many good hotels in this area.

I was searching in Goibibo and Makemytrips. In fact these websites are inflating prices. There are 3 types hotels. For top hotels you can definitely book from hotel booking  websites. For medium range hotels you can book over phone. I was looking for hotels in 1000 to 1500 range. What I found on travel booking sites in this range, that actually cost about 700 – 1000 range if you book that offline.

I have interacted few travel agents and local people here. You won’t find mad rush of tourists here even in very peak seasons. In that respect,  there are plenty of hotels in Ranchi.

1) Premium hotels: Many quality hotels located along Ranchi station roads. After coming out from platform number 1, you find a two way lane just running across rail tract separated by rail wall. 100 meter from rail station  you can locate at least 40 hotels located along the station roads.

2) Few good hotels : Hotel Benna in , Hotel AVN plaza, Hotel Element, You can found few 3 star hotels in this water. All within 100 meters.

3) Budget hotels. Hotel Amrit, Hotel konark, hotel bliss regency. If you walk about 800 meters, you find many budget hotels.

4) I have seen few more hotels near over bridge areas. It about 1 km from station road. I have found big shopping complex near over bridge. I have found many more budget hotels in this area.

However, I have stayed in Hotel Amrit, 200 meter from station located in station road areas. They charge 1000 -1500 for deluxe room and 1500 to 2000 for AC double bed room. For non ac doubles bed they charged around 800/_.

As per local reference, you can try hotel Konark for budget travelers, and hotel Bella in for good comfort stay.

Some base pricing in budget and semi luxury hotels

Double bed : 600 – 800

Deluxe- 1000 – 1500

Ac double bed- above 1000

Best restaurant in this area, undoubtedly two names come up for tourists 

1) Sunny restaurant for pure vegetarian foods

2) Punjabi Rosoi for veg and non veg foods.

Both are located near Hotel Amrit along station road and very close to station.

Hotels booking tips : trust me, you wound not find mad rush of tourists here even in pick season. Hence, if you have time, you come here and check 2-3 hotels before you finalize the deals. After all it not like Darjeeling or Gangtok.

Ranchi sightseeing and outside city tour

Ranchi tour -Day 1 : we have planned day long outside trip with our family. I have discussed few friends and local agents before finalizing travel itinerary. We have booked sedan for a day long trip as we are 4 members in our family. Driver Mukesh also shared his views about tour plan before start the journey. He charged INR 2000 for covering 4 major spots in a day long trip.

A) Chinnamasta mandir.

This is famous sidhi peth and famous pilgrimage destination. Goddess Chinnamasta temple  is a hindu famous pilgrimage centre and located in Rajrappa, Ramgarh district of Jharkhand. Devotees from different states like Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal come here to offer puja.

On the way to Chinnamasta Mandir

On the way to Chinnamasta Mandir

Our journey started at 8;15 AM. This temple is 70 km away from Ranchi city and located along Ranchi purulia highway. It is 28 km away from Ramgarh Cantonment along NH-23 in the Ramgarh district of the State of Jharkhand

Entering Chinnamasta mandir area.

Entering Chinnamasta mandir area.

We were very excited about this temple. Chinnamasta is also called as Chhinnamastika and Prachanda Chandika. She is only  goddess who beheaded her own head and holding her own severed head and bledding neck make the whole darshan more dreadful. As if some Tantrik baba is waiting to grab some prey to offer it to Maa.

After starting from hotel driver took NH 33 road and reached Shivaji chowck after 10 km drive. This is big junction from here you can take roads to reach major distant cities like Jamshedpur, Ramghar, etc. We have taken road to Ramghar. Before reaching toll plaza we have taken roads towards Sikidri road. It took few more km to reach Rajrappa. However, I recommend this road to enjoy beauty of rural lives, hilly village trail. Along this path you can reach hundru fall. We reached sikidri hill top. In fact, hundru fall originated from this Plataea area. From here we can see the vast valley down. We started climbing down towards planes.

Views from Sikidri Hill top

Views from Sikidri Hill top

After 10 km drive, we reached Gola  station area and leaving behind hilly trail of sikidri cantonment area. After crossing Gola bazaar area, we took right to another 10 km. Finally we reached Chhinnamasta Temple around 1030 am.

We have parked our car and took the path to cross a hilly stream to reach temple premise.

Chinnamasta temple has long history to cherish. When I read first time about this place, I felt it might be inside jungle. Uncanny environment would prevail and frighten us during our visit. I was expecting some tantrik baba would be around with red eyes and chanting mantra for offering some sacrifices on alter. Satyajit Roy had chosen this location for shooting of chinnamasta aabhisap.

Offering puja at Chinnamasta temple

Offering puja at Chinnamasta temple

I was proved wrong as many things have been changed. Flocks of pilgrims with smart phone took snaps of temples. Tantric s were not insight. But puajaris were busy in managing puja and queue.

There is a nice platform build near the mandir and by the side of the river. This location has a special  significance. From the platfrom, we can see union of Bhairavi nadi (female) coming from top, meeting Damodar nada (male) signifying vipareeta rati ( opposite coppulation) pose as described in Devi Chhinnamasta’s dhyana (vipareeta rataturam). Damodar is very calm and Bhairavi is the active member. We could see some boating down in the Damodar river.

Views of Bhairavi and Damodar river from Chinnamasta Temple top

Views of Bhairavi and Damodar river from Chinnamasta Temple top

We then moved to main Chinnamasta temple and there was a moderate queue. When we entered the main temple area, we could not find any sign of Maa Chinnamasta. Pujaris are clamoring for dakshina and they hardly allow you to stand there for a minute. Anyway, I closed my eye and feel the blessing of Maa Chinnamasta.

Astha Mandir in chariot style . Nice place to visits near Chinnamasta Temple

Astha Mandir in chariot style . Nice place to visits near Chinnamasta Temple

What to see Chinnamasta temple in Ranchi 

1) Chinnamasta temple. Is located near the small rivulet flowing down the rocks. Morning time you offer puja and there was not much queue that time.

2) Next to temple, you will find Astha Mandir consists of  series of temples in  a chariot fashion.

3) I have located some boating scheme down the river. Since we have limited time we have not tried that options.

You can spend 2 hours time to offer puja and enjoy environment around

B) Hundru falls

We have covered the distant location ( Chinnamasta temple) first and started for Hundru fall while returning for Ranchi. It is 45 km  from Ranchi, along  the Ranchi-Purulia Road.  From Gola bazaar, we again drove up to reach Sikidri top and turned left and drove about 10 km through tribal village to reach fall. On the way we observed paddy fields, 2-3 km jungle to reach main gate of fall. It was 1:30 pm. We finished our lunch here. Very tasty Bengali thali  here at very reasonably rate. We took entry ticket ( rs 5 per ticket) and claimed down the 700 stairs to reach the base of fall. The scenic beauty of fall and valley erased our tiredness.

Hundru fall- awesome views

Hundru fall- awesome views

The Hundru Falls is 98 metres (322 ft) in height and is created on the course of the Subarnarekha River, and it is one of the highest water falls in the state. The spectacular scene of water falling from such a great height has been described as a sight to behold.  In rainy season, it takes dreadful image and it becomes a popular picnic spot in winter. We climbed down about 600 steps to reach the bottom of the fall. There is a private arrangment of boating in the water near the falls. We spend around 30 minuted there. And reached the hill top by 3:30  pm.

C) Getalsud dam :

It  is a off beat location. From the fall it is 20 km jungle ride. On the both side we have observed jungle of shawl and other big tress. In one location driver informed us that is area was infested with snakes. No animals enter here. We park our car close to jungle and looking at mud lumps near big tress to have a distant look of poisonous snake. But it was 4 pm hence drove  headed towards dam. We directly drove onto dam. It is a 3 km ride along dam. Left side big dam reservoir covering areas up to Ranchi city side. We did a brisk walk on lock gate. Sun is also on the other side of vast reservoir planning for day off.

Journey through jungle towards Getalsud dam. This is very snake infested area

Journey through jungle towards Getalsud dam. This is very snake infested area

Driving on the Getalsud dam.

Driving on the Getalsud dam.

D) Bhagawan Birsa biological park zoo

It was last point for the day. We reached spot around 4:30 pm. Time for closing the zoo visiting hour. We spent 30 minutes there.

Bhagawan Birsa biological park zoo

Bhagawan Birsa biological park zoo

Finally we started there at 5 pm and reached our hotel around 6 pm.

In this tour we generally looked places for outside city tour. Mandir and fall experience are still afresh in our mind.

Ranchi Tour – Day 2

We have taken a complete day rest for full day tour outside Ranchi city. We have done a combo plan i.e. to complete city tour and outside city tour in a day. It was about 250 km travel plan to complete

A) Dassam falls

B) Sun Temple

C) Patratu valley and dam

All these are distant places from Ranchi. In addition, we have planned to visit some select places inside city. We know this is hectic schedule, however we tried to cover major places before we board the train at night from Ranchi railway station. We have booked same sedan for day long tour.

A) Dassam falls : It was 8 o clock morning , we started from hotel and take Ranchi – Tata Nagar highway. It is located 40 km from Ranchi. First 30 minutes journey refreshed our mind when we took hilly trails to reach a point from we take right turn for final path towards Dassam fall.

Dassam Fall view

Dassam Fall view

From highway it was about 10 km drive , local village life, lush green paddy fields, and distant view of hills will take your tiredness away. After 3 km drive we reach a junction which shows two directions and both direction will take you to Dassam fall. But there is a catch. We actually took straight path and this is new path for reaching on the top of the hill and falls.

Dassam fall view from hill top

Dassam fall view from hill top

Along new path you would find more jungle and turn of the jungle path was steep and sharp.but road condition was excellent. On the way we observed silence of jungle and distant hill top was watching us from over the jungle trees. We found tribal women carrying wood logs climbing down the hilly path. You won’t found tribal village in this path, but jungle journey was excellent. When we reached on the top of falls it was 9:30 am. We took some awesome snaps from here. From here you can see another approach road to base of Dassam fall. In fact that is old and main entrance.

As I told you after entering from highway into village path we observed two path. Actually you have to take left path and this will take you to the base of falls. We now headed towards old route. This route is very well maintained also. We have found tribal village schools, rural health clinic along this path. In path , we have found less jungle experience. However, this place is good for sightseeing the nearby areas of falls. We now climbed down about 200 steps to reach at the base of the fall. It was really awesome. This falls may not be as high as Hundru falls, but best experience I have had while enjoying time in waterfall area.

Question may arise: which is the best fall in Ranchi? Hundru, John’s or Dassam.

I am for Dassam fall as it has some advantage over others. 3 main factors for choosing Dassam fall

1) Nice jungle driving experience in Dassam fall area

2) It is easy to reach at the bottom of falls. You need to only about 250 steps.

3) I found surrounds are really beautiful.

Tips for this place

1) Start early for this place and reach there by 10 am in the morning

2) spend 2-3 hours there and if possible go for jungle drive to reach other side of fall through the jungle.

3) do some trekking from old that to new ghat. I have seen many people crossed the roads over the falls.

B) Sun temple : After finishing Dassam fall visit, we again come back to Ranchi Tata Nagar highway. We drove 10 km towards Tata nagar direction and from the highway we found the top of the sun temple. It was 12 noon just before closing hour of temple. Front sculpture is really good. But the whole mandir needs some renovation work especially wheels of chariot. We made a round of the temple. Distant view of surrounding hills mesmerized us. We spent 30 minutes there spending sometimes inside meditation hall. Temple remained closed between 12 pm to 12:30 pm to visitors. Hence plan your time accordingly. There are many good dhabas in this region, hence We have finished our lunch here.

Sun temple along Ranchi -Tata Nagar highway

Sun temple along Ranchi -Tata Nagar highway

Tips

You can access this place if you coming from Tata Nagar towards Ranchi. You are touring from Ranchi , then you can easily visit this place once you finish Dassam fall visit.

Back to Ranchi city

Our next trip is Patratu hill and valley. This place is located on the other side Ranchi along Ranchi- Ramghar- Hajaribag national highway. We have reach Ranchi town now and spent some time for visiting some sightseeing places in Ranchi city.

Quick sightseeing in Ranchi city

There are many places to see in Ranchi, but select few selected locations as to manage precious time.

1) Ranchi hill and pahari mandir

This is located right at the heart of the city. We claimed about 200 stores to reach the hill top. From here you can see distant views of Ranchi lake, Ratu chowck etc. We spend 30 minutes there.

Pahari mandir inside Ranchi city

Pahari mandir inside Ranchi city

Pahari mandir at the hill top

Pahari mandir at the hill top

2) Hatia dam

We gain drove 10 km from highway towards hatia station. On the way we have seen Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC) campus, Ranchi stadium. And finally reached Hatia dam. It being 31st December, many families are enjoying picnics in dam area. This is very popular destination for picnic in Ranchi.

Hatia Dam

Hatia Dam

3) Jagannath temple in Ranchi 

On the way returning  from Hatia dam, we went to Jagannath temple located on a small hillock. It was closed by that time. But beauty of temple is really awesome. From temple top you can see distant view of Hatia city, and stadium. We spend about 20 minutes there.

Jagannath temple

Jagannath temple

Now it is about 2: 30 pm. We need to cover of our last lap of day long trip. From here we will take road for Patratu valley. Hence again on wheel for patratu tour.

C) Patratu valley trip

I feel if you like to enjoy a hilly drive then it is the best place to visit during your day long tour in and around Ranchi. This place is located 35 km from Ranchi along Ranchi Hajaribag highway. On the way we crossed Ratu chowck and after 15 km journey, we reached at the uphill of Pratratu valley. It was after noon, sun was on the other side hilly range. Riots of colors from sun rays drenched the whole valley. On the both side of road, long stretches of forest consisting shawl, segun were welcoming us. We stop at a location along highway to take a panoramic views of Patratu hill. Down the hill on the right side we could see vast lake called Patratu lake. Patratu lake is a popular picnic spot in Ranchi. When we reached the lake area, it was 3:30 pm. Picnic parties are in their full mood to enjoy 31st December year end party.

Patratu valley - views from car

Patratu valley – views from car

Boating in Patratu dam

Boating in Patratu dam

We reached the lake water by dodging picnic huts scattered near the water body. It was almost evening, we sit on bank of the lake. Distant views of small boats plying in the lake was awesome. Tourists parties are enjoying boating in the lake. Distant views of hillocks on the other side creating relaxed felling. We were recollecting the memories of Maithon dam. There if you sit on the lake and look carefully , you would find tortoise like island deep inside the lake. Whole experience was mesmerizing. We have a nice tea at nearby tea stall. Darkness covered  the dam area.  It was 5:30 pm evening. We are back onto car for return journey to Ranchi city. When we reached Ranchi station for return train to Howrah, it was 730 pm. It was a nice whole day tour experience.

Ranchi tour plan

If you like enjoy hills and pilgrimage then you can have following plan

A) Day one – hundru falls + chinnamasta mandir. We travel by private vehicle.

B) day 2: we take local cab for city sightseeing. They charge about INR 1000 for 8 spots in 6 hours.

C) day 3 : Dassam fall and patratu viley. Private car charges about INR 2000.

Before booking you check with 2-3 travel agents along with your hotel’s service desk.

Our journey continues ..

Our journey continues ..

Hope you find this information useful. Please let me know your view.

Our trip to offbeat tourist locations near IIT Kharagpur

It was middle of April month (2016), and scorching Sun spewing heat across the region. We were lucky, so we got 2 AC guest rooms in Visvesvaraya Guest House (VGH) at IIT Kharagpur campus. We were enjoying foods and cozy stay in VGH, despite high summer temperature outside. But that could not dampen our spirit to visit nearby places from IIT kharagpur.

Especially every evening was pleasant during our 3 days’ stay at campus. I had come here in my own car and that was extra advantage I had as I could visit any nearby places in afternoon. First day we target Gopali asram.

Gopali Ashram:

It’s a nice Ashram located 3 km from IIT Kharagpur Prem Bazar Gate. Spending some time here with your family is really refreshing. We reached there around 5:15 pm.. On the back side of the asram , we found a primary school with nice playground and garden. As per local inscription, this asram was set up in 1978 on a land donated by Haripada Bhanja and Radhanath Bhanja. We have found a long list of donors from different parts of West Bengal.

History of this Ahsram

This ashram was established on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami  in 1974 on a plot of land measuring 6.5 Acres by Kalyan Ashram. It’s situated 7 Km. South of Kharagpur Railway Station, and tucked away 2 Km. South from I.I.T. Kharagpur and 3 Km. North of E.F.R. Training Camp, Salua and Air Base, Salua. Later the management was taken over by the Pratisthan.

Shiva Mandir at Gopali Ashram

Shiva Mandir at Gopali Ashram

What to see here:

a) Lord Shiva Temple: The Ashram has a magnificent Shiva Mandir built by the Bhagchandka family of Calcutta. Temple’s foundation stone was laid by H.H. Jagatguru Shankaracharya Sri Abhinava Vidyateerthjee Maharaj of Sringeri.

Om KareShwar Mandir at Gopali Ashram

Om KareShwar Mandir at Gopali Ashram

b) Chatrabas : School cum shelter providing free lodging & Boarding for economically weaker section: SC/ST and orphan boys.

c) Sarda Sishu Mandir: It provides day and morning schooling to hundreds of children.

School inside Ashram

School inside Ashram

We visited all 3 places. While coming back from school ground, we found game teacher taking evening exercise class of small kids. We also enjoyed sunset behind vast ground located in front of asram. This asram may be small , but bucolic simplicity of local people and transcendental presence of asramic environment made our mind cool.

How to reach here: if you come by car, its 7 km from Kharagpur railway station and 3 km from IIT campus. If you like to avail local bus, you can catch any private bus plying between Medinipur and khorika or Keshiwari. You can also hire local auto. IIT student can go there by cycle. It’s only 4 km cycle ride from hostel.

After ashram visit , I took my family for a short drive towards Keshiwari. On the way we stopped at Salua to savor tasty local momo. There are 2-3 momo shops in that area. When returned from short evening trip, it was 730pm.

Hijli Eco Park: On the second day

It’s a small natural park very close to IIT Kharagpur campus. It is located 1 km from Prem Bazar gate. It’s a famous picnic spot in winter. There is a small deer park inside. Since it was summer, we went there at 5pm evening. Someone informed that 5 P.m. is a feeding time for deer. We have located a nice eco resort is being constructed by forest department. I hope it would fully functional in few months.  While walking along the path covered with trees from both sides , we found many small rides for children and nice picnic spots under giant mango trees.

Hijli Eco Park entrance

Hijli Eco Park entrance

Pathway towrads Deer park

Pathway towrads Deer park

After few meter walk, we look left to reach deer park area covered with iron fence. Forest official told everyday 5 pm they feed deer. To locate the deer, we walked along the fence and entered the forest to reach feeding area. That time it was evening. Evening sun ray created riots of colors across the jungle. Chattering of some birds over the tree heads created an uncanny environment there. As if jim Corbett is waiting for tiger hunt in a deep jungle and chattering of brids declared the presence of beast. We stayed sometime there and moved to see other part of park.

Deer park insdie Hijli Eco Park

Deer park insdie Hijli Eco Park

Nice nursery growing local varieties of sonajhuri trees

Nice nursery growing local varieties of sonajhuri trees

On the back side of the park,  there a nice nursery growing local varieties of sonajhuri trees, shal trees etc. This is a restricted area. However, we requested local official for a short trip inside the nursery. It’s very refreshing to spend some times there. When we came to main gate, it was 6pm evening, park closing time.

Nice park and picnic spots inside

Nice park and picnic spots inside

Some facts for tourists about Hijli Eco Park

Timing : open till 6pm

Ticket: Rs 5 per head and 25 Rs for  car parking charge.

Best time to visit: winter season

How to reach Eco park: it’s very close to Prem Bazar Gate of IIT Kharagpur. So from IIT campus you can reach by cycle or on foot. If you come from kharagpur station , you can reach this place  either by Salua bound auto or Keshiwari bound bus and get down at Prem bazar. From prem bazar it’s 500 meters distance walk. I am not sure whether bus has any stoppage at Hijli Eco park stopage.

Hijli Eco park is really a nice pincin spot during winter.

Hope you find this information useful.

Thanks

Our trip to Nathula pass and Changu Lake after 15 years

This is our third trip to Gangtok. This time we have come to Gangtok after 2 days’ visit at Darjeeling. Since we have already visited major places in Gangtok in last two trips, we planned to visit Nathula pass and Changu Lake. We went Changu for the first time in 1999. So this was a second time journey to rekindle our experience after 15 years.

We are at new Bada Dham - Nathula pass

We are at new Bada Dham – Nathula pass

I have shared only Nathula and Changu lake trip experience in this blog post. In Gangtok , you can plan for three major trip : 1) Gangtok sightseeing ( 1day trip ), 2) yumthang trip ( 1N/2D day trip) , 3) Nathula and Changu lake trip (1 day trip)   . 4) Gurudongmar Lake trip (2N/3D day trip). In this blog post, I have shared trip experience and some important facts about successful Nathula tour in Gangtok.

Awesome view of hilly terrain on the way to Nathula

Awesome view of hilly terrain on the way to Nathula

We checked in Hotel Central Point just opposite of Rumtek bus stand near Lal Market. From our room we can directly view Kanchenjunga view. After cheked in hotel, we looked out for best car deal from local 2-3 travel agents.

We are 4 people in our family; still we booked private car sumo at Rs 2800 price as no small car is allowed to go to Nathula. A team from Delhi booked same type of car at Rs. 6000. So it’s a broker raj and always check price before booking cab.

Our journey to Tsomgo Lake/ Changu Lake:

It was 7:30 A.M., and our driver Lampa arrived with car and informed us that road condition was good up to nathula. We started from Gangtok town at 7:45 AM. After 25 min journey, we reached check point for checking our pass for Nathula.

Check point before entering Nathula Pass road

Check point before entering Nathula Pass road

Weather was good, so we enjoyed our journey along hilly terrain. On the way we spotted many small falls.  But worth to spend some time at Rukmini falls. We spent some time there. Driver advised us to visit Nathula pass first and then visit changu while on returned journey.

We are approach towards Nathula Pass

We are approach towards Nathula Pass

We drove another 20 km to reach Changu lake, but we didn’t stop there as our first destination was Nathula . Leaving behind Changu lake to drove up towards Nathula . We were spell bound to see the beauty of hill and serenity of nature. Many small lakes welcoming us at the Holly hill top .on the way, we found newly built campus for  Kailash Manasarovar yatra from Nathula. Driver informed that Chinese vehicle come upto this place.

Rukmini falls on the way to Nathula

Rukmini falls on the way to Nathula

Camp for Kailash Manasarovar yatra  at Nathula

Camp for Kailash Manasarovar yatra at Nathula

After a 2 km drive, we have reached a junction. From here, the left path take you to Nathula border and it’s a commercial route so needs separate permission.  But we had tourist pass, so we took right path towards Baba Dham. “Baba” Harbhajan Singh Dham was 2 km from this post. On the way, we have seen ” Mera Bharat Mahan” engraved on a hillside. It was a awesome views. Finally we reached Baba Dham .

Baba dham – “Baba” Harbhajan Singh Dham

We are at New Baba Dham

We are at New Baba Dham

Earlier I thought that this is the place famous for Baba I mean Bhole baba ( LORD shiva ). But this place is named after “Baba” Harbhajan Singh. He joined as a sepoy in Indian army in 1946. While on duty in east sikim week region, he was killed in 1968. Later he appeared in a colleagues’ dream and requested them to build shrine in his name. Sepoy Harbhajan Singh is revered by soldiers of the Indian army as the “Hero of Nathula” and later on the Indian army had also built a shrine in his honor. As per local legend, spirit of “Baba” Harbhajan Singh is still guarding Indian armies at such high altitude region.

Shiva Temple on hill top - 1 km trek from Bada mandir

Shiva Temple on hill top – 1 km trek from Bada mandir

The original Baba Mandir was built at Tuku La Donchi La in 1983. Later for tourist convenience, new Harbhajan singh shire built at 10 km downhill. Most of regular Natula trip ends in new Baba temple.

When we reached this new Baba temple it was 1030 am .This is a awesome place and our tiredness got vanished with healing tough of Baba and beautiful nature around .we could see the vast valleys around looking us from the top . Clouds are coming up from down hills.

Siva temple at Nathula

Distant view of Shiva Temple from Baba Mandir

Distant view of Shiva Temple from Baba Mandir

Nammangcho water fall

Nammangcho water fall

Recently, Indian army has built at 12 ft long Shiva temple on a foot hill of Nammangcho hill . The  Shiva temple is put at the height of 13000 ft from sea level . It’s is regarded as the highest located Shiva idol in the world.  From new Baba shrine, we did trekking of 200 meters to reach the shiva Temple. On way we stopped at the foot hill of Nammangcho water fall.  This place was inaugurated in 10 October, 2014. From statue podium, we could see the scenic beauty of Narhula valley , Baba shrine and beautiful Nammangcho hill and waterfall. We spent there for 1:30 hrs and then started for   old Baba Mandir.

Nammangcho water fall

Nammangcho water fall

Old Baba mandir :

it’s located 10 km up from new shrine . This place was not included in our regular package. But I must tell you should not miss this place. We started for old Mandir at 1230 pm. On the way, we saw beautiful golf course, Elephants Lake and beautiful valley covered with orchid flowers. Along this journey we have found that the whole path is full of 4-5 types of orchid flowers, and beauty of Elephant Lake was beyond explanation. After 30 min ride we reached old Baba mandir . We offered our puja there and visited bankar and items used by Baba Harbhajan.

Elephant Lake on the way to Old Bab Mandir

Elephant Lake on the way to Old Bab Mandir

We stopped at check post on the way to old Baba Maindir- most of the time this palce covered with ice.

We stopped at check post on the way to old Baba Maindir- most of the time this palce covered with ice.

At old Baba Mandir- Nathula

At old Baba Mandir- Nathula

Top view from Baba ji ki Bankar

Top view from Baba ji ki Bankar

Awesome view of Hills, cloulds and orchid ganden near old Baba Maindir

Awesome view of Hills, cloulds and orchid ganden near old Baba Maindir

Tsomgo Lake:

Awesome view of Changu Lake

Awesome view of Changu Lake

While come back from old Baba temple, we stopped at Changu lake as per our plan. It was 2 pm by that time . In Changu market , we finished our lunch and went out for sightseeing around Changu lake . We took 2 yak for ride. Local people charged premium for this. We negotiate 250 for each yak ride. For still photography they charge Rs 50 per person . My wife and I walk on foot and my daughters on yak ride. It was 20 min ride walking along the lake. In an hour, black cloud covered the lake and thunderstorms started declaring their presence. So cut short the ride and ran across the lake. Rain already caught us on the way . Now whole valley and lake became raining paradise .It was really intimidating and enchanting. Driver spotted us while we were running and finally our car picked us. It was 4 pm and it was our time for return journey to Gangtok.

We are at Changu lake

We are at Changu lake

We then climbed down towards Gangtok leaving behind Changu Lake. Now this 1 hour journey was thrilled with driving experience in a heavy rain in hilly area. Finally we crossed check post before 5 pm and reached Gangtok with loads of sweet memories of day long tour in Changu and Nathula .

Yak riding at Changu lake

Yak riding at Changu lake

Some important facts for my fellow travelers:

1. Car rental for Nathula and Changu trip

  • Innova and xylo , Rs. 3000 – 3500
  • Suma and max, Rs. 2500 to 3000
  • Shared service, 350- 400 per head

From trip Darjeeling to Gangtok: We took a Mahindra Xylo: Booking charged Rs. 2500/-

2. Distance and road condition upto Nathula

Road condition is good all the way upto narhula as the road is maintained by BRO. Distance from Gangtok to Nathula is about 55 km and only 6-10 km road condition is bad . But overall road condition is good.

3. Any sickness due to high altitude

Tsomgo lake is 12000 ft and Nathula is 13000 ft above sea level . So there is not much problem there due to high altitude.

4. Journey to old Baba temple: it’s 10 km from the new shrine and worth to visit . This is not included in our package. Driver charges Rs. 1200 per car for this trip. It’s same like zero point trip from yamthung.

4. Hotel price in Gangtok: I have already shared in my last blog. It varies depending on season. We stayed at central point lodge . Deluxe room they charged us Rs 2000 per night for 3 beds. In Lal market area, they charge between Rs. 1000 to 2000 depending on season and hotel locations.

5. Where to go for booking cab: You can book from hotel or from nearby travel agents. But check prices from 2-3 places.

Rumtek bus stand: It’s located near police commissioner office in Lal market. You can directly book car for sightseeing in Gangtok or for Yumthang or Changu.

Siliguri bas stand near Deorali market: you can book shared or private car fot siliguri or other places.

6. Local taxi fare: if you stay in Deorali market, you can visit MG Marg or Lal market availing local taxi, they charge Rs. 20 per son per ride.

Hope you find this helpful. Please let me know your view.

Thanks,

Gobinda

 

Bandel church – weekend destination to spend time with splendor of holly church and winter chill garnished with 500 old histories.

If you looking for a weekend destination and picnic spot near Kolkata, then Bandel church and nearby hooghly ghat is a perfect option for 50 km cool long drive to reach this holly church. I start this blog post with history of Bandel church and then shared our related travel information.

We are at Bandel Church with other kids from our team members

We are at Bandel Church with other kids from our team members

Bandel Church

Bandel Church – at the top

History of Bandel church: a perfect reason to visit this holly historical monument and famed as “Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary Bandel”

In 1655, a Portuguese ship, in deep sea of Bay of Bengal, was facing deadly storm. And possibility of survival seemed impossible. Captain prayed to Mother Mary to save their poor souls and promised to sacrifice a mast to church which he would meet first. By the grace of Virgin, both lives and ship were saved. On a beautiful morning, a Portuguese ship appeared at the port of Hoogly ( near Bandel port) and captain landed from the ship and donated the mast as he promised to Bandel church. Many hundreds year has been elapsed; still church holds its old mast at entrance of church gate.

Beautiful sclupture at Bandel Church

Beautiful sclupture at Bandel Church

But the history of this church takes you few decades earlier than the stated facts above. Here are few important historical milestones reminded us the importance of this holly church in Indian history.

  • In 1950s, Bandel, (Bengali word “bandar” which means “port”) was an important port of Hooghly at the time of Portuguese and Mughals. Mughal Emperor Akbar give permission to build a town in Hooghly and Portuguese began using Bandel as a port in the sixteenth century.
  • Bandel church located in Bandel is known as one of the oldest churches in West Bengal, and this church stands as a memorial to the Portuguese settlements in Bengal. Dedicated to Nostra Senhora di Rozario, popularly known as Our Lady of the Rosary.
  • This first church of Bandel dated in 1599 was burnt and destroyed by the Moors in 1632. As history reveals, Emperor Shah Jehan attacked and destroyed the Portuguese settlements including the church. Four out of the five priests were killed and lone Father Joan da Cruz survived.
  • Father da Cruz was captured and taken to Delhi, but his miraculous power impressed Emperor Shah Jehan. Emperor Shah Jehan donated about 101.21 hectares to the local Christians,
  • Then the present form of church and monastery are said to be built in 1660 by Father Joan De Cruz, but the key stone of the old church was dated 1599 located at the eastern gate of the Monastery.
  • On November 25, 1988, Pope John Paul II declared the sanctuary a minor basilica.

How to reach Bandel church

Bandel church is very well connected with major rail gateways in West Bengal.

Journey to Bandel church - our team at Hoogly Ghat station

Journey to Bandel church – our team at Hoogly Ghat station

Train route: From Howrah, you can take very frequent Howrah-Bandel local to reach Bandel station. And from there you can take auto to reach Bandel church.

From Sealdah: There are very few direct local trains between Sealdah and Bandel. In the morning, there is one Sealdah to Bardwan local via Bandel at 10:15 am and directly reach you to Bandel at 11: 20 am.

Alternatively, there are many trains between Sealdah and Naihati and get down at Naihati.  From there you get Naihati- Bandel local in every 30 minutes. If you go via Bandel, then get down at Hoogly Ghat station (2nd station after leaving Naihati station). From Hoogly Ghat station, this distance is less as compared to distance from Bandel station. It’s about 1-2 km from Hoogly Ghat station, and auto takes about 10 min to reach Bandel church. Toto charge Rs. 10  per head for Bandel church.

Car direction: I can share guidance only from airport as I travelled from my New Barrackpore area by car. From airport you drive straight up to Madhyamgram choumatha and then take left along Sodepur-Madhyamgram road and drive about 8 km to reach Muraghacha. From this junction, you have to take right turn to take Kalyani express way to reach up to Naihati and from Naihati you have to take left to cross the river and from there it’s about 6 Km to reach Bandel church. From airport it about 50 km and about 2 hours drive. Road condition is good so far.

What to see at Bandel church

1) Beautiful holy church is surely the biggest attraction of this place. Especially I liked prayer halls, holly inscription, beautiful sculpture depicting crucification of jesus christ. This church has several altars and a shrine of Mary, who is known as Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Happy Voyage.

2) Boating in Hoogly River. From the top of the church , you enjoy holiness of God with beautiful distant views of river hoogly. There is a small mela near hoogly bank. But , this is outside the church campus. We reached there taking a small lane to hoogly ghat. We also spotted many picnic parties enjoying pinic day near river bank.

Distant view of Hoogly rever from Bandel Church

Distant view of Hoogly rever from Bandel Church

3) Boat trip to Imambara: This is another tourist destination located very close to Bandel church. You can go by auto and they charge Rs 10 per head. We went to church on 27th December, 2015. It being a heavy rush time we skipped this spot. We spent whole day in church’s ground.

We are at Bandel Church Ganden after day long picnic

We are at Bandel Church Ganden after day long picnic

What is best time for visiting Bandel Church?

  1. Obviously winter is the best time for visit.
  2. I heard 25th December Church is closed to outsiders due to their rituals. Better avoid this place on 25th December due to mad rush.

Some tips

  1. During top season in December 25 to January’s 10, you may face parking problem. This time have found no parking zone in nearby church area.
  1. No entry fees for entrance.
  1. If you go there without any food arrangement, you may find some average restaurant nearby.

References:

My own travel experience

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandel

http://hooghly.gov.in/description.htm

http://www.come2india.org/bandel-basilica.html