Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara (Part 1)

A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
You take the "hot and sour" pain of driving hundreds of kilometers of potholed highway, blistering your butt, baking your backbone, and then finally when your four rubber legs touch that road through the undulating hill slopes, widespread mushrooming green tea gardens divided by babbling mountain brooks, sky-scraping Sal forests fortifying the humble tribal settlements and vast grazing lands with royal presence of the great Himalayan ranges in the very horizon, you should be overwhelmed to realize that you’re driving right into the Dooars! This green beauty stretching herself from River Teesta on the west to River Sankosh on the east, over a span of 130 kilometers by 40 kilometers along the foothills Himalayas occupies a major part of Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Dooars offers its tourists miraculous scenery with wildlife-rich tropical forests and enthralling sight of river-valleys-hills which can be the experience of a lifetime (frankly, not exaggerating!).
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara

Poaching for their horns and habitat loss are the two greatest threats to the survival of Asian one-horned Rhinos!
Derived from the word 'doors', 'Dooars' acts as a gateway to Bhutan and the North-Eastern states of India. Ironically, “Dooars” is the very word that made our 2011 Durga Puja family trip a Semi-flop (Wait, I’ll reveal the reason in a short while) one! No, it’s not that we didn’t enjoy our tour but sadly we couldn’t make optimum use of those three days (excluding two full day drive of around 570 kilometers each on some real unforgiving road). Before the trip, I had to look for a proper vehicle to comfortably accommodate four of us (plus the driver). I was largely diffident to take our hatchback for this trip due to the pathetic road condition of NH-34 which I had soulfully experienced during my previous motorcycle ride to Murshidabad and Malda. It was not as easy as I had anticipated. Getting a good car took some good liters of sweat out of me as during Durga Puja time, taxi owners prefer to keep their vehicles under their balls to exploit the freaky demand of lucrative local Puja-parikrama lovers. Our trip was getting uncertain and this forced me to incline for "self drive on own vehicle" idea till I managed to get hold of one milky white Mahindra Scorpio, albeit at steep rate just one night before our scheduled journey!
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
Our savior milky-white Mahindra Scorpio parked outside the Aambari Forest Guest House.
On 2nd October, we left for North Bengal by morning 9:30 with Bappa, a young man as our driver. Somehow the agony of ‘Semi-flop’ status of this trip is putting off my writing extravaganza and I express my regret for not being able to reproduce the 'day to day' details of the tour which I usually do in my travel pieces. Here I’ll jot down our trip highlights only. Before I proceed further I feel, I should let you know how this potent wildlife trip became ‘Semi-flop’ (which of course we came to know only after reaching Aambari, a place where our guest house had been booked). As I’m mostly out of Bengal I had given the responsibility of booking our accommodation to an acquainted person who lives in Kolkata. Owing to his lack of knowledge about the tourist interests of the area he had mixed the word Jaldapara (which I had told him on phone) with Dooars, and accordingly had booked a (any, I suppose) forest department guest guest house at Aambari which was not only outside Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary but away from it some 110 goddamn Kilometers! So the moment we reached our resting destination at Aambari at 4:10 AM the following day, our fantasies of dwelling amidst Asiatic one horned rhinoceroses vanished like hundred unfaithful genies. The route we took: Bardhaman – Guskara – Sainthia – Rampurhat – Nalhati – Morgram – Farakka – Malda – Raiganj – Dalkhola – Islampur – Bidhannagar – Ghoshpukur – Phasidewa – Aambari (Distance- 571 Kilometers).
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
The pathetic condition of road over the vital Farakka Bridge.
We were damn tired of the long drive and didn’t get a better alternative to falling asleep ASAP and remain so till noon time (if you remember, we reached our guest house at ghostly 4:10 AM of Day 2!). The Range Officer was empathetic of our situation when he came for a courtesy visit in the afternoon. He retrieved information from his colleagues and as expected, the government lodge inside Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary had no vacancy. But the gentleman did some good for us and added life to our ceased traveling spirit. That day itself, as per his advice and arrangement, after a sumptuous lunch and a nap in the wooden bungalow we made our way out for Neelbari (a place close to Indo-Bhutan border, some 15-20 Kilometers from Madarihat which is the entry point of Jaldapara) by 6:00 evening. Like the previous night, the problem with our vehicle head lamps crawled in once again over dark NH-31. After little struggle we reached Neelbari range by 10:00 PM, covering a distance of 119 Kilometers and occupied the Eco-cottage after light dinner. There the range officer booked our next morning elephant ride at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and having spent an entire day so fruitlessly we went to bed with dreams of a better tomorrow.
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
Wooden forest department bungalow at Aambari.

A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
Our Eco-cottage at Neelbari.
In the morning we witnessed a mesmerizing sunrise from the side of tea gardens over the clearly visible high mountain ranges. Dew wet tea leaves on both side of the road instilled a morning freshness which acted caffeine to our nerve and made us to rush for Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary with boosted wander lust. It was a unique sweet feeling of driving the Scorpio into the Sanctuary after taking the necessary permit. Till we reached Hollong lodge, my eyes alternately moved left to right and the vice versa, in case any inhabitant of the jungle pop its head or even tail out of the nature's green curtains but all hopes do not find their destination. Hollong is 5-6 Kilometers inside the main entrance. The aggregation of so many elephants in front of the Hollong Guest House was so picturesque, especially the breastfeeding momma elephant I suppose.
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
A breastfeeding momma elephant in front of the Hollong Guest House. 

A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
Elephant Safari inside Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.
Soon our elephant ride began. Our elephant entered into the forest in a couple of seconds. Sitting on the top of a royal creature and swinging our body with its unique elephantine rhythm is another pleasant sensation. The elephant will take you inside the forest till the density of the tress and their branches caress your skin all over the body and you feel somewhat uncomfortable to manage the passing by branches dying hard to lick your body. We could only spot Sambar (the largest of Asiatic deer) and Rhinos (Asiatic one horned rhino) but, honestly speaking, I was satisfied with that modest elephant-safari luck.
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
We spotted an Asiatic one-horned rhino without its only horn... what a pity!

A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
Harmonious co-existence in nature! Could you spot the tiny bird over that giant Rhino?
After our elephant safari was over, suddenly I saw the Range officer hurrying with a group of staffs towards the back of the lodge and came to know that a naughty rhino had entangled the telephone wire of the campus into one of his limbs and escaped with the communication medium! Fortunately the wire could be extracted out of him without the use of anesthesia. I was happy for them, happier for the rhino and happiest for us.
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
Another Asiatic Rhino inside Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary... thankfully, it had its horn!
This vast grassland with patches of riverside forests, was declared a sanctuary in 1943 for protection of the great variety flora and fauna. The Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is a fusion of a variety of woods, grassland, swamps and streams which covers an area of 216.51 sq km. Drained by rivers like Torsa, Malangi, Hollong, Chirakhawa, Kalijhora, Sissamara, Bhaluka and Buri Torsa, the Sanctuary provides widespread grassland which is safe haven to a wide variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. During the monsoon (usually June 15-September 15) the sanctuary remains closed to tourists. So, plan your Jaldapara trip accordingly.
A family Trip to Jaldapara and Gorumara
Elephants are certainly royal and have big hearts. Its heart weighs 12-21 kilograms dude!

7 comments:

  1. Daarun... we visited some five years back. Aabar jawar ichche achhe... :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yea... jungle calls you again and again :-))

      Delete
  2. I would recommend Ignite Images to anyone looking for a photography session! He is super friendly and his customer service is amazing! He was great to work with, very professional and just an overall nice guy. Will definitely recommend him

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love to see the lovely pix of 'A breastfeeding momma elephant.....',sad to see the condition of the Farakka Bridge,amazingly admiring the sweet cute bird and seeing so many rhinos I remember the story of "Gondar shikar" and the famous line- 'mari to gondar luti to bhandar'(:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reminding me of "Gondar shikar" :-/

      Delete
  4. Gorgeous. We havent ever been able to make a trip o these forests of India. Your post makes me want to, so badly...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's never too late... I sincerely wish you get some time to explore Indian jungles... Cheers :-)

      Delete

Thank You for Viewing, Reflecting and Leaving a note for me to Ruminate!