Friday, October 20, 2017

Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Falls - a leisurely monsoon Ride to Ghatshila

Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Falls - a leisurely monsoon Ride to Ghatshila
You might be thinking that my rides of late are getting too Jharkhand-centric... Right? Then take this easily digestible justification. Jharkhand is not only a fabulous tourism casket cocooned by raw nature but also my closest neighboring state. To put it in simpler words, Jharkhand is the most liberal destination to accommodate my weekend rides. Planning is bit easier for a habitual solo traveler. You don't have to spend half of your enthusiasm in improvising with your travel mates. If you have a thankless day job like me, your only headache is persuading your colleagues to keep the puppet show running on your behalf. Either my colleagues have wide hearts or I'm good at manipulating them. It was second week of September. Monsoon was still young. So what? When your instinct and wheels are trustworthy no season can grow mold over your travel boots.

In my childhood I had once visited Ghatshila with my parents. As far as I can count on my reminiscences, I didn't quite like that place at that point of time. Renowned Bengali author Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay had lived a good part of his life at Ghatshila, by the bank of Subarnarekha River. Probably this is the hypothetical connecting link which is inherited by every Bengali traveler, irrespective of his affinity towards literature. Strangely enough, till date I haven't met a single non-Bengali traveler who recommended me Ghashila as a tourist destination! We Bengalis have our unique set of idiosyncrasies. As my previous recollections of Ghatshila were not too vibrant I had to pacify my inner self with some unbeatable logic supporting the revisiting whim- Anunoy, may be you were too immature those days to appreciate the natural mysticism associated with Ghatshila. Ah, you better appreciate a nomad's height of self rationalization!

Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Falls - a leisurely monsoon Ride to Ghatshila
Dense forest and surrounding rocks join hands in preserving the natural aura of Burudih Lake.
Be informed that this is not going to be another Ghatshila travelogue. In fact, except witnessing the smoky sunrise over Subarnarekha I did/visited nothing at Ghatshila. My ride itinerary comprised no local sightseeing, no musing by the restored resident of Bibhuti Bhushan, and no useless hike to any twenty feet hillock to be in the delusion of getting the amazing bird's eye view of the picturesque town. Hold on, I am not being too critical of this old tourist magnet of Jharkhand. But, exploring Ghatshila per se was not in my plan this time. Among all the places of tourist interest in and around Ghashila, the monsoon impregnated Burudih Lake and the hidden Dharagiri Falls could only grab my imagination during the pre-travel research phase.

With Google Maps' aid I had fixed my riding route accordingly: Bardhaman -> Durgapur -> Bankura -> Manbazar -> Banduan -> Dharagiri Falls -> Burudih Lake -> Ghatshila (simply for overnight halt). It was a mistake. Soon you'll come to know why. What a short yet unique ride it was! It had commenced with triple-digit cruising over wide inviting national highway (NH-2), followed by the relatively slow paced drive over scenic state highway towards Bankura (through Beliatore Forest Range), then apprehensively sharing the road with endless herds of cattle (on the way to Manbazar), and finally to get lost in the Elephant Corridor post Banduan. 

Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Falls - a leisurely monsoon Ride to Ghatshila
Dharagiri is not a massive or highly photogenic waterfall by any definition.
Do not assume that I confronted a wild tusker. I do not wish for such a situation too especially when I'm riding through jungles. Who knows, the mighty elephant king might get intimidated by the four-cylinder's melody of Benu and get combative. Only once in my life I was fortunate enough to encounter a herd of wild tuskers on our way to Gorumara National Park. I wasn't alone then. It was a family trip and we were cozily waiting inside a SUV. Till then, we were too scared to venture out of the vehicle to capture the elephant parade.

After crossing Banduan, forest got denser and the Vodafone network abandoned me. I should have had anticipated the inevitable. Soon, I kept crossing picture perfect tribal villages at Bengal-Jharkhand border area in search of Dharagiri Waterfall. I could spot the waterfall in my offline map. It was so near from my GPS location but the trail couldn't be traced out. Asking from different villagers proved to be of little help. Some confessed that they didn't know. Few misguided me to pointless directions, mostly out of ignorance. Villages were extremely picturesque, studded with colorful mud-houses, naive inhabitants, and without the slightest stain of urbanization. I got to see the traditional way of making coir ropes. The unmetalled (rather, untamed) forest road through unknown villages, fruitless cruising under the midday sun and missing on a wholesome breakfast had almost consumed my wandering spree...

Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Falls - a leisurely monsoon Ride to Ghatshila
Factory fumes tried in vain to spoil the pinkish-blue sky above sleeping Ghatshila town.
After repeated failed attempts of navigating Dharagiri when I was about to give up, an old man arrived from nowhere to refuel my bottomed out travel orgy with his confident guidance. The only way to find Dharagiri was to lookout for Burudih village from where the forest trail to the waterfall was easily traceable. The bad but beautiful road accompanied me like a caring watchdog, and eventually Benu had to stop at a point from where one is supposed to hike to Dharagiri Falls. Signs of dehydration were getting loud. Probably I had skipped liquid for quite sometime. One has to trek approx 750 meters to get full view of the waterfall. Dharagiri is not massive or highly photogenic by any definition. But, fortified by hills and veiled by jungle cover it remains hidden safely in the lap of nature. Uneasy accessibility and unadulterated simplicity make Dharagiri so popular among travelers visiting Ghatshila. 

I was there in the first half of September. Dharagiri was way more expanded than a trickle of water but not exactly what one would expect from a touristy waterfall during rainy season. I guess, visiting Dharagiri Falls in any other season would make no sense at all. Other than me there was a small group of couples idling by the waterfall. I sensed my body's cry for glucose and their longing for privacy. It was high time to resume the ride for Ghatshila. Ghatshila was not far. The road from Dharagiri Falls to Ghatshila passed by Burudih Lake. Sunny monsoon days are often very uncomfortable. A local picnic group was enjoying unbearably booming music by the lake. I decided to postpone my halt by the lakeside. Till then my intention was to ditch Ghatshila and find an accommodation at Galudih.

Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Falls - a leisurely monsoon Ride to Ghatshila
Early morning and evening would be your golden hours to catch the essence of Burudih Lake.
Staying options at Galudih turned out to be limited. It was late afternoon but still quite hot. I realized that only Ghatshila could provide me a comfy stay. Surprisingly Ghatshila doesn't have sufficient hotels with AC rooms! A couple of tidy looking hotels by the highway which had air-conditioned rooms were all reserved for the day. At last I entered the town and settled with a shabby hotel opposite to the rail track, adjacent to Ramkrishna Math. Even the ceiling fan was too old to rotate. Every mosquito has its night. I was brutally cornered by the day-long exhaustion, sulky weather and the swarm of insomniac Ghatsila mosquitoes. In a rough night we pray for a magical morning. I kept tossing over a rickety cot while fantasizing about a fresh early morning view of the Burudih Lake.

Well before the sunrise time I left the hotel and reached a bridge over Subarnarekha, diagonal to Hindustan Copper Limited. First five minutes of every sunrise (in a clear weather) is equally mesmerizing. Factory fumes tried in vain to spoil the pinkish-blue sky above sleeping Ghatshila town. If you want to spend some leisurely time by the bank of Subarnarekha River then mind it, that's not your sweet spot. My primary target was to feel the natural ambiance around Burudih Lake before returning back home. The lake is hardly 10 km north of Ghatshila and another 5-6 km along the same trail leads you to the mouth of Dharagiri Falls. So, the smart way to visit Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Waterfall is to start from Ghatshila, and strictly from nowhere else.

Burudih Lake and Dharagiri Falls - a leisurely monsoon Ride to Ghatshila
My little breakfast-maker near Burudih Lake.
What a terrible mess my last day's ride had been. An entire day got spent in negotiating 300 kilometers. Ah, no point whining over spilled brandy. Irrespective of your destination, road condition and machine, early morning rides are always very satisfying. Hardly in twenty minutes Benu took me before the blue Burudih Lake. Although this is an artifical lake built over Burudih Dam, dense forest, surrounding rocks and lack of a metalled road join hands in preserving its natural aura. Many online sources say that there's facility for boating but I could not spot any. Early morning and evening would be your golden hours to catch Burudih Lake. After strolling around the lake for sometime and breathing lungful of fresh air I resumed my return ride.

I noticed a small local food shop half kilometer down the lake. If you're choosy about your breakfast then skip such desi eatery. Otherwise, wrap up your breakfast episode with basic items (sometimes quite delicious too) like Chop, Muri, green chilli, soaked chickpeas etc. Return ride from Ghatshila was comfortable and almost uneventful. By the end of the day Benu had clocked 270 km. The itch for a longer ride was intensifying in her, which only I could perceive. After reading the whole motorcycle tale don't ask me why didn't I indulge in Ghatshila local sightseeing. Please do not drag me into the familiar awkwardness by asking why didn't I update my blog since last 30 days. Just let it be. It's impractical to promise but I'll try hard to publish my Varanasi ride experience very soon. Meanwhile, do some soul searching before winter encroaches.