Showing posts with label West-Bengal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West-Bengal. Show all posts

2013-10-25

Kurseong

Kurseong


The first-daywe got little suspicious with the transport rates being quoted by Kanchan View Hotel Manager. We reported that back to Calcutta the tour operator Mr. D. Ghosh. But once you are away from home and you have limited option to negotiate a bargain. The Hotel person by now have charged us 2500 for the first day covering only Tagore Smritivan , monastery and forest bungalow. For the second day we paid 2500 to cover 5/6 places but the distance was more. By now we have checked few blogs and travel sites thanks to borrowed usb modem and quite certain that we are being robed :( The charge for travelling to Burniok to Kurseong was a whopping 4500. Somehow by now we kind of lost faith on that travel agent :( of Calcutta. 

Only good part we got a new Mahindra Xylo and started travelling back to Jorethang on the same road and took a turn there towards Kurseong The road was really bad as we entered West Bengal luckily we were in a SUV. The road was narrow, long and without any major village to stop or rest over for few minutes.
We called the guest house in Kurseong to get a direction and he explained the same to our driver. On the way weather also changed its mood and it became very dark and started to rain as we approached Kurseong. Ghum (highest point on Toy train line ) was completely submerged in cloud. We could hardly see anything beyond few meters. Once we reached Kurseong we were lost with direction and had to come back to towards Darjeeling again to reach our home-stay. The home-stay is on a hill top near St. Mary. We approached it via such a narrow lane that there was no chance for our SUV to go to the end and had to drag our luggage ourselves. It was not a pleasant way to approach a new place & moreover there was no help from the home-stay and it was raining. By the time we got into our room it was almost 2:30 PM and it was really cold. Although the house had wooden floor but it was really cold and we felt little unprepared for this weather in the middle of summer. We had some hot Maggi and sandwiches as snack or late lunch. My mother decided for a rest while we decided to explore the market of Kurseong. So we walked back to the highway (Darjeeling -Siliguri NH 55) and got a shared jeep (taxi) which took us to the market.

The market we explored about travel option of our own this time. We fixed one taxi for next day's sightseeing and also inquired about rate for going to Darjeeling and Siliguri. With that our suspicion became reality ? that we were cheated by our travel agent.

We walked around the market area and it started to rain. We left the market area behind and tried our luck in stopping a taxi to drop us back. But that turned out negative and we continued and reached “Kurseong Tourist Lodge”. Stopped there for a break we ordered coffee and French fries for Aarush. Must admit after a long time had a good coffee in the kingdom of tea :). The sky got little cleared and we started walking back again on NH 55 to reach our home-stay. Walking along the Highway and toy train had its share of fun. Aarush did an excellent walk of 3 KM walk with uphill. Dinner was a simple-one egg-curry with rice and we headed to bed as it was really a long day for us.

Next day, the weather was not better compared to first day. After breakfast we started with our sightseeing. The first stop was Dow Hill Girls School. The place was not open to public that day and due to rain and cloud we could hardly see anything. This school is 130+ years old started in 1879. From there we went to Dow Hill (Deer Park) which is little further on the same road. It seems there is a big plan to make a zoo/entertainment park with rope-way in couple of years. Knowing it is West Bengal I have personal doubt that it will ever be made.

From there we went to Makaibari Tea Estate, normally on a regular day you can visit the factory and have a guided tour of tea leave processing. But being Sunday factory was closed and we just bought some tea. En route we passed Castleton Tea estate which is one of the most expensive Darjeeling tea. While heading back we stopped for few minutes to explore Cochrane Place and taking pictures around tea garden as Sun suddenly came out between the cloud. This resort/hotel is really cool and worth checking out if you are looking for better stay with excellent view.

After this we came to TV tower which is also known as Eagle Crag. It is a high point and provides panoramic view of the valley down . The sky was not very clear but it was better than the initial morning and we could see the road going to Siliguri and the great flat land near from there. The river Torsa;’s white mark was very faint.

The driver suggested some options which really did not appealed us but then he suggest Goethals Memorial School. For that we drove past our home-stay. This time we got lucky and guard let us in the school yard. This school is the boy’s convent started in 1907. There are many distinguished alumni’s who represented India from Olympics to Corporate leadership. It was a real nice feeling to explore this school from outside, reminded us of the Montfort School of Yercaud,TN.

The driver dropped us back to the same place where we had snacks previous day evening. The place was packed with tourist but luckily we managed a table and had some hot meal there. We went back to our home-stay with a local Taxi.

Now like weather our camera also made a big drama, one of the plastic pins of memory card got broken and it refused to work. We explored St Mary’s Hill in the evening. It was a nice stroll from home-stay. We crossed Eastern Forest Rangers' College (another British Legacy) on our way. It is a scenic natural area covered with lush green forests all around and the way leading to The Grotto. A statue of Mariam (Mother of Isa) is placed inside a open cave. There were only one or two worshipers when we were there to lit candles.

Well that is also end of Kurseong, settled the bill & booked a Taxi for next day morning to take us early in the morning to train station to get a ride on famous Toy train to Darjeeling

2010-02-04

Visit to hungry tide- Sunderban

For the first time in my life I spent more than 2 nights in a row at Calcutta. The initial plan was to attend Papai’s wedding reception and travel to some where around like Digha and back to Bangalore. We got our Bangalore – Calcutta ticket booked. Going was by train to save money and return was on flight so that we save time & energy before getting back to our daily routine.
Now people suggested against Digha and we settled for Sunderban. According to guide the place has not changed a lot - land where past lives in present and is not yet well connected well to Kolkata. We went through travel guide book and settled with Kali Travels. This travel company is run by two Australians out of Calcutta – David and Martyn.
We chose for 2 night 3 days package with them. So on the day Martyn showed up on time with a Innova. On our way out of Calcutta he briefed the plan for next 2 days.
As soon as we took the road out from Science City junction of EM bypass the landscape changed drastically. I felt as if I was on time machine. The small villages and rural bazaar on way reminded me of remote North Eastern part of India from my childhood which sounds surreal but true. Looks like in last 40 years of left-front government there is hardly any progress on their so called strongholds. The car dropped us at Sonakhali (approx 60 KM from Calcutta).
We had to wait there as was no immediate boat for Gosoba our destination. It was 26th Jan(Republic day) and there was not much happening at the river front. This allowed us to explore the adjacent village market. Found cobbler who are still selling stripes for rubber Hawaii sandals, reminded that uncommon in urban India where people probably changes their sandals if the strips is broken.

The boat was almost empty it was us and few passengers and the journey took almost an hour. As motor boat begins to sail towards its destination the scenery gradually changed from rural village evoking feelings of excitement, adventure and anticipation of unknown. We reached Gosoba - peak of afternoon had lunch and walked through the market. We got into the man pulled cycle-van rickshaw with flat bed to sit and put our luggage too. As it was our first time 6 KM long journey seemed never ending. Gosoba is one of the big island in Sunderban. There is no real electricity here, every machine that needs electricity runs on generator. There is no car or auto(Tuktuk) only few motorcycles which run on bio-fuel. Life seems less complicated in one sense but I was getting full EDGE signal on my Blackberry.
We stayed at Apanjan Hotel at Pakhiralya which is just opposite to Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve. One can see the tiger reserve entrance from this side of bank. At dusk went for village walk. Here most of houses are made of mattir ghor- house of mud which keeps it cool and walking through those winded narrow lanes we realized that we have become center of attraction. The attraction was two fold for the locals as we brown skin who shares a common mother tongue of the local along with tall blond fair skin Australian as their guide. But looked like Martyn is quite well known as “Uncle” to the local people. And they will converse in broken Bengali-English and lots of sign languages and catch up on their whereabouts.
Aarush was very busy chasing the stray dogs which were hanging around the hotel. And he went to sleep as soon as he finished his dinner. We had a simple Bengali dinner and chatted with Martyn on lots of subjects.As night begins to slip in the lullaby of mother nature, the music of blowing wind, distant call of restless wild life and rustling of branches gently put you to sleep as even generators are switched off by 10.00PM. Life in noisy city will drift away becoming a distant memory.
Next day woke up around 7ish and after breakfast got into boat and went to Sajnekhali Forest depertment to register ourselves. They assigned us one (compulsory) guide to show us around and enjoy a day cruise by boat through the creeks and canals of the dense forest. This hunting land is ruled by forest goddess Bonobibi to whom prayers are offered in order to maintain communal harmony between man & animal. So we too offered our prayers before starting our journey.
We saw lots of birds to start with displaying riots of colors and sounds and must admit few times we could not locate the camouflaged birds unless our guide with eagle eye pointed it. Egret, kingfisher, red vented bulbul, eagle, brahmini kite,brown winged kingfisher, indian roller, pond heron etc were spotted. There was baby crocodile who was basking in the winter sun as our boat approached he swam along the boat for a while before sinking altogether. While cruising we sighted water monitor lizard other than wild boars.
On spotting wild boar we realized suddenly our camera failed and was not responding to any button we pressed. Here the majestic king royal bengal tiger are endowed with good swimming power as told by our guide and are man eaters. We traced tiger paws while cruising along the mangrove covered banks.Well there are only few hundreds left in Sunderban and new census was going on while we were there. We heard fire-shots from Forest Officials who were in one of unmanned island collecting tiger poo(shit) to identify unique tigers. Earlier they used to get the claw molded in Plaster of Paris – as each tiger has unique claw just like our finger prints.
Our boat journey ended around 13:00 hrs. All along it was low tide which means you have better chance of spotting any wild life as more surface areas gets exposed.Actually both high and low tide has their own pros-cons. During high tide boat enters various creeks weaving in and out allowing to explore most forbidden areas of sunderbans. We stopped at watch towers where one can disembark and experience nature at its purest.While leaving from that point we saw some spotted deer and tried to capture it with Blackberry’s camera – what a luck!!!
After a day of adventure, had lunch thereafter Pamela & Aarush took siesta. I sat back and relaxed while discussing with Martyn his experience in China as a visiting Professor of English. Well his side of story is quite shocking as I never heard first hand experience on that matter.
In the evening we went for walk but it was dark. Lucky us as of full moon moon-light was enough to show us the way and we did not needed the torch most of the time. While walking we heard soundtracks from Hindi movies of 86/87’s played in distance causing havoc to the beautiful silence. It was surprising how much distance a noise can travel in a silent land.
The devastation from Aila (cyclone of 2009) can be still seeen; ground water is salty; when you wash your face for the first time you get real shock. The locals are yet trying to get back to their lives. But looks like there is hardly any or no-help help from government on that front. Lots of those broken dams needs quick fix before another floods hits this area.Potrait of words done by Amitabh Gosh on his famous novel " hungry tide" looks so real, people are really with big heart. The poorest one lives in the mud house next to dam where relatively well off stay inland. But as whole they are still backward in many terms.
As Aarush had a nap he refused to go to sleep early. There were only one couple from (Sweden) other then us in the hotel with a young noisy Nepali Guide. The guide arranged for a bonfire for them once the generator was put off at 10 PM. The tourist retired early while we enjoyed both the bonfire and moon-light from our balcony.
Somehow I felt bad as we started to pack our bags as I knew we were heading back to crowded madness of the city life soon. The boat was packed already when we reached Gosoba and it left immediately after we boarded. Me and Aarush took a privilege seat on the top of toilet but under shade. Aarush was not much happy with this arrangement – he was hungry as he refused to have his breakfast at hotel. So had some cheese and orange with me. But after 30 minutes or so I had to reunite with Pamela who was seating on the boat roof exposed to Sun. It was quite hot if you have to seat for long in Sun. So reached Sonakhali after almost 48 hours. Now had to wait for a while as we reached before expected time for our car to arrive.
The car came within 20 minutes or so and Aarush fall asleep after he finished a quick lunch.
Well if you like to travel and open to the ideas of exploring must suggest you to try Sunderban. On the economic front I am sure you can save a lot if you go by yourself. But we enjoyed going with Kali Travels and suggest you do the same if you have extra cash to spare. Binocular, sun-cap, umbrella, mosquito repellent and torch are must to be taken in this trip.





2007-06-28

“Amby” in city of joy

Calcutta (Kolkata) – mega city of Eastern India. In this vibrant city with a distinct socio-political culture, cabs are grand old Ambassadors from Hindustan Motors and most of cars are manufactured from the nearby plant of Uttarpara. This picture was taken next to major long distance Sealdah Railway Station which shows that city of joy still struggles with traffic congestion. Unlike of other major cities where Tata indica or fiat or Maruti are common hired forms of mechanised transport this city has almost all taxis as amby painted in yellow.

Yellow Cab of Calcutta

Before Maruti it was the only car on Indian road. This reminds me of my childhood times when me and my brother used to identify a Mark-II, Mark-III or Mark-IV by its sound (all these models looked very similar). It was a stupid game in era of Nintendo –Wii. The game was a simple one - we used to hide behind a wall as we saw an Ambassador approaching, try to identify the same by sound and confirm as soon as it passed by from behind.

While writing this post I just found the web page of this car and found 10 reasons to buy this car ……

  1. First Indian car – [born in 1950 (inception in 1948. Originally based on Morris Oxford ,United Kingdom ]
  2. Power Steering – [Trying to match up the new market with Maruti, TATA, Honda and Toyota.]
  3. Multi Fuel Injection – [Well, all new car has that - what a big deal?]
  4. Company fitted CNG – [Well, you can convert almost every petrol car in India to keep your running cost as low as 1 Rupees for 1 KM.]
  5. Tough
  6. Tough - [tested on Indian roads for long time but why they have to list the toughness twice?]
  7. Roominess - [Yes, more then 10 people can travel in a single car at a given time!!]
  8. 5 Speed Gear box - [Another lame reason, all car now a days has the same. ]
  9. Easy repairable – [They claim across the country all mechanic knows the car inside out.]
  10. Serves the country – [Used by Indian Army and de-facto car of Indian bureaucrats and politicians. ]

If I have enough money one day I will like to have a chauffeur driven amby for myself just to hang out in nostalgia or in the roomy car or to be different from every one else ;) .My eleventh reason or may be only reason for having this car.

2007-06-20

Hue of the sky

Siliguri is gateway to the North East of India. It is commercial city of North Bengal where tea, timber and transport are the main business. It is a base point to head towards Darjeeling, Sikkim, kalimpong, mirik etc. Besides, it is also the transit point for air, road and rail traffic to the neighboring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

snow clad mountain seen from Siliguri railway staion

Situated at foot of Eastern Himalayas it has very pleasant temperature but weather is very unpredictable as it gets shower any time. Summer is not like other parts of India which burns in hot lava. It hardly exceeds 32 C in day time and after every 3-4 days there is a light rain sometimes short sharp downpour. Winters are really biting cold with mercury level hardly rising to 15 C at day time. During winter, on clear day it gives excellent view of Himalayan peaks with an opportunity to see as backdrop of snow-clad mountains.

In the month of May, we went there for 10 days which was a great escape from Mumbai’s heat and frequent power failure. These pictures are from the terrace of my in-law’s house.

Day time at Siliguri

Clouds

Sunset at Siliguri

2007-05-16

China rose

white china rose

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into. - Henry Ward Beecher.

I don't know really why I love to picture flowers. Wherever visit if they fascinate me, try to make them my subject.

My dad loves garden; for him it is most sociable of hobbies.Truly said, the very nature of one's field of activities demands an audience. No one wants flowers to blush unseen or waste their sweetness. So, every time we are there we are taken around. This is one of the variety of china rose although not much redolent from my parents garden. Currently, we are on a 10days vacation at Siliguri to escape humid heat and fast life of Mumbai. As said, we tried to take lots of pictures this time of flowers with my new gadget Canon-G7 camera. Just could not stop my self from posting the same. Link to Album

Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...