Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Sundarbans Sojourn

Visiting Sundarbans was our long hidden travel dream. The Sundarban National Park, a part of the Sundarbans on the Ganges Delta, and adjacent to the Sundarban Reserve Forest in Bangladesh, is a National Park, Tiger Reserve, and a Biosphere Reserve in West Bengal, India which is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is home to a variety of birds and reptile species besides being one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger!

It was at 4:15 evening when we reached Canning. Light tiffin was taken near Railway station. Then we booked a jeep to reach Gosaba and it took 1 ½ hours approximately. Our launch and Ramen, our fellow traveler were there to welcome us. We boarded on it and started for Hotel Ariyan at Pakhiralaya. Luggage was carried by the people of boat owner. It was evening time, the cold and gentle wind, the blowing river water, the silence of both sides jungle, the brightening moon all were marvelous. We all 14 guys sat on the top of the boat and just felt the thrill. The feeling was awesome!

After two hours journey, we reached Pakhiralaya and Hotel Manager Dev was waiting at the Ghat. He is very friendly, cordial, humble and cooperative. His people carried our luggage to the hotel which is one minute from there. This newly developed hotel is very beautiful and also has large compound. After getting fresh, hot tea with biscuits was served which was very essential in that cold weather. We were then busy in gossiping, chatting and roaming inside the hotel compound. The hotel has a pond which Rohan said that it would be a swimming pool within few days. The hotel was surrounded by a fake plastic net and Rohan descried that this was for preventing the tiger! Sometimes “his-highness” reaches this locality for inadequate food in the jungle. It was quite late when we got the dinner (Desi Murgi, Roti/Rice, Dal and sabji and salad). Food was very good and we enjoyed it with our own music.

Next morning we woke up. Very cold wind was blowing. Most of us were gathering at the compound. Suddenly a man arrived with so-called “Khejur Rosh” of Sundarbans. It was very tasty and everyone took 2 or 3 glasses. Rohan described how it is collected from date tree. On that day we had a program of whole day tour by boat. After sometimes we were transferred to our boat. At first we went to a fish market at Tiger Ghat. We purchased two kinds of fish according to our choice as Rohan suggested us. At the market we met a person who was heavily wounded by a tiger attacked in the last year. We listened the thrilling story from him with our wide open mouth how he survived that attack!

Then we went to Sajnekhali for our permission. There were too many monkeys watching us and disturbing for food. Be careful with children. There was an artificial park with ponds with little tortoises, a Bonodebi Temple and Mangrove Interpretation Centre. The place is beautiful. We left that place after 1 hour for our next destination Do Banki. On the way, we saw crocodiles. They were taking sun-bath on sandy bank of the river. There was a watch tower and the whole place is surrounded by high net to protect the tourist from tiger attack. The walking bridge is over the trees and tourists can watch the jungle and animals from the bridge. We took some pictures and videos from there. Then we visited Sudhyankhali and watch tower there. But tiger was invisible till then.

At 10 morning tiffin was served on the boat with hot cup of tea. On the beginning of tour Rohan had promised us that we would surely watch the tiger. Now when we asked Rohan about the same, we got a tricky reply from him. At Jharkhali two wounded tigers were kept for treatment and he talked about those tigers. Something is better than nothing. We started for Jharkhali. On the way again we saw an open-mouth crocodile. Then we entered the “Khari” area (a narrow water way) where Rahul told us to be careful as tiger may jump on the boat from the jungle! Thankfully nothing had happened.

After reaching spot there was a hue and cry among us to see the tiger. Entry fee of the park is Rs. 30 and at last we saw the tiger after walking about 2 kilometers. The park was beautiful with many amusements for children. On the way while returning on boat, we saw some unknown big seed of a fruit and they told that it was ground nut. Lunch was served on the boat. The food was not very good in comparison with the last night’s dinner but the heartiest behavior of Rohan overwhelmed us. Hot coffee was served after that.

Sun set was as unusually beautiful and we took some memories. We reached our hotel about evening 7. We arranged for “Jhumur Nach” which was most beautiful part of our tour. It is an ancient traditional dance by tribals of Sundarbans. Rohan made a camp fire there. We enjoyed the dance a lot. All of our members participated with them and danced till we got tired. The program was so delightful that the other tourists of the hotel were compelled to join us. I must suggest the Sundarbans visitors to make an arrangement for this dance program. Chiken pakora was served by Rohan during the dance. Rice/Roti with crab/chicken was served in dinner. Food was good. Then we were transferred to our launch. We had a program to stay one night on the launch. There were beautiful separate beds for every family inside the boat with warm weather. Before sleeping we were gossiping, chatting on deck on that full moon night. Cold blowing breeze made us shiver. The feeling was awesome and indescribable.

Next morning we went to Tiger ghat again for purchasing fish. Cake, banana, sweet and tea were served in tiffin on the launch. We were then returning to Gosaba Ghat and watching the side views of jungle, local houses, Anukul Chandra’s mandir, fully packed boat crossing the river, river-ambulance, daily routine life of Sundarbans people etc. Weather was very charming. After sometime lunch (Rice/ Dal/Sabji/Fish fry and Chicken) was served.

We took a jeep again from Gosaba to reach canning, and arrived Sealdah at about 3:30 afternoon, with a sad thought of how a beautiful world heritage site is getting destroyed gradually day by day by erosion. We heard from Rohan that Aila, Sider (the storms) pushed back the development of Saundarbans 10 years back! Unfortunately for foreigners there's no nearby airport and the nearest one s in Kolkata which caters hundreds of domestic as well as International Flights daily. You can clearly visualize and compare Sundarbans with a gorgeous lady who is old now, but her majestic allure is still persisting. Oh what a grand trip it was!