Day 0: The unforgettable train journey
On 9th june, 2015 we four (me,Snehashish, Abhishek and Vishnu) set out for our much awaited trip to Buxa tiger reserve. We had planned a four day trip after going through various informative blogs. We boarded the Kanchankanya express at 8:30pm from the Sealdah station. We all were very eager for this trip not only because we were visiting to BTR (Buxa Tiger Reserve) but also because finally we would get some respite from the scorching days in Kolkata.
On the next morning as I peeked out of the window it was a completely cloudy day. The weather had become very cool and there were dark clouds hovering on the sky. I woke them up asking them to enjoy the pleasant morning. As we were having refreshing cups of coffee it started to drizzle which made all of us worried. We were concerned about the weather because every year all the wildlife sanctuaries in West Bengal would be closed from 15th june till 15th september because of heavy rainfall. However very soon all our worries vanished into the thin air as the train passed the NJP(New Jalpaiguri station). For all of us it was probably the most beautiful train journey. We were greeted with lush green tea gardens on both sides of the track. We all were hooked to the window seats and were trying hard not to even blink for a second. Meanwhile Abhishek started clicking some beautiful pictures as the train started to slow down. Soon we realized that we were passing through an elephant corridor and we started to look deep into the tall dense trees hoping to get a glimpse of the tusker. Amid hill, forest and river this journey seemed like a beautiful dream. During its serpentine course the train would move through various tunnels. It was like a game of hide and seek. As we would enter the tunnel it would be pitch-dark and the very next moment everything appeared so green. Crossing some beautiful stations like Sevoke,Damdin,Hasimara we finally reached our destination Alipurduar station. We wished ‘ei poth Jodi na sesh hoto…’
Day 1: Trek to Pukhri Hills
On reaching Alipurduar we were received by our tour guide who had arranged us a maruti omni for the whole trip at 10000. We had a sumptuous lunch consisting of rice,potato fries,dal,vegetable curry and fish curry. We had booked a lodge named Rovers’ Inn in Jayanti which was an hour journey from Alipurduar. Jayanti is known as the ‘Queen of Dooars’. As we entered the Buxa tiger reserve,our omni slowed down. We saw several signboards reading ‘no horn’,’elephant corridor’. There was a sense of calmness among all of us as we moved through the dense forest of Buxa. There was complete silence except for the constant eerie chirpings of the crickets and occasional clicks from Abhishek’s digicam. Different species of butterflies of rainbow colours flew past us as we moved deep into the wild. On our way we stopped at the shores of Bala river clicked few pictures.Fortunately there were no network coverage in this region. Only BSNL landphones would work. It is completely isolated from the mundane outer world. We always wanted to visit a place like this where there would be no networks,no phone calls to disturb us. Our tired souls were rejuvenated by the breathtaking beauty of this place. This small hamlet is surrounded by the Bhutan hills. We could see the clouds sitting on the peaks of the Bhutan hills from our lodge. Also the Jayanti riverbed full of white pebbles and boulders added to the beauty of this place. After a rest of half an hour we quickly got ready for the first adventure of our trip. There was a small pond full of catfishes and turtles located at the top of Pukhri hill (pukhri means pond) located at a height of 1100 ft so we bought a packet of puffed rice and soyabeans to feed them. Babua da,our driver, introduced us to our local guide Tinku da who would accompany us to our trek to the Pukhri hills. We had packed only the essentials in a bag as we started to climb the 1100ft tall hill. It was a very steep climb and we were gasping for breath at every turn. We would sit there for a while and click pictures. On our way our guide Tinku da would amaze us with the tales of his heroic encounters with elephants and how he managed to survive! After about an hour or so we finally manage to reach the top of the Pukhri hill. Seeing the pond we quickly ran towards it in excitement to see the catfishes and turtles. As we reached near the pond we saw schools of catfish waiting for us!!! We started feeding them the puffed rice and the soyabeans. Their fight made it seem that they were hungry for eons!!! Their rattling made the water murky! Poor turtles couldn’t even come near to us,so aggressive were the catfishes! This pond is considered to be holy by the local people. Soon other tourists started to flock in. The place was getting crowded and also it was getting dark so we left for the nearby Pukhri watch tower. We saw the dense lush green forest from the top of the watchtower. We saw a big artificial waterhole. Tinku da told us that during the dry season elephants herds,Indian bisons and other wild animals would come there to quench their thirst. Unfortunately we wanted to see the lush green forest so during the monsoon there is no scarcity of water for the wild beasts hence they shy away from visiting these artificial waterholes. So we had to satisfy ourselves with the glimpse of a hornbill, an eagle and few peacocks.
The night wasn’t that long since we all were dog-tired!
Day 2: Trek to Choto Mahakal caves
We woke up early morning, standing in the balcony sipping hot tea we were enjoying the continuous drizzle. It rained the whole night. The manager told us that it was impossible for us to trek to Mahakal as because of the overnight rain it would not be possible to cross the Jayanti river. Disappointment loomed large on our face. It was 8:30am as we were having crisp bread toast with butter and omelet then Babua da arrived with his omni asking us to get ready quickly. On our way we picked our local guide Tinku da. The omni couldn’t take us much further as the current in the river was very strong however during the winter the cars would go all the way to the Choto Mahakal cave. We carried our backpacks and hit the road. It was still drizzling and we started walking by the sides of the river. Within minutes we got drenched with water. As we moved further we saw convoy of trucks carrying those huge white boulders from the river bed. We were following our guide carefully while crossing the streams of water running through the river bed. The Bhutan hills started to appear closer to us and we would gaze in amazement how those clouds were floating at the top so effortlessly. Seldom we have seen nature so closely. I wish I could pass my whole life here admiring the beauty of the Bhutan hills and the Jayanti river.
We crossed the strong currents of the Jayanti river, walked through the hilly terrain and finally after a tiring journey of 5km we reached the choto Mahakal cave. We sat there for a while awed by the breathtaking beauty of the place.
Day 3: Trek to Buxa fort and Jayanti Jungle safari
The next morning our driver dropped us at Santalbari,a small forest village, from where we had to trek about 5km to reach the Buxa fort located at an altitude of about 2500ft. Again it was drizzling so the road was very slippery so we had to be very careful.We were accompanied by a local guide Kanchan Thapa who asked us to carry salt with us because of leeches!!! The climb was really a tough one and we would stop often because of our tiring limbs but we were inspired when we saw little children,old men and women climbing the hills so effortlessly. On our way Kanchan da told us how the British rulers had captured Netaji along with other freedom fighters and kept them in the cells of Buxa fort. On reaching the Buxa fort we witnessed the ruins of the fort. The silence of the place spoke an untold story of the struggle of our freedom fighters.
We all took a good nap after having a delicious lunch.In the afternoon it was time for the most adventurous part of our trip-the jungle safari!!! We had reserved an open hooded jeep for the safari. As our jeep entered the dense jungle the eerie sound of the cricket grew louder. We all were looking deep into the forest in search of the wild beasts. The high pitched cry of some distant peacock and chirping of unknown birds and insects made the ambience a thrilling one. Suddenly the forest guard accompanying us signaled the driver to stop the jeep! We had no idea why! For a moment our heart beats had stopped.He asked us to stay in the jeep and got down. After a while we saw him inspecting a place soon we also got down and followed him.To our surprise we saw footprints of an elephant!!! The guide asked us to quickly get on the jeep as it was not safe to hang around at that place.The light had started to fade away and it was getting dark in the jungle so we could no longer penetrate further deep into the forest. On our way back a brown figure with a long tail crossed the path of our jeep in a flash! Unfortunately it moved so fast that we couldn't capture its image.The guide claimed that it was a clouded leopard!
Day 4: Visit to Rajabhatkhawa museum and Cooch Behar palace
It was our last day of the trip. In the morning we visited the wildlife museum at Rajabhatkhawa where we came to know the interesting history behind the name 'Rajabhatkhawa' and saw the impressive exhibits.This place gives you a summary of the whole BTR and its flora and fauna.We also took a boat ride at the Sikiajhora river stream. Sikiajhora is also known as the 'mini sunderban'. One must not miss this thrilling boat ride. Sikiajhora flows through the heart of Buxa and if you are lucky enough you can get a glimpse of elephants crossing the stream. We culminated our amazing tour of the Buxa by a short visit to the beautiful Cooch Behar palace.