Whenever I think of the Buxa Reserve Forest, I am reminded of these lines. A trail through the jungle roads leading to a village that is so beautiful and people so pure, that one might realise that they have seen the best things in the universe.
Santrabari is the starting point of this one day trek that will definitely take you to the pages of history. Buxa standing at a height of 2600 feet, apart from its gorgeous beauty is a treasure trove of history. Buxaduar is famous for Buxa Fort. The area was originally under Bhutan’s Pasakha region. There used to be occasional fights between the Bhutan kings and the Cooch Kings of the plains over land. Finally in 1865, after the war between the Bhutan kings and the British, the place came under British occupation with the sign of Sinchula Agreement. The Pasakha area came to be known as Buxa and the Pasakha Dzong became Buxa fort.
The fort was actually a prison fort used by the British as a detention camp. They had chosen this area because of the remoteness of the place. Many of the freedom fighters during the Indian Nationalist Movement were imprisoned here. But its actual claim to fame comes from the fact that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was imprisoned here before he disappeared from India. After the independence, the fort served as camps for the Tibetan refugees.
Ruins of the fort
Presently, the fort is in shambles and you will be filled with sadness after seeing the sorry state of the place. There is not much left apart from a couple of blocks and the outer wall of the fort is also dilapidated. Mosses and trees are grown over the structure. Nevertheless, the trek from Santrabari to Buxa fort and further to Lepchaka is indeed beautiful. The fort is surrounded by the village on one side and the wonderful views of Himalayas on the other side. The place also boasts of varied flora and fauna.
View of the Buxa Fort from the village
The trek starts from Santrabari. It is a 4 km uphill trek and there is a well marked path towards the village and leading to the fort. So there are no chances of getting lost. The trail is through the luscious green forests of the Buxa Reserve. The beauty of the nature will surely mesmerise you. The canopy of the evergreen forest seems to be there on us providing the much needed coolness. You will also occasionally sight a few rare bird species and also orchid species. One thing that you will see in abundance here are butterflies.
After a trek of about 3 hours, you will reach the first village on the hills – Buxa Sadar Bazar. It is a small village with simple people and their simpler ways. Most of the people are of Drukpa origin. Tourists are their main source of income, though cultivation of ginger is also quite widespread here. The Buxa Fort is a 10 minutes walk from the village.
Ruins of the Buxa fort
After a visit to the Buxa Fort, take a visit to the Buxa heritage Museum. The most valuable preserve of the museum are the photographs of some freedom fighters who were imprisoned in the Buxa fort. There is also a heritage post office here. A small structure just out of the fairy tale, the letters in this post office is still delivered by runners. Seeing all these little things will fill you with awe and a strange sense of wellness.
Village Post Office
After the visit to the fort and the village, you can either come down or stay for a day in Buxaduar. There are a few homestays at the village. You may stay in any one of them. The most renowned is Indra Thapa’s homestay. if you are planning to stay back, get up early in the morning the next day to see some beautiful birds.
Trek Type: Easy
Trek Distance: 4 km one way
How to Reach Buxa:
The nearest airport is Bagdogra. From Bagdogra, you can come to Siliguri and then take a car to Santrabari via Sevoke Road, Malbazar and Hasimara.
The nearest railway station is New Alipurduar. From there, you can take a car to Santrabari.
Places to Stay:
The best option is Indra Thapa’s Guest House. Now, Buxa also has a few homestays.
Best Time to Visit:
You can visit Buxa throughout the year. But winter will be the best time to visit the place.
From Buxa Fort, you can do the Lepchakha Trek. Lepchakha is further 4 km from Buxa Fort via Tashigaon. The place is a flat plateau surrounded by 5 hills. The view from the place is extraordinary. You can see all the rivers of the Dooars region from Lepchakha.
Jayanti, the beautiful place beside the meandering Jayanti River is also nearby and you can spend a day there also.
Some Useful Tips:
1. Carry a bottle of water during the trek.
2. There are no shops in between the trek route. So if you have hunger pangs, please carry some snacks with you.
3. Beware of leeches during the rains. Carry a packet of salt to ward off leeches.
4. There is a momo shop at Santrabari. If it remains open, have Momos from there. They prepare simple veg momos, but the taste is really delicious!
5. If you plan to do the Lepchaka trek also, it is advisable to stay back for the night either at Buxaduar or Lepchakha itself. Lepchakha also has a couple of homestays.