Unplanned tours are always better than planned ones as the latter never take place.
The tour wasn't decided until the previous night when everyone finally confirmed that the trip was on. However the place had not been decided yet and we planned to think about it on train the next morning.
The tour was special from many point of view. This time our regular team was accompanied by four new members namely Prosenjit, Abdur, Firangi and Surojit da.
Our train was scheduled on 7:20 from Siliguri junction so we were in a hurry right from the beginning of the day. I, somehow, got there with 5 minutes in hand. But Ramen and Auro were very late. And we were quite surprised to see how they managed to catch the train at the last moment. Unfortunately, Avijit couldn't make it and had to go on a bus.
We had tickets up to Binnaguri rail station and had 2 options, Bindu or Lava. Ramen being the only member to have visited Lava before, suggested that Lava would be the better option. We got down at Malbazar railway station from where we got on a bus to reach Damdim. There starts a highway from Damdim to Lava via Gorubathan. After much discussion we had a taxi whose driver, to our surprise, was a Bengali. He promised us to make short halts at all the places with scenic beauty.
After crossing Gorubathan, a hanging bridge
was the first thing that caught our sight. Some of us climbed down the hill to see the bridge, while Abdur and I decided to stay back looking after our baggages. The most important stoppage was beside a small waterfall locally called a 'jhora'. After travelling for around 1 hour on that rough road we were tired. So we could not resist the fast flowing cold water being offered by that jhora. While we were busy enjoying, it opportuned Prosenjit of a short photo session.
Since then the journey on Maruti Omni was quite comfortable for us as the jerking was minimal until a bend where we found that our car was struggling to go up. We all got down to help the driver and when it started Avijit and Auro raced to get their chosen seats back. There was only one instance when all of us were really scared. It was when our car's left wheel banged against a boulder in an attempt to pass the only four wheeler in our whole journey, going downward.
Although we reached Lava by 1:30, the panoramic pine forest was visible from kilometres away. The place was surrounded by hills and dense forest with all its beauty to mesmerize us. In the middle of summer the temperature was well below 20 degree centigrade. Lava is at an altitude of around thousand metres which makes its evenings colder than the winter's in the plain. That was an off season so we got the rooms quite cheap at 1000 For 8 persons. Our rooms had balconies facing distant hills partly covered with clouds.
In the afternoon, while others were sleeping, Prosenjit and I went out to explore the nearby areas. There was a narrow lane going upward through the forest to some unknown place. After walking for hardly 10 minutes we were at the middle of the forest. It felt quite scary as the news of Royal Bengal Tigers' being seen a few months back haunted us.
It was drizzling. So we decided to go back. There we met a person who was on the same way through the forest. On asking a few questions he happily replied that he was going to his village 1 hour away walking from there. On returning to hotel we discussed with our group and planned to take that way to reach our next stop Risabh, 6km away, trekking all the way.