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Bandapani Forest Rest House

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Bandapani Forest Rest House

1:

 

Suddenly I woke up at 2 am in the morning. It seems that the sound of water is coming from the river in front. I got up and listened with all ears. I realized that its not the sound of water in the river. It’s rather the sound of heavy rains. In fact, in the morning, I was a little bothered by the words of the caretaker Uttam… when he told if there are rains in the mountains of Bhutan, the Suktikhola River overflows and the completely dry river then becomes a violent river in the hills. And that means I would be  a prisoner in the Bandapani Forest Inspection Bungalow until the water recedes.

Train journey through Dooars on Bandapani tour

Train journey through Dooars

2:

 

In the midst of the political turmoil in North Bengal, I came to Bandapani, no matter how much trouble there is. There is no point in wasting Eid holidays. I boarded Kanchan Kanya Exp on 23rd June and got off at Dalgao station at around 12 pm the next day. From there I rented an Omni for 15 km ride to Bandapani. The local name of Dalgaon is Birpara. To reach Bandapani you need to cross Suktikhola river which is quite wide. There are no bridges and the car have to go over the char of this river. There is no other way.

Suktikhola river bed

Suktikhola river bed

I got out of the car to take pictures in the middle of the river. Wherever the eye goes, I see the white desert. Suddenly it might look as  Runn Of Kutch of Gujrat. Bhutan borders are not very far away from here and are surrounded by mountains. On the other side its surrounded by deep jungle. Meanwhile, the sky has turned black. The driver chased me to get into the car, as if it starts raining heavily Omni will face difficulties to cross the river.

With the greenery all around, the Bhutanese mountains in front and the feeling the essence of the forest all over I reached the Bandapani Forest Inspection Bungalow. After that when Uttam the caretaker showed me the bungalow I was a bit confused. Gosh! Its not those beautiful cottages in the empty field that I saw in their website!  Uttam said that pictured cottage is now abandoned. Therefore there is no way but to accept. On top of that you will not find any fan or AC in this region as everything runs on solar. No electricity. Of course, I already knew this information beforehand. However, I got overwhelmed when I went to the Veranda. River is just in the front. And then the Bhutanese mountains are calling out in their own glory. It is already raining heavily. After a while I became acclimatized without a fan.

bandapani-forest-rest-house-balcony

View from the balcony of Banadapani Forest Inspection Bungalow

3:

 

The next morning Uttam and I rode his bike along the riverbed to Gomtu Bazaar, 10 km away. Geographically  Gomtu is in Bhutan. The market is open on Sundays and allows you can go to that market without a permit. This market is next to Lakhi Cement Factory in Bhutan.

River bed of Suktihola from Bandapani to Bhutan border

On way to Bhutan border through river bed of Suktikhola

Lakhi cement factory area

Bandapani Bhutan border monastery

A local monastery near the Bandapani-Bhutan border

Uttam was shopping for me  and I was capturing another country so easily accessed, in my lens. I made up my mind to go up the Gomtu hills the next day after collecting a valid permit from designated authority…. and see the Gomtu monastery. After returning to bungalow Uttam did the cooking for me. Post afternoon, I enjoyed sitting lazily on the banks of Suktikhola, I just enjoyed the wide horizon of the river and got engulfed with the vibrant colors of the setting sun and tried to capture those paintings of nature in my lens.

Sunset at Bandapani Suktikhola river

Suktikhola river at sunset

Blue hour at Bandapani

Bandapani at blue hour

4:

Next day morning and today is Eid. As planned I took the permit for Gomtu Monastery from Bhutan authority and headed for the monastery. There is an outstanding coexistence of people in this place. I observed that the lamas here could speak broken Hindi. Once I went inside the monastery firstly I was surprised to see that apart from Lord Buddha there is another idol of a Goddess with garland of human heads around her neck. Secondly this deity is not of Mother Kali that the Hindus worship. I realized that its the cross border effect.

Gate to Gomtu monastery

Gate to Gomtu monastery

Gomtu monastery

Gomtu monastery

Gomtu monastery inside

Inside Gomtu monastery

You can partition 2 countries geographically and administratively but what about the people who are residing in these borders for years after years? In such cases the two  country’s culture, faith and harmony gets mixed up and thats the result here also are through this cultures and faiths people from 2 different countries are one and the same.

Strange idol of Gomtu monastery

The strange idol at Gomtu monastery

Bandapani river from Gomtu

View of Bandapani forest and Suktikhola river from Gomtu hill top

Bandapani border Bhutan school

School students of Bhutan

Now it’s time to get off. Subsequently descending from the hill, I saw the amazing form of Banadapani from birds eye view. The bends of the river are clear. Like a hand-painted picture. On the way back I decided to see the abandoned bungalow of the forest. I went and felt bad.

Compound of Bandapai Forest Rest House

Bandapani Forest Rest house compound

On an enormous green vacant land there exists the ruins of two cottages, kitchen area slightly apart from the cottages, a watch tower and a canteen. The blocks exist in a scattered sequence. Uttam pointed out on the kitchen which clearly has signs of elephant demolishing one part of the construction.

Ruined canteen of Bandapani forest rest house

Broken wall of canteen, work by elephants

Whatsoever be it, this is a lovely location for any nature lover. Green and green all around. Blue Bhutan mountains in front. Clouds  cover over those mountains. The bare jungle behind. I got awestruck with these scenic beauties for quite sometime. Over the horizons it is as if the sky and the mountains have merged into an artist’s watercolor paintings. Such a beautiful place has been abandoned !! After watching these water color paintings for about an hour, now it is time to say goodbye. Its hard to move back from such heavenly destinations.

Bandapani forest rest house

Abandoned cottage of Bandapani Forest rest house

With the urge deep in my heart of going back again and again, I caught the return train from Alipurduar station. The tour ended with the desert in menu –  Lush  green jungle of  duars from the Alipurduar to Maal junction through the windows of KanchanKanya Exp.

 

Best Time To Visit:

You can visit Bandapani any time of the year apart from the rainy season.

How To Reach:

The nearest railway station for Bandapani is Dalgaon station. There is only one train from Sealdah, Kanchankanya Exp to reach Dalgaon directly. From Dalgaon you need to rent a car for reaching Bandapani.

Where To Stay:

West Bengal Forest Development Corporation cottages or bungalow is the only option for staying. You can book online from their website: www.wbfdc.com

Places Of Interest:

Bandapani itself as a place is treat for the eye. You can roam about beside the river bed as much as you can in the day time in the lap of nature. You can visit some nearby tea gardens by renting a car. With valid permits you can cross nearby Bhutan borders and visit Gomtu monastery in Bhutan.

 

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