Bandapani Forest Rest House
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hi! I am from Kolkata, India. Travelling and photography is my passion. As I love landscape photography most, travelling goes hand in hand with it. Since my matriculation days I started travelling. I have also penned down a book on my travelling which is available in Amazon in the name of Ghuranchandi – Part 1. Whatever travel experiences I have, I have shared those in my blog in the form of travel stories.