Table of contents for The Sundarbans : A long cherished dream
- The Sundarbans : A long cherished dream
This travelogue is about my tour to the Sunderbans. Myself with some of my friends visited the Sunderban National Park in January 2015. Since I live in Kolkata, it is easy for us go places around south Bengal. Twice I went to the Sagardwip, the largest island in the Sunderban (once to attend Sagarmela and another on a general tour). But never I had been to the core of the Sunderbans. To fulfil that long cherished dream we went out in January last week this year.
SUNDERBAN means beautiful (sunder) forest (ban) in Bengali. The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. After division of country, apprx 60% area went into Bangladesh, balance 40% lies in India. It was inscribed as world heritage site by UNESCO in 1997. So we decided to visit this area placed so near to Kolkata.
23rd January 2015 – From Kolkata to Canning :
Since the last weekend of January offered some holidays, we preferred to have a 2 night 3 day tour starting from 23-01-2015 and contacted a very private and homely tour operator. We took a local EMU, namely Canning local, to get down at terminal Canning station at around 10.50 in the morning. It normally takes 2 hr journey from Sealdah south station. At Canning, other tourists of our group assembled, counted to be 20 in total, and got introduced to each other while having a nice pack of snacks.
But my friendly advice to all to avoid rail journey, rather take SUV or jeep type of car from Kolkata, or can make the entire journey by launch itself starting from river Hooghly at Kolkata. There are govt package tour, as well as AC launch tour operated by renowned private companies.
From Canning to Sonakhali :
From Canning railway station we went straight to Sonakhali ghat. A four cylinder launch “MB Maa Chandi” was waiting for us. It was a small but comfortable double decker launch with inbuilt toilets. The upper deck was equipped with seating facility in the front side and kitchen, dining space and a toilet in the back side. The lower deck was housed with many double beds in a dormitory system with two toilets in the front side. The motor room was inside a separate chamber in the back side. All the tourists taken their respective beds and placed all baggage there. Then we sat in the upper deck and the journey from Sonakhali started just before 12 noon.
In the textbooks of my childhood, we used to read about the three battles of Panipat. It is almost impossible to recollect and count the exact number of hours I had devoted towards learning about those battles. Their details always got mixed up amongst themselves and confused me a lot making it so difficult to remember about who fought with whom. The very name of Panipat made an indelible mark on my young mind to be remembered only as a battle-field. Sometimes I also used to think that people of Panipat must be very war-loving as they fought three battles in a row. Otherwise, how that could have been possible that people had chosen it for three battles? I always wanted to know the reasons behind selection of Panipat as a battleground by different rulers in different times. “What are the present states of those famous battlegrounds?” was another question that kept haunting me even when I grew up. Time passed by, my son entered into the seventh grade and started reading about those battles. His text books again fuelled and rekindled the desire to visit Panipat.
The Panipat is situated only at a distance of 100 kilometers from Delhi on the famous and smooth National Highway 1 via Sonipat. Panipat claims to be in existence since the Mahabharata days. It is stated to be one of the five prasthas (villages) demanded by the Pandavas. Those, who are familiar with this part of the country, generally prefer to have their morning breakfast at a place called Murthal, situated just near Sonipat. The eateries on the left side of the highway serve excellent stuffed parathas with tremendous amount of butter.
Parathas at Murthal
After working continuously for months, we were looking for a refreshing trip, preferably a beach holiday. There were many options Goa, Andaman Nicobar, Mumbai, etc. but we finalized Kerala , a perfect beach holiday destination for our trip and 5th wedding anniversary celebration. So, flight tickets to Kochi were booked in advance, did research for a Kerala holiday package providers and finalized one of them. It was a three days trip only to Kochi (also known as Cochin), Munnar and Alleppey.
On 3rd October, 2014 we boarded our Indigo flight to Kochi at 6:30 am from Indira Gandhi International Airport New Delhi and reached Kochi at around 9:30 am. We were looking for our taxi driver from the travel company, holding our name plate but no one was there. Weather in Kochi was burning hot and Mr. Driver arrived after half and hour and cherry on the cake was neither he could speak English nor Hindi, only Malyalam. God know s how we managed to communicate with him. It is a long 2-3 hours journey from Kochi airport to city. It was green and green everywhere. Coconut trees, water bodies, boats, beautiful houses welcome you to God’ own country Kerala.
On way to Kochi
Table of contents for From North to South - by road
- Jammu to Delhi
I love driving, and have been driving across the country for the last fifteen years, the nature of my job also offers me such opportunity as I get posted to various cities of the country. Recently I got my marching orders from Jammu to Bangalore, from the City of Temples to the Hi Tec City and decided to drive down to my destination. Honestly, what better way to travel the length of the country than driving through it. I own a blue TATA Safari which is fondly called the ‘Hathi ka Bachha’ my faithful and comfortable companion to many such adventures. My wife and kids could not join me because of the school examinations and so I took the voluntary services of a friend who was also as excited about the journey as me and finally to give us company was my three year old Golden Retriever “Rusty”. The advantage of travelling in a Safari is that you can throw anything at it whether man or beast and it can accommodate lovingly, so we folded the rear seats of the car and made a play pen for our not so little four legged companion.
I will cover the journey in two parts Part I from Jammu to Delhi and Part II from Delhi to Bangalore, I took five driving days to cover the distance not counting the days I stopped over to meet family, friends or to sneak in a round of golf en-route.
Today am writing about my trip to Dalhousie and Khajiyar from Ludhiana. The first thing I would like to tell you is that bus service to and from Ludhiana is hell. So one should book a cab or travel via train to your destinations. Avoid buses as you will not find any deluxe buses to Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand. Deluxe buses operate only between Chandigarh and Delhi.
So we started our journey as usual on Saturday after office. We three friends took the first available bus to Jalandhar and reached the city at 6pm. From there we missed the AC bus to Pathankot, so travelled again by a local bus jam packed with people. We left Jallandhar at 8pm and reached Pathankot at 11pm.
We had booked a cab from Pathankot to Dalhousie, 2 way at INR 2500 for 1 day. It was super cold in Pathankot and a reliable bottle of the Monk was the the best thing we had. We met our cab driver at Pathankot bus stand and left Pathankot at 12am after dinner.
The highway of Pathankot to Dalhousie is very good. Good, broad roads in drivable condition. As we had not booked any hotel and we were supposed to reach around 3am so we told the cab driver to book some hotel for us which he did in 5 min.
We reached Dalhousie at 2.50 am and the hotel which the driver had booked was good. Just 1km before Dalhousie, the hotel’s main advantage was the parking space it had. I would recommend to anyone that friends couples families going to Dalhousie should stay 1-2 Kms before Dalhousie. It was an amazing budget hotel. It was 3-4 degrees at night and we dozed off around 4am.
As I am a early riser when on vacations I got up at 8am and straight away went to see the view from the balcony. The view was you can bumb. Amazing views of the Chamba ranges and step farming. Snow covered peaks reflecting the orange color , it was breathtaking .