A Short Walk in the Dooars Part 1

One of the chief pleasures of life in North Bengal is the proximity of the forests of the Dooars. From Siliguri you can , literally within minutes, reach several forests which are rich in birdlife, dissected by fast flowing rivers and can add a frisson of danger as they are home to elephant herds. When I was living in Siliguri, one of our favourite family days were when we drove out to Chalsa and then walked: sometimes down the Lataguri road, sometimes from the Batabari crossing to the Murti river and on one memorable occasion we drove north wards from Khunia Crossing to picnic in the deep forests of Chapramari.
This time I had time for one walk. Now that we come to Siliguri for holidays, I do not need to be confined to Sundays and I can choose any day when it is crisp and cold, the sun is out and the Kanchenjunga can be seen from the plains. I chose the 23rd December. Two of the three conditions that I like were fulfilled, but the Kanchenjunga , alas was not to be seen. We were leaving for Calcutta in the next day, so this was my last chance this year.
I usually prefer to leave early, but today I was delayed. I could not resist the lure of parathas with fried potatoes. The taste of potatoes which have been dug out perhaps just a week ago is something that our palates, now unfortunately used to potatoes which have been stored for perhaps years, cannot resist. Be that as it may, full of a most unhealthy number of parathas and a vast number of potatoes, sandwiches and water in my back pack, I was ready to go. I walk down to the Mittal Bus Stand. A bus to Jaigaon is ready for departure. Siliguri to Khunia Crossing: Rs 55 “the new fare” I am told. The distance is approximately 70 odd kilometers.
The bus is crowded; most people have avoided the early morning buses because of the cold. The usual crowd of Bhutanese, Lepchas and Bhutias form the hills, the Adivasis from the Terai tea gardens and a motley collection of Bengalis crowd in. Siliguri must be one of the most cosmopolitan places in India!
My spirits begin to lift as we leave the dusty Sevoke Road in siliguri and whoosh past the Salugara monastery. 
Salugara Monastery ( picture from https://www.flickr.com/photos/kukkaibkk/6796910330/)

The Mahananda forests begin. The trees are as majestic as ever and soon the bend of the teesta appears, most of the vast river bed now dry and will be full of picnickers in the weekends. As we cross into the hills, the bus groans up the slopes, past the Sevoke Kali Mandir and then to Sevoke Bridge. 
Coronation Bridge ( from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/57606557)

Once we cross the bridge, we are entering the Dooars. We soon leave the Darjeeling District, and Jalpaiguri welcomes us, the forests continuing for a while before giving way to the tea gardens. There is no plucking now, the tea leaves stand in the sun, awaiting the onset of the plucking season. The Dooars rivers are crossed, the Leesh, Gheesh and so many others. Before I know it, we are in Malbazar. We cross the Neora River and soon Chalsa comes into view.
The bus stops here for a while, I contemplate whether to get off and have singaras from my favourite shop, which, I can see is doing brisk business across the road. But with all those parathas weighing heavy on my tummy, I discipline myself and wait for the driver to return from his tea break and take us the last few kilometers to Khunia More.

Khunia More is a point in the middle of the Chapramari forest. (see Map)
Very Basic Map drawn by me , I hope it gives an idea, the google map is not really useful.

 There is a road going North to the hills, you can go to Suntalakhola and other places from there. If however you turn south, the road leads to Batabari via Murti, now one of the most loved destinations in the Dooars. My plan to day is to walk down to the main Batabari road but to turn East instead of West to regain the Chalsa Nagrakata Road more to the East , near the Jaldhaka River. I estimate the walk to be about 8 Km, If I amble along, it should take about 2 hours.
The road I will take looks inviting : the trees are green the birds are all chirping and I am ready to go!

( to continue) 


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