A Short walk in the Dooars Part 2
I start walking at about 12 Noon. The bus has taken a full two hours to come 80 odd kilometers. The only saving grace is that the roads this year are as smooth as silk, or as close to silk as Indian roads can be. However, with the sunshine on your back, the forests beckoning, all else can be ignored. As I stride down the road the Chapramari closes around me. The trees are green; I can easily deduce it has rained a lot this year. Ferns prolferate There are butterflies galore; one soon sits on my path allowing me to get a good shot. Birds are everywhere: sunbirds, barbets, an odd kingfisher, egrets and paddy herons crowd the clearings. I am not equipped for photography, I have only my trusty aim and shoot, and so I cannot record the birdlife. As I grow older, I am a lot less interested in doing so, I like to enjoy the day rather than spend my energies in getting the best shots. I soon reach the crossing where the road to Batabari goes off to the right; I will go left towards the Jaldhaka River.
Batabari to the left, I turn right
I have earlier walked to Batabari several times, this time I want to do something different.
A path branches off into the forest depths. I am sorely tempted, but two considerations deter me. I have no permission to enter the forest, doing so would be illegal. Also, I have a healthy respect for the elephants here. I would hate to meet a herd or even more dangerous, a solitary male when I am on foot. Sticking to the tarred road is a lot safer, though not absolutely safe.
A vehicle passes me at high speed, as he crosses me he blows his horn, for reasons best known to him. This is the ass, if you see him, just boo!
I continue, the trees close in and the road is now canopied and a paddy heron sits on a branch overlooking the pathway.
I soon come across the Amba Khola. The flow has broken into several pools. I sit for a while on the culvert that crosses the Khola. It is cool here and some terns play in the water. A lapwing strolls past. One wishes that some of the mammalian denizens would come to drink, but I know that is wishful thinking: it is the middle of the afternoon and the sun is high on the sky.
The road now curves towards the main Alipurduar road and I can see some traffic on the main road.
As I gain the road, a group of men who have alighted to repair a punctured tire stare at me in amazement. Walking the forests is not an accepted pastime here. I turn towards Nagrakata, and soon the Jaldhaka comes into view. A stricken tree trunk stands as a pointer.
The river is now quiet and the bed has been invaded by lorries which are loading rocks and sand for construction activities . I suddenly have a vision of a dismal and I hope extremely distant future when the Himalayas have all been used up to construct houses! The bridge usually affords a superb sight of the snow covered mountains, but today it is all haze. The forlorn remnants of an image which had been immersed in the Jaldahaka stands.
On the Eastern side of the bridge, the Nagrakata road branches off. I wait here for a bus, as I do, I see tribal women coming from the forest call carrying loads of broken branches and leaves. I understand that forest villagers are allowed to collect minor forest produce as it is called, but the numbers of wood gatherers seem to be too many to allow natural regeneration. Will my grandchildren be able to enjoy the forest just as we did?
I wait for a bus. One passes me going to Nagrakata. It is crowded to the gills
The Tourist Department has made some colourful hoardings. Some work is certainly being done by the government, the tourist sector seems to be getting some attention.
A bus soon comes from Nagrakata, fortunately it is leaded to Siliguri. I board it and am back in Siliguri in about two hours. My expedition is over. Till next year then. God fare the Dooars well till I return.