Saturday, August 25, 2012

Garchumuk and Atanna Gate: Where two flows merge.

Courtesy  :  
Merely sixty Km from Kolkata lies a spot which can be reveled in the misty monsoon or in the winter sun.  It still is a picnic spot but can be a destination to hangout, any time of the year. Add Garchumuk to your -been there done that- list of destinations. The place lazes out at the confluence of the rivers Damodar and Hugli where visitors converge with their families and loved ones to chill out.
A boat ferrying commuters at dusk

We drove the sixty odd kilometers and the ride was good as most of the route was maintained by National Highway Authority. Crossing the Second Hoogly Bridge (Vidyasagar Setu) we took the Kona Express way. At its end, 10 km away at Salap, we turned left and got to the National Highway 6. We crossed another Toll plaza (the first was at Second Hoogly Bridge) at Dhulogarh and drove straight to Uluberia from where we turned left again towards Shyampur. An hour later we crossed the lock gate bridge over Damodar. To our right lay the beautiful expanse dotted with trees. It’s the bank of Damodar where the picnic parties frolic in winter. The 58 lock gates ( Atanna Gate, in local dialect) that bind the river give a to bluish green tinge upon the near stagnant water.  If you travel by CSTC bus from Esplanade, Kolkata, alight here. You must have a previous booking of the Howrah Zilla Parishad. A pedaled van will take you to the Bungalow.

To head for the bungalow one has to turn left. The road is undulated amid the woods. At its end lie the cottage type dwellings in the middle of a sprawling garden and park. Soon you will find that the campus is located at the vantage point, at the confluence of the rivers. The lunch can be ordered before the start of the journey. Arrangement here is fulfilling but not lavish. Boating in the river is an added treat especially when it drizzles and you don’t have a propensity towards cold. One can simply sit by the river, see ocean liners heading towards the Kolkata Port or departing to the sea. Else, simply count waves to kill time. Before returning one must not miss the deer park at Atanna Gate.

Places to stay:
 At Howrah Zilla Parishad Bungalow ( Tel: 033-26384633 / 34  Ext: 147). One has to download the application form ( and apply to the secretary, Howrah Zilla Parishad or WBCADC – 03322377041-43. A few local hotels are also available.

How To Reach:
Buy CSTC bus heading for Gadiara, from Esplanade. By train from Howrah to Uluberia and then by hiring a car. Best is to drive straight to the spot.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chandipur- Strolling on the quiet shore.

Rains playing hide and seek this year. Prolonged interludes of humidity casting its ominous spell on the citizens.  A couple of days break is good enough to give the sea a chance to placate the tired sweaty pours of our skin. Head for Chandipur, one of the nearest coastal beaches from Kolkata.

When the engine of the Dhauli Express nudged its way out of the station at six o clock in the morning, sleep was still wiping its last traces from our eyes. Four hours later we alighted at Balasore, a historical port city of Odisha, now a business and tourist hub. We hired a car (Rs. 250/-) while auto rickshaws charge between Rs80/- to Rs100/- for this 16 Km journey, depending upon the season. We headed for OTDC Panthanivas where our room was booked. As we proceeded towards the sea the whiff of salinity the air welcome greeted us. The breeze whizzed past the Casuarinas trees which hem the coastline here, dotted by a coconut tree or a cashew bush in between. Refreshing our desiccated souls with ice cold lassi, we headed for the sea, but not before ordering prawns for the lunch.

Luckily, it was high water time and the sea was near us, which generally recedes 5 Km off during the ebb tide. This bizarre phenomenon is hardly experienced anywhere else in the entire coastal belt of Odisha. The hard sand below our feet grips our sole as the semi-transparent sea ripples over. We had to walk half a mile before the water became waist deep and we felt any buoyancy. Anyone who wants to learn swimming can head for the Chandipur sea in High water. The hard undulated sand below will not let him drown while the calm sea will not challenge him while he floats.

In the evening we strolled by the sea as the tired sun picked up the last traces of orange before plunging behind the horizon. Fishermen with tired legs tow their nets to their huts. For them tedium is a way of life.

Sight seeing of the nearby Kshir-Chora Gopinath Temple at Remuna, the stunning fishing harbour at Balaramgudi at the confluence of the Budibalam River and the sea, Panchalingeswar temple above the Devgiri hills, the remnant of the dilapidated house of the Zamindar of nilgiri can be seen hiring a car. Rate is Rs250/- approx per head.

When we were returning to Balasore to catch the evening train to kolkata, it suddenly occurred that it was here near Balasore that the great freedom fighter Jatindra Nath Mukhopadhyay ( aka- Bagha Jatin, as he had killed a tiger with only a knife) laid down his life fighting the British troops.  Inspired by Swamiji's ideals, Bagha Jatin laid down his life just as he wished as he always said " Our death will awaken our country".
 Somewhere, a paradoxical pain got entwined in the joyous weekend.

Courtesy : Discover India.
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