Offbeat destinations in North Bengal
Murti river originates in the Neora valley national park in the Kalimpong district in West Bengal which further meets the Jaldhaka river coming down to the plains. Together Murti river and jaldhaka river forms and intergral part of Dooars tourism.The river is famous for providing some exceptional scenic destinations for adventure and camping activities for the tourists visiting North Bengal,mainly a bengali. So in this winter I decided to explore the quaint hill stations lying along the rivers of Murti and Jaldhaka in the Eastern Himalayas. New Mal junction is a railway station in north bengal that is the nearest base point from where we can get several cabs and visit the beautiful villages of Dooars. Owing to the fertile plains of these two rivers Dooars is gifted with stunning greenery and landscape that attracts tourists mainly in the winter season when the skies are clear.From New Mal junction we took the road towards Chalsa tea garden and our first destination was to stay in Rocky island,a tourist spot with homestay facilities on Murti river.One of the many tea gardens near Chalsa.
Rocky island is situated 2km from Samsing ,which is a tea estate town in North Bengal and Dooars tourism,and Rocky island is a river camp site on the rocky terrain of Murti river.This place is surrounded by dense forests all around that enhances the greenery of the surrounding. The river is narrow here so one can easily cross or walk down the river over the boulders to explore the natural scenery associated with the place. on weekends in West bengal this place is a paradise for a bengali. There are few homestays available just on the banks of this river in the Rocky island which provide delicious food but basic accommodation facilities. Various trekking routes are available from this spot into the adjoining forest in the surroundings.
Mostly Rocky island is famous among the tourists In West Bengal as picnic spot and a day tour excursion for a bengali. But due to the development of the recent homestays close to the river bed of Murti in this spot ,now many tourists from north bengal and different corners of our country spend here for bird watching in the surrounding forests and local trek routes in the nearby villages of dooars tourism.The homestays provide perfect setups for the tourists to enjoy the serene location and explore the river bed ,while enjoying the local food delicacies.As the homestays are situated on the cliff overlooking the river,so the tourists can simply park their vehicles on the adjoining road in front of the cliffs and go down towards the river bed where arrangements are made to enjoy the food with amazing views.In the morning hours the open air set up of the restaurant with plastic tables and chairs with big umbrellas ,enhance the tranquility of the spot while a traveler can enjoy a delectable breakfast with the finest tea from the gardens of North Bengal.
Our next destination next day was to explore another beautiful village called Suntalekhola and then proceeding towards Bhutan borders to explore the hill stations along Jaldhaka river. Suntalekhola is a small picturesque village situated in Kalimpong district with altitude around 900 metres above sea level. The small village is famous for it serene forests and small streams of river Murti that flows through the dense forests adjacent to this village. There are variety of homestays with serene location which can provide a different experience in this Eco friendly village. But the best is the WBFDC(West Bengal Forest Development Corporation) resort situated inside the forests of Suntalekhola.
Above is the campus of WBFDC tourist resort.
Hanging bridge near the resort.
As shown in the picture the resort is surrounded by greenery and has a small stream with boulders, flowing through it’s campus. The colourful flowers and the grasslands altogether creates a delightful ambience for the bengali tourists visiting this place in north bengal. There is also a hanging bridge near this resort which is also a famous tourist spot among the bengali travellers visiting this village of dooars tourism. The village also forms the starting point of the trek to Neora valley National park which is situated adjacent to the forests of Suntalekhola.
The farthest mountain in the background of the above picture belongs to Neora valley National park.
The national park is home to Red pandas and various rare species of wild cats and birds. The village can be traced in just about 2 hours by hiring the local taxes which are available as we enter Suntalekhola from Samsing,which also a serene tourist spot situated 5 kilometres away. Tourist cabs are not allowed for sightseeing in Suntalekhola ,so one has to hire the local cabs which charge RS 300 for a complete sightseeing of the village. In Nepali language Suntaley means orange and khola means stream ,thus due to the abundant orange trees and the river stream that flows through this village ,the village got it’s name as Suntaley Khola.
We then proceeded towards the Doaars forest and our destination was Jhalong Bindu road along the jaldhaka river.In the route near Samsing we came at a view point called Lalaguri .Lalaguri is surrounded by tea plantations and provides a picture perfect view of the Murti river flowing down to the Dooars plain.Though the spot was overcrowded with tourists but the vast area surrounded by hills and tea gardens makes it an exquisite place to have a walk in the surroundings.
View from Lalaguri with Murti river in the background.
As we proceeded downwards towards the plains we came across a place with surreal beauty.The landform was dry with black rocks yet was perfectly decorated with vast acres of tea plantations.The unusual colour combination of this place was a perfect conclusion in exploring the Murti river in north bengal, as I crossed the river to explore another mountain river of the Eastern Himalayas that forms an integral part of dooars tourism.
As I entered the deep forests of the Dooars tourism I came across a rubber plantation inside a government protected area.Perhaps this is the only rubber plantation in North Bengal that I visited in the Dooars forest. If one is travelling from Suntalekhola towards the border of Bhutan near Jhalong bindu road ,one will encounter this rubber and cinchona plantation in the forest of the Dooars. Naturally the place is very green owing to the dense forests on the foothills of the Himalayas.This place is much famous among the numerous bengali people travelling in dooars in the weekend.
The roads are pretty good and if one is lucky enough ,then encounter with wild elephants is possible due to the numerous elephant corridors in the Dooars. The Murti river flows around this area which later meets with Jhaldhaka river ,that comes from Bhutan.The plantation area is maintained by the government so tourists need to go through the check post before entering the rubber plantation forests.
The white plastic in the picture has a vessel below it where the rubber in the liquid form is collected from the bark of the trees. It was really worth to watch such a landscape as it reminded me of my school time chapters of geography. Travelling to some offbeat places brings us some delightful new experiences with nature and I strongly believe our country has some numerous unexplored destinations which can prove a real treasure for any enthusiastic traveller.
After crossing the Murti river from Suntalekhola it takes an hour and a half drive to reach the Bindu barrage ,which marks the border of India and Bhutan. The river has a dam build over it in the further north of Bengal in the village called Bindu ,which has become a major tourist attraction all over Bengal.This tourist spot is famous as a famous picnic spot and a weekend gateaway for thenumerous travellers from North Bengal.
Jaldhaka river originates from the glacier of the Kupup lake in Sikkim and flows along the international boundaries of Bhutan and India before it meets the Dharla river in Bangladesh . The river provides fertile plains to the local residents of North Bengal which facilitates them to raise fruits and cultivate huge lands for tea in the Jalpaiguri district.
The place is a delight for all nature lovers and bengali people as the pristine water of the river flows through the huge boulders creating waterfalls and rapids. The surrounding forests of the Eastern Himalayas in north bengal adds to the serene landscape in the surroundings. The entrance to the barrage is strictly monitored by the BSF of Indian army ,so one needs permission for entering the premises of the barrage. The electricity production and maintenance of the barrage lies under WBSEDCL ,a power distribution company of West Bengal state government.Along the Jhalong Bindu road there are numerous shops in this tourist spot which sells chocolates from Bhutan,which must be bought to experience the local taste of the chocolates in the Himalayas and thus the chocolates helps to promote dooars tourism among the travellers coming here.
As we were proceeding towards the Bindu barrage ,the mesmerising drive through the serene valley of the Eastern Himalayas fetched us some wonderful views of the forest . The splendid views of the river can also be experienced by tasting tea and snacks in the local shops situated in this tourist spot. Each shops has small balconies from where the enigmatic flavour of the Darjeeling tea can be sensed with the views of the barrage and the river rapids. Spending an hour or two in Bindu barrage is a must activity for all the travellers taking their vacation trip in exploring the Jhalong Bindu road.
Barrage in bindu over Jaldhaka river,marking the border between Bhutan and India.
Apart from Bindu ,the villages of Jhalong and Jaldhaka provide excellent homestay facilities close to the rocky bed of the river banks. I chose to stay in one of those homestays named R J restaurant. I was stunned by the scenic beauty around the hotel which is built over the cliff joining the main highway of the village. The hotel has steps in the form of a pathway adjacent to the rooms, that takes us close to the river as shown in the picture.
The morning sunrise with a cup of Darjeeling tea was my best experience on the rooftop restaurant of this hotel ,from where we can get a panoramic view of the river.The hotel provides marvelous local food cooked in Indian cuisine that adds to the comfortable stay in this part of North Bengal. A trip to North Bengal is always splendid due to the scenic landscape of the mountains rivers and accommodation in the cozy homestays. The dense forest facilitates the greenery surrounding the turquoise water of the fast flowing Jaldhaka river.
After the serene experience of the splendid Himalayas villages and the two mountain rivers, Murti and Jaldhaka ,we took a longer route for our return journey to Siliguri. To explore North Bengal tourists can either avail tourist cabs from New Jalpaiguri railway station ,or Bagdogra airport in Siliguri or New Mal junction railway station ,which is actually more nearer. We availed the longer route towards Siliguri to have a glimpse of the dense forests of Dooars .
Murti river after crossing Chapramari forest.
Infact I planned a separate trip of explore this mighty forest but coming in proximity with the dense forests of North Bengal I decided to just watch the greenery along the highway in a short road trip. As I crossed Chapramari forest I took the national highway through the dense forest of Gorumara National park. The Murti river can be seen with shallow water in the camping site of Dooars forest near Lataguri. West Bengal tourism has built excellent tent and accommodation facilities just on the shores of the river here which attracts tourists all the year around. If you are visiting North Bengal and Dooars, take a road trip to explore this beautiful river and get yourself pampered with the West Bengal tourism facilities.
Gorumara national park is famous for the population of Indian rhinoceros. As I came near the entry gate of this park I was astonished by it’s surreal greenery. It was an unique combination of grassland with tea plantations on one side and dense forests of tall trees on the other side. The tea plantation was most enticing among all the tea plantations that I encountered in this trip. In the entire trip ,the landscape was mostly of numeorus tea plantations but this tea estate had new tea leaves owing to which the green colour was most photogenic.
The Dooars forest lies in the fertile plains of Murti and Jaldhaka river ,making it an important geographical landform in the fertile plains between India and Bhutan. The Dooars got it’s name from a Bengali word “Duar” means entry point. Since it is the nearest point for entering Bhutan from India ,hence these dense forests of North Bengal is known as Dooars. Lying in the foothills of the Himalayas ,Dooars not only is a well preserved sanctuary but also a fertile plain that adds to the scenic beauty of the enchanting greenery associated with it. The climate is very soothing but in monsoon it rains heavily. The best time to visit Dooars is during the winter months ,but yes the the number of tourist will be in plenty.