If I have to prioritize type of destinations I love to travel in, I think the first in the list will be mountains. Old architectures and historical places will also be in the same rank followed by sea and then jungle. But I think the best part of any travel is the set of memories you capture and bring home. Whatever is the destination, your memories and the moments are the jewels that you preserve all your life. For example, you visit a Rajasthani Haveli today. After 10 years, you may not even remember who the king who built that Haveli was, but your experience of seeing a Rajasthani dance in the courtyard of the same palace stays with you.
I have also gathered some such moments in the course of my travel. Here are some random picks from the old bag of jewels I carry.
2007 March. After having bath in the wild sea for 3 hours, we came back, tired and exhausted. No one of us had any energy to go out in the evening. But then it was a short holiday and we did not want to miss out on any piece of fun, so we went to explore the local market. While visiting the vegetable market, one of my friends got a deadly idea – he wanted to cook dinner. We were staying in home of a local villager and there was no way the landlord would have shared his kitchen. We tried to resist all possible ways but he was desperate to cook dinner. Calculations were made right there and he showed us how cooking dinner will save lot of money that we otherwise would spend on buying food from a local restaurant. We didn’t have a choice.
So, the next phase was to request people to get access to their kitchens. No one agreed for obvious reasons. Finally, one shopkeeper agreed to share some space. That was an empty space with only few utensils. Don’t want to elaborate on how we gathered fuel, small tree branches and all other possible earthly beings, but you can imagine how painful that exercise would have been.
Then we cooked. Some local youths also came to support us. They were amused at the enthusiasm my friend was showing and how we were supporting him in his endeavor. After 2 hours of battle, we cooked some chicken. Then there was another round of calculation and we found that the cost including everything was more compared to restaurant food. Then he sold this entire exercise to us as an experience. Indeed. Today I have lost majority of the details around that place. But that moment is preserved.
Then the drink. One local youth came with us at our place. He wanted to have a small share of the English whiskey. After taking the first two pegs, he claimed that it was nothing for him and he could drink the whole bottle without getting intoxicated. So, he drank few more. Two of my friends also were with him, so the bottle did not last long. That guy was drunk but did not want to admit it. We tried all possible tricks to tell him to leave the room and go to sleep, but somehow he felt that it was his room and there was no way he could leave it. He agreed to leave on one condition – someone of us should go with him and buy more bottles. Finally, we offered him one more bottle. It was a bottle of soda that was lying around in our bag for long. He again challenged to drink the bottle in one shot. Just few gulps and then the entire thing came out of the stomach of the brave soul – we utilized this opportunity to push him through the door and take him out. That was a wrong deed but if you are in a situation where you have a bed for two and you are three and all three are tired and then a drunken guy wants to share your bed, you try out these obnoxious tricks. (J)
Next morning we explored a virgin sea beach. You need to walk close to 4 Km through the jungle to reach the sea. The other side of the jungle directly extends to Sundarban, the home of Royal Bengal tigers. This place is fenced and has no direct fear of getting intruded by wild animals though. When you first time look at this beach, you will also feel that this is wild. It is not yet touched by human beings to that extent. The road through the jungle suddenly finishes and it opens up into the sea shore. You look around – there is no human being anywhere nearby. It is not a tourist destination and therefore is not thronged by tourists or shopkeepers. The name of the sea beach is “Keya” – 5 km away from Bakkhali.
On the way comes Henry Island. It has few nice guest houses and a watchtower. It offers a good view of the surroundings. You can also see Sundarban borderline from here.
Travel tips: Henry Island and Keya sea beach can be reached from Bakkhali by cycle van. Or you can walk down through the jungle. Bakkhali is 180 Km away from Kolkata – can be reached by car or bus.
You may like to take the guest house by doing advanced booking from Benfish offices. But there is nothing to do in the evening – the place is dark and you have almost no communication. You have to rely on the cycle van pullers to come to Bakkhali market.
Avoid summer and rainy seasons. Winter is the perfect time to visit.
If you get a weekend, plan a trip. You won’t repent.