Hollong , Jalpaiguri, North Bengal

#1 May 7th, 2014, 17:11
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#1
Day 1 : 16th February,2014 : Excuse me my friends, if I exaggerate in describing my experience at Hollong. I am a first timer in such a forest sojourn and God was merciful to bless me with such a marvel of wild beauty that I will cherish forever.

We had been to Murti tour for 3 days and on the 4th day we went to Phuentsholing, Bhutan and headed back to Hollong from Hasimara which is roughly a 18KM distance. When my husband was going through the necessary pen and paper procedural stuffs at the gate of Jaldapara National Park at Madarihat , I had no idea that we will be having such an extraordinary experience during our 2 day stay at Hollong.

Our small car sped through the narrow dusty paths packed with tall trees like Sal,Segun etc on both the sides .After travelling 7 KM into the core area of the forest, at last our driver Manikda, pulled up the Nano into the pebbled court-yard of the Hollong WBFDC tourist Hodge. As I stepped out of the car, it seemed that a world of silence and solitude welcomed us. Sound of foot steps echoing in the pebbled floor, distant tone of some unknown bird(later I knew it is nothing but Peacock!) and crickets in the high noon! The thrill was set in. The green wooden lodge appeared more less ordinary from outside except from its extraordinary surroundings. After initial reluctance, the reception staff of the bungalow, agreed to arrange the first floor view room for us.

As we ushered into the room ‘Kingfisher’ - we immediately came to know why this Hollong bungalow is so much in demand. The plush wooden furnished room directly looks into the glade where a salt-pit is located. Then some monkeys were there only ,enjoying the winter sun. After a while, the initial sunny weather turned cloudy but it went to our advantage. As we were admiring the exquisiteness of the bungalow and its wild ambiance ,suddenly my husband located a peacock in the clearing ,dancing with its feather fully spread. It was moving in a circular motion as it unfolded its magnificent blue feather as the cloud rumbled above. A spectacular view indeed! And then only I fully appreciated the fact from my heart- that the peacock is our National Bird.

One friendly advice -if you are to take lunch there, the bungalow staffs have to be called up beforehand because it must always be remembered that Hollong sits 7KM inside the core area of the forest ;so facilities are not always at a stone throw distance there. There is no medicine or snacks store around and the evening snacks provided in the lodge, may not seem always sufficient. So it’s always better to carry extra dry foods, medicine-kit when staying at Hollong.

Anyway we had already taken lunch before going to Hollong so we stretched ourselves a little bit on the luxurious bed and tired as we were we had soon fallen asleep. It was drizzling outside. Suddenly rushing footsteps on the wooden floor above woke me up from my siesta. People outside were shouting excitedly –‘Gondar ese geche (Rhino has come)!’ .I woke my husband up and we peeped out of the window. It was still drizzling but the magnum structure of the famous one-horned Indian rhino trudging through the muddy slush of the ground towards the salt-mount, stood out clearly. Usually I had heard that animals visit Hollong salt pit after the sunset but that day perhaps the semi-dark cloudy waether, made it take its errand little earlier. It was our first animal sighting at Hollong so we savored the vision to our hearts content- took snap ,recorded video. But some over-enthusiast tourist went very close to the glade and were making excited noises which drove away the rhino.Slowly it vanished into the jungle on the other side .

In the rainy evening, the bungalow staffs knocked with hot cups of Tea and some evening snacks .Next day we would be taking the elephant safari but were having apprehensions about the weather. The staffs were very cooperative and encouraged us with the promise of further animal visits in the glade at the evening/night . There were conflicting views among the staffs on which trip to take. But the manager at the booking counter booked the 2nd trip of elephant safari for us saying that if the first trippers do not have animal sighting , then on the 2nd trip ,the Mahouts will change the route and we had to option but to accept.

The night fall brought out a altogether different flavor of the jungle . Various types of sounds started coming from the depth of the night. Howling of animals at a close distance, crackling of peacock and other nocturnal souls, mixed with rustling of leaves filled the air and of course that night the subtle sound of rain fall was added to that cacophony . That music of night gave my novice ears an awful thrill. We were sitting on the reclined ottoman type chair in front of the window and staring into the dark field. Suddenly one of the bungalow staff named Raju came and called us to watch –‘something in the field’. We came down into the pebbled court yard and went towards the salt pit –separated only by a small stream. Raju was carrying a search light and was constantly flashing the light around the bungalow compound as we moved. There are always probability there that animals might cross the barrier and lurk behind the ground floor columns of the bungalow. Then… I saw a weird sight at the field. Two Gaurs (Indian Bison) was standing in the salt-pit amidst the darkness and as Raju flashed the light into them, their eyes as if flashed back red, their gaze was direct and undaunted by the light. Raju mentioned that Bison change their eye color and I saw it right then. After that we went back to room and watched Raju taking several other tourist batches to the view the glade,from our window. One rhino, 3-4 Gaurs were there for a long while.

We dined early that night in the dining hall of the bungalow. The service was good as well as the food. The staffs were well-mannered and caring. That night it rained hard and noise of muffled thunder bolt woke me up several times. Towards the dawn, I woke up again and took a glance at the glade through the glass pane. Shrouded in a misty vapor, the pasture appeared almost surreal to my drowsy eyes, more-- when the grey outline of a rhino came to my view. Later I could not tell between whether it was a dream or real if my husband had not mentioned that he had seen the same standing behind me.

Contd…
With Warm Regards

Tanusree
#2 May 7th, 2014, 17:15
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Hollong WBFDC Lodge
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#3 May 7th, 2014, 17:22
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More pictures @ Hollong

The hollong salt-pit and the Rhino there from our window
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#4 May 7th, 2014, 17:23
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#4
Great ! Waiting for the day to come .
#5 May 7th, 2014, 17:25
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Rhino- closer look
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#6 May 7th, 2014, 17:26
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The window looking at the glade
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#7 May 7th, 2014, 17:26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanugang View Post .... The night fall brought out a altogether different flavor of the jungle . Various types of sounds started coming from the depth of the night. Howling of animals at a close distance, crackling of peacock and other nocturnal souls, mixed with rustling of leaves filled the air and of course that night the subtle sound of rain fall was added to that cacophony .
That's a jungle !!!! And that's a TR on jungle trip

So nice Tanu Enjoying .... and can't excuse you if we've to wail a loooong for next part.
aamar payer tolai sorshe...(I have wheels under my feet)
#8 May 7th, 2014, 23:46
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#8
Excellent...I can feel the excitement of first-time traveler to Jaldapara. Nice description.

You mentioned in your TR that you had traveled by a Nano. Can you please share more details of this car rentals? Perhaps this is the first time that an IMer had traveled in Dooars by a Tata Nano. I would appreciate if you share a few more details viz. from where did you hire this car, contact number of the driver, charges etc. etc. Thanks.
#9 May 8th, 2014, 11:23
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Thanks all

@Asish da: Our Murti Hotel Manager arranged suitable cars for our trips to different locations.He is a nice gentleman named Anup Roy : +91-8001523618.

Name of our driver to Hollong -is Manik who also said to be arranging trips separately to different parts of Dooars - +91-9933431155. We had traveled from Murti to Phuentsholing and then back to Hollong lodge, the total cost of which was 3000.
#10 May 9th, 2014, 17:27
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Post Day 2: 17th February,2014

Though the rain had stopped in the morning, the sky was heavily overcast. We got ourselves quickly ready for the Elephant Safari and came outside. The advantage of the heavy rain previous night was that the nature turned greener and purer . The first trip elephants had just left and as we came to the spot of riding the elephant. We breathed in the fresh air as we waited there. A bus runs from Madarihat to Hollong three –four times a day, carrying the bungalow staffs , their kids to the nearby town probably. Finally the wait was over and the elephants came back to the spot and from an elevated point (which looks like a slip and slide ride) we mounted the howdah . There were other tourists from outside the Hollong lodge who waited there for the next rides or to take pictures with the elephants. There were also people who came for the jeep safari which starts from the Hollong bungalow compound .But jeeps can never go to the depths of jungle where elephants can reach. However, the first trippers said that they had spotted one rhino nearby. We felt charged up as the gathering of people encouraged us by waving and wishing luck. It was a good mix of little crowd.
Soon we entered the forest sitting on top of ‘Mahalaxmi’ –our elephant guided by Mahout. The mahout was constantly conversing, instructing the elephant in some alien language. As we proceeded the forest was getting denser and soaking tree branches brushed our face as we proceeded and had a keep a close eye to avoid collision with a sturdy branch. Elephants followed a defined track through the gaps between the trees and shrubs. Soon we spotted the much coveted rhino pointed by the Mahout and the elephant went close it. The rhino showed no sign of awareness; it went on chewing leaves from the nearby bushes. We took photo and recorded video to hearts content. Next, the elephant was routed to another direction by the call of the Mahout. The mahout pointed a group of female sambar deer beside a bush. Those were very shy and ran away on our advance. After crossing two three brooks and a dense thicket of shrubs and trees, we reached an opening of waist deep grassland. There was a watch tower named ‘Harindanga’ . It was close to Madarihat and it was an odd sight seeing a bike running through the intense forest. There is one short-cut way through the forest that runs from Hollong to Madarihat which the localites use.
Soon the elephant took a U-turn and we were back to the forest. We spotted another rhino close by and were not very sure if it was the first rhino changing its spot. But our Mahout said that rhinos are very lazy and stay at a particular spot for a long time. Then an amazing thing happened. As we were crossing another stream, we could spot one male sambar with its tall antlers .It ran in front of us and Mahalaxmi followed it. It did not seem shy like its female clan and was again and again turning back and looking at us. After crossing the stream and after ensuring a safe distance from the mammoth, it stood transfixed to the ground for a while as if unable to resist the pull of curiosity to glance at the unknown species. IT waited there for 2-3 minutes and as we moved closer, it vanished back to the forest. I was able to hold back its expression through my lens and its inquiring direct glance surprised me. Now we were on our way back and were at the glade looking back at our Hollong lodge windows. One peacock crackled and flew over our head. The one hour trip was very fulfilling. There was an unnamed baby elephant with the elephant group which went on the tour with its mother. Some tourists were poking at it , touching it. One forest dept staff came and slapped the baby elephant hard with a cane and said them “it is an untrained elephant and in natural way baby elephants are very playful. If it hits any of the tourists in its playfulness ,who will take the responsibility? Only the animal will get beaten up’. It was a real slap to the face of all of us.

After getting back to the bungalow ,we took our breakfast in the lodge and refreshed ourselves a bit and then again went out on a walk towards the wooden bridge over the Hollong jhora, a broad creek meandering the way . We moved further towards the habitation area of the few local people who lived and served there. As mentioned there is a pillkhana in Hollong there where the elephants stay and relax. When we went there ,all the elephants were out on their daily trip except a blind one. Every elephant carried back their own food of banana tree trunks but it could not. One local man was feeding it up. That life of simplicity and coexistence amazed me.
Slowly the sun started peeping out through the veil of cloud. Slowly we came back to the wooden bridge . The cloud was completely dispersed and suddenly as if the place came out of its hibernation and rushed to make up for the gloomy weather of the previous day. The pristine blue sky ,serene green jungle reflected in the transparent shallow stream below the wooden bridge , gave the place a look of a dreamland. I could not believe that I was seeing that scene in West Bengal- and that too at just a 12 hours distance from my concrete prison- home city. Each and every photograph we took there was a wallpaper piece due to the excellent sunlight and color around. It felt like I could sit ages on the bench of the wooden bridge and watch the fishes in the rippling water below and kites prowling for those. I breathed peace and tranquility in the air.

We came to in the bungalow for lunch around 1 PM. The bungalow staffs was in a hustle as a large group of tourist had arrived. The lunch was sumptuous as per the cost they charge but I believe the variation is less. Anyway ,that afternoon we went on a hike again towards the surrounding locality. We missed the bathing of the elephants in the stream but saw them carrying back their own food. As we moved farther through the path towards the jungle but one local man warned us not to go further in the evening. I was glad that we did not plan any sight-seeing for that 2 days because Hollong itself is a destination rich with pleasurable sights. As we moved back to the lodge, we found gathering around the glade to see one little female sambar in the salt pit. Excitement rose as a Bison came to visit the salt pit. In the twilight shade, no one missed the chance to take great shots of the bison- as usually a fearless species not bothered by human interventions. Darkness began to descend on the field and the surrounding forest. The gaur moved away but more of its relatives started to gather in the field. As we sat in our window chair ,we enjoyed herd of bison playing in the field over a cup of tea. But could not take much photo due to the sparse light but every bit of the scene will remain engraved in my mind forever.

Contd...
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#11 May 9th, 2014, 17:30
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Rhino during elephant Safari
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#12 May 9th, 2014, 17:32
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Rhino closer look
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#13 May 9th, 2014, 17:34
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Elephant Safari in Jaldapara Reservered forest & Harindanga watch Tower
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#14 May 9th, 2014, 17:37
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"The curious Male Sambar"
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#15 May 9th, 2014, 17:39
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Bits & pieces of Hollong
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