Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 20 - Kolkata to Siliguri

March28 at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

564 KMs Trip Meter - 3946. Will be 4k before i leave the country...

Thought of making a run till siliguri or stay at behrampur or malda if the going gets tough. As i had heard of bad road conditions in this route.

Bid farewell to my friend's relatives and managed to start as late as 7.30am. Good that i was placed near dum dum and getting out of city was not a problem. Found my way to NH34 and i was ready for traffic atleast for few hours. Roads are looking good but for the traffic. i keep going. It tough to find places to take a butt break. Managed to find one after every 100-150 kms. Even after like 200 kms from kolkata feeling like i am still in the city. The two laned road with trucks and buses who do not know how to use breaks. The ever present tricycle carts making the buses and trucks take wild turns. then i got hungry and was looking for a place to eat from like 12 pm. Finally found a nice restaurant by 2! at Malda.

It was to be more of frustrating ride ahead with never ending traffic. So many cycles that i felt that i was invading a cycle rally! As a biker it was very tough riding conditions with so much slow traffic but as a person i do feel guilty that these people are leading a tough life while i am here on a pleasure trip splurging money!. It was to be like this till Dhalkola which i reached by 6 pm. Got ready for some tough night riding but there was a surprise for me. Dhalkola joins NH 31 and its 4 lane highway out of nowhere just when its getting dark. What a relief. Now took it a bit easy and indulged in few sunset photo session. Then i embarrassed my self for the impending attacks by the Kamikaze insects in the twilight zone. I was not disappointed and i could barely see through the visor by the night fall. Glad that i had enough water to clean it.

Just when i was enjoying the smooth ride, with music in the ears and clear visor and HID glowing the road, the four lane ended! and it was tough tough ride in the two laned busy roads. The HID really making opposing think before they do their wild overtaking maneuver. After a few diversions the road got four laned and some nice ride. Just when i was thinking of getting into a cozy room at siliguri. The road got two laned and just when i was 15-20 kms from siliguri it started raining! With my rain gear deep inside my luggage i ran for cover under empty hut. Waited for 10 mins and it was still raining. So thought of getting into the rain gear instead of wasting time. By the time i am done with the process the rain stops! Irritating. Reach siliguri which was dry, in a rain suit! Get into the old Hotel Hill view. And that was it.

Misty moring at Kolkata...

Find a place for first butt break..

Goat market at one of the villages

Boy am i happy to find a place to eat...

can you believe the amount of insects!

One tough day of riding and i will never do this route again! Tomm will be going out of country. Bhutan calling ... :)

Day 19 - Sajnekhali to Kolkata

March27 at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Trip meter so far 3382

Got up lazily as i had nothing to do but get myself to calcutta. Cos any more boat ride and it would set me back too much in money. Also had two worries. Weather my bike will be there and if its there, how do i get it up the steep ramp at Gosaba.

Was also not feeling well, with whole night sleep i was feeling weak and felt like resting for more time. But knew once on bike i would be alright and riding heals!. Have got on to the bike before in much bad shape and few mins into riding i felt fine :).

Go the watch tower behind the hotel for one last look at the Sunderbans. Its just forest just outside the fence. Have a lazy breakfast, collect myself and check out the room. The care takers wish me luck for my further trip. I had let them know that i am on a big bike trip. I get to the gate and the Subhendu, my previous boat ride guied was there and he announced about my ride to near by people. The same old curious questions to which i answered politely. After hearing all the tiger stories of Sunderbans, may i left a story about a crazy guy who came in bike all the way from bangalore to pakhirala, blew some money alone on a boat ride and left! Cos the previous day by the time our boat reached the SudhanaKhali watch tower, a boat man near by had already heard my story!

Bid farewell for the cheerful crowd waited for my boat to Pakhirala. Got there a bit nervous and when i went to the Apanjan hotel, yeppie my bike is still standing there. Though i was assured by many people that bike would be safe but still it was at the mercy of strangers for 2 days. Gave the owner 150 bux though he might not have expected as much. But had requested me to stay in his hotel for a day. Any way again the same announcement about my ride and the owner was taking pride in saying that my bike was at his place. Shook hands with him and went towards other side of Gosaba for the impending boat ride! With people who rarely spot motorcycle on the island they see a black 'new model' bike with black attaired rider and were surprised like hell. Caught up with the donation collection boys whome i had met the other day. They were over joyed to see me hehe. shook hands with me and told me to come again.

Now i maneuver through the narrow streets and present myself at the boat ghat, where there was a boat already full of people. I was told to put bike in now itself. The boat man sterny says 25 Rs it will be, expecting my disapproval, but i am like anything boss just get my bike on the other side! Thanks to the high tide, the boat at the top most step. Not much man power, and i had to spend my limited muscular resources! With a couple of scares of falling into water bike was in the midst of overcrowd boat and i sat on the boat with my feet anchoring the bike to compensate the sways. Again i was the talk of the boat.

Reached the other side and scare came alive. Though it was high tide, the topmost and steep ramp of 6-7 steps had to be climbed. No sooner did the boat stop and people got off the next batch of people wanted to get in. Managed to turn around the bike on the boat just before people hurried in to secure their seat on the boats edges. Got the bike of the boat. Could understand their difficult cos 1) the bike is heavy and 2) there is nothing to hold. Was afraid that they might use plastic or the box mounts for the lifting. But the patient boat men listened to me as to where to lift. pointed them at the swing arm and front tire.
Now i had to put the bike in gear and manage the drive up. Since it was too steep at one point the bike stood on engine! Somehow managed to get it up and breathed a sigh relief. Yeppie back on the main land.

Then on it was pretty comfortable ride till calcutta. Lot of empty stretches of road. Since the bike did not have boxes and luggage, handled really well. Once i get o cal the boxes will be on. So made use of this ride to do some spirited riding and ripping. Get into cal by 1.30pm and then it was some traffic surfing and to my friend's place. Tiger or not the Sunderbans trip was awesome the landscape very unique and the experience was great.

Off to Siliguri tomm. Its going to be hard to make it in a day but thinking of giving it a run. After hot beaches, its time for cold mountains....

one last look at the Mangrove forest..

Waiting for my boat to pakhirala wondering if my bike is still there...

Fellow island hoppers...

Hurray the bike is still there...

with one worry over i ride through the picturesque gosaba island thinking about the impending boat ride...

ride through gosaba streets..

On the boat and center of attraction...

Oh man that incline...

Boy am i glad to be on the main land rubber side down!

Ride through the villages near basanti

Curious kids...

who needs expensive theme parks

Rare empty road towards Kolkata

Before i put back the panniers. This is how i am carrying the spare rear sprocket!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 18 - Sunderban Boat ride to Dobanki

March26 at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Quite a disturbing sleep due to the heat. Wake up early and go straight to the watch tower at the back of the campus. Mangrove forest is pretty strange with nothing but soft clay on the floor and tall bushes or short trees of around the same height. Its the same for miles and miles. The campus is fenced and many times Tiger has been spotted around the campus.

After breakfast my boat man arrives and we get done with the formalities of forest office permission for me, the boat man and a guide. We sail to pakhirala to get stuff so that food can be prepared on the boat. By the time we actually start its 9.30 and temperature picking up really fast. The guide Subhendu starts of with a lot of gyan about the place. All in Bengali! good that i can understand bengali. Lot of negotiations to enter the core areas yielded no result. Even with further prompts i was politely declined. The Tide is going up and water is almost at the tree level. Not very convenient factors for Wildlife spotting. We start of with some with some wind which created waves and rocked a boat a bit. The boat man bit concerned tough not worried. It soon starts rain lightly! Looked like a very bad day to be out there. Later the weather improves. Thanks to the rain its bit cool and also cloudy for the rest of the day. Could see the water level residing.

Then on we sail towards Dobanki and it got pretty boring for a while. I was having short naps sitting on the watch! Cos there was nothing but water and bushes. Reached Dobanki by lunch time and walked on the canopy walk to the watch tower. It was pretty hot and no praises to guess that could not spot anything. Have lunch at the boat. They take a lil narrower route on the way back. Now that the water level had reseaded quite a bit could see the land and raised the interests. Interesting formation of the soft clay leading up to the bushes. Nothing much say about that but it was awesome sailing slowly on the canals between islands.

Reached Sadhanukhali again for an evening try and see that water level has reseeded like more than 20 feet compared to when we had come in the morning. And i thought it would hardly be 3-4 feet. This time the weather is good and it is good time for spotting says the guide. Sure enough we spotted the spotted dear from the observation tower, along with wild bores. Spend a good one hour and no luck so it was time to head back. Sighting or no sighting, the evening was truly amazing and enjoyed every bit of it. The Guide told me a couple of stories of the way he has seen tiger and some incidents. Even heard one had been inside the tourist campus a couple of days back!

Any way leaving sunderbans tomm to calcutta. Hope that the bike is still there where i left it and again hope that i would be able to get the bike up the steep jetti at Gasoba.

Solar panels at the Sajnekhali resort.

Staring at the Mangrove forest..

Thats my boat...

Kitchen cum Engine room.

Going to SudhanaKhali watch tower.

Some land has been cleared so that viewers can see the animals...

With high tide, nothing but water and bushes.

Rain man!

With receding water level can now see some land..

If not the big cats how about the small cats...

Any forest spotted dear can be easily spotted! This one swam across the river..

Water going down and more land showing up...

Thats me, Karthik the boat man and Shubendu the Guide...

Tiger foot prints...

Saw pug marks and wanted to turn the boat around to go back. It kinda got stuck on the bank. The guys were really worried that if a tiger was around it would jump on the boat!

The pub marks hardly a day old. Cos the marks gets washed away in couple of tides.

At Shudhanakhali view point again...

Wild friends. When ever the deer reached for the leaves the monkey used to push down the branch. Else the deer could not have reached it! Have a VDO of it will try to upload.

Awesome evening at Sunderbans...