Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Himalayan Diaries : Kolkata_1

 It has been a dream to trek in Himalayas since our Kashmir Great lakes trek  got cancelled this summer due to violence in Kashmir. When I heard about winter trek into Skandapu Gurdhum, the highest point in west bengal and the trek into Himalayas, my mind could not resist against it. Initially it was thought to be a group of 6 mutual friends. But finally it ended up as a group of 4 friends(Me, Harish, Shailesh and Girish) and 38 more friends whom we got to know over the YHAI skandapu Gurdum SG06 batch which started Dec 17th. It has been 8 days after i came back from West bengal, Sikkim trip . But still i can't come out of the hangover of (best term i can think of as of now ) those memories. When i came back to office, my colleagues were asking what i found in Himalayas. For a fraction of time  i was thinking whether i should say about the hundreds of previously unknown plants, animals i have seen there or whether i should mention about sweets of west bengal,Sikkim which were suggested on time by friends like Adrita,
Dipannita, Arindam,Koustav or whether i should mention about the Drifts in snow and getting sandwitched between vehicles in an himalayan snow accident or the butterflies ;-) There were more stories to tell than i could tell in a single shot. So, i thought to scribble them up. Here is a diary of the journey from Dec 16th to Jan 2nd. If you want to walk in my shoes, on be my  guest :-)

Our journey started on Dec 16th with the Vistara flight of 10:10 AM , a good time where an analog clock would have shown a smiley. We were smiling as well with each step getting closer to the trek which we were planning since a long time. Me, Girish being the first timers on flight were bit curious about the various security checks, landings, take off of flights and the way in which they onboard the passengers on the flight. I got the seat 12A which is right above the right wing of the plane and could enjoy the beauty of surroundings. First flight experience was memorable considering the higher altitude views from flight and way geographies used to change from plane to forests, to plane , to rivers, sea and plane again. The experience of enjoying the view above the clouds is worth mentioning of course. Would take a seperate section to mention about the complimentary breakfast, aunty sitting beside me and the Turbulance which occured during
the return flight :-) 

We landed in Kolkata around 12:40 and had to head to Sealdah railway station from where we had to catch a train in night to New Jalpaiguri , our next destination. But we had whole day to see culcutta before that. But we decided to deposit our luggages at the cloak room in Sealdah station and start our sight seeing after that. We took an yellow taxi for a distance of 15 kms and it costed us 440 Rs.We reached there around 2:15. After depositing our luggages we took an uber cab to cover around 12 kms to reach Dakshineshwar. That costed 240 which was cheaper than the yellow pre-paid taxi. A tip for next time visitors would be that If you can bargain with the yellow taxi, then it might be helpfull. but have a look at the price estimate in Uber so that you would know what to bargain for. Also book Uber, taxi outside the parking areas of railway station. Otherwise they will ask you to pay the parking fee ! We somehow managed not to pay the
parking fee to uber guy, thats a different story altoghter ;-)

Dakshineshwar and the Ferry Ride:
Dakshineshwar and the ferry ride, especially the view of enjoying the  setting sun in the waters of River Hoogly is an awesome experience. History says it was built by Rani Rashmoni taking seven years starting in the year 1847. Those who are familiar with the stories of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa would be aware of the name Dakshineshwar Kali temple already. For those who are not, it is a temple complex housing the main temple of Goddess Bhavatarini(one forms of Goddess Kali) . It also
houses a RadhaKrishna temple and a collection of 12 Shivalingas. If you have not seen the Navaratna(nine spires) style of architecture from Bengal,Bhavatarini temple architecture is the right place to visit :-)
Alas, they don't allow to take cameras or mobiles inside. So, could not capture this picturesque beauty from the temple complex. But have few shots from outside to show its glory. By the way 12 shivalingas are named
as follows
1. Yogeswar
2. Jatneswar
3. Jatileswar
4. Nakuleswar,
5. Nakeswar,
6. Nirjareswar,
other six are located on the other side i.e
12. Yajneswar

Another thing to mention is there are seperate baggage counters at the
temple for
a)shoes, slippers and
b)camera,bag, mobiles. The queues can be long during peak hours, festive days.
So, be prepared with plenty of time for that and bigger queues to visit Bhavatarini temple.

Ferry Ride: 
Ferry ride is an experience which one should not miss during the Dakshineshwar visit. It costs 10 Rs per head for Dakshineshwar to Belur math and would be available till 6 pm. Evening Aarati at Belur math starts
at 5:30 PM. So, its good to plan for a ride before that. When we were near the bathing ghats in Kali temple, i noticed that sun is beginning to fade ! Yar, it is 4:15 and with the current rate, sun would set around 4:30 PM !! My south Indian logic says, its not possible. We have atleast 1.5 hours of time for sunset. But mind says i don't have much time for sunset. Wanted to take the pic of boats moving against the backdrop of sunset. But camera is at the baggage counter :-( So, was telling my fellas to hurry up as i wanted to take the sunset snap. But they were telling there is lot of time for sunset and we would see the same view during the ferry ride. But by the time we got the baggage and went to ferry ride site, sun was in a hurry to return home and could manage only few pics of his demise for the day. Wish to capture the small boats in the backdrop remained as it is :-( It was the day when i learnt to forget about date, week and time in Bengal for the rest of days to come until i return back to my place :-) Just follow your mind and reviews of your friends. Watch would just help you not to miss the flight or train for that particular day ;-)

I had seen the ferries near my place which are run by "Karnataka Olanaadu Jalasaarige" which is a govt initiative which offers a ride at a cost of 1 Rs per ride(not joking) and who transfer vehicles like buses, lorry, bike etc(collecting extra money for vehicles of course) and tourist places where private people collecting hundreds for the ride. Here i found the privately run ferry ride to be a midway between these two. One of the ferry reads the passenger capacity as 400 although i did not see 400 in that ferry when we went. But could see some smaller ferries, boats are overcrowded as well and the news about people suffering because of
overcrowding in Bangladesh flashed infront of my mind. But nothing as such happened during our journey and we reached Belur Math corner around 5:30. There are so many structures on the right bank of river while you reach Belur math and could be good views for camera, eyesight if you reach during
sunlight. If you reach late, you will not be lucky enough to capture them with normal digi/dslr cams although you could capture them with the best camera in the world, our eyes ofcourse :-) I could see some smaller boats taking people to those structures . So, can explore these if you have time.

Coming up  next: Belur Math and Kolkata stories continued..

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