Sunday, 23 December 2012

Gorumara (Dhupjhora), a day with the elephants


This blog is about our fantastic stay at Gorumara,Elephant Camp.The camp is located in Dhupjhora in the Dooars region of West Bengal.The amenities and hospitality we got was simply outstanding.This time we had a time constraint so we stayed in Dhupjhora just for a day and could not explore the whole of Dooars. The beauty of the place left us wanting for more.....
So next time we will surely go there with ample of time in hand.


Day 4
5 AM in the morning.

It was a long line of trucks and buses. And we were stuck. We were on our way back from Gorumara. It was so much foggy that we could hardly see the truck in front of us,from our vehicle. Tired and exhausted from the long 18 hours drive, both of us were drowsy. And the queue of trucks were moving very slowly; 10 -20 meters in 10 minutes. Perhaps all these were reason enough for me to fall asleep; for both of us to fall asleep.

Day 1
5:15 AM in the morning.

It was dark still. The day time in winter is short in Kolkata. So 5 O' clock in the morning was still dark. We set off for Gorumara on the sparky; my father in law's sparky. As we were in Kolkata, we didn't have the chance to take our own Sparky; so my father in law generously provided us with his ride. It was a long 700 Km drive to Gorumara.

Our onward route was like this: Tollygunge->2nd Hoogly bridge->Kona expressway -> Delhi road -> Panagarh -> Malda -> Kisanganj -> Siliguri -> Gorumara. I did a good amount of research on the available routes and found this to be the best one.

At around 9 O' clock we reached Panagarh and took the usual right turn at Darjeeling more. We grabbed a quick breakfast there and were planning for the road ahead. As we are more familiar in driving around Bangalore and Karnataka, our estimations were based on our previous voyages there. So a 700 km was estimated to be covered within 10-11 hours. Utterly wrong estimate.

The next 100 Km of journey was terrible, and that is to say the least. I was not able to get more than 20 km/hour and at that speed also, the chassis got hit several times. Although it is referred to as a National Highway, mud roads in remote villages would surpass it any given day. It was horrible. Anyway, by the time we reached Malda town, it was sundown. I know its unbelievable, but that's what it was.

From Malda to Kishanganj, the road is better. Don't get me wrong here, but better here means better than the previous stretch. So we could get to 50-60 km on an average. From Kishanganj to Siliguri the road really lives up to be called a National Highway, and 100 km/hour is pretty easy on the driver.

By the time we reached Siliguri, it was 11:15 PM; so our idea to get to Gorumara Elephant Camp was far flung. What we needed was a shelter. We checked into Air View hotel at Rs 1000/- for a double bed room. We were dead tired and retired to bed as soon as we entered the room.

Day 2
6:30 AM in the morning.

We ordered for tea and meanwhile completed our ablutions. The plan for the day was to get to Gorumara and convince the Range Officer to allow us to stay in the Elephant Camp. In case if that fails we planned to take the safari ride and head for Cooch Behar. So we checked out from Air View hotel and headed out for Gorumara at around 7:15 AM.

Gorumara is about 80 Km from Siliguri and the road is pretty well compared to what we faced last day. There is an odd 7-10 Km stretch which is not so good. Before entering Jalpaiguri we took the bypass on the left(that took us straight to Lataguri through Mainaguri) to avoid Jalpaiguri traffic.

A little background is needed here. To book a cottage or tree-house in Gorumara, one has to make a draft of Rs. 2400/- or Rs. 2800/- (for tree house) and send it over to the Range officer of Lataguri. If time is short, you can fax it. On reaching the camp, you have to pay for the food. Our draft was for for the tree house at the elephant camp. But the trouble was that it was for the previous day; and we couldn't make it to Gorumara the previous day.


Nature Interpretation Center, Lagaguri.
So our only hope was to convince the Range office and transfer it to the present day. As we reached Lataguri Nature Interpretation Center (office of the Range officer), we approached the gentleman in change there. And gentleman he was indeed. He talked to the Range officer first and then we were summoned to this office. The Range officer, a bold middle aged man with heavy voice, greeted us and asked us to take seats. We told him about our journey from yesterday. We were surprised to find both of them so helpful. They told us that having a vacant tree-house or cottage is purely on luck, and they checked their register to see if anything was available.

Lucky for us the tree house was still empty for that day. And the Range officer quickly assigned us the tree house and completed the paperwork. We took the gate pass from him and greeted him a good day ahead. It will be injustice on my part if I fail to mention the extreme well nature and helpfulness of the two gentlemen. They could have easily avoided us. But they didn't. And that's why we could enjoy the best part of our journey.

The gate to Gorumara Elephant Camp is around 10 Km from Lataguri Forest Interpretation Center. It's a large gate on the right with a big rhino statue in front  After signing the security post we were allowed in. We already started to feel the jungle.


Gorumara Elephant Camp (Dhupjhora) entry gate
The road from this gate to the camp is around 2 Km from the deep jungle. You could hear hundreds of types of birds all around you. The trees are huge and create a canopy in some parts. The road is pebbled and narrow, broad enough only for one vehicle. Just before entering the camp we were stopped by the local heroes there. A herd of Elephants were returning. Their mahouts, the one in control of an elephant, took them off the track for a brief while to make room for us to pass. And now we were in the camp.

We reached the camp and completed the formalities there. Food charges where Rs. 300 /person which included lunch, dinner, snack and breakfast. We inquired for some tea at the cafeteria and were instantly offered with two cups of freshly made tea. The people at the camp were immensely helpful.

The camp from our tree house

Inside the tree house


Our tree house as seen from the edge of the jungle.

Soon we found ourselves following one of the camp personnel  He was guiding us to our tree house, Teesta. This was the only tree house in this camp and the closes one to the jungle. It took us very little time to explore the exotic tree house  It was made at around the middle of two Sal trees, supported by multiple wood pillars towering from the ground. This was our first tree house experience and it was amazing. The house was made of wood. It had all modern amenities inside and still looked antique. To our surprise, the room had one attached balcony where you could sit and relax during the evening. There was a camp schedule printed inside the room. We quickly got freshened and got ready for lunch. Although we were really hungry, but the real urgency was to see what was scheduled next.


Menu at Dhupjhora
At the elephant camp, there is no room service; so one has to get to the cafeteria for lunch, dinner and pretty much every kind of appetite busters. Lunch was served hot. The menu was simple yet delicious. Usually, the menu is strict in the camp. Fish in lunch and chicken in dinner. After lunch, a camp personnel took us to our much awaited destination.

Murti river flows near the camp and the elephants take a bath in this river every day at a fixed time. While in Gorumara, please be very particular about the time. Because the elephants won't wait for you to finish lunch. So it's better to finish your lunch in time. We were just on time. When we reached the part of the stream, the bathing had just began. It was an experience we never had before. Watching these huge animals from such a close range was fantastic. The center of attraction was the cute little elephant name Barshan. She was only 2 years and 3 months old and was very curious about her surrounding. We were also a part of her curiosity. When we took her pictures she took very small steps to approach us. But we kept a safe distance. It was better that way. It takes around 20 minutes for the full bathing process to complete.


Elephants having a bath in Murti river

The young elephant Barsan, always under the lime light.

Getting up after the wash.
On our way back to the camp, we found that the elephants were already there, eating. They were given pulses and rice wrapped in a band of long leaf.
Barsan having lunch with her mother.
Before retiring for a small siesta, we wanted to spend some time on the balcony of our tree house. From the balcony, it seems that you could reach out to the jungle, and as if it could reach out to you. The surrounding serenity calms every senses.On one side of th tree house,there is the jungle and on the other side is tea gardens.It is a beautiful sight to behold.Very soon we noticed two peacocks venturing very near to our tree house. They were probably eating on some insects. As the sun was beginning to set, the sky changed hues and all of a sudden the number of birds in the sky, all returning to their nests, increased many folds. It was getting cold outside so we went inside the room.


The tea garden and the jungle next to our tree house, as seen from the balcony

This peacock was strolling very close to our tree house.

Sunset as seen from the balcony of our tree house
Snack was served at 6:30 pm. There were vegetable pakodas (fries) and tea. Quickly after that we were requested to gather at the small community center right next to the cafeteria. They organized songs and dance at that stage. There were local folk dance as well. The tune was amazing and acted as a catalyst between the chemistry of the wild and us. We returned to our tree house after the hour long performance and relaxed and planned for the next day.


Dance performance

Folk dance performance

Dinner was served at around 9:30 pm. Again, it was simple yet delicious. During dinner, we were informed that the elephant safari or joy ride will start 6:30 am the next day. We were already feeling sleepy. We took some night shots of the camp and got up our tree house. A cricked chirped constantly, singing for us a jungle lullaby. Spending the night in the middle of the jungle had always been one of the major TO DO's in our list. We heard about the different sounds of the jungle from other. This time we experienced it. There was a variety of different types of sound. It was hard to distinguish the bird from the mammal. They were all different, all unique. Some repeating in a rhythm  some sounding once in every 5-10 minutes. Although, it was not a tiger camp, the thrill was never any less.


Day 3
5:30 AM in the morning.


Schedule of activities at Dhupjhora
The alarm on our cell phones already awoke us. But leaving the bed still needed a little more encouragement. After the excursion from yesterday, our limbs needed some rest. The schedule on the wall reminded us of the elephant ride timing. We were ready by 6:25 am and were out of our tree house  Meanwhile, one personnel has already visited our tree house to make sure we were well awake. He called out from the bottom of the staircase and left satisfied with our quick response.
Elephant ride through the tall grass in the jungle

During our trip to Gorumara, several experiences we had, were the first of their kind in our lives. Riding an elephant was obviously one of them. Getting up was easy. The mahout would align the elephant by the small wooden miniature watch tower. And we would climb on it. The back of the elephant was covered with thick cloth. The tricky part was to hold on to the the back with the support of a pair of ropes what lay below the cloth padding. It took a couple of minutes for us to settle on it. But then it was awesome. The motion of the elephant was rhythmic  Although it first seemed as if it was moving pretty slowly, it actually had a good pace. Oh yes, forgot to mention. Do wear sneakers of joggers. Otherwise, you have to leave your chappal shoe/sandal at the small wooden tower.

Our tree house as seen from the back of the elephant

Our rides. The small one was the one we mounted.
The ride takes you across Murti river and inside the deeper part of the jungle. There are chances of seeing rhinos and bisons there. But we did not see any. Nevertheless, the journey was one surely to be remembered  In exactly one hour we were back at the camp.

By now, breakfast and tea was being served. We quickly took a bath in our tree house and got back to the canteen for the breakfast. There were loochi(puri), sabji(potato curry), and sweet in breakfast.


A common moth at the canteen. The sparrows were feeding on these.

These sparrows were feeding on the moths at the canteen.
Yesterday, we had an almost hour long stroll inside the tea garden adjoining the camp. We caught glimpses of different types of birds and butterfly. There was sunbirds ,drongo,wood peckers,bulbul ,mynah ,dove,bee eaters,parrots,hoopoe,sparrows and some more brightly coloured birds that we don't know the names.Photographing the birds was not easy as they were too active and our camera lens could not reach out to them. After the breakfast we wanted to make one more visit to the tea garden. However, this time, we went to one other part of it. Walking within a tea garden is very refreshing. The lush green soothes the eyes and the fresh air cleanses the body and the peace calms the mind. This part of the tea garden was too close to the jungle. The jungle quickly became too deep on this side.

Common Albatros butterfly

Tea garden

Great Eggfly butterfly

Tea leaf. "Kamal ki taazgi laye"

Indian Parrot

One of the occasional big trees within the tea garden 

Red striped tiger moth. We found it on the wall of the canteen.

Common Jester butterfly

The tea garden

Beautiful insect
Attractive orange pupa on a tea leaf.

Common Emigrant

Huppoe
It took us a few moments to gauge the source of the sound. We might have spooked them unknowingly. These were two peacocks that flew to the nearby branch of a tree sensing our approach. We've seen peacocks in the zoo, but seeing one so close in the arms of mother nature was so much different.

Peacock on the branch of a tree
Soon it was time for us to bid good bye to our tree house, to the camp and to Gorumara. To our surprise we were given 4 hand woven jute carpets as departing gifts. They were manufactured at the jute workshop that was part of the camp.


Jute workshop at the camp of Dhupjhora
When we left Gorumara, it was 11 am. We knew that we could not reach Kolkata before 2 am at night. Earlier that day, we already talked to my father in law and inquired about alternate routes. He suggested an alternate route to us that could avoid that terrible 150 Km stretch. So our return route was like this: Gorumara -> Siliguri -> Kishanganj -> Malda -> Baharampur -> Krishnagar -> Barasat -> Kolkata.

We refuelled at Siliguri and packed some food for the long journey. We reached Kishanganj at around 4:30 PM. By the time we were at Baharampur, it was past midnight. This road was indeed better than the one we took on day one. At Krishnagar, we halted for a tea break. The shopkeeper told us that the it was around 120Km from Kolkata. But he also mentioned that the road was not very good.

The road from Krishanagar was not bad either; however, there was an unknown, unexpected show stopper. Fog. Dense fog. So dense that we could barely see 10 meters ahead. We were driving at 30-40 Km/hour at max. The blinding lights of the trucks during normal time seemed to be mild night lamps. On our way we witnessed couple of accidents, too. Before entering Barasat, there was a huge jam of trucks. We tried to slip through the gaps and head forward. But even that didn't bring much luck. The queue was so long that it took several hours for us to move through the traffic. It was already around 4:30 am in the morning.

Day 4
5:10 AM in the morning.

A collage of different types of horns brought me back to my sense. I didn't know for how long I was asleep. The band of trucks moved several meters ahead of me. The jam was getting cleared. The cars and trucks behind me were honking, wondering why I was not moving. It took us around 3 and half more hours to get back home. And were tired beyond explanation.


Tips:

  • Do not go for a long drive(beyond 200 km) in west Bengal. Its sheer waste of time.Better take the rails.
  • Keep to the time in Gorumara
  • Use sneakers/joggers
  • Take mosquito repellents.
  • If you have time plan for a longer trip like one day at Gorumara Elephant Camp, one day at Jaldapara etc. like this.
  • Wildlife can be best seen during summer. So planning this kind of vacation during summer increases your chances of seeing more of rhino, leopard, bison, deer etc.
  • Be a responsible tourist.


To book a cottage or tree house, contact:

Nature Interpretation Center, Lagaguri
Contact- DFO, Wildlife Divn.-II,
Aranyabhavan, Jalpaiguri. Ph : 03561-224907

23 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much Gerda. And thanks for following our blog.

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  2. can you kindly advice about the charges for a 4 night /5 days visit for 2 persons in Jan.. Also whom to contact for booking ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For booking the tree house or cottages in Gorumara you can contact at the following address,in fact we also did so.

      Nature Interpretation Center, Lagaguri
      Contact- DFO, Wildlife Divn.-II,
      Aranyabhavan, Jalpaiguri. Ph : 03561-224907

      I am not very sure if the rates have been revised or not so please contact them over phone.When we stayed in Gorumara the tree house rent was 2800 per day and food cost was Rs 300 per head.Since we were two people the total cost for a day came to Rs 3400.

      Delete
  3. Is there any website where I can book the "Gachh-bari" (Tree-house) from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As far as I know there is no website to book the gachbari. You have to talk with them over the phone regarding the booking and they will guide you very nicely

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  4. Best source of info about Gorumara I have been able to find. Thanks for your thorough review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much.We are glad that you found our post useful.

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  5. Hi...it was good to read your experience since we are planning a trip soon next month.Just before we confirm..i woul have liked to know a few things from you..since you'v already been there.
    Is the place alright for children?
    Iv read the time table/schedule on your post...so if one reach around 12 in the morning..there is pretty much nothing to do except the cultural program?
    Is a one night stay enough?(reaching on the first day around 12 ..and leaving the second day by 12 )
    is there other places we could visit too close by?

    Thanks,
    Manjari

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Monjuri,

      Sorry for replying you a little late.We were actually on a tour in Gujarat.

      Yes the place a absolutely alright for children but not babies.Just make sure that
      the children are always under supervision since it is a jungle area and there is also a
      river nearby.

      If you reach around 12 then there will be two events for that day.
      They will take you to a place where you can see elephant bathing and you can also help in bathing the animals.
      In the evening there will be cultural program.

      Yes full one day will be enough.
      Nearby you can visit Samsing and Jhalung. But since we have not been to these places I wont be able to tell
      you much.

      Have a nice trip.

      Delete
    2. One of the best and simple travelogues on Gorumara available on the net. I have booked 2 cottages in May for self, wife 2 children and parents.
      My parents are around 70 yeras old but fits, hale & hearty. Have a few queries since I am travelling with family.
      If possible can you share your contact no. Mine is 9748755927.
      Regards
      Ranjan

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  6. The number 03561 224907 is out of service.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sorry to know that, that was the number we contacted for the booking.
      Maybe it has changed.
      Can you please use the information from the below link and let us know if that worked, or incase you got the new numbers
      http://jalpaiguri.gov.in/tourism/hotels.html

      thanks

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  7. Excellent photography and very detailed blog. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. what is the costing of elephant safari in gorumara?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its not charged separately, its included in your stay package at Gorumara

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  9. Will it be too much if we stay for three nights at this camp in Dhupjhora?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. three nights might be a little too much, although it depends how much time you want to relax. Two nights will be perfect.

      Delete

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