For the story of how I reached Raghunathpur , Read my ROAD TRIP TO AYODHYA HILLS
RAGHUNATHPUR TO GARHPANCHKOT
Around 15 kilometres straight ahead of Raghunathpur on the Purulia-Barakar Road ( later known as the Asansol-Purulia Road ) lies the road that leads to Garhpanchkot .
We turned left into this road .
Around 300 meters into the road , the road branches off into two directions .
One going straight , one going right .
We waited for someone to come along so that we might ask them for directions .
People were few and far between .
After waiting in vain for a definite answer from any passer-by , we decided to hit the road on the right as a few cars went past us in that direction .
The afternoon was slowly turning into dusk .
We had to find a place to stay before it got dark .
On the way we met a few people who confirmed that it was indeed Garhpanchkot and all we needed to do was drive straight and we would find hotels and rest houses ahead .
So we drove on , through narrow lanes and curving roads that wound between bushes and agricultural fields on either side .
The road was so narrow that it was a task to let even cycles pass through .
But anyway , we went deeper into the depths of Garhpanchkot until finally , we came upon a big field with some dilapidated architectural structures and a temple.
We asked some locals and learnt that it was indeed a renowned temple and people came from far and wide to visit .
There was a fair of some kind going on in the grounds .
Though I am always game for anything interesting , it was getting late and we were worried about finding an accommodation .
Remember , we had faced lodging issues the previous day at Ayodhya .
Reminder : this was Dol Purnima , a state holiday , date the 21st of March 2019.
And so far we had not come across a single place to stay even after coming so many kilometres inside Garhpanchkot .
We asked around and were directed towards a resort of some sort .
I sent Souvik to make enquiries inside as he was a bit finicky about accomodation and food .
Souvik was gone more than 15 minutes , and there was no sign of him .
So I sent Sumit after him .
After around half an hour , they came back , together.
This is what Souvik told me : Because of Dol , there was no room available in the resort .
The owner of the resort himself had told him that the resort remained perennially booked at least 3 months in advance , even more so during holidays and winter / spring seasons etc.
He had also advised Souvik to go back as there was no chance of us getting any rooms anywhere .
There were very few places of accommodation in Garhpanchkot and all would be booked .
Souvik was extremely worried and asked me to turn back to Kolkata or at least the closest town , Asansol .
Now I am a person who is ready to sleep on floors or streets , no issues .
I have done that countless times before and here we had my full sized Endeavour with us .
We could easily sleep inside the car , all three of us , no issues , with even the luxury of the air conditioner . Sumit got excited at the prospect .
But my friend Souvik was adamant about going back home . There was no way he would be sleeping in a car .
I did my internal math .
It was around 6.30 . Evening . Dark . But we still had time .
We would try to find some decent accomodation , and if we failed , we could always turn back .
Asansol would be an hour’s drive , and I had my uncle’s place at Durgapur , max 2 hours drive .
And we could always go all the way back to Kolkata . Five hours away .
We could always go back . So we tried getting a room .
HOTELS AND RESORTS IN GARHPANCHKOT
It turned out that most of the hotels and resorts were located on the other road which we had left behind when we took the road on the right .
So we drove back to where we had started from earlier in the evening , where the road branched off in two directions .
This time , instead of taking the road on the right , we took the road that went straight in .
And just 50 metres in , we found a resort .
Sumit went in to enquire . No room .
We drove another 100 metres , another resort . This one was also fully booked .
A few more hundred metres , same story .
That day we must have gone knocking into at least ten different hotels , and none of them had any rooms .
We were all losing hope .
Souvik was fuming at not having booked the accommodation earlier before coming .
Sumit said nothing but I could feel his dejection .
I was feeling desperate .
Souvik had come with us at my insistence .
And now if we could not even find a basic accommodation , it would be really disheartening .
Every time a hotel rejected us , we would find another board or marker on the road leading us to another hotel further ahead .
And we drove further in .
Soon we had entered the forest .
It was dark and there was no light .
The road was extremely narrow and the traffic was sparse .
Only once did a car come in from the opposite side and we had to back up a little for it to pass through .
Even in those jungles there were a few hotels – jungle resorts of some kind .
But all seemed to be full .
And we were driving further into the jungle .
We had never been in those jungles before and we did not even know what lay ahead .
How deep would it be ?
Were we getting lost in the jungle ?
What kind of wild animals would be there in the jungles ?
I was sure there wouldn’t be any tigers or lions , but foxes or bears would definitely be there .
What if we could not find our way back and had to live in the jungle for the night ?
I was ready to sleep inside the car , there was sufficient fuel for even running the ac but I would also have to ensure the safety of the other two .
Even if we stayed inside the car , someone would need to go out for attending to nature’s call . In the darkness !
All these thoughts were swirling in my head .
Normally I wouldn’t have bothered .
I am okay with living in jungles .
I have done that before a few times , and that too in the open , under the stars , no tent , no car .
But Souvik was getting restless and I was getting bothered .
And the worst part was that I couldn’t even go back the way I came .
The jungle here was so dense and crowded on to the narrow road , that there was no way I could back up to reverse directions .
I had to move ahead .
But to be honest I was enjoying it .
The thrill of it all , the drive through the narrow roads with the trees leaning in , super exacting as well as super exciting .
A road for those who love those twisties, this one wound through the forest.
With only the headlights lighting up the road ahead , like a tunnel of light amidst the darkness .
It was sheer dopamine , adrenaline , whatever chemicals that make life exciting .
Sumit was enjoying the drive but I was worried about Souvik .
This went on for quite some time and I was slowly resigning to the idea that most probably we would have to stay the night in the car .
When suddenly just like that, as I turned a corner, there was blinding light .
The whole road ahead was ablaze , awash with light .
All three of us were struck astounded .
Was it a wedding reception in the middle of the jungle ?
Or had we stumbled upon some dark secret deep inside the forest ?
As our eyes adjusted to this sudden brightness in the midst of all the darkness ,
we realised that the whole road had broadened in front of us and six powerful floodlights were flooding the road .
THE HOTEL IN GARHPANCHKOT
It was a hotel .
In the middle of the forest .
I somehow felt we had a chance .
I remember praying to God that we get some place for staying , anything , as long as it was okay with Souvik .
So I sent both Souvik and Sumit to check up on the availability of rooms .
After 5 minutes , Sumit came out dancing – they indeed had a room .
I parked the car outside and went inside to check .
It was quite a big property , huge.
Very well decorated .
Banquets , restaurants , bars , a swimming pool , the whole shebang , and what hit me was all this in the middle of a forest ! .
It turned out that a customer had cancelled a booking and that’s why they could provide us with the accommodation .
Otherwise they also were completely booked .
Anyway they didn’t have a normal room .
Instead they provided us one of those fancy white tents .
The tent was air conditioned , large enough to fit in the three of us with spare for another three , with a full king sized super comfortable bed , a concrete bathroom and warm running water .
It was great and Souvik was happy .
So was Sumit .
And that made me happy .
We all freshened up , had been travelling the whole day .
And then went for dinner .
For dinner they had a restaurant on the ground floor .
But they also served on the rooftop where there was a bar .
We spread out on the rooftop and ordered a grand dinner .
CHOU DANCE PERFORMANCE
A Chou Dance performance was going on in the field beneath .
We could see the entire performance from the comfort of the rooftop .
The Chou dance was an extremely colourful dance with performers dressed up in gaudy , shiny , over-the-top outfits enacting stories from the Ramayana .
It was filled with action and a lots of amazing back flips and front flips and somersaults and double twists in the air and what not , equaling in energy any dance form anywhere .
Yes , if you haven’t seen one , I suggest you go watch a Chou performance live .
It amazed me that we had this super acrobatic dance form here in our very own state , yes Bengal , all of our lives resigning to the fact that we Bengalis are lazy and slothful .
Most of us hardly have any idea about it .
Trust me , you will see these performers in a different light altogether once you have seen one performance .
The cultural diversity in our state is truly awe-inspiring .
It will make you feel proud .
Having stuffed ourselves over the awesome fare on dinner , we went for a stroll.
The hotel in fact also owned the property on the other side of the road , remember the floodlit road ?
Here there was a row of two storied villas around a central water body with a fountain in the middle .
The compound was facing a hill slope .The fort , the “garh” was located on top of the hill .
One could go visit the fort through some roads in the jungle .
We marvelled at the forest , the hill and the full moon night .
It was a peaceful , beautiful night .
Next day , we woke up late .
The bed was super comfortable and so was the fluffy blanket .
Took all my effort to get out of the bed .
BREAKFAST IN GARHPANCHKOT
Rushed to the breakfast room as breakfast time was almost getting over .
Simple fare – eggs , bread , jam , butter , bananas , tea , coffee …
The hotel guests were departing one by one and the hotel that was overflowing just the night before had now started looking empty .
We had the swimming pool all to ourselves and had a fun time thrashing around .
And then we packed up and left the hotel .