ROAD TRIP TO BARANTI

Baranti is a small tribal village in the Santuri Community Development Block in the Raghunathpur subdivision of  Purulia district , West Bengal.

Distance from Kolkata : 240 kms by Road

Located by the Baranti Lake in the Rarh region of West Bengal , it is growing in popularity among discerning tourists looking for peace and natural beauty .

HOW TO REACH BARANTI

Ever since we made the last road trip to Ayodhya Hills and Gadpanchkot , Sumit and I had been itching to go to Baranti . 

So it was on Sunday, the 11th of August, 2019 that Somiranda came over with his son Shayan and we four took off for Baranti on our motorcycles . 

Sumit was riding his Royal Enfield Himalayan 400 , Somiranda his Honda CBZ 150 and Shayan was riding a Bajaj Avenger 220 . 

My bike was not ready for this sudden trip and hence I borrowed a spanking new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 from a very dear friend .

We left Kolkata at 8 in the morning . 

By 10.30 we were sipping chai at Hindusthan Hotel , approximately 60 kms from Kolkata on the National Highway 19 (previously NH 2). 

Some 30 minutes later when we were crossing Shaktigarh , it started to drizzle . 

As we stopped to pull on our rain coats , we were tempted to try the famed langchas (Bengali sweets) of Shaktigarh , but thought the better of it and carried on . 

It was much too fun riding in the rain. 

The roads from Kolkata are great upto Panagarh .

Just before reaching Panagarh , we took a right turn to the Panagarh Bypass and from then on the roads turned ethereal – super wide 6 lane expressways with very little traffic and butter smooth riding .

The other three whizzed past me at high speeds and surged ahead .

I meanwhile preferred to cruise at a leisurely pace .

After a while, I stopped my bike to take in the sight of the lush fields by the road . 

Put the motorcycle’s side stand down , alighted and stretched my limbs , took a few swigs of water from the bottle and then pressed the ignition to start the bike . 

The engine cranked and then died down.   I tried again . The engine cranked and then died down .  Once more . The engine cranked and then died down .

I tried again and again but with the same results .

The bike wouldn’t start .

I was stuck . In the middle of the 6 lane highway . And my friends miles ahead . 

I called Sumit .The phone kept on ringing . Called Somiranda . Didn’t pick up . Same with Shayan .

They most probably were riding and couldn’t hear the phone ring .

I was pissed . This bike , the Interceptor , was absolutely brand new .  Heck , even the number plates had been fixed just a couple of days back . 

And here it was , not getting started , already !

Internally , I started doing the math .  We were miles off from any service or repair guy . I would have to walk the bike to the nearest town which would be miles either way . 

Or I would have to arrange for a truck or something .  Which in this fenced off highway wouldn’t be easy . 

Reminded me of the time I was stranded on the Agra-Delhi Yamuna Expressway in 2015 . But that’s another story . 

I was now debating whether to ask the other three guys to carry on while I somehow arranged my return. Otherwise it was going to ruin the trip for all of them .

I tried a few more times to get the bike started . Nada . Nothing .

And then the phone rang. It was Sumit.

As I explained my situation , he asked me “Have you taken the bike off the side stand ?” 

I sat on the bike , raised the side stand … and pressed the ignition . And surprise … the bike started !

I learnt a new lesson that day : These new powerful bikes will start only when you have taken the bike off the stand ! A kind of safety measure to prevent accidents .

Great ! I now started with renewed vigour , and rode fast .

Around 10 kms before Durgapur , it started drizzling again and I had to put on my rain gear .  Soon the drizzle turned into a torrent , but I rode on furiously , eager to close the gap with the other three . 

I knew the others were at least 20 kms ahead of me . It was pouring heavily and visibility was low .  And the bike was new to me , this was the first day I was riding it . 

The only saving grace was that the roads were quite empty and no passers-by were stupid enough to streak into the road . But you can never be too sure . 

And then there are the cows and the goats and the dogs and the cats .  You never can really be cautious enough .

I rode fast and I rode with caution .  Sped past Durgapur . And kept on driving . 

And then realized that I hadn’t had much to eat from the morning and felt hungry . Stopped by a roadside dhaba . Had some delicious lassi . 

Called up Sumit. And learnt that all three of them were waiting out the rain in a shelter just before Durgapur .

I waited for them and after around half an hour , once the rain got over , they came .

We rode our bikes together , the air fresh with the smell of the monsoon showers . 

The rain kept pouring on and off . But we rode on steadily . By now , all of us were dripping wet . But we had a distance to go . So we pushed on. 

Soon , just near Ranigunj , bang opposite the ECL Bansra Hospital , we took a turn to the left . Leaving NH 19 , onto the Ranigunj-Bansra Road . 

From here onwards the road became narrower and a little bit crowded . We rode , slower and with utmost care , on the water logged roads . 

Until we reached NSB Road and took a left turn . NSB Road is quite a busy road of Ranigunj , with shops and establishments on both sides . 

We kept on riding straight and crossed the Mejia Bridge on the Damodar River .  The road from here on was called the Saltora-Mejia Road , as we rode through Mejia and then Saltora .

And then we reached the Santuri Police Station. 

We all took some tea and refreshments over here from a roadside teashop . Talked with some locals and confirmed the route as it was getting dark and no lights were visible on the streets from there on . 

Just after the Police Station , we took a turn to the right into Santuri . 

By now , the evening had turned dark , and the roads became sparsely populated . 

We could sense vast stretches of village fields on either side of the road , with just our motorcycle headlights lighting the road directly ahead . 

Cars rushed at us from the opposite end intermittently , their blinding lights bewildering us in the otherwise pitch black darkness . 

Sometimes , we would switch off our lights , just to have a feel of the darkness that enveloped us . It was thrilling as well as terrifying . 

We had already driven a lot and could sense that we were getting close to our destination . But there was no one around to ask for directions . 

Ultimately we chanced upon a solitary teashop . And got directed to a side road on the right .

We entered that road . 

Unmetaled , uneven , unlit . Red soiled Rarh village road .

Pitch dark . Neither a star in the sky , nor the moon . 

We switched off our motorcycles , and got off our seats to enjoy . The tranquility , the silence , the darkness , none of which we get to experience in our crowded city lives . 

And mixed with that was this thrill of the unknown , not knowing what twisted terrains lay ahead .  We breathed in the cool , calming country air . And waited .

After quite some time came along a guy on a bicycle . We reconfirmed the route with him . Turned out he was going to Baranti village himself , and asked us to follow him . 

We had reservations on whether to follow him , given it would take so much longer to trail a cycle . But still we did . Right thing that we did . 

The village was quite a way off , and so many lanes and bylanes came crisscrossing in that we surely would have lost our way in the darkness if we hadn’t .

After about half an hour of rain drenched muddy roads and water filled potholes , we finally reached the village . Mud houses and muddy streets dimly lit by solar powered lamps hung from scraggy lamp posts .

The bicycle guy showed us a guest house and pedalled away . We went in . wary whether there would be any room for us . Luckily , they had .

A big room with two queen sized beds , a bathroom with warm water . Large windows . With a common balcony in front of the door , looking on to the garden inside the premises . Rupees 1000 for the four of us , excluding food . Nice.

By then it was already 8 in the evening . 

We were still wet from the rain .  We hung out our shoes to dry and went for shower one by one .

Had dinner by 10 . Rice , dal and fish . Simple , nutritious , tasty . 

Chatted with the hotel owner and the hotel staff . 

After a long and eventful day , settled down for the night . 

THINGS TO DO AT BARANTI

Next day , woke up early to go for a morning walk . 

Our guest house was just a 5 minutes walk from the Baranti Lake .

The lake is actually a kilometre long irrigation project dam, between two small hills , Muradi Hill and Baranti Hill .

The hills on the other side looked magical .

As the sun crept up , the lake kept changing colours .  Birds flew around , dipping on and off into the water trying to snatch a catch .   A cool breeze was blowing , refreshing and rejuvenating .

Lush green fields of paddy stretched to the horizon on one side .

It was a picture of perfect peace and tranquility , a sight for sore eyes .

We returned back to our guest house for tea, luchi and aloo sabji . Delicious

Then we packed our small kit bags and rode out on our bikes .  Back to the Lake , this time riding around the perimeter road . 

Went offroading up a hill .

There were basically no paths , not even walking trails . We simply just rode our bikes up against the slanting slopes of the hill to a certain height after which it didn’t feel safe enough to risk our bikes up any further . 

Took out the GoPro to take action shots .

It was fun and a great test of the bikes as well as the bikers .  The Interceptor passed the test with admirable poise . Even the 19 year old Honda CBR 150 passed the test with flying colours . 

Spent some time bantering away under the shaded trees . It was fresh green everywhere . 

We then went to a neighbouring village and dragged on some hot chai . 

After that , as planned , returned to the Lake and went swimming . 

Had lots of fun with the water , splashing around , floating on the water, trying our backstrokes and funny masterstrokes . Basically making complete fools of ourselves , posing for the action cams . 

Swimming made us hungry and so we had a sumptuous lunch of chicken , rice , vegetables , chatni and papad . Finishing it all off with a heavenly slice of sweet curd .

We planned roasted chicken for dinner , and after lunch , went out on our bikes to buy stuff for the bonfire. 

The spices we needed were not available in the village and so we went for a bigger market quite a few kilometres away . 

The market was an experience in itself , village bazaars being quite different from our city fares . Much more colourful , though a tad basic , the vibrant rustic energy was a great change from the monotone of our urban lives .

We drove through quaint little villages on the way , and enjoyed the ride through and through., delighting in the scents and sights of village life . 

Found a deep well in one village with place to sit around it .  We rested ourselves , gossiping with the villagers and passers by.  Life without our busy tensions , it was what we live for – joy .  

As the sun set we returned to our guest house . 

Preparations began for the bonfire , making sure we made fire only from leaves and dry wood fallen from trees . No cutting of trees for fire . 

The kitchen staff helped us in setting up the stack of wood on the ground in front of the hotel 

But as luck would have it , lightning began flashing in the sky, and the air smelt of rain somewhere . We decided to wait and watch, 

And then when it began , it was in absolute torrents , washing out any hopes of a bonfire . 

We therefore asked the kitchen staff to cook us the chicken for dinner with our inhouse cooking guru Sumit directing instructions for a novel recipe .  

Our bonfire plans swept away by the rains , we started singing inside our room . 

Playing tabla on the tables , with the thundering rains as the backdrop , the monsoon chill in the air , the atmosphere pulsated with romantic songs and fired up emotions . 

And then came in the chicken with the dinner . What a way to end the day !

DAY 3

Next morning , we slept late , lazy from the previous couple days of travel and riding .

Went to the rooftop , flew Sumit’s drone , clicked some pictures .

Had breakfast , got freshened up and packed our bags .

Time for us to leave the guest house . 

And for one last time , we went to drive around the Lake one final time .

Theres a watch tower on the other side of the lake .

Found a way to the site and climbed up .  It was quite a height , atleast 5 storeys tall . 

Had a fantastic view of the lake and the hills on the other side .  Perfect place to laze out with a cup of coffee and your loved ones .  Serene and lovely , worth the climb . 

Finally it was time to say our good byes to Baranti .

And yet one more time , it started raining like crazy .