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 .
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 .
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 !
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 .