Travelogue : Nov 2010

Travelogue : Nov 2010

On Nov 04, 2010, when we started from Patna at around 8 in the morning, never did we think that we will end up in this wonderful place called Valmikinagar two days later. This is the beauty (Or whatever you may call it) of working in CE sales!!! You got to travel a lot. And that too to places where you'd never go otherwise! Most of the times the tours are not memorable enough to post the details in a blog. But once in a while we do end up traveling to places which if not told about, will be injustice towards the place and the tour itself.

We started for Darbhanga via Muzaffarpur. The day was supposed to be a tough one!!! I got stuck in traffic congestion near Sarai, about 40-45 KM from Patna. A bridge was being repaired and that's why only single way traffic was allowed to pass at a time. After waiting for a long time, we decided to take a different route through the countryside! That was it. Driving through the village lanes built (Once upon a time) with mud, most of which is suitable only to walk due to huge potholes. The dirt was the additional benefit. The visibility was actually zero. I could just see the top of the car in front of me and was following that. By the time we reached Muzaffarpur, it was already 1. The journey had demanded full attention from me. I was not spared even for a sec. What normally would have taken 1.5 hours, took 4 hours. From Muzaffarpur, we started for Darbhanga. Again got stuck in congestion In Muzaffarpur. Drive till Darbhana was quite comfortable; thanks to the newly built highway! The problem erupted again, when we entered the town. The super narrow lanes were never sufficient for the ever-growing number of vehicles. Anyways, the difficult phase seemed to pass out when we ultimately reached our destination (Customer's Place). After talking and discussing for about 2 hours with the prospect, when we were planning to start off from there, we realized that the car has been locked with the keys inside!

A bad day will always gift you with problems unseen. This was one of those. The kind prospect brought a key-maker. The key-maker was probably in his early 50s with a great reputation. There are legends about the key-maker. It is said that in Darbhanga, no one else has ever broken as many locks and made as many keys for wrong reasons :). But the legendary key-maker from Darbhanga was struggling with this one. I was keenly observing and trying to understand the principal behind key-making. It's a quite difficult task indeed. The first step is to find out which blank key (key with a similar shape of that of the original one, but without the contour or actual key). After a struggle of about an hour, the lock broke, luckily!

We resumed our journey. We went over to a village in Darbhanga called Sonki. It's the native place of the person who was accompanying me. Again a tough drive for sometime. I had to pass through the paddy fields. On the way, I had the opportunity to taste 'bageri'; a small bird (killing and eating of which is illegal as it is endangered). (Whether I utilized the opportunity or not is beyond the scope of the blog!!!). It is said that the bird is very small but tastes awesome and warms u up! Ideal for winter evenings with some good liquor.

When we entered the village it was about 12.30 am. The whole village was asleep. After parking the car, when we were walking on the narrow lanes with mud houses on both sides of the lane, it gave me a unique feeling!!! It was totally dark. We had to use our cellphone lights to see the lane. It was like we had entered an evacuated village. All you could hear was our footsteps and a few insects making noise.

The stay at the small village was a unique experience. The endless green fields have a power to soothe your heart. The fresh air makes you breathe more. The food cooked on those mud ovens, fire made with wood; It gives the food a unique smell which somehow or other, makes food tastier. The food refreshed my memories of my own village!

We moved towards Raxaul from there. Raxaul is about 6 hours drive from Sonki. After finishing our work, we proceeded towards Nepal. By the time we reached Birgunj, it was already dark. Somehow we came to know that there is a small hill station about 56 KM from Birgunj called Hetauda. We started off for the place. The roads in Nepal are good. There were lesser vehicles at that time. Driving through the hilly roads surrounded by jungles was a shivering experience. It was my first time driving on hilly roads. It is always difficult and risky to drive on a hilly way. But the risk was worth it. The experience it gave has increased my confidence. On one hand was the fear that the car might break down, or fall down while taking those steep turns. The other was the fear of being attacked in the jungle by the criminals!!! The roads were lonely and unknown, the language too was unknown. So, we had to depend mostly on milestones and rough directions we got in Birgunj. The car was also in a condition where it was continuously hesitating to climb up :( . Shifting gears, clutching, accelerating.... somehow we could climb up and reach a place from where the local police escorted us to Hetauda and showed us a hotel to stay. We reached pretty late. The market was closing down. The hotel where we stayed had stopped serving dinner. We had to go out and find a small restaurant where we took Nepali Thali which consisted of Kalo Dhal, Jhane Ko Saag, Tare Ko Aloo, Chara Ko Maasu (meat curry - in this case chicken), Roti bread, Sada Bhuja, Curd, Papad and Achar (pickle)

Hetauda is a small town. The place is a bit hilly. In fact it's the first town on the hills while coming from Birgunj. It is one of the cleanest and greenest town in Nepal. It has a valley like geography (doon), means its surrounded by mountain ranges. The town is enclosed by three rivers. The place is basically popular for its industries. Hetauda Industrial District is the biggest among the industrial districts of Nepal. There is a cement factory which the town is proud of! The production is aided by the large limestone reserve in the base of the Mahabharata Range. Most of the people here are working in the industries or the Govt. Transportation business invites most of the investment from individual entrepreneurs as town connects to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal which is about 132 km from the place.

The popular tourist attraction is the unique Martyr Memorial Park (Shaheed Smarak Park) which was constructed in the honour of the martyrs of Nepal, including the ones who lost their lives since the time of British colonial wars to the ones who overthrew the autocratic Panchayat system in 1989. The Park has become a tourist spot since its completion in 1994.

Spending the night in the hotel, in the morning we went forward to the shaheed smarak park. The morning showed us the beauty of the place. We witnessed the beauty of the hilly jungles, the streams, the mountain ranges. The greenery around blooms your heart!!!. It was just wonderful.

Though the place didn't have the charm of hill stations like Darjeeling and Kalimpong, it had its own attraction. The small township. Young people roaming around in colourful dresses. Life itself feels the need to move on and see further of the world when we visit places like this. The drive Downhill was pleasant. We stopped here ant there to capture the beauty of the place and build memories!!! These memories will push me to go back to the place again!!!

From Birgunj, we started our journey to Valmikinagar. Initially, I had no Idea how the place is like. We started off with the information that its about 40 Km from Bagha. Reaching Valmikinagar via Bagha is a very difficult task. The single, broken road won't allow you to drive at a speed more than 20 kmph. Occasionally, you'll have to drive down from the so called road to allow the vehicle coming from the opposite direction to pass by. And this continues. Continues till you reach Bagha. The 40 km drive from Bagha to Valmikinagar however, is very pleasant. Road among the dense forest!

It was while driving through this road I noticed a board saying 'Valmiki Vyaghra Pariyojana'. I came to know that there is a tiger reserve also in Bihar!

The newly build smooth road. The fresh air was carrying the fragrance of the jungle. One can hear the sound of the unknown insects. Suddenly, I forgot all my tiredness and was full of excitement and energy. There was something in the air! Passing through the jungle we reached Valmikinagar. So small is the place, we didn't need any address to find our prospective customer. We had to take the road adjacent to the Great Gandak River to reach our destination. You won't find any place to stay here unless you inform the only hotel beforehand. The hotel remains closed most of the time. The other place is the Govt. IB where only Govt. Officials and VIPs can stay. Our prospective customer using his sources, arranged for our stay in the IB. The place faced the great river.

The river worked as the boundary between the two nations, India and Nepal. There is a huge dam constructed(whose photograph is strictly prohibited). The road on the Gandak Barrage connects the two nations in this part. The border opens at 6 in the morning and closes at 8 at night.

At few places, steep stairs takes you to the water. They say the water level was very low during our visit. During the monsoon, more than 80% of the stair remains under water. They say, the sound created by the flowing water vibrates you from inside, when the river flows in its maximum flow.

The jungle here starts from the river bank. The area near the water is dominated by Gharials. Then towards the main jungle one can find Tigers, Leopards, Deers, Bears, Wolf, Python, Single Horned Rhinoceros, Bison, Civet, Wild Dog etc. The number of tigers as per locals is 26 and as per data available in the internet its 10.

As per a locals here, there is a place about 2-3 kms from Nawrangiya where one can find a huge group of Gharials sunbathing during the day!!! We were not lucky enough to be there. We did not see any wild animal other than Langur and Rhesus Monkey (They can be seen beside the road!).The Chitwan National Park in Nepal is also about 30 mins drive from Valmikinagar. The famous Valmiki Ashram is located there. It is said that Luv and Kush, the two sons of Lord Ram and his divine wife- Sita were born here and Valmiki wrote (Rather Composed) Ramayana here.

But this spectacular place will pull me again; I know. And I'll have to go back with a good time in my hand. To witness the wild. To inch towards nature. This place was the hub of armed dacoits a few years back. No one used to pass through the roads after 2 pm. The dense jungle full with Sal, Cane, Teak etc gave a proper shelter for them. The situation however, has improved. I hope that a few years down the line, this place will start attracting tourists. One thing worth saying here is none of the tigers here have been reported as man-eater! Proceeding further in our journey, this time we decided to take another route to Patna. We heard that the route via Paniahwa, Kushinagar, Gopalgunj will be better. We took the road. The road passed in between the jungle. On our way, we went to the temple of the goddess. They say that every train passing by slows down as a mark of respect. We continued our journey. The road till Paniahwa was not smooth. But was better than Bettiah - Bagha road. At Paniahwa we ate fish and rice. They serve fresh fish caught from Gandak. You'll be amazed to see the variety of fish available. The stock finishes by 12 noon. People from Varanasi also come down to this place to eat fish. The shops are very small and look like. But the quality of fish is incomparable.

We continued to Padrauna and Kushinagar. Kushinagar or Kushinara is among the most important four holy sites for Buddhists. The place where Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana. We decided to halt at this place for the night. To be at a place like this fills your heart with joy, excitement and inquisitiveness.

Early in the morning next day, we got hold of a guide and proceeded to visit the temples. It is said that the Buddha had three reasons for coming to Kushinara to die:

  1. Because it was the proper venue for the preaching of the Mahá-Sudassana Sutta;
  2. Because Subhadda would visit him there and, after listening to his sermon, would develop meditation and become a bhikkhu while the Buddha was still alive; and
  3. Because the brahman Doha would be there, after the Buddha's death, to solve the problem of the distribution of his relics

As the scene of his death, Kusinara became one of the four holy places declared by the Buddha (in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta to be fit places of pilgrimage for the pious, the other three being Kapilavatthu, Buddhagaya and Isipatana.

According to a late tradition, one-eighth of the Buddha's relics were deposited in a cairn in Kushinara and honoured by the Mallas. The Most important site here is the Mahaparinirvana Stupa, which is built on the place of Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana.

The stupa now hold 1/8th of the ashes from the cremation. Just beside the stupa is the temple having the 1500 year old statue of Lord Buddha as he at attained Mahaparinirvana.

The statue has a speciality. From three angles the face of Lord Buddha seems to portray three different emotions.

Apart from these there are various other temples constructed during modern times. These temples have been constructed by Indian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Thai, Burmese, South Korean, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhists, alongside the ruins of monasteries and stupas.

The thirst for knowledge increases manifolds once we visit places like this. With monks meditating near the stupas, their smiling faces; everything seems to be away from this mortal world. The peace that money can't buy! With a bagful of memories and learnings, we resumed our journey towards Patna. +++