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Chilapata – The Dense Canopy


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After a lot of if’s and but’s, suggestions pouring from all corners, filtering those suggestions, we zeroed onto “Chilapata” for our impromptu weekend escape.

Chilapata alias Mendabari is an elephant corridor between Jaldapara and Buxa.

On 20th of December 2018 eight of us ventured for Dakshin Mendabari – the most famous and known beat of Chilapata Forest. We started from Coochbehar at 10.00 am, after 40 minutes of drive, we reached lush green Mathura Tea Garden. We decided to halt for a while, and had our packed breakfast and proceeded for our destination – Dakshin Mendabari. On the fringes of Mathura Tea Garden lies Chilapata Forest. As we enter into Chilapata, suddenly the light was cut-off to a large extent by the dense canopy. Both sides of the road are dense forest. We could see watchtowers for forest guards to keep a vigil on the forest, maybe on poachers also. Through the windows we kept our gaze on both sides of the road, hoping to get a glimpse of Deer or Gaur. We drove for about 10 km through dense forest and then took a left turn for our home-stay at Dakshin Mendabari.

Chilapata derives its name from the famous and a brave-heart general of Cooch kingdom – Chila Ray. Ruins of the fort of Nal Kings can be found inside the forest. The major part of the fort is beneath the soil, only the main entrance stands stall with its head held high, an epitome of erstwhile glory of Gupta period. The remains of the fort along with its boundary walls are gradually sinking beneath the soil inch by inch. It’s hard to comment on the fate of this historic site. The folklore goes like this – The fort was destroyed and buried due to a curse. Some loyal guards of the fort decided to transform into trees and guard the fort and its treasure till eternity. Hold on, this is not the end, and there are trees called “Ramgua” which actually bleeds. Sticky blood-like fluid oozes out it the bark of the tree is scratched. Another intriguing part of the story is that – Ramgua trees are only found near the fort premises and not found elsewhere in the forest.

Well, we checked-in to our home-stay and immediately ordered for lunch. From our rooms, we could behold the beautiful meandering Buribasra River. On the other side of the river lies the Chilapata Forest. Without waiting any further, we hurried to the riverbed. The stream was not very deep and we soaked ourselves into it.

We had sumptuous lunch with local fish. The lunch was made in homely style but delicious. We booked our sunset safari. The safari vehicle came to our place for the pick-up. We boarded the vehicle and were all set for some action to happen.

Our first halt was at the ruins of Nal Kings. We took a few photographs and moved on. Our first sighting of the day was a herd of elephant. There was a tusker along with a baby in the heard. As we drove along, a hornbill flew past us. Our path was crisscrossed with multiple forest streams. We were kept our eyes on each and every stream, and looked as far as we can, as it was getting dark, we hoped some animal would come to the water source to quench its thirst.

We stopped our vehicle seeing the vehicle behind us had stopped. The driver of the gypsy signalled us to move back. They must have seen something really big. As we drove back, we saw a male matured Indian Gaur, of gigantic size, grazing lazily. It was huge. Its size seems to get magnified by its solitary nature. Gaurs are found generally in groups and seldom solitary in nature. Slowly it moved inside the forest. We decided to wait and with the hope, it come out from the other side down to the stream. After-all wildlife tours are all about patience and patience do pays-off at-times with rewarding moments.

It happened exactly as we anticipated, the Gaur gradually descended towards the stream. We took cover behind a dense bush, but suddenly the Gaur looked straight into our eyes. I was amazed by the confidence and power of this wonderful creature. Gaurs of Dooars are not so accustomed to humans and are generally very shy and move deep into the forest once they feel any human presence. But we see a different story unfolding in front of our eyes. We took photographs with ease. As it was really getting dark we decided to move on.

As we stayed bit late inside the forest, we were late for Dance – performance by local Rabha Community. We missed a few numbers but it was a splendid show. We matched our steps with these people, an experience we will cherish for life. We returned to our home-stay. Gathered at an up-hill place for a campfire. The chicken was marinated for barbecue. With antakshari and guitar, we consumed 1 kg of chicken. Self-cooked food always tastes awesome!!.

We returned to the room, took stock of the photographs taken and reviewed the same. Dinner was ready by the time. The local chicken was served for dinner. We follow the adage – “Local food, in a local place”.

After an eventful day, our body badly wanted some rest. Off we go to bed. Lights out.

With the first lights of the sun, we went for a trail along Buribasra River. It was a foggy morning. Fog and mist add to the beauty of the place. A solitary fisherman can be seen with his fishing nets, early preparation for a day-long struggle. As we move along, a common kingfisher can be seen perched on a treetop, ready to pounce on its prey. Red-Wattled lapping can be seen on the other side of the river. Peafowls can be seen in large numbers. An amazing experience to explore the woods on the feet.

We returned back to our home-stay, had our breakfast, and thanked the staff – our companion for an amazing experience called – “Chilapata”.

Our tour ends with thrilling memories of “Chilapata – The Dense Canopy”.

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