Winter at the Swiss Alps or Shimla may be a travel buff’s dream. But realistically, snow on sweaters is not pleasant, particularly when they melt and wet your woollens.
The good news is you can get your altitude right near home. The scenic yet unspoilt Dalma hill, around 3,000 feet above sea level, 25km from Jamshedpur, seems right. Green hills, nippy, but not bone-chilling cold. But even if you want, you can’t get a booking at the centrepiece Pinderbera forest guest house in Dalma till the whole of January 2013.
The adventure freak in you may be disappointed, but it is a proud moment for security forces stationed in Jharkhand to rein in rebels.
Though Naxalism has not been wiped out — skirmishes do rear their heads — tourist fear is history. Security personnel or bureaucrats or ministers don’t need to vouch for it. Tourists are driving up to the hill in droves, wives, children and friends in tow.
At the tastefully renovated Pinderbera guest house inside the sprawling 193.22sqkm sanctuary, bookings are made between two and four days. According to officials, 400 tourists have already made reservations, a huge number, considering Pinderbera guest house is a four double-bedroom facility where one is reserved for senior forest officials. .
“Not a single booking has been cancelled despite reports of fresh rebel activity and counter-insurgency drive by police and paramilitary forces,” said Dalma range officer Mangal Kacchap.
“Since November-end, the two-storeyed Pinderbera facility has been booked by tourists from Jamshedpur, Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Ghatshila and Ranchi till January 31. Some made booking at our range office in Mango while others registered their names at the divisional forest officer (wildlife), Ranchi,” he added.
The Telegraph recently reported that the Makulakocha guest house in Dalma was devoid of winter basics such as blankets and mattresses.
So, what does Pinderbera guesthouse offer? A double-bedroom at a reasonable rental — some would say dirt cheap — of Rs 350 per day. No provision for food, but tourists lug along canned food and hire cooks to rustle up something on wooden fires. There is power, which means cellphones, iPods, digicams, laptops and the like can be charged. Water and even a generator are available.
“Tourists need to carry with them food, drinking water and diesel to run the generator,” Kacchap added.
Not exactly five-star, but it has its charms. The rate is affordable while the view is priceless, he added.
Elephants are vacationing in Bengal right now, but tourists can gaze at the rolling hills swathed in mist, the Shiv temple, reservoirs and also visit the Chhotkabandh hideout at night to see wild animals from close quarters.
The range officer added that this was the first time in years that people were convinced that Dalma was safe.
“Unlike recent years, tourists aren’t just coming, clicking snaps and leaving Dalma before sundown. They are staying over and sleeping in the hill.”