Imagine walking through deep forests, beneath towering cliffs, past huge lakes and through beautiful villages ' paradise, perhaps. But the road to this particular haven isn't easy. There are no hotels or any modern facilities en route, so the traveller must be prepared to spend the night in a canvas tent, under the stars.
If you want to enjoy nature in its purest form and don't mind roughing it out a little, then Kairabera and Murguma are the places to be. The two villages in Purulia are near enough to Calcutta to take off for the weekend. The best way to get there is to take a night train from Howrah and get off in the morning at Barabhum. From there, take a trekker to Baghmundi and finally, a bus ride to Koreng More.
If the bus is too crowded even for standing room, then take your place on the roof, all in the spirit of adventure.
Then, it's time to stretch your legs. A four-km walk through a scenic village takes you to Kairabera, where you are welcomed by a huge reservoir. Take time out for a brief, self-cooked lunch ' or a packaged one if you've managed to carry it thus far ' while drinking in the breathtaking beauty of the lake. Simply sit on the banks and watch the sun set over the vast expanse of the Purulia outback.
After a night spent in a tent, enjoy a cup of cha as the sun rises. Breakfast cooked and eaten, climb up Chintoo Hill, overlooking the lake, which offers a bird's-eye view of the waterbody. Back at ground level, munch on some lunch after the morning's exercise. Then, it's time to move on again.
Follow the ridge overlooking the lake. A short but steep ascent takes you to the top. Continue walking, past the picturesque tribal villages of Jering Sering, Mamudi and Loya. The colourful mud huts and scattered fields are a sight for sore eyes. The villagers are friendly, always ready to help you find your way.
After walking five or six hours, Murguma lake appears on the horizon. An hour's descent later, you're at the shore, in Murguma village. Check in at the irrigation bungalow, where a dinner and a good night's sleep will help restore your strength.
Next morning, enjoy a leisurely walk along the embankment or just perch yourself at one spot and breathe in the fresh air and appreciate Mother Nature in all her pristine glory. Post-lunch (bhaat and puti machher jhol) at the local hotel, it's time to pack your bag for the last time.
A three-kilometre walk along the metal road brings you to Begun Kodor, a small town with a palace and a temple in ruins. A two-hour bus ride to Purulia and a night train later, you're back in the city, tired but happy.
(Metro on Sunday thanks reader RANGAN DATTA for this contribution.)
| • Camping gear
• Cooking gear
• Sturdy shoes
• A spirit of adventure
How to get there
Howrah-Chakradharpur Passenger from Howrah station at 10.40 pm. Get off at Barabhum the next morning. Take a trekker to Baghmundi (fare Rs 10) and then a bus to Koreng More (Rs 8). The jeep service to Kairabera is infrequent, so you could walk the four km. It's the same story from Murguma to Begun Kodor, so again, walk the three km. From Begun Kodor, there are regular buses to Purulia (Rs 18), from where you can take the train back. The Chakradharpur Passenger arrives in Howrah the next morning.
Where to stay
Kairabera has an abandoned irrigation bungalow, so the only option is to camp. The area is frequented by wild elephants, so it's best to camp inside the bungalow complex. Murguma has an irrigation bungalow. It can be booked from the irrigation department in Calcutta or in Purulia. There is a lot of camping space.
What to eat
At Kairabera, self-help is the only option. Food is available at a reasonable rate at the bungalow in Murguma. There are also small eating places, but food has to be ordered in advance.