We started from Raymatang forest rest house, a place on the Jalpaiguri-Bhutan border, around ten in the morning for South Raydak forest rest house. We were told to take a left turn from Shamukhtala, which is on National Highway 31 for the rest house; it would take around 2 hours. But till one PM, we could not find Shamukhtala. By that time we have crossed two rivers, Jayanti, Sankosh and were about to cross river Raydak. We did ask for direction and were told to move ahead. We crossed Raydak and came up to a forest check post. As forest guards are the best person to give direction for forest lodge, I approached them and was told that we have missed Shamukhtala by at least 30 kilometers. So we turned back and this time I could locate a small signboard on the side of the highway declaring the place as Shamukhtala Police outpost.
Soon we reached the Samukhtala chaupathi (crossing of four roads) and took a left turn towards Hatipota as was directed. We were supposed to take a right turn from a place called Dangi Bazar and then go straight to reach south Raydak. But some day nothing turns right; we missed Dangi Bazar and shot ahead to land in the north Rayadak forest range office. This time I got a firm direction and a land mark– a Kali temple. This time there were no miss and soon we were on a Kuchcha road, which would lead us straight to south Rayadak forest rest house. We came up to a small rivulet about one & half kilometers away from the rest house. The wooden bridge over the rivulet was damaged and could not carry our Qualis! A teacher of a nearby primary school cheerfully told me, the bridge has been damaged this morning only after a loaded truck has passed over it. With luggage and family in tow we could not walk. So our Qualis lunged to cross the rivulet and naturally (!) got stuck in the mud. I and my son had to push the vehicle from behind and got mud all over our cloths. With mud all over us; the wife as fresh as ever (she sat demurely in the car); we alighted on the porch of the rest house.
But there were nobody and after a lot of shouting Taem Ali, the caretaker, came half sleeping, from his quarter to inform us, we have no reservation. Not very impressed with my official status, he however, reluctantly allowed us to enter but nonchalant told us there was no food in the house. He could make some tea at the best. By this time it was already three PM and we were simply famished. But Taem was the epitome of indifferent. So we had our lunch with two biscuits each, some Chanachur and a hot cup of tea. However, Taem promised to cook us dinner but only on condition that we let him use our vehicle to bring provision from Dangi Bazar which is three Kilometers away and he would not walk six kilometers for us. We had simply no option but to look around for some visual relief.
All around us the sky is canopied with thick foliage and birds are flying from one tree to other, calling their mates. A monkey family, sitting on one of the trees, observed us — the intruders. Their two little ones were having the fun of their life while their mother was keeping a watchful eye.
South Raydak range of Buxa Tiger Reserve is one of the oldest forest ranges of India. It was established around 1900 and the rest house was constructed in 1909. So this house, on whose balcony I was standing is on the verge of a centenary. In fact, this rest house is one of the oldest forest rest houses of India; still spick and cleans like the shining armour of a gallant knight which has seen many battles but still reflects the glorious past. This range is one of the most important elephant corridors of Buxa reserve. In its’ areas of 5660.45 hectors elephants, Leopard, Hyena, Himalayan Black Bear, Fishing cat, Jackal, Wild Dog, Boar, Wild Pig, Pangolin, Porcupines and different species of Deer reside. It is a heaven for avi-fauna. Among the hundreds of resident and migratory birds are Great Indian pied Hornbill, jungle Mayna, Red jungle Fowl, Woodpecker, Nightjar, Moonal Pheasant, Grey Heron, various kinds of Teals, Ducks, Peacocks and Egrets. Indian Rock Python, Banded Crate, King Cobra, Russel Viper and other snakes exhibit the serpent variety. The last wild buffalo of West Bengal died in this range in 1968.There is a well kept herbal garden within the Bungalow complex.
I was shocked to see a baby elephant standing in chains. Her legs were stretched to the maximum and I was told she was standing on that painful posture for the last ten days; she is being trained. Elephants’ memory is legendary and she will remember her punishment for the rest of her life. She will never disobey a command of her Mahut (Keeper).
As the dusk turned into night, we went inside the room on our soft bed to sleep but Kunti, (that was the name of the baby elephant) stood there alone, stretching her lags, tied to the iron pole but still moving in a strange rhythmic motion as if to defy her imprisonment with as much movement as she could generate in her confinement.
Access: Kanchankanya/ Uttarbang Exp are the best options. Get down at Alipurduar. Take reservation from the Dy. Field Directors’ office and either take a bus for Hatipota or better still, take a car from Alipurduar. From Bus get down at Dangi Bazar and trek 3 kms. Car will take you to the FRH.
Stay: The FRH has two bed rooms with attached bath in the first floor with a wide balcony. The ground floor has a well appointed drawing room and a dining room, all in the old British style. There is no electricity only solar Electricity.
For reservation of FRH contact: Dy. Field Director, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Alipurduar Court. Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri. Pin: 736122. Ph: 0356455129