This is the 2nd and the final part of my adventurous trip to Ajodhya Hills in West Bengal (If you have not read the first part, please read it first, link below). It was quite nice to bring back all those memories. It was like I was there again. I was living the same thing for the second time. Again, you are most welcome for your reviews and suggestions. Please do comment because it will help me to improve myself.
After going through all those struggles, we were finally on the verge of entering the forest. The peregrination so far did not have much interaction with nature, but from now on we could feel the thrill of entering into the lap of nature.
The man in the white t-shirt (you can remember him from my first article) gave me a brief description of the forest. He told me about some rest houses near some falls. I thanked the man (Of course, I didn't tell him about my plan of staying in the jungle as I had already dealt with enough trouble) and he left. Subodh came down.
We headed in the same direction that the man told us. About a hundred meters from the tree, there was a turn. As we turned, there was a big map of Ajodhya Pahad with open ground in front of us. We took a glance at the map, took photos of it, and went ahead. After walking a few meters, we could see a fall.
You will not usually find waterfalls like the Himalayas in the plateaus. They are comparatively much smaller. But still, they have their own beauty. Ajodhya Pahad is also a part of Chota Nagpur plateau. Mostly Sal and Segun forest mixed with species like Palash, Kusum, Mahua, Neem etc, and plants like Aswagandha, Amla, Bamboo, Kendu etc are commonly found in the Forest region.
The sun was burning, so were we. Walking in the open ground was a tough task, but seeing the waterfall filled us with enormous energy. We started to run. The water flowing through a mountain is always pure. Hence, it was good to drink. The water was cold too. We could not resist ourselves from jumping into the fall. We bathed.
When I got off the water, an idea came to my mind. I said to Subodh - “Kaisa rahega agar hum pani ke raste hi jungle me jayen?” (How would it be if we follow the water to enter the forest?)
He said - “Haan, ye to bahut sahi rahega.” (Yes, this would be terrific.)
I have read a number of articles, watched a lot of shows and videos on surviving in the forest (and of course, Bear Grylls is one of the best among them). I have learned a lot from these sources. One thing that I learned is very common that water is the key element of surviving. So if you have to survive, stick to the water as much as you can. Follow the water and it will definitely take you to some people, as people usually settle themselves where water is easily available. Even this is the reason that all the four civilizations developed near the rivers.
There were big pieces of rocks through which water was falling. We started to climb those rocks from sideways. The rocks which were directly exposed to the sunlight were too hot. It was very difficult to climb those rocks using bare hands. Still, we managed to climb a few rocks when we were in front of the jungle. It was not too dense in starting but was a relief that now we would not burn in the sun.
It was already half-past one. We started to feel hungry. So we started to look for food. I don't have much idea about trees or plants, but Subodh has a great instinct in recognizing the trees. There were few plants and fruits that I thought can be used for eating, but he told me that they are ‘Junglee' and might be poisonous so we should not eat them. Instantly, a movie came to my mind, ‘Into the Wild'. This movie is also about survival along with the value of society (I won't go in details, maybe I will write about them separately). In the movie (if you have not watched then skip this line and watch the film 😅), the protagonist ate a junglee plant when he had nothing to eat. The plant was poisonous and he died.
Long story short, I became more careful about choosing plants and fruits. We were continuously ascending the mountain. The more we climbed, the denser the forest became, which meant the more dangerous and challenging journey was ahead. At around 2 o'clock, Subodh shouted - “Aadi ek fal mila hai jo kha skte hain.” (Aadi, I have found a fruit that we can eat.)
I got there excitedly. I had never seen that fruit. It was as big as an Indian gooseberry (aanwala), marginally yellow and orange in color with light black lining like longitudes. It consisted of several seeds inside it. I asked Subodh if we really can eat it, and he said of course. I trusted him and ate the fruit. It was sweet but not so tasty. We ate 8-9 of them and carried a few in bags for the future.
Here we rested for 10-15 minutes and resumed our journey. As we were following the water, we encountered several waterfalls inside the jungle which were way more beautiful than the usual ones. At many places, it was very difficult to climb the rocks. It was because the rocks were either very slippery or very high.
As we were moving ahead, there was a big rock in front of us. Water was coming from the rock. We could not find a way to climb. We tried to climb the rock from sideways, but it was too slippery. Subodh tried to climb using a tree but he failed in his first attempt. He tried again, he was about to reach the top, but before he could reach the rock, the twig on which he was standing broke. He was about to fall but I quickly supported him. I was a little scared because falling there could have resulted in a huge injury. But the task was not done yet. He was dependent on my support. Subodh immediately caught another twig, hanged himself from it, swung and jumped directly on the rock. It was a great risk, I was not sure what would happen, but he was safe.
Now it was my turn. I grabbed the tree and reached the same branch. I knew that swinging and jumping was a big risk. But did I have another option? This time no one was under me. A twig break meant falling and hurting oneself. I did not have time to think that much. So I too swung myself and jumped. I was almost on the cliff. I felt I fell, but Subodh caught me this time and pulled me up.
I shouted - “Subodh dekho, aam!” (See Subodh, mango!) Subodh replied - “Haan bhai, yhan to bhut sara aam hai 😋.” (Yes bro, there are a lot of mangoes here.)
Crossing the cliff was a tough task. But what would be an adventure without any difficulties! Well, after that cliff we soon found a mango tree. Mangoes were not ripe (ticole). But it didn't matter. It was a meal for us. We ate some and filled our bags with them. We thought this would be our meal for the night and maybe for tomorrow.
It was around 30 past 3, when we encountered another waterfall. We were sweaty, so we decided to take another bath. Subodh was quick. He opened his clothes and went into the fall, whereas I was busy taking pictures. Subodh called me and said - “Are dekho yahan gaddha jaisa kuch lag rha hai.” (Hey look, it looks like a pit here.)
If there was someone else, he might have asked Subodh not to go inside. But I said - “Jake check karo ek baar.” (go and check at once), after all we were on an adventure. When I turned back, he had disappeared. (You can observe this in the photo below. I found it out later.)
Not seeing Subodh, my blood ran cold. I was scared out of my wits! I called Subodh multiple times, but there was no answer. I remembered his words. I thought, is there any big pit in which he might have fallen? I did not have an answer. I had to do anything. I decided to go and check. Did I have another option? What else could anyone do in this situation?
My mind was getting numb. I did the first and last thing that came into my mind. I opened my dress and hesitatingly started to enter into the waterfall. The force of the water was increasing as I was approaching the waterfall. As soon as I was under the fall, I was unable to see anything because of the thick layer of water. I was proceeding by checking the ground with one foot. The ground was slowly slanted. My heart was beating too fast. With each step, my fear of falling in the pit was getting stronger. But still, I gathered the courage and continued to move forward. I was constantly calling Subodh's name. I was in the midway, about a meter from the starting point of the water layer, when I heard something which made me blossom. It was Subodh's sound. I got excited too when I heard what he was shouting.
“Andar aao Aadi, andar gufa hai!” (Come inside Aadi, there is a cave inside!)
I can't express my feelings in words. I was ecstatic, excited, curious and all the things that you can imagine. That single moment is something I will never forget in my life. In no matter of time, I felt Subodh's hand. He took my hand and pulled towards him. Affirmative, there was a cave inside. It was not so long, around the size of 7-8 meters deep and 3 meters in height.
Where anything was not visible from outside, everything was visible from inside. The view from inside was beautiful. The water was so pure and transparent. The beauty of the jungle was roaring. Even I didn't realize till then that the forest was that much astounding. The cave was filled with sand above which water was flowing. Literally we thought, can there be something hidden inside? We dug. It was very difficult with the flowing water, but nothing was inside. We wanted to click the photo of that view, but unfortunately, we could not take our phone inside. It was impossible to carry the phone inside. But the picture was already clicked in our mind.
I don't remember how long we stayed inside. But it was not enough, it could never be enough. But we had to continue our journey. We came outside, said goodbye and went ahead. After all, that's how life works.
Now we were back on our path. We were following the water. I was wearing sports shoes. Sports shoes are fine for running, playing and jumping. But for hiking, they are not sufficient. I realized it on my first adventure. As I already told you, it was an unplanned and sudden trip. It was the first as well. So, it was impossible to be a hundred percent prepared. While hiking, the sole of my right foot came out from the front. I didn't have any option but to go on with that broken shoe. Now the path ahead was difficult for me.
On our way ahead we saw a few animals, not any dangerous one. The most interesting animal was the pangolin (I found out its name later). Perhaps, I had never seen it in my life earlier. I am attaching a photo here (I didn't take this photo, I just borrowed it from the internet).
We were hungry again. It was around 5 in the evening. We had mangoes, but still, we continued to look for anything to eat throughout our path. I told Subodh that the night is coming so we should better look for a place to stay because in the dark it would be very difficult to proceed or look for a place. We were looking for an open ground to stay, so that we could light the fire without risk. Moreover, in the middle of the jungle, the risk of insects and animals are always high, so we had to be prepared in all the ways we could.
While looking for the place, we found bel fruit (aegle marmelos). Earlier, we found just one piece, but in a few meters, we found the tree. What was it then, we broke on the bel. We both ate 4 pieces each and kept 6 in the bag. But it was already dawn. We took a long time to eat. Now our priority was to find a place.
Now, we decided to look separately for the place to stay and meet at the same place in 15 minutes. I turned left and Subodh took the right. On the left side, the jungle was denser. So I went a little ahead. I found a place where there were fewer trees and the sky was a little open. I thought that might be the place. So I returned. When I reached the earlier place Subodh was already there. I told him about my place and he about his own. He told me that there was a trench alongside which there was a big piece of rock. He further told me that we can stay there without building a shelter. According to us, while sleeping in the jungle, the fear of insects is a major issue, sleeping on the rock could have meant to avoid the insects.
We looked at both places and decided to spend the night at the rock. The trench beside it was really deep, but the view from there was enthralling. We could see the water surrounded by the hills. The greenery of the place was so appealing. There was probably a train bridge in the far distance (at least what we thought it was).
We gathered wood and lit the fire. So, this was our first camping. We talked, a lot, around the fire. We also cooked all the mangoes, ate two or three each and kept all the remaining. We sat there for a few hours. The night was cold now, but it was pleasant. We went to sleep.
I woke up at around 2 at night. What I saw there could never forget. The moon was in the middle of the sky. There was a reflection of the moon in the water. The tiny mountains were partially visible. There was a light on the bridge and a few trees around us. Overall, it was seeming like I woke up in a dream or I was in heaven. I woke up Subodh too. He was also mesmerized by the view. The only regret I have is that I didn't have a good camera nor I am a good photographer. Still, I am attaching the photo of what I poorly captured.
It was 6 o'clock in the morning. We were awake. We took two different paths and got refreshed ourselves. Now we had two options. First, we could continue to follow the water, but this was getting difficult for me as the sole of one of my shoes was ripped. Second, we could return. But both of us agreed not to follow the same path to return. So we went a little ahead. At that time, an idea struck my mind. I said to Subodh - “Wo train ka bridge dikh rha tha na? Humlog udhar chalte hain aur fir ya to train pakad lenge ya patri ke raste kisi shahar ki or phunch jayenge.” (There was a train bridge, wasn't there? Let's go there and then either we will catch the train or will follow the tracks to reach the city.)
He agreed but asked how we could reach there. I told him that we would find a way. So, what we had to do was to reach under the trench, cross the lake and then reach the bridge. We thought we would find something or make something to cross the water.
Now the first task was to reach under the trench. We started to look for any leakage, from where we can climb down. Ultimately, we found the place. It too was not that easy. The first few distances were comparatively not that difficult, but as we reached a few meters down, there was nowhere to go. In the front and right was a straight trench. On the left, water from the mountains was flowing. The easiest or perhaps the only way was this. We had to cross the flowing water. But the speed of the water was too much and even the rocks under the water were too slippery. The only chance was to jump across the water. But from the place we were, we couldn't as it was too high. We had to put our foot on a small and thin portion of rock and jump. But the rock was beyond our reach. We had to slide there. We had to be so precise to reach the exact place. The result of slipping there might have meant falling directly into the water with so many hits with rocks.
It was a risk that we had to take. And we did. Subodh went first. I was holding his hand while he was sliding. He reached the rock perfectly. He jumped and he was safe. Now it was my turn. I slid. My one foot was on the rock. It was so thin that pushing it hard might break it. So, I could not stand there for long. I was scared but confident. I jumped and I was also on the other side. It was just one barrier. There were several small barriers like that that we managed to clear.
Another barrier was when there was a big piece of rock in front of us. It was around three meters in height. I stood on Subodh's shoulder and climbed on the rock. Now I pulled Subodh up. But now was the real problem. The next rock was 8-9 meters below. Jumping was not the solution because it would have meant an injury. So we had to slide from a tree and then jump from there. We did that successfully. But in this process, my other shoe also got ripped. Now both my shoes were ripped. From now on I had to be extra careful.
Eventually, after two and a half hours of effort, we reached the bottom. We were tired by now, so we decided to bathe and have a meal. It was 9 and the day was getting hotter again. We took a bath in a waterfall and ate 2 bel each.
The below surface was completely different from what we imagined. The land there was quite marshy and nothing there was dry. Walking on that surface was very difficult. Our feet were getting stuck in the ground many times. Both of us were muddy. Moreover, I had more difficulties in walking because of my shoes, so I opened my shoes, took them in my hand and started walking barefoot. I was walking with a part of my foot in the water. It was a bit dangerous as the land was slanted and we didn't know how deep the lake was, but it was much easier to walk there.
The crossing of water was seeming impossible from there, as we didn't know how to swim nor any wooden block was there. We started to walk around the water. We were going in the opposite direction of the bridge. One more thing, we hadn't heard any sound of the train since last night, so we started to think if that was really a bridge. Whatever, going in the direction was not an option as it was clearly visible from there.
Soon we realized we were on the right path as the water was surrounded by three sides. We had to walk all the way long around the water to reach our target. The sun was at its peak by now. We were walking directly in the sun. We were drinking water consistently, but soon we were hungry again. We ate the remaining bel, few mangoes and continued our journey.
There was nothing there. We were walking, walking and walking in the open sunlight. We didn't have enough food now. We were left with four mangoes only. The destiny was seeming too far. But, we were on the other side by now. We could see the long waterfall from there where we bathed and where we stayed at night. We were crossing several small mountains. It was like several ‘U' were connected with each other. Every 'U' was followed by a new mountain. I don't know how many Us we crossed but it was too much. For a small part of time, we went through a forest, which was so relaxing, but it was not enough. We were so tired as if the sun was sucking our energy. Subodh was especially getting much tired. He would sit on every piece of rock he found.
He finally suggested that we should take a rest. I agreed. We went under a tree and ate the remaining mangoes. We slept there for half an hour. Now we had nothing to eat. There was only one option, we had to reach the bridge as soon as possible. I finally said to him - “Subodh, ab hamare pas kuch nhi bacha hai khane ko, isliye ab ek bar puri takat ke sath hmlog badhana shuru karte hain aur sidha bridge phunch ke hi rukenge.” (Subodh, now we have nothing left to eat, so we will start to go with full energy and will only stop after reaching the bridge.)
So, we gathered all our energy and started to run. Finally, after 3 more mountains, we were there. It took us 30-35 minutes from there. It was approx 1 o'clock when we reached there. But what we were assuming a bridge was actually a dam. The dam was closed and we were still on the campus. Watching us, the guard started shouting in Bangla. Subodh knows a little Bangla. He talked to the guard and convinced him to open the door.
He told us the way to the nearest village. It was 2 km from there. We reached there and ate in a local dhaba. One interesting thing happened, as soon as we reached the village, the weather started to change its color, the clouds came and the wind started to blow. As we sat on a bus, it started raining cats and dogs! What an irony it was for us! Well, after getting off the bus, we both were stuck in the rain for a long time. From there we reached the station and finally took the train back to Jamshedpur.
So this was my first adventurous experience in which I learned a lot of things. It is said that you will never learn if you never try. So go for the things that you want. Not tomorrow, not today but now, otherwise that time will never come.
In this 4+ weeks experiential travel program, participants will visit and explore 16+ locations across 3 states in North India. The places included are Rajasthan (Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar), Delhi, Uttarakhand (Rishikesh, Parvati Valley, Mussoorie, Dhanaulti, Kasol, Chalaal, Tosh, Barkot), Uttar Pradesh (Mathura, Agra).