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Bewitching Betla

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Bewitching Betla

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Part 2

Jharkhand, famously known as the “Land of Forests” is an ultimate destination for nature lovers and wildlife aficionados.

As the crowd melted away from the sunset view point at Netarhat, Naresh drove us back to a roadside restaurant (Hotel Nagbanshi). “If you bring desi chicken, I can cook for you,” the young man at the restaurant said. “The shop is nearby,” he added. Excited, my cousin Pronab and I hurried to buy the chicken. As we handed over the chicken to the young man, he said: “Your dinner will be ready by 9.30pm.”

We then went to see the Netarhat Residential School, a unique initiative by the Jharkhand government for poor and meritorious students. Established in 1954, the school consistently produces toppers of the Bihar School Examination Board. We couldn’t go inside the campus which is spread over 780 acres.

Pronab and I then returned to the hotel. Around 9.30pm we went back to the restaurant for dinner. The menu was: hot roti, rice, dal and desi chicken. We thanked the young man for the hearty meal. The stillness of the night whispered peace. With the moon shining up in the sky, I was savoring every moment.

The next day morning we woke up very early to see the sunrise at Magnolia Point, the same site where we went to see the sunset. It was 5.40am. Naresh drove us to the viewpoint. The wind was beginning to lift the veil of mist which melted away slowly before the sun. The rising sun cast a rosy hue across the morning sky. Spellbound, we watched the sun slowly rising on the eastern horizon. After soaking in the mesmerizing sight, we returned to the hotel.

Our next destination was Betla National Park located on the Chotanagpur plateau in the Latehar and Palamu district.

We quickly had our breakfast at the restaurant where we had our dinner and bid adieu to Netarhaat around 8.30am. The 94km drive through the luxuriant sal forests was breathtaking. Nature has bestowed all her treasures here. Driving through the enthralling terrains and dense forests, I recalled an anonymous quote: “The view is tree-mendous!”

We drove past a bridge over the river Koel. Pronab and I got off the car to take some photographs of the romantic river. Even though the midday sun was blazing down, our mood was as brilliant as the rays of the sun.

We finally reached Betla around 12pm and checked into Banvihar (a Jharkhand Tourism property) which was very close to the entrance to Betla National Park.  A very spacious ground floor room was given to us. After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we drove to Palamu Fort, 3km from Banvihar. The poor maintenance of the Fort was appalling. After spending about an hour, we returned to the hotel for lunch.

The timing for the National Park safari is from 7am to 9am in the morning and from 2pm to 4pm in the afternoon (entry fees Rs 1,200). We decided to take the morning safari the next day.

(To be continued)

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