Conquering Keokaradong

থার্ড আই এর ছবি
লিখেছেন থার্ড আই (তারিখ: শনি, ২২/১২/২০০৭ - ১১:৩৫অপরাহ্ন)

It was still dark. Suddenly the lights in the bus flashed on us. The conductor yelled out, "Hello! Welcome to Bandarban.” The tourist became fidgety. Some street lamps were still on. A dog on the tarmac looked at the tourists expectantly. We spent rest of the night in a mosque near the bus stand. Some of us looked fatigued and unsure. Our group leader encouraged us by saying, "You are going to be part of a history -- You will ascend Keokeradong -- so don't break down." It worked. Meanwhile, the Fazr azaan from a nearby mosque ushered in a new day.

After having breakfast, we walked to the bus stand to hire a "chander gari." Local people call the jeeps chander gari, and with one of these as a vehicle, our journey starts.

We were nine in all in one jeep; we set off for our first destination -- Khyongchori. It has another name -- Rumaghat. However, the jeep was going fast through the zigzag route. The driver was very skilled. Looking down from the precipitous road, it felt like as if we were ascending the sky, ready to drift away any moment. The jeep halted at Sailopropat. It looked familiar to us as it was used for shooting sport. We captured a few scenes for posterity, then started for Rumaghat. It would takes two and a half-hour.

Boats were arranged in rows. From hereafter, no automobile would run. It was natural paradise -- no traffic, no smoke -- only chirping of birds and breath-taking natural beauty. The November sun was overhead. It was the day after Eid-ul-Azha. And we were not the only groups there.

We were advancing across the river on a boat. Water felt very cold as some of us tried stretch out to touch. It took one and an half hours to reach Rumabazar. The sun was dropping slowly in west. And we were very hungry. Moreover, our baggage made us more tired. We walked towards Ruma Rest House, the place we planned to stay. It was a two-storied building surrounded by a natural lake. We rented two rooms. In the meantime, some of us rushed and jumped into the lake to relax. We looked for an expert guide, as the rest of the journey would only be on foot. Mohsin bhai, our guide, was polite and skilled in cooking. We got hold of him in the evening. By this time, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Rizuk fountain. The only way to go to Rizuk was to by boat across the Sangu River.

It amused us that what once was reserved for the fairy-tale princess, was for us to indulge in. Bathing in fountain water was certainly a life-time experience. When we reached Rizuk some of us began to unclothe themselves as if it were a competition.

Rizuk is the second highest fall in the country. It is next to Madhabkunda. In the mean time, photo session spree began. I took part in that too. We bathed in the fall water. One of our enthusiastic friends managed to receive injury during the hustle and bustle. His left leg got fractured. It was near dark. We had to get back to the rest house. Journey at night here is risky, goons wait to swoop on tourists.

Next morning Mohsin bhai came. We bought grocery and other necessities to tide us over for seven days. We brought things such as chocolates, tissue, and saline from Dhaka.

Our next stop was the Boga Lake. The journey to the Boga Lake was a treacherous one. On our way, our friend Rony's condition worsened, he was bleeding profusely. We were apprehensive. It was a danger we did not envisage. However, we decided to carry on and reached the Lake in the evening.

There was a myth about the Boga Lake among the hillmen. A large dragon used to live in a cave in a near by village. It used to feed on domestic animal and even children. One-day, village people gathered. They trapped the dragon and killed it. It called for a festival. But, Immediately after that the village caved in deep into the earth.

Boga means dragon. The area is one lakh square metre. It is the only source of pure drinking water for the hill people. The most interesting aspect of this lake is that its water changes colour at different times of the day. After having filled our stomachs, we started for Darjeeling para. From there we would start for Keokeradong.

Meanwhile, Rony's illness worsened. He wanted to go back. Our group leader Nazmul bhai divided the group into two. The decision was that Nazmul bhai would send Rony and Raju back to Dhaka. I along with other set out for Darjeeling para. But after all the exertion, no one wanted to revert course. So, the journey went on.

Darkness was looming. It is risky at night in the hills. Fortunately, there was a full moon, silvery light showed us the path through trees and vegetation. We reached Darjeeling para by 8pm. We spent the night in a bamboo house. In the morning, with full enthusiasm, we set off for Keokeradong. It is half-an-hour walk form Darjeeling to Keokeradong. After some time, we came across a man selling orange in a shop. The competition for eating up oranges began. We finished all his stock within minutes.

As we reached the foot of the Keokeradong, everyone exclaimed flatly almost in chorus, "is this Keokeradong? After all the hard work to see this?" But, we were soon proved wrong. As we reached the peak of mountain, all the hardship and suffering seemed worth it. Our faces glowed with the joy of success.

From Keokeradong we moved on to Sung Sung para. It is the largest village in this area. Total of 98 families live here. Most of them were indigenous Bom people. The Sung Sung Youth Federation organised a cultural show in our honour. We were amazed by the dance rhythm the girls worked up with others manipulating the bamboo sticks. We were served red rice with pumpkin curry, which tasted superb. We bought chicken from every para (village) we went through. Red rice and sweet pumpkin are staple of the hill people. We spent that night in Sung Sung para.

After three nights in the hills, at down, we started for Pukur para with our new guide Vanram Som. It was a less trodden area, so we decided to take him in addition to Mohsin bhai. Bushes, hays and leeches made our journey more difficult. We kept hearing loud cries at intervals. We had to walk eight hours in water. At Pukur para Sujun Trepara welcomed us. Their bamboo-built house was our resting place for that night. His room was on the first floor. Sujan said, a surprise was waiting for us. He advised us to get up early.

We were ready to see the surprise. Once awake at the wee hour, we started off with Sujan as our guide. After walking an hour or so he said, "Stop and look." Not a single word could we utter when we looked at the fall, so large, so magnificent, so astonishingly beautiful! It was breath taking! It was deep in the forest, only the hill people know about it. It is 300 feet long and 20 feet high; the Rikhan river originates from this fall.

That was the last thing to remember the journey by. After that, it was time to go back to Ruma Rest House. We went to see the Chimbuk hill by chander gari. Here the peaks of hills and clouds whisper to one another. Clouds roll in the lap of the Chimbuk pahar (hill). We could see the Bay of Bengal from there. We caught Dhaka-bound bus from Bandarban to get back again in the hub of smoke, traffic and scurred sweets.

NB: This Story win 2nd Runner up prize in Creative Writings Group Close Up-1 by Unilever Bangladesh in 2003.
First Published:
Star Magazine, July9,2004


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