Sunday, August 16, 2009


Feeling like travelling further in the countryside, we leave our hotel the "Bishnupur Tourist Complex" planning on exploring the village of Garpancha, a dozen kilometres away from here. The bus leave Bishnupur for Bakura and takes 40 of our Ruppees. In Bakura we change for Shaltora, another Rs20 trip. The journey is already getting longer than expected and, a few hours after having left the hotel, we realize that we've only traveled half of the way!

From Shaltora we ask the driver of a Trekker (a shared Jeep) to take us somewhere on the way to Garhpanchkot. He's going in the right direction but stops at Sarbarimore. As far as they go but it seems that Sarbarimore is close to ouf destination. Perfect. Except maybe that the Jeep's full. I understand by the word "Ooper" in Bengali and a finger pointed at the hood of the car that we will have to travel on the roof of the vehicle. Sitting comfortably in the middle of a spare wheel, between two bags of potatoes and a banana tree, I enjoy the wind in my face and a priviledged view of our driving through the jungle, with the green hills of Garhpanchkot in the background. The jeep driver will ask for Rs12 to drop us at Sarbarimore train station. The village itself is a little further down, so we ask a young guy on a motorbike for a lift. The road is in a very bad state (I understand why the Jeep doesn't go that far), so the bike has to slow down often.

Lunch time! Sitting at a friendly Sarbarimore table, we feast of a generous portion of steaming hot white rice, delicious chicken curry with the usual daal as a starter and a few unidentified exotic vegetables. The rice is in the middle of the dried banana leaves plate (probably to avoid the washing up), while the daal is served on a side of it. We mix it using the whole hand (the right one) in order to have the rice taking taking the colour of the daal. Once the mix daal / rice has been enjoyed, I pour the chicken sauce (served with a drumstick on a tiny banana leaf plate) on the remaining white rice to start the same process. I place the piece of chicken somewhere on a corner of the plate, where it can easily be carved with the forefinger and thumb while being hold to the plate by the other fingers. The small pieces can be combined with the rice / sauce mix. The chicken can also be consumed on the bone, before or after eating a small portion of rice that has been assembled by 3, 4 or 5 of the right hand fingers. The hand is then shaken in a quick up and down movement to let the grains of rice stuck to it fall on the plate. The same grains of rice can also be licked straight from the fingers. It is common, during the meal, to gather sauce, vegetables and rice to the middle of the plate so to make it look more tidy, as well as ensuring that nothing will be left aside. At the end of the meal, we go outside to use pitchers of water to wash our hands and bring handfuls of water to our mouths and around the mouth to clean it. We also rub our faces with water to wash away the dust and rehydrate the skin. We then put the pitcher back on the wooden tables inside or on the counter.

Some more hitchicking (a car, this time) to reach our destination, Garhpanchkot. The Forest Department Lodge to be exact, in the middle of the jungle. It is getting slightly late and we're considering staying here for the night, even though our stuffs are in Bishnupur. However the hotel is quite famous and booked out today. We meet three Bengalis leaving the hotel to stroll around the area with their local guide. We crowd ourselved in the car to accompany them.

Amongst Indians, Bengalis have a reputation of being big travellers. It is said that you can find them anywhere in India, playing tourists. Indeed, our three friends all have a passion for travels and adventure, and they've been all around India. They tell me that they would like to go outside as well, but not before having saved enough money.

After going around all the main spots of the area, hills, temple, we decide that it is early enough to go back to Bishnupur, and our friends are kind enough to drop us at Sarbarimore so we can get train tickets to go back. We'll leave Sarbarimore by the 17:50 express train to Bishnupur (!)

One thing I've learnt during the short trip from Bishnupur train station back to the hotel, is this: If you don't mind having only one half of your ass sitting in the front seat of an auto-rickshaw, the one next to the driver (which is in fact already taken, so you have, to your right, one person between the driver and you, with another person to the right of the driver), having half of your body actually outside of the vehicle, sitting on nothing but wind, with your left hand holding tighlty the handle on on top of the rickshaw as if it is holding your life (because it is! The auto driving at full speed through the damaged alleys of the town), and with your left foot struggling to half fit inside of the rickshaw, sliding at each sudden turn or nest-hole on the road ; And holding this precarious position for the two kilometres that lasts the trip, then you will only pay Rs7 for this fare! The driver kindly taking in consideration that you shared his auto with 6 other passengers and that, technically, only half of your body actually travelled IN the vehicle... They call it a "shared rickshaw".

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