Valmiki Tiger Reserve ~ Exploring the Unexplored

Biting chill pushed me inside when I tried to open the door as Saptkranti Express chugged in a little(or never) known station Bagaha in north western tip of Bihar on the wee hours of 28th Jan, 2016.It turned out to be not so desolate as I thought but still i had no clear idea how to reach my destination which is still(as I pen this) uncharted in TripAdvisor.

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I boarded a rickety little bus which traversed through dense fog about 40 kms before dropping me on a desolate road-bend inside the misty, spooky jungles of Valmiki Tiger Reserve.

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Before you google for its whereabouts, let me ease your life before you switch tabs -it is the forested tract of Terrai in the foot hills of Himalaya located in the West and East Champaran district of Bihar which is better known as Royal Chitwan National Park onthe Nepalese side of the border. It is hardly known in the travel circuit and I accidentally stumbled upon its website and the penchant of exploring the unexplored brought me here.

We checked in to the Kotraha FRH(can be booked online) of the Valimikinagar range.It turned out to be quite nice and cozy considering the lack of visitors, limelight and tourist infrastructure. It is situated on the westernmost side of the park near the banks of the Gandak river entering India from the Nepal Himalayas. It is on the edge of the park surrounded by a sparsely populated town Valmikinagar built around the hydro power and irrigation project.

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One needs to source the ration from Tanki Bazar, a village market near the Gandak barrage. It has a rustic old world charm. We explored the area on foot and rickshaw. Strolling without knowing the destination soon we reached the barrage built on the gorge of Gandak. The river itself serves as the international border. It was a nice walk along the embankment of the river with Triveni on the other side of the border and misty hills rising behind. We had a quick visit to Nepal on foot.

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We opted for the morning safari next day. Safaris are arranged by the forest department on their customized vehicles(Gypsy). With brilliant sunshine we roved inside the territory where Ramayana was conceived. It was where lynch man Ratnakar became Poet-Saint Valmiki. It was the place where he uttered the first verse of human history.

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There were no other visitor int he area for the day. Dense vegetation and towering trees engulfed us as we went deeper and deeper inside the park. The forest is so serene with soft rays of the Sun piercing through the canopy of trees and morning mist. We continued to enjoy the music of silence often broken by the birds’ call. We could spot few peacocks and wild boars. Sooner we discovered a fresh pug mark of the big cat. Crossing the forest for quit sometime we reached a meadow with dense elephant grass. Numerous rivulets flow through the park. We enjoyed the sublime nature for next couple of hours roaming through the tracts. Crossing the mesh of woods we found ourselves inside the Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. The Ashram of Maharshi Valmiki is situated here and now dotted with temples and memoirs of the bygone era.

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The spots were Luv-Kush were born , the kitchen where Sita used to cook, the place where pious horse of Ashwamedha Yagnya sent by Lord Rama was captured by the two brave kids are all marked and preserved. Temples are erected at the place where Sri Rama, Sita and their twins Luv-Kush reunited and Hanuman was tied.

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Ont he way of return our guides took us to scenic spots along the banks of Gandak. Though we could not spot any big wild animal, the unexplored, pure nature won over my heart. Promise of stunning view of Mt. Annapurna in a clear November has already triggering my lust to come back.

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