Thrilled by the descriptions of escapades to the team-bhp members, I found myself yearning for a long drive. Yet my regular journeys were limited to office (14 km) or for shopping at the south city mall (25 km): these never gave the kind of thrill I desired, thanks to incessant honking and the non PUC compliant taxis and buses.
The end of March brings an end of vacations, since the next few months would only mean stickiness and unrelenting heat. So we decided to make a visit to Tarapith, a famous temple in Birbhum district of West Bengal. It would also let me know what long drive is all about.
We decided to go with family friends, who stay at Burdwan. We left Kolkata on 27th March evening, by 5:30. With a tankful of petrol, we left in my Wagon R with the odometer showing a reading of 5111. We joined the NH-2 from Bally, and the weather was awesome. I did not cross 70 kmph, to avoid losing the fun the specter gave. We were at Burdwan by 7:15, after a 94 km drive. There were 2 toll booths, one at Dankuni and the other at Palsit. They charged Rs 35 for the car.
Burdwan has its Big Bazaar now.The town’s first mall has an imposing façade, and the interiors can be compared with that of any mall in Kolkata. Almost all products were available, but it appeared that the sales volumes were low, probably because of Thursday. The future group has now ventured into smaller towns, and is taking the first mover’s advantage out there. I was thoroughly impressed. Though sales may be low to start with, it will sure to catch up with the grade A cities, as prosperity and awareness reach the masses further.
Moving on to the journey, we left for Tarapith the next morning at 4:25 with the odo at 5205. We crossed Burdwan on the GT Road, an joined the NH-2. It was my first drive so early, and I was thoroughly enjoying it. After about 50 km, we reached Panagarh, and took a right turn from there to start on the Panagah Moregram expressway (NH-60). We had some tea at the local tea stall, and continued on the expressway. It was 5:25.
NH-60 is a good road, with a few potholes and patches which rendered braking necessary. There are lots of trucks in both the directions, and it is also called the Darjeeling road, since it leads to Darjeeling (someday I will try that too). Moving along, we reached Dubrajpur, Siuri and were close to Rampurhat; when we turned right for Tarapith. In two or three places, there are steep stone bumps, which hit the mud covers. Small cars should be more carefully driven on such devious entities.
From the crossing, we reached Amda, a T point and took left for Tarapith. Total about 5 km. At Tarapith, there are so many hotels, that I felt I was at Digha. I found a lot of JH license plates, which is understandable, since the place is so close (about 30 km) from Jharkhand border. There is no parking place, and one is free to park their car in any suitable place. The odo showed 5370 – 165 km.
There are pandas (priests) at the temple, who let your voices reach the deity. We bought some Prasad from a shop (that’s because one boy took the effort to market his shop, when no one else did), and went over to the temple. It being a Friday, there were not many queues (I have heard queues extending to over 2 km on certain auspicious days – Saturday, Sunday and Thursday). There are two queues: a VIP (paid) line and the ordinary one. The paid one charges Rs 25 per person who wishes to reach the idol to perform the puja. We made a mistake of opting for the ordinary one, and ended up waiting for over 2 hours to reach the deity. As usual, there were gate crashers; and the guy controlling the queues did little to stop the chaos.
After the puja (which consists of the head touching the idol’s feet and mane, besides offering the sweets and garlands); we were out for some brunch. There were a number of restaurants, and one was serving veg meal at Rs 20 and poori sabji at Rs 10. I commented that it was much cheaper than Dakshineshwar.
There is a burial ground near the temple, where Bama Khepa used to sing a couple of centuries ago.
We went back to the car and were ready to return by 11:45. while exiting Tarapith, a couple of men rounded the car and demanded Rs 50 as a toll fee. It is not clear if it was a fraud one; but we paid nevertheless.
The return journey was not so comfortable, since it was too sunny and my Wagon R’s AC did not seem to cool very well with 5 people. I did not like when the sun was trying to heat me up, while the AC tried to cool me down! I felt the need of a sun film badly. After NH-60 and NH-2, we were back in Burdwan. Odo reading: 5533.
I slept for an hour or so, and were ready to return to Kolkata by 6:30. The tank was low of fuel, but I wanted to take it as a challenge. On our way back, I did not switch on the AC and drove at an optimum speed, never going beyond 70 kmph. In the last flyover, I took a wrong route and were on the main road earlier; which meant I had to face more traffic. I realized the long drive was taking a toll on my thinking capability; I needed some rest.
It was 9 by the time we reached home. The odo showed 5628 with some 5 liters of fuel still in the tank. It was my longest drive in a single day (423 km) and my longest journey in my car (517 km). Mileage in the trip: 18 kmpl with AC on about 50% of the time.
Hope the information helps you plan a getaway better!!