An unplanned trip is way more exciting to me than a planned one. In a planned itinerary, you get an ample idea of what to expect, but in an unplanned one, your imagination has no bounds. Of course, problems may arise when we arrange everything in a haste, but let’s concentrate on the positive sides as far as this particular trip of ours is concerned.
As 2017 was about to end, we (a group of crazy friends) were planning a short trip somewhere in or around the state of West Bengal. Year-end seemed to be the time when every single person wanted to find their pace outside the comfort of home, so we were getting negative responses from all the hotel and resort officials on a prior booking for the last few days of 2017. We failed to find a single decent hotel in every possible popular tourist destination.
It was the evening of 23rd December, ’17 when we gathered at a friend’s house and were mulling over the last couple of options left. Then, someone mentioned the name of Topchanchi in the state of Jharkhand immediately seconded by all. Topchanchi is not a very popular spot but as we gathered from the internet, is a beautiful place away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Fortunately, when we contacted a hotel manager in Topchanchi, he assured us that there were rooms available suiting our date and time.
So, we started our journey the next morning. Covering a distance of 320 km in less than six hours (with two breaks of 15 minutes each), via NH 19, we reached our destination at around 1.00 pm.
Our expectation with the hotel, Shaan-e-Punjab, was not very high, but as our car entered the compound of the hotel, the perfectly manicured garden with colourful blooming roses, dahlias and cosmoses, made us spellbound. We could see the small hills far away, the famous Topchanchi Lake is all surrounded by hills and just a 10-minutes-drive from the hotel, we were told. After having a scrumptious lunch in the hotel, I decided to have a stroll around the place while the others dozed off. I wanted to visit the lake right then, but as the winter sun was already losing its strength, the hotel manager opined that it would be better to go the next morning as the woodland around the 6-acre lake was quite dense at places.
Next morning, our day-long tour started with the Topchanchi Lake. The narrow, meandering road, covered by a foggy curtain was looking beautiful as the rays of the sun were penetrating it creating a golden hue. As the driver stopped the engine at one place and we got down to have a clearer view of the lake, I could feel the loquacious silence of Mother Nature! Topchanchi Lake was once the favourite shooting spot of Bengali auteurs. With time, the glory faded away, but the lake still holds the wild beauty with thousands of enormous trees accompanying it all around.
Spending a couple of hours by the side of the lake, we headed towards Giridih, 68 km from Topchanchi. Though the road is in excellent condition, you’re likely to get traffic while passing a few kilometres through the heart of the Giridih town. It took us a little more than an hour to reach the Usri river and the Usri falls. The name Giridih at once brings to mind the Professor Shonku stories by Satyajit Ray. The scientist, inventor and professor used to live in Giridih. Usri falls looked small yet vivacious. The locals told us that it becomes violent and roars with several streams pouring down water below during the monsoon.
Our next destination was Pareshnath/Parshwanath Temple on the Pareshnath Hill. The crowd of disciples along the road was making it difficult to drive through. However, the main temple is an eight-kilometre trek uphill and, one has to start as early as 6 am in the morning to have a darshan. We had a glimpse of the top of the temple shining gloriously in the light of the setting sun at a distance.
The next morning, we enjoyed roaming locally around for a while. It was a pleasure just sitting in the garden of the hotel and watching different birds. After lunch, we started for Deoghar. We made a mistake here and took NH114A instead of NH19. Though the journey was a pleasant one through lush green fields and through picturesque villages, it took an hour more to reach Deoghar. It was way past evening when we entered the city. The delay was not only due to the wrong choice of the road though. We visited a beautiful entertainment park named “Khandoli” on our way.