Among tea and wild animals

by Hridita Anisha

sit1Srimangal is known as the capital of tea with more than 38 tea gardens of various sizes. With tea being a basic segment of Bengali diet, it is extremely interesting to find its source and understand how locals view it. The tea that the tea garden workers make is very different from what we have. It is fresh and instead of sugar, they add salt to taste. They also make a sort of chutney from the freshly picked tea leaves. There is a museum and research Institute that visitors love to visit. As for me, I just enjoyed walking miles along the trails in between the bushes of tea plants.
Visiting Srimangal is cheaper by train but a bus journey takes you straight to the town in a shorter time and costs more than double, around Tk 500 per person. The town is small and semi-rural, although it has shopping malls and large food joints like Panshee, the large tea gardens adjacent to the quaint little town pertains its country feel. But do not forget to have at least a single meal at Panshee. It caters with bounty but charges reasonably.
An eight kilometer journey takes us to Lawachhara. The usual transportations are CNG and auto-rickshaws that charge a maximum of Tk 30 per person, but we took an unexpected ride – trucks. It is a form of hitchhiking that the locals are accustomed with, paying a small amount in return. The roads are made along the tea gardens, woven with unexpected curves and turns, which give you a thrilling adventure for a journey. The sole rain forest of the country appeals to us even more during the rain with its plush greenery. The tall deciduous trees create a natural umbrella and as we enter into its depth, sunlight slowly ceases and there is that thick, humid silence.
sit2The forest is apparently manmade with history signifying the plantation by the British government. The very trees have grown into this magnanimous forest which is home to a variety of wildlife. Deeper into the forest resides the endangered species of hoolock gibbons. One can find deer, bears, jackals, leopards and elephants too on good days. The forest also accommodates more than 246 species of birds, six different species of snakes, wild dogs, chimps, owls, eagles etc. It is essential that we remember to not harm the animals or their natural habitats, litter the forest or ruin its sanctity in any way.
From the forest we move on to the animals in captivity, in the zoo of Sitesh Babu situated in Bharaura that any local will be able to guide you to. The renowned hunter of the past Sitesh Babu is currently the zookeeper. The zoo was initially started by his father back in 1972. It holds different types of tigers, bears, deer, porcupine, tortoise and wild rabbits and a wide variety of birds. The zookeeper condemns his past and advises hunters to give up too. Now he has dedicated his life to saving the endangered species of rare, exotic animals.
A 10-kilometer journey takes us to Madhabpur Lake. Authorities build such lakes in the tea gardens in order to supply the water necessary for the tea plantation. The lake, about three kilometres long, is famous for the bluish tinged water lilies it hoards in all seasons.
Srimangal offers a wide range of places to stay like the Srimangal Guesthouse or the Lemon Garden Resort and many more. The website of Jovago makes hotel booking as easy as only a click away.

The author is a descriptive writer with

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