It was ten minutes to 5 in the morning when I woke up. The room was already in a mini scurry by then. Everyone was putting on their beach clothes and was as ready as ever to explore the beach at dawn. Sitting up groggily on the bed, I stifled my yawn and tried to look very excited. Truth be told, I'm kind of a late riser. Everywhere I'd visited, I'd never woken up at dawn just to look at the sky except when we had to go somewhere special. So what was different this time? I smiled, chanting the promise I'd made to myself before setting on this tour. From now on, I would enjoy every bit and second observing the nature around me, and keep the sleeping part for when I get back home.
Fifteen minutes later I was walking by the paved path of the resort towards the beach. The sky was a deep shade of blue and black. Clouds were storming in more than ever. There goes my chance of seeing the sunrise, I thought sadly. But I tried to keep my spirits uplifted. Anyhow we wouldn't have got a good picture of sunrise even if the sky was clear. The Sun rose from the exact opposite side of the sea, that is, from behind the line of resorts on the beach. That was truly surprising, but I was nevertheless happier seeing that I hadn't missed much after all.
It was, what you could call, a romantic weather. The sky was threatening to pour on us, but we knew there was fat chance of that happening. The wind was on the verge of blowing us away, and I was sure the breeze had got stronger than last night. Early morning trekkers were hurrying past, breaking the solitude. It still amazed me that we were the only persons out there. It was Friday, and I knew that people would be arriving around noon to convert that situation. But as long as that was not happening, I was loving it. Seemed like Mandarmoni was a rare tourist spot right then, instead of being one of the most popular. I was contemplating this while getting on a trekker, my eyes always set on the vast unfurling turmoil taking place in the heart of the sea.
The sea side in early morning, with the Sun creeping out from behind the resorts
The trekker took a few minutes, but we finally reached what was the end of Mandarmoni beach, the mouth of Jolda river, entering the sea. A mohana was one of my favourite kinds of places. It didn't look deep, there was a boat on the far side, and my mom wondered whether we would be able to walk barefooted through the river. But a woman who was selling tea in her stall on wheels said that the river was too deep in the middle, nearly neck-height, and anyway there was quicksand beneath the water. I found myself recalling the proverb, looks can be deceiving. Having a wonderful tea in the blowing salty wind made one of my best spent mornings ever, and I was glad I had woken up.
Jolda river and a boat. The other side of the river is Tajpur.
There was a surprise in store for us, in the form of beautiful red crabs scuttling across the sand. I was delighted. I saw thousands of them, peeking through holes in the sand and creeping back into them whenever we drew near. They were quadrangular in shape with little claws through their sides. Their colour was more beautiful than blood red. Only nature could gift such a perfect colour to the ones she shelters. From their front two antennas stuck out, which also seemed to have white eyes on their top. Most were shy, some had the courage to approach us, and one posed for a considerable time for us to take its photos. On the far side of the river, I could see even more red crabs sitting on the sand enjoying leisure. There was a reason trekkers were not allowed very near the river. The oil and heat and smoke and more importantly, the noise scared the hell out of them. I wondered if the sand near our resorts had crabs too, and if they were too scared to come out.
Posing for a photograph, the Red Crab is one of the most endangered species out there
Returning to Digante, another bath in the sea was necessary, and it was as much fun as the last one. In the back of our mind however, we knew he had to change resorts that day. It was the perk of booking hotels in the last minute, and unfortunately for the two days we spent there, we had to sleep at night in two different resorts. Around 11, we arrived at Marino Beach Resort, and I found myself coming back to the exact same spot where I had been that morning. It was the last resort on the beach, and across the river, I came to know that it was no longer Mandarmoni there, but Tajpur.
People bathing in the afternoon in front of the resort
Marino Beach Resort
Marino Beach Resort was just as great as Digante, if not better. Owing to the extreme heat, we could only explore the surroundings in the afternoon. There was a small park and I sat on the swing, staring into the sea and occasionally chatting with my sister. Some minutes later, we were yet again on a trekker but this time, it was to go water sporting. This was one thing I hadn't done before and I was excited. We went on a Gemini Boat Ride, 8 people in all, into the sea. The sea had turned so greenish there that I was sure grass would sprout out of the water anytime. The surface didn't look like water, rather a thick green carpet flowing indefinitely creating waves and turbulence all over. I was mesmerised, and a few times I shouted in pure delight. It, though, was nothing compared to the amazing parasailing we did on the beach. Me and my sister, hooked tightly to the parachute, screamed loudly as we took off from the ground, and within a few seconds, we could see kilometres of sea on one side and fresh green agricultural lands and mud huts on the other. Yes, I'd never dangled before from such a great height, but the beauty of the scenery whipped away all the fear from my mind. We landed near our hotel, happy and content. Once in a lifetime experience, and I was glad I didn't miss that opportunity.
In the garden of Marino Resort
Gemini Boat Ride
We spent the rest of the evening sitting in the little shack beside the resort entrance, laughing and discussing what a beautiful trip it had been. After all, we would have to pack our bags and head home the next morning, and secretly I was wishing to stay a few more days. The rest of the evening was uneventful, with me and the other children in the tour watching TV and drinking soft drinks and playing games. Night came, like the next morning, and this time I slept till 8 am. My body had already begun to show signs of fatigue and I didn't make myself do anything more than I wanted to. Breakfast and lunch passed in a blur, and suddenly it was time to go home. Bidding goodbye to the sea, and promising to come back in the future, we made way to our ride back at Chaulkhola. On the way, I was surprised that the sea had come so close to the resorts. It was the mother of high tides! The half kilometre we had to walk the other day, just gone, disappeared underwater! People were bathing nevertheless. Just a day, and the population of Mandarmoni had soared by some hundreds. One could think it was Digha, not the quaint beach I'd seen this morning.
At Chaulkhola, I couldn't put a finger on what seemed lacking, inspite of all the fun we had. Once we were on the bus, I suddenly got the answer. It was the absence of laughter, of glee, of undiluted happiness and a sense of fulfilment on everyone's face. Going back when nobody really wanted to, kind of established the fact the amazing time we had down there. In our busy scheduled life, it was a forced decision to go out and enjoy some free time, only later it turned out not forced at all, but straight from our heart. We had been longing for freedom, and a little burst of that brought out the best in all of us. Yes, now I had to return to college, but I wasn't feeling sullen. I was refreshed and charged. Irony, isn't it, how a tiring trip can energise you?
I smiled thinking, hell yes, Kolkata, here I come (back)!
[Information for some of my friends:
Bus for Mandarmoni left from Dharmatala Bus Terminal. Estimated bus fare depends. Varies from 300 to 500 rupees.
Trekker from Chaulkhola took 600 rupees to transport 13 of us, one-way to Mandarmoni.
Hotel fare AC rooms, which I suggest one should take during summer, varies between 2500 to 3500 rupees for one night.
Gemini Boat ride takes 8 people on board and charges 1000 rupees. So does Parasailing, but only for 2 people. The rest of the water sports, like Banana boat ride, or speedboat, or waterbike charge between 600 to 1500 for multiple persons.]