Distance from Kolkata: 182 km
Driving time: 4 hours approximately
Route: Gangani is located in West Midnapore near Garbeta. Though it is yet to acquire popularity as a tourist hangout, it is easily accessible.
Once the Kona Expressway comes to an end, turn left into NH-6 and then continue straight till you reach the roundabout at Chowringhee Morh in Kharagpur. On the way you will come across Dhulagori (toll tax point), Uluberia, Kolaghat, Deulia, Mechogram, Debra, Baramulah (toll tax point), Basantpur and finally hit Chowringhee Morh. From this point take the road on extreme right – which is a highway – the NH-60, connecting Garbeta and Bishnupur in Bankura. On NH-60, after Kharagpur, continue straight through Mohanpur, Dharma, Keranichati, Kachari Morh, Salboni forest, Arabari forest, Chandrakona Morh and Garbeta forest. Just after Garbeta forest you will find the Garbeta bus stand on right after which there is an insignificant road intersection called the ‘Ganja Morh’ on NH-60 with a few road side shops. Take a left turn from this point for Gangani. The road from Ganja Morh, around a kilometre, will take you to a narrow, unsealed laterite road entering on right from the main road. You will find the signage ‘Gangani’ in Bengali at its entrance. Follow the red laterite road for around 1km inside to reach your destination – the sudden drop over river Silavati at the ravines in Gangani.
It was not the usual lazy Sunday for Team WHEELS. We were ready to hit the roads, this time with a Tata Safari Storme. We were all quite geared up to discover the unexplored Gangani in Paschim (west) Midnapore, popularly known as the Grand Canyon of Bengal.
It was 8 am when we hit the road. We drove through vast stretches of lush greenery on both sides of the NH-6. The road condition was good with perfectly marked signage. We drove pretty fast with the powerful Tata Safari Storme and reached Azad Hind Dhaba at Uluberia for a quick tea break. Feeling rejuvenated after having piping hot tea, we drove in full throttle once again on NH-6. The steady drizzle was no dampener because of the smooth ride. After Kolaghat, as we headed straight towards Kharagpur, the landscape on both sides of the highway changed dramatically with vast green paddy fields stretching to the horizon.
After reaching Chowringhee Morh – the huge traffic roundabout at Kharagpur on NH-6, we took the extreme right and proceeded towards Midnapore through NH-60. The road here is an old generation highway with an average surface condition. We, however, effortlessly moved ahead, thanks to our mighty Storme.
After 11 km from Kharagpur, the road condition suddenly gets superb due to the newly renovated tarmac. Here after, on NH-60, we were thrilled to drive through the forests at Salboni. The pitch black tarmac road with white road markings pierces through the lush green forests on both sides. It was such a pleasure that we just had to halt for a proper look around. The forest was really picturesque with its quiet beauty. One is amazed to think that this serene area was the centre of such violent politics just a few days back.
We headed towards a more pleasing surprise, at a distance of a few kilometres from the Salboni forest – the Arabari forest range. The Arabari forest welcomes you with open arms with rows of sal trees. But be on your guard as often herds of wild elephants from the Dalma range enter Arabari range. There were quite a few signboards mentioning the ‘Elephant Corridor’ and cautioned us against blowing horn. Although we were not lucky enough to see elephants, we found the dense wood and the tall trees enchanting. Finally, after crossing the third forest stretch at Garbeta, we reached Gangani on taking a left turn from the Ganja Morh on NH-60.
West Bengal is like a hidden treasure with a vast geographical diversity. It was stunning to see the sudden drop over a river named Silavati. It is an unusually picturesque place where water and soil erosion has created strange rock formations on one side of the river while green paddy fields stretch out on the other. The red hued laterite soil gives the whole place an eerie look. The mixed topography of the place made it attractive and we could not believe our luck; that such an intriguing place lies so close to Kolkata and not many were aware of it. The place doubles off as a picnic spot, mainly for the locals in winter.
We wanted more; so we trekked down inside the intriguing landform. In order to experience the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Bengal, hiking through the ravines is a must. There is a stairway going down into the ravines. The stairs took us to the base of the rough ravines leading deep inside. We walked through the narrow paths leading to different nooks and corners. Beware! Hard-soled footwear is a must if you want to explore the place. It’s always better to visit this place in groups since it is deserted and leaves you befuddled. We were so engrossed that at one point we lost track of one of our fellow team mates who we thought was following us. We shouted in order to track him down; he emerged out of an underground tunnel. We spent ample amount of time enjoying the natural beauty of the place. After exploring through the canyon over an hour or so, it was time for us to leave. We were really fortunate that the rain did not play truant while we explored Gangani in its full glory.
Unfortunately, since tourism has not developed here at Gangani, there are no proper hotels for night stay and refreshments as well. A dharamsala, Shyam Bhavan is the only place for accommodation on the main road, a kilometre away from the actual spot.
It was almost 2:30 pm and we all were hungry. Since there was no food available, we were guided by the locals to a roadside eatery – Hazra Hotel, a kilometre from Ganja Morh on NH-60 – on the way back to Kharagpur. However, we all relished the steaming hot mutton meal at the dhaba. The Tata Safari Storme (Rs. 10.38 lakh ex-showroom Kolkata) with the contemporary world class 2200 cc VariCOR diesel engine with a VTT technology in the turbocharger, boosts up the power and makes it great fun to drive. The high ground clearance with an amazingly small turning radius made the long drive a sheer pleasure for Team WHEELS. It was 3:30 pm and we all got into our Storme once again for the next destination, the Gopegarh eco-park.
Shree Shyam Bhavan
West Midnapore, Pin-721121
Tariff: Rs. 150 per head
Hazra Hotel, Moirakata,
Garbeta, West Midnapore,
Gopegarh Nature Heritage & Eco Tourism Centre
The Gopegarh eco-park is situated about 15.5 km from the Chowringhee Morh at Kharagpur and exactly 9 km from Dharma Morh on NH-60.
After crossing Chowringhee Morh in Kharagpur, enter NH-60 and proceed towards Mohanpur and then to Dharma Morh, which is 6.5 km away. From Dharma Morh, go inside the Midnapore town to reach the Vidyasagar University. Gopegarh eco-park is situated very close to the University – 9 km from the Dharma Morh.
Rows of Casuarina trees on both sides of the road coupled with the misty foggy environment indicated we have finally arrived at our destination. One could easily get confused about the actual location of the park; it can be mistaken as some place in north Bengal. The park was once a fort of a Gope King. Situated on the banks of River Kasai or Kangsabati, the park covers 174 hectares of land and was opened to the public in 2001. Huge arched gate welcomed us as we drove with our Safari Storme inside the park. The entry fee is surprisingly low – only Rs. 2 per person while for cars it is Rs. 25. There is ample space for parking inside the park.
We parked our Storme and walked towards a dilapidated structure – the ruins of the ancient fort. There is a plaque placed in front of the structure providing a brief introduction about the mighty Birat Raja – a Gope king. The eastern side of the parking area has dense plantations, mostly sal trees and a lake with murky water. Boating service is offered, but it is best to assume that it is non-existent. The situation is entirely different on the western side of the park. It is very well maintained, peaceful with lush green gardens, two beautiful cottages which are available on rent, one canteen and a reasonably enjoyable amusement park. The one and only canteen is run by Ram Babu, where he serves hot refreshments and even meals, if given the required time. The surrounding is quite enticing and heavenly for nature lovers. A walk through the beautifully maintained park is a huge plus.
It is a nice place to spend weekends, surrounded by natural beauty. The peace at Gopegarh is at times shattered by the chugging trains crossing the bridge on the River Kasai. The rail bridge over the sparkling waters of River Kasai is a sight worth watching, which you can, if you climb to the top of the huge tower inside the eco-park. There’s a watch tower for the tourists to witness the mesmerizing sunset on the banks of River Kasai. Taking a stroll on the flowerbeds of this fort can be a nice pastime in Gopegarh. But mostly this place is to relax and absorb the natural beauty. The park is open till 6 pm for day visitors.
After our expedition across the park, it was getting dark and we started heading back for Kolkata.
Gopegarh Forest Bungalows
Divisional Forest officer
East Midnapore division
AC Cottage – Rs.750
Non AC Cottage – Rs. 500
Dormitory – Rs. 55 per head