Ever since my “Night Sky” Baleno came home back in October 2018, I have been raring to unleash it on the highways. But every opportunity kept slipping away due to various reasons. With the end of February, the onslaught of harsh summer staring at us, I finally applied for a 3 weekdays leave. But it was already late for any worthwhile plan to make to the northern side of our state.

If you have read our previous travelogue to Pondicherry (https://honumanshongothon.com/2018/02/04/pondicherry-give-time-a-break/), you will know somehow movies have a weird connection on the choice of destination. So I was skipping through the channels, when I came across “Hirak Rajar Deshe” being screened. Lightning struck – how about taking to take my “Night Sky” Baleno to the western fringes of our state where this iconic film was shot?! Couple of quick calls and GarPanchakot was finalized as the Chosen one.

If you want to know where we stayed or best time to visit, then jump to the sections below or trust my advice and read on! Let me start with a teaser pic of what’s coming up!

Prologue

With a 3 year old mini Monkey with us, I wanted to make this as much enjoyable for him, without getting him bored. So I made a plan to start by 7.30 am, so that we can reach the resort by 12 noon, in time for his lunch. But as it happens, I had updated my phone’s Android version the night before and somehow the alarm didn’t go off. So we woke up at 6.30 am and then in almost a fire-fighting mode, got ourselves ready and the mini guy on his feet, up and awake! The engine was cranked at 8.15am. ๐Ÿ˜€

Where to Stay: Gar Panchakot over the years has become a hot-bed for ecotourism. West Bengal Forest Dept has a well spread out resort here, where rooms (cottages and in buildings) start from INR 1800/- upto INR 5000/-. There are few other privately run resorts as well.
My choice was either the cottages at WBFDC or a private resort called “Panchet Residency” (having heard good things about it from my Team Bhp friends).
But who would have thought that – even on weekdays, the WBFDC rooms would be fully booked, leaving out only those 5K ones! So I turned to Panchet Residency.

Road to Gar Panchakot: Panchet Residency is exactly 259 kms from our home near Kasba. Google Maps showed pretty straight-forward navigation to be completed in 5 hours flat. Majority of the journey is on the National Highway 2 – there are few diversions here and there but mostly its a straight line drive till you cross Asansol where one needs to turn left for Asansol-Purulia road. The last 50 odd kilometers had some traffic but roads were just fine to drive comfortably. With a quick 40 min breakfast break at our customary place Azad Hind Dhaba near Gurap on NH2, we reached the doorsteps of our resort at 1.15 am. No rushing in or over-speeding drives, yet we made it under 5 hours on the road. Leaving for our readers the Google Map link for this: https://goo.gl/maps/2vfEXw8wQL52

Piping hot
Tawa fried Aloo Paratha with some chana masala

Once we reached the resort and parked my car, the road inside was the gateway to Panchet Hill. Don’t believe me? Yet?

Day-1: Check-in and Panchet dam

The check-in was prompt and they took us to our Banjara Hut cottages and boy, we were amazed! They were bit small from inside, just enough for two people and an attached bathroom which was squeaky clean! Lest not forget, the bamboo chairs on the outside small patio to spend the afternoons and evenings, gazing at “nothing”. Peace, if I may, call it.

We had pre-ordered the lunch while on the road and it was served hot and fresh by the time we had freshened up. Now I will kill myself for not taking pictures of that elaborate ala-carte spread where we had “Postor Bora” to start with!

Post a power nap, we were back on the road to go to nearby Panchet dam to see the blazing sun setting on the Damodar river. The teaser pic above was from the same place on Panchet dam. The weather was cool and windy and it was a sunset to remember.

The dam itself had almost no water but it was a fun for us and the kid to see something like this!

Post the sunset, we just roamed around a bit and then relaxed in the resort itself. This had this wonderfully decorated arena for any kind of celebration and again the Kid was happy!

Day-2: The Garh and Baranti

This was the only full day we had in hand and we wanted to make full use of it. We had hearing a lot about the Garh, ruins of an old fort here.

The Garh panorama

So let’s have a refresher course of history here from Wikipedia!


Alivardi Khan had become the Nawab of Bengal in April 1740, having defeated and killed Sarfiraz Khan. Rustam Jung, Sarfiraz’s brother-in-law, challenged Alivardi Khan but failed in his endeavours which prompted him to seek the help of the Maratha Rulers of Nagpur, Raghoji Bhonsle. A Maratha cavalry was sent by Bhosle who entered Bengal through Panchet and started looting the countryside. These Maratha men came to be known as “Bargi’s”. For about 10 years they looted and plundered Bengal. It ended in the year 1751 after a settlement was reached between the Nawab of Bengal and Maratha King. During one see of these encounters, Garh Panckot was attacked by the “Bargi” and, having defeated the King’s guards, they destroyed it after looting and plundering the palace. It is believed that all the 17 wives of the king committed suicide in a nearby well during the attack. Garh Panchkot has lain in ruin ever since.

So the journey was through some exciting winding well paved roads and it was around some 10 kilometers away from our resort.

Night Sky gliding through the roads

We have been hearing that there is a temple at the top and also a waterfall. On reaching there, we learned, that they were at different ends altogether. Sun was blazing and we couldn’t find any guide. So we started on our own for the waterfall but barely 15 mins into the trek, we couldn’t find the way forward. There is absolute no trails or signs to show the way. Surprises me, what we are trying to promote here as tourism! But the place is beautiful amidst the ruins, so will let the images do the talking.

Searching for the waterfall?

The ruins and the new temple

Post this, we came back to the resort for lunch and again a relaxing nap! Next we wanted to visit Baranti but the road which both locals and Google Map showed wasn’t exactly a convincing one. Narrow broken lanes through village, crossing over someone’s porch, finally we landed in front of Baranti dam, quite late in the afternoon. As I realised, when I first saw the lake, if you haven’t seen the place called “No Where“, it’s right here!

I sat there and stared into the “No Where”, till my mini Monkey was pretty much bored by my contemplation! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ The journey back to the resort was a calm drive back, with only the head lamps guiding me into a dark horizon of village roads.

Setting Sun on the Panchet hill

The Final Day was a relaxing one. Woke up early, went for a walk with Rishaan. Then mostly lazed around the resort till lunch and then back. Leaving some pics from the resort from the final day

When do I feel the saddest? When after the vacation is over, I have to drive back home! So to cheer up my drooping spirits, I always end my vacation on a HIGH!
๐Ÿ’กWHAT else than a plateful of spicy happiness as in the frame below! Yes, we again made a “fuel-stop” at Azad Hind dhaba and gorged into these chicken tandooris!

๐Ÿ’ So here it ends for now, Friends. I will soon be back with how Night Sky performed on the highways – so if you are car enthusiast or planning to buy a car, may be you like to drop by here in the coming weeks. Till then, Adios…

When to visit Gar Panchakot: This place is best visited before summers start i.e. before April and again when monsoon starts i.e. end May or early June onwards. Still, if you see a prediction of cool summer weekends, my advice is just drive on!

Pro Tip 1: FASTag now works in all the tolls on NH2, so if you have one on your car, use it and just glide through the toll plazas with a BIG smile

Pro Tip 2: Post evening, there is a huge truck traffic on NH2 and Kona Expressway – make sure you negotiate that and stay on the left most lane while approaching Dankuni toll plaza (onwards to Kolkata) so that you don’t get stuck on the trucks piled up at the tolls. Thanks to my Team Bhp friend Samba and Sayantan for this tip!

How to book Panchet Residency: To be frank, I could never reach their official number mentioned in the website, even after trying multiple times throughout different days. So as a last ditch resort, I reached out to our very friendly helpful people at “WeekendTrips Kolkata” (ping me here or in FB or Instagram for their contact) and they helped us to get reservations. You can choose packages which are either for rooms only or for rooms with breakfast or for rooms with full meal plans. We went for rooms with breakfast. There are 3 types of accommodations and alas, all were again booked except the Banjara Huts – so we got 2 of those for us. Agomoni – part of the main building with smaller rooms, Banjara Huts – cute little cottages and Village Telkupi – Two deluxe rooms sharing a common balcony under makeshift thatched huts!

Tentative cost:
2 Banjara Hut cottages with complimentary breakfast for 2 nights and 3 days cost us INR 18000/-. Lunch, dinner and snacks over these 2 days cost us INR 5500/- for 4 adults and one kid.

Honuman Feedback for Panchet Residency: It might feel that these are on the higher sides but trust me, they go all out to ensure you have a comfortable stay and not to mention the resort itself which was FABULOUS! The Banjara Huts are bit cramped for two adults and a kid but for couple of nights it was fine. Beds were clean and the bathrooms were squeaky clean! Even it was over 6 acres of land, still each and every corner of the resort was well maintained. So for us this resort gets 5 stars! Here is a short video of the place.