What a memorable day. Imagine a perfect picture postcard of rural India, or better still a movie, and that is where I have been today. I am writing this blog post on the bus on our way back from our adventure to the Sunderbans (it will be posted once we hit the wifi of the hotel). The bus journey will take a long time – it took 5 hours on the way coming but we already seem to be stuck in a village where our coach cannot move as a market has been set up in the middle of the road. We may be stuck here all night!
Anyway, the Sunderbans is a protected national park in a river delta near the border of Bangladesh. We were unsure what to expect from our day out but we were looking forward to getting away from the madness of Kolkata and into the countryside. Unsurprisingly it took a while to crawl through the Kolkata traffic but the city seemed to disappear quite quickly, giving way to scenes of rural life.
(The bus is still stuck and the whole village seems to be watching – locals had to lift up a small truck to move it out of the way a few moments ago.)
It is dark now but earlier from the coach window we could see rice fields and also brick making kilns dotted across the countryside.
(Bus update – we are free and on our way! Only a 40 minute delay!)
Once we got off the bus we went to visit a tiger sanctuary where Bengal Tigers could be kept which had been tranquillised for coming too near to local villages. We saw a tiger, crocodiles and even a monkey in the bushes.
We then walked to the boat launch and had a lovely cruise up the river. Just as we were getting settled we started heading towards the river bank and we were told this is where we would be getting off. We were quite surprised as there was no jetty, just a very muddy river bank. Just as images were going through my head of us jumping off the boat and disappearing into the mud some locals came with bales of straw to put under our feet as we alighted the boat – panic over. We were then led across dried up swamp land that presumably is under water in monsoon season and towards a village. We passed many mud hut houses and rice fields before we arrived at another small school supported by the Cathedral Relief Service.
The children of the school had been waiting a while to greet us in the traditional Indian way of forming a guard of honour and showering us in flower petals. They also used a flower head to dab a small amount of paste onto our foreheads – a sign of respect and welcome.
After a welcome speech from the headteacher the children went home and we were shown into one of the classrooms where a meal had kindly been prepared for us. The surrounding village was idyllic and as we said our goodbyes under the setting sun a game of cricket even started up on the school field. Then it was back to the boat, back to the bus and eventually (I hope) back to the hotel. I’ll leave you with some pictures of a truly memorable day.