Traveller’s Tales Secrets of the Delta -1

Traveller’s Tales: Secrets of the Delta

Tourism

Traveller’s Tales Secrets of the Delta -1A visit to Tanguar Haor, located in the Dharmapasha and Tahirpur upazilas of Sunamganj District in Bangladesh. It is a unique wetland ecosystem of national importance and has come into international focus. The area of Tanguar haor including 46 villages within the haor is about 100 square kilometers.

By Tanvir A. Khan Ph.D.

We have become travellers for quite some time!

Whether we are in Switzerland or the Balkans; in Iceland or in Scotland; or a trip from Delhi to Ajmer to Mt. Abu enjoying Jaipur and Udaipur and return to Delhi – a 360 degree tour; tour of most of the notable places in Bangladesh; we definitely couldn’t leave out the famous and most exciting Ramsar Second Ecological site in Bangladesh – the Tanguar Haor.

We the ‘Darbaris’ always plan way ahead in advance of the locations to visit. Nearly seven to eight months goes on planning. This time around, we sent our most efficient ‘Reconnaissance Expert’, Mr. Delwar to visit the site and bring us back loads of valuable information – about housing, rent of a boat, its cost, road condition, availability of food, and many others. We found everything ship-shape once we arrived at the site.

Nurul Alam Bhai was an excellent organizer. He kept us well informed and updated messages about the recent happenings about the trip. It was smooth sailing all the way.

We needed to hire a 21-seater Tour vehicle since we were 15 in number including the Driver.

On Oct 03, 2020 we alighted into the bus to commence on our much coveted journey for a two-night, three-day trip.

We were six-couples and three married bachelors. We were all over sixty years of age and the promises we made to our kith and kin were certainly not kept. They will never believe us in the future. But as somebody has stated “It is better to take this journey before Covid-19 gulps you up”. Although, it is not an acceptable quote but let us think of it in hindsight.

The Bus stopped few km from Tahirpur since the flash flood following Delwar’s visit had taken place and devoured nearly a furlong of the road. Delwar had arranged few four-seater scooters and it took us 32 minutes to reach the Hotel.

During the trip from Dhaka to Sunamganj, we stopped at BRAC’s Learning Centre. We were greeted by a flock of staffers who ushered us to the first floor living space (air-conditioned rooms with neatly tucked bed-sheet and cover) where we took our ablution and completed our prayers.

Now came lunch! Wow, what a splendor to see the table laid with sumptuous food. The whole place was sanitized.

We reached the hotel. It was a six-storied house but the second floor was the Hotel with nearly 15 rooms. We were given eight double rooms with two air-conditioned ones. The air-conditioner did not work in one of the rooms. It was a delight to have a comfortable sleep even though there was load-shedding twice. We didn’t feel it!

Breakfast was on the ground floor restaurant! The Manager spotted one of us stating that 11 years previously he had come for shooting “Moner Manush’. It was like home-coming! Delicious Paratas (without oil) and vegetables and omelet were for breakfast with first-class tea.

We went to the ghat where our Boat was waiting for us. It was a two-storied boat, with the ground floor arranged as beds where eight people could lie down. One would have to crawl to go to their sleeping area. There was a toilet also.

Traveller’s Tales Secrets of the Delta -3Traveller’s Tales Secrets of the Delta -2The Boat ride was nearly 12 hours since we extended it to see the rising of the full moon. First we wanted to observe the 100 sq. km, Ramsar second ecological site (declared on Jan 20, 2000) as a macro picture and then focused on the micro. First we went to the Watch Tower from where you can observe the haor in a much better perspective. A lot of small boats surrounded us with tea, biscuits, life jackets and many other things. You could also go for a boat-ride around the mangrove trees.

Traveller’s Tales Secrets of the Delta -4A group of young children came to the boat and sang a few folklores. We were entertained for half an hour and subsequently started for Takerghat.

At Takerghat, very close to the hills of Meghalaya, we could see the border and the ‘impossible drawing a line of demarcation between India and Bangladesh by the Brit Radcliffe’ who did not have an iota of knowledge to what he was doing. India got the hills and Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) the plain land. We drank coconut water and the ‘shash’. We could see Barik Tila from a distance.

Currently the Haor is water everywhere, but during the dry season, 24 islands emerge and Boro cultivation takes place. There was a bumper harvest in this season and how the government tackled the situation during the Pandemic was a great story.

Traveller’s Tales Secrets of the Delta -5During a survey they found 28,876 birds of 250 species. There are 140 species of fish. In 1999, it was declared an ecologically effected area and a 60 years ‘Ijara-dari’ system was abolished. In 2000, it was declared the second Ramsar site, the first being Sundarbans.

Our boat-ride continued. A Haor can be like a sea was difficult to imagine. Sometimes we couldn’t see the land mass but only water. At a distance, we could observe the Meghalaya hills. It was such an exciting sensation to see the water body touching the feet of the hills.

It was lunch-time! We heard that cooking in the boat is really influencing since your appetite seems to enhance with leaps and bounds with the fresh air simultaneously smelling the aura of the dishes being cooked. The passengers were hungry! The staff arranged the dishes on the neat floor on the roof. Sanitized plates and glass were provided. The cook served each a helping of rice, fish, vegetables and dal. Chicken was served in the second helping. The fish was fresh from the haor. The ‘deshi’ chicken was provided by the cook who lives in one of the 46 villages in the haor.

The boat was anchored in the haor during lunch time. All of us were enjoying the lovely breeze over floating waters. Other boats were plying bypassing us and the ripples gave our boat a lilting sensation. We waited for the staff to complete their lunch. The cook lived nearby. We had to reach him to his house.

We started for our return journey to base. It took us nearly two hours. By then it was Maghreb time. It was also decision time whether to disembark or stay for another few hours to enjoy the rising of the full moon. The vote was positive.

We waited patiently for another hour and a half to observe the moon rising in the horizon. We returned to the Hotel around 8.00 pm.

Our return trip was also quite adventurous. Instead of taking the four wheel scooter, we decided to take the local boat which was motor-driven along the river. Our vehicle was waiting on the other side of the road being repaired.

The return trip was enjoyable as well!

We stopped midway for snacks and finally ended up for lunch at Bashpata Restaurant at Sunamganj. We stopped also at Jannat Restaurant at Bhairab for tea. We had a wonderful three days and this is going to remain in our memories for the rest of our lives.

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The travelogue writer is former Vice Chancellor, University of Skill Enrichment and Technology (USET) Bangladesh

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