1. How to reach
If you are driving all through, from Durgapur to Ayodhya Hills, the route can be divided into 3 parts:
a. Durgapur to Bankura (Bardhaman Bankura Rd. SH-9) – Excellent road condition (mid Jul 2015)
Durgapur - Barjora - Beliator Forest - Fulberia - Beliator - Bhedua - Bikna - Mithila - Bankura
From Durgapur (city center area) we started around 7:30 AM. Filled the fuel-tank from the petrol pump near Big Bazaar, crossed over to the other side of the GT Road to take the Bardhaman Bankura Rd. or the SH 9. The road condition is excellent (mid of July 2015) with a little city-traffic at the beginning, say during the first 30 mins till the Durgapur Barrage. After crossing the barrage the road condition is very good and I could comfortably drive at steady 70 KMPH. The road takes you straight to Bankura. Some important villages enroute are Barjora-Fulberia-Beliator-Bhedua-Bikna-Mithila then to Bankura. You can stop in these villages/localities for tea/snacks/etc. After crossing Barjora the road took us through the Barjora-Beliator Forest, which is an excellent streatch of drive and absolutely green all around. Since it is in the middle of Monsoon, it was raining almost all along the route. Except a few small stretches of bad-roads lasting for a couple of minutes each time, it was a very easy and pleasant drive.
b. Bankura to Puruliya – Excellent road condition (mid Jul 2015)
Dhaldanga - Bankura Unnayani Institute of Engineering - Pohabagan (Take right) -
Dulalpur - Bishpuria (Take left to catch NH 60A) – Indpur, Nabin Pukur, Belut, Puncha, Lalpur -
Hura – Gurda – Bauridih – Surulia – Namopara – Puruliya
We wanted to go by the above route taking left from Bishpuria to catch NH60A but by mistake continued on to Indpur. This route is a longer one, however ultimately connects with Hura. The road condition is excellent and the view on either side of the road is beautiful, with nature in its best looking form. The villages on the way are smaller with almost no shops or stalls to stop for a tea/snack. We road led us straight to Purulia Rail Station from where we took the National Highway connecting to Ayodhya Hills. Since we did not book lunch at our Guest House in Ayodhya Hills, we had our lunch in a road-side dhaba.
c. Puruliya to Ayodhya Hills (Most part is in plane, last 1 hr uphill, road condition is mostly good)
Purulia – Tamna – Jhunjka – Baghmundi - winding roads uphill – Ayodhya Hills
After having lunch at Purulia we continued on through the National Highway. Normally one should reach Bagmundi before driving uphill. We instead took right turn from Tamna and started uphill. The view changed drastically and the nature here is at its best. Beautiful lush green on either side of the narrow road (very good condition, you can do 70 KMPH), then suddenly the range appeared at the distant horizon. Fade behind rainy clouds, the view is mind-blowing. Very soon we reached the bottom of the hills, and the road started to change. Now we were driving uphill, initially in 4th gear, then 3rd gear, then very soon we faced winds where only 1st gear worked. The breadth of the winding road is sufficient for a city-driver to drive uphill. There is very little traffic, and unlike the roads to Darjeeling or Sikkim, there is almost no car coming from the other direction. We traveled during full monsoon this time, hence crossed many a parts of the road that had small brooks running across it. It is safe to drive even smaller cars like Maruti Zen, however it is important that it is not burdened with luggage and passengers. We drove 1200CC engine with luggage for 2 people and could do the uphill comfortably. Smaller the car (and CC), lesser should be the luggage.
One can also reach Purulia by train/bus and hire car from there to Ayodhya Hills. Daily buses ply from Purulia to the Govt. Guest House here in Ayodhya, which is also a famous option.
2. Where to Stay and Eat
The best and safest place to stay at Ayodhya Hills is the Niharika and Malabika Guest Houses under WBFDC. We came across a few other privately run guest houses, but it seemed to me that those are not safe enough or are not likely to be that comfortable, however cannot guarantee on that as we watched those from the car on our way around. The WBFDC Guest Houses Niharika and Malabika are within the same campus. There are several cooks, caretakers and other workers in the campus to look after the guests. There is an army establishment right next to the campus, giving us an additional assurance for safety.
The guest houses are in great demand, hence you need to book rooms in advance. May-June-July are considered lean seasons and you will be offered 20% discount for it. To book you room, you need to visit the 9th Floor of ‘Arya Mansion’ at Raja Subodh Mullick Square, Calcutta 700013. Ph (033) 22377041/43. If you are traveling by metro, get down at Chandni Metro Station and ask for ‘Hind Cinema’ (a 10 minute walk). From Hind Cinema simply walk across the crossing diagonally to reach ‘Arya Mansion’. Reach the 9th floor and enquire there. The lady is very gracious and willing to help with all information. You need to pay for your rooms in full advance. Keep the receipt carefully, as you need to produce it once you reach Ayodhya Hill Guest Houses. The room rent is about nominal Rs.500 per day for Non-Ac and Rs.1200 for AC (Mid July 2015). There are many room options to choose from.
Food is simply basic here in Ayodhya Hills. There is no restaurant/food joint (not even for a cup of tea) outside the Guest House. The cook here needs your order at least half a day in advance. Rice, Roti, Chicken, Dal, Vegetable and Posto Vada are commonly available at very good price. Carry some biscuits/wafers/chips as snacks with you as your emergency supply when hungry. If you do not want to have water here, you must buy packaged water / mineral water from Purulia as there is no shop once you are on the hills. We carried packaged water and loved the food cooked at the guest house.
3. Places to see around
It is important to have your guide arranged from the Guest House to see places around, as there is every chance that you will get lost in the hilly roads as there is no road signs anywhere and all hilly winds look the same. Most places are deserted and no one to ask for direction. Our guide ‘Khrishto-da’ is a gem of a person, always smiling and very gently. A half-day guide will charge you a nominal Rs.200 and take you around to the following beautiful places you must never miss:
a. Pathar-Khadan : A man-made lake in the middle of no-where, an absolutely quite place, a must visit for all
b. Bamni Falls : You need to walk down hilly steps through a forest to reach the bottom of the fall, a lifetime experience
c. Turga Falls : Similar to Bamni but a much smaller one
d. Chorida Village : Visit the people who make traditional ‘Chhou Dance’ Masks. We met Falguni Sutradhar Babu at ‘Adarsha Mukhosh Dokan’ right at the entrance of the village. His brother’s son is learning Rabindrasangeet and sang a song for us. We bought several masks of various sizes at very good prices (did not even need to bargain as the price offered is already comfortable)
e. Dam – a high dam with good view
f. Pakhipahar (Murra Buru Hill) – We did not go there
g. Gorshabru, Mayur Hill - Highest Pick of Ayodhaya Hill – We did not go there
The road condition for these see-around places is not always good. The stretch between Bamni Falls to Tugra Falls had some really challenging stretches. My Non-SUV car was already struggling during this stretch and many a times the rocks hit the bottom. There was a time when ultimately all others in the car left the car leaving it light enough to drive through the broken stretches, and they themselves (including our guide Khrishto-da) walked along. Unless you are driving one, an SUV booked for the sight-seeing is the best option. Phone the Guest House guys to check if they can arrange one, or that you need to book one from Purulia as a package tour to Purulia-Ayodhya-SightSeeing-Ayodhya-Purulia.
I must say, at the end, that all your plans, hard-work in arranging the tour, long drives, difficult terrain, all will be worth if you can finally do the trip. Its beautiful, its new, its adventurous.