Day 01 : Muppochora & Nokata Waterfalls
Brother! Is that a cyclone coming?
Lazily, I looked at Yaseen. I didn’t know why I was in a bad mood. The cyclone was in India, not in Bangladesh. “Who told you about the cyclone all of a sudden?” – I asked. I was staring at him with annoyance for his answer. “When I was having breakfast, aunty asked me if a cyclone was coming from Japan and also asked about where we are going” – he replied.
- “What did you say?”
- “Said, it has not been sure yet.”
- “Hmm, all right. No need to say anything right now.”
- “Ok. By the way, are we going to Nijhum Dwip? Confirm?”
- “What is there to confirm?”
- “Some guys were saying otherwise, that’s why.”
- “Nah, everything is fine.”
Now I can realize how easy it was for us to go on a tour when we were in the university. No one had any issues with time. Money and managing my parents were not even a thing for me to be bothered with. The expanse of the tour was covered by the tuition fee I used to get as a private tutor and so there was no obstruction from my home. Right before the journey, hearing those speeches full of illusive nagging from my father became a habit. What a great fun it was then! We used to plan for our tour in the middle of our semester final. Just before the last exam, collecting the money from other tour mates and buying the tickets – oh! It gives me a little heartache now.
After graduating, our situation has been like the song of Rabindranath Tagore “Gelem Ke Kothay” (Where have we been scattered). Our vacation time doesn’t match with one another. Even those tour plans that are made months before the tour seems dull and unexciting. Last year’s Saint Martin Tour was something like that and the worst part was when it was time to return from the tour. The next day, we wouldn’t be seeing each other in the university campus, can you imagine! Anyways, this time we were very careful so that we didn’t have to face any problem with time management like we did in our St. Martin tour and nevertheless our ill luck struck.
This time, the problem was with the place. We planned to go Nijhum Dwip. Everything was fine, but some of us were whining like – there is nothing to see. It’s another ordinary village like the other villages. But even then, I was dreaming about our tour – I was seating on the port side of a launch (ship). In pitch black night, our launch was cruising through the river Meghna for Hatia, just like Titanic. I was dreaming about the beauty of the dawn of Monpura and the desolation of Nijhum Dwip. But no, most of the mates were interested to go to Bandarban. So, I started browsing through the famous group ‘Travelers of Bangladesh’ in Facebook. Finally, devised a plan for Amiakhum. Everyone was more or less happy. After that, everyone started day dreaming about the upcoming tour. But in a few days, people raised objections strongly. Because it seemed too risky for the girls and also for our friend Hasib to trek through the tough mountain paths for such a long time. With that, there was also fear of leech. So we had to come back to reality from our dreams of mountains, forests and waterfalls after a while. I decided not to pay heed to anyone this time and made a phone call for the launch ticket.
- “Hello, is it M.V. Farhan?”
- “Yes, speaking.”
- “Actually, we want to go to Hatia.” (Hearing this, Yaseen laughed at me and asked – “bro, what kind of talking is this? Ha ha ha.”)
- “You cannot book ticket on this phone number. I am giving you another number and call there.”
So, I called the second number.
- “Hello, is it M.V. Farhan?”
- “Yes, speaking.”
- “I need 3 cabins on the 9th for Hatia.”
- “Kindly call Farhan 2. Just change the last digit of this number.”
- “Hello, is it M.V. Farhan 2?”
- “Yes, speaking.”
- “I need 3 cabins on the 9th for Hatia.”
- “What type of cabin? Single, double or deluxe?”
- “Double, river side please.”
- “Ok. On the 9th, the launch will depart at 6 o’clock in the evening.”
I was feeling like the launch has already started the journey. I informed others that the cabin has been booked. It was like a gentle breeze started blowing from that moment. At the time, I didn’t know that the wind was not blowing because finally the tour was going to happen, it was blowing because the cyclone ‘Bulbul’ was nearby. I couldn’t even start to worry properly as I caught cold and fever. My mother was so happy. “So, you are not going, right?” – She said. I had no choice but to be an obedient son so that she would take care of me and I would get rid of the sickness. By the grace of almighty Allah and my parents nursing, I got well after 2 days but eventually we couldn’t get rid of ‘Bulbul’. The cyclone was destined to hit Bangladesh even if it had to cross all the oceans and rivers. On the other hand, Nabila apu (sister) knocked me in messenger asking if the launch service was still available as everything was shutting down. I called Farhan 2 again. They reassured me that the launch will depart on time and there won’t be any problem. But as the final day drew closer, the situation started deteriorating more and the cyclone changed its course towards our coastal area. On 8th, in the afternoon, Mitul came to my house and asked me if our tour to Nijhum Dwip was still on. With anger and grief, I said to him that of course we were going. I called the launch service. They told me not to worry. But deep inside, all my dreams were shattered. Even if we go there, with this heavy rain we won’t be able to have fun and enjoy our camping and bonfire. Besides, how can we fly our sky lanterns? They are also known as Chinese lantern. At the meantime, Mitul started browsing through the internet for more solutions.
As we are talking about lanterns, I remember going to Shakhari Bazar with Yaseen to buy those lanterns one day. I was born in Dhaka but this was the first time I went there. There was a different atmosphere. There was temples one after another and had a very short distance between them, evening Puja was going on in each of them. I went to a shop and asked the shopkeeper – “brother, do you have Chinese lanterns?” He told me in a mysterious voice that he did not have any but he could bring some from other place. But how could I buy anything without checking them? So I started walking along the road and suddenly a vagabond type boy called and asked me about what I needed. If I wanted fire crackers. “No, I need sky lanterns. Can you tell me where can I get one?” The boy had a mobile phone in his hand and was wearing a headphone. He came near me and told me that we wouldn’t get any in this open market. So he made an arrangement. We came back home with 15 lanterns. After facing such troubles to buy those lanterns, I don’t think the grief will be forgotten so easily if we can’t fly those lanterns.
Mitul suddenly said – “let’s go to Kaptai”, as he was staring at the laptop screen. Still then, I was thinking about whether the cyclone would really hit the coastal area tomorrow or everything would be fine at the last minute. Here, everyone was giving me an update continuously. The Danger signal level was increasing. All types of shipping were off. “Let’s wait till tomorrow. If everything doesn’t go as planned, will devise a new plan.”
- “Will you get any bus tickets tomorrow?”
- “I will. Hope there won’t be any problem”.
(Though I didn’t know what to do at that time. I was so angry that I wanted to blow the cyclone away with my breath just like superman.)
- “There are some waterfalls near Kaptai. Want to go there?”
- “Please know the details of the route.” (said to Mitul)
After doing some research Mitul said – “leave the Nijhum Plan. We won’t be able to do any activities there now anyways. Rather let’s go to Kaptai. In hilly areas, the storm should have less effect. And if it rains, the water flow will be greater in those waterfalls.” I asked him while watching the travel vlog of Tinku in YouTube – “Do we need to trek long? Will the girls be able to do that?” Mitul said – “They should and Hasib too. Just need to motivate and push them a little” as he was taking a sip from a cup of coffee. “Hasib is not going with us” – I said and Mitul was surprised to hear that. He asked me about what happened to Hasib. I told him about the illness of Hasib’s father. We all felt bad for him. Everyone missed him in the entire tour.
So, we are going to Kaptai, right? Mitul nodded and agreed. After that it was like a storm passed through us. No, not the ‘Bulbul’, the storm of our tour. Shovi, Shoumik and Abir confirmed in the group message. They agreed to go. Yaseen was in his office at that time. I called and briefed him. He said no problem and said that he would brief Shiropa and Afreen. Then I called Farabi and Nabila apu. I thought hearing the tour plan, Nabila apu would deny to go. On top of that, I found out that she was still in Barisal at that time. When I was talking with her, it was already past evening. If she wanted to come to Dhaka, she had to leave that night. On the other hand, all boats were called off. But she wanted to meet us in Kaptai and didn’t want to miss the tour by any means. I was surprised to hear that. I tried to explain all the details but she was stubborn. And here I thought she won’t be able to reach us.
Meanwhile, Mitul and I went out to buy the tickets. It was raining. We took shelter under the roof of a Tong (roadside tea stall) with tea cups in our hand. I was getting call from everybody. I informed Sabbir over the phone. He sent money from bKash. I felt like I was back in university. Even we were far away from each other, the excitement of the tour had touched each one of us. Even Shovi sent a picture of his backpack in the group. In the meantime, I asked Abir to know the details of the route and book the trawler and cottage. As Robin vaia (brother) visited the place few days ago, I called him for the details. I was waiting for Yaseen infront of a bus counter. As if time was not passing. When he arrived, I came to know that Shiropa and Afreen had agreed to go but they wouldn’t trek. They would stay in the cottage. In my mind, I was like – let’s arrive there first, then we will see.
We three came back home soaking wet in the rain by rickshaw after purchasing the tickets. It was almost 10 o’clock. Next day, at the same time, we will be waiting for the bus. Because the next day, on the 9th, our bus will start at 10.30 pm – I thought. We had tickets for 11 people. At the last moment, Nabila apu gave me a message saying that she was leaving Barisal that night, so the tour must go on. Coming back home, on the dark porch Mitul, Yaseen and me – we three started making the tour plan and doing the cost calculation.
Next day the 9th, 12 o’clock. It had been raining continuously since last night. Though it was drizzling at that time, but the wind was strong. In the afternoon, Mitul and I went out to buy leggings and socks. Just after our shopping, when we were making photocopies of our smart card, it started raining heavily. It was hard to distinguish anything in the gust of wind and heavy sound of rain, added with the sound of traffics. Suddenly we heard a low sound of the calling of evening prayer also known as Azan from a distant mosque. Yaseen joined us after a while in the shop ‘Mama Halim’ to drink tea. “What is going on? Why isn’t everyone coming already?” – I thought. Immediately Shoumik called and told me that he was coming by CNG. Next few minutes were upsetting for everybody because all of our parents were scolding us for going to this trip in this bad weather over the phone, they were angry too. In the midst of everything, all 11 tour mates finally met each other. That night, people of Satkhira and other coastal areas were waiting for something bad to happen. Everyone in the country were concerned about them. At a time like this, under the danger signal level 9, our bus left the counter for Kaptai.
In the bus, we were checking the course of the cyclone every now and then. Till then on the whole journey, it was raining and in the meantime we didn’t notice that we had already reached Cumilla. The supervisor told that they were going to take 20 minutes break there. By that time, we didn’t know that we would get more ’20 minutes’ like this up ahead. Anyways, in the excitement of ‘Bulbul’, I almost forgot my own birthday. But my friends had already arranged everything to give me a surprise. So the very first wishes came from them. Meanwhile, the supervisor was searching for us as they couldn’t start the bus without us. It was embarrassing. Finally, when the bus started, the moon had already appeared in the sky. At that time, there was a trend going on related to the moon – ‘Jete jete poth e, Purnima raat e, chand uthesilo gogone’ (On the way, the moon rose in the sky on a full moon night). I just remember as we are talking about the moon, our tour was in the time of a full moon.
The rest of the way, we didn’t have any rain. As we were going, I was getting restless to see the picture I have drawn in my mind of Kaptai. I could see the reflection of light in the water by the side of the road. “Is that the Kaptai Lake?” – I thought and in the midst of all this thought, we had arrived at our destination. It was 5.30 in the morning. We finally got acquainted with the supervisor. He had a light slender body like me but very agile. He reminded us that it gets hard to get the return ticket from there and also offered us his help. We grabbed that opportunity. After the morning tea session, I gave him some money in advance for return ticket. In the meantime, I gave a video call to my mom and showed her the clear sky of Kaptai
A burden seemed to get cleared at that moment. Everything looked good. As the time progress, the sky was brightening up the surroundings. It felt good. The place we were at that time, it was a Ganj, a market-town type area. Mostly there were some tin shed hotels selling foods. Hot paratha was being made there. You can stay in some of them. We could see a mosque under construction. The road was damp and was covered with rotten vegetables and wood linings. Some boats could be seen at the end of the road. That was the ghat (dock). All the boats looked same more or less. They were large in size and had sheds. Seating arrangement was there on the sides of the boats like benches. Our next voyage began in such a boat. Destination ‘Paltan ghat’. We reserved the boat with 1500 taka from Kaptai to Paltan ghat. The boat was quite big enough even for eleven people. It was a sunny day. Everyone was taking a lot of picture from sitting on the shed. For the first time I witnessed a lake this big. I was saying to Abir that it was even bigger than the river Buriganga. It had a strong current and I noticed it after the boatman told me. Abir asked the boatman – “Brother, can you stop the engine? Wanted to stay in silence for a while.” “The boat will go far away from its course due to the strong current if I stop the engine now” – the boatman replied. It was high hills all around. Every now and then we could see some beautifully decorated resorts. There were some army camps too. We gave all our information in such an army camp and started our journey again.
Gradually the sun went down and cloud appeared and suddenly we could see the Paltan Ghat in the distance. It was cloudy there and it could rain anytime. The thought of cyclone ‘Bulbul’ came to mind with that. I had already sent some photos to my sister-in-law assuring her that everything was ok. Arriving Paltan ghat we switched our boat which had already been booked previously. It too looked the same. The boatman’s name was Nittoranjan Das. For the next 2 days, he was our companion in the lake. Nitto da (bro) first of all, took us to the Shanto sir’s cottage. This was where we stayed in the night. Quickly we got ready for the trekking. In the meantime, I convinced Shiropa and Afreen to come with us. But before everything, we needed some trekking shoes. So we took the boat and went Paltan ghat again to buy them. The narrow paved road from the dock gradually went up. Shops were both side on the street. There were all kinds of products. We could see some kittens with some of the shopkeepers. They were playing with each other. I wanted to pick them up on my lap. Soaking wet in the rain, we entered a shop and bought shoes and other necessities. Seeing the color of the nature, it seemed that the time was probably around late noon but the clock was telling us that it was only 11 in the morning.
The cold water of the rain was making my body tremble. On top of that, I just recovered from a fever, so there was fear in my mind. Gradually we were going deep inside the Kaptai Lake. There was huge hills risen near the lake. As we were watching this, we suddenly reached the end. That is where the lake ends on that region. Nitto da had already fixed a guide for us. Just before reaching the end we picked him up in the boat. Now we had to walk from there.
The guide, named Kalatong, would show us the way to the fountain. As soon as he could find a bamboo stick, he was giving it to us one by one as an aid to cross the mountain path. The local people cultivate various crops and vegetables there. We found two wooden shop in a distance apart. We were walking along
the narrow road in the middle of the field. We could see some cows here and there. We could tell that they were the cattle of the locals by seeing the bells around their neck. The bells make it easier for them to find when lost. Some Cattle Egret had made friend with the cows. They seemed to be in quite a large number in this particular area. Besides there were other birds too, which we did not know the name of. While watching these, we gradually went deeper and deeper in the forest. I couldn’t even see Shiropa and Nabila apu. Though at first they denied to go, but at that time they were seen in the forefront. Sometimes, we were walking along a rocky path with ankle deep water (Jhiri Path), sometimes through a mountain groove.
On the entire way, we helped each other. The path to the fountain was enjoyable. Water was flowing through the rocks that had fallen from the hills. This is called Jhiri Path. The whole way, there was a fear of leech in our mind. Muppochora Waterfall removed all the fears and fatigue we had. The flow of water was not that strong as it was not rainy season.
We were watching with such fascination that the fact didn’t bothered us at all. Then we took the path of Nawkata Waterfall after getting soaked in the fountain water. But then I suddenly saw Afreen sitting on a rock. She was surrounded by Mitul and Yaseen. “Have she sprained her ankle?” – We asked with concern. “May be not, but she is in pain.” Both Yaseen and Mitul were encouraging Afreen. Among us, she is a bit obese. But in this case, the fear of mind works mostly in you. In fact, Shiropa and Afreen both surprised us with their confidence. And Nabila apu was in one word a brave woman.
Gradually, Afreen was surrounded by all of us. Meanwhile, Sabbir and Shoumik were busy to get rid of the leeches and the guide reminded us of Nawkata Waterfall. But we couldn’t go leaving Afreen alone. So we decided that Shovi, Abir, Shiropa, Nabila apu and I will go to Nawkata and others would rest for a while and wait for us up ahead. Then we proceeded without wasting any time. The fountain was near. It took 15 minutes of trekking but the path was more dangerous and risky. It was hard to find a way.
We were clearing our path by removing the tree branches and was going down with the fear of leech in mind. This fountain was more beautiful than Muppochora. The flow of water was greater too. The rain hadn’t stop for a while. We quickly took some pictures and headed back. Then all of a sudden, Shiropa started screaming and was asking us to check her leg if there were any leech. Shovi and I tried to calm her down but nothing was working on her. She almost cried. How could we check her shoes when we couldn’t even stop laughing as soon as we had seen her face? Eventually I checked the shoes and found a small leech there.
God saved her as she had socks on her feet. Shovi asked in surprise – “How could you even feel that?” I wanted to ask the same question but for now I thought it would be better to go ahead. And after a while she started screaming again and we checked her shoes again. The rest of the way we had to go by checking her shoes every now and then. Finally I couldn’t help but scolding her saying that the longer we had to wait, the more likely she was to catch leech. So she should get out of there quickly. But when we checked her shoes again, we saw a movement. With a jaw dropping expression, Shovi asked me – “man, how can she get a sense of it?” I felt relieved reaching the plain land finally. Meanwhile, the group of Yaseen and Mitul had already reached the boat. We were moving slowly. Suddenly Nabila apu stopped and said she had leech on her back. Shiropa would not dare to help her. We turned around and in the meantime she took it out and threw it away. Now you understand why I called her brave.
Our journey was over for that day. We gave 500 taka to the guide and returned to our boat. I was trembling a little as I was wet. Blood was dripping from Faraby and Abir’s legs. The leech had drunk blood and had fallen already. They did not notice. We were checking our clothes if there were any leeches left unnoticed. It was around noon. But it looked like evening because of the clouds. At a time like that, our boat arrived at the cottage. The lunch was already served on the veranda of the cottage. We freshened up and sat down to eat. There were rice, dal, fish and mashed potato. That is what Mrs. Shanto arranged for us. Although we had to tell her in advance. Finishing the lunch, the girls went to take rest. Yaseen and Shoumik also went into the room and we kept seating in the veranda. It was raining all over the lake. As soon as the distant green hills turned black, darkness fell. Mitul was smoking while seating in a corner of the sofa. One song after another was playing in the sound box brought by Abir. The trembling took hold as the night progressed. I was feeling colder because I was getting wet in the rain as I had to go to the washroom frequently. Mobile in one hand and umbrella in the other. So one time when returning from the washroom, I went into the room to see if I could find any sheet of cloth or covering. I put on Yaseen’s sheet and closed the door as I left. They were sleeping. The intense light of the torch from one or two places in the distance was piercing the darkness. May be it was some kind of a signal. The lights were being turned on and off one after another. The place is called Bilaichhori. Don’t know the meaning but it is strange no doubt. A song was playing – “Kaser manush duur e thuiaa…” (Leaving the closest people far away).