Travel Through the Land of West Bengal

The songs of birds wake me up more gently than with the deafening music of the temples. A biker catches me with his two young friends on the bike! The race with cyclists trains me and brings me on a hilly plateau, dotted with palm trees where alternate steppe and rice crops. I see a bamboo plantation near a house with a cross, an old chapel. Flocks of buffaloes and goats graze on hills closer and closer like waves.

I see a man in balance. He hung his sheaves at each end on a stick and carry it on his shoulder. Rocks are being transported to the new road that is being prepared. I arrive at a beautiful climb and climb to a pass. On the other side, it is a lake of dam that I discover with its small fishes. And then, it softens. We go out gradually from the hills and cross a steppe with crops, mainly rice.

We cross a palm grove and then a vast neem forest keeps me in the shade for a few kilometers. A flurry of trucks rushes on the bridge of the Tilpara Barrage. As soon as I get there, I find young students from Siuri, who stop me for a photo. They immediately surround me with their passion, their exuberance, their curiosity about my trip, their joy of living. They do not leave me, but ask me a lot of questions and accompany me.

But the friends do not let go and invite me to the restaurant, just to chat and take pictures with a tornado of questions. It was a great unforgettable moment! I cross a plateau of paddy field that is harvested with a sickle. At Purandarpur, wheat is found on the road, perhaps to extract the grain when one passes over it.

There are also chickens, ducks, cows. Paddy fields extend with sometimes sugar cane plants. It is at Ahmedpur that I find my first bananas at merchants in their little stalls, at the foot of the bridge on the railroad track. Sellers of flower necklaces rub shoulders with banana merchants and barbers.

Another invitation. They offer me chapati, sweets and tea. What a welcome in West Bengal! Rice is sown near rammed houses. I see a square of rice with beautiful greenery, still in the water where white birds take off. The road is being rebuilt and we have to cross under work areas. In Kirnahar, we see a beautiful market and we stop for a souvenir photo.

After a few straight lines shaded further, we arrive at Futisanko. Between the landscapes, we discover ponds where palm trees, neem trees and banana trees are reflected. Katwa welcomes me with bananas on plants, a tea merchant and its large tin boxes.

Banana merchants, cauliflowers are already in place. We stop in front of a railway line. Men with their mufflers wrapped around their heads are waiting for a quick start.

Fields of paddy, sugar cane, ponds extend to the exit. Others of rapeseed, banana plantations succeed them. I make a stop for a parata and dal in a dhaba. Some sawmills, a banana alley leads to Purbasthali. The Tropic of Cancer is normally crossed but I see no trace of this imaginary line. In any case, this is the first time I ride in the tropics!

Bamboo fagots are lined up along the road. We see dry linen on the meadow before Dhatrigram where a shoe merchant invites me to a motorcycle ride on the banks of the Ganges. It is here that Durga Puja, the most famous festival of West Bengal, is held. We arrive at the area, where the cremations take place. He talks to me about his troller boats for the crossing. These are fishing grounds. Fishermen extract fish in enclosures surrounded by nets.

We see a Kali temple of the black goddess before returning. After the paddy fields at the entrance of the villages, there are giant neem completely covering the road and at their feet, sometimes hide deities. I enter Kalna but it is early. I decide to continue. After a stop in front of a football game, I cross villages.

The city of Kolkata is not very far. We run along houses of odds and ends, canvases and bamboos in the dust. Bags are filled with plastic bottles. I enter Chunchura, where I have to find the bus stand. Leaving the city, I discovered chickens in a cage and a jute shop. Jute was very important before the partition with Bangladesh.

In Champdani, I walk along small shops before finding a first panel of Kolkata! In Serampore, I cross a bridge over the Ganges and arrive on its east bank. I see ritual baths and, at the exit, shanty towns line up along the road. A doubt settles when I am only a few kilometers from the goal and I have traveled hundreds!

At the end of a long shopping street and a festival of colors, here I am at the hotel where the welcome is not prestigious but the room and the hot shower is immensely appreciated.

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