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Published: February 2nd 2011
Road above rain clouds, mountain gorges with rapids and step ups do not conjure up in the mind when you think about the landscape of Bangladesh; but this is exactly what you will pass through if you venture into Bandarban towards Nafakhum. But then Nafakhum itself does not command a grand view, the journey towards it, however, gives you a revelation of jungle beauty and an experience of lifetime.
Salahuddin Bhai discovered Nafakhum in a news paper article and circulated it among us in the ROBI Finance Division. Nafakhum, immediately caught our imagination-we began thinking possibility of a tour and began collecting information about the route of the Nafakhum. All sources warned a very sbtrenuous journey full of hazards requiring trekking for miles and swimming across Mountain River-a daunting task indeed! Hearing this some of us balked, some hesitated some waited for reassurance. Enam bhai, Farhad bhai, Nazmul bhai were in enthusiast camp, then came Zia bhai with a resolve to go. Finally we made up our mind and Asif Bhai then called a meeting, Kuakata was cancelled and it was decided we would go Nafakhum.
Our preparation began in a big way-various committees were formed, viz. Food Committee, Safety Committee Transport Committee etc. Each committee began preparing for their respective tasks. Arif Bhai rented a bus for bandarban, Mezbah bhai booked Milonchari Resort Nazmul Bhai contacted UNO’s of Bandarban & Thanchi, Farhad Bhai bought a big box full of medicine and first aid things.
Eventually, on the night of 13th October, 2010, we, 20 people of ROBI Finance & SCM under the captainship of Asif Bhai started for Nafakhum.
We reached Bandarban next morning at 6:30 am, two Jeep came to take us to Milonchari Resort where we refreshed and breakfasted. Milon Chari Resort is set against a hill side overlooking the Sangu river below, away on the other side of Sangu , on a hill top a pagoda was shining in green wood, cloud was hiding and revealing it- sitting on the balcony of the restaurant we enjoyed the beauty for a while.
Chairman of Remakri Union came to Milonchari to receive us. At about 8:15, we get on the jeeps and started for Thanchi along our familiar hilly road. After few turn of the road, towering Nilachal hill came into view on our right, on top of it a resort like house was visible, the road then descended to Shaila propat . Shoila propat was dry and unimpressive the road then went upward on the left side of the Chimbuk and Sangu again appeared far below. Climbing more we reached a road junction high on the hill where we stopped to report to the BDR. Now our road turned to right side of the mountain range, cloud masses are now below us! The road winding up towards Chimbuk, we entered the cloud, felt cool moisture- it was so soothing. After Chimbuk the road went along the ridge of the hill range with razor sharp bends- the hill descended quickly on both sides of the road. We approached peak 69-the highest road peak of Bangladesh, it measures about 2,200 ft!
Politai range where Keokradong lies ran parallel to Chimbuk range, Sangu meandering in between 2200 ft below us! Then we saw dome like peak of Nilgiri ,high in front of us-our jeeps began a long upward climb to Nil giri. The scenery after Nilgiri is simply breathtaking- shapely hills appeared on both sides of the road, cloud masses drifted here and there,
Our jeeps continued climbing and descending hills after hills, at last began descending from the Chimbuk range towards the river valley with sharp downward spiral- along amazingly beautiful road. When we came down to the valley, we felt deafening ears perhaps due to the quick descend from the high ridge to the low valley. We came to Bolipara BDR camp, Chairman went to report to BDR. Our jeeps started, again climbing a hill- looked like a branch hill of Chimbuk range but very steep-clouds stuck on its sides. As we climbed the hill, behind us, towards the horizon bluish Politai range slowly appeared –it was a sight to behold! We crossed two streams between hills and at last reached Thanchi bus stand at 11:30, from there, a long staircase went down to the river bed, we got down there and waited on a sand dune in the middle of the river. Nazmul Bhai, Zia bhai went with the chairman to report to local authority and BDR, some other guys went to the bazaar. Three boats were hired, we took our things into boats- boats became quite loaded. Towards the southern hills, from where the river was coming, rain cloud was approaching, soon it began down pouring heavily. At about 1: 15 pm while it was raining our boats set off up stream of Sangu River.
After going about 1 km, we came across the first rapids at a bend of the river, the boatmen were struggling ,Moin bhai & Rahim bhai took up the logi and joined the boat men and brought the boat over the rapids. Now the river is coming through the rising hills, the gradient became more pronounced, more rapids and step ups were coming up at every bend of the river. About half an hour later at a rapids we got off the boat and began walking along the shore and came across a beautiful stream coming down from the hill with big stones strewn around. At the next rapids the engine of our boat broke down, the boatmen anchored by the side of a huge rock at a bend just below a fierce rapids. I got off and began walking around, I sighted another small stream coming down. Other two boats came up from behind and passed us by, our engine would not fix, at last when our boatmen fixed it and started rowing up the rapids it broke down again, we shouted to other boats to take us at last they halted and we got into other two boats. Sangu now became wilder with forested hills on both sides, gradient of the river bed became sharper, innumerable stones and pieces of rocks were strewn at every bend.
At about 4:30 our boats approached a bifurcated rapids forming an island of stones and shrubs just before Tindu, we got off and started walking in the twilight hour, our boats crossed the rapids and ferried us to the Tindu shore, evening fell, and we proceeded up to the village. The Chairman took us to a marma house- a wooden two storey house, we put down our luggage on the upstairs. We then went to a stream flowing adjacent to the village-it was a magnificent stream where me and Ashik bhai got down others went further down where the stream met the Sangu river.
Tindu village is situated at the foot of a huge hill just above the sangu river, on the other side of the river lay another lofty hill ,BDR camp lay on yet another hill overlooking the village. All in all the village is surrounded by a ring of hills making it a pocket for clouds and rains.
Monir Bhai, Sharif Bhai,kamrul Bhai and others cooked Kichuri & egg curry for dinner. We had dinner in the ground storey of the house. It was raining in the evening, apprehensive of a hazardous boat journey ahead, Zia bhai balked and gave a lengthy argument against going Remakri Bazar and Asif Bhai concurred with him- misgiving went unabated, we became disappointed and hoped the weather would improve next day. We were told to move to a school for night stay. We 20 guys laid out our bed in the school room and went to sleep side by side in two rows. I was squeezed between two fat guys, unable to sleep, at mid night, I moved out of the room and slept on the verandah. As the night advanced, the sound of gushing stream nearby seemed it was raining.
Next morning we woke up to find beautiful weather. Our boats were ready and we came down the river shore- it was long and wide full of stones and rocks. Large rocks narrowed the flow of water and created rapids over which our boatmen struggled hard, a rope was tied to the boat and 5/6 of us began tugging- the boat came over, we boarded on, morning sun was peeping through the eastern hill into where Sangu disappeared with a bend, the river now is a narrow gorge winding through lofty hills. Looking behind we saw Tindu hills risen above the white cloud masses. After a half an hour boat ride we reached Boro pathor. Gigantic rocks with various shapes were jutted above the gushing water; some of them were so big that our boats looked like toys beside the rocks. We got off the boat and walked, jumped and crawled from rocks to rocks along bushy river bank. Eerie noise of the rapids howling through the stones made Boro pathor a ghostly place. Leaving Boro Pathor our boats were moving past a vertical hill with sand stone cliffs at dizzying height, we met another rapids there, got off the boat and again our men went for tugging up the boat.at about 9:00 am we came across a very beautiful place, shapely stones and boulders lying on the watery shore, water flowing fast past jutting rocks, all around forested hills we got off the boat.
The boat, then went on quietly for an hour amidst hills and forest, one more rapids remained before Remakri, after crossing it we proceeded along quiet river, at about 10:40 we sighted the Remakrikhum- the river Remakri falling on the river Sangu in three long steps of huge rocks, water splashing down over the rocks across a wide area- it was the most scenic spot we have come across so far. Our boats passed by and a little while later anchored at Remakri bazaar. We got off , the Chairman took us to a wooden tilt house atop a small hillock by the river side. It was a nice house alone on the hillock , to the south on another hillock was BDR camp and the north on a flattened hill top was Remakri bazaar.
After resting about one hour, we went out on boats to the Remakrikhum for baths. Water was gushing down the wide sweeping steps. We were lying , rolling ,crawling with the waters on the rock beds. Bathing in the remakrikhum was the most enjoyed event of our whole trip. Bathing done , we came back to the rest house, some went to the mosque in BDR camp to perform Jumma Salat. We then went to the bazaar and had our lunch in an eatery with rice and an egg only. Houses are aligned in a rectangle in Remakri bazaar, the front room of every house was a shop and the back rooms were for family .All families are Marma here. To the north of the bazaar on another hill there were few houses and a beautiful pagoda, those houses had no shops and were poor in looks. Across the river to the west lay a large looming hill blocking the horizon at the flank of it, high above the river, I spotted a meditating statue of Buddha.
Remakri is also surrounded by hills on all sides like Tindu but it is wider and hills are sweeping wide horizon in all direction.
In the evening four big cocks were bought for dinner and were cooked by Monir Bhai, Kamrul Bhai, Arif Bhai, Sharif Bhai and others. We had our dinner under the sky, in front of our rest house standing on the hill top. Kichuri and chicken curry was very delicious, everybody thanked veteran cook Monir Bhai.
At night we were discussing next day’s schedule, Nafakhum yet again invited misgivings. Apprehension caught our captain Asif Bhai , albeit this time not of hazards but of the tight schedule next day. This time Zia Bhai ,however felt it doable, eventually ,Asif Bhai relented though.
15 the Oct , 2010 we woke up to the melodious recitation of Tripitak from the pagoda. Monkhai and Ushu ,our guide ,arrived, we hit the trek at 5:30 am from the north of the Remakri bazaar and then past the pagoda, the trek went up a beautiful hill towards north-east of Remakri .the trek was wide and clear leading up to another Marma village. At 5:50 am we came to the village and saw many houses built on tilt by the side of the hills without cutting hills. A pagoda was there in the middle of the village, there also Tripitak recitation went on. Buddha religion seems very pronounced in Marma life.
The trek came down to a bend of the Remakri river. To my astonishment the river was wide, sweeping a vast stony river bed with jungles on both sides. Me and Farhad Bhai were behind our group, we spotted women and children were digging out insects from the river shore- curious, we inquired- Monkhai replied, they were collecting insects to eat as food. Now we had to cross a rapids with waist-deep water- all waded through, me and Farhad Bhai holding camera on one hand and the sandal on the other hand got down, in the middle we felt our legs carried down with the flow, Monkhai held my hand ,Farhad Bhai beyond reach, Nazmul noticed the plight and jumped and extended hand to Farhad bhai, I came nearer and crossed the river hand in hand. We began walking fast along the western bank of the remakri- mostly on rocks ;we saw many children and women digging out insects- the insects must be an important food. The river here is more scenic-rocks stones, forest, hills abound.
After 45 minutes we reached the 2nd river crossing. We saw another group with two women crossed the river hand in hand like a chain. The water is chest-deep, a big rock was jutted above the water in the middle- the river bed seemed uneven with submerged rocks. Arif Bhai went a bit up stream and swam across safely. I got down and crossed wading water. Nazmul Bhai and Zia bhai helped others to cross safely. Ushu carried our bag on his shoulder. As we proceeded along the eastern bank remakri river revealed breath taking beauty - a long stretch of river looked like a garden of stones , water splashing down with over hanging trees . Rays of sun bouncing of the glistening waters. We hurried along and came to the spot where swimming was required. A raft with bunch of bamboo was there and people, who could not swim ,held on to it while others pushed the raft on to other bank. I swam across. The river now turned to east we began walking along the river bank, the trek were submerged in several places. At last at 7:36 am we sighted Nafakhum from about 300 meters afar. It was not a commanding view, not a lofty falls like Madhavkunda or Shuvo long- a mere 20-25 ft height of falls , surrounding hills were even not much impressive.However, on approaching nearer, it revealed -a quite wide falls with considerable amount of water falling per unit of time. Other group of people whom we overtook at the river crossing joined a little while later , together with them we took photos.
At 8:10 we started from Nafakhum and returned to Remakri at 10:30 am. On the way back we drank water from a waterfall ,narrow but cascading from lofty hill. We took pictures here and there. Eventually we came to the foot of the hill which we crossed at the start of the trek we were tired and climbing hill was telling on our body. We returned the rest house earlier than scheduled time, hungrily ate banana and bread.
Now we would return Thanchi , we packed our luggage but the boatmen did not turn up; when one boat came Nazmul Bhai and Anwar Bhai went with the boat to fetch the other boat, Asif Bhai got down to the river shore and kept waiting for the boat. Mezbah Bhai went to the bazaar to phone the jeep drivers at Thanchi to inform our delay.
At last at 1:30 we left Remakri bazaar, minutes later we had a last glance of the Remakrikhum after half an hour boat men told us to get off and walk a bit we followed expecting a short walk, however the boatman led us to a steep climb, already tired of trekking 16 km, we felt this climb to our bones and it was not the end, we continued walking for half an hour and then came down to a bit of downstream of Boro pathor. Some of us resented at the boatmen to have made us walk so long. They said , fatal accidents occur in Boro Pathor area while boating downstream, so for our safety they made us walk-convincing and reasonable. We boarded on the boat and came to Thanchi at about 4:15 pm. We quickly got up to the road and boarded on the jeeps waiting us and rushed towards Bandarban. From the deep jungle we came to the wide swath of the landscape. Botheration still awaited though- while climbing Chimbuk one of our jeep’s wheels went awry. We halted atop the hill surrounded by bushy hemp, evening fell, clouds blanketed everything we got down from the jeep and enjoyed the cold and quiet evening on the mountain. Drivers fixed the wheel and we headed towards Bandarban, we reached Milonchari at 7:15 , had dinner their and came to the bus stand, we got on the bus; lo and behold, yet another botheration- some young guys began shouting and hollering at the bus conductor over mismatch of seats, and they would not stop they raised such a raucous! typical of Bangalee indeed, when they stopped, exhausted to the every fibers as I was, dropped to sleep and when woke up, the bus reached Dhaka.
Compiled by Omar Sharif & Edited by
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