One of the few places on earth that has not been influenced by the so-called human development is Netarhat. It has remained unchanged in spite of the rapid changes that have affected humankind over the past few decades. As a kid I had toured lots of places (one of which was Netarhat), but now when I visit the same places a few decades later, I usually find them totally changed. I had expected the same when I decided to take my kids to Netarhat, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it unspoilt by the ravages of change. Netarhat is a beautiful hill station in Chhotanagpur plateau in Jharkhand. This small hill station in Latehar district is called the “Queen of Chhotanagpur.”
It is indeed a place right out of the past; amidst dense forests of pine, cypress, sal, mahua and palash. We started off at noon from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. The distance is 144 kms from Ranchi, and it takes approximately 3 hrs to reach Netarhat. After stopping for tea midway, we reached Netarhat at about 5pm.
The hills began just after crossing the North Koel River; the dense forest along the stretch of the hilly road assured us that nature is not totally destroyed yet. It is the same for most of Jharkhand, where people dare not tread into the jungles due to Maoist threats. It is for this reason that nature has not fallen prey in the hands of land mafias and constructors. Jharkhand’s green cover soothes the eyes once a person enters the state.
As we reached Netarhat Dak Bungalow; I was thrilled to see it so well maintained after all these years. It is a heritage site which has retained its ambience and surroundings over the years. The spacious rooms and delicious food are a treat for the tourists.
We got up in the dark and went to Hotel Prabhat Vihar for a splendid view of the sun- blooming like a flower in all its glory. The chirping of birds added to the beauty of the morning. As the sky turned from red to blue we returned to the Dak-bungalow for a quick breakfast; before taking a tour of the quaint hill station. We first visited the Netarhat Vidyalaya, spread over 780 acres. Established in 1954, the school has a record of producing toppers and has a list of illustrious alumni. It is a boarding school, and is one of the few modern gurukuls left in India.
We went to the Netarhat dam whose crystal clear lake acts as a mirror of its surroundings. The calm and soothing water reflects the greenery, creating mesmerizing scenery.
Our next stop was Koel view point from where nature lovers can have their fill of the exquisite view of the silver ribbon of Koel River from the hill top. The glade is surrounded by pine and cedar forests whose silence is broken by the chirping of crickets or the occasional song of a bird.
The pear gardens were interesting to see as the locals gathered pears on a safety net, made by humans holding a net on four sides while a person climbed the tree to shake off the ripened pears.
We decided to proceed to Betla National Park and return back to Netarhat the next day. On reaching Betla national park; I was a bit disappointed. The place had entirely changed and had become a congested tourist spot. The last time I had visited the place as a little girl, we stayed atop a real tree house which was inside the national park, with little or no human habitation around. The stay at the tree house had been one of my most memorable ones, as we heard tigers roaring during the night and saw deer grazing underneath the tree house throughout the day. Now that very tree house has been burnt down and re-built into a concrete tree house, standing amidst busy hotels and noisy restaurants.
We availed a jeep with a guide to visit the park. The park is home to a variety of animals like panthers, sloth bears, elephants, wolf, jackal, hyena, gaur, chital, langurs, neelgai etc. along with a wide variety of birds. We spotted some bison, chital and wild boar in the jungle. However, we saw most of the chital near the entrance as they are provided food there; people took selfies with Chitals at the background.
After touring the national park we visited the Betla fort built by Chero kings in the 16th century. The fort is almost in ruins and is situated deep within the Betla national park. We stayed at Betla tourist lodge for the night.
Early next morning we drove towards Suga Band – a picnic spot for the locals. River Koel flowed with its crystal clear water among long stretches of rocks with amazing designs in them. The pristine beauty of the landscape is a feast for eyes.
Our next stop was Lodh falls, which is the highest waterfall in Jharkhand. The road to the falls is through the forest and is a pleasant one .The 143 meters waterfall drops in several tires over the river Burha, nestled in the dense woods of Jharkhand.
On reaching Netarhat in the afternoon we went to Magnolia Point for viewing sunset. The story of Magnolia point was interesting. A British girl named Magnolia fell in love with a local boy. As the relationship was disapproved by her parents, she decided to end her life by jumping into the gorge along with her horse. The sunset point is well maintained with seating arrangements and sculptures of the lovers. We witnessed a beautiful sunset; as the sun painted the sky red, orange and pink. The sun seemed to hide behind the mighty mountains telling people that it was time to bid goodbye for the day.
We returned to Ranchi the next day descending down the winding road, running through the dense forest; inhaling the fresh cool mountain breeze. Happy that there are still places like Netarhat- where we can still enjoy the beauty of unspoilt nature.