A trekking expedition that takes us deep into the heart of Bandarban
“Is that the sound of a snake?” Tapu shouted from somewhere down below. I couldn’t see him. It was hard to look ahead due to the dense bamboo forest which blocked most of our view.
I too had been hearing the intermittent hissing for the last half an hour or so. But when you are struggling hard to keep your balance on a hill trail at a 70 degree angle, covered with pesky dead bamboo leaves and loose pebbles, the ‘probable’ snake sound hits the bottom of your list of priorities.
“It is winter. Snakes are hibernating,” shouted Faruq bhai from somewhere down the trail.
“Are you sure that all snakes are sleeping? What happens if one decides not to?” Tapu shouted back with a hint of genuine concern.
Our other companion, Aftab, had probably climbed too far up ahead. I didn’t hear anything from him for the last one hour. Had he reached the peak, had he seen the pillar, I wondered. The five of us with two guides had been climbing the hill for more than two hours. Mingma, one of our guides had told me earlier that it is a two hour climb from the Dhpanichara Para (a hill village). Why was it is taking so long?
A historical landmark
It is not that often you will come across a lone stone pillar at the peak of a 3,070 feet hill demarcating the boundaries of three countries.
Sixty six years ago in 1947, when Sir Cyril Redcliffe declared his famous borderline between India and Pakistan, a major of East Bengal regiment named Leonard Stabber went on a week long perilous trek inside the hilly terrain of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) to install the pillar at that height in order to precisely pinpoint the borderline of three countries: India, Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and Myanmar.
We didn’t need to go through a week-long trek to reach that “peak with the pillar”, however, thanks to the engineering corps of the Bangladesh Army, who constructed a 62 kilometre road connecting Bandarban Sadar with the remote Boga Lake. But the two-day trek from Boga Lake to that peak was no less tough and it surely tested the limits of our courage, even though we were a group of seasoned trekkers.
At the beginning, the trail was easy and well-known. Almost all the members of BPSS (our trekking group) had trekked up to Keukradong (the second highest peak of the country) at least five times. So we chilled out amidst the beauty of Boga Lake for a while after we reached there by “Chand er gari” (rickety old four wheelers which were Bandarban’s own production) in the morning and started the trek at noon. We reached Keukradong by nightfall and stayed there at one of the newly built cottages situated right at the foot the mountain.
Early in the next morning, we made a 1,400 feet descent through a narrow trail and trekked for two hours to reach a beautiful Para of the Bom tribe named Rumana Para. We rested there for a while and then started the trek again. This time our destination was a small Para of the Tripura tribe named Dhupanichara Para.
Dhupanichara Para is in a very remote location. For the next four hours straight, we crossing numerous small ‘jiri’ (hilly water stream), walking trails at substantially dangerous angles and made our way through the dense bamboo and cane forest to reach the village. We arrived at the Para at around 1pm, took an hour long break, and cooked and ate a soup meal for lunch. At 2pm, we started our climb up thousand feet hill which had the famous pillar at its peak.
At the summit
As we neared the summit, suddenly the bamboo forest thinned out somewhat. I sat down and took in my surroundings. The watch showed 4:25 pm but the ambience of the forest gave me the impression that it was about to be dark. Gradually Tapu joined me, then Roman and lastly Shubol, our other guide.
“How far is the peak?” I asked Shubol. “Ten minutes from here,” he replied. We resumed the tiresome routine of trudging our body up.
After another 15 minutes, we suddenly came upon a clearing in the middle of which a semi-broken stone pillars stood, with Aftab sitting next to it resting his back on it. We also found Mingma was standing nearby drinking water out of a bottle.
“Welcome to Tinmukh pillar,” Aftab greeted us.
On closer inspection, we realised the pillar was in the shape of a narrow pyramid. On one side, the words 'EP Bengal regiment' was inscribed, on another side, it said Asam Rifles and on the third side Burmese Border Guard.
The view from the area was incredible. While three sides of the peak made gradual slopes covered with bamboo trees, the side that faced Myanmar made a straight vertical drop of about two thousand feet. In that direction, we could see the huge expanse of the Arakan state in the haze of the late winter afternoon. Standing there, I briefly felt like it was the end of the world.
The feeling didn’t last long as the chilling cool breeze coming from that side made me shiver. The wind was getting cooler and the sun was fading quicker than we anticipated.
“The sun will set soon, let's start heading back,” Mingma warned. We took some snaps at the peak and started the trek back at around 5pm, feeling content having successfully completed yet another trekking adventure.Shared from Dhaka Tribune