SE­CRET RIVER

It’s In­dia, but not as you might know it

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - DESTINATION FURR-LEGGED FRIENDS - BRAD CROUCH

Its wa­ters sup­port more peo­ple than the whole of Australia yet it is a safe bet few Aussies have heard of In­dia’s Hooghly River. Branch­ing off the mighty Ganges near the Bangladesh bor­der, the Hooghly flows 260km to the sea through a be­wil­der­ing, in­tox­i­cat­ing part of East In­dia which, for the most part, is still off the main­stream tourism radar.

Life con­tin­ues here as it has for gen­er­a­tions on farm­land rich with ba­nana and mango groves and rice pad­dies. Tiny fish­ing boats ply the wa­ters, some­times es­corted by rare Ganges dol­phins, and vil­lagers rou­tinely bathe and wash clothes in the river as water buf­falo, goats and cows wan­der the shores.

A seven-night voy­age from Kolkata up to the Ganges fork, or­gan­ised by In­dia Un­bound, is a com­fort­able way to be im­mersed in this sen­sory smor­gas­bord.

Af­ter a night at the op­u­lent Oberoi Grand Ho­tel in Kolkata then a morn­ing walk­ing tour of city sights, we board our float­ing home, As­sam Ben­gal Nav­i­ga­tion’s Ra­jma­hal.

Launched in 2014, Ra­jma­hal (Royal Palace) blends In­dian style and colo­nial el­e­gance with mod­ern ne­ces­si­ties such as free Wi-Fi. The 51m ves­sel has 22 cab­ins over two decks, a large din­ing room, a bar/ lounge for evening brief­ings and spa. A full-length shaded sun­deck is the ideal spot to sit and watch river­bank life with a cool­ing breeze and drink.

Ex­cited chil­dren and cu­ri­ous adults wave and call out greet­ings as we pass.

On shore and with per­mis­sion, we take photos – old men with char­ac­ter

KOLKATA TEM­PLE

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