Encircled by low hills, forests and hilly springs, Netarhat nestles like a secret refuge in the heart of Jharkhand. Once home to several tribes, the hills caught the fancy of the British rulers who converted it into a hill station. Then dubbed as the ‘Queen of Chotanagpur’, the hill station has moved far beyond its colonial days. Now known for its natural beauty. The highest point is 3,696 feet. It’s around 150 km from Ranchi, the state capital of Jharkhand.
Two of our relatives came to visit us for a few days recently and we planned a quick getwaway to Netarhat. Reaching Netarhat from the plains is part of the fun. It’s a smooth road through the paddy fields up to Lohardaga.
The four-hour drive was nice and we stocked beer cans from Ranchi before we started the journey and then again replenished our stocks at Lohardaga.
Then slowly the road climbs up after we crossed Ghaghra.
The rolling hills are covered with Sal, Palash and Mahuwa trees. The steep hill road (ghati) cuts through the forests, runs past some sharp bends, finally flattening into a pat on which perches Netarhat, amidst cypress and pine trees.
As we reached up, a gate welcomed us at Netarhat. Located in the Pat region of the Chota Nagpur Plateau, which covers much of Jharkhand state as well as adjacent parts of Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh. Chota Nagpur is the collective name for the Ranchi, Hazaribagh, and Kodarma plateaus. Pat are hills which are characterized by a flat and regular top surface but by very steep slopes from all sides.
As we were making quick plans, I booked two tents for us at the Naturehat Camp Resorts in Netarhat. We drove into the resort.
After the four-hour long journey, we were hungry. The resort could immediately serve us noodles and we opted for that. It’s cloudy day with occasional rain and drizzle. We had to rush to the Magnolia Sunset point although we knew that witnessing sunset was just impossible. We asked the resort guys to cook desi (country) chicken for us in dinner in Champaran style—stewed for quite a long time over charcoal in fixed earthen pots (Ahuna). We left for Magnolia Sunset Point.
Magnolia Sunset Point
There’s hardly any British era hill station in India that is without a scandal or a suicide point. Netarhat is no exception. According to local tales, during the colonial period, an English resident named Magnolia fell in love with a local peasant. But literally driven to the edge by society, she committed suicide by jumping off the cliff. Since then the place became known as Magnolia Point.
The local administration has spruced up Magnolia Sunset Point from where you can catch the best sunset view. Unfortunately, that day was cloudy and it was drizzling when we reached there and we were deprived of the view of the sunset.
We spent some time there and returned to our resort after having a cup of tea with pakoras. It was dark by then.
As darkness settles over the hills, Netarhat draws into a shell. Soon after sunset, the roads turn empty. A veil of quietness drops over the surrounding hills as nature takes rest to rise with the sun on the next day. As the evening progressed the rain stopped. We sat outside enjoying whiskey until the dinner was served. It was a nice experience enjoying the elixir of life in the lap of the nature.
Then came the dinner: rice, chapati, and Ahuna Chicken, a mark dish of old Champaran, Bihar – stewed for quite a long time over low flame in handis (earthen pots). It was cooked so nicely and tastes awesome.
After the lovely dinner, we retired on our bed. We were tired and had to get up early to attempt viewing the sun rise. We got up by 4:30 AM and got ready to go out to the sunrise point.
It was nearby unlike the sunset point, which was a 9 km drive from the resort through the famous Netarhat Residential School. It was a partly cloudy morning so we had to wait for the Sun to come out of the cloud in the morning from the other side of Koel river valley.
Koel River originates from the Palamau Tiger Reserve near Netarhat and is segregated into two rivers, the South Koel River and the North Koel River. The river is believed to be fed by three streams of Jharkhand, namely South Karo, North Karo and Koina. After enjoying the Koel river flowing down the valley and the Sun rising behind the cloud, we returned to the resort for having breakfast there.
Our guests had to reach Asansol on that evening so we hurriedly left for the Lower Ghaghri as we finished our breakfast. We asked for Kadi-Chawal for lunch at the resort and left for Lower Ghaghri, a tributary of Auranga River.
Lower Ghaghri Falls is located 10 kilometres from Netarhat. It is the 33rd highest waterfall in India. Here, Local rivulets, originating from the hillocks add on to the volume of water from Upper Ghagri, tumbling down from a height of about 100 feet.
We left our car mesmerised by the beauty of the nature and started trekking in the forest.
It is through the dense forests where large branches of trees serve as bridges over the short brisk rivulets.
The tall trees of the forests are endowed with thick luxuriant growth making me reminiscent of the American poet, Robert Frost’s description of lovely, dark, and deep woods; the gushing sound of the water seems to shatter the prevailing tranquility.
Due to absence of visitors on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, rainy season, the path to the bottom of the waterfalls is covered with vegetation, mud, and slippery rocks. We could not make it to the bottom to have a full view of the fall. Next time, perhaps.
We returned to resort, had our lunch, settled the bills, and began our return journey. It was an excellent, short trip. We need to come here again for more relaxed visit.