Kuakata Blues

Zaian F. Chowdhury
Published : 30 Sept 2015, 01:24 PM
Updated : 30 Sept 2015, 01:24 PM

A good adventure is put together with small terrors and little victories.

In the dead of the night at a random guesthouse in Kuakata, I was awoken by my dear friend Rittika's shrieks of horror.

She leaped from her bed to mine with flashlight pointed towards the ceiling. There was nothing. Just a sound of fluttering wings.

There was an insect among us.

With no electricity or aerosol, we sat in darkness questioning our decision to travel here in the first place. When the sun finally rose, the bugs retreated to cracks and crannies they came from. So ended our first night in Kuakata.

My journey to the southernmost tip of the country was a nightmare. There is no other way to describe it.

We were stuck for three hours in the middle of nowhere waiting for a ferry at Mawa, and that was just the first of five ferries. Our bus was stranded in a storm at 3 AM, in the middle of at least a hundred vehicles waiting to board.

While most slept, I stayed up staring in terror at the man sitting in front of me watching a raunchy Bollywood music video.

The video had men tugging at the heroine's skirt.

Travelling can be quite uncomfortable sometimes, and this journey really raised the bar for that.

After five ferries, 11 hours, and hardly a minute of sleep, we were at a spectacularly stormy Kuakata. In what should have been a time for humid heat, I was shivering at the edge of the world, waves roaring and trees rustling in the wind.

The sea has a way of creeping up on you. You don't exactly see it coming. It peeks at you from between the trees and behind the tin roofs, until you stop and stare.

When you are at the beach, it feels like being in a minimalist's dream. Vacant flat sea-blues and sand-greys blocking out the horizon. It lacks in glamourous people, and naturally no garbage either. The few who cross paths are usually friendly and quirky.

Sand, sea, and sky create the most stunning context to the unusual points of interest stumbled upon:

The lovable local dogs who enjoy the sea as much as any human.

Beached black fishing boats left forlornly in the sand.

The occasional dead crab that missed the tide.

Kuakata's beautiful emptiness has to do with how remote it is. All the bridges leading to Kuakata are still under construction, and has as of yet dodged the fate of acute commercialisation.

We stayed at one of the guesthouses in Rakhain Para a minute away from the beach. It had balconies overlooking the bay. Even though Kuakata hasn't been commercialised, there are a good number of hotels and guesthouses with decent facilities at a reasonable cost.

Speaking of reasonable costs, the food in Kuakata might just be any broke college student's dream: delicious and cheap.

Think fresh caught King Prawns smothered and fried in smoky chilli paste. There is scope too for crabs or an array of sea fish. The only places that serve these spicy delectables are little shacks on a long stretch of sand called Lebur Chor, standing between the sea and the forest of Lebur Bon.

It takes about a half hour to reach given the poor road. After a point, the road kind of magically disappears. Technically there is no straight road that takes you to Lebur Chor, and the only way to get there is by a motorcycle.

In Kuakata, motorcycles are the equivalent of rickshaws, and the men drive up in them asking if you want to check out the tourist spots. My three-day trip included multiple bumpy rides to Lebur Chor just for that scorched crab that burns the mouth and fills the heart with untamed joy.

On the other hand, the local hotels in Rakhain Para – basically shacks of tin and bamboo serving typical deshi meals – have mastered the preparation of the perfect Mishti Doi.

Served chilled in little plastic cups with its sweetness perfectly balancing out the sourness, Kuakata's Mishti Doi will give you meaning in life especially after a long existential walk on the beach.

On our last day, we woke up bright and early, hopped on the back of those wretched motorcycles and made our way to Laal Kakrar Chor. A very chatty man with a little boat helped us cross a lake, and then ferried our companion motorcycles so we could go see little red crabs.

We discovered, unsurprisingly, that they run in frantic terror when approached by humans. Ashy ghost crabs, too, burrow into the sand and disappear. A whimsical bunch, to say the least. We left them to their devices soon enough, and breezed through the grey sand among the decrepit mangroves.

I would delve deeper into describing where and what the tourist spots are, had I actually visited them myself. Some may argue that there's absolutely nothing to do there in the first place.

But for me, the beauty of Kuakata was in the freedom it allowed me: Wandering with my camera in an empty beach with empty boats, riding along the shore on the back of a motorbike as the horizon faded to black around me, and munching down on Chotpoti and shivering in the cold with thunderous clouds hovering over the ocean.

Quiet adventures are difficult to come by in Bangladesh, especially being a girl. There at the very edge of it, I felt safe, calm, and the most relaxed I've ever been.

We set out for our night bus in a little van-gari, preparing to bid goodbye to this charming little town. We dangled our feet as the road receded beneath us, and the sober night lights grew distant.

Couldn't help but wonder if I would return here one day, and even if I did, would it even be the same? The cynic in me fears that in a few years, the empty beaches will be scattered with empty packets of Sun chips and half-eaten biryani left behind by the masses who would deem it the perfect holiday destination.

Would it turn into its own sorrowful version of Cox's Bazaar? Entrenched and suffocated by tourists?

Kuakata is often very poetically referred to as Shagor Kannya, and till now it remains untouched by the ways of the world. It's a relatively isolated stretch of grey sand with rural townships scattered about, and wide-eyed friendly locals eager to help.

In the next few years, Kuakata is bound to be commercialised.

One can only hope that it's done in a sustainable manner, paying due respect to the simple adventures it allows, and the uncomplicated treasures it bears.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher