The quarry in Bichanakandi falls in the Goainghat Upazila of Sylhet. Some who had been there earlier had stated that it's even more beautiful than Jaflong. During a recent trip to Sylhet, my friends and I decided to pay a visit to this never-heard-of-before place.
The road to Bichanakandi itself is a treat. Once we got out of the Sylhet city heading north, and past beautiful fields and agricultural landscape that feel monotonous after an hour, we saw a stretch of highlands heavenwards, directly in front of us but at some distance. It took a while for us to figure out that those were mountains. I have a soft spot for mountains, so I was just getting excited and having my mind blown away by the sheer enormity of the stretch of land when our chauffer burst my bubble with “that falls in India.”
We took a left to the Goainghat Road, which turned out to be pretty quiet. But the lack of vehicles and people was made up for by the never-ending stretch of green hills punctuated with multiple waterfalls on that side of the border towards our right. Although it seemed within a walking distance, the mountains were indeed much further away. Cursing the Brits under our breaths for leaving the beautiful mountains off the map of Bangladesh, we went past Goainghat town, and further north towards a place called Hadar Paar.
From Hadar Paar, the way to Bichanakandi is not fit for cars. We either had to walk four kilometers or rent a motor-boat, which cost anywhere between Tk 800 and 1200 (depending on how well you can haggle) for a round-trip. We chose the boat at Tk 1000.
Just a few minutes after the boat took off we knew we had made the right decision. The water was cool and clean as we meandered our way through. Every curve, every turn was a scenic beauty. We saw a few herds of oxen bathing and groups of kids swimming, some trying to race our boat even. But what's bound to impress anybody are the enormous mountains. These were the same mountains that we had been seeing since taking the Goainghat Road. The closer you get, the more real they become. It's like a giant, intricate painting with the minutest of details.
We could see rocks narrowing the flow of water at one point, and there were quite a few fellow tourists -- splashing water and taking pictures. From a distance, I thought, “That's it? This is what we came here for?” But the moment we got off the boat and stepped on the bed of rocks that forms Bichanakandi, I regretted having thought so.
Walking over the rocks was difficult. We had to be extremely careful so as not to trip and hit our heads on the rocks. It led to shallow water, where one can sit and even lie down; it was like a bathtub of rocks. We could see the Indian waterfall from which the stream's water comes. The border was just a hundred yards or so away, and easier to spot as red flags marked the edge of the hill that falls in India. A wooden bridge connects this lowland to an elevated ground on the other side of the stream that thankfully was within the Bangladeshi border, and was used as grazing land for cattle. During heavy rains, the majhi told us, the water level reaches the higher land. This place redefined the word 'serenity' for me.
The majhi, who was safeguarding our possessions as well as being a guide, informed us that Bichanakandi has only very recently become a tourist attraction, since the beginning of this year according to him, so is not yet developed with full facilities. He confessed that the locals feared that Bichanakandi would meet the same fate as Jaflong -- its pristine beauty marred by excessive tourist traffic and quarrying. Half immersed in the cool water as the hours ticked by, being sunburned neck up despite the globs of sunscreen lotion, looking at the clear blue sky and the mystical mountains just in front of us… I really hoped that this place stays as is.