Jow Tlang and Jogi Hafong, the second and fourth-highest peaks in Bangladesh, stand as formidable challenges for any mountaineer.
To earn absolute respect within the mountaineering circle, summiting Jow Tlang is an undisputed achievement. Amongst the trails in Bangladesh, the Jow Tlang route offers the most challenging and adventurous experience. Some enthusiasts aim even higher, planning to conquer three peaks in a single day: Jow Tlang, Jogi Hafong, and Ayan Tlang. These peaks, nestled along the same ridge, provide a grueling and demanding hiking experience. Our story unfolds as we decide to tackle two of these peaks, encountering unexpected obstacles and pushing our limits.
Preparations and Decision
Approaching the hiking season, I made the audacious choice to conquer both Jow Tlang and Jogi Hafong, unaware of the trials awaiting us. Post the rainy season, with no other groups venturing these trails, I hired a seasoned guide, a multiple-time summit of these peaks. A friend joined our adventurous journey, to accompany me to the base camp (Dolian Para). This formed a three-person team ready for the challenge.
Setting the Stage
Our journey commenced in Bandarban, a shared jeep ride taking us to Thanchi. However, due to restrictions by the Bangladesh Army and BGB, tourists must obtain permission to visit deep inside Bandarban. Political issues led to most areas, including our destinations, being restricted by the Army. Amidst an ongoing conflict between the Bangladesh Army and the tribal group Cookie-Chin, we convinced a local guide to provide a fake destination on our behalf.
On the Trail
Dolian Para traditionally served as base camp for summiting these peaks. we reached Remakri Falls during the sunset. Despite advice to avoid all Tripura para on our way, we lost our tracks at night and ended up one of these. Fortunately, though we ended up in a Tripura para that night, they neither harmed nor robbed us. Instead, the son of the Karbari (Village Head) guided us to the correct trail, and we reached Dolian Para close to midnight.
With only 5/6 hours of sleep, we embarked on our ascent towards the summit at dawn.
Conquering Jow Tlang
Fortune favored us in the initial leg of our journey. The villagers had set traps in the mountain to hunt animals, primarily pigs. These traps created a trail inside the jungle that assisted our ascent. In less than five hours, we successfully summited Jow Tlang, marking a promising start to our adventure.
The Nightmare and Jogi Hafong
However, what followed was a nightmare. The ridge line from Jow Tlang to Jogi Hafong, typically a four-hour crossing during the hiking season, posed a different, formidable challenge. The recent rainy season had overgrown the trail with dense vegetation, and we were the season's first hikers. Navigating the treacherous terrain proved a constant struggle, compounded by the risk of encountering animal traps set by locals. It felt like an endless squat exercise.
The 3-hour trail from Jow Tlang to Jogi Hafong became 8 hours of hell. At one point, my companion accidentally pierced his leg with bamboo. Our guide used a local treatment. After sunset, navigating the trail became exceedingly difficult due to man-made traps. One misstep could have led to severe injury. After more than eight grueling hours, nearing 10 PM, we finally reached the first peak of Jogi Hafong.
Descending from Jogi Hafong was comparatively easier and more straightforward. In less than an hour, we discovered a road under construction by the army. Since the army had ceased work at 5 PM, we decided to utilize that road. After a staggering 17 hours of hiking across the mountains, we finally returned to our base camp.
Recovery and Exploration
Spending two days in Dalian Para allowed us to recuperate.
For my friend, unfamiliar with the depths of Bandarban, we ventured to Nafakhum, a mesmerizing waterfall. Having visited Nafakhum waterfalls a couple of times before, it was surprising to find the water less crystal clear. We heard that the army was using rocks to construct a road, potentially altering this natural beauty. We spent a night beside the waterfall, reveling in the area's tranquility. On our return, at Remakri Falls, we opted to stay an additional night, this time in the renowned "Chairman Cottage".
Trouble on the Return
Due to our concealed destination and incomplete paperwork for the journey, we encountered questioning by the army upon our return. Initially, we excused ourselves by showcasing one of our injured companion's legs. During this time, a group of young individuals affiliated with "Hizbut Tahiri" had aligned with the tribal group "Cookie Chin" for arms training. On our way back to Bandarban, our journey took an unexpected turn resembling scenes from a movie when a couple of army jeeps intercepted us.
After an intense moment, we managed to persuade a high-ranking army officer about our genuine intentions. Through thorough verification and explanation, they eventually permitted us to proceed on our way.
Our journey to conquer Jow Tlang and Jogi Hafong in Bandarban was an unforgettable test of our endurance and determination. The challenges we faced, from the daunting ridge line to the unexpected injury, tested our mettle and pushed us to our limits. Despite the difficulties, this adventure in the heart of Bandarban remains one of our most cherished memories, a testament to the rewards of venturing into the wilderness and embracing the unknown.