The Ruma-Thanchi circuit stands as an epitome of challenging trekking routes in Bandarban, Bangladesh, known for pushing the endurance limits of trekkers. While it showcases breathtaking natural beauty, the area has limited accommodation and food facilities, necessitating trekkers to carry their provisions. In this account, we embark on an expedition through this demanding circuit, encountering lush waterfalls, towering peaks, and unexpected encounters with the Bangladesh army.
One of the circuit's highlights lies in its array of exquisite waterfalls, particularly enchanting during the rainy season. The melodious symphony of cascading water amid lush greenery crafts an ambiance of tranquility and wonder.
Setting off on this journey with my close-knit group of friends from the community, most of whom were familiar with these routes and the challenges they presented. A recent incident, where a few teams were apprehended by the Army along these trails, prompted us to enter the circuit at day's end, knowing that the army typically returned to their camp during these times.
Kapital Summit: A Daring Ascent
The initial day's hike is always arduous. On our agenda for the first day was summiting Kapital, the 10th highest peak in Bangladesh, notorious for its leech-infested trails. While most of us covered ourselves from head to toe to avoid these encounters, I decided to climb in my regular attire and surprisingly remained untouched by any leeches.
As we descended from Kapital around 8 PM, enveloped by clouds due to the 2000-ft elevation, we made our way towards "Uddami Jadipai Para." The clouds accompanied us from Kapital all the way to Jadipai para.
Jadipai Waterfall: A Serene Morning Escape
Following a taxing previous day, we rose early to visit Jadipai waterfall, renowned as the "queen of waterfalls." While my teammates rested, I joined a group of trekkers I'd met during a prior Bandarban expedition.
Jadipai stands as one of Bangladesh's most beautiful waterfalls. Its roaring sound could be heard from afar. On our way back to the village, we veered off track and stumbled upon the old Jadipai para. The locals warmly welcomed us with breakfast and showcased a lake situated 2500 feet above sea level, the source of Jadipai waterfall.
Jinsiam Waterfall: A Grueling Ascent
The plan for the same day included visiting Jingsiam waterfall, a cascade with multiple levels. While reaching Jingsiam-1 was relatively easy, the path to the second one proved to be one of the most challenging climbs of my life, requiring us to navigate near-vertical slopes using tree branches and roots. The third waterfall stood out as the most beautiful among the three.
Emerging from the waterfalls, with the sun gone and our energy levels depleted, we made our way back to our tribal village through "zoom khet." Despite flying insects hindering most of our group's ability to use headlamps, mine had a red light feature, allowing us to navigate the path. The memory of the cold wind and the red-lit path remains a golden one for me.
Double Falls: Nature’s Grandeur
Today's path took us near the army camp, necessitating utmost caution. Instead of moving as a group, we decided to separate and pass through the tribal area one by one.
The route to Double Falls offered breathtaking views, with "zoom ghar" and green crops dotting the landscape. Three of us split to gather vegetables for lunch, but unfortunately returned empty-handed. Moreover, the team ahead lost the trail, taking a few hours to find their way back to Double Falls. We made do with noodles from Dhaka, cooking them for our lunch.
Baklai: The Final Frontier
This leg marked the beginning of the end. We aimed for Baklai para, possibly the highest waterfall in Bangladesh (though some claim Langlok holds that title). The trail to Baklai was rugged; we had to clear paths using bamboo and construct temporary bridges.
As we commenced our return journey, the army, whom we had eluded on entry, awaited us at Baklai para. Upon our return, they apprehended us and escorted us to the garrison. They lectured us on the dangers of these routes and their role in protecting us. However, having witnessed numerous confidential events closely, I harbored doubts about their true intentions. After a few hours of paperwork, we were finally released.
The Ruma-Thanchi circuit tests both physical endurance and mental resilience. Despite the challenges stemming from the lack of amenities and unexpected encounters with the army, the allure of the circuit's waterfalls, mountains, and natural beauty remains irresistible. This trek stands as a testament to the rewards awaiting those who dare to explore Bangladesh's uncharted territories, offering an unforgettable and thrilling experience for every adventurer.