Assam Trip : Assorted Photos

Fishing Eagle
Snake Bird

Pelican
Turtle Soaking Up Sun

Wild Boar Minding Its Business
Wild Buffalo Cooling Self
Loan Buffalo

Rhino Posing for Picture
Rhino Family
Live Life Together

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Assam Trip : Kaziranga Part II

On our final visit to reserve forest in the afternoon, we entered Kaziranga through the Bagori gate, on the western side. 

Forest Office




Armed Guard Accompanying Tourists



We were told, this side of the park had mostly rhinos. Elephants stayed mostly on the eastern side of the park. We saw one lonely elephant at one point. But the herd was absent.

Assam Trip, Kaziranga Part I

Kaziranga park is spread over an area of 858 square kilometres. The park has five entry points. One is northern gate on the other side of Brahmaputra. The side we were on, had four gates. One central gate known as Kohora gate. On the eastern side there is Agoratali gate. On the western side, there is Bagori gate and Burha Pahar being the western most gate. In this trip we availed two jeep salaries. In the morning we entered the park through Kohora gate. In the afternoon we went westward and entered the park through Bagori gate.

Though famous for one horned rhino, Kaziranga has a variety of other animals. Which include elephants, wild buffalo, tiger, sloth bear, deer, badger, civet and a variety of different monkeys. Ofcourse there are snakes, a variety of turtles and birds. In our trip, in the areas we visited we saw mostly rhinos, buffalo herd and some deer. I think, one should try out all the four gates on the southern side of Brahmaputra.

As we entered through Kohora gate, I was asked to pay 800 rupees as entrance fee. For the second visit on the same day, I paid 400 rupees, as our guide carried the morning receipt. As it emerged, our park entry fee was included in the package. So travel agency returned my money later. Unlike in few other parks I visited, Kaziranga allows only gypsies to move inside the park. On a given day nearly 300 gypsies go inside the park through different gates. Most households, along highway that passes through the forest, have olive green gypsy parked. It appears ferrying tourist is a way of supporting family in the area.

Kohora Gate
Forest Office
Gypsy Waiting to Get Entry Permit


Kaziranga forest has big grass lands with tall elephant grass growing. In between grass lands, there are water bodies. The place is ideal grazing ground for herbibhores like rhino, wild buffalo, elephant and deer population. 

Elephant Grass
Tall Elephant Grass


Water Body and Grassland


As we entered the park, we saw this rhino. The animal was probably engaged in a fight and had a deep wound on its body. An animal with such thick skin, which other animal can inflict such serious wound? May be another rhino, who knows? Apparently, the animal is carrying its injury for a week at least.  

Injured Rhino


Wild Buffalo


A herd of wild buffalo is seen in the recording below. A water body separates buffalo herd from a rhino grazing on the grassland.


After spending close to 3 hours in the park, we returned to our lodge for lunch.

Assam Trip : Manas National Park Elephant Safary

Morning after jeep safari at Manas National Park, we were booked for an elephant safary. In elephant safary, three tourists ride on elephant back. Elephant takes them to areas of the park where jeep cannot go. Usually a safary is for one hour duration. Tourists are asked to go up the launching post, a raised area. Elephants are trained to come close to the elevated structure and stand still. A pad is strapped on elephants back, tourists are asked to ride elephant seated as if on a horse back.






Our elephant was called Lakshmibala. She was fifty year old. She was a private employee. Each day she consume 10 kg chana, a few banana tree, and any tree or shrub she feels like eating while on safary. After we were seated on elephant back, Lakshmibala started moving at mahouts prodding. Her move was slow paced with body swaying like a boat on choppy sea. 




Meanwhile, the wild inhabitants of the park sniggered at government employed elephant. We heard their neigh from a distance. But they’ did not reveal themselves. Laxmibala also let out an elephant grunt every now and then. I am not sure if it was because of discomfort of carrying three urbanites or she was actually talking to her freelancer cousins.

Meanwhile, my thigh muscle started getting cramps. So it was an uncomfortable slow ride on elephant back. Forget about taking photo, I somehow managed to remain seated and hoped the ride would end soon. We captured the shadow of elephant with three tourist on top. 





By the way, from the speed at which elephant moved, I wonder how people would go to war riding an elephant? Ofcourse, I understand those were battle trained elephants. Still it was not a comfortable ride. I was glad when it ended. Coming off the elephant back with cramped tight muscle was another ordeal.

Assam Trip : Manas National Park

Manas National Park is situated by the side of Manas river. This river originates from Bhutan and merges in Brahmaputra. At the gate of Manas, one has to pay entry fee and show necessary documents for identification. In our case, this process was taken care by travel agency. One  guard armed with a 0.303 rifle accompanied us.




A road runs through the reserve to Bhutan. From gate of Manas, Bhutan border is probably less than 40 km. Cars and jeeps regularly ply on the forest road. However, if you get a flat tyre, as our vehicle did, then you are in trouble. 


We went all the way from gate of Manas to Matanguri, the last Indian habitation. Mathanguri is a very scenic spot. Bright sunlight, tall mountains, flowing river and all. One can spend whole day lazing by the river side.






Compared to her famous cousin Kaziranga, very few people outside Assam probably know of Manas. The park is a biosphere reserve, world heritage site according to UNESCO. Park is part of Chirang Ripu elephant reserve. It is home to many endangered species. Which include wild elephants, rhinos, wild buffalo, gaur bison, tiger, a variety of simians including , wild hog, hispid hare, civets, etc. According to many observers, Manas has seen bad days. During insurgency in Assam, many animals were killed / poached. Now it is believed animals are coming back and reserve is bouncing back.



Though forest in Manas is very dense, we found forest to be very quiet. We did not see langurs, monkeys and deers. From a very long distance, our guide pointed to a herd of wild buffalo by the side of river. I do not know if these animals had moved on that day to other part of the reserve. As we reached grassland area of the reserve, it was nearing dark, we saw two rhinos strolling. 
In the same spot a forest guard told us in a nearby area a python (ajgar) had swallowed a monkey. So animals were there in some other part of the forest. Then our guid directed us towards a herd of elephants. We also saw a wild buffalo.



It was around 4.30 pm in the evening. Manas National Park was getting dark. We were moving on the trails around grasslands. Our guide pointed in one direction. We saw this herd of wild elephants grazing on the grassland. I recorded their movement using my camera.

//www.youtube.com/get_player


By five in the evening, darkness descended on the park. It was also becoming very cold. We did not have permission to stay on the park beyond our time limit. We returned back to Birina Lodge.

Assam Trip : Towards Manas

After encounter with langurs and after taking a fall on paddy field,  we were on the national highway number 37 moving towards Manas from Kakoijana. We moved through Barpeta town. Barpeta is a typical Indian small town. It has grown on either sides of Barpeta railway station. It is chaotic, it is unregulated, there is no traffic rule. Come to think of it, it is not different from Muzaffar Nagar in UP or Kurukshetra in Haryana. I asked driver, why it is called Barpeta, is it because grooms (bar) are beaten up (peta) in this town. After a hearty laugh, the driver said there are enough room for beating up grooms, but Barpeta is named after big (Baro) peti (peta) of fruits and vegetables that are dropped in the town. True to his statement, there was a big sabzi mandi, full of trucks and big stacks of vegetables on one side of railway satiation.

Road from Barpeta to Manas run by Manas river. Road is mostly broken. We were told damage was done by overflowing Manas river. No repair has been done since monsoon? More so, so many visitors from Delhi were to visit in early part of the year. Well it was not done. 

On this road to Manas, we realised our promised AC car did not have a functional AC. So India remains essentially the same, be it Punjab in north or Assam in east.  We also realised drivers also remain essentially the same all through out India.  Callous, impulsive and lack training on basic driving practice. Driver of our car would open pan masala sachet while driving at high speed. Then, he would spit out pan masala juice from his mouth, opening car door while driving at high speed. Driver would check his phone message, without slowing down. Even approaching heavy trucks, from the opposite side on an undivided road, would not instil fear of god in him. Repeated request to stop by road side and complete his business yielded a derisive laugh but no change of behaviour.

 We covered 20 km distance between Barpeta and Mansa in an hour and reached Birina tourist lodge beside a tea garden. 







Lodge was fine. Room had three beds and an attached bath. Breakfast was complimentary. Lunch, dinner, tea and snacks we had to pay for.







After a brief rest, we set out for jeep safari into Manas National Park.

Assam Trip : Jogigopha and Naranaryan Setu

After lunch at Nigambhola tribal village, we left for Jogigopha town. This is the place where Naranaryan Setu connects Pancharatna town of Goalpara district to Jogigopha town of Bogaiganon district. Tourists visit Jogigopha to watch sun setting on the western horizon over Brahmaputra river. 

The name Jogigopha comes from “Yogi” pronounced “Jogi” in local language and “gopha” which means cave. In the past, ascetics used to live and meditate in the caves by the side of river Brhamaputra. These west facing caves still exist. Archeological society of India protects these caves as national monument.

Brahmaputra is one of the mightiest rivers in India and may be in the whole world. I am not sure, but it certainly looked to be very wide. The bridge that connects districts of Goalpara and Bongaigaon, Naranarayan Setu, is 2.2 km long. 




Naranaryan set is a double decker bridge. Road transport moves on the top deck. Rail carriage moves on the lower deck. Double decker bridge is not uncommon. In Delhi, the old Jamuna bridge is a double decker. Trains lines are above the road. I took this video of a train passing through the bridge. One can see cars and buses speeding on the top bridge. A boat can be seen plying on the river. At some point, the train and setting sun comes on the same line.


Tourists like us also visit the bridge to watch sunset. I clicked  a few pictures of setting sun at different time keeping the bridge at foreground.






We returned to Astha lodge to prepare ourselves for next journey.

Assam Trip : Kakoijana Reserve Forest

After spending a night at Astha Nature Resort, we started our journey towards Manas National Park. Our first stop on the way was Kakoijana Reserve Forest. This forest in Bongaigaon district is the habitat of endangered golden langurs. I was told, there are hardly 60 left in the reserve. As we were reaching the reserve, I asked how would we know langurs are there? The guide, a local man, nonchalantly said, “we shall phone”. I asked, “phone whom, langurs or villagers”. Both driver and guide found it very funny. 

Anyway, we reached eco village of Kakoijana. But on that day, langurs that normally frequent the village, were nowhere to be seen. We were approached by another man from the village. We were told that guide had actually phoned this man. This gentleman, also runs an NGO to protect wild animals in the region, which included pythons and langurs.

Anyway, langurs that day were resting on the tree top in a hill nearby. To approach the langur, we had to cross a small canal using a bamboo bridge. We city folks who are overweight and lacked balance walking on plain ground, intrepidly crossed the bamboo bridge. 



We then had to walk through paddy fields and a mountain trail to reach the langur. I have included photo of the bridge, of langur and a video of langur. Meanwhile, I had a fall, face first, on the paddy field. I was fortunate that I did not have my face stuck in cow dung and nobody was there to take a photo.











We were also shown rubber tree and harvesting of rubber by making cut on the tree trunk. In the village we saw strips of rubber kept out for drying.





In the end, we again boldly crossed the canal using the bridge. 
Much such accomplishments later, we moved on towards Manas National Park.

Assam Trip, Astha Nature Reserve

Reason for first moving westward from Guahati was  to see golden langurs at Kakoijana Reserve and to visit Manas National Park. As per our tour plan, we crossed Brahmaputra river at Pancharatna town of Goalpara district to arrive at Jogigopha town in Bongaigaon district. We moved on eastwards towards Abhayapuri.

Our night stay was booked at Astha Nature Lodge in Abhayapuri. Abhayapuri is a typical small Indian town. Crowded and chaotic. We had to phone manager repeatedly. Often we had to ask people on the road about direction. We would get some vague direction like cross two bridges, turn left etc. We realised, however, that the place was located right behind district jail. This could be the most accurate landmark. I guess it probably meant bad publicity. So manager did not mention about jail. Astha Nature Reserve was located right behind the district jail.

District Jail


When we reached Astha Reserve, we realised it is actually a mini amusement park. People come there during the day for fun. Management was also building small cottages for people to stay overnight and beyond. We stayed for a night in one of the cottages right infront of a pond. Our room was really cosy with three beds and attached bath. The room also has a television. Our stay was paid in advance as part of tour package. Breakfast came with the package. Lunch and dinner we had to buy. Shown in the picture, Astha cottage by the pond and its cosy room with attached bath.

Front Office of Astha

Our Cottage

Our Room,  Astha Nature Reserve


Ducks in Pond,  Astha Nature Reserve


For lunch on the day of our arrival we went to a tribal village. It was known as Nigambhola tribal village.   
On the way to Nigambhola Tribal Village

We saw a tree house there. I am not sure if it was for guests of Astha Nature Lodge or tribals also live there from time to time.
Tree House

Our lunch was served by one young woman, Lakshmipriya, and a man. There was also a younger girl, Ricchi Marak. Lakshipriya is studying for her college degree. Ricchi is in school. Young gentleman is also studying in college. Our lunch was a traditional tribal meal, that included rice, fish chutney and chicken.
Lunching Area

After lunch we moved on towards Jogigopha to observe sunset over Brahmaputra river.

Assam Trip

I came to know from a publication of Assam government, that apart from Kaziranga National Park, Assam has more than five national parks. These include :

  • Manas National Park,
  • Dibru Saikhowa National Park,
  • Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary,
  • Nameri National Park,
  • Orang National Park,
  • Hollongapar Wildlife Sanctuary,
  • Dehing Patkal Wildlife Sanctuary,
  • Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary.

I decided to go to Manas because I was very impressed by the beautiful scenery of Himalayan foothills with Manas river flowing. Brochure also said that we may see rhino and elephants. I was eager to one horned rhino at least once in my life time.  When I expressed my desire to see rhino, travel agent insisted that I also visit Kaziranga. He said he will stake his life that I shall see rhino.

He chalked out a plan whereby we shall first visit Kakoijan and Manas on the western Assam. Then we shall move to Kaziranga in at the centre of the state and to Guahati. I did not realise how big a state Assam was, till I saw the map. Brahmaputra river splits the state roughly between northern and southern parts.


Our travel plan included going west ward from Guahati in Kamroop district and crossing Brahmaputra river at Goalpara district. We crossed over into Bongaigaon district and spent a night at Abhayapuri. We watched golden langurs and moved eastwards. At Barpeta town of Barpeta district, we left highway to reach Manas National Park. Afterwards, we moved eastward again crossed Nalbari, Darrang and Sonitpur districts. At Sonitpur we crossed Brahmaputra river again to reach Nowgaon district. We moved further east to reach Kaziranga in Jorhat district.

On the scheduled date, we took a flight to Guahati from Delhi. At Guahati we were booked at Baruah Bhavan, a heritage house.  Owners live on the ground floor. First floor of the house with 6 rooms have been  converted into a guest house. Guests must remember Baruah Bhavan   is not a hotel. Guests have to request their meal in advance and indicate their preference for veg or non veg meal. Guests must also adhere to rules and regulations of the guest house. We had our dinner and breakfast at the guest house.

Baruch Bhavan


Front Yard
Small Garden



Situated at Ujanbazar area of Guahati, Baruah Bhavan is a traditional Assamese bungalow. It is 23 km from airport and located at the heart of the city. Gauhati high court is within walking distance. So is residence of chief justice.  Baruch Bhavan has some old style furnitures and mirrors. Unconfirmed sources claim one mirror was used in movie Parineeta. 

Reception


Reception
Antique Gramaphone
Mirror


Though cost of staying was included in our package. I found out that one night stay in the guest house costs less than 3000 rupees. Meals cost extra. Room comes with a TV, air conditioner and attached bath. Service is polite and efficient.


Our Room at Baruah Bhavan
Living / Dining Room


After staying one night at Baruah Bhavan, we moved on with our journey.