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Published: December 22nd 2011
My best rhino shot!
This one was in Kazaranga NP in India
We are back in beautiful Bangkok which feels, oh so luxurious, after India. India, hmmm, India. This was our 4th trip to India, and we still find it to be, by far, the hardest country to travel in. Life does not appear to be improving for the average person. But still a fascinating, and frustrating country!
So, a 'quick' recap of the past 2 weeks. Chitwan NP in Nepal was great. We take the 6 hr tourist bus to Chitwan. We thoroughly enjoy our 3 nights, and 2 full days of activities. We stayed inside the park at a quiet rustic place. It felt abit like a camp with all the planned activities, but was fun! The park has accomadations for @ 60 people, but there were only @ 15 people staying there, so we felt like we had the place to ourselves. That afternoon, is our elephant safari, for over an hour, riding thru the tall grass and trees. Late afternoon when the colors change is always my favorite time of day in any country! And it is a delight to be on top of the elephant. We do see one rhino quite close. The park had a noticeable
lack of animals, though.
We were told that 4 days a year, the local villagers are allowed to enter the park and cut the elephant grass, which they use for their thatched roofs. Needless to say, they do not want to come across a rhino nor tiger, so they make quite a bit of noise while they were in the park. And the first day began yesterday. There must be at least 100 people that we see thru out the 2 days. Although it probably did reduce the chance of seeing much wildlife, it was fascinating to see them cutting the grass, and mind boggling to see them carry such heavy loads out of the park. At one point, young girls are resting with their bundles. I try to move it with my hand, and it is a stout bundle. The guide says about 40 kgs (90 lbs!). It is pretty amazing to see. So, no big animals, but we do enjoy the bird watching.
The days started @ 5:30 wakeup (hence the camp comparison) for 5:45 tea for the 6 am morning elephant ride. Then breakfast, then a canoe ride & walk, lunch, elephant briefing where we
learned the height of an elephant is twice the diameter of its foot (a little trivia), and a few other things. After Chitwa, our plan was to go to Kazaranga, a relatively new National Park in Assam India (far NE corner of India.) Our plan was to go West @ 5 hrs by bus to then go 20 hrs by train. We would much rather travel by train then bus. But every Nepali we talked to insisted, no, you want to go East, @ 10 hrs by bus, and then 12 hrs by train. We remember them clearly stating "it's easy"!
The folks at the Lodge drop us off at the road and get us on a bus heading east. After 8 miserable hours on the bus with us only having seats for the last 3 hours, we arrive in Itahari. The cross road town had 4 hotels and two restaraunts. We chose the cleanest of the places to stay and go to the one restaurant w lights. Appears no power in town. So when the owner tells us of the strike, I assume it is a power strike and state, oh, so that is why there isn't any
Carrying the cut grass
These bundles were heavy!! at least a 100 lbs
power. I get the head waggle, (which can mean almost anything, but sometimes forced patience) no madam. It is a transport strike. Oh! now he has our attention.
So, the next morning we wake up to a very quiet street. Looks like everyone is honoring the strike as the only vehicles on the road are ambulances, but there do seem to be an awful lot of them! So, knowing we are about 180 miles from the border we start walking. Outside of town, we are able to flag down an old farm truck with 2 young boys. They take us @ 25 miles.
Back to walking. About a half hour later a gentleman on a motorcycle stops and asks if he can help us. He offers to give us a ride on his bike. We look at each other, our 2 packs and 2 daypacks and tell him, yes but we need a second bike… Another head waggle and he helps us get loaded on the bike. Tight, but somehow it all fits. Unfortunately, 5 mins into the ride, we are both freezing. It is a warmer country when you are walking! So, I politely tap him on
Feeding the elephant a cookie
I wasn't sure what he was going to do with that trunk!
the shoulder and ask him to stop. Another head waggle, as we disentangle ourselves, get our jackets on and the re-load. But we are finally off again and he takes us to the next major town, @ 50 miles, and drops us off at the police checkpoint. Which is a good thing, as now the policeman is responsible for getting us out of town. We thank our kind stranger. He refuses to take any money.
About 20 minutes later, the police guy, flags down a wedding truck. I guess they are allowed to drive today, too. So, into the back of the truck w @ 12 others related to the wedding party, we climb. They take us to within 10 miles of the border. Now, all that is available are the pedicabs, which I always hate using. But, it is a flat road, and there doesn’t seem to be any other choice, short of walking the rest of the afternoon. And sitting in the pedicab, rolling along, it is beautiful.
90 minutes later on a bus ride, that almost wishes they were on strike, too, we arrive in Siliguri.
Our last visit to Siliguri was in 2003, and
The long &empty road
not a car to be found
the city is not improving. Tons of people, traffic gridlock with a million horns blowing, and a lot of garbage everywhere. We are anxious to get on the train. Straight to the train ticket office, we purchase 2 tickets for tomorrow’s 8am. Up & out the next morning for the 8am train that finally arrives 6 hrs late. Once on the train, although grateful for our 2nd
class berth, (there isn’t any first class), but the train is filthy, by any standards! Normally, we both love train travel, and will wander around the cars. This time, we put our music on, and breathe thru our mouth.
It is almost midnight by the time we get to our hotel in Guwahati. We choose a higher end hotel, that the guide book describes as immaculate rooms. It’s not, but we are too tired to care! The next morning we ask for another upgrade, and this time the room is better. The next morning we are disappointed to find Guwahati to be pretty much the same as Siliguri.
But 2 days later, finally getting out of the city, we enjoy a very nice bus ride to Kazaranga. We arrive at Jupuri
Ed & his buddies
at first we thought they were very ill, which they may have been, but it was from too much celebrating!
Gahr a wonderful oasis. Don’t really understand, something about Kingfisher strike and they had been full, but somehow we are the only ones the first night. And although they tell us they are full the 2nd
night, it appears only 4 of the 8 cabins end up being used.
The manager is an enthusiastic young guy and arranges everything for us. Dinner is delicious fish cooked in banana leaf, dahl and veg. The next morning we are up at 4:30 for the 5:15 elephant ride. Shocked to see about 45 others already waiting on the platform. There are @ 15 elephants hauling 2-4 people each. As we stumble off in the fog, I really think the only way we will see a tiger is if we step on it! But we do see2 rhinos, lots of deer, couple of boar, and it really is delightful in the early morning mist.
At 2pm we take the jeep safari. We had actually debated whether to bother with it, but were glad we did. The elephant safari was in the central part of the park, while the jeep safari is in the western part. And it is completely different. The grass
has been cut, so you can see a lot more. They take you to a lookout platform that looks out on a lake. There are a lot of animals, almost reminds us a bit of the Ngoro goro crater. There must be about 20 rhinos, water buffalos, lots of deer, and birds. It is a beautiful park.
We leave this beautiful setting back to Guwahati and the next evening fly back to Bangkok. Our original plans were to spend more time in Assam, but back in Kathmandu we had the opportunity to get a Myanmar visa and have decided to spend Christmas in Yangoon. We fly out tomorrow am, returning to Bkk on Jan 4th
So, to everyone, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful, healthy & Happy New Yr!
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