Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Visiting Pambang village

This was a short trip across the Indo-Bhutan border to Pambang village. The boys were extremely excited to be crossing the border and predictably there were many exclamations along the lines of "my foot is in Bhutan but hand is in India". The highlights were the sightings of a pair of hornbills and a whole lot of golden langurs on the Bhutanese side of the forest. In the village itself, we enjoyed yummy momo's and the quaint shops.

At the border check-point
A bridge on the Manas river

shopping in Pambang

 A panchakki

Friday, February 19, 2016

Manas pictures

More pictures from Manas

Wild buffaloes
Anurag with a forest guard as seen from a watch tower
We wait patiently in the watch tower around which animals tend to visit at dusk 
(the forest guards sprinkle salt in the grass around this tower to lure animials - this is their way of ensuring that no visitor goes back disappointed)
We're rewarded by the sight of a mama rhino and her two babies who we observe for an hour. We also saw a big herd of bisons the following evening but it was too dark to get any good pictures. The kids loved the beautiful "white-socked bisons" which are now on top of their list of favourite animals.
The morning walk in the woods with the forest guards

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mathanguri, Manas National Park

I have finally started sifting through the pictures from our trip to NorthEast two months ago. 

Day 1: We flew into Guwahati and drove to Manas National Park. We had made a booking at the Mathanguri lodge through the forest officer. This is the only place to stay inside the park. The lodge is very basic -no phone, warm water or electricity (other than from a diesel generator at dinner time) - and it has the most beautiful location. It is located on a cliff overlooking the Manas river and the Royal Manas National park (which is the other half of the National Park located in Bhutan). Manas river flows from the hills of Bhutan into India at this point. The weather was very cold and being so far East, it got dark pretty early. Late afternoons were the perfect time to sit out and enjoy a cup of chai overlooking the river and trying to spot wild buffaloes and elephant herds along the bank of the river.

This was our first time in Manas. It had been closed to tourists for a few years until recently due to the Bodo uprising. But we felt safe at all times and very welcomed. Nights were chilly and quiet except for the sound of the river. People staying at the lodge are not allowed to venture out in the night because of the threat of the wild. The forest guards that we befriended told us many stories of their wild encounters. Unlike Kaziranga, Manas is not maintained as a "tourist" destination hence there are few facilities such as guides, elephant safaris etc available. It is also not meant for the impatient - while one sees many fresh pug marks and animal droppings, the animals themselves are elusive. This is in spite of the fact that the park is home to a good population of Bengal tigers, rhinoceros, leopards, barasingha, elephants, wild buffaloes and so on.

We stayed in Manas for three nights. We went on a few jeep safaris and on one evening crossed over to Bhutan and visited the next village. Our most memorable time, however, was a long walk in the forest with our two Bodo forest guards. Learning about the difficult lives of the forest guards and how they live cut-off from family and friends, cooking (and often growing/fishing) their own food and negotiating the wild in such harsh conditions was truly humbling. They took us on a trail inside the forest and then along the river where they regularly saw wild cats and beasts. We sat on the bank of the river for a long time, dipping our feet in the icy river water, cherishing every moment. The mysterious beauty of Manas is truly unmatched and we hope to have a longer visit  next time.

Below are some pictures taken at the Mathanguri Lodge.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Family outing to Alibaug

January was a crazy month. Its always rough to get into the new year after a fabulous end-of-year vacation. Moreover, I have my annual PhD progress seminar at the end of January and no matter how well I try to plan, the last few weeks are always insane. This time it was even harder because Kabir fell sick. He suffered from a severe asthmatic attack - first time ever. It was very upsetting for us. We are unsure what allergen caused it and are hoping against hope that it was a one-off event. 

To celebrate the end of a difficult month, we all (along with dada-dadi and nana-nani) escaped to Alibaug for a two day vacation. It was the perfect holiday. Our stay at SSS was what made it extra-special. We enjoyed the property, explored its secret pathways, spent hours on the swings on the Banyan trees and played with Cashew, Blackie and the little puppies and cats. We played carrom and scrabble slam and spent hours chatting with one another around the lunch/dinner table. There was a good sprinkling of touristy stuff: an evening at Kihim beach and the next morning at Alibaug beach/fort. But the highlight though was our trek up the hill on Sunday evening to a quiet and beautiful lake where we swam till sunset and climbed down in darkness. 

I'm making up for the past few weeks' inactivity by posting a whole lot of photos.