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.














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