Day 1: Go Slow
Trip Start May 21, 2010
9Trip End May 29, 2010
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Where I stayed
KF, Tezpur, Assam
Since I did not get much opportunity to unpack, there was no chance to create one for packing. It was a 2 minutes thing and so I was ready in a jiffy. As we loaded the luggage onto the Black Safari and met the driver first time as a group (I had met him already earlier), however, Yusuf was the only one who had questions for the driver. “Do you have shockers?”, “I hope the ride wont break our back” and “Does the AC work?”. The answers of Yes, No-No and Yes, in that particular order, satisfied Yusuf and I thought we were ready to embark. Of course, before that the all important breakfast.
I was not hungry after that early morning dinner but as usual, the food on my plate grew my appetite. While the breakfast did not have anything and as I was still searching for the local food, I decided to pretend that the ‘thick yellow dal’ and ‘reeking with oil yet dry parantha’ was a local concoction
Our vehicle was changed from INNOVA to SAFARI because the latter has better ground clearance. The road to Tawang was quite bad and some of the cars got stuck because of water there, or so we were told. So a car with good ground clearance was a good idea for that route to Tawang, even though we were not really going there today. So where were we going? After driving for 1 km we decided to stop and think! A few questions and thoughts later, the decision was Kaziranga.
However, before we got on to the highway, a short diversion to the Assam Tourism office was valid. So we took that. Alok went in to get the info from someone and Yusuf decided to take pictures, now this is going to be a pretty standard one in this trip – Yusuf taking pictures. Quite an avid photographer, as I would learn about it rest of the day and the journey, Yusuf took some awesome pictures. Here he started off by clicking some George Clooney style pictures of me. Yes the joke was still on! Other models included an emaciated ‘lucky stone’ seller sitting by the street, a fat middle aged lady sitting on side of the road and talking to 2 younger men, “Something fishy!”, said Yusuf
Alok had no luck with any information or the maps as the office was yet to open. So we left without it at around 9 in the morning.
As we crossed the city we figured that Dispur, which is actually the capital of Assam, houses all the administrative offices but basically the same as Guwahati. The city is still quite big and had a couple of malls etc. but all this was of only academic interest, as we wanted to get out of all this ASAP. Soon, we started to see the green again. How green! Vast lands of farms and lush green landscapes oozing onto the road with green, pine tree covered, hills in the background. What a picture it made. Of course, the two SLR cameras were out. The windows were down and the two photographers were at it again. My small automatic camera stayed pretty much in my pocket as if it was shy of coming in front of the big daddies.
The road was being built which means it was broken, perfectly following the great Indian tradition. Break before you build, keep it like that for years, then build slowly so that after 10 years of pain and inconvenience whatever comes up is really appreciated and liked by all. However, the jerks and the jumps did not stop Alok and Yusuf from taking some wonderful pictures of people and places that we crossed
By this time, we had figured that the CD player of the Safari did not work and as our driver, Burman, explained “ek tho song plays”. So Alok got out his portable speakers and I brought out my I POD Touch. The speakers screamed, “Why are you running away…”, not the kind of music the majority preferred. So quickly Alok connected his I POD and we had some fantastic melodies of Bollywood playing. ‘All is well”. Certainly was.
The distance was about 240 KM and most of which was through the half done roads which promised to be extremely nice once done. There were many diversions and bumps that made us go slow. While the highway authorities never cease to amuse us with signs like, ‘THIS IS A HGHWAY NOT A RUNWAY”, there was one sign which was put up every few kilometres, ‘GO SLOW’. How slow? This particular sign reminded Yusuf of his story of learning driving in Delhi.
Yusuf had to get a licence and so had to go through a driving leaning class. As we all know this is not to teach really but just to get you the licence.
The Big Daddy Cameras took pictures of a man riding a bicycle and holding up umbrella with one hand on a sunny day, many other women on the road side standing also using umbrellas in their hand, thatched roof huts, green acres and many more. We crossed Moregaon district and entered Nagoan. There was a railway crossing and with that many vendors selling Coconuts. Reason to stop! We got three cocunits for Rs. 30, and as I sucked that glorious natural cold drink through the pink straw, I saw something really amazing.
There was a small shiv temple net to the railway tracks, with a tuny shiva lingam but a big picture of the lord himself. The usual picture of Shiva, blue coloured face, long hair tied on the top of his head and eyes closed as if in meditation
Next stop was to be for lunch. It was great trouble to find one as the dhabas were of not a good quality and we did not want to eat in a restaurant. So we kept driving. While were in the Nagaon district, about 45 KM from the main Kaziranga gate, the “world heritage site” forest had already started. On the left of the road was the wild life park and on the right were tea plantations. We got lucky already as we saw some rhinos, though quite distant, in the park. Good time to stop and take some pictures. With the dhabas not really happening, we stopped at a “restaurant” for food. Then headed to the forest office and decided to go for the jeep safari, just then. It was 3:30 and the forest entry closes at 3 but we might still get the permission. We paid Rs, 600 for the jeep and about Rs. 500 for various government fees including Rs. 20 for entry per person and Rs.50 for the still camera, each! This camera fees did not go down too well with Yusuf and he did not keep his feelings to himself, as usual. The discussion that triggered from his emotions, went on to black money and form 16, but kindy enough stopped soon with a good laugh!
At around 3:45, we went into the forest. Saw a rhino in the pond, one far away and an elephant about 2 KM away. Rest of the journey and back which took another 1 hour or so we saw most interesting animals like eagle, hornbill, wild rooster and deer. As these animals do not get my heart throbbing with excitement, I was doing the best time pass, killing the flies, sorry WILD FLIES. But then, it was not to be a boring trip. How could it get into this page blog any other way?. The rhino that bathing earlier, was out and just a few meters away, satiating his hunger. So close that it posed was us allowing us, yes including me, to take some lovely pictures. Our luck certainly improved when we saw another one just a couple of metets away. This one had just come back from a fight with another one of his specie and had various wounds on its rock like body. This one did not pose but also did not attack us. So this was already a worthy trip but we got even luckier. The officials of the forest were just bringing a python back to the wilderness. They released it in front of us. This angry huge serpent first came hissing at all of us but then decided to slip into the wild. Probably because it was well fed while in the sack. What came out with it were completely dry bodies of small chicken. They were so dark in colour, as if poisoned but actually the python had sucked out all the blood from them.
Nice and happy we were and knew that we were not coming back to this place in the morning. So at about 6 pm, we decided to drive to Tepur but not before a few questions to Burman. This time I had a couple too, the Yusuf effect was rubbing off as I had question about the quality of hotels there. The idea was good as this way, we covered another 80 km that day.
The hotel in Tezpur was quite impressive. KF – the best place to eat, shop and stay – was quite modern and new. The rooms were good size with the TV and the works. What also impressed me was the wine shop across the road that had a great variety of alcohol ranging from all versions and flavours of SMIRNOFF & ABSOLUT to even Bacardi Breezers. This small town definitely sprung a surprise but what was to come the next day was even more amazing.
With our caprioshkas arranged for, Alok and I watched some TV, had dinner and slept. Yusuf skipped dinner and also the booze. He slept nice and early and woke up late. More about that in day 3.