Assam : Gate Away to North East
Few Reels to give you the highlight of our Assam leg of the northeast India trip.
Day I : Beginning of an unforgettable Trip
We landed in Guwahati at 9 AM. In these 2500 kilometres, we travelled from the western end to the eastern end of India. A journey from 38˚ summer to 27˚ monsoon in mere 3 hours.
The earlier plan was to check into the hotel and get some rest for a day. Visit the Kamakhya Temple the following day before leaving for the Cherrapunji. Due to Navaratri, we came to know that the Darshan would take few extra hours. This meant our itinerary would go for a toss. Hence we decided to visit it directly from the Airport on the first day itself.
Even after opting for V.I.P tickets, we had to wait for a couple of hours in the queue. While it was the only downside of visiting religious places during festive periods, Experiencing the carnival-like ambience at Kamakhya Temple was incredible. The entire temple was decorated with colourful flowers.
The temple had a great mythological story behind it. Upon the death of the goddess Sati, out of the grief and sorrow, Lord Shiva carried her in his arms and wandered around the universe while reminiscing about their fond memories as a couple. Seeing this, Lord Vishnu used his Sudarshan chakra and cut her body to free her soul. He cut her body into 52 parts which fell at the different locations in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. They were called the 52 Shakti Pitha. Amongst these Shakti Pitha, Kamkhaya temple was a few of the most famous ones. At this place, Devi Sati's womb and genitals fell which was why the deity of this temple was called the "Bleeding goddess". It is to be believed that even today the colour of the holy water beneath the main temple turned Red for 3 days a year in June. Which was believed to be Sati's yearly menstrual cycle. I am not much of a spiritual guy but these stories fascinate me.
Every ancient temple in India has its own beliefs, sacred places and a way of taking blessings. The sacred place of the Kamakhya temple was the holy water Kund which existed in a small cave beneath the main Dom of the temple. The way of taking blessings at this holy place was interesting. especially, for married couples. At the holy water Kund, our Panditji asked me and my wife to sit on our knees, take some water in our hands and spread it on our heads. We both had to do all of this at the same time. Also, The experience wasn't like the other famous religious places where after spending hours in the queues, you could barely able to spend a minute in front of the deities’ idols. At Kamakhya, we could able to spend an ample amount of time in front of the deities.
At around 2 pm, we came out of the temple and headed towards our hotel. As we were hungry, we quickly ordered veg Biriyani or so-called Pulav 😜. Remember one thing, In India, Even the Lions become vegetarians during Navratri 😉
In the evening, we visited the Assam State Museum which was the encyclopedia of the seven north eastern states. The impressive thing about that place was that they preserved the deceased animals found in this part of the world and put them for exhibition. We saw a huge one-horn Rhino and Crocodile famously found in Kaziranga National Park.
At night, we went for dinner at the River Cruise on the Brahmaputra river. There, we enjoyed the traditional folk dance of Assam called Bihu. It was performed by the local artists using the Bronze plates and wooden hats accompanied by various musical instruments.
Aren't you thinking Why do they use these things?
Well, From ancient times, Assamese used the Bronze plates to have food while they used to wear a big wooden hats at the time of farming on their Farms. About the musical instruments, I loved the sound of Pepa. It's a Musical instrument made from the horn of the Buffalos. It reminded me of my favourite song from the movie जग्गा जासूस - “गलती से Mistake!”. This dance was then followed by a karaoke performance of the 80s songs. Finally, the night ended with delicious food and a view of Guwahati city from the middle of the river Brahmaputra.
Day XII: Orchids, Tea Estates and Rhinos at Kaziranga
It was a pleasant road trip to Kaziranga with cloudy weather and lushed green rice fields. In an hour, we reached a huge bridge, probably 3-4 kilometres long or even more. When we were in the middle of the bridge, I looked to my left towards the horizon. It looked more like a sea than a river. Even though it wasn't a monsoon the flow of the water was scary. Imagine, crossing the bridge during the monsoon when the Brahmaputra river would be in its wildest forms. It would be a crazy experience!
After crossing the bridge, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It was a colourful restaurant with multiple floors. Interestingly, it was completely built from bamboo. I was amazed by it. While we were there, I observed almost every tourist who arrived there was amazed by it. Apart from its ambience, the place was famous for the delicious mutton gravy prepared using the Nepali cut technique. While travelling, I loved to try local cuisines and if it was a mutton curry, Even if I wouldn't be hungry or have a stomach upset, I had to have it.
Kaziranga National Park was an hour's journey from there. As soon as we entered the National park region, I observed that one side of the road was covered by tea estates while the other side of the road was occupied by Wild Animals such as Rhinos, Elephants. We stopped at a Rhino point from where we watched a few one-horn Rhinos using the rented Binocular provided by the villagers. btw they were charging just 10rs. Meanwhile, Gujarati in me was elevating if it would be a good business or not 😜 I couldn't believe that I was seeing the one-horn Rhinos. One more thing checked from my bucket list.
On the way, we stopped by a lushed green tea estate owned by Tata. Since my childhood via various sources, I had heard of the tea estates of Assams. And few decades later, There I was, looking at them. Nostalgic!!! We clicked countless pictures and videos while we were there.
Orchids were considered very rare and costly flowers in my hometown. Till now, we had seen just purple orchid flowers and a few yellow ones at Tippi Orchid Center in Bhalukpong. So we were pretty excited about this orchid centre. As we had time on our hands, we decided to visit Kaziranga Orchid Center which was an encyclopedia of the Orchids.
Few interesting pieces of information about the Orchids. There were 2500+ types of orchids in the world. They were available in various colours and shapes. Amazingly, this orchid centre possessed 900+ types of orchids in different colours, sizes and shapes. Orchids had 2 categories. One whose roots were inside the land. they consumed all the ingredients from the land. while the other one whose roots were outside the land whose roots consumed all the required ingredients directly from the air. Furthermore, Orchids had the second-highest number of verities among all the flowers.
How to identify an orchid?
An orchid had five petals and a flower coming out of its centre. Now next time when you would buy an orchid observe this and thank me later 😉. I assume, everyone had consumed vanilla flavours in their life and most probably via vanilla ice cream. Interestingly, vanilla was an orchid and vanilla flavour was extracted from it. Furthermore, it was one of the costliest flavours, unlike the vanilla icecreams which were the cheapest. How could it be possible? Weren't you getting similar questions? Well, It was because the ice creams were made of vanilla essence rather than the actual flavour. that was why they were cheap. While we were there, we saw countless types, sizes, colours and shapes of orchids including the world's tiniest orchids and Sikkim's state flower, purple orchids. Indeed! It was one of my unique travel experiences!
After completing the shopping of handicrafts, we headed towards our resort, Borgos Resort. When we reached there, we were welcomed by 2 cute dwarfs at the entrance. We freshen up in our rooms and went for the cultural show arranged by the resort which was followed by the tasty Dinner.
Day XIII: Wild Life Experiences at Kaziranga National Park
We woke up with a lot of uncertainty. Most of it was created by our driver who informed us that the elephant safari might get cancelled if the rain would become heavier. I badly wanted to do this safari because that would be our best chance to see Rhino from a close range. Fortunately, the rain stopped as soon as we reached the Safari gates. There were 2-time slots for the Elephant safari.
1. 5:30 to 6:30
2. 6:30 to 7:30.
We booked the 5:30 to 6:30 slot.
As soon as we got onto the Elephants, it started drizzling. Which made this experience even more memorable. As we were approaching the core area of the national park, the surrounding became wilder. We were on our elephants in the middle of the national park, surrounded by mountains, dense forest, huge lakes and wild one-horn Rihons. I was thrilled and started getting wildlife vibes. Meanwhile, our Mahavat guided our elephant towards a huge water puddle, where a few of the Rhinos were bathing. I counted one, two, three . . . six. Six Rhinos! That too, from this close distance. Wow, I wasn't expecting that.
We further went inside and reached a huge lake where we saw four Rhinos drinking water. These Rhinos were even closer than the earlier ones. Trust me! we were hardly 10 meters from them. Ah! What a beautiful but lazy creature. Eat grass, drink water, take a nap and repeat it for the rest of their lives! Taking photographs of these one-horn Rhinos at the Kaziranga National Park was on my bucket list for so long but not anymore!
The Charges for the elephant safari would be 1000 per person. I would suggest everyone to take 5:30 to 6:30 slots as most of the Rhinos would run away as soon as they noticed human movements.
We went back to our hotel and finished breakfast by 9 am. We had booked a 2 pm slot for the Jeep Safari. which gave us an ample amount of time to explore the resort. at around 1 pm, we came back to our room and got ready for the Jeep Safari.
I knew only half of the route was opened in April month which would take a max of 90 minutes to explore. So we were in no hurry during our Safari. Whenever we spotted a wild Animal, we stopped. I was anxious and thrilled at the same time while travelling in the Jeep inside the forest. Because at any moment from any direction we could be attacked or met wild animals.
During this safari, we saw many wild Elephants, different types of Deer, massive pythons, crocodile-look-alike creatures and one-horned Rhinos. I guess we saw more than 20 Rhinos which included a few baby Rhinos with their mothers. Suddenly, a wildlife photographer in me awaken. I climbed up the roof of the Jeep to take photographs of Rhinos. 😎
We stopped nearby a Three Story tower located in the Grassland. We got out of the Jeep and went to the top. It was offering the best panoramic view of the Kaziranga National Park. Also, the best place to spot wild animals but not without the help of Binoculars. Unfortunately, we weren’t carrying any. So, we took selfies, enjoyed the view and climbed into our Jeep. After spending almost 3 hours in the central ridge, we returned to our resort.
Some useful pieces of information regarding the timings of Kaziranga National Park. “Till March, the entire Route of Central Ridge would be opened. While in April, only half of it would be opened for the Safari. And From May onwards, Jeep Safari would be closed due to monsoon months.”
After reaching to resort, I went swimming which was followed by Dinner. As it was the first day of the Bihu festival, They had prepared so many local sweets for the guests which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Day XIV : Enroute to Kohima via Dimapur
After breakfast, we left for our last Destination Kohima. As soon as we started our journey, our driver informed us of an unfortunate incident which had happened on the Imphal-Kohima border. Where locals had captured 2 Innovas and kidnapped one of the drivers. Damn! All the excitement transformed into headaches. I wasn’t sure whether to continue or return home. Thankfully, our tour operator informed us that the places which we would be visiting were safe and open for the tourists. So we decided to take this adventure!
The route till Dimapur was passing through Nameri Wildlife Sanctuary and countless Tea estates. Which was pleasing to the eyes. In a way, it had helped us calm our nerves down from the morning news. On the way, we stopped by Garampani, a hot water stream.
Weren’t you interested to know what might have happened to that kidnapped driver? The details would be disclosed in the Nagaland leg of this blog. which was the last state of this trip.