Day 1 in Kaziranga - April 2018

After a good night sleep with thunders and rain, the morning was clear of rain but the sky had overcast. Without much delay, we put all our stuff in the car and head out of the resort for Kaziranga. The best thing about the resort for us its proximity to the highway. We drive on the straight highway going east. The road was divided four lanes and there was not much traffic and was cruising around 100KM/Hr.  We crossed Pobitora wildlife sanctuary just outside Guwahati.



Dining Hall - Wild Grass
We even kept a half day back up to visit Pobitora if we do not get to see much in Kaziranga. We were getting hungry as last night the dinner was quite early and did not even had tea/coffee before leaving the resort.  As we look out for a decent place to stop for breakfast we reached Anuraag Dhaba near Nagaon bypass.

We ordered two plates of breakfast. The dish was served in an authentic Bronze plate with lots of different vegetables.  The staffs were wearing traditional Assamese Mekhela Chadar. We were quite impressed with the food and service. The food was served in a very satisfactory manner and the taste was splendid. Overall, we really had a "something special" kind of experience. Please do not keep your hope too high after all it is a simple place to eat on a highway, but would recommend it for sure.

Now, as soon as we crossed Nagaon the road condition deteriorated. There was work going on to make four lanes which we are back to 2 lanes road and have to navigate traffic with caution. As we left GHY early we had plenty of time in our hand for the afternoon safari which we had planned. 

Now we had to cross the Western and Central Zone gate of Kaziranga before reaching our destination “Wild Grass”.  As we approach the turn to be taken as suggested by Google map I find a small road going inside from the highway. I did not take that road as there was no sign or anything for Wild Grass. After going 100 meters or so I ask someone local and he points back to the same road. So reluctantly I took the road which is a narrow road with stones and you see bamboo houses, some small plantation and drive like that for a 1KM.  We continue and at last, there is a sign for “Wild Grass” a small one on the fork.  But as we approach the property we just get mesmerized. It is an old colonial style big bungalow. 
One Horn Rhino

We were greeted by a warm welcome and were told we have good 2/3 hours before the safari so we can just linger around have lunch and then head out for afternoon safari.

The lunch was an authentic Assamese one   

This place is unique and the owner is the best. He was instrumental in planning this trip. He shared so many details about Kaziranga that no guidebook could have covered it better.

Soon we started for our first safari to the West Zone, in fact, we have crossed this gate while coming from Guwahati. It is almost 20/25 minutes drive Wild Grass. Once we reached the gate we had to buy tickets and pay the camera fee and all.

We were fortunate enough to spot the one-horned rhino. We spotted elephants and spotted deers. There were many birds but as a beginner, we were not very well versed with the same. We saw an Indian Roller from a close distance. Spotted Pallas Fish Eagle, Lesser Adjutant, Ruddy Shelduck, Pied Kingfisher, and others.
Lesser Adjutant

Kaziranga has very tall grass so animal sighting is mainly near the edge of wetlands and in short grass areas. Technically Swamp Deer is more endangered than the Asian one-horned rhino as far as the world population is concerned.

We headed back to the resort as the sun sets in the east, the hotel had warm snacks and tea. And once again the dinner was fabulous.

We felt like we accomplished all we had to do in Kaziranga ;) but honestly, as I write this post after so many months I find myself reliving each moment once again and wish we could have stayed there for long.

DescriptionKaziranga has very tall grass so animal sighting is mainly near the edge of wetlands and in short grass areas.


Sight Seeing Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Sohra (Cherrapunjee) Tourist Guide Map

As usual, the sun went up early as we are the Eastern part of India, so after a good breakfast and settling our bills we left towards Cherrpunjee. The sky was cloudy but not raining. The 16KM drive is a long one from the resort we stayed and the road of last 8 KM was really bad. 

Kynrem Falls
Kynrem Falls
We started with Thangkharang Park which looked farthest on the map. The road was good for the most part but again the last 4/5 KM was under heavy construction. Our legs were heavy from yesterday’s hike still we walked around the whole park. We got to see Kynrem falls from there. And Bangladesh plain was in plain sight. The water was not so heavy in Kynrem falls as we were just before the monsoon. I am sure in monsoon the sight will be completely different with roaring water rushing down the hill.  The waterfall is made of three or four stages as you can see from the picture. We could see one or two cars on the winding road and there were a few tourists we went to the base of the falls.

From the park, we headed towards Pillar Rock/Khoh Ramhah but there was no other soul out there. There was no board explaining what we really need to see. So we felt a little disappointed and just circle back from there.

On the way back to Sohra we first went to Mawsmai Cave, this is a small cave compared to our very own Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh. But as usual, the cave had its own fun. Some passages were really small and narrow. And you need to be mindful of your steps all the time as there was water. We were followed by a big Bengali group and they were very noisy which really spoiled the fun. Being a Bengali, we really feel ashamed by these large noisy tourists at times. Anyway as we came out and was looking for some biscuits and snacks from the back the car we realized we left our shoe bag at the resort.

We called the resort and they informed yes it was left just out of our door and they have kept it safe. After a quick stop at the Monoliths which are on the road itself, we headed back to resort again. We did not stop at Eco-Park and the viewpoint. The drive of 16KM back and forth with the broken and twisted road cost us an hour plus.
After picking up the shoe bag we headed towards Nohkalikai Waterfalls. The road is splendid, we stopped many times, we tried the most difficult form of photography aka landscape with little success. There were lots of spices, pickles and local handicrafts being sold at the viewpoint. 

Around Sohra
After Nohkalikai falls we headed back to the Sohra again and stopped at Ram Krishna Mission.  This is very close to the ground where my Shillong-Cherrapunji Marathon ended 2+ years back. This RK Mission played a big role in Meghalaya’s modern history. There is a museum on the first floor highlighting Meghalaya and NorthEast as a whole.

After RK mission we decided to head back to GHY post lunch. We stopped at the “Orange Roots” a vegetarian restaurant on the highway very crowded.   The food was fresh and hot and it was clean.

As we approached Shillong we thought of visiting Shillong Peak and drove all the way to the Air Force base to get the ticket when we realized we missed the cutoff. Disappointed we headed back to the highway. The road was narrow and had to manage big construction trucks on the turns and twist which was a complete waste. And top of that the weather was perfect with late afternoon sun on a clear blue sky ☹

We spoke with our hotel owner in Kaziranga and he was saying if you really want ride a little longer from GHY and next 4/5 hours you will be there. While it sounded promising we were not ready for that long drive. Alternately he suggested stopping near GHY where there are lots of new resorts. We found it was way cheaper to book via MakeMyTrip so we booked online and headed toward GHY. We were going to stay at Brahmaputra Jungle Resort. Lucky for us we did not face major traffic while getting out of Shillong it was snail pace but moving. It did take a long time to get out from one end to the other of Shillong, We could see the long queue of cars/bus/trucks getting towards Shillong.  

We did stop for few minutes at Badapani/ Umiam Lake but no great sunsets.  This time we are cautious and did not miss on “JAVA VEG” for our break. We had a good break there and almost had our early dinner and headed towards our night stop.

By the time we reached the resort we were really tired after so many tourist places and driving. After we finished taking a hot shower and all it started to rain. And it did rain like cats and dogs for a long time. We were lucky that we did not need any room service as there was no chance for those hotel guys to serve us in the rain. And this place is a resort the place we were staying and the dining area was quite far. 

Tiring yet happy day - Double Decker Root Bridge

Today we got up pretty late compared to other days. Had breakfast and left the hotel around 9 AM. There are some journeys in life which are hard to forget. Our trek to the much talked about Double Decker Root Bridge was one such journey for me. Staying at Cheerapunji holiday resort has one advantage that it is hardly 7 km away from double-decker root bridge. We went 5 KM till Tyrna village where we parked our car and then 3KMs of hiking we were told by hotel people. When we asked for a guide they said it's not required, moreover its all marked and proper cemented pathway so no chance of getting lost.

It was a 3500 step journey down the hill. After almost 40 minutes we reached a small village which we thought was the village with the bridge, but it was another 40 min from there. At this point, we saw a very small board nailed to a tree indicating the way to the longest root bridge. We were only people there still we wanted to cross that bridge but it shakes and swings and the water flowing 20-25 feet below makes the whole experience breathtaking. I took the courage first to cross but half away, came back felt like can’t cross, then Aarush said mamma, are you scared...let me go. Then his dad stopped him saying let me go, once I reach another end then you come. Aarush agreed to the same. But halfway through even Santanu came back saying does not look to be safe enough to cross. Then after few photo shoots we returned to a regular path and now the descend was further steep.

After descending few steps, we came across two hanging bridges over rivers. The bridges were made of rusty iron cables repaired and supported with bamboo with some parts held together with steel wires. The whole bridge shakes and swings and the water flowing 20-25 feet below makes the whole experience scary though adventurous. There were 2 families after us...we allowed them to cross the bridge first. While crossing the bridge all we could hear were the sounds of the squeaking cables and gurgling water flowing down the huge rocks, makes the whole experience nerve-wracking.

After a few more climbing up and down the steps, we reached the new bridge which looks to be recently done. Further few meters ahead was Nongriat village, where they sell some basic food items, juice, water. To reach the double-decker bridge, you have to take a few more steps up – and there it was …

This bridge is unique in so many ways. It has been built using the roots of a tree – that’s still alive. It took years to build this bridge – patiently waiting for the roots to be guided over and across the river until it was firm enough to carry weight. Currently, there are two levels of roots that have been guided across, stacked on top of other. These are roots from the rubber tree, which is considered to be 200 yrs old.

On reaching there, waterfall from the rocks is so soothing and cool that feel like jumping into the water which we did not but definitely soaked my feet in them. Took a few pictures, and spent some time admiring nature's beauty. From here we went towards natural swimming pool asking few villagers on the way. We went further up and down the steps but at one point we were clueless as there was no proper demarcation and that bridge ends abruptly giving no hint for a natural swimming pool. So, after that point, we had to return as there was none to guide further and thus we started our return journey.

We again now crossed the double-decker bridge and to my surprise, there was a guest house with minimum facilities for Rs.400/ per day which I came to know on asking one foreigner descending from one corner. On our return, we had some juices to hydrate ourselves while Aarush had proper basic food without any fuss.

We started our climb back to Tyrna again through the swinging bridges and those steps. But it did take much more time and effort as though looking at the steep steps. I particularly huffed and puffed to reach the top and in between, it started raining like cats and dogs for few mins. One side it rained and another side we were sweating like pig from head to toe. Felt like they should have one waterfall at the top too so that one can shower there.


TIPS-


  • carry a bottle of water and refill in taps they are all potable and drink in sips
  • carry as little as possible – There are some small shops near your destination where you can buy water and snack on some food before you return. 
  • Carry cash(no cards)
  • Carry swimming trunks if you want to take a dip in the water pool under the double-decker root bridge and perhaps a cloth to dry yourself out.
  • Change room is available there.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Wear light clothes preferable shorts but no jeans.


Day-3 Long day, Long drive- CRAZY ONE - Meghalaya

Last night could not have proper sleep as in the middle of the night there was a sudden storm, followed by rain and finally power cut off. We got up around 6 AM and moved out of the place before 7 AM so as to avoid school traffic. We headed towards Elephant caves which come on the way to Cherrapunji, before that we saw the sign for Shillong Peak. And the sun was perfect to see the entire Shillong from the peak but as we approached near the turning and asked one passer-by whether it will be open. He smiled and said not before 9 AM so we proceeded towards Elephant Caves. Before this comes one famous eatery ML-05 Cafe (ML  05 is Shillog's Vehicle Registration Code). This cafĂ© is located near the Eastern Air Command in Shillong which was highly recommended last night but unfortunately, it was closed when we were crossing it. Anyways, early birds have to face some issues too and does not gets its worm ;)

On reaching “V” junction, one road goes to Cherrapunji and Dawki while other to Mawphlang and Mawsynram. And at that junction is the Elephant Falls.

This fall is 3 layers fall accessible to all but the point is when we reached there it just opened. We were the first ones to enter there as tourists. The first of the three waterfalls are tucked between the dense trees and are very broad. The second waterfall reduces to thin strands of water while the third and the most visible waterfall is with clear water flowing like a sheet of milk on the dark rocks in the backdrop. Out of the three, the third waterfall tends the most impressive. We did our photo session and then on our return to have something for breakfast. But hardly anything was available, they were just setting up their shop. So, Aarush had his cup noodle and Santanu his tea and we took some tetra pack juice for the road.

We headed towards Mawphlang sacred grove which is around 25 KMs from here. This was not there in our to-see list but got added last night on rethe commendation. It's a small forest with meadows around. Khasi people believe it as God and anything was taken out of this forest will bring ill-luck to the person. Perhaps, with that thought, they are able to save this dense forest where one can trek for either 3 or 5 KM with a local guide. The time we reached it started to drizzle and we took one young guide who can speak fluent English.

They have been protected by communities for a variety of reasons, including religious practices, burial grounds, and sacrifices. There was no formal entry gate of the kind we usually have at sanctuaries and national parks. We just blindly followed our guide which was nothing more than a usual spacing between trees. Once you are inside its trees, trees, and trees all around- a visual treat to eyes for the people coming from the concrete jungle.

We walked on a multi-layered carpet of leaves, twigs, branches, fruits, and ferns. The older trunks had fallen gracefully after a full, long and prosperous life was providing a home to Lichens and mosses and ferns. We felt like walking through the rainforest. Seems like sun needs to seek permission to enter into their dense world. Our guide asked Aarush to try a Mowgli swing on low hanging branches.

Khasis believe that guardian spirit resides in the forest in two forms- tiger and snake who takes care of this forest. The good spirit appears in the form of a tiger and anything bad as a revengeful snake. Our guide showed us rudraksha fallen from the tree and various type of mushroom and ferns that have grown there. There was a stream flowing in one part of the forest. It's something you see every hues and shade of green there. When we were inside we hardly got any raindrop on us because of dense forests that act as a natural umbrella but as we headed out of the forest we saw it was raining pretty heavily.

We got into our car and moved out of this place as we had to go Dawki - Which means we need to come to that V junction and now take the other route. In that way, we stopped for having brunch at a small place. This road is very scenic with mountains and hills, you can see white cotton-clouds looming in between. 

Indeed, we were amazed by the quality of the roads, and the road to Dawki is the idyllic hill drive (till last 5 KMs before it starts showing wear and tear due to heavy vehicles). At first, I thought this was the result of tourism but later learned that this had more to do with the area’s economic importance of the limestone and coal mines. 

“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without self driving or getting lost.”

The cool, wet airbrushes over your face and lush greenery around refreshes and revitalizes you as it enters your body. Dawki is a small village and its main attraction is the Umngot River that marks the natural separation between the Khasi and the Jaintia Hills. The river can be crossed by a suspension bridge that connects India to Bangladesh and facilitates trade between the two nations. 

This place is very famous for the emerald green transparent river which I was excitingly waiting for but due to rains, it was very disappointing. Many people did say that but I was adamant to see through my eyes :)....my bad-luck. People take boat rides there in season. We crossed the bridge and went to see Tamabil(Indo-Bangladesh border) where road condition was extremely bad. Big trucks were waiting for their turn in 2-3 lanes leaving only one lane to allow the vehicles to pass-by from either side. We reached near the border, parked our vehicle but on our return, it was almost 1-hour wait as no vehicles were able to move.

With great difficulty, we were able to come out of that area and zoomed towards Mawlynnong- the cleanest village in Asia. This part of the drive is again very scenic with the different terrain we first went to skywalk machan at Nohwett. It was altogether different experience climbing the bamboo ladder. From there we can see 6 waterfalls.

Then came towards Mawlynnong which is also said to be gods own garden. When we reached there it was almost getting dark, we went near the stream gushing down and climbed up to their village which is very neat; avoided their living root bridge as it would turn completely dark. There we had some noodles and hit the road back to Cherrapunji.

After some hour nature starts to hide and seek game with fog and it was dense enough that we could hardly see anything in 10 meters; very poor visibility which is difficult to explain people living in plains. We tried following the tail-light of other vehicles but in vain - could not match up with their speed. Then we decided to maintain our 10-20Km speed by keeping two tires in between the white midline demarcation. 

Only when any vehicle used to come from the opposite side we use to go to side otherwise back again in the same way. At one point, it was so stressful, that I told Santanu to pull over and move the vehicle off the road; sleep inside the car only rather than taking risk of 3 lives. I really panicked and repented of my decision of going to Dawkii. But now Santanu was quite confident and continued driving at very low speed. At one point we got one cab whom we could follow for last 45 min. and was able to maintain pace with him. 

Driving car at that night was you never see beyond your headlight, but you finish your trip that way”.

From here Cherrapunji was not far, once entering the city we made a call to hotel people for their direction and requested them to keep dinner ready for 3 of us. (this part had poor connectivity with phones but somehow SMS worked). On reaching their one good thing was fog was not there and the second thing we realized that booking we made in the hotel is further 19 KMs from the city. Around 10 KMs of the road was pretty bad near the hotel. Finally, it was almost 10 PM when we reached the hotel. 

Stay:- Cherrapunji Holiday Resort. (Breakfast and dinner included within price)

Birds of Coorg


As we learn more about birds we try to accommodate a day or two within our family trips for birding. These pictures were taken around Virajpet (South Coorg) and few within Nagarhole National Park. from our recent trip in 2108 October.

The birds found here are very common to birds of Kerala as they are very close by.



Serpent Eagle

Red-wattled Lapwing
Pied bushchat - Female

Mountain Imperial Pigeon
White-rumped Munia
Plum Headed Parakeet

Malabar Parakeet
Black-throated Munia
Black-throated Munia
Malabar Starling
Plum Headed Parakeet
Brahminy Starling
Green Bee Eater
Black Hooded Oriole
Green Bee Eater
Indian Tit
Racket-tailed Drongo


Greater Coucal
Green Bee Eater
Black Drango

Purple-rumped Sunbird
Crimson-backed Sunbird
Oriental Magpie Robin

Purple Rumped Sunbird - Female
Indian Blue Robin (Male)
Red-whiskered Bulbul

Oriental Magpie Robin
Long-tailed Shrike
Racket-tailed Drongo

Rufous babbler



Birds of Kerala

Some birds spotted in Kerala around Thekkady and Thattekad.

Dark-fronted Babbler from the Western-ghats
Blue Winged Parakeet AKA Malabar Parakeet
Dark-fronted Babbler from the Western-ghats
White Bellied Tree Pie
Rufus TreePie
White Bellied Tree Pie
Racket-tailed Drongo
Jungle Babbler
Racket-tailed Drongo
Yellow Browed Bulbul
Indian Fairy Blue Bird
Southern Hill Myna
Spotted Owl Juvenile
White Throated Kingfisher
White Throated Kingfisher
Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Common Sandpiper
Red-wattled lapwing
Pied Kingfisher
Ashy Wood Shallow
Malabar White Headed Starling and Ashy wood Shallow
Jungle Myna
Ashy Wood Shallow

Great Ear Nighjar

Frogmouth

Green Parrot
Malabar Hornbill
Malabar Hornbill
Yellow Browed Bulbul
Orange Minivet - Female
Orange Minivet - Male