Rhino Country - Kaziranga
From Darjeeling early morning 345am drove to Bagdodra and boarded a flight to Guwahati 830am and were en route to Kaziranga by road thereon. The onwards drive was like a thriller movie, clutching the edge of our seats, we were a mass of jangled nerves free wheeling down the highway at break neck speed. We even had a couple of near misses with stray dogs and hens and a cow. Nobody drives peacefully here- I mean where is the fire?! And if this was not enough to scream the car driver kept receiving calls from some persistent boss of his till finally we barred him to answer his mobile, which made him very upset with us. He drove even more faster now! But talking on the mobile and driving through winding ghats was non negotiable. We reached the national park by 430pm, ate some food and explored the park by jeep – in the evening safari. We were safe and secure (in one piece) in Rhino country!
Once inside the reserve we had a good up close look at the Indian one horned rhinos growing healthily in numbers here. Poaching tho continues to be a problem as rhino horn is much sought after in the far east of India, where organized gangs go to great lengths to try and kill for loot.
Our safari driver educated us on the rhino – when a rhino opens its mouth wide enough- it can fit a 4 foot tall child inside! These are aggressive ill tempered towards humans and before the start of the safari we were sensitized to jungle etiquette! The rhinos teeth are 20inches tall! And they use it for tearing apart the enemy; In the distance far away from where we were parked on a lonely trail, we could see a couple of rhinos roaring and lunging at each other- to understand from our safari driver- that was a battle amongst the kin for food- they had a new kill which they needed to divide amongst themselves.
Exhausted from the long journey of the morning we camped the night at Dhansiri Eco owned by Gautam Saikia, the wildlife film maker. His place is in the midst of nowhere (especially by night) - complete wilderness! Solitude took on a new meaning in these surroundings. Moonlit sky and stars, not a vehicle or house in sight, a clear quiet night, with night creatures whirring and nothing much else! Fatigue gave way to dreamless sleep.
The next morning safari we saw a variety of wildlife - wild buffalo, magnificent swamp deer, hog deer, wild boar, hollock gibbon even langurs. No luck with the tigers- we were told not to expect any sightings either as they reside deep in the center of this jungle. We all joked a tiger could always turn up wherever we are – and mentally I did a quick knock on wood, crossed my fingers and had a side chat with God and told him I was joking! :)
This morning experience was one that will live with us forever. We had opted to go via the nearby reserve Nameri National Park and it is here we had a a close shave with a herd of elephants. And to think I was praying to be saved from the tiger! The herd was barely few feet away from our jeep- snorting and blowing lose dust around themselves- having sensed us. Not only were they warning us of their presence, they were fiercely protective of their little baby elephants whom they immediately drew to their inner circle so that they wouldn’t wander away. The safari driver hissed under his breathe to hold still- we all stopped breathing! After an eye to eye battle the gigantic elephants must have realized our knees were knocking and we were about to collapse with fear, they moved past us allowing a rush of air to our lungs!
Back at the Eco camp bound by the misty blue hills of Barail and Karbi Anglong to the south, it was relaxation time – time to mull over the force of nature and the raw power of animals in the wild.
Posted by Mee at 23:35