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Kaziranga National Park, world-famous for the one horned rhinoceros, is almost a five hour drive from Guwahati. The park falls in the Golaghat district. My friend and I were especially thrilled about this Kaziranga tour package as we are both nature lovers. The journey through NH 52 highway was an enriching one. The view was contrasted with deep green forested hills, shaded forests, rustic villages, huge expanses of paddy fields and velvet carpets of tea gardens. As the mighty Bura (old) Pahar loomed over the view, tall grass and shrubs began covering the landscapes while the fields were replaced by marshes. The way to the park sees some viewpoints and watch towers built for tourists to get a glimpse of the teeming wildlife. We were lucky enough to see a mud-ridden rhino and its baby lazily chomping grass. My friend quickly reached for her camera and clicked away with gusto.
On reaching the resort, we booked a jeep safari for the afternoon and settled down to a light lunch. The calm wilderness was a soothing welcome to our city-frayed nerves and we lapped it all up readily. Along with the rhino, Kaziranga is also home to the Asiatic wild elephant, Royal Bengal tiger, leopard, buffalo, varieties of deer, flocks of local and migratory birds and many types of reptiles and amphibians. The best time to watch these amazing creatures in early morning and afternoon. It is no surprise that the place is highly sought after as one of the best options for Indian wildlife tours. Among the various ranges, the Agoratole range is excellent for bird watching and sighting elephants. As we entered the forest, a hushed silence enveloped us, periodically broken by some birds tweeting or the chirps of crickets and other insects. We came across a family of elephants feasting on some leaves. As per our guide, the elephants love Ou Tenga, a sour fruits borne by a tree found here. The baby elephants looked very endearing as they frolicked around. Some hornbills also made an appearance while storks and parrots abounded here and there. There was the aloof rhino sitting regally as a sparrow balanced on the back of another rhino playing in the mud. We saw many deer, most of which scampered away as our jeep approached. Willing to get a better view, we walked around a little in the clearing. Sure enough, one or two inquisitive deer soon came to investigate. By this time, my friend was beyond herself with joy as she struggled to keep up with the animals, trying to get a good frame. I too, clicked some photos of the myriad flowers, trees and the ever chirping birds. Monkeys were plentiful, playfully hopping around from one tree to another as we passed them.
Soon, we were headed back to the resort and retired for some much needed siesta. A resort personnel knocked at our cottage door at around 8pm, inviting us to the bonfire at the juhaal (fireplace). Some guests were already assembled around the fire by the time we reached. One of them entertained us with some songs on his guitar. As we chit-chatted, the aroma of smoked chicken and pork filled the air. Soon, we were hungrily devouring rice with Chicken khorika (bamboo skewers), mutton curry, khorisa (an Assamese chutney) and boot dail (chana dal) among other delicacies. Tired from the day’s activities and plans for more to come the next day, we turned in for the night.
I was up at the crack of dawn in anticipation of the Elephant Safari. The air was a little chilly as we made our way to the riding point at the Kohora range. This range again, is perfect for sighting rhinos, deer, wild buffalos and if you are lucky, the royal Bengal tiger. The huge elephant soon materialised out of the mist laden grassland and we were soon mounted on it along with mahout. This elevated view of the park gave me a new perspective on Kaziranga. We chanced upon some wild buffaloes taking an early morning bath, frolicking squirrels, some wild boar and flocks of ducks. As we neared a pond, we could see a solitary tortoise slowly pacing its around the water. Nearby, a kingfisher was making a morsel out of its morning catch. Every moment of the safari was like a fresh view of nature to me. As the safari neared its end, I found myself secretly wishing it would never end. By the time we reached our resort, it was time for breakfast. Now was the time for trying the traditional Assamese breakfast. So we sat down to Jolpaan, consisting of chira (chidwa), Akho’(pop rice, similar to popcorn), doi (Curd) and gur (jaggery). After a short and relaxing nap, we were ready to bid goodbye to Kaziranga.
The journey back to Guwahati seemed tame after the exciting times spent in Kaziranga. I reflected back on my enriching journey to this part of the world as the driver played some melodious Bihu songs. We stopped for a light lunch of dali bhat (dal chawal) at a small town named Amoni, about 90km from Guwahati. By the time we cruised into the airport, it was evening – just in time to catch our flight back to Delhi. As we checked in, I realised how much I was going to miss this beautiful and simple place. Then and there, my friend and I made a pact of returning again. Au revoir Assam!