Saturday, November 27, 2010

DAY 55 – Guwahati to Kohora

I started for Kohora by 6.15 am, slightly earlier than planned. The road condition surprised me. It was the best I have motored on in Assam so far. I reached Nagaon in slightly over two hours. Despite the 4-laning works the road condition was quite good. From Nagaon I took the Jorhat highway. Kaziranga is about 100 kms from Nagaon and 60 kms short of Jorhat. The National Park straddles two districts, those of Nagaon and Golaghat. The Kohora Police Outpost is near the National Park. After a heavy brunch in a Dhaba close to Kohora I reported to Mr. KB Chetry, the Sub Inspector in charge of the Police Outpost. The Outpost premises were full of damaged vehicles, all of them involved in recent accidents. Chetry felt that his area has the most number of accidents in Assam.
Arrangements were made for my stay in the DRDA (Department of Rural Development, Assam) Lodge. The Lodge is located beside the River Kohora. Kohora in Hindi means ‘fog’. I understand that the entire area becomes very foggy throughout the winter months and hence the name of the place. The Lodge is approached by a temporary bamboo bridge across the river. The Lodge seems to be much in favor with the tourists as the rooms were fully booked. I took a walk by the side of the river and climbed a small hillock and came to a government owned rubber plantation. The trees are huge, but they do not seem to be tapped regularly. I have seen rubber plantations in all the NE States that I have been to so far and it is being actively promoted by the Government. There are Rubber Research Institutes in Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
I had originally intended to do the Jeep Safari this afternoon and the Elephant Safari tomorrow morning. Till the last season Elephant Safaris were only done during the morning. However, Chettri found out that this season onwards Elephant Safaris are done at 3 pm also. This gave me the opportunity to squeeze a day out from the schedule by doing both the Safaris one after the other. So I did the Jeep Safari from 2 to 3 pm and the Elephant Safari from 3.15 to 4.15 pm. I did the Safaris in the more popular Central Range, with has better possibility of sightings of animals and birds.
The preservation of the one-horned rhino in Kaziranga is attributed to Lady Curzon, who prevailed upon her husband to outlaw poaching of the species that had been reduced to just 5 in 1905. In that year Kaziranga was declared as a Reserve Forest. Later it became a Game Sanctuary that was opened to visitors in 1937. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985. Thanks to the efforts of Lady Curzon and others who followed the plan to preserve the endangered one-horned rhino, the National Park today boasts of more than 2100 of them in over 800 square kms, which is over two thirds the world population of the species. In 2007 the Kaziranga National Park was declared as a Tiger Reserve too. Outside of the Sunderbans it is Kaziranga NP that boasts of the maximum number of Royal Bengal Tigers. The other wildlife in the National Park are Water Buffaloes, Asian Elephants, Swamp Deer and over 500 varieties of birds. During the Safaris I came across large number of Rhinos, Water Buffaloes and Swamp deer. The Elephant Safari affords close up views of the Rhino. It was fascinating, though both the rides can be tough on the body.
KB Chetry is completely wedded to his job. He starts his day at 5 am and reaches home late night. His grandparents and parents crossed over into Assam prior to 1945 from Burma and settled in Diphu, the capital of Karbi Anglong. Chetry’s father saw action in WWII and leads a spartan life even today, which keeps him healthy. Chetry was a teacher in a private school in Diphu before he entered service. His wife and children stay with his parents in Diphu. Chetry has been posted here for the past two years, which is some sort of a record. His policy of ‘engaging’ the youngsters every evening in a tough game of football pays rich dividends wherever he is posted. He buys them T-shirts, trousers and football from his own salary. He believes that youngsters, tired after couple of hours of playing football, will go home and not fall prey to smoking, drinking other anti-social activities. When you talk to Chetry it is his commitment and concern for society that often surfaces. It is people like Chetry, in their own disarming ways, who contribute to move society in the right direction.
I insisted on ‘desi’ food for dinner. Accordingly, a feast of local cuisine was served up, including a small fish from River Kohora which was fried. The fish curry in elephant apple was what I liked best. The juice mixed with rice was yummy. The veg dish of potato and fern was so tasty that I finished a plateful of it. Normally, breakfast is served after 8 am. I requested for a 6 am serving, which has been promised, to facilitate a visit to Sivasagar in the morning. 

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