Catch me if you can

Changu Lake Gangtok Sikkim
                                                                       Changu Lake near Nathula Pass

Time to walk on the open roads....
Time to listen a serene planet...
Time to sleep into dreams of sailing stars across islands...
Time to realize those hopes of blue pacific. reflecting Atlantic. snow-clad Himalayas. yellowish Africa. green Amazon...
 
 
I am running against time....

Catch me if you can...............
Kangchenjunga from Darjeeling
                                                                   
Kangchenjunga from Darjeeling

On the eve of valentine day, I and Vijay were sipping the tea at usual at German bakery and were engaged into pseudo intellectual stuff about the history of language. There had been many days we were ditching work and were insanely busy with discussing non-sense about life sciences and all. Suddenly we came to an idea to take a break from our easy going schedule. To be honest it was not a request,we forcefully took the time out and agreed on an idea of ditching office for next couple of weeks... compulsively self destructive nature led us to take that call...though it was pretty happening and colorful all around and We also decided to make it special in our own way. we left Pune around 12' o clock in the mid night. Our plan was to catch the train that runs between Mumbai and Guwahati. Luckily caught the train next afternoon without any drama and boarded for a journey of 48 hours from Nashik to New Alipurdwar. We had spent a sleepless night on the platform at Nashik and i was damn tired so slumbered soon after boarding the train.

City of Gangtok in the Night
                                                                           City of Gangtok in the Night

Train kept cruising through the diverse landscape of Maharashtra and then enters to Madhya pradesh before reaching Bihar in the morning. Like always, Train was fulfilling its purpose of taking people from places to places. In the same compartment, we got an amazing company of two guys who were native of Assam. Both well traveled in North Eastern States of India and shared first hand experience about North East and Himalayas. Noted all the travel tips, inputs from them. It was the longest train journey i took so far so taking same Indian Railway Catering food led to stomach upset and mild food poising. Dropped the last dinner of the journey and I was eagerly waiting for next morning to get myself recovered from nausea before landing into my dream land.

Jaldapara Wild life Sanctuary West Bengal
                                                                 Deers at Jaldapara Wild life Sanctuary

So finally that journey folded to one destination,leaving other destinations yet to unzipped. We deboarded at Alipurduar and was hunting for a ride to reach Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary. Jaldapara wild life sanctuary falls in North Bengal and  very close to International borders of Bhutan and Bangladesh. As we drove further towards the national park, we were approaching to dense Sal forest and other evergreen tropical trees... lodged into forest guest house which falls within the sanctuary. Thanks a lot to Vijay's elder brother(DFO of that forest reserve) for arranging everything. Vijay' brother has done extensive research during his post in this jungle. He has amazing knowledge of Indian Wild life or Wild life of this planet for that matter. Forest of North Bengal possess a decent density of Tigers,Leopards,though i been in forest before too but it was unique flora and fauna. High and Huge trees and their density made sun light unable to penetrate through leaves. Due to heavy rain fall everywhere, some part of the jungle turned to swamp. Forest Reserves in North Bengal and North East are known for rich Biodiversity and home to some elusive species like One horn Rhino. Wild Elephant, One horn Rhinos, species of deers can easily be sighted while strolling along the national park and if you are lucky ..you can also get a glimpse of Tigers, Leopards and Pythons as well... These national parks are also paradise for bird watchers.

River Brahmaputra at Guwahati
                                                                River Brahmaputra at Guwahati

Well,we kept Jaldapara as a transit place for our trip as we were having a long list of places to cover and were carrying a lot of stuff. so traveling in bar pattern was a prudent call.

Cooch Behar West Bengal
                                                                              Cooch Behar Palace

In the hope of sighting leopards and Tigers, We took safari through all the routes of National Park and luckily we got permissions for core area as well. Visiting the villages those lie within the boundary of national park was most appeasing experience of the journey. These locals are integral part of forest and possess amazing knowledge about animal's behavior and topography of the jungle... With all sort of permissions in hand, we explored the Jaldapara extensively and even took a short safari during night. After doing Jungle trip we also roamed around in all the towns near by. Small towns in India are blessed with a distinctive beauty. life never seems to be that complicated there. perfectly concise and accurate. we got a fair idea about landscape,culture,people. and Local transport. Due to its proximity with Bhutan Border. Bhutanish Currency is in full flow here. We had night safari,day safari,Morning safari,Evening safari,elephant Safari,Rhino Safari[:D]... Jaladapara became something like the back of our hands..

Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary West Bengal
                                                             Forest at Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary

After traveling in the foothills of Himalayas, it was time to reach high in the mountains.... Somehow i always feel that extra bit of excitment when it comes at traveling to Himalayas. that excitement is pretty much visible in the writing itself.... Chuck it.... Well, we took the road from Siliguri to Darjeeling..... Himalayas. Such an astounding gift from Planet Earth blessed with mesmerizing flora and flora amid terrifically beautiful mountains. We were traveling in a government vehicle so we hardly got any problem to take unusual routes. we were having permissions to follow any route..."Indian Government Duty".In case of Himalayas. You enjoy journey more than destination. it was totally different terrain in terms of natural beauty which i had seen while traveling to Western Part of Himalayas. Surroundings were dominated by huge fur grass that only grows in Eastern Himalayas. Journey to Darjeeling was amazing. we have encountered mild snow fall at some places. In the month of February it was freaking cold. After taking countless pit-stops we reached Darjeeling in the evening. We have covered all routine places like Zoo,Sunset point etc etc. but here was a catch. it was some kind of a Bandh ( Strike ) in North Bengal and they were shutting down all the routes to Darjeeling. The public outrage was because of their demand for a separate state. We drove back to Siliguri in the night itself and again we witnessed heavy Snowfall on the way back to Siliguri. Spent the night in Siliguri.


 
 Kanchenjunga Peak from Gangtok
                                                                    Kanchenjunga Peak from Gangtok

Now it was time to explore the tiny state of India bounded by Tibet,Nepal and Bhutan. yes,I am talking about Sikkim. we boarded a fully packed shared Jeep from Siliguri to Gangtok. Road to Gangtok runs on the bank of River Teesta with lush green mountains in the backdrop. its a serene journey. Valleys enroute are lush green and picturesque. One of the beautiful valleys of Himalayas I ever traveled to. So after a comfortable ride of 3 hours, we made to Gangtok. Gangtok,capital of Sikkim is not as small town as i expected considering the other hill towns i traveled to. It's a beautiful, well organized, well maintained little town amid green mountains all around. Gangtok is blessed with overwhelming tourist facilities with tons tour organizers, wide range of hotels and restaurants serving food of all type. Gangtok is also the base for the travelers to other remote towns of North Sikkim and West Sikkim. In the month of February, Gangtok was very chilly but we were lucky to get a room with heating device.We also procured the permits for Nathula pass and arranged a vehicle for next day tour.

Nathula Pass Changu Lake Sikkim
                         On the way to Nathula Pass / Changu Lake

Following morning,we were approaching china border to a place called Nathula pass. On the way we had witnessed heavy snowfall which is quite common if you are visiting such altitude in the month of February. We stopped at a frozen lake popularly known as Changu. Snow covered terrain took me to the white castle of dreams those gets melted to realities soon after. Sun was quite a relief in sub zero temperature. Changu lake is moderately high altitude place but you can enjoy comfortable walk on a snow covered lake. Walking on a frozen lake is quite thrilling experience but you would not be allowed beyond a point where snow might be thin. Due to heavy snowfall on the way,we suffered heavy traffic Jam,road blockage etc. I have heard from taxi drivers that couple of days back, tourists had to walk all the way down till gangtok on those slippery roads covered with snow.Sometimes Sometimes heavy snowfall hinders the vehicular movement. but we comfortably reached Gangtok and again

enjoyed an evening there. folded our belonging for getting down to North Bengal forests again...

Gangtok >> Siliguri >> Jaldapara Wild life Sanctuary...

Dochula Pass Thimphu Bhutan
                          Prayers Flag at Dochula Pass,Thimphu,Bhutan

We were back to Jaldapara and were again busy doing occasional forest Gumping. We visited some nearby villages of the North Bengal and met some well-known research scholars passionately working in the wild on their respective field of research. Bhutan was the next destination and I was extremely excited for my first trip to a foreign country as a pedestrian. Bhutan is strategically an important country in Indian sub continent and a delight for Himalayas's lovers. Getting permission for Bhutan is not as easy like Nepal. You will have to submit your entire itinerary with valid ID card to get the permit. Quite irritating but Bhutan has got separate permit for each district. For example if you have not mentioned Paro (only mentioned Thimpu) in the itinerary while getting the permit then you will not be allowed to visit Paro from Thimpu. You will have to apply for the permit again. It took a hell lot of effort and time to get permissions from immigration department of Bhutan which has its office at the border itself. We only got permissions for just one district (Thimphu )....

Archery in Thimphu
                                                Archery in Thimphu

and again journey started to a bit different kind of Himalayan landscape. Bhutan is lesser green, less populated,poor infrastructure and different culture,food,attire. I was struck with a peculiar freshness in the air. We were traveling to Bhutan in an odd season. Tourist flow was very thin and roads were under construction everywhere. We were stopped at many many places. The way locals were staring at us, I got an impression that we were the only travelers at that time of the year. We were visiting Bhutan in the middle of Winters when it snows heavily on higher ranges of Himalayas which makes the atmosphere freezing with winds gusting to our ears. After a very long journey from the Border (Phuntsholing), We reached to Thimpu by evening. In between we met many locals who wished us happy journey and were thankful to India for helping them building infrastructure. Bhutan also became the country where i took non- vegetarian food for the first time in life. Mistakenly it was though. On the way we also suffered flat tier so it was overall a fulfilling journey. Bhutan is not a country for budget travelers and too much restrictions make it worse. We really had hard time finding an accommodation and finally got a lodge full of insects, rodents and bedbugs. Vijay will never forget that A1 lodge in his lifetime for sure.For me it was the beginning of my life in nasty lodges.. In between usual noise of hostel, we slumbered
 

Thimphu City Bhutan
                                                                         City of Thimphu Bhutan

Next morning, we meandered along the bank of Wang Chhu river, been to some markets and did usual strolling in the city. We had spent that entire day in roaming around Thimphu Valley. Went to some monasteries and visited Dhocula pass which is not very far. we witnessed mild snow fall on the way. and  it was really very very cold... Locals were busy in archery....There is also a North Face showroom in Thimphu where you can buy trekking accessories. Night market is truly overwhelming where you can buy really cheap stuff from all the international brands. I believe it all gets illegally transport from North East Asia. I somehow refrained myself to purchase too much of stuff otherwise I would have been caught at the border while coming back but still I bought good enough stuff... I believe Thimphu is the best place to buy trekking accessories (Tent, Shoes, Backpacks etc) and other travel related stuff.

108 Stupas at Dochula pass
                                                                      108 Stupas at Dochula pass

Our time in Bhutan was reaching to an end and we decided to move to another guest house which was run by an Indian only and we got not very expensive deal. It was way better than rodent infested A1 lodge (In the memories of Vijay)....
 

Next morning, we boarded the bus to Phuntsholing which was again a whole day journey due to heavy blockage and construction on that road side... Bhutan was a sweet experience.... People were really nice, welcoming, humble... Weather was very chilly....surroundings were serene.... Monasteries were lovely.... and most importantly they all were happy without high end facilities like cell phone, Televisions etc... Happiness quotient of Bhutan is one of the highest in the world... On the top of everything else, Bhutan has got more girls than guys so you will happen to get extra attention for the girls which is very unlikely to get in India... Guys are lazy and girls take care of everything....that is one reason why i would like to migrate to Bhutan.... all in the due time....

 

Thimphu, Capital of Bhutan
                                                                    Thimphu, Capital of Bhutan
Remark: Bhutan is an expensive country to travel. Accommodation and Food are high end.

 

Back to Jaldapara yet again and it was time to run to Guwahati for exploring tract of forests on the bank of Brahmaputra river. we left Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary to reach Guwahati and caught a train from New Alipurdwar. I was pissed off with the travel duration in North East. For traveling couple of hundreds kilometer, it was taking whole day and sunset was also earlier. We reached Guwahati by the evening and lodged ourselves before taking a walk to Brahamputra River. Brahamaputra is really a wide river and even home of some islands over it. It is more like a seascape and you can see some small cruises there. In the evening, we enjoyed Assamian food and roamed in  the market which was quite vibrant. We also visited some temples and did local city sightseeing. It's a peaceful town but getting very polluted day by day.. Next morning we visited famous Kamakhya Temple which is highly revered in this part. The temple lies on a hill top and lures thousands of pilgrims every day. Shortly afterwards, we started our journey to Kaziranga National park which is India's most saught after place for sighting wild life.
Kaziranga National Park Assam
                                                 One-horn Rhino at Kaziranga National Park,Assam

Kaziranga National Park. It took around 8 hours to reach Kaziranga from Guwahati.Kaziranga national park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best parks in the country to sight wild life. Park is primarily dominated by Huge elephant grass and broadleaf tropical forest

. Kaziranga is circumscribed by Brahmputra river and blessed with very rich flora and fauna. Even in the outskirt of the national park, one can easily get a glimpse of Rhino,Wild Elephant,different species of Deers, Reptiles,Wild buffalos etc. Kaziranga is not only favorite for wild life enthusiast but also a perfect place for those seeking desolated time in the wilderness. Accommodations on periphery of national park are truly serene and best for laid-back vacations. In the evening, we roamed on the road side and applied for the tickets for next day Safari. In the morning, we took the elephant Safari through the huge grass and were able to sight One horned Rhinos. Rhinos are the usual sights of the national park and you can see them multiple times during a Safari. Deep within, I had this crave to sight Tiger or Leopards in the wild which could not materialize. Post morning, we opted for Jeep Safari which took us deep in the forest where we could sight a herd of Wild Elephants. Kaziranga was quite insightful journey and Indeed a place for longer stay. Safari cost is very expensive and Park timings are also limited so you may not be getting many chances but stay itself is quite soothing.
Wild elephants Kaziranga National Park Assam
                                              Wild Elephants at Kaziranga National Park,Assam

After so many days of tramping on the road, I found myself stuck into wanderlust. so finally the thought of coming back home arrived in my head. Though I wanted to travel for more days but due to some urgency I had to leave. Got my flight back to Mumbai and then again got stuck in my office routine. Well recollecting those days on the road, I can not weave in words. I met amazing people. spectate fabulous landscape. get to know a lot about Himalayas(My love)...Witnesses unique flora and fauna......some precious memories i made those resurfaces at times... and life is all about meeting new people and getting used to saying Good bye.....There is nothing like forever ...even the wandering life...

Vishnu nice travelogue you

Vishnu nice travelogue you have shared here. your snaps exciting me too have such long road trip and cover almost all eastern India. I had been at Kaziranga National park a year back - But Now I wish to cover other regions too. It is possible to you to share some information regarding the same.
Thanks,
Aran

Hi Aran, let me know

Hi Aran,
let me know what exactly you are planning to cover in your road trip then i might be able to help figuring out an itinerary....

=== Vishnu

it was the perfect

it was the perfect escape...so many places...seems like a long time on road....Bhutan is my favorite as well...
Kanchenjunga from gangtok looks amazing..

elaborated reading...

yaa..i felt tired reading it through...but you kept it interesting till the end...it might have been a tiring journey too...

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.