The Gibbons of Hoollongapar

It was an early start. We were ready to leave by 5:30 AM. It was already bright, this being the North East where the sun rises by 5 AM and it gets dark by 5 PM. The driver saw us in shorts and slippers and raised his eyebrows. There’ll be leeches he warned us. We couldn’t conjure up shoes, having not carried them, so I packed a deo spray and changed to fuller pants. We left by 5:40 AM, the driver warning us that it’ll take more than 2.5 hours to do the 110 Kms to the Gibbon sanctuary.

He suggested Golaghat and then Marriani, but instead drove through Jorhat which was just waking up as we drove past empty streets at 7 AM. By 7:30 AM we were there and greeted by forest officials in khakis. A fee of Rs. 200 was paid for cameras. A tip of Rs. 200 each for the guide and the guard was also collected. And we set out to watch some Gibbons.

There are some forests that look old. Unlike the Southern forests that are dealing with the Lantana crisis, these were full. They were old growth. And evergreen. There was life everywhere, even in death. Mushrooms and smaller plants spring out of dead logs. Earthworms excrete 4 inch long towers all over the forest floor. Spiders spin their webs in the gaps. The trees reach out high in a vertical arms race. Creepers go straight up trying to capture any sun that can manage to get in. Ferns grow out of trees, living off them. This was a Tropical Evergreen forest at its most pristine. With, sadly, a railway line cutting right inside it.
Hollong tree

Evergreen forest Continue reading “The Gibbons of Hoollongapar”


The Indian one-horned Rhinoceros. Resident of Kaziranga, Assam. So went the textbooks. A mental note. Something that keeps turning up at various times; documentaries – BBC and otherwise. Thus born the desire. One place for the bucket list.

Tripadvisor finds a place which seems alright. A mail sent and responded to. Reviews seem good. A booking done – for a solo trip. First time after 5 years. The last one Vancouver, Canada – a drive across the border to present a paper.

The date arrives more than a month later. November the 27th. The camera packed, the birding lens procured from the US added to the mix. Two days’ worth of clothes, one backpack in all. Airport. Gauhati. ISBT, Gauhati. A quick AC bus to Jorhat. To get down at Diring. Kohora is where I end up where the resort owner is on some work and picks me up.

The tent with attached bathroom. One cup chai. Tomorrow will you do elephant safari, he asks. Not too sure I want to trouble an elephant. He convinces me to do it, but we agree to do the Eastern Range the next day morning. Jeep at 7 AM, breakfast will be packed he says. Won’t it be wrong to eat in the forest? Won’t it attract animals? It’s OK he says.

Calls made to assure people of safe reaching. Murakami’s Norwegian Wood for company. Cold evening. Dinner at the table. Three in the next. The youngest surprised. Why would one travel alone, he wonders. Sleep eludes. Cold place, no fan noise. A woolen blanket and a razai. At 4 AM, the zip of the tent is opened and a man stands there. I scream “Kaun hai?” He keeps talking, but closes and goes. Continue reading “Kaziranga!!”