Thursday, March 31, 2016

Northeast India Trip - Nagaland

The return trip to the river was uneventful apart from the fallen trees after the huge thunderstorms and the big detour we had to take around one road that was consequentially completely blocked.

The river was running faster and higher but we found a boat almost as soon as we arrived and were soon headed back across the Brahmaputra, enjoying more sights of the ferry crossing experience:

I took this picture through the front window before turning round, misjudging how low the beams on the boat were and hitting my head so hard I was close to knocking myself out:

As we neared the shore we saw these chaps prodding the remains of a boat that had gone down the previous day complete with a car on it:

It was a long old drive to the Gymkhana Bungalow in Golaghat, and we again arrived not knowing where to go, so having driven for nearly eleven hours, we stopped and asked people, most of whom had no idea.   Eventually through frustration I asked the guide where the bungalow was, he didn't know but he did know it was close to a hospital.   Why then was he not asking for directions to the hospital?  Once he started asking we started getting recognition and even directions.  He didn't trust them though so called the hotel, who were kind enough to send out someone on a motorbike to bring us in.   Another hour wasted at the end of a long day.  

Anyhow the hotel was a delight, a former tea bungalow, now surrounded by a town but retaining real character.   The service was exemplary, the food a delight, the room comfortable and spacious, we again thanked our booking agent for the choices they'd made on our behalf before settling down for a good night's sleep.

In the morning after breakfast I snapped the flower arrangement in the lobby:

We headed off on the second leg of our trip to Nagaland.  One thing you notice when transitioning from Assam to Nagaland is the silence.  No birds in the trees, no animals on the road, because anything that is alive gets killed and eaten, apart from the humans.   We did see people selling dead birds and squirrels by the roadside as we headed up towards the capital, Kohima.

We stopped for lunch at a pleasant bamboo themed restaurant where Helen unfortunately realised she was coming down with a migraine.   I hurried our team up (we'd picked up another guide, this one for the area, apparently now compulsory in India) and made haste to our hotel in Kohima to get Helen settled.

The hotel was very pleasant, the staff very helpful and we got Helen sorted with pain killers, a quiet, dark room and she got off to sleep.

The next morning she stayed in the hotel but we'd decided I should head out so at 5am I was collected from the hotel and off we went to Khonoma.  In the context of a birding holiday Khonoma is good because the village and a few others have preserved some original forest and do not allow hunting there, so there are birds including some specialist species.

In the context of history of course it's a scene of part of the battle at the very limit of Japan's incursion into India in the second World War and is close to the major battle of Imphal in Manipur, which was the turning point of the land war against Japan.

We were therefore visiting somewhere of both historic and current interest:

Once in Khonoma we picked up another guide, so now there were five of us in the car, with just me the client.... I never did work out what the first lady was for...

Anyway the birding on the first day in Khonoma involved walking up a road.   The road was in the process of being widened so what was once a narrow road through forest was now a wide road with steep sides and therefore the birding proved to be quite tough.

I did see Black-crested Bulbul:

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush:

A Honeyguide:

guess what we found it close to?

Whoever came up with the BRO signs for the local area had excelled themselves:

A Mountain Hawk Eagle sailed by:

 We located Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babblers:

We took a break by a monument to the State Student Union movement, the village of Khonoma having hosted their annual conference a number of times now:

We worked our way further down the road to another village, this one obviously dry and waiting for the monsoon rains:

I didn't want to be out too long given Helen's health so we headed back in the early afternoon after a simple but delicious lunch at a homestay in the village.  On the way back we passed a new Mahindra vehicle that had obviously gone off the side of one of the roads.  The airbags had been deployed and part of the frame was crushed.   The driver confirmed with a local that everyone inside had been killed.

That evening we experienced another awesome thunder storm, so much so that the restaurant area of our hotel was flooded out in less than fifteen minutes.  Wow.  We also chatted with the hotel Manager who told us the story of her pet seven year old dog being dog-napped a few years previously by someone.   That's why the roads are clear, anything that moves gets taken, killed and eaten, even pet dogs.

The next morning Helen was feeling quite a lot better so we set out again, the weather however had turned and we were back to our mountain mists.   We did see again the vehicle that had gone over during the previous day.   Both times I decided against photographing it out of respect for the victims.

We started walking from the village itself this time, seeing a number of specialist birds in the very early morning, then a Small Niltava:

Striated Bulbul:

and one bird that I cannot now identify, doh!

The weather was poor though so we took another early lunch and then headed back for our last night in Nagaland.

In the morning we headed back out the way we had come in, I was able to show Helen the rock formations she'd missed on the way up and in:

Our next destination was Kaziranga, one I was properly excited about.  We headed back into Assam and to our hotel the Iora resort.  I can thoroughly recommend this hotel.  It is well built, well maintained, the staff are very helpful, the food is good and personalised and overall we really enjoyed our stay at the Iora.  So, time to head into Kaziranga National Park...


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