Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Northeast India Trip - Kalimpong and Lava

One the way back through Siliguri towards Kalimpong one of the old trains was making steam while being surrounded by tourists:


We passed a mountain reservoir as we ascended:


The lack of rivers means the local Hindus have to adapt their traditions, in this case their offerings to the gods aren't placed into a river but rather placed where water runs naturally:


In Kalimpong we stayed in the homestay of our guide's sister and Husband, which was very comfortable, clean and accommodating.   The food was fantastic, the hostess friendly and helpful and we really enjoyed our time there.   Basically we had a small suite above the main house.   Coffee was made for us for our early morning starts (they understand birding times), hot food was prepared for us to take out with us and it really was a lovely place to stay.

From Kalimpong we travelled out both days to Lava and a bit beyond it to the forest there.   The weather was very unkind, both days were wreathed in patchy cloud, cold and with rain, which was a shame.    The roads are shoddy too.   On the first day we pointed out the condition of the tyres on our vehicle, again three of the four tyres had no tread, two of them were literally splitting.   The final straw was when the car went sideways through some very shallow mud by a steep drop as it had no grip.   We told our driver and guide that unless they got new tyres we would not be travelling further in that car, particularly given the ongoing damp to wet weather and the state of the roads.

We did see some birds across the two days though many fewer than we'd hoped for.   They included Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush:


Chestnut Thrush:


Striated Bulbul:


Bar-winged Siva, a bird often found in mixed flocks:


Black-faced Warbler:


Mrs Gould's Sunbird:


Ironically one of the few sunny patches occurred as we were headed back to Kalimpong on the second day, going through Lava itselg, this is the monastery taken form the road:


We really enjoyed our stay in Kalimpong for the comfort and the food.  We also had one of highlight experiences of the trip.   We were back early on the second day when our hostess's business partner had arrived, a retired Indian Army General no less.   He was taking tea in a gazebo in the adjoining property and we were invited to join him.

We got on so well that he was also invited to dinner that evening.  We talked and talked and talked.   He was extremely intelligent, articulate, erudite and fascinating to spend time with.  We could have spent a few days just talking but had to make do with the afternoon and evening.   He is in his mid-eighties a retired three-star General and was Second-in-Command for North-East India, at that time overseeing Bhutan and Sikkim.

Helen and I had just finished reading a new history of Sikkim (Sikkim: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom by Andrew Duff) which added to the incredible luck of meeting the General, who had been in charge at the time that India annexed it, the day before we first visited it.   We didn't just discuss Sikkim but also the |Second World War including the Japanese advance into India, the battles at Khonoma and Kohima in Nagaland and the battle of Imphal in Manipur.  I have a number of books to read now thanks to his recommendations ranging from the Battle of the Red Fort to Field Marshall Slim's Defeat Into Victory which recounts these events.

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