Thursday, April 07, 2016

Northeast India Trip - Kurseong

The very last place we stayed on our visit to North East India was Cochrane Place in Kurseong.   The hill city looks much like the others on approach:


However Cochrane Place is nuts, as you can see here:


We loved it.  The tea was great, the coffee very good, the service excellent, the food excellent, the room was really comfortable, well located.  We really loved it.

They have lots of potted flowers on a roof garden overlooking the tea estate:


This ape is there to scare the local monkeys away, which apparently is does very effectively:


Barn Swallows nest on the building and indeed are welcome:


From our bedroom balcony was saw a new life species, the Rufous-necked Laughingthrush:


Both mornings we birded in the hills above Kurseong though our guide got lost on the way to the area he wanted and on arrival the higher part of the forest had been cut and turned into a large housing estate.   It was five years since the local guide had visited the area.

Anyway the forest where it remained looked amazing:



In the lower part we saw a number of butterflies:


This one looks very similar to the Small Tortoiseshell from home:


We saw Grey Bushchat:


Hill Prinia:


and a few other species, though it was quieter than we'd hoped for.   The road and house building no doubt contributing to that.

That afternoon we visited the local tea estate.   Dark clouds were building and we set off driving to the entrance then walking in.  We watched the women working the fields:


We'd requested a gentle mooch for our last afternoon.   We were incredulous then when we started a sustained descent to the bottom of the tea estate to some semi-forested areas, where we did indeed see a couple of species of bird.   A thunder storm broke overhead though thankfully we mostly had sound and fury rather than the expected torrential rain.  I covered my camera and we then had to complete a loop with a steep and hasty ascent, that was quite tough.   By this time I could no longer speak with the guide, I think he needs to find a new career.  Pronto.

We got back to the hotel, cooled off, dried off, showered and packed ahead of 38 hour trip starting the following morning.   We had fun on that too, Jet Airways sold us an end-to-end ticket transiting via Kolkata and then Mumbai.   We tried to connect in Mumbai but were sent out of the secure zone as we were too early, so we had to sit for 5 hours in the general airport area where there is a single cafe.   Finally they let us back in and through immigration, the apparent source of the hold-up.

It's fair to say this trip did not live up to our expectations.  We saw 360 species of bird of which 150 were lifers.  We saw the Himalayas and Mount Kanchenjunga in particular.  We experienced different cultures and visited some very remote places that we are lucky to have had the opportunity and indeed means to do so.

We were also ill most of the time as the lack of sanitation combined with a meat-centric diet meant we were almost always dealing with contamination of our food.  Our drives were ok, once their vehicles were road worthy and our guide was a pretty good if lazy and thoughtless birder but it's also fair to say that we found the North East to be much less like the India we love and had hoped to visit again.  Also the next holiday I book will definitely avoid mountains!

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