Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Northeast India Trip - Siliguri

The following morning we drove to Guwahati airport, stopping at the city dump to see Greater Adjutant Stork on the way, though the camera kit was broken down and packed for the forthcoming flight to Baghgogra, so no picture.   On arrival in Baghdogra we were met by our second driver and then headed to the adjoining city of Siliguri and on to our hotel, the Cinderella.

When we got into our room we were very disappointed, not with the fittings or size but it was dirty and smelt funny.  Helen found out why, despite one of the 'sanitised for you' wraps on the toilet seat it contained a bowl of stale urine.   I spat my dummy and while we had lunch the room was spring cleaned.   On our return it was much more what we expected and we made sure to thank the staff for sorting us out.   The food was fantastic and for once reliable, so we really enjoyed our meals at the Cinderella.

Outside, preparations for a grand wedding were in full swing.   The scale of the effort is incredible:


In the afternoon we headed out of town to a local park-cum-zoo, which though interesting had changed a lot since our guide's previous visit.   They now have animals captured in the forest and kept in cages, which we really didn't like.   The jungle cat in particular was behaving like a lot of captive animals, continually pacing and looking for a way out of its prison.

There were some birds in the grounds, including the Blue Whistling-Thrush:


Indian Grey Hornbill:


Bronzed Drongo:


Jungle Babbler:


Red-vented Bulbul and Chesnut-headed Bee-eater:


White-throated Kingfisher with a small crab by the looks of it:


It was an ok location but clearly is now much more about the zoo and much less about the forest.  So much so that the forest walks are now shut as they have released larger captive mammals into the grounds and operate 'safaris' so we couldn't walk in.   Back to the hotel then.

The following morning we headed towards Kalimpong as we made our way north towards Sikkim.  We started out by walking up the old road towards Darjeeling (now shut due to a landslide a couple of years ago).   An Asian Barred Owlet was unperturbed as we watched it:


 

A large insect with very long antennae landed close by:


A way off a pair of Golden-fronted Leafbirds sat in a tree:


A Greater Goldenback Woodpecker hacked away at another tree:



One of the most visually appealing species we encountered was this Long-tailed Broadbill:


Some of the views of the forest from the road were impressive:



This hut had a very lucky escape:


I love the way the train line from Siliguri to Darjeeling criss-crosses the road as you ascend:


We walked up through Rongtong:



Which really wasn't anything to write home about:


More birds on the walk included Scarlet Minivet:


Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush:


At one point we passed a family with a group of girls, pristinely turned out waiting for the school bus (a minivan which at peak must have fifteen children packed in).  I have no idea how they manage to look so picture perfect given their home is on stilts on the roadside with no running water and no sanitation, but they do:


We finished our walk as the weather closed in on and us and headed on up to Kalimpong, traversing roads built 'by the Britischers'.

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