Back to Kolkata
05.03.2011 - 15.03.2011
He placed his loaded gun over his shoulder for my own protection, to ensure that I didn't get hurt. My feet still ended up bloody. So what am I talking about? Well you will have to read on....
For much of my stay in Assam I had gone off personal recommendations and contacts. One very helpful chap at Kaziranga had arranged for me to stat at his friend's guesthouse in Majuli and his brothers guest house in the historical town of Sabsigar. A guy from Switzerland had mentioned a must see Gibbon reserve park near the town of Jorhat. The place doesn't even feature in my Lonely planet. He'd also recommended a decent 3 star Paradise hotel at only £6 per night B&B.
The hotel even arranged for a taxi to take me to Hollongapur Gibbon Wildlife reserve at 6am. Quite different to the grassy terrain of Kaziranga, at only 20km square, it is quite a dense jungle forest. As well as gibbons there were a variety of monkeys (including Langurs), giant squirrels, pythons. I got a guide for this on foot safari. He assured me that the gun was in case we had an encounter with wild elephants or leopards and not defending against the human insurgence type of 'guerrilla' . I was however told that one guide was killed by a leopard only the previous year. The safari lasted a good 2 1/2 years and I saw maybe 4 families of gibbons, India's only apes (as opposed to 'monkeys'). They were swinging high up on the trees in famlies of 4 or 5. The only way to observe them was to tramp through the damp undergrowth. My guide suggested at one point that I checked my feet. Immediately I noticed the blood. Yes a number of plump leeches were tucking in an all you can drink buffet on my feet and it wasn't even breakfast time.
Bordering Hollangapur are a number of villages servicing tea plantations. Like the leeches, humans were encroaching on someone else's territory. We were informed that only an hour or so ago a leopard had been found terrorising a village. This angry moggy had been restrained by a smack in the jaw with a stick. The park wardens had immediately arrived to capture the Leopard. Fortunately nobody had been hurt and the leopards wounds were only superficial. I joined the villagers who were gathered around the flimsy cage, standing way too close (striking distance) really for taking snaps.
After all this animal drama it was my chance to get a nourishing shot of history before my return to Kolkata. My next stop, Sibsigar turned out to be a very interesting leg of the journey. I chartered a taxi to visit the reminders of Ahom dynasty that probably came from Burma (or possibly Timperly) 700 + years ago. There were ancient tombs buried in mounds of earth like little hillocks. They were only discovered centuries later by the British. In addition were a number of Hindu temples, forts and a 3 tier sports pavilion. In town (there was a similar setup a few miles away) the tallest Shiva temple sat next to the shores of a massive tank ( man made lake) with a 3km perimeter. My guest house was also on the lake. The tank was irrigated 300 years ago in only 45 days. On the other side of the lake from the temple was a prison. A prisoner seemed to catch my eye as I walked pass. The front door had been opened for a split second. In my imagination he was urging me to formulate an escape plan.
My legal getaway the next day was by a flight back to Kolkata for a final few days of pampering from my family, a bit of shopping. I also checked out a decent park of London's calibre. After 14 years of going to Kolkata, also for the first time I checked out BBD square which is circled by some of the most impressive colonial building in the city. It was renamed from Dalhousie square to commemorate the initials of 3 freedom fighter/martyrs. Hidden away in a side street I also checked out an old manor house crammed full of victorian memorability.
Sadly time to say my goodbyes. I had that many presents (mainly shirts) to take back that I was given an extra bag. Food poisoning claimed my last afternoon in Kolkata but I was right for the next day. 19 hours from leaving the Kolkata house, 2 flights, 5 movies, 3 meals, 2 gin & tonics later I was back in grey cold Britain with a bag full of washing and a head full of memories.