Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Challenging India

 This adventure did not started right and continued with lots of challenges.  Departed in the middle of March and returned the beginning of April.  The original flight to Delhi via Boston was delayed and was moved to another flight going via Atlanta.  This was also delayed due to a damaged tire; no more connections available this day.  So the next morning were flown to Kennedy connecting to Air India.  Finally, after 13 hours direct flight arrived in Delhi but lost two days in the field due to internal flight and land travel connections.  Arrived on a Sunday, all the tourists’ sites were closed but the flying carpets stores were not. I got to see the cobra dancing to the sound of flute player as well as other sites.

 Departed Delhi on a Monday and flew to Bagdogra where a driver was waiting to drive to Manybhanjung to spend the night.  Next morning drove to Tumling in Singalila Park in an antique Land Rover via extremely difficult stone roads climbing to up to around 12,000 feet, where home was to be for 5 days.  Home was split between Tea Houses at Gairibas and Kalapokhri.  The accommodations were spartan the nights cold and the food simple; drank lots of tea…which I really don’t like.  But the people compensated for all the travails; all friendly and willing to assist despite the communication challenges.  Entering Kalapokhri there is a lake with the shoreline lined with flags and not far from it, a Buddhist praying wall.

 Below is the main drag in Kalapokhri and the red house was my home and just across the street, the kitchen.  As I walked for lunch the first day, I saw this plastic chicken hanging in the wall.  The cook came, took it and say that was going to be lunch. It was a real chicken that was embalmed with special oil for preservation.  Well, the chicken appeared in a sauce but they prepare it by chopping the whole thing into small bites.  There was no much meat so I gave up because feared getting choked with the tiny chips of bones; did not want to risk the rest of the adventure.  They also use a strange design terracotta fireplace.  At this altitude there are not many trees so the firewood came from the lower elevations of the protected Park forests.  There is/was a communal water faucet in the village that appeared that was no longer working.

 The daily routine was to wake at day break and hit the bamboo forest in the search for the elusive red pandas.  In the early mornings it was cold but after walking the steep trails for ½ an hour, it was time to remove some layers of clothes.  The trails were going up and down the trails in the mountains; we did this for most of the days with not a panda to be seen, in fact, no wild animals at all.  As you know, cows in India are everywhere, and to my surprise, occasionally I will run into a cow in the forest trails, they just stood there and watched this stranger walking by.  The absence of furry and for that matter feather ones too, was compensated by flowering trees.  Rhododendrons were numerous exhibiting a variety of colors, but in the USA these are small bushes but here they grow into huge trees.  The magnolias were also flowering with huge white, and sometimes with a slight pinkish color flowers. The ground was covered with bunches of pink flowers.

 After roaming around the Himalayas, it was time to descend to the lowland and drive back in the antique Land Rover to Maneybhanjung to catch a train to Guwahati where the next saga will begin. About these old Land Rovers, they were made with aluminum bodies that were usually painted green.  As you can see below, now these vehicles had the paint removed showing the aluminum metal that is kept clean and shiny.  Most of the mechanical parts and the instrument panels are not original ones but of mixed ancestry.  But they still work and wondered how those tires held together riding over those stone roads. More about this trip coming soon.