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Old 9th October 2008, 09:52   #46
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Originally Posted by 1100D View Post

The key word here is "Public transport".

Generally a travelogue here, should have a vehicle that you or your family steered to a destination. Now if the journey involved all eyelids closed dreaming, heads nodding left and right and the mouth open while the poor driver (unrelated to you) took you to your point of interest (Oh he also woke you up at certain viewpoints) would that qualify to be a good travelogue on team-bhp?
I know this matter has been discussed but I simply cannot resist jumping in here. Some of the most popular travelogues (check on number of replies or number of views in the travelogue section) are travelogues that involve no driving, leave alone a personal vehicle. Trust me, I should know

Lumina, your writing is beautiful and engaging and your pictures are beautiful. Bravo! Thank you for this wonderful travelogue.
And don't worry about cars and all that, I am a Team-BHP senior member and I don't even like cars, leave alone understand them.

Team-BHP is not a car forum.

It is a human forum.
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Old 9th October 2008, 16:22   #47
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Originally Posted by speedzak View Post
Can't wait for the rest. Popcorn packets ain't that cheap these days, you know?
Are they no longer giving out ACT II for free?


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Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
Lumina, shubho bijaya.

Nice write up. Lovely photograph. Waiting for more.

It's a nice travelogue. There's no driving story. So what about it? We have seen this in the past as he mentioned here..
Thank you Rudra-da. That was a huge complement. Shubho Bijaya to you too Sir.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
Excellent pics...fantastic. Marvelous shot of the flocking birds.
IMHO, Chilapata is one of the best forests, with the narrow paths and dense trees, very few forests come close to it. You were lucky to see elephants there.
Here's a shot of a barking deer that chanced to cross the road at Chilapata.
Attachment 57633
Thanks Saurabh.
The elephant was in the grassland adjacent to the forest. I wasn't able to imagine how those giants moved around inside the dense forest, so asked the guide and he showed me the areas where they are normally seen. I still can't visualise them getting into those parts. I need a second trip.
You were lucky to see the barking deer. All we saw were bon-murgi (wild-hen? a literal translation) trying to outrun the Sumo.
That was a nice shot. Winter I guess from the mist in the distance?

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Originally Posted by Sam Kapasi View Post
I know this matter has been discussed but I simply cannot resist jumping in here. Some of the most popular travelogues (check on number of replies or number of views in the travelogue section) are travelogues that involve no driving, leave alone a personal vehicle. Trust me, I should know

Lumina, your writing is beautiful and engaging and your pictures are beautiful. Bravo! Thank you for this wonderful travelogue.
And don't worry about cars and all that, I am a Team-BHP senior member and I don't even like cars, leave alone understand them.

Team-BHP is not a car forum.

It is a human forum.
That's very kind of you Sam. Thanks for your support, coming from you that does give me some relief. Though I would still refrain from speaking too much in favour of non-self-driven travelogues.


Going by the support I am tempted to write a few more, only if I survive this one. Even though I am enjoying reliving the moments, it is taking up a lot of my days..and nights. Only possible as I am bunking office for a week.
Stay tuned.
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Old 9th October 2008, 20:14   #48
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I am not sure why these guys come to the forests, with their TVs on at full volume and raising a cachophony all the time. The animals are better behaved than they are. I feel that TVs should be banned from the forest rest houses. I remember, once I asked an elderly man to shut up, as we were sitting on the Chapramari watch tower, watching a herd of elephants, and this man was loudly discussing his LIC policies and retirement plans with another mate of his.
May I bring in a different perspective to this! (Lets see if folks can disagree to this)

Circa 2004. A new-born Ikon was taken to Simlipal National Forest. After unsuccessfully attempting to get there through Lulung (courtesy a Broken culvert), we made it the next light of dawn from the Jashipur end.

Watching the morning unfold itself from the calmness of the Barahipani waterfall viewpoint, we were both shaken and stirred by the sound of a couple of beasts. Those beasts were diesel driven. One Mahindra Marshall and a Sumo Spacio. All the occupants of those vehicles appeared very sophisticated and well to do. None made any unwanted sounds. Which they couldn't anyway, as the accompanying Forest department guide had put a invisible gag on them. But what they cared less about, was the mechanical Jazz being performed by those DI engines.

Everywhere we went that day, those two followed us, even if they didn't, you could hear them coming from distance of 3 Kms (the usual serenity of the forest aiding the travel of sound).

We may be speaking of lack of awareness amongst forest visitors. But these "aware" people did not know that they too were somewhat ignorant.

Our Forest guide and me approached the occupants of the vehicles (which had windows rolled up to prevent dirt from the forest being taken away outside with them, thus helping forest conservation) so that an adequate time gap could be maintained.

They looked at us, as if, we had committed sacrilege by approaching them with the proposal. Explaining did no help. We instantly became the evils of consumerism and affordability of new cars. Ofcourse not all have the luxury of knowing that silent refined vehicles are almost a must in the forest (where would they have known that from, isn't written on the internet).

Result, we saw a couple of Murgi's (coming to complain that we ate their brother last night) only.

Now before someone starts to say Spacio Gold represents a substantial improvement, let me just interrupt that too.

Year 2006 saw us heading towards Kaziranga. Mode of transport: - Public. Indian Airlines to Guwahati and Tata Safari Dicor from then on. At Kaziranga, our Safari driver decided to give us a wake up call by starting his engine.

But as a contrast, Kaziranga was different. You could only do the jungle safari on Forest department permitted Gypsys (Safari on Gypsy!!). Reason: silence of a petrol engine. We were relieved. We were lucky to see a family of Elephants bringing their infant for a morning walk on the Jungle road.

Approaching the core area, you could only do on something even more refined and silent, the Non-"BOEING 747" Jumbo (In other words elephant).

However while returning we saw a couple of DI's making it through the Jungle roads. But we were not bothered, because those subscribers took the luxury of waking up late, by which time, we had seen what we came to see. Asking our Gypsy driver/forest guide, they said its also possible to sneak in an outside vehicle. Lets not discuss how.


@lumina sorry for hijacking your thread.

But people who wish to enjoy a forest must maintain silence in every possible way.

Last edited by 1100D : 9th October 2008 at 20:20.
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Old 9th October 2008, 20:36   #49
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@1100D: I totally agree with you here. Those DI engines not only minimize sighting chances, but also disturb the natural habitat.

I have made this a rule for myself. Whenever I stay put on a watchtower, with other people and their vehicles hanging around, I always ensure that I am either the first vehicle to leave the tower or the last one, giving a considerable time gap after the last vehicle has left. Whenever, I have done this, in most cases, I have been lucky to have some sightings.

Let me narrate a small incident. Sorry Lumina for highjacking your thread but I guess it is relevant. I was returning from a watchtower in Gorumara. It was a winter evening and has become quite dark. The only vehicle other than ours, to leave the watchtower, was an Omni. We left the tower about 2 mins after it did. Those who have been to Gorumara would know that you need to drive about 5kms through the forest, to reach the main entrance.

We have hardly driven 1.5kms from the tower, when we see the Omni standing on the road with a huge Tusker blocking its path. We kept waiting and then the Omni driver lost his patience. He tried to scare the tusker away, revved the engine and drove a few meters towards the tusker. This is a procedure to scare away elephants that I have seen drivers use in the forests. If the elephant moves away, you are good, otherwise, you need to back up fast.

This driver was trying the same thing. We stood at a distance and watched. The Omni did drive forward, but as soon as it started reversing, all hell broke lose. The Omni had a reverse music fitted and as soon as it went off, it drove the elephant mad. It gave out a loud grunt, charged forward and then luckily stopped. I am sure the Omni driver must have been wet in his pants, not to speak about the passengers.

The idea is, do take a vehicle to the forest, which do not disturb the animals. The Gypsy is the best bet. More importantly, the forest is not a zoo. Only go to the forests if you really love wildlife and care for them, otherwise, please leave them alone.
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Old 9th October 2008, 20:45   #50
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The forests of North Bengal gives the opportunity of renting out Petrol driven Land Rovers. Dont know if the economies offered by the DI engines have made those extinct by this time.
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Old 10th October 2008, 09:35   #51
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Wonderful narration and nice photography made me glue to this thread. Thanks Lumina.
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Old 10th October 2008, 10:15   #52
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@1100D, Saurabh: I do agree with both of you. It is a surprise that there are sightings even with the kind of noise levels emanating from the vehicles. I won't lobby for the Spacio Gold as well. While moving around Chilapata, at times there was a whiff of wild smell floating in through the windows, but nothing to be seen. Surely the diesel engine had scared away something was my thought. But again, since there has been well declared sightings, I figured out that maybe the habitants have got used to the noise (just like us).

At Jaldapara, though the forest department sponsors the elephant ride only, they still allow the 'Jeep Safari' from the various tourist lodges. Not sure if they are actually Jeeps though, I think there might be a few Gypsies in them. Had a glimpse of a few but they may not be for tourism purpose and are used by the forest department instead. Didn't see any Land Rovers on the way.

And it's not only about the engine clutter, I wonder how many of the vehicles plying in these areas would pass even the very basic pollution control checks. Wonder how the animals feel breathing in lung full of carbon particle enriched exhaust. At South Khairabari, the leopard safari uses the battery operated vehicles from WBREDA. These are silent and pollution free, but these three wheelers needing a recharge after every two trips are only capable of moving around a recreated forest and tamed beasts.
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Old 11th October 2008, 01:43   #53
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Day 6

Woke up at 4:30am in anticipation of the elephant ride. We were to be ready at the mounting station by 5:30 am. Freshened up, I decided to take a look at the forest and the salt mound to see if I could catch up with some wild life. There were none to be seen. The grassland was deserted.

As we waited for the scheduled time, the sky began to darken. It didn't look positive. Soon it started to drizzle, and was raining quite hard as we mounted the elephants. So no pictures here as the camera was safely packed up.

We didnít have waterproofs with us (inexperience) and unlike the other four elephants the one we were on didnít have a tarpaulin sheet. Umbrellas were useless in the forest, and we sat there getting drenched. No complaints here, I was relishing being exposed to the elements. Good that I had spent some good bucks on the camera bag. The waterproofing was getting well tested.

All set, the mighty animal started to move. It took me three or four steps to get adjusted to its rhythm, and then it was fun. The to and fro motion was very addictive, and my niece, who till then had been bubbling with energy was soon quietly snoring on her granddadís lap.

Once off the paved roads, the ride became far more comfortable. I realized that the elephants had not yet got used to walking on tarmac. The suspension would need some tuning.

The water canal surrounding Hollong was crossed in no time. The dense shrubs and bushes were swept aside by the oscillating trunk. Thatís the best part of being big, barriers donít matter. However, temptation is the folly. The urge to feed on succulent leaves made the beast stop in its tracks at regular intervals inviting some strict steering from the mahout.
We were gradually moving into thick undergrowths. And then at a water hole, we encountered this.

mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-76.jpg

Fortunately the rains had receded for a few minutes giving the opportunity to shoot. Surely the rhino didnít like being disturbed in its private bath and decided to move on. It vanished into the dense undergrowth.

That was all the wildlife we saw. The elephant safari trampled through the forest for an hour. The Dooarsí rain was generous and we sat there Ďrelishingí it. As the safari continued under the trees, thoughts of God-knows-what dropping from above sent shivers, but nothing of that sort happened fortunately.

The rains kept on lashing while we dismounted. The next group of tourists was already waiting for the elephant ride. But the rains continued uninterrupted for another two hours and all elephant safaris were cancelled. Heard that the Jeep safaris would start later, but didnít see any sign of them starting either.

Our next destination was Lataguri from where we would be visiting the Gorumara forests.

The latest news was the strike on the hills had been relaxed for a few hours so that people could store up their provisions (and then go on strike again). Not losing the opportunity, a Siliguri strike had been called by Amra Bangali in retaliation. With the strike in the main centre, provisions for the hills were difficult to come by and the GJMM supporters didnít like this at all. Violence had erupted at a number of places in Siliguri. This wasnít making things any easier for the millions of people stranded throughout the region. With the problems in Chalsa and Malbazar a couple of days back, it was unwise to take the NH31C anymore. A few queries about the situation of the various areas, some phone calls, and it was decided we should take the NH31 instead via Falakata, Dhupguri and enter Lataguri through Moinaguri.

We started at around 10am.

continued.
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Old 11th October 2008, 02:20   #54
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Day 6 continued

This time the journey felt like a long one, made longer by the thought of impending trouble. As we drove on the state highways, a number of vehicles with flags fluttering on them passed by. No idea whom they were supporting. The buses which normally ply till Siliguri had their signboards overwritten with changed destinations.

The situation was extremely tensed. Entered NH31 at Falakata. While passing through Dhupguri, we were suddenly stalled in traffic. The first message to cross the mind was that the road was blocked by the agitators. As a few minutes passed by, we realized it was just a chartered bus disembarking its passengers on the nrrow road through the market place. Breathed a sigh of relief.

Unlike the NH31C which passed through forests, this route passed more through human habitats. The traffic was significantly more and the road surface really bad at places, especially near Dhupguri. More so ever we were traveling in the bright late morning sun compared to the cloudy evening drive to Madarihat and the constant suspense was eating in. The 90odd kilometres in two hours felt like eternity.

Mr Agarwal had asked us to contact his friends in Moinaguri as soon as we reached there. My father called them up more as a courtesy but they insisted on accompanying us to Lataguri. We reached Lataguri at just about noon. I had heard there should not be a problem with boarding here, even without booking and I realized why. The road was fringed with resorts each having a more spectacular name than the other. Our booking was at Nakshatra.

On reaching our designated resort, we found the place quite crowded with people from the southern part of our country. Came to know that they were supposed to leave for Darjeeling but were held up because of the strike. The resort was full.

Not sure what to do, the friends of Mr Agarwal came to our help. They had a good rapport with the tourist lodges there and arranged for us to stay at the newly opened Green Lagoon quite near to Nakshatra itself. As we came to know, the resort had opened only a couple of days before and was now doing brisk business due to the strike. At least someone was gaining out of the trouble.

More resorts as seen from Green Lagoon
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-73.jpg

The trip to Gorumara was planned in the afternoon. Initially we had wanted to do this in the early morning next day, but with the problems brewing in Siliguri, we had to leave early leaving us no time for the trip.
We had decided to take the flight from Bagdogra. If things went wrong, we would proceed to NJP for the train. We would lose substantial amount of money, but that was the compromise.

We got our permits, the official guide and started on a very late afternoon safari. Started with a few sightings of our national bird.
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-74.jpg

Bisons on the banks of the Murti from the Morning View point
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-75.jpg

Track through Gorumara forest
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-77.jpg

Jacob's ladder at the Evening View point.
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-78.jpg

Just like Holong we encountered a family of very loud children and equally loud parents, and aunts and uncles. No wonder all we could shoot was the sun, even which had almost hid itself among the clouds.

Forest patterns.
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-79.jpg

With slightly better luck than what we had in the other forest ranges, we returned from the safari. Attended a complimentary tribal dance performance (accompanied by complimentary packets of Lays/Kurkure and a cup of tea). Tried to shoot some artistic shots, hand held, low light, but nice ghostly pictures I ended up with. Believe me, I like these ones.
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-80.jpg
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-81.jpg

Completely exhausted, we returned to the Green Lagoon. For the rest of the evening we remained glued to the television for the news. It didn't sound good. Curfew had been imposed at a few places in Siliguri. The sight of people brandishing naked Kukris in the open was not at all comfortable. The Amra Bangali had been requested to withdraw the strike and the political parties were planning to put their heads together to solve the crisis.

The news didn't help our nerves as we went to sleep that night. We had planned to start by 9am for Bagdogra. The flight was at 1:55pm and we were keeping ample time to reach the airport. We would take the route via Moinaguri, Jalpaiguri through the new Teesta Bridge.
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Old 11th October 2008, 07:28   #55
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Several packets of ActII waiting to be popped.
Where is the rest of the story?

Last edited by speedzak : 11th October 2008 at 07:29.
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Old 11th October 2008, 16:44   #56
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Some have ecstasized and appreciated, while some lambasted albeit in jest.. Till now read in silence and enjoyed immensely feeling as if part of the safari. A great travelogue and good pictures. Especially of the Rhino in the middle of the pond totally drenched.. Wish you had a waterproof contraption for your camera. BTW, what gear is it?

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Day 6

Woke up at 4:30am in anticipation of the elephant ride. We were to be ready at the mounting station by 5:30 am. Freshened up, I decided to take a look at the forest and the salt mound to see if I could catch up with some wild life. There were none to be seen. The grassland was deserted.
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Old 11th October 2008, 17:07   #57
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Tried to shoot some artistic shots, hand held, low light, but nice ghostly pictures I ended up with. Believe me, I like these ones.
And for the right reasons. Both are fantastic compositions, the final effect is too good.
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Old 11th October 2008, 18:08   #58
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Day 7

The last day in the Dooars for us today, so wanted to put as much of it to good use. The thought of us leaving in a few hours and along with that of the uncertainty at Siliguri shook me up at five in the morning. My father was asking if I would like to go for a walk, and I agreed.

The sun was not yet out when we started. The gate of the resort was locked. Father was trying to get hold of the gate keeper (we were contemplating going over the rails, which I gathered was not that difficult, but my dad wanted to try the decent way out first). As I waited took some early morning shots of the resort.

mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-82.jpg

The keys were found and we walked out on to the track. The grass on the path was shining silver with the dew drops. We took off our slippers and walked bare foot on the grass. I hadn't done this in a long time now and the long-forgotten feelings came back. The dews were everywhere, on the grass, flowers, leaves.

mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-84.jpg
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-85.jpg

We were walking towards the watch tower we could see in the distance.
mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-83.jpg

As we reached there found the trees around the place somewhat ransacked. A few village boys were passing by and they told us that the watch tower had been attacked by a herd of elephants the night before we arrived. The herd couldn't find anything in the village and hence they vented their anger here.

Spent some peaceful time on the watch tower before returning back to the resort. We were to prepare for leaving.

Villager plucking leaves at the tea garden

mountains, forests, rains and a little trouble-86.jpg


The news in the morning was that the Siliguri strike will be withdrawn at 2pm during the day, still too late for us to take the flight. The situation was reported to be much calmer now. This gave us some relief as we were all set to start. Alam was ready with the Spacio. He had taken off the GJMM logo from the windscreen, cut it into strips and used that to glue in a paper with 'TOURIST' written on it.

Hit the road at about 9:30am. Enough time to make the 85kms to Bagdogra by noon we thought.

As we passed the last of the forests on our way to Moinaguri, we hoped to have a glimpse of wild life. But nothing more substantial than a few peacocks.

From Moinaguri turned right towards Jalpaiguri. Because of the strike, we didn't encounter much traffic and the state highway was beautiful. Alam made a few calls to his friends in Siliguri for updates. We came to know that some of the areas we shall be driving through were still having problems.

In Siliguri, the roads were almost empty and the remains of burnt tyres were scattered all over the place. The areas had taken a severe battering it was obvious. The more we entered the city the effect of the bandh became more apparent. As we were approaching one of these trouble torn areas, Alam called up a friend and requested him to be present there. We saw a group of people approaching our Spacio at the crossing. The vehicle was going to be stopped. But even before anyone could speak, Alam called out to his friend, who was waiting there. The 'friend' turned out to be an elderly person whom the crowd did respect. He came up to our Spacio, had a chat with Alam. The crowd moved away.

From there on, Alam decided to take the by-lanes instead of going through the main city roads. This helped. We didn't encounter any further problems and were soon out of Siliguri again and on the road to Bagdogra.

The traffic comprised of a lot of ambulances, police and military vans. Speculating about the severity of the situation, we reached the airport. Here we found the reason behind the abundance of such vehicles. People, desparate to move out of the trouble were using these as getaway vehicles to the airport. It obviously worked.

It was half past noon, took about three hours to make the journey. The flights appeared to be running on time in spite of the strike.

Time to bid farewell to Alam. In the last seven days we had grown really close together. He was going to wait out the strike at the airport and then start for his home after 2pm. We thanked him for all the trouble he had taken for us. As father handed him a handsome tip, he was almost on the verge of tears. Cajoled my niece before he left, they had grown a liking towards each other. As he left my little niece called out 'Kaku kothaye jachhe?' (Where is uncle going?). She was inquiring about him even after we reached Kolkata.

We waited in the lobby for our flight to be announced and watched with fascination as the Air Force fighter planes took off and landed.

The Jet Airways flight took off on time. As the plane soared in the sky, I glanced out of the window hoping for a last view of the forests. Couldn't make out much from where I was sitting though. Visions of the whole trip inevitably jumped in to my memory. This was a trip which I was going to remember for a long, long time. It had all the highs and lows, like a roller coaster ride, which had left me exhilarated. In spite of all the trouble we had faced, everyone of us was looking forward for another visit to the forests.

From the Netaji Subhash Airport in Kolkata, we called up Alam. He had just reached his home and was spending some quality time with his son. He won't be going on any trips for the next one week. He was going to spend it with his son instead.
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Old 11th October 2008, 18:35   #59
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Default The route

The plans had gone completely topsy-turvy since we had started of.
It was only at the end of the trip that I was sure about the routes we had taken for the journey.
As you can understand, I didnít have the odometer handy so the distance figures are more of an approximation. Also the trip was in July after which the roads have gone through a monsoon.

Day 1: Siliguri - Sevoke - Kalimpong - Deolo (67kms) - scenic drive

Day 3: Deolo - Kalimpong - Algarah - Lava (33kms) - scenic drive

Day 3: Lava - Damdim - Malbazar - Chalsa - Beerpara - Madarihat (140 kms) - scenic drive on the hills till Damdim followed by drive through forests and tea estates. Normally excellent roads on the plains other than about a 10km stretch near Nagrakata

Day 3: Madarihat - South Khoirabari forest (13 kms) - 12 kms of forest track

Day 5: South Khoirabari - Madarihat - Kodalbasti - Chilapata forest (30 kms) and back to Madarihat. Need permit and official guide to enter Chilapata.

Day 5: Madarihat - Hollong (Jaldapara) (10 kms). Need permit and official guide to enter. Pay for camera.

Day 6: Hollong - Madarihat - Beerpara - Falakata - Dhupguri - Moinaguri - Lataguri (110 kms). Beerpara to Falakata, 24 kms on state highway, henceforth on densely populated NH31. Road in shambles at places on NH.

Day 6: Lataguri - Gorumara sanctuary (15 kms) and back. Need permit and official guide to enter.

Day 7: Lataguri - Moinaguri - Jalpaiguri - Siliguri - Bagdogra (85 kms). State highway via Jalpaiguri is excellent.
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Old 11th October 2008, 18:46   #60
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And for the right reasons. Both are fantastic compositions, the final effect is too good.
Thank you Sir. I intended to create the sense of motion, but the light was too low to get what I had expected it to look like. Nevertheless I am happy with the end result.


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Some have ecstasized and appreciated, while some lambasted albeit in jest.. Till now read in silence and enjoyed immensely feeling as if part of the safari. A great travelogue and good pictures. Especially of the Rhino in the middle of the pond totally drenched.. Wish you had a waterproof contraption for your camera. BTW, what gear is it?
Thanks @gd1418. It's a Nikon D80. The humidity worried me a lot.

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Several packets of ActII waiting to be popped.
Where is the rest of the story?
I have finally managed to finish it. Phew.....
Thanks for being an ardent follower!
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