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Old 7th December 2009, 20:46   #1
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Default Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!

Early in November I was told that our scheduled visit to Sherubtse College at Trashigang, Bhutan, had been canceled. That was a big disappointment because of a good driving/sightseeing opportunity lost. I needed a quick getaway in order to forget the disappointment but nothing materialized even as more than three weeks of November were past. I then asked wifey to tell our ever enthusiastic partners in crime, bil, sil and their kid to be ready for a weekend trip on 28-29 November. In case you wondered who bil and sil are, bil stands for my brother-in-law and sil, sister-in-law, is my wife's elder sister. You perhaps already met them in a previous travelouge of mine (http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...te-wheels.html (Exploring a part of my own State on wheels)).

Unless we are blessed with a favourable calender we cannot plan short trips because of our six-days-a-week working schedule. Thankfully, Saturday the 28th was a holiday. I was told that Nameri, near Tezpur, was a good place for a one night trip. It is the 3rd National Park in Assam, famous for exotic birds and other wildlife (Nameri National Park,Assam Nameri Wildlife Reserve,Nameri Tiger Reserve,National Parks in Assam,Assam Travel,Travel to Assam), located at about 210 kilometres from Guwahati on the Balipara-Bhalukpong-Bomdila road. There are two routes from Guwahati to Balipara, one via Jalukbari-Baihata-Mangaldai and the other via Jorabat-Nagaon-Kaliabhomora. The Potasali Eco Camp run by the Assam Bhoreli Angling and Conservation Association used to be the only accommodation at Nameri till only a couple of months ago. On Wednesday I rang up the Eco camp for our accommodation but it was already too late, there was no room even for one person, let alone 4 and half. I was asked if we would be interested in staying in a newly coming up resort near the Eco Camp. I had to say yes. On Thursday I was called back to be informed about the booking. I was a little apprehensive about it -- no payment, no proof -- will the booking be honoured? Some Googling later I came to know that there is the Wild Mahseer Resort at Balipara which could be a suitable place to spend a night. The rates quoted in their website (Wild Mahseer Lodge) were way beyond the limits that our wallets were willing to leak. However I decided to just get there on Saturday and bargain the rates down to sanity if possible.

Bil, sil and the kid stayed with us on Friday night so that we could leave early next morning. I opted not to tank up my Palio on Friday in order to get the advantage of early morning high density of fuel on the D-day. We started off at 6.15 am from home and were out of the fuel station near Jalukbari at 6.30. Since we live near Jalukbari the NH31-NH52 route via Baihata-Mangaldai was the natural choice of our route. The weather was perfect for a trip, not too cold and not so foggy. After some time the fog cleared and the Sun came out with all it glory. We then came across a stretch where the highway was flanked by large paddy fields. Since there was no tearing hurry, we stopped there to warm up the camera. (The Lumix P&S has been my prized possession but now the pro-like DSLR shots of fellow BHPians give me loads of inferiority complex).

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Old 7th December 2009, 22:37   #2
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The road was smooth and more or less free. We had covered half of the way in good time without driving fast. On NH 52 there is a township called Orang (from here one can visit the Orang wildlife sanctuary). Orang is famous for rasgullas and it is a must for people passing through that place to have a couple of them and pack some more for home. Most of those eateries are in various stages of dilapidation however. We stopped at one such and had the customary couple of rasgullas with special chai. By 10.30 we reached Balipara. We went along NH52 for about a kilometer to reach a tea estate owned by McLeod Russel Ltd. Some bungalows dating back to the British era had been converted into the heritage hotel called the Wild Mahseer.

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The security of the place was tight. We were not allowed to enter until the manager from inside instructed the gatekeeper over phone to allow us in. We were provided with an usher to show us around. We could not enter the best of the bungalows as it was occupied by guests then. Each of the bungalows have fully equipped kitchen where the guests can have the option of cooking their own food. The establishment also has a conference room that can accommodate 30.

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The conference room
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Into a bungalow

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The usher showing us furniture that supposedly dates back to British era
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We were very gracefully denied any opportunity to negotiate over the rates and after spending about half and hour we came out to proceed towards Nameri. A few kilometers into the Balipara-Bhalukpong road we stopped again to catch a glimpse of something at a distance we never expected to see from here. Something that I had expected in Kashmir in plenty but came back totally disappointed only two month back -- snow clad Himalayan peaks!

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A part of the narrow-gauge rail line between Rangia and Murkongselek.
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Last edited by tortoiseNhare : 7th December 2009 at 22:40.
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Old 7th December 2009, 23:17   #3
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Another one so soon?
Cool, nice photos. How much would it cost to stay in the heritage bungalow?
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Old 7th December 2009, 23:37   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laluks View Post
Another one so soon?
Cool, nice photos.
Actually I was rather reluctant to write the previous one and had sat down to write this one. Then suddenly I felt that the disappointment of not getting any snow on the valley was melting away (pun intended), and took out the logs, toll receipts etc from the drawer.

Quote:
How much would it cost to stay in the heritage bungalow?
Rate keeps changing I suppose. When I inquired, it was Rs. 5000 for double occupancy but it was supposedly off season rate. Now it is Rs. 7500. See this link Wild Mahseer Lodge
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Old 7th December 2009, 23:53   #5
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Now I am waiting with bated breath for the rest.

Nice pictures and I guess there is also a fantastic story ahead and can barely wait.

Cheers,
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Old 8th December 2009, 00:34   #6
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Default Nameri To Bhalukpong for a Golden Mahseer Dish

Thanks Ravveendrra but I am more a narrator than a storyteller, so please don't burden me with high expectations.

--------------------------

There were only the two posts of the signboard remaining that was to indicate the turn to Potasali Eco Camp. So we missed that road. A couple of kilometres from that point we noticed another signboard displaying Nameri National Park to be 2 km along the mud road to the right. That place is called Hati Gate and the road led us to the Eco Camp without any problem. We looked for the person who we had talks with over phone. It so happened that the first person we enquired about him was himself, Pradip. Pradip turned out to be a young, polite and helpful chap. We were given the direction to the Jia Bhoreli Wild Resort where our accommodation had been arranged by Pradip. It is actually a property of Assam Tourism Development Corporation which was on a sort of trial run for the last couple of months.

There is no actual road to the place but this being the dry season my Palio didn't have trouble in reaching there. The manager was not there at that time and we were given the keys to our huts without registration and any payment. We were the only guests on that day. The caretaker told us that there was no other booking for that day but the next day onwards many foreigners were expected. It was a good feeling to have the whole resort for ourselves. The river Jia Bhoreli is hardly 500 meters away from there and the river being a natural habitat of the Golden Mahseer we expected to have that fish in the lunch menu. They promised to try to get it for dinner instead. We chose not to have lunch in the resort and decided to try our luck at Bhalukpong about 20 km away on Arunachal border, also on the banks of Jia Bhoreli.

The road to Bhalukpong had about 5 kilometres of awful stretches where BRO was doing widening work. We reached the place at about 1 pm and entered a Bengali restaurant. We were very lucky to have got the last remaining plates of the exotic curry of golden mahseer. The restaurant looked shady but the lunch was very tasty. A few meters into the lane next to the restaurant, right on the banks of Jia Bhoreli river, is the Bhalukpong Tourist Complex, also owned by ATDC. This had also been leased out and the lessee had done a good job of renovating it. After relaxing for some time in the tourist complex we went near the river bed. The scenery there is to be seen to be believed. I am generally reluctant to get photographed but I too could not resist giving a few poses.

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Old 8th December 2009, 08:39   #7
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very very nice pics sarkar. you need to process them a bit more for the wow effect.

and which one is you?

and you need to take better pics of your red beauty
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Old 8th December 2009, 09:09   #8
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Excellent narration and fantastic pics of the Jia Bhoreli. The APTDC bungalow must be an excellent staying option at Bhalukpong.

Great going Sir.
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Old 8th December 2009, 11:13   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
very very nice pics sarkar. you need to process them a bit more for the wow effect.
Thanks. I don't know Photoshop. Whatever little post-processing I try is in IrfanView.


Quote:
and which one is you?
The man on borrowed sunglasses.


Quote:
and you need to take better pics of your red beauty
Trying, trying.

@Saurabh_M
Thanks. The resort at Bhalukpong is a property of ATDC (Assam Tourism Development Corporation) and not APTDC.

@Mods
The formatting of the text goes haywire when I copy paste from Notepad. Please help.

---------------------------------

After the photo session we came back to the tourist resort and entered the restaurant there to have coffee. We came to know that the lessee of the resort is the Janambhumi Group which also runs the well known Iora resort in Kaziranga National Park. This may become an ideal transit point for a Tawang bound traveler.

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We were soon on our way back to our place of stay Jia Bhoreli wild resort at Nameri. The sun had set by the time we arrived. Just before entering the resort I saw a peasant coming from the river side with a freshly caught fish in hand. This was a golden mahseer, no less, albeit a small one. In my excitement I forgot to ask wifey to take a photograph of it and she also didn't know why at all someone is to be excited at all about a half kilo fish. Well, till then I had seen Jim Corbett's "fish-of-my-dreams" and "tiger-of-the-river" only in photographs. As a small child I was fascinated by his exploits in angling too, recounted in his "Jungle Lore".

Paradoxically however angling is not something that I took to as a hobby. Otherwise Nameri would have been one of my earliest and most frequent places of visit. One of the highlights of Nameri is the trek to the angling points of Jia Bhoreli. For this is one has to become a member of the Assam Bhoreli Anglers' Association.

Another tourist attraction of the place is rafting on Jia Bhoreli. The rafts and the tourists are carried on a Tatamobile to a place about 10 kilometres upstream called 13 Mile. Then they raft downstream upto Potasali. The Eco Camp as I mentioned before was full of guests and rafts were already booked for the morning. Since we had to start our way back at noon rafting was not in our agenda. The third option is to go trekking into the jungles. For that the rates that the Forest Department charges are Rs.20 per adult, Rs.10 per child and Rs.50 per camera which includes an armed guard and ferrying across Jia Bhoreli on a boat. An absolute steal indeed.

We were yet to get the necessary permissions for the next day's foray into the Nameri National Park. The range officer was not available when we entered the forest office on our way back from Bhalukpong. We were asked to come to the forest office after half an hour; no problem since it is just next to the Eco Camp and just 10 minutes walk from our place of stay.

Some pics of the Jia Bhoreli Wild Resort (still in beta I suppose)

Main Portico cum Dining Hall
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One of the huts (we took two such)
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The security room and car parking
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Bonfire
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In winter darkness falls early in Assam. By 6pm myself and bil ventured out towards the forest office on foot. It was night already but not dark. The moon was giving such clear light, thanks to zero pollution atmosphere, that the torchlight was not required to be switched on. The Forest Officer had got stuck somewhere and would take more time to arrive. Mr. Pradip of the Eco Camp, such a nice gentleman he is, offered to get the permissions ready for us by early next morning. We made the payments to him and he reminded us to be present at the office next day at 6 am sharp. Since at that moment bil and me didn't have our women and the kid for company we decided to spend some time utilising some unmentionable resources of the Eco Camp paying some premium over the actual cost.

When we were back in our resort a very chilly wind was blowing and it became difficult to stay outside. The the Manager/lessee then ordered his people to arrange for a mini bonfire for us -- the fist ever in his resort according to him. We were thrilled. Some potatoes were brought from the kitchen sometime later to be roasted in red charcoal produced from burnt firewood. Dinner was ready by 9 pm but the could not procure the Mahseer. Fried fish having local name 'Nekura' was provided which tasted like the ones caught in Dal Lake, Srinagar. After dinner we retired early to bed because we had to get ready early. The huts didn't have geysers but we were promised adequate supply on buckets as early in the morning as we wished.

I got up early in the morning, in time to catch the glimpse of sunrise in the eastern horizon. I could capture a few shots just before the real thing happened when the urgent call of nature forced me to abandon everything.

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My wifey took the snaps of the real thing. I could watch the sunrise only from the point when the glorious ball was out in full.

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Old 8th December 2009, 16:01   #10
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We could reach the Eco Camp/Forest Office only at 6.20. We waited for the guard assigned to us who had our entry pass with him for five more minutes. In the mean time I took a couple of snaps of the tent-huts of the Eco Camp which looked very enticing to spend a night in.

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The guard also doubled up as a guide and had good knowledge of wildlife. He was prone to pronouncing a squirrel a quail though. He warned us beforehand not to have very high expectation of sighting wild animals as Nameri is a dense forest without the kind of vast grasslands in Kaziranga. The trek started in a promising note - we could sight some beautiful birds on the way. I managed to capture a minivet and another of some other species in the camera. It was a 1 KM walk to the riverside across which the entry point to the park is located. The boatman is an employee of the Forest Department and one must show the entry pass to cross the river. The view of the river from that point, as usual, was excellent.

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Walking the last couple of hundred metres over soft sand was tough but we were maha thrilled to spot pug marks of the king of the jungle.

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040018.jpg

Our kid had refused to walk from the outset and bil had to carry him on his back. I saw no hope of completing the remaining 3.5 km trek through dense forest to reach the bird-watchers' tower. And then out came my exclamation, "Hey! what is that pig doing so close to the elephant?"

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040020.jpg
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Old 8th December 2009, 23:07   #11
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BEAUTY of a sunrise - post some more!!
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Old 9th December 2009, 12:26   #12
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On closer scrutiny we saw that it was not a pig but a baby elephant. The elder one was a domesticated elephant belonging to the Forest Department and the baby was only 7 days old. Though she was chained we were warned not to go any closer as she might react violently due to protective instincts about the baby.

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That place also had a Beat Office of the Department and as the weather became warm by then we took of the warm clothing and kept them in custody of one the employees. On entering the trek route we immediately saw many beautiful birds of various sizes, including some very uncommon types of parakeets. The bird however seemed to be very camera shy, at least in my case. The park has some highly endangered species of birds and bird-watchers from world over spend hours together in hushed silence waiting for them. Ours was a boisterous team and the guard was apprehensive of us scaring away the birds and animals. He told us that foreigners from worldwide visit this wildlife park and their most favourite is the White Winged Wood Duck (Deohah in Assamese language), an endangered species. Deohah was not sighted by us.

Our trek route
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Long Talied Cuckoo?
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This tree is supposedly a favourite destination of hornbills for the fruits.
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Orange Breasted Himalayan Squirrel on an Elephant Apple tree

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040039.jpg

The most common fruit bearing tree we noticed was Elephant Apple. We were told that our trek route was actually an animal corridor and those fruits are favourites of elephants roaming in it. Elephant apple is also used in some Assmese delicacies and we collected a few of them for home. The photo opportunities were limited and the battery was running out too as I forgot to get it charged the previous night. After a trek of less than an hour wifey and sil complained of aching feet. By then I had the wrong notion of having almost covered the 3.5 km to the bird-watching tower. The guard told us that from that point another 1.5 km still remained. Bil with the kid on his back, ever the enthusiast that he is, proclaimed his readiness to go ahead. I developed cold feet because I knew that the women would reach the tower from but from there they would have to be carried on stretchers. So the decision to return from that point was made, and voila, the kid came down and expressed his readiness to walk back. When we were ferried back to the other side of the river I gave a 100 rupees tip to the guard to share with the boatman and his assistant.

By 10.30 we were back to our lodge. All were at various stages of exhaustion and at the end nobody cared who was where. There was at least a 15 minutes gap between the arrival times of the first one (myself) and the last one (sil). Breakfast was ready and I devoured mine before the others were on the table! We were to have an early lunch in the resort and check out at the scheduled time of 12 noon. I requested Mr. Bora, the suave and knowledgeable manager, to present our bill. The total bill including lodging, dinner, bed-tea, breakfast and lunch came to only Rs.3320. Meanwhile wifey and bil indulged in plucking radishes. The whole area in front of the resort was Govt reserved area which the locals use for farming. The farmer-owner of the radish farm didn't even charge any money for the radishes taken by us and just kept the Rs.20 that wifey had offered.

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040040.jpg
Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040041.jpg
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Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040046.jpg

Bil and myself were not finished yet. There was still three quarters of an hour left till 12. The Jia Bhoreli flows down just about 500 meters away and the music of swirling sound of it flowing over rocks is audible from from the resort. We could not leave without having a look. Being incorrigible fish-eaters we also hoped against hope to get hold of someone catching fish in the river to sell us some. That hope was not fulfilled and we came back after taking a few snaps.

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040047.jpg

People guard the paddy-fields from wild elephants from these machans.

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Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040049.jpg

Contraptions to trap fishes in the river Jia Bhoreli

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040050.jpg

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040052.jpg

These are used to build thatched roofs.
Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040053.jpg

I was very happy with the support staff of the resort and paid them a total of Rs.80 as tips. The tips were also returned in kind, by a complimentary wash of my red beauty. After lunch it was time for the rather uneventful journey back home.

My red beauty and the Jia Bhoreli Wild Resort.

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Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040060.jpg

Ornamental green chilli plant.
Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040064.jpg

How can an Assam travelogue be complete with tea-garden talk? We wanted to have a look at the Assam Valley School at Balipara and the road to that school was flanked by large and beautiful tea gardens. There, first time in my life, I saw a tea flower. It was not a great looking variety but had a decent scent. We again stopped at Orang to have tea and pack some sweets. Then bil drove the rest of the way home.

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040067.jpg

Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040070.jpg

Tea-flower
Nameri, Bhalukpong and the Splendid Jia Bhoreli : What a Weekend!-p1040072.jpg

In contrast to the Cash-More tourist places in Kashmir, Nameri has not yet become a business centre. It is a destination for true lovers of nature. No jeep safaris or elephant rides there and you don't just see the jungle but feel it on foot. If you are adventurous enough to venture out at unearthly hours then you have more than a fair chance of facing the odd tiger or the herd of wild elephants. If you are fascinated by birds then you must be in Nameri. The beautiful Jia Bhoreli is an added bonus that provides angling and rafting opportunities.
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Old 14th August 2010, 16:05   #13
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I too had started off from Guwahati, with Eco Camp as my destination, but could not find the place and ended up staying in Prashanti lodge Bhalukpong.

Since Eco Camp is filled most of the times would you mind sharing the contact details of the new Jia Bharali wild resort/tourist lodge.

And do we have to turn right towards North Lakhimpur or left towards Rangapara to visit the Wild Masheer at Balipara junction.

Thanks.

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Old 15th August 2010, 11:52   #14
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tortoiseNhare. I dont know how I missed this thread when you wrote it!
Anyway, good that saw it now. Photographs are very very pleasing.

As I wrote in your other (Tripura) TL, I have visited lot of parts in NE, and the diversity and natural beauty is worth a visit. Now, your this TL also brought back some of my memories. Way back in 2004 (Dec), I alongwith office colleagues stayed in Eco camp Nameri for 3 nights! It was a memorable experience. The facilities they provided in that Jungle were appreciable. To top it, we had thrilling rafting experience (my 1st time) in Jiabhoreli. We had a trained local man on each raft, but still whenever a big boulder came underneath the raft, it was scary! Enjoyed a lot. Visited Bhalukpong, and that Botanical/medicinal plant garden in Bhalukpong.

BTW, liked sunrise and Jiabhoreli pics the most.

Its so good that you are presenting those beautiful sites of NE to travel and nature-loving members of this forum . It'll go a long way in spreading awareness about that region
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Old 15th August 2010, 14:42   #15
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Love those photographs and the narration. Another place being added to my to-do list. I would surely love to go to Nameri and if possible head towards Tawang onwards. Jia Bhoroli seems to be one of the most scenic rivers of the North East. I've been to Sijusa when I was studying and I think it was on the banks of Jia Bhoroli only. Please correct me if I'm wrong. That also was a very beautiful place, I still treasure those memories deep in my heart.
After October seems to be the best time as there won't be any rain (those who are wondering why rain can be bad, well, the rain might get into your nerves during monsoon at Assam as it becomes just too heavy and incessant at times and continues for days) and weather is pleasant.
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