North East Chapter 2 - Nameri National Park
Nameri might not be a popular tourist destination, but it is well known to most bird lovers. This place houses many local and migratory birds, which attracts tourists and often photographers to this place throughout the season. I wasn’t fortunate enough to spot many birds during my stay, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this place and finding it absolutely worth it.
if you wish to read about my journey till Nameri, you can click here . If you want to know about Nameri, you are at the right place.
Nameri has exactly five hotels. They are all referred to as camps and you can’t expect great facilities or services out there. Two of the camps (Nameri Jungle Camp & N Palky Camp) are close to main road and hence a little far from the national park. Other three camps Nameri Eco Camp, Jia Bhorali Wild Resort & Lalimou Camp are close to each other, at least in lateral sense. Nameri Eco Camp is the most popular one and it is located right on the main route connecting bus stop to river (entry to national park). In order to access the other two, you need to take a right turn after the Eco Camp and go ahead in that route taking two more right turns. So basically after crossing another km or so you will reach almost the back of the Eco Camp.
|Hotel Entry viewed from inside|
The first one to reach in this route is Jia Bhorali Wild Resort, which is where I had stayed. I had booked this place because it was rated decently, location seemed good and it was a tiny bit cheaper compared to Nameri Eco Camp. I found the place up to my expectation, even though I should mention that my expectation wasn’t very high.
The property is owned by government and given on lease to private contractor. Hence the condition is pretty much what you expect from a tourism department resort. Rooms were average with fading walls and leaking taps. But on the other hand, they had individual cottages providing complete privacy to visitors. It wasn’t a big property, but there was enough space to walk around inside the boundary. The dining area was placed in the centre with tin roof and pillars (no wall). Food was… umm… actually quite disappointing.
|Sunset at the hotel|
Most of the staffs spoke Hindi, but even then I had trouble communicating my requirement to them at times. However once understood they were very helpful and always courteous. They would arrange for forest trek and rafting if you are interested without charging any additional fees. I found the rural landscape around the hotel really charming, which definitely earned this place a positive point compared to Eco Camp. And for the price I paid, I felt quite content with my stay otherwise as well.
My mental clock of western India was not yet tuned to the eastern cycle and I was having hard time reminding myself what time to be considered as late. Even though I reached hotel at 2:30 pm on first day, which was already afternoon as far as January was concerned, I was still too eager to see the river. So I got freshened up, packed up my camera and sweater and started for the river. One of the hotel guys warned me to not get too late, but I was sure I wasn’t going to be. I mean seriously, it was only 3:20 pm.
|Rural landscape near hotel|
I walked back on the same route that the car had taken to bring me to hotel. There were mostly fields on both sides of the road with occasional houses. Houses meant huts made of clay with hay roofing. Sometimes there was a single hut, sometime a few of them with a porch in the middle. Most of them had one or two hay stacks next to them. As I started walking, I could see distant outline of the hills under a cluster of fluffy white clouds on a clear blue sky. As the road turned left, it made for a beautiful rural landscape with fields and small houses at the back drop of hills.
|Very sandy road|
I walked ahead on this road enjoying this view until the road went and met the route to river. Here the landscape changed. Empty fields got replaced with trees and bushes and so the distant hills were not visible anymore. The road too became muddy and rough as it went through jungle on both sides. It was still 1.2 kms to the river from there and as I kept walking the road got more and more sandy. Eventually it was like walking on a beach with thick cushion of soft sands.
I didn’t see anybody else moving towards the same direction as me, but many were returning from that side. There were locals commuting in their cycles or motorcycles, but the most common commuters were cars returning after a rafting session judging by the big boat tied on top of them. After some more walking, I saw the road getting wider to open to a beach and saw the glitter of the flowing water further ahead.
The River – Jia Bhorali or Kameng
There are some places in world which seems to have materialized right out of a fantasy book, like any moment a unicorn would walk by or the sky would turn into a huge rainbow. Jia Bhorali river felt the same way (or Kameng river as it’s known in Arunachal). The river meandered through white sands and thick forest on each side, flowing on a bed of multi-coloured pebbles. Hills were peeking out at distance kissing the clouds lower in the sky. It looked absolutely stunning.
|A view of Jia Bhorali River|
At the furthest end of my vision I could see the blue hills, which were closer now. The forest spread right below it in shade of green and yellow. Before the forest, there laid a very long beach with white sands and pebbles bordering the edge of the river. And then the river flowed gently from north to south. At the north end there were more hills visible beyond the river, probably belonging to Arunachal Pradesh.
At my side of the river, beach was narrower even though still quite wide and the pebbles spread only in the slope of the land leading towards water. On my left, the beach ended a little ahead and trees expanded up to river with a slight cliff at the end. On my right a pathway went on by the side of water for as far as my eyes could see. There was a boat coming towards the bank from the other side carrying 7-8 people. Apart from that, there was another group of people dancing at one corner to some tasteless music, which I could hear from the road itself.
I went down through the pebbled way to touch the water once before heading back, as the sun was already leaning towards the horizon.
Forest trek is the major attraction of Nameri National Park, probably the thing that attracted me to this place most. I enquired on this to my hotel on first day itself and I was assured that it will be arranged for the next morning. I was to wake up early and get ready by 6 so that we can make in right time for birds.
|Forest Office or Interpretation Centre|
Like an obedient student I was ready by 6 in the morning next day. I took a bag to keep camera and water bottle, and put on a sweater and a jacket anticipating cold outside. When I emerged outside it felt pleasant with all my clothing. I took a quick tea before leaving for the trek. The hotel staff who was guiding me to the place told me that we will take a shortcut. I was only happy to hear that because I didn’t feel too eager to walk on that sandy road again. But my understanding was wrong as he wasn’t leading me to the river, but to the forest office where one needs to get the permit from.
The forest office was close to our hotel, at least on the shortcut route that we used. It’s situated close to Nameri Eco Camp, near the main road. When I reached the office, there were two more groups ahead of me with 2 guys in each. An officer was sitting by a table at the corner of this office and writing details for people. When my time came, I was asked to write down my name and a few other basic details. After which he prepared the slip and handed to me. The hotel guys had asked me if I wanted to do a full day trek which was around 12 km, but I wasn’t sure if that would be sustainable for me. So I went with the half day trek. The charges for half day were 70 per person, 50 per camera and 100 bucks charge for the guide. So for me it was total of 220 Rs.
|The rippling water|
Once I received the slip, I met my guide outside who was a tall, thin man in his fifties. They didn’t provide any vehicle at the forest office, so we had to walk the distance till the river before venturing inside forest. It took us around 20 minutes to reach the river through that sandy road again. A small boat was already resting at the bank and the other two groups had also been waiting by the river to cross it. Soon the boatmen (also forest department staff) joined in and we started boarding. There were total 10 of us in that boat including three guides and two boatmen. The water rippled around us as they started pulling the oars and we started to move towards the other side of the river.
|Forest Office house beside river|
We crossed the river and were on the other side very soon. The beach on the other side was very very long. At the end of it I could see a small cottage most likely the forest office. First we walked on pebbles for long time and then on white sands for even longer. When we reached the end of the beach and the starting of the jungle we had to make entry at the forest office. Here I found out that the others had taken the full day trek and so they went on a different way and I along with my guide went towards another route.
The forest consisted of very tall trees or long grounds with only bushes and no trees at all. We walked through the trees first and spotted a few birds sitting high on the branches. I could make out the type of birds only for few of them given how high they were sitting. Camera (200mm zoom) was useless as well. Then we walked along the bushes for some time. Here some small birds kept jumping from bush to bush. And my guide showed me some Hornbills flying above. But from that distance I couldn’t tell it apart from a cormorant.
|Foggy jungle morning|
The forest had been just as I expected – mostly silent with little bit of birds chirping and sound of water when we were close to any water body. The temperature had increased quite a lot very soon forcing me to remove my jacket and hat. Even the sweater felt a bit too much under the sun. But it was still slightly foggy, with dew drops at the edge of leaves turning it into a beautiful view. We walked some more and reached a watch tower. As I was about to climb the stairs of the tower I heard a noise behind me. Against all rationality I was startled. I turned back swiftly and asked my guide what it was. He casually told me it was a wild boar and by looking carefully I could make out its outline behind the trees. Reassured I began to climb again.
The watchtower didn’t help much in spotting birds. Neither did rest of my time in the forest. It was quite surprizing to find so little birds inside whereas I had seen more near my hotel itself. But that’s the thing about jungle, you never know what you are going to get. Either way, it didn’t dampen my spirit. I was quite happy to fulfil my long time fantasy of walking inside a dense forest.
|Black Hooded Oriole|
|I believe its called Small Niltava|
All in all it was about 5 km walk inside and I was back till the river within two hours. The boat came to this side to pick us up. This time it was only me and my guide, since the others would spend the whole day in forest and leave only by 4 pm. We crossed and then walked back towards our own destinations. I was back at hotel by 9:30 am.
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