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Monday 21 Mar 2011
Kaziranga National Park, India

Rhino where I've seen you before...

Me and my gun for hire
Me and my gun for hire

Elephant safari
Elephant safari

Up at 6am to take my jeep safari to the park. Kaziranga National Park is famous primarily for having the largest concentration of rare one-horned rhino in the world. In fact 2/3 of the remaining world's population live in this park, but there are also wild elephants/deer/water buffalo, plus countless birds and even, if you're extremely lucky, tiger!

I was required to bring along 2 people on the safari: a guide (who is the driver) and a guard. Rhino attacks are pretty frequent and later on I was to read about the death of several guards around the time I was visiting. Had I known about those, I would have been a little more unnerved when I later saw a bull charging one of the jeeps ahead of us, only to recoil once shots were fired into the air. 

Great One Horned Rhino
One-Horned Rhino

No escaping traffic jams...
No escaping traffic jams...

The whole trip was supposed to be only 1.5 hours, but it went on for just over 2. The park was enjoyable: very green and full of wildlife, including a decent number of rhino on display although most were quite far out from the track that ran through the park and I had to put my zoom lens to good use. The Indian elephants were also very cute, and somewhat less shy, being in close proximity to the road-side. Compared to safaris I had been on in Africa though, this one really paled in comparison. The main problem was with the single straight track. Instead of being a track encircling sections of the park, thus allowing you to get closer to animals, you had to rely on the animals coming up to the track. And obviously most of them knew to steer clear unless they needed to cross over. The track was also rather short and didn't go very deep into the park. As it was a single lane, it was also prone to traffic jams. Only in India would you get traffic jams on a safari. The other jeeps seemed to be packed solid with families of Indian tourists. I noticed that Indian tourists travelling with their children also tended to travel with their entire extended family as well. In many cases a husband and wife often shared their home with cousins or aunts/uncles.

To be honest, I'm coming across a bit negative, and admittedly nothing will ever stand up to the quality of an African safari so I shouldn't really compare. It was a lovely trip all the same.

Tea plantations are...
Tea plantations...

I decided against doing an elephant safari in the afternoon as I thought I wouldn't see anything extra. Also, judging by pictures I saw of the elephant safaris, they seemed to cram around 6 people on small benches placed atop the poor creatures. So it was out of pity for the animal, plus the knowledge that it would be a fairly cramped ride, that I decided instead to just relax and read my Kindle book: The Last Mughal.

I enquired about the planned "Bhut Jolokia trek" that I was led to believe was taking place today, but it transpired that the manager had instead asked one of the staff to find a shop keeper in one of the nearby towns to bring A KILO (!) of the peppers to the hotel for me to buy! "That's not what I had in mind", I exclaimed. "I wanted to only try ONE pepper, let alone a kilo! Unless ye are trying to kill me". To be honest I would have preferred to go to the town myself, and see the peppers on display in the shop. I didn't want the whole thing done in the comfort of a hotel lobby. As for trekking to the plantation? It wasn't the season. Gah! Frown

Alas after all that, the shop didn't even have them in stock as they were out of season. My quest to find the source of the hottest chili in the world had ended before it had even began. I was glad, though, that I had decided to stay in Kaziranga instead of Tezpur as it would have been a waste.

There was a small glimmer of hope later that evening. The manager of the hotel - intrigued by my interest in the peppers - asked for my home address, promising that he would send me some chilis in the post once they are back in season (during the rainy season in May)! Perhaps all is not lost... Laughing

As I was planning to return to Guwahati the next day, I had to book a bus back. Again, this was a considerable chore as the hotel had no idea about bus times, plus there was no "bus stop" down at the main road. How the hell was I supposed to get out of Kaziranga? They had no idea (most other people got here as part of a tour group or their own transport). I'll say it again: They sure don't make it easy for independent travellers to visit Kaziranga.

As noone seemed to have any information on how to get back to Guwahati I had to, once again, rely on my Lonely Planet book which listed the number of a nearby bus company. As luck would have it, there was a rolling blackout today so the "official" phone was dead, but the hotel had a generator running which powered the reception desk's single "emergency" phone. It took a bit of persuasion for them to let me use this phone instead, but thankfully I managed to get through on the number (normally LP phone numbers are woefully inaccurate).

I'm extremely glad I had read ahead and pre-booked a seat on one of the buses going back as, apart from this morning bus, I would have been stranded in Kaziranga for another day.

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In Search of the World's Hottest Chili

Travel blog by peterforan

Sacred cow chillaxing

Sacred cow chillaxing


... and other misadventures. A whistle-stop tour of India to get a taste of the north, south, Andaman isles, and some of the hottest foods known to man including the nefarious Bhut Jolokia chili.

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Photo Album

  • Elephant...

    Kaziranga...

    India

    Elephant safari
  • Indian...

    Kaziranga...

    India

    Indian elephants
  • No escaping...

    Kaziranga...

    India

    No escaping traffic jams in India
  • Me and my gun...

    Kaziranga...

    India

    Me and my gun for hire