Road Trip to Kaziranga : Day 1

I had always been a massive wildlife and nature enthusiast since my early childhood and my interest led me to some of the most thrilling experiences of my life in my early twenties. So, when Sarmistha suggested Kaziranga as a weekend getaway, I almost jumped from my bed (not literally)!!

We decided to drive to Kaziranga, which is roughly around 250 KMs from our home town Guwahati and to be very honest, 30% of my excitement was anticipating the drive.

There are however good reasons for this as this part of Assam is endowed with incredible natural beauty. As you approach Kaziranga, the lush tea estates on both sides of the road really lifts your spirit up! We started our journey at around 8 am from Guwahati. We had a quick stopover at a place called Jagiroad where we had a quick breakfast and started our journey onward.

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By the time we reached the precincts of Kaziranga it was already 12.30 in the afternoon and we decided to have our lunch in a quaint cafe called Laheke Chai Cafe that caught our eye. Incidentally it was their opening day. I knew we were either in for a treat or a disaster. Luckily it was the former!

To top it all up we were greeted by a super cute Italian Mastiff called Rambo as we entered the cafe.

He was also taking a road trip with his mom and dad and stopped at the cafe for lunch just like us.! 🙂 The menu at the cafe was nice. I had a sumptuous Cobb Salad while Sarmistha gorged on Pasta. Sometimes I seriously think Sarmistha was an Italian in her past life, someone who would look for pasta even in Kaziranga, where, I believe the restaurants are known for serving the best local cuisine!

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We booked a double-bedded tent in a resort called Kaziranga Eco Camp, which is just 10 kms from the cafe. The approach to the property offered its own share of thrill. It’s a small alley that is very easy to miss because of its size. The alley is roughly the width of my car and very bumpy. It snakes across a tea estate and I just loved navigating the potholes. Even before you reach Kaziranga Eco camp, you are transported into a completely different realm! Rustic, Raw, Beautiful and super exciting! The resort owner Mr. Akash Achyut Phukan and his right hand man/manager Mr. Rintu Hazarika (Papu) were super friendly. To be honest, I have no qualms in admitting that their hospitality and friendliness is the strongest USP of the property. Having said that, the resort is a quaint little place in the middle of rustic Assamese and Karbi (a tribe of Assam) villages and was quite pretty as well. The tent we were allotted was clean with all the modern amenities you could expect during a jungle safari. After checking in we had some tea and went about exploring the Hatikhuli Tea Estate that surrounds the camp. The air was so fresh that I and Sarmistha made it a point to breadth with our mouth while we are in Kaziranga!  Our lungs agreed and sent their complements!

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Now to give you some facts, our accommodation cost us 2300 INR per night and we paid 2000 INR for the Elephant Safari (scheduled for the early morning next day). Do remember that different online booking agencies quote different price for the elephant safari but the government rate for 2019 is INR 1000 per person for Indians and INR 1900 for foreigners. Everything for us was arranged by the resort owner and to be honest it was a very smooth experience. We were told that the charges for the camera were INR 100 for still cameras (INR 200 for foreigners) and INR 1000 for movie cameras (same for Indians and foreigners). We were initially apprehensive because we were not sure if we will end up paying INR 2000 for the two cameras that we were carrying, a price tag that seems high. However by video camera they meant handycams and proper movie cameras. Sarmistha’s point-and-shoot and my DSLR were considered as still cameras. For information on Kaziranga Tourism and various fares, you might want to check out their official website.

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We were suggested by the resort owner to visit the neighbouring Kaziranga Orchid biodiversity part and experience the cultural show that is organized every day at 6.30 PM in the afternoon. We were told that the program showcases all the ethnic dances of the region and the event is a nice opportunity to meet all the tourists who have come to Kaziranga. This is the place where all tourists from different adjoining resorts come and mingle in the evening. We decided to experience the same and we were not disappointed. As the name suggests, the orchid park has thousands of orchid species and is also a place where you can learn about the different medical plants of the region, educate yourself on the staple crop rice in the rice museum or visit the Gorkha museum. Even before the start of the cultural show at 6.30, the stage was live with music and dance and it was a very nice experience watching tourists from the Indian state of Gujarat doing their traditional Garva dance while the local musicians played the music.

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The show started exactly at 6.30 and we were enthralled by a wonderful orchestra of local instruments. It was strong, beautiful and energetic and the drum beats were specially spectacular. We could see people tapping their feet as music went into their veins and energized them. A whole range of traditional dances of the region were showcased and each and everyone had its own charm and elegance. At the end the performers encouraged members of the audience to join in and it was such a nice experience witnessing people from different regions of the country with such distinct cultures swaying together in the rhythm. As they say, music has no boundaries and we witnessed the true strength of India that comes from the unity amidst diversity.
By the time we drove back to our resort it was around 8.30 at night and it was quite an experience driving through the same bumpy approach to the resort in pitch darkness. We never saw so many stars in the sky for a while and for a moment it felt like a different planet. We have pre-ordered out dinner at the resort (strongly recommended) and after a tiring day, the super delicious local cuisine was heaven.

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It was a day very well-spent and even though we were tired, we could not hide our excitement just thinking about the elephant safari scheduled for early next morning. There was no doubt in our minds that we were in for a super treat the next day and went to bed with a smile on our faces and fresh air in our lungs. You can see the video of our Road Trip to Kaziranga and Sight seeing on YouTube as well.

Also, stay tuned for the next post that is going to be super exciting!