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Journey to Serenity: Unveiling the Mystical Experience of Manas

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

A few years back, I went to Manas in Assam. Manas is a tributary of river Brahmaputra. This passes through the heart of the national park, named the same. We had gone in hopes of sight of tigers and leopards, which we were told was a common sight in this season particularly. However, I was more enchanted by the flora rather than the fauna.

The journey started while we boarded the train from Howrah and reached Guwahati, Assam the next day. From Guwahati we travelled nearly six hours to reach Manas via car. This long drive hadn’t disappointed us the lowest bit. We crossed our paths with the river long before we reached the national park. Almost the entire route ran adjacently with the river. The water was commendably blue and it had sand shores. The view was at times interrupted by barren trees on either side of the road.

We reached the national park around dusk. We were supposed to be staying in forest bungalows that were 10km inside of the forest itself. Bookings in such government stays can be risky in terms of confirmation since any visiting government official is necessarily prioritised. Luckily we faced no inconvenience regarding our stay. There are two bungalows, one on the upper side with a view of the river and another on the lower portions of the hill, both known as upper and lower bungalows. We were staying in the lower bungalow. From the window we could see some breathtakingly beautiful coniferous trees on the riverside banks. The river, as it is with all rivers in hilly regions, had major rocks in and around. We spent the evening sitting on these rocks, looking at the sunset over the river.

The next morning we went on a safari. It was freezing cold. And the thing about forests is that it gets colder the deeper you go in. The trees are older inwards. As we were entering the forests it felt like our aces were frozen. We could barely feel our palms. In the safari we saw some beautiful trees. One such tree was the ghost tree, a very rare species that changes its colour every season. It looked so beautiful with its yellow leaves and white bark. The silence in the forests is possibly the most peaceful part.

We saw bison, elephants and countless wild buffalos. One in our group, a wildlife photography enthusiast, could barely contain his excitement. After the safari, we went back to where we were staying and freshened up. Food for all tourists was served in the upper bungalow. All the food was prepared, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene.

In the evening we went for a walk in the woods even though the authorities do not allow it. We had befriended a very trustworthy guard who had stayed there for the last twenty five years. It was a full moon night. The beauty of the woods in the moonlight with a clear sky full of stars, such descriptions always face a loss of words. On our way to the upper bungalow where dinner was to be served, to everyone’s surprise we saw a herd of sambar deer very close by. The lower bungalow had a beautiful balcony where we sat and chatted or a while, before going off to bed.

A scenic shot of a Jeep standing in front of the bungalows at Manas National Park

The next morning we got dressed, ready for all the cold and went off for the safari. In the forest we had spotted multiple deer and elephants but the disappointment of not having spotted a leopard or tiger was still there. After crossing the first checkpoint that you have to pass at the very beginning of the woods, we were in the buffer zone. The buffer zones have some settlements mostly inhabited by the people who are involved in protection and maintenance works, along with some scattered cultivated lands.

It was in this area where from the jeep we spotted a leopard sitting like the royalty it is, on a barren tree. We were not expecting to be so pleasantly surprised. These were areas wherein wild animals could barely be seen. We were at our happiest. Contended, we went back to the hotel. I spent the entire evening by the riverside and I let the cold water wash my feet, sitting on one of those rocks. The shadow of the sunset on the water with distant hills that can. The entire surrounding painted a picture in itself. The perfect setting for the climax in a romantic era novel.

We were already a bit late when we started the safari that evening. It was about dusk. However the guide we had with us told us not to worry. So yet again, we went off into the woods, not knowing that quite an adventure was waiting for us. After sighting, when we were returning it was dark. It is an unsaid rule in the woods that you must return before it gets dark. At a certain point in the road we saw an elephant staring right at our jeep. Some of us were enjoying the situation while some others were scared out of their wits. The guide told us elephants can be more scary than tigers at times and hence it wouldn’t be a good idea to try to cross that. Now that was the only way back. With no options, the guide asked the driver to drive in reverse. It was at this point that the elephant started following us. That scared us all. It was too risky to turn the car back so we had to drive in reverse the entire way. Luckily we saw a watchtower near us and they were burning a fire. Wild animals don’t go near the fire, knowing that we drove straight to the watchtower. Now, I looked at the sky. The bushes around me lit up with fireflies and the sky was so clear I thought that I might be able to see all the constellations that there are.

The people at the watchtower called for help and in no time the rescue team arrived. They made some blank shots and told us we were safe to go. On reaching the lower bungalow and freshening up we lit up a fire and barbequed chicken in it. What an experience it was especially with the old Bollywood music playing. A beautiful end to a breathtaking and adventurous journey.

- An experience by Samyayan Chatterjee

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