India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 7

As all good things eventually come to an end, so our time on the MV Mahabaahu also came to an end.  We disembarked at Nimati Ghat before boarding a bus to go by road to Dibrugarh. There we were to board a flight  for Calcutta, the first leg of the long journey home to Australia.

P1010768  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010768 © DY of jtdytravels

As we tied up, we were the most important thing to happen in port that morning!

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P1010762  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010762 © DY of jtdytravels

The ‘Seven Sisters’ , who had danced for us the night before, were on the wharf to say “goodbye” to us.  One Sister was obviously missing!  They were all dressed up and ready to dab a tika spot on our forehead.  They also had a white scarf, which had an intricate red border, to present to each of us.

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P1010763  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010763 © DY of jtdytravels

Beads, bangles and brocade, with a bit of embroidery tossed in for good measure and red hand dye, made for a colourful costume.

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P1010764 © DY of jtdytravels

Body, face and hands taken care of, it was time for the hair-do.

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P1010766 © DY of jtdytravels

…but drinking straws!

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P1010767 © DY of jtdytravels

…and Christmas decorations!  Nothing is wasted.

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P1010770 © DY of jtdytravels

This pleasant guy was the group leader.

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P1010771  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010771 © DY of jtdytravels

Colourful offerings were placed in brass bowls on the wharf.  An elaborate hat completed the picture.  I didn’t see anyone wearing one though – perhaps they are just ceremonial hats.

After saying our farewells, we set of in a coach towards Dibrugarh. Along the way we stopped 4km outside Rangpur at the largest of all Ahom monuments, Rangpur Palace.  The complex is one of the grandest examples of Ahom architecture and is made up of Kareng Ghar, which is above ground, and the Talatal Ghar, which is below ground level. Talalat Ghar was originally built as an army base.  These buildings were constructed between 1751-1769.  Together they make up Rangpur Palace.

P1010783  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010783 © DY of jtdytravels

Some of the well preserved buildings at Talatal Ghar.

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P1010788 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the covered walkways with intricate niches on the wall.

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P1010793 © DY of jtdytravels

These local visitors were taking advantage of some shade cast by this building.

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P1010797 © DY of jtdytravels

A round building with a trishul at the apex.  The trishul, a three-pronged trident, has great significance to Hindus as it represents Lord Shiva’s three fundamental powers of will, action and knowledge.

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P1010798  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1010798 © DY of jtdytravels

The underlying structural brick work of a wall with some of the remaining bas relief that originally covered most of the walls of the complex.

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P1010799 © DY of jtdytravels

More bas relief above a doorway.

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P1010809 © DY of jtdytravels

Not far from the complex and standing in the heart of Sivasagar, on the side of Borpukhuri water tank (reservoir), is Sivadol, another temple complex.  It was built in 1734 by the Ahom king Swargadeo Siba Singha’s queen, Bar Raja Ambita.

And that was the last of our sight seeing in Assam. From here we headed for the airport and our fights hime.

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P1010837  ©  DY  of   jtdytravels

P1010837 © DY of jtdytravels

Not far from home now!  It had been a great trip that included a return trip to Bhutan, the wonderful ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’;  and a first time visit for me to the NE Indian state of Assam and the Brahmaputra River.

 My next adventure will be with my partner,  Jennie.  We plan to travel to several parts of Europe by train in June and July. Our itinerary includes Switzerland, a little bit of France, eastern Germany, Poland and Austria. In preparing this journey, we found lots of lovely places to visit, spectacular mountain scenery, railways that still use steam trains, steam cog trains that climb steep mountain sides, lake boats including restored paddle steamers and much, much more.  We’ll be adding stories and photos of that trip as we go along when we get any decent internet contact.  We hope that you’ll join us for that journey, too, and follow us on the web site that we use when we travel together:

www.jtdytravels.com

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

Our other travel sites are:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 6 Music and Dance

We spent the afternoon relaxing as we cruised up the river.  After dinner we were treated to a musical evening.  A talented group came on board and performed traditional dances and music.

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P1010729  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010729 © DY of jtdytravels

Here, on the left, Altaaz Papu plays a drum supported by another group member on a different drum.  Altaaz was a consummate performer.  He played any number of different drums, a bamboo flute and performed some acrobatic moves.  He’d win any talent quest.

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P1010728  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1010728 © DY of jtdytravels

Some of the ladies of the group performed a much quieter routine.

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P1010732 © DY of jtdytravels

A couple of young boys performed some amazing acrobatic feats.

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P1010733  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010733 © DY of jtdytravels

Try doing this!

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P1010744  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010744 © DY of jtdytravels

Drummers and dancers combined for this number.

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P1010736  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010736 © DY of jtdytravels

To round out the performance these colourfully dressed ladies took to the floor with the lead guy of the troupe.

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P1010740  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010740 © DY of jtdytravels

He was quite something, having all the costume, movements and looks for the role.

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P1010741  ©  DY  of  tdytravels

P1010741 © DY of tdytravels

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him

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P1010754 © DY of jtdytravels

It was also Trevor’s birthday, so the chef made him a cake decorated with pink roses.

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P1010751  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010751 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor about to cut his cake…

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P1010753  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010753 © DY of jtdytravels

now with a little help from the chef.

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P1010758 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor decided it was a good opportunity to get all the cooks together along with Ajit, the maitre de.

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P1120768  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120768 © DY of jtdytravels

While on deck after the dancing was over, we enjoyed another spectaculat sunset.

We were now actually ahed of our pilot boat!

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P1120770  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120770 © DY of jtdytravels

The flowering heads of some elephant grass growing along the bank caught the last rays of the setting sun.

Our river journey was almost over but we still had one more day in Assam.

More of that anon.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

Our other travel sites are:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

 

 

India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 5

Today we left the MV Mahabaahu for an excursion to a village on Majuli Island.  We were loaded into the ship’s lighter for the short journey to the shore.  Everything was going just fine until we hit a sand bar that the driver of the boat didn’t see before it was too late.  We were stuck fast for some minutes while attempts were made to reverse off the hull-sucking sand.  These efforts didn’t work, so over the side went most of the crew into the waist deep water. They rocked the boat backwards and forwards in an attempt to break the suction on the hull.  This eventually worked and we finally made it to the wharf/jetty.

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P1010639

I’m not sure what to call it actually as the ‘wharf’ was  just some boats lashed together with a ramp leading to dry ground.  We tied up to the outermost boat and walked across the others to get to the shore.  Safely on terra firma we boarded some jeeps which took us for a drive along the island.

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P1010636  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010636 © DY of jtdytravels

Bags of rice and other products were waiting to be loaded on to a boat for a journey to who knows where.  Other necessities had recently been unloaded and were waiting for transport to one of the villages on Majuli Island.

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P1010649  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010649 © DY of jtdytravels

We stopped to look at some Open-beaked Storks.

This one, along with the rest of the season’s brood, were about to fledge.

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P1010652  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010652 © DY of jtdytravels

In one of the villages on the island that we stopped at, a green grocer had set up his stall on the footpath. There was no question as to the freshness of the produce, it would have been picked or dug earlier in the morning.

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P1010656 © DY of jtdytravels

These guys stood around and watched us – as we watched them.

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P1010658 © DY of jtdytravels

There were plenty of modern vehicles on the island.  The smartly attired ladies were off to their place of work.  It was still early in the morning.

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P1010660  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010660 © DY of jtdytravels

What a wonderful, happy face!

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P1010663  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010663 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the anti-rooms at Garmur Satra.  An oil lamp burnt softly by a pillar while just out of sight to the left, a priest chanted softly.

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P1010712 © DY of jtdytravels

Drums of all shapes and sizes are an important part of Indian ritual.

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P1010714 © DY of jtdytravels

Cymbols also play an important part.  Like the drums they are used to keep the beat.

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P1010677 © DY of jtdytravels

On the road again jostling for space with all kinds of other traffic.

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P1010685 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the young priests at Kamalabari Satra.

His pure white cotton turban and dhoti signify “purity”.

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P1010686 © DY of jtdytravels

His dhoti had an intricately woven border.

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P1010691 © DY of jtdytravels

While firewood is stacked under cover,

grain is spread on large woven trays to dry in the sun.

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P1010701 © DY of jtdytravels

Another young priest enters his lodging.

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P1010704 © DY of jtdytravels

A happy, smiling priest sporting a white tika spot.

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P1010690 © DY of jtdytravels

Fading flowers on a banana plant.  The fertilised flowers are developing into a “hand” of bananas at their basal ends.  The next set of flowers are developing under the mauve/red bract.

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P1010714  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010714 © DY of jtdytravels

This elaborate structure is constructed from bamboo.

 It is brightly lit on New Moon nights.

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P1120762  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1120762 © JT of jtdytravels

We were back on board for a late lunch.  After lunch we were entertained on the SunDeck by these colourful dancers who acted out and danced their way through an Indian love story.

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P1120765  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120765 © DY of jtdytravels

Although the whole dance was in Indian, it was obvious that this couple were in love!

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P1120757 © DY of jtdytravels

The characters were elaborately dressed, right down to their shoes.

Watching this dance was a wonderful way to end the day.

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More anon.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

Our other travel sites are:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 4

Biswanath Ghat was the next town we visited.  It’s right on the banks of the Brahmaputra River  It’s about 10km from the town of Biswanath Charali which is to the north and presumably on higher ground to avoid possible flooding.

P1010463  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010463 © DY of jtdytravels

Bordol Temple was built during the reign (1751-1769) of the Ahom king Rajeswer Singh.  Rajeswer was a devout Hindu.  He erected many temples and gave considerable amounts of land to the Brahmins.  He died in 1769.

Rajeswer became king even though he was the fourth son of Rudra Singh.  He became king because the first and second sons had died.  But what of the third son?  Rudra Singh’s third son, Mohanmala Gohain, was considered unable to become king as his face was pitted with smallpox scars.  According to Ahom tradition, a prince had to be free of all physical disability, defects or deformities to become king.  To add insult to injury, the first thing Rajeswer Singh did on becoming the new king, was to exile his smallpox-scared brother, Mohanmala Gohain. He sent him away to be the Raja of Namrup which is around 300km from Biswanath Ghat, and importantly, it’s on the other side of the Brahmaputra.  Poor old Mohanmala Gohain was out of the way!

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P1010462  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010462 © DY of jtdytravels

Being on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, fish forms a large part of the local diet.  This guy is operating a one-stop shop, hoping to sell some radish to go with the fish.

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P1010514  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010514 © DY of jtdytravels

Further along the river we stopped at another village.  These boys we intrigued by our arrival.  It was surprising to me that there wasn’t more traffic on the river – a few ferries carried passengers across the river and there were some small local fishing boats that carried only one or two people.  The arrival of the MV Mahabaahu was therefore quite an event.

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P1010516 © DY of jtdytravels

Water buffalo were also by the river.

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P1010522 © DY of jtdytravels

This village has houses built on stilts to avoid flooding during the monsoon season.  All the walls are made out of split bamboo while the roof is thatched or covered in corrugated iron.  They are very simple structures.

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P1010523 © DY of jtdytravels

The rich alluvial soil produces good crops of rice.  This crop was nearing harvest.

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P1010530 © DY of jtdytravels

Everything seems to be made out of bamboo.

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P1010531 © DY of jtdytravels

The open structure of the floor and the walls allows every breath of air to cool the building.  The area gets stiflingly hot.  The concrete block in the middle of the floor is the ‘kitchen’.

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P1010533 © DY of jtdytravels

We were as much of a curiosity to the locals as they were to us.

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P1010536 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the local ladies sat on her verandah backed by the split bamboo wall of her house.

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P1010538 © DY of jtdytravels

We were the centre of attraction.

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P1010539 © DY of jtdytravels

This kid had obviously been playing in the mud.

All boys play in the mud, don’t they!

P1010556  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1010556 © DY of jtdytravels

Same little boy with a snotty nose as well!

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P1010546 © DY of jtdytravels

There were lots of children in the village… probably no TV reception!

I don’t know whether there was a school or not.

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P1010548 © DY of jtdytravels

Pork obviously forms a part of the villager’s diet.

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P1010549 © DY of jtdytravels

A pig’s eye view.

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P1010553 © DY of jtdytravels

What was she looking at and

what thoughts might have been going through her mind?

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P1010555 © DY of jtdytravels

This little girl was just happy looking at us.

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P1010560 © DY of jtdytravels

This lady was sitting on her elevated verandah preparing some greens for the evening meal.  There would undoubtedly be rice and maybe some meat or fish to go with the greens.

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P1010565  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010565 © DY of jtdytravels

This village doesn’t get a lot of visitors.

They were interested to see photos of themselves in Trevor’s camera.

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P1010571 © DY of jtdytravels

As we left our mooring, the boys of the village watched us depart.

We sailed off to a deserted island for our overnight stop.

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P1010581  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010581 © DY of jtdytravels

These are the lovely flowers on a Water Hyacinth plant (Eichhornia crassipes).  This plant is native to the Amazon Basin but has spread all over the tropical world where it has become a severe weed.  The long dangling roots slow the flow of water in rivers and often clog irrigation waterways.  Their dense floating leaves block sunlight from getting to submerged plants resulting in their death.  The nutrients from this decaying material further nourishes the water hyacinth plants which can double the area covered in less than a fortnight.

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P1010575  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010575 © DY of jtdytravels

For this evening. our ship the MV Mahabaahu was tied up to a land anchor.  The crew drove a couple of stout bamboo stems deep into the sand to which the ship was tied.  These land anchors were used fore and aft.

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P1010597 ©  DY  off jtdytravels

It was late in the afternoon by the time we were allowed off the ship.  Some of us decided we needed a walk, so a challenge was set – to walk right around the island.  The sky was a bit overcast as the sun set but lovely soft colours flooded the sky and were reflected in the water.  This made for some lovely atmospheric photos.

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P1010605  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010605 © DY of jtdytravels

Harsha is pointing to nowhere in particular!

He was our enthusiastic guide while we were in India.

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P1010602 © DY of jtdytravels

The MV Mahabaahu lies in the background as a low fog hangs on the river.

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P1010618 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun had gone down below the horizon by now.

The reflected colours were still worth enjoying and photographing.

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More anon

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

Our other travel sites are:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 3

One morning, we left the MV Mahabaahu before dawn for a jeep drive to the Kaziranga National Park.  Apart from a track accident on the road which slowed us down, the trip in the dark was uneventful – in fact most of the occupants in my vehicle dozed some/most of the way.  Not far from our destination the dawn broke, so the drive became a little more interesting as we could see the landscape and villages we were passing.

P1010316  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010316 © DY of jtdytravels

We eventually stopped by the roadside, seemingly nowhere.  But before long, some elephants came lumbering down the road.  The excitement levels began to rise.  We climbed back into our vehicles and drove a short distance along a levee to a staging point.  Some staging point !  It turned out to be just a wash-away surrounding a culvert, but at least it provided a place where we could get onto our elephant – elephant in the culvert, passengers on top of the culvert.  All very simple but very effective!

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P1010318  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010318 © DY of jtdytravels

Love those eyelashes – no mascara needed.

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P1010324 © DY of jtdytravels

We were already on our elephants by the time the sun peeped above the horizon.

 A ground fog hung around creating an eerie atmosphere.

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P1010325  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010325 © DY of jtdytravels

The elephants walked along interconnecting levees at their slow lumbering pace while their passengers, perched high on their backs, were pitched from side to side .  The mahouts needed to do little.  These elephants had walked this track many times before and more than knew the way.

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P1010331  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010331 © DY of jtdytravels

As the sun rose slowly, nearby vegetation was silhouetted against the fog.

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P1010355 © DY of jtdytravels

After the elephant ride, we stopped at a resort type place in the park for our breakfast. Here, in the grounds, I saw a Spice Finch or Scaley-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) hanging on the roots of an epiphytic orchid.  These birds are endemic to Asia and live in flocks.  They generally like open grasslands where they eat seeds, fruits and small insects.  They build their dome-shaped nests in grass clumps and bamboo thickets.

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P1010357 © DY of jtdytravels

A brilliant red hibiscus contrasted against a blue, blue Indian sky.

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P1010358  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010358 DY of jtdytravels

A small spider, the same colour as the petals of this flower, hid in its centre.

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P1010362  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010362 © DY of jtdytravels

These ridiculously tall coconut trunks appear to be far too thin to support their leafy tops.  I’ll bet they whip around in a high wind, but obviously survive as they have grown so tall.

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P1010365  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010365 © DY of jtdytravels

As we drove back out of the park, I was able to take photos from the bus window.

A newspaper seller squatted on a shop verandah preparing papers for sale.

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P1010367  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010367 © DY of jtdytravels

Water lily flowers sitting above the water surface.  The level of the water must have dropped as water lilies usually float on the surface.  Lotus flowers are held high above the surface.

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P1010402  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010402 © DY of jtdytravels

Three down, one to go!

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P1010410 © DY of jtdytravels

Thre was great excitement when we spotted an Indian rhinocerus (Rhinoceros unicornis). These lumbering animals once roamed over the whole of the Indo-Gangetic Plain.  Numbers of rhinos have been drastically reduced by hunting.  They have also been very much affected by dwindling habitat due to increasing agriculture and forestry needs.  Today only an estimated 3000 individuals exist in the wild, 2000 of those in Assam. The rest are in the Terai in lowland Nepal.

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P1010411  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010411 © DY of jtdytravels

The single horn of the Indian rhinoceros is found on both males and females.  The warty lumps and bumps typical of this species of rhinoceros can be seen on the front legs and neck.  They are even more pronounced on the hind legs.  A fully grown male can weigh as much as 4000kg (8818lb).

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P1010423  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010423 © DY of jtdytravels

A water buffalo made a good photographic subject amongst some water hyacinths. There are two extant types of water buffalo recognised – the river buffalo of the Indian sub-Continent and the swamp buffalo found in Assam through to SE Asia.  It has been suggested that the Swamp buffalo may have originated in China and was domesticated some 4000 years ago while the River buffalo originated in India and was domesticated 5000 years ago.  It is estimated that there are 130 million domesticated water buffalo and that more human beings depend on them than any other domesticated animal.

Swamp buffalo are heavy bodied.  They have a short body and large belly and have 48 chromosomes whereas the River buffalo has 50 chromosomes.  Fertile offspring between the two have occurred but are not common.  A large male can weigh as much as 1000kg (2200lb).

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P1010434  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010434 © DY of jtdytravels

Back again on the river, one of our boatmen skilfully manoeuvred the lighter around, over, across and through the numerous and ever-changing sand bars of the Brahmaputra River.

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P1010440  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010440 © DY of jtdytravels

The MV Mahabaahu.  She was purpose built in India for plying the Brahmaputra River.  She is 55m. (180½ft.) long and 10.25m. (33½ft.) wide.  She can accommodate 46 passengers, all in outside cabins, and has a crew of 34.

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P1010443  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010443 © DY of jtdytravels

We had started the day with the sun rising and we finished the day with it setting.

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P1010447  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010447 © DY of jtdytravels

Still lower with  a clump of water hyacinth silhouetted against the fading rays of the sun.

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P1010456  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010456 © DY of jtdytravels

The last of another wonderful day on the Brahmaputra River.

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more anon

David

Photography copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

more of our travel stories can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 2

The Brahmaputra River is a large river by any standard.  It is one of the major rivers of Asia.  It originates in the Angsi Glacier on the northern side of the Himalayas in Tibet.  It cuts through the Himalayas in deep gorges and flows into the Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh before flowing SW through the Assam Valley.  It then flows in a southerly direction through Bangladesh and into the vast Ganges Delta.  After breaking through the Himalayas, the river exhibits typical braided river characteristics.  It is highly susceptable to channel migration which makes navigation difficult.  For our journey on the river a pilot boat charted the way.  The Brahmaputra has many name changes in its 2,900km (1,800ml) journey to the Bay of Bengal as each country, and even states, call it by a different name.

The river is prone to catastrophic flooding in spring when the Himalayan snows melt.  The average discharge is about 19,300 cubic metres (680,000 cu ft) per second.  This is the equivalent of 34.3 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.  The discharge can rise to 100,000 cubic metres (3,500,000 cu ft) per second during floods.  This is 178 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.

Although navigable for most of its length, I did not see much river trafficwhilst on this journey.

P1010205  © DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010205 © DY of jtdytravels

Although the river has an average depth of 38m (124ft),

there are many shallow sand banks jutting out into the river.

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P1010197  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010197 © DY of jtdytravels

The main type of river traffic we saw were small wooden fishing boats.

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P1010209  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010209 © DY of jtdytravels

Our pilot boat, Subansiri, was never far ahead – charting a safe course for us.

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P1010212   ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010212 © DY of jtdytravels

The Subansiri, and another boat hitching a ride, in the very flat landscape.

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P1010247  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010247 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the boats seen on the river.

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P1010256  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010256 © DY of jtdytravels

Another fishing boat, out for a day’s fishing.

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P1010257  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010257 © DY of jtdytravels

More fishing from a small wooden boat.

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P1010271  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010271 © DY of jtdytravels

High tension power cables crossing the river on tall support masts near

the Kolia Bhomora Setu Bridge.

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P1010276  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010276 © DY of jtdytravels

The Kolia Bhomora Setu bridge was the second bridge built over the Brahmaputra river.  It is an important link to the rest of India for the seven states in the NE of the country.  It is 3015m (just 223yds short of 2 miles) long and is supported by 27 piers.

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P1010284  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010284 © DY of jtdytravels

These kids belong to some of the tea pickers on the Koliabur Tea Estate.

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P1010287  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010287 © DY of jtdytravels

Brightly dressed tea pickers on the Koliabur Tea Estate.

It had been a very interesting start to our river journey; a much more gentle journey.

 

More anon

David

 

Photography   Copyright  ©  David Young  of  jtdytravels

 

More of our travels stories and photographs can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

.

 

 

Entries re Bhutan and the Brahmaputra, India

There are more recent travel stories and photos posted on our other website www.dymusings.com

Those musings cover David’s visit to Bhutan and to the Brahmaputra River in Assam, northern India

On this site www.jtdytravels.com , we will soon be adding stories and photos about our next adventure, a rail journey through many parts of Europe. This journey will start in June and we hope you can join us for that adventure.

Jennie and David

India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 1

From Bhutan, Trevor and I and our fellow Australian group, flew south to Assam in Northern India. This was to be a complete change of scene. From the rugged mountain terrain of Bhutan with highly decorated Buddhist temples perched on hillsides, we now travelled by boat through the wide flat lands beside the Brahmaputra River.

We began this journey in Guwahati. From here we would sail north up river.  On the way to the river, we stopped in the village of Guwahati for our first experience of life in this part of India.

Our first stop was at the Kamakhya Temple, a stone structure built on Nilachal Hill in Guwahati. It was built between 1563 and 1565 from stone collected from previous temples built on the site.  It is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya.  The inner sanctum is a cave below ground level reached by a set of narrow steps.  This cave contains no idols but does contain a sheet of stone which has a yoni-shaped crevice that is continually filled by water from an underground spring.  It is this symbolism that is worshiped as the goddess Kamakhya herself.  Offerings, usually flowers, are offered each morning to the goddess but animal sacrifices are also still made.  Male goats are the preferred animal for such sacrifice. Female animals are seldom used except during mass sacrifices.  As the centre for Tantric worship, the temple attracts thousands of tantra devotees during the annual festival – Ambubachi Mela.

P1010150  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010150 © DY of jtdytravels

The lower plinth mouldings indicate that the temple has earlier origins than its Sixteenth Century construction.

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P1010157  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010157 © DY of jtdytravels

Devotees traditionally wear red when paying homage to the goddess.  All footwear is removed before entering any Hindu temple.  No-one, including tourists, are allowed to wear any kind of footwear with the exception of, on occasions, socks.  The reason for this ritual is the fact that leather was the traditional material used for making shoes and, as the cow is a sacred animal to Hindus, leather was not allowed in the temple.

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P1010155  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010155 © DY of jtdytravels

Sadhus, or holy men, frequent the temple precincts offering prayers and accepting offerings from pilgrims.  They traditionally wear yellow cloth, or nothing at all, which emphasises the fact that they have no worldly goods!

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P1010145  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1010145 © DY of jtdytravels

The village surrounding the Kamakhya Temple sells all the offerings, clothes and necessary items for a devotee to worship at the temple.  Food and colourful sashes are sold by almost every shop.  Everybody dresses in their very best clothes.

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P1010159  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010159 © DY of jtdytravels

The walk to the top of the hill is via narrow passageways lined with these colourful shops.

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P1010142  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010142 © DY of jtdytravels

Some vendors set themselves up wherever they can.

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P1010166  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010166 © DY of jtdytravels

Fresh new growth on a vine was growing on a light pole at the viewpoint half way up the hill to the Kamakhya Temple.

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P1010165  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010165 © DY of jtdytravels

The view from the lookout is across Guwahati town to the Brahmaputra River.

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P1010167 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010167 © DY of jtdytravels

After our introduction to the village, we moved down to the river where the MV Mahabaahu lay at anchor awaiting our arrival. As our bus arrived, the boat owner, Sanjay, plodded across the mud to meet us.

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P1010171  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010171 © DY of jtdytravels

This guy watched every move as we boarded the lighter which took us to the ship.

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P1010172  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010172 © DY of jtdytravels

The MV Mahabaahu is 55 metres (164ft) long, weighs 675 tonnes and can carry 58 guests who are accommodated in 23 cabins.  There are 30 crew members and it travels at 12 knots.  Recreational facilities include a swimming pool, gym, sundeck, library, spa and hair salon.

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P1010174  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010174 © DY of jtdytravels

The MV Mahabaahu entered service in 2011.

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P1010180  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010180 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor, along with the rest of us, was welcomed on board with a tikka and scarf.

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P1010177  © DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010177 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun had already set over the Brahmaputra by the time we got underway.

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P1010179  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010179 © DY of jtdytravels

A couple of fishermen poled their way slowly home across the languid waters of the river after a day’s fishing.  I hoped they had caught something to take home to their family for dinner.  It was now time for us to have our first dinner aboard MV Mahabaahu. We looked forward to a very different type of  journey as we sailed up the Brahmaputra River in Assam in north eastern India.

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More anon

David

Photography copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

more of our travel stories can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

.

.

.

 

 

 

 

Bhutan # 19 : Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Tiger’s Nest is the popular name of probably the most iconic monastery in Bhutan, much photographed and well known outside Bhutan as a symbol of this mountainous land.   The correct Bhutanese name for this remarkable set of buildings is Taktsang Palphug Monastery.  Perched on a sheer cliff some 900m (2952 ft) above the valley floor below, the present buildings occupy a site first used to build a temple complex in 1692.  The reason for this is because there is a cave said to have been used by Guru Padmasambhava to meditate in for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours, way back in the 8th Century.  The commonly used name ‘Tiger’s Nest’ originates from the fact that it is believed that this is the site where the tiger, on whose back Padmasambhava travelled from Tibet to Bhutan, landed.  This is the place where Buddhism was introduced into Bhutan and so is highly revered.

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P1010045  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010045 © DY of jtdytravels

Tigers Nest viewed from the floor of the Paro Valley.

The precarious position it occupies is obvious.

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P1010055  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010055 © DY of jtdytravels

The track that leads to the monastery from the road-head is quite wide and well formed.  Many prayer flags are hung from the surrounding trees by pilgrims as they begin their long and strenuous climb.

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P1010056  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010056 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s a case of  ‘watch your step’ through some of the rocky parts of the track!  There are also exposed roots to trip over.

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P1010061  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010061 © DY of jtdytravels

These small structures contain water-driven prayer wheels.  The creek that flows down this valley provides the water-power to turn the paddles attached to the prayer wheels.

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P1010071  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010071 © DY of jtdytravels

A small violet I spotted growing on the edge of the track.

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P1010074  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010074 © DY of jtdytravels

Parochetus communis has a clover-like leaf

and stunning blue pea flowers.

The plant hugs the ground.

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P1010083  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010083 © DY of jtdytravels

Delphinium cooperi is a spindly plant that seemed to like the disturbed soil on the banks at the side of the track.  Sometimes there was just one flower on each stalk, sometimes a few more.

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P1010088  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1010088 © DY of jtdytravels

Tiger’s Nest viewed from near the Viewpoint where there is a facility supplying food, drinks and shelter.  It provides a welcome excuse to stop and rest awhile and to take in the magnificent view.

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P1010090  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010090 © DY of jtdytravels

This attractive ground-hugging plant liked growing over the banks at the side of the path.  Although small in size, it was hard for the observant walker not to see the hairy leaves and bright red berries.

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P1010096  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010096 © DY of jtdytravels

Tiger’s Nest from the view point.  There is still quite a way to go and quite a bit of going down before the final assault!

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P1010097  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010097 © DY of jtdytravels

Chillies were drying on a shingle roof.  Fully dried they will store well and be used to spice-up winter meals.

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P1010102  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010102 © DY of jtdytravels

A toadstool growing in a shadier part of the track.  It obviously benefits from the moisture the moss and leaf litter provide.

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P1010105  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010105 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor beside strings of colourful prayer flags.  A gap in the forest allowed in a gentle breeze – the flags moved languidly.

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P1010108  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010108 © DY of jtdytravels

This view of Taktsang Monastery is the closest I was able to get to the monastery when I was here in 2003.  Repair work to fix damage caused by a devastating fire in 1998 was not complete.  It is said that a knocked over oil lamp caused the fire.  From this point we noted the steep descent that we needed to take to the left to go down to a bridge which crosses a ravine. A stream tumbles the ravine to the valley floor far below. From the bridge we would have to climb back up, way up, to the precarious ledge on which the monastery sits.

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P1010110  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1010110 © DY of jtdytravels

Getting closer, the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, better known as Tiger’s Nest, is an impressive sight.  Visitors approach the monastery from the left.

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P1010114  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010114 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor taking taking a photo of the ravine down which the watercourse tumbles.  The bridge was a favourite place to tie strings of prayer flags.

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P1010116  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010116 © DY of jtdytravels

The bridge in the previous photo is down to the left.  Having climbed down to the bridge from the viewpoint, it was an equally tough climb back up to the monastery.

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P1010123  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010123 © DY of jtdytravels

Aster alpinus is found throughout the Himalaya.  It is a small, ground-hugging plant.

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P1010124  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010124 © DY of jtdytravels

This small legume has deep blue flowers. The buds are protected by a ‘leafy’ calyx covered in masses of stiff, short, black hairs.

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P1010128  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010128 © DY of jtdytravels

A trio of toadstools growing in disturbed soil.

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P1010133  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010133 © DY of jtdytravels

back at the car park from our hike up tyo Tiger’s Nest, our group is about to board the Etho Metho bus for the last time.  We were about to leave for the Paro Airport where we wwere to board a flight to Gauhati in Assam, India.  I was sad to leave Bhutan but, as my friend the Hon. Sonam Dorji said to me on our walk back down from the Tango Moanstery – you will come back!  Sad to leave but this next plane flight also heralded the next part of our adventure on the sub-Continent and our cruise down the Brahmaputra River.

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P1010136  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010136 © DY of jtdytravels

It was time to farewell our trusty and much respected local guide in Bhutan, Leki.  He is accompanied by his assistant, Dechen.

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P1010138  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010138 © DY of jtdytravels

Drukair, was until October 2013, the only airline to fly into the country.  A private airline started services to Bhutan the week before we arrived.  Paro Airport is at an elevation of 2225m. (7300ft.).  Pilots have to fly into the valley over 4877m. (16,000ft.) high mountains.  All landings are entirely by visual flight rules.  Landing at Paro is quite an experience as mountains seemingly wizz past the wingtips!  Drukair fly Airbus 319 and ATR 42-500 aircraft.  Obviously, these aircraft have been chosen for their ability to climb and descend quickly and to take-off and land on short runways.

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More from Assam in India in our next series of

“join me for the journey”

David

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bhutan #18: Wildflowers in the Haa Valley

 

On the drive up and out of the Paro Valley to the Haa Valley

we passed through some lovely forests.

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P1000937  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000937 © DY of jtdytravels

Here, long strands of lichen blow gently in the breeze.

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P1000939  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000939 © DY of jtdytravels

The season was already beginning to change.

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P1000934  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000934 © DY of jtdytravels

I should be able to name most of the following plants as I bought a wonderful book in Thimphu which contained hundreds of pictures and descriptions of Bhutanese plants.  However, I left it behind in Paro, so, you and I, will just have to appreciate the pictures, mostly without names.

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P1000943  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000943 © DY of jtdytravels

A mauve daisy.

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P1000946  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000946 © DY of jtdytravels

A member of the Gentian family.

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P1000947  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000947 © DY of jtdytravels

Leontopodium sp.    Edelweiss

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P1000951  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000951 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1000955  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000955 © DY of jtdytravels

Yellow dandelion.

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P1000957  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000957 © DY of jtdytravels

.

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P1000958  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000958 © DY of jtdytravels

Gentiana sp.

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P1000959  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000959 © DY of jtdytravels

Gentiana sp.

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P1000962  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000962 © DY of jtdytravels

Gentiana sp.

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P1000967  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000967 © DY of jtdytravels

Mauve daisy.

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P1000974  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000974 © DY of jtdytravels

Gentianella sp.

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P1000976  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000976 © DY of jtdytravels

Gentianella sp.

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P1000979  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000979 © DY of jtdytravels

Scutellaria sp.

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P1000980  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000980 © DY of jtdytravels

A shrubby daisy.

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P1010001  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010001 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1000990  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000990 © DY of jtdytravels

A maturing rose hip.

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P1000983  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000983 © DY of jtdytravels

Rose hips maturing on a tall growing plant.  These hips are a rich source of vitamin C.

It had been fun looking for wildflowers in these hills.

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More anon

David

Photography copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

more of our travel stories can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com