It is quite obvious that when you stay at a place it is quite easy for you to ignore the beautiful places around you. In my case, I was born and brought up in a remote corner of Assam in Margherita. My father (a mining engineer) and my mother (a doctor) had spent their life working in the remote coalfields of North Eastern Coalfields Ltd. at Baragolai, Ledo, Tipong and Margherita across their life. I spent my childhood in Baragolai and Tipong areas until the time I decided to move out of Assam to pursue my higher studies. But across the years I stayed in Assam I never realized how beautiful my State was when it comes to the bounties of Nature. The years I spent away working for huge corporates in urban concrete jungles that I realized how much I missed Assam. The beautiful rivers, the majestic mountains, the lush valleys, warm hearted people, fresh air, the diverse flora and fauna of the National Parks, the fresh sight of tea gardens in the morning, the delicious cuisine, all add up to one beautiful word “Assam”. You wouldn’t believe when I said that across the 25 years of my life while I travelled across India visiting each and every State I had never stepped foot inside the Kaziranga National Park – the most visited tourist destination in Assam. Neither did I go to Majuli Island, although I had visited Shillong a couple of times, I never ventured ahead to see Cherrapunji, nor Mawlynnong nor the majestic places of Arunachal Pradesh. It was only after returning back to Assam leaving my corporate life behind that I started exploring these amazing places that people from across the World come here to explore.
But it would be fine to say that I did not explore these places of interest during the early years in Assam as these places were far away from the place I resided and going here would need a planned tour with my family. What surprised me more about the heights of my stupidity is that I stayed very close to one of the most amazing natural forests in the World – the only rainforest in India and even though I went over many a times to a place called as Miao for picnic outings with my family and friends, I never once stepped foot into the majestic forests of the ‘Namdapha National Park’ – India’s third largest National Park in terms of area (almost covering around 2000 sq km) an having among the richest biodiversities in the World! From the place I visited over 20 times at Miao, the Namdapha National Park is just a few kilometers away. In one of these picnic expeditions I even stayed with my family at the Deban Forest Rest House, but then again failed to visit the interiors of the Namdapha National Park. Well, ignorance is always a bliss as this place viz. the Namdapha National Park happened to fall in the last of my list of places to visit in Arunachal Pradesh after covering the more touristy destinations of Tawang, Bomdila, Ziro Valley, Mechuka, Pasighat, Roing, Mayodia, Namsai, Tezu, Walong, Pangsau Pass to name a few. It was in December 2017 that few of us decided to embark on a planned journey to Namdapha National Park. We had our permits for Arunachal Pradesh ready an took my friends SUV – a Mahindra Bolero and headed on our journey to Namdapha from Margherita in Assam. Before we continue to narrate about our journey we provide you a brief about the Namdapha National Park and what makes this amazing rainforest so special!
About Namdapha National Park (a Short Note)
Identified as one of the largest protected areas in India, Namdapha National Park is located in the Changlang district of the State of Arunachal Pradesh in the far east corner of the country acting as a natural boundary between India and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Namdapha National Park is filled with dense evergreen rainforests and is recognized as the top biodiversity hotspots in the World and is home to the Big four (4) Cat species – the Tigers, Leopards, Clouded Leopards and the Snow Leopards. The river Nao Dehing cuts through the area of the Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve and is one of the cleanest rivers in India with waters clearer than the Umngot River at Dawki in Meghalaya. The towering Patkai Mountain range and the Mishmi Hills surround the area of the Namdapha National Park. The easiest way to access the entrance of the Namdapha National Park is to arrive at eh Dibrugarh Airport in Assam or the Ledo Railway Station and then hire a car to undertake your journey to Miao/Deban. Namdapha National Park covers an area of around 2000 sq km and is located at an altitude of 200 to 4500 m above the mean sea level. The higher elevations of the Namdapha National Park stays covered with snow around most of the times during the year and is visibly seen if there is no cloud cover. The entire area of the Namdapha National Park is covered with primary growth of evergreen forests, tropical moist forest, alpine meadows along with the growth of extensive bamboo forests. Namdapha National Park receives an annual rainfall of around 1400 mm to 2500 mm which is drained by the Nao Dihing river. It is interesting to note that the Namdapha National Park even receives rainfall in the month of December as well giving it the unique identification of being a rainforest in its true sense.
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Namdapha as a true biodiversity hotspot was discovered in 1947 by the forest advisor to the Governor of Assam. Namdapha National Park’s rich biodiversity shot into prominence during the World War II as the evergreen forests were noticed by the Allied army members who flew across this route to supply resources to Kunming in China but due to various unknown reasons crashed into the surrounding areas called as the ‘Hump’ and the Lake of no return. The soldiers would often stray away from their path to reach the dense forest reserves of Namdapha National Park where they would seek refuge. The construction of the historic Stilwell Road from Ledo to Kunming in China by the American Army under the guidance of Vinegar Joe Stilwell also mentioned about the vast natural beauty of the Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve.
As per the Assam Forest Act, the area under the Namdapha National Park was ideally a Reserve Forest until 1891. Further, Namdapha Reserve Forest was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in the year 1972. Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as the Namdapha National Park in the year 1983. Namdapha National Park was declared as a Project Tiger Reserve in the year 1983.
What has helped preserve the biodiversity of Namdapha National Park is its inaccessibility. The Namdapha National Park has not been much commercialized thereby tourists visiting the National Park a handful and proper tracks for the movement of visitors has not been developed that helps Namdapha to maintain its natural terrain and preserve its biosphere and habitat along with the varied flora and fauna. Namdapha National Park has a vast diverse floral wealth rich in many rare and endangered species that are not to be found anywhere in the World. Certain species of flora like Larix, Amatotaxus and Cephalotaxus and also the Sumatran Pine and Fir are to be found nowhere in India. The Namdapha National Park also boasts of rich faunal wealth. In addition to being home to the Big 4 Cat Species viz. the Tigers, Leopards, Clouded Leopards and Snow Leopards other dominant fauna species found at the Namdapha National Park are Elephants, Red Panda, Hoolock Gibbons, Wolves, Asiatic Wild Buffaloes, Capped Langurs, Assamese Macaques, Slow Loris, Dholes, Musk Deers, Deers, Red Fox, Flying Squirrel, Pig Tailed Macaques, Stumped Tailed Macaques, Indian Bison, etc. The bird diversities are huge here at the Namdapha National Park with over 500 species to be found. Some of the popular bird life found at Namdapha National Park are the Indian Hornbills, Giant Hornbills, Rufous Necked Hornbills, Peafowls, White Winged Wood Duck, Forest Eagle, Snow Throated Babblers, etc.
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Our journey to Namdapha National Park ~
We started our journey to Namdapha National Park from Margherita at around 6.30 AM. We had already applied and received our permit to travel to Arunachal Pradesh from the office of the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) at Margherita. Since we were four of us (Myself, my younger brother and his two friends) and all of us were residents from localities around Margherita, planning our trip to Namdapha National Park wasn’t much challenging. Since my brother and his friends got together after some years they wanted the trip to be a little more exciting and challenging. And since we had our permits ready we also decided to visit the Pangsau Pass and the Lake of no return at Myanmar on this journey itself. Our accomodation at Miao was already booked at the Namdapha Jungle Camp and the owner of the resort Mr. Singpho had informed us to reach Miao well before sundown. We ensured to carry along eatables with us as we were sure finding shops in the middle of rainforest would sure be a challenge and with the trek schedule we had in place it would surely be a wise decision to carry at least a few packets of biscuits, energy bars and boxes of bottled water along with us. After all our things were packed we left Margherita. Our journey started and after sometime we reached Ledo. Ledo is the easternmost railway station of India and a small town with a local market. At Ledo there is the Ledo Club which was once the office of the first Governor General of Independent India – Lord Mountbatten. Today the Ledo Club serves as a recreational club for the officers of North Eastern Coalfields (NECF). We crossed Ledo to reach Tirap. Tirap is the open cast mining area operating under NECF and has huge reserves of coal that is excavated with huge excavators and brought down from the mountains to be transported by means of heavy load capacity tippers. From Tirap, the coal is transported to various parts of India mostly to the brick kilns in Punjab, Tea factories in Assam and Thermal Power Plants across India. We halted a while here to admire the beauty of tea gardens of the Ledo Tea Estate.
After Tirap our journey continued into Lekhapani – an Indian Army Cantonment and the place from where the Stilwell Road starts. We halted for a while at the Stilwell Zero Point Park and paid our tributes to the brave soldiers who had laid down their lives during the construction of this mammoth project almost 80 years ago under some of the harshest and treacherous working conditions imaginable. Then we headed off to Jagun. It was around 8 AM in the morning and we decided to grab some breakfast here. In these parts of the country rice is a staple diet and asking for something else to eat apart from sweets is a tough task to find. So we decided to enjoy a simple breakfast of little rice, dal and sabji along with a cup of black tea that was served to us and we continued int Jairampur. We were halted at the Jairampur Checkpost where our permit documents were validated and after a short while we crossed Assam into the State of Arunachal Pradesh. We continued of our way to reach the Jairampur World War II Cemetery and Botanical Garden. This World War II Cemetery was not under the Commonwealth War Graves Mission and this was evidently noticed as there was no proper maintenance here like the other war cemeteries at Digboi, Guwahati, Kohima and Imphal. This is the only war cemetery in India which has the burials of soldiers from the Chinese Army who died during the course of the Burma Campaign of World War II. After paying our respects we headed on to Nampong town.
Nampong is a small town in the easternmost corner of India and is popularly known as the host to the Pangsau Pass Winter Festival held every year in the month of January. A festival that celebrated the congregation of the various tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. It was the 10th of the month and we were aware that the International Border opens up on this day along with the 20th and 30th of every month for Indian Nationals to be able to go across the International border to head into the Republic of the Union of Myanmar from the Pangsau Pass. The valid documentary evidence we needed to go into Myanmar was an approval from the Office of the SDO at Nampong that would be verified by Army officials of Myanmar at the International Border Checkpost of India and Myanmar and we would cross to reach Myanmar and come back. The process was quite quick and easy and we paid nominal government fees to the officials who handed us the permit. We reached an Indian Army check post at Nampong where the officials verified our documents and permitted us to travel to the Pangsau Pass. The Pangsau Pass is at the border of India and Myanmar and here we were greeted with a board that said “Welcome to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar”. There was a local market being constructed that would be used to strengthen the trade ties between the two countries. We stopped a while to explore the construction area.
However, we ran into a roadblock as the road ahead was not at all motorable due to the recent rains (even though it was winter time) and there was no way any vehicle would have passed that muddy lane without getting its tyres stuck. We waited for a while and as they day “When there is will, there is a way” we were offered lifts on certain ATBs used by the people of Myanmar to cross thee muddy road patches. They offered to give the four of us a ride on two motorbikes with a nominal amount of 200 for a one way ride on each bike. We accepted the offer and off we were to Myanmar to sight the famed ‘Lake of No Return’ and the Pangsau Pass market. These helpful guys dropped us at the Checkpost where the soldiers of the Myanmar Army were stationed to verify our documents. They greeted us with a warm smile welcoming us to their country and in a few minutes we were offered token cards to cross the border and reach Myanmar. And all this along the Historic Stilwell Road. We were overjoyed to reach an International Country without any hassle and of course without requiring our passport. As we were on a tight schedule to reach Miao before sundown along a road that had more number of potholes than tar we decided to be quick on our visit to the Myanmar market.
We went and explored the Pangsau Pass market where there were several small business men and women selling goods. Most of their goods were locally made and some we guess were imported from China. The best goods we found were the traditional knives and daggers better known as Khukris in the local language which were all hand made and exquisite. It was interesting to see that wine bars were open here early in the morning and people could be seen gulping down beer as early as 9.30 AM in the morning. We decided to give it a try and were seen gulping down a can of Myanmar Beer in the morning too. We were running out of time and so we decided to sight the Lake of No Return and head back to India. The same guys who brought us here offered us a life back at the same price to the place where we started after returning our token back to the officials of Myanmar. We reached back around 10.30 and we started our journey back to Jairampur to head back to Jagun in Assam and continue to Miao.
Until now our journey was great as the road conditions were quite good. It was after we crossed Jagun to head towards Miao that the real challenge started. The road was not at all in a good condition and this was supposed to be a National Highway. The condition was really deplorable and thankfully we had brought along an SUV on our journey. Though there were smaller cars plying along the road, the journey would have surely been a nightmare for the driver as well as the passengers. There were a few good patches along the way but most of the times we were greeted with huge potholes. Along our way we were often passed by huge tankers which were carrying I guess crude oil to the oil refineries at Digboi as we were told that there were oil well in the area of Kharsang that operated under Oil India Ltd. I guessed that the heavy weight of these oil tankers must have caused more damage to the already broken roads here along with the heavy rainfall across the year that this area is often prone to. There were signs of road constructions along the way and this was really needed considering that this was the only way to reach one of the amazing wildlife destination of India. Although there was news of a proper road construction being approved in this area to allow faster mobilization of Indian troops were to be heard and also to allow people of Vijaynagar to have proper access road to Miao was in the picture, the project we think was delayed due to unknown reasons and we had to manage to travel along this road itself. Although the distance from Jagun to Miao is hardly a total of around 40 – 50 kilometers its takes much more time to cover this distance.
We reached Kharsang at around 2 PM. Kharsang is the midway between Jagun and Miao. Kharsang is a small township area with a local market and many churches around for a small place. In a small town itself there are around 7 churches which gives a fair idea that majority of the people here practice Christianity as their faith. Kharsang’s prime importance is that it is an area filled with tea gardens and natural resources like oil and coal. Oil India Limited has its operations at Kharsang and a fair amount of crude oil is extracted from the grounds of Kharsang and transported to the Oil refinery at Digboi. The people of Kharsang mostly belong to the Tangsa tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. The Tangsas also inhabit a major portion of Myanmar. Kharsang has a huge potential for tourism in the area as the entire area is surrounded by lush greenery, the Patkai mountain range and the pleasant Nao Dihing river flowing across the town.
Before reaching Kharsang we were stopped at the check gate of Arunachal Pradesh where we had to validate our ILPs before travelling. The officials posted here were quite friendly and upon knowing that we were travelling from Margherita we were allowed to cross the gate without much of scrutiny as many people keep travelling between the borders here. An entry with our names, vehicle number and ID card details was done in their log books for reference. Even though we were let off without much hassle an ILP to cross this checkpost is very mandatory and all visitors are requested to have it handy at all times on their visit to Arunachal Pradesh across this tourist circuit of Miao and Namdapha National Park. After admiring the natural beauty of Kharsang for a short time we decided to stop for lunch. A sumptuous meal of rice, dal, sabji and chicken was served to us and after finishing our meal we continued on our journey to Miao. It was already 3.30 PM and we had to make our journey to Miao quick before sundown so we decided to skip our visit to the Tibet handicraft showroom at this leg of our journey and planned to visit here during our return. The roads were again a challenge so we continued slowly on our drive to Miao. It took us another hours time to reach the Namdapha Jungle Camp at Miao.
The Namdapha Jungle Camp is located on a sprawling green campus and has 3 nice traditional bamboo, wood and thatch cottages. The owner of the Namdapha Jungle Camp Mr. Phupla Singpho – a Singpho tribe person who has been a pioneer in promoting tourism across the Namdapha National Park and after years of dedicated promotion and guiding visitors from across the World, he has been successful in putting Namdapha Namdapha National Park on the tourist track map of the World. An able guide and bird lover, he has guided many visitors on birding and wildlife treks into the dense forest reserves of Namdapha National Park and now has entrusted this work to local villagers of Miao and Namdapha National Park who he has trained personally and this has created a new source of revenue for these people who earn money acting as porters and guide who take you into an amazing camping trip into the forests of Namdapha National Park. We took our luggage and stocked them into the cottages we were allotted at the Namdapha Jungle Camp. After taking a short time to refresh ourselves after the long and hectic drive. A little later we were served with a cup of tea and were briefed about then next few days of jungle trekking and camping inside the area of the Namdapha National Park.
Our Itinerary for the next few days exploring the wilderness of the Namdapha National Park would be like this ~
Day 1 ~ Miao to Deban and start trek to the Hornbill Camp
Day 2 ~ Hornbill Camp to Firmbase Camp back to Hornbill Camp
Day 3 ~ Day 4 ~ Hornbill Camp to Deban to Miao
Day 4 ~ Miao to Phup Village to Margherita
An able guide Mr. Thapa and his son would be accompanying us across this trail and hiring the services of a local guide is very much necessary because you wouldn’t want to get lost in the depths of the wilderness of this beauty of a tropical rain forest. While many say that spotting of a larger man eater big cat like a tiger is a rare occurrence but you would never want to get lost in the jungles of Namdapha National Park and be face to face with this man eater because you can never say as the slimmest of chances you think you might have to sight a tiger or any of the big 4 cat species here in Namdapha National Park your luck might have to face to face with them here. Also google maps would love to help you on your navigation across the map (not sure if google has the rote mapped) but with the minimal mobile network connectivity you wouldn’t want to take your chances of relying on navigation skills of the GPS here. So we happily and readily agreed to hire the services of Mr. Thapa for our days inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park.
We pondered our questions to Mr. Thapa about how difficult the terrain is and how long it would take us to trek inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park. Mr. Thapa patiently answered most of our queries. It was already 7.30 in the evening and the clear winter sky view of the night where the milky way was clearly visible and the dimming light of the stars made us feel in awe of Mother nature. The chirping of the insects and the cool winter breeze blowing across the nearby flowing stream made us all the more excited for our trek into the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park. Dinner was served to us shortly and it was an authentic recipe of the Singpho people. The Singpho people who migrated to India from Myanmar have a settlement around Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. In Arunachal Pradesh they inhabit the area of the Changlang and Tirap districts while in Assam they find settlement around the Margherita area in Tinsukia district. they are known to be the first people who brew tea in Assam region and it was after watching the local Singpho people that Robert Bruce got aware of the presence of tea cultivation in Assam and brought in the techniques from Britain to start mass tea production and start the export of Assam tea to the World.
The Singpho blend of the tea is called the ‘Phalap’ that is made by first boiling the tea leaves and then keeping it out in the sun for drying. Later the tea leaves are stuffed into hollowed out bamboo trunks and gradually allowed to be smoked in the kitchen. This adds a smoky flavor to the Phalap and makes it rich in oxidants which is a best known toxin eliminator from the body. Our Singpho dinner had tupula bhat (sticky rice wrapped up in tokou leaves), chicken with banana flower, leafy vegetables, potato fry, pork sticks, dal, chutney, salad, etc. After a long day the dinner tasted very delicious and it was an elaborate preparation as well. Namdapha Jungle Camp takes pride in their service and food quality and it was clearly visible during our stay here. We finished our dinner and then took a stroll around the campus under the clear night sky and later returned to bed.
Day 1 ~ Miao to Deban and start trek to the Hornbill Camp
The next day morning we were got up early in the morning listening to the chirping of the various birds around here. The floral diversity of Namdapha National Park is home to over 500 species of birds during the winters (both resident and migratory) and these birds keep flying across the area of Deban and Miao. We quickly got ready and Mr. Thapa had our camping stuff packed and ready along with his son. After a quick breakfast of noodles and tea we started on our drive to Deban. The vehicle was provided by the owner of the Namdapha Jungle Camp and we left our vehicle at his place. The roads are not properly built and hence an SUV is necessary to drive across this terrain. Also the road conditions to drive a distance of 24 km to Deban from Miao would take close to an hour and a half. At around 9 AM we reached the Deban forest rest house where we were dropped off. Mr. Thapa led us on our trek where at first we had to cross the river Nao Dehing in Deban across a bamboo bridge that would gradually lead us to the virgin wilderness of the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park. It is a makeshift bridge and could easily handle the weight of all of us. There was no one else embarking on the trek apart from us which gave us a feeling we would be the along to enjoy the wilderness of the Namdapha National Park for ourselves on our days inside the park.
We could see a few locals walking around us and I guess they were collecting firewood for their homes as there is a village close by. The trek to the Hornbill camp is a gradual uphill climb and would take us almost 3 hours to reach the camp. Once we entered the forest, the tall canopy of trees started to greet us and we could feel the magic of the tropical rain forest right in front of our eyes. The sound of birds chirping and singing and the call of the Hoolock Gibbons made us feel that we have reached one of the best biodiversity hot spots in the World where human habitation has not yet reached and only the breath of fresh air is what fills the place. Our guide who was over 50 years old had spent a better part of his life exploring the forest reserves of Namdapha and along with Mr. Singpho from Namdapha Jungle Camp had led many groups of Indian and Foreign nationals inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park. He was very knowledgeable about the terrain and was regularly telling us where to put our steps and to look out for insects that build their homes in these forest reserves of Namdapha National Park. He could even tell us the sounds of birds who kept singing and chirping along our way. The cry of certain animals ensured that we were in their territory and warned us not to mess with the surroundings around us.
We kept walking into the wild and sometimes we were alarmed by the cry of a herd of wild elephants at a distant which scared us a bit to be frank. We reached an open spot shortly and we decided to halt and rest for a while and have tea. Mr. Thapa handed us the flask of tea and we poured ourselves a cup of hot tea under the winter sun. It was about 2 hours left to reach the Hornbill camp and after a while we started again on our trek. We walked further into the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park and finally arrived at the Hornbill camp at around 1 PM. Mr. Thapa took us to the place where we would be setting up our camp for the night and also he got busy with the preparations for lunch. A river flows across the campsite and we went there to refresh ourselves deep inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park.
We came back for lunch and Mr. Thapa was ready with our lunch of boiled eggs, instant noodles and bananas. The time did not permit for an elaborate lunch inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park so we enjoyed the noodles itself. At night we would be preparing rice and other items for which we had to collect and keep the firewood ready. Mr. Thapa led us to the site where we could spot Hornbills but unfortunately there were no Hornbills present there today. We did wait for a while to try to spot these majestic birds but to no luck. We had to head back to the campsite as the days are short during the winters and it gets dark as early as 4.30 PM. On our way back Mr. Thapa suddenly stopped and asked us to remain silent. He pointed to a tall tree top and to our surprise there were a flock of Hornbills sitting atop the tree. We took our time and captured a few pictures of these Oriental Pied Hornbill species but they realized our presence and flew off. Mr. Thapa later narrated to us the difficult life of a Hornbill bird back at our camp while preparing dinner.
It seems that the female hornbill bird of Namdapha National Park while building her nest plucks out her feathers to build the nest. She almost gets bald during this process and elaborately builds her nest. Until the time she lays here eggs and the babies are big enough she doesn’t step out of the nest. It is the duty of the male hornbill to gather food and bring it back to the nest for the mother and the children. The female observes the flight path taken by the male and only if he comes back flying the same direction will the mother accept the food or else she and her children go hungry. It was hard to believe that even birds follow such a strict discipline. Still he knew much more about the forests of Namdapha National Park then us who were just amateurs when it came to understanding the wild. We had our dinner of rice, potato curry and roasted fish which Mr. Thapa’s son caught from the nearby river and it was a perfect example of jungle camping experience for us and the first time as well. We retired to our tents for the night an during the night we could hear the call of the elephants, barking of wild dogs, call of the deer, insects chirping and it made us feel so close to nature and how God intended the World to be. Listening to these sounds we put ourselves to sleep knowing that it would be an early morning again the next day.
The next day we woke up at 5 AM and I came out of the tent to see Mr. Thapa preparing tea for all of us. He did the dishes and saucers and kept it aside at our camp as we would be camping again here tonight after coming back from Firmbase Camp. We had breakfast and then started on our trek to go to the Firmbase Camp from Hornbill Camp in Namdapha National Park. The beautiful trees greeted us again and we kept trekking further. On the way we stopped to spot a real mysterious squirrel species. Mr. Thapa told us that it was a flying squirrel and is often spotted inside the forest of Namdapha National Park. A very interesting and beautiful creature it jumped off the tree trunk as we were about to click pictures. The trek duration from the Hornbill Camp to the Firmbase Camp is around 3 1/2 hours and so we started as early as 6 AM and didn’t plan on making any unnecessary stops apart from identifying wild species and clicking pictures. Namdapha National Park being the only rain forest in India you can never be sure of the weather here as the downpour might occur anytime even though its in the month of December so Mr. Thapa advised us to carry an umbrella we had brought along.
We kept walking as Mr. Thapa spoke of his life experiences exploring the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park. He spoke to us about his encounters with tigers and herds of wild elephants deep inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park and his life experience about guiding various tourists and researchers who come here from far flung countries to admire the natural beauty of the only rain forest in India. He spoke to us about how they have spent days and even months together with wildlife researchers and conservationists who come here to Namdapha during surveys and camp out here carrying out their duties. He even spoke of how the global climate is changing and how temperatures have gone up here in Namdapha National Park over the past few years. The Dapha Bum Peak that would be visible from the firmbase camp would remain covered with snow across the year earlier but now it is limited only during winters as summer temperatures have started to soar well above 35 degrees. This has made the elusive snow leopard of Namdapha National Park all the more elusive.
We spoke of our adventures in other National Parks of Assam like at Nameri National Park where we had also similar experience of trekking into the forest reserves but nothing seemed to excite Mr. Thapa as he believes the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park is the best and no other National Park in India can beat it when it comes to the biodiversity that can be found here and we couldn’t disagree with him. Our talks helped us as we did not keep track of time along with the sighting of the beautiful bird species of Namdapha National Park. We arrived at the Firmbase Camp in Namdapha National Park at around 9.30 AM. As we approached the place the snow covered peak of the Dapha Bum Peak gradually started to become visible to our naked eyes. We reached Firmbase and what a sight it was. The view of the Namdapha National Park became clearly visible and varied species of flora can be spotted. Flying across these trees were various bird species and so were capped langurs and monkeys. We sighted the prized Hoolock Gibbon species here. Mr. Thapa took us to the sulphur springs here at Firmbase where the waters are believed to have some curing properties. We dared not to step inside the water here because we were not aware of how our body would react to the sulphur compound in the water here.
We watched some more bird species and then decided to return back to Hornbill Camp. We did not go further to Embeong as we were short on time but if you are visiting Namdapha National Park then continue your trek further to Embeong and stay in the local village there. It is a small local village comprising of a few households around 15 and is home to the warm and friendly people who welcome you with open arms. They engage in traditional farming and the village offers you vast organic delights like fruits and vegetables and clean fresh air to rejuvenate your lungs. This village offers beautiful views of the nearby forest reserves and the rivulets and streams flowing by. Mr. Thapa had a distant family at this village and he wanted to take us there but we were already tired and did not want to go there and trek furthermore the next day. We somehow convinced him not to take us there while we walked back on our way to the Hornbill Camp.
It was afternoon and we had some fruits for lunch and hoped to have an early dinner an retire for the night. We reached back at the Hornbill Camp at 3 PM and took sometime to refresh ourselves at the nearby river while Mr. Thapa’s son got to fishing. He had an interesting technique where he had a sharp bamboo stick in his hands and when he saw a fish in the clear waters of the river he struck and after a few attempts he was successful in catching a fish. He told us that earlier the river used to be abundant in fishes but uncontrolled bombing in the river waters by some unscrupulous people led to a severe decline in the species of fish available here. Although this practice has been banned the waters of the river are still recovering to get back the population of fishes back. We listened to his stories with interest and returned back to our camp. Mr. Thapa was ready with a special boiled rice (like pulao) that had dal, vegetables and soya chunks all mixed together. His son got to roasting the fish and dinner was ready at 5 PM. We finished our dinner and took place near the fire discussing our final day here at the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park. We retired to our tents and fell asleep soon.
The next day morning we left the Hornbill Camp to trek back to Deban. Our vehicle was awaiting our pick up here and Mr. Thapa loaded the luggage into the truck and we started on our drive to Miao to the Namdapha Jungle Camp. We reached the place in the afternoon and after a quick lunch we planned to continue to drive to our home in Margherita in Assam. We thanked everyone for their assistance and started on our drive to end our memorable trip to Namdapha National Park.