Our trip to Hollong was one of the most challenging and memorable ones. Still, after so many months, it remains clear like yesterday. We slept early knowing we have to leave early. So when the alarm went off at 4 AM the whole place was quiet and dark. We hauled all our luggage from the room to the rented car. It was a bit of a task given that we were staying backside of the property. Any way by 4:30 we started and headed east to Hollongapar GIBBON.
The traffic was thin as there was not much movement in the early morning. Soon the sun came out, but the road condition started to deteriorate with ongoing road widening and other work. We passed many tea gardens on both sides of the national highway. But suddenly we saw one accident and lots of people. As we approach slowly we saw the accident involved a truck carrying fresh fish and another vehicle. As the fishes would spoil every villager was carrying two-three big fishes in their hand or any makeshift begs that they could find. It was quite a scene. I am sure those villagers even might remember that day when they had a Fete 😊
Soon we crossed Jorhat and saw the sign for Mazuli (our later destination). We were following Google Maps and soon we were in the middle of a tea garden as we left the highway behind. We were a little puzzled as there was no mention of crossing a tea garden when we discussed the road condition previous night with Wild Grass Manager. As we had no choice we continued driving and soon we reached a spot where there was a small signboard which said Hollong.
But by now the road condition is just dirt track and with previous night rain, it was only suitable for a 4x4. Our rental car was the cheapest one a small Ford Figo. There was no place to take u-turn as the road was narrow and we were moving forward at a snail pace using the tire marks from other cars. We saw only 3 people on this road who were on bicycles collecting fallen woods from the forest. With my broken Assamese, I just managed to ask where is Hollong/Gibbon and they just showed with their hand go forward. Aarush was sleeping in the back seat and we were scared as there was no mobile signal and we realized we are middle of the jungle. After driving for quite a few KMs we reached a spot where we saw forest personal.
They gave us a strange look as we were not the locals and had no local guides with us and how we reached there from the wrong road. Talking to them it became aparent that (thanks to Google Maps) we drove through the jungle itself which is not at all sensible as there are wild elephants who are active in the early morning.
The forest personnel asked us to pay a minimal fee and told one guard will come with us and it is a walking tour. This was our first walking tour inside a forest where there are wild animals like elephants and leopard. Luckily we got some company of another tourist who came with Diganta Gogoi. Mr. Gogoi runs a homestay and the best guide for Hollong and surrounding areas. Now there are two guards allocated for 6 of us, and they were carrying very old guns on their shoulders. The purpose of those guns maybe just to scare away any animals. I thought we will just go inside for a few hundred meters and come back. And after the scary drive was bit disoriented so when Aarush asked which shoes to put I said just put crocs. But he somehow decided to put proper shoes.
As soon as I entered I saw a bright bird and clicked it. And to my surprise, it was Red Trogon and soon the trogon flew away without giving any chance of a second shot. There are only three types of trogon in India, two are found in North East Red-Headed and Ward Trogon. And Malabar Trogon in the Western Ghats.
Soon we started to spot the primates we saw Gibbon, Pig-tailed Macaque, Stump-tailed Macaque. Other primates found in the same forest are *Capped Langur, Assamese Macaque, Rhesus Macaque and the only nocturnal primate in the north-east, the **Bengal Slow Loris. ***
Group of Stump-Tailed Macaque crossed just in front of us, but my bad luck I ran out of battery. And in the morning with all excitement from the crazy driving, I completely forgot to put the spare battery in my pocket. Asrush got 4 leech bites but he was brave enough not to make any noise.
After a few hours of jungle safari on our foot, we turned back to the car. We had a quick chat with Mr. Gogoi and he invited us to stay next time in his homestay which we are looking forward, And this time with proper direction from the forest guide took the road to Jorhat our next destination.