I have always found it hard to explain or describe my experiences at Namdapha. My friends tell me that I have this look in my face and a lot of hand gestures, but words fail me.
Now as I retrospect, things look more clear. More than two months have passed since my encounter with the Mother Forest, yet a part of it still lingers in my imagination, deporting me back in time to the first day in the mighty forest.
We began our trek early from Deban moving towards the horizon where lay the lush sub tropical forest of mighty Namdapha. After crossing the Noa-dihing river we followed a goat path which lead us into the wilderness of the interior forest of the park. It occurred to me that this might be what they call as “the road less traveled”, and I am humbled by the thought. The first thing that hit me upon entering the jungle was its density and the intricacy of its design. Tall trees intertwine with each other, almost as a romantic couple awaiting their first kiss. Butterflies flirt with you, flocks of Hornbill fly above and there is a constant feeling of eye’s watching you as you trod upon this unknown territory.
The ground is a canopy of green, slightly damped, because the density of the forest seldom allows the rays of the sun to kiss the ground, almost providing a mystical atmosphere. After some long hours of some serious jungle trekking, we reached the Hornbill Camp and decided to camp for the night. While we were gathering fire wood, our guide was off to fish from a small stream and also collect edible leaves. Later on we saw a pair of Flying Squirrel. Even with the strong beam of our torches, the squirrel did not even flinch. On the contrary, it seemed to like the limelight. That night as we slept in the silence of the forest, we heard a barking deer and distant cries of the great hornbill and it felt like the jungle was slowly accepting our intrusion.
Next morning, I woke up to birds chirping and a thousand other noises that I had never heard before: the music of nature I note. Amongst them was the loud voice of the Hoolock Gibbon (India’s only ape). It occurs to me that Namdapha is sacred for it is truly one of the last remaining great wildernesses. The biodiversity is mind-boggling, so many mammals, 500 species of birds, and who knows what else is waiting to be discovered inside its premises. Life starts at dawn here, and only picks up momentum here forth. My guide, Mr. Raju, made me black tea and greeted me with a smile. I tried to wake my comrade, fidgeting at first, he too slowly came to life. And we worked on the plan of action for the day. In absolute wilderness, there is either nothing to do, or there are possibilities of doing things that you have never done before. There are no people around, the denseness of the jungle solidifies that notion. No people, no judge, no social norms. Freedom!
My comrade and me decided to do a perimeter check up a small stream and then enter from behind the campsite. Nearby, we discovered a hot sulphur spring, the water was mysteriously white, and none of us dared to take a swim in it. Couple of yards up the stream, the view was catchy. Tall trees form both sides of the bank, and long prop roots hang effortlessly from them. Thick green canopy as a background. I think of the Rambo movies, definitely shot here I tell myself. My comrade tries to do a series of ” Tarzan hand glides ” on the prop roots…sliped and fell, got up, smiled and did the whole set again. Back at the camp, our guide was smoking and cooking lunch. He seemed to be completely at ease with the surroundings. As for the two of us, we were excited like little baby ravens waiting to be fed. After lunch we roamed about the forest, while Mr. Raju went to fish. Deep in thought my good comrade suddenly announced that we need to bathe in the river naked ( one by one off course ); so yes, we shed our inhibitions along with our cloths that day. Once it gets dark in the jungle, it stays that way, until dawn arrives. We just sat around the fire, planing the trek route for the return journey the next day, and listened to our guide’s folktales. I pulled out my canister of rum, and the three of us sipped it like holy water. Dinner served us well, as we tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags, the wind brought with it the sound of a gradual but powerful process of breathing. The forest was alive, and three of us were a part of the forest.
Next day while leaving, I knew that a forest like Namdapha needed everything that is to be done in order to conserve it.