U is for Upstream & Upbeat
15 April 2017, Bah, Chambal, District Agra, India
By the rivers of Chambal where we sat down,
Yeah, yeah we wept, when we remembered downtown
When the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Requiring of us a song
Now how shall we sing the lord’s song in a strange land
Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts
Be accepted in thy sight here tonight
By the rivers of Chambal where we sat down,
Yeah, yeah we wept, when we remembered downtown!
(Corny yes, and you know very well, snitched from Boney-M’s Rivers of Babylon. Apologies, but couldn’t help this one!)
So we were on a mini break to Chambal this Easter weekend. You can read about it also at: Nebulous Night Adventure
The ravines of Chambal at some point of time were the famous playground for India’s most notorious bandits (dacoits). Pan Singh Tomar, Phoolan Devi, Man Singh to name just a few. Thankfully not anymore. Though I wonder what it would be to go back in time and have an adventure of sorts with them! Getting back to my Upstream & Upbeat story, on an early pre-Easter morning we crossed those dreaded Chambal ravines of the past, for a boat safari on the pristine Chambal river. We had no idea that this idyllic river would be teeming with such a wide array of birds, mammals and reptiles.
The sun was rising in the far east, it’s orange golden glow kissing our faces like a pixie’s fairy dust. The DH, 8-year-old and I clamoured into a motor boat along with our guide, Bacchu Singh and the amiable looking boat man. Bacchu Singh had an eye for detail. It was just unbelievable at times. He would spot a tiny turtle sitting atop a rock, by the banks of the river when the rest of us had to crane our necks and strain our eyes for a long time before we could even find it. The binoculars helped though.
But our first tryst by the river was with a “friendly” crocodile. Crocodiles can be pretty aggressive, as you all know but the moment this one saw us it peaked its head to catch a glimpse of us and then disappeared into the recesses of the river. The boat made it’s way upstream as we saw a pair of Skimmers that are critically endangered migratory birds. There was an army of Rudy Sail Ducks that migrate from Europe each summer. Lapwings, Eurasian Thicknee, and many others too. The binoculars did a good job, as the moment the boat would steer closer to the winged wonders, they would fly off.
The sheer numbers of the coy, long snout Gharials (of the crocodile family) that are native to India, after they became extinct in Burma, Bhutan and Pakistan was fascinating. Though they are critically endangered. We were lucky to spot more than 15 of these Gharials, including one baby. They lay basking in the morning sun, by the banks. Some of them were as long as 13-14 feet. The male recognised by a bulbous knob at the end of it’s elongated snout, seemed a lot more people savvy though. Gharials are extremely shy and do not attack humans, unlike crocs. We observed these reptiles silently with an utter sense of delight. But the moment the boat came closer, they would jump into the river.
Our river safari was turning out to be quite an adventure. We hadn’t expected so many sightings. We continued to sail upstream and our moods were more than just upbeat. But by 8 AM we were ravenous not just for more sightings, but also for some breakfast. Bacchu Sigh pulled out the immaculately packed breakfast boxes, provided by the Chambal Safari Lodge where we were staying. The breakfast was a big sumptuous spread of cheese sandwiches, muffins, boiled egg, banana and some steaming hot coffee and tea. We relished our food amidst the silence and beauty of the Chambal river; and once we were done,we were ready to take on the river again!
The best, as they say was left for the end. We waited to spot the Gangetic River Dolphins. With bated breath we quietly sat in the boat, and after about 10 minutes Bacchu Singh pointed to a ripple in the river. It was a mother and a baby duo somersaulting. Though they were barely visible as they came up for a fraction of a second, but it was exciting enough. The Gangetic Dolphins are generally blind and catch their prey by emitting an ultrasonic sound which reaches the prey. The dolphin then registers this image in its mind and subsequently catches its prey.
It was almost 9 AM. The sun was now staring back at us with all its might, asking us to return; leaving the creatures to enjoy their peaceful time. We headed back downstream but not without spotting a few more Gharials, water birds and yes, another Crocodile.
Chambal river is pretty well maintained and it’s gives me a sense of relief to see how the ecological balance is being maintained, and the fauna are thriving in this little paradise. All the negative news we read about endangered species and the slowly dwindling wild life, here is one place which is being conserved and maintained. I’m going back there again, sooner than the soonest.
Buh-Bye to the bandits and Hola to the wildlife at Chambal !!
Footnote: Unfortunately the quality of pictures that I shot did not turn out as well on my iPhone6. Therefore had to borrow pictures online. Another reminder to start using the DSLR, for the next destination!
My theme for this year’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge is Travel Epiphanies that are my very own tales of adventure and revelation. I will be writing 26 posts throughout the month of April. You can read my theme here.