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Himalaya

Day 101: Kaziranga to Guwahati

Michael Palin - HimalayaThis morning, though, he earns his keep and from our perch we have a wide view over the tall ikora grass and the shorter grass in front, where beads of dew catch the morning sun and storks and pond heron strut about. We see swamp deer and hog deer, wild buffalo and a few energetically chomping wild boar, with their thin, bristly black hair parted across their backs like cheap toupees. A long-legged, duck-like bird flies by and Maan becomes very excited. It's a Bengal florican and there are only 400 to 500 left in the world. Which makes the rhinos of Kaziranga seem positively commonplace.

And at last we come across one, a greater one-horned rhino, with its wide lip and protruding upper jaw for better grazing, encased in almost colourless armour platelets, and standing still as a statue, like a great silver-grey rock. It measures about ten feet long and four high and Maan estimates it must weigh nearly a ton and a half, some 1500 kilograms.

Unruffled by our presence, the rhino lowers its head and carries on with breakfast.

By evening, we've left this expanse of unpolluted nature behind and are ensconced at the Dynasty Hotel in the Muslim quarter of Assam's capital, Guwahati. From my window I look out over an urban panorama, a mosque, a row of shop units, endless lines of mottled, blackened apartment buildings, offices and warehouses.

And not an animal in sight.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 101: Kaziranga to Guwahati
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Guwahati
  • Book page no: 236

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