Ngengpui in a Dug Out I

Massive , Large , Generous , Awe-Inspiring , Humbling, Wise , Ageing, Giving , Secure , at Peace

The trees were too large for me to hug and so much in awe of them i was that I didn't even contemplate trying as I will not attempt either to string a passage together of the words that come to mind when I recall what I felt. I decide to just give you some  words and this image instead of forcibly trying to compose a psalm.
At the edge of Khawmawi (Dist Lawngtlai) on the banks of the river Ngengpui, snuggled and comfortable between these mammoth trees is  the Ngengpui Wildlife Sanctuary's Rest House. Multiple calls of birds reach out as you enter its gates and i squinted  against the golden sun to catch a glimpse of the plenty frolicking around. Like these trees, the birdlife around seems to know that its safe within these boundaries , for while the village settlement offered only few well hidden treasures, trees in the campus I understand played host to a large flock of oriental pied hornbills! These trees were unfortunately not in fruit currently and the Hornbills had moved on to some other haunt.  I’m left constructing for myself the feel of what would have been the case had I actually seen them. Of course, I’m sure I’m not in even close.

Left largely un tampered, the space lends the feel of being well within the sanctuary,  while you aren't even half a kilometer away from the Khawmawi bazaar.An office building and a few staff quarters is all that is concrete apart from the rest house itself.  The highlight of the space is of course the balcony of sorts , just the kind of place you'd want to return to after a walk in the sanctuary or a dug out ride like us.

We seem to be pre -destined to see Ngengpui from the river itself. On our last trip to the Bungtlang beat , we found ourselves camping on the river bed and walking on it through the day.  We got caught up in a storm of sorts last time and couldn't explore at leisure but this trip seemed to have the blessings of the rain gods! A long monsoon spell ensured that there was just enough water left in Ngengpui for us to venture out with the dugout.

But first things first, we needed to have tea and make some sort of brunch arrangement and this seemed to be no problem as the forest guard had predicted. Hotel Din Din was more than happy to do it. So , at five in the morning  after some refreshing morning tea and a packed brunch from the hotel we were ready to be on the move. A word about Hotel Din Din – its possibly the cleanest and one of the more enterprising hotels/teas stalls we’ve visited. The woman who runs its is a powerhouse of energy with a chubby baby sleeping soundlessly on her back while she cooks , instructs and spares more than a minute to converse with the customers. As discussed on the previous eve, she was ready for us with 5 in the morning with tea and puris and a lunch waiting to packed. The rest of Khawmawi including the roosters seemed to be still asleep.

Sanga , Niam  and the two of us , set out quited excitedly for the dugout ride , the first mist covered sight of the river made me feel we might be a bit too early for the birds but I was wrong and thrilled to be so. Anticipation was high with our companions too , they kept speculating on what we might come across and what they had previously seen while on a dug out patrol. Like on the road, wagtails seemed to know the bends of the river and ....well, were hell bent on leading us through with their dippy flight!

Through the trip , this convoy duty was taken over by a Great Bittern, a Black Crowned Night Heron , a Spotted Forktail and some more. What startled us out of our silence was the noisy scramble and flight of Jungle Fowls. So startled were we as they raised alarm and flew across the river , i feared that we would manage to topple the dugout!
Watching quite peacefully  from the sidelines were White Throated Kingfishers and we did catch sight of the Brown Winged Kingfisher too. On the sidelines again was the activity of a lone Malayan Giant Squirrel , guided by Niam  i could spot it scuttle around its tree. For more on what we saw ,  wait for Nimesh to update his blog.

We got off for a bit and walked along a smaller river meeting Ngengpui inside the forest.  Wild banana growing along the banks and most of us bent over looking for tracks. We didn't venture out too far in as our  growling stomachs were scaring of much of the life around. But the Greater Racket Tail Drongo would not have us leave till we had seen it. It called till we were able to spot it, danced around on the pretext on grabbing insects and having got our attention and its ego satiated it left just as we were pleading for more! Tease.I found my self muttering.
Lunch was lavish- some resourcefully wrapped beans, eggs, rice and chicken. We ate silently against the sounds of the river. Post lunch we crouched around the field guides to confirm what we had seen. A bit thrilled about this part  cause I seemed to be getting a little better with my observations. That just means that I'm able tell the difference between a woodpecker and a Kingfisher, well maybe a little better than that :)

Talking to Sanga and Niam was quite a treat. They were disappointed that we weren't able to see any mammals apart from the Malayan Giant Squirrel and a the shadow of a Palm Civet.They repeatedly pointed out some tracks and suggested that we move further downstream in the hope of sighting something bada! Speaking of which it seems that while ago a new elephant has made its presence felt in Ngengpui , coming in from the neighbouring Mara district , they were of the opinion that it had given quite a fright to the resident four and that these four had changed their hang out for the time being! I don't have a clue about how elephants behave , but I quite enjoyed how this bit was narrated to us. Also , the honest fear with which Sanga told us of how he had fled from his path when he realized an elephant was somewhere ahead made me  happy not to have encountered them.

We returned to Hotel Din Din ( I love this name- we have a kid in the neighbourhood who is called the same and we adore him too) around noon. Sanga and Niam  should have been dog tired with all the rowing , pushing and pulling they were required to do. The water became a lil too shallow in places and the dug out needed to be dragged off those patches. Nimesh jumped off to help whenever he was quick enough but I wasn't quick enough most of the time. That left me sitting in the middle of the dugout feeling every inch ganpati like, wondering if i tick them off they might chose visarjan as an option!! Jokes aside... they did have to put in quite an effort and I'm embaressed and grateful. I enjoyed thumbing the fieldguides with them looking for a particular 3foot long animal which seems to have made the logs in th campus its home. We didn't find it , maybe next time. I sure do hope there is one.

Thanks Pu Tlana for helping us do this!

Listing what Nimesh and I saw on this trip
Black Crowned Night Heron , Black Drongo, Blue Bearded Bea Eater, Brown Winged Kingfisher, Emrald Dove , Great Bittern , Greater Racket Tailed Drongo , Red Jungle Fowl , Rose Ringed Parakeet, Shikra ,Spotted Forktail, White Throated Kingfisher , White Wagtail , Yellow Wagtail
Common Palm Civet and Malayan Giant Squirrel 

P.S  Kestrels we've seen gliding above our home in Saiha and finally we got some time to see them perched in Peace. our drives through this trip were filled with such sightings of these and we Finally saw the Lesser Kestrel nice and proper instead of just hearing its calls!! I'm more than content. For more on Kestrel Sightings visit Nimesh's Post


  1. I want to stay in Hotel Din Din ! The pictures are enticing. After reading your blog - I am certainly tempted to visit Mizoram.

    I am in the Nilgiris - another set of blue mountains... Amal

  2. Thanks Amal
    Do will be worth it and more