Tag Archives: Behind the Forgotten Front

Charged by a Rhino

December 19-23, 2013

Charging Rhino at Kaziranga
Charging Rhino at Kaziranga

I didn’t expect to get charged by a rhino.  He just happened to unsuspectingly slip out from the elephant grass where our jeep was parked for bird watching. Surprised the shit out of everyone.

Rhino hiding in Elephant Grass
Rhino hiding in Elephant Grass

Do your homework when you decide to go on a safari,  The weather was dry and vegetation was green, but the grass was so high, it hid the animals.  In Behind the Forgotten Front,  Merrill’s Marauders and the Mars Task Force pushed through this grass; nervous that at the next bend they’d walk into the barrel of a Japanese gun.

Water buffalo crossing in elephant grass opening
Water buffalo crossing in elephant grass opening

Moral of the story: go when it’s most uncomfortable for you, it may be the best time for a safari.  I also learned to not depend on Google for weather predictions. The closest weather station may be a hundred miles away. Look at photos of the locals or those who traveled there the same time you plan to visit.

Mahouts at Manas who's elephants have red "third eye"
Mahouts at Manas who’s elephants have red “third eye”

Next, decide which class you want to travel.  I traveled 3rd  class, which did not have a lot of luxuries but I got to meet many locals.  If given the chance I’d take a tent over a bamboo thatched basha any day; tents are warmer.

naturehuntoverview

Don’t forget, the animals are wild and not accustomed to our paparazzi obsessions. We stopped for a New Zealand tourist to take a photo of a family of monkeys.  Before she could focus, the alpha male was pounding on the hood.

Assault by monkey on hood of car
Assault by monkey on hood of car

In Behind the Forgotten Front, I had domesticated and wild elephants.

Domesticated elephants
Domesticated elephants

The difference, you ask?  Domesticated elephants back’s don’t slope down and the wild Indian elephants are extremely shy.

Family of wild elephants
Family of wild elephants

The best way to find an animal is to track it by its dropping and their prints.  As you can imagine, elephants have rounded feet whereas rhinos have cloven hooves.

Rhino cloven hooves
Rhino cloven hooves

You’ll find the Rhino Dungplant only by old rhino droppings

Rhino Dungplant
Rhino Dungplant

Tigers are nocturnal.  I wasn’t lucky enough to see one, but going to their haunts, like a stream is your best bet of finding one.

Tiger Prints
Tiger Prints

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Masala Tea and the Spice Valley: aka Indus Valley

December 16-18, 2013

I never knew I loved Masala tea (Authentic Indian Chai tea recipe at end of this blog) until I arrived in Udaipur Rajasthan; the Indus Valley.

Indus Valley
Indus Valley

In my original writing of Behind the Forgotten Front I had the protagonist, Harry, look up into the canopy of the tea trees.  But tea grows in gardens and is trimmed to a height of two feet.  Harry would’ve had to be on his butt to see through a real tea tree canopy.

Tea Garden
Tea Garden

I loved the Muslim call to prayer at dawn and dusk in Rajasthan, along the Pakistan border. Throughout India there is evidence of Muslim architecture, notably the Taj Mahal, which was designed by a Persian architect.  Yet the Hindu Indians I met refused to admit the influence of the Muslim culture. The religious strife subtly influences their perspective on everything.

Udaipur Architecture

Along the western frontier, the Jain religion (or Jens), are similar but not the same as Hindus.  Jainism is non-violence based.  Later in my blog, you will see the Buddhist monks in Myanmar (Burma) have been having some violent conflicts.

Ranakpur Jain Temple

The Indus valley is still breathtaking today.  Of particular interest to me, as an engineer, was the series of artificial lakes constructed during the Mewar Dynasty using the run-off from the Himalayan Mountains. Then to make the hot, arid summers even more enjoyable, they built islands in the lakes; such as the Lake Palace in Lake Pichola.

Lake Pichola and White Lake Palace at dawn

The Kumbhalgarh Fort, a Mewar Fortress built in the 15th century in the Central Indus Valley with its 22 mile long perimeter wall, is said to be only second in length to the Great Wall of China.

exterior fort rajasthan
Kumbhalgarh Fort

With impregnable walls fifteen feet thick, it towers over the Indus Valley on a hilltop at 3600 feet,

rajasthan fort and indus valley 2

It fell only once to the Moghul ruler, Akabar, due to shortage of water at the fort.   The Fort was built on top of 300 Jain and 60 Hindu temples, some are still intact today.

temple within fort rajasthan

TEENA RAO’S MASAL CHAI TEA RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

  1. 10 cardamom (green) seeds – grind
  2. 10 black pepper corn – grind
  3. 1 cinnamon stick – grated
  4. 1 finger fresh ginger – grated
  5. 2 cups water
  6. 2 cups milk
  7. 1 tsp tea (1/2 Darjeeling and ½ Assam)
  8. 2 ½ tsp sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil water
  2. Add tea then boil between 5 50 10 minutes
  3. Add milk, sugar, pinch of Masala mixture (cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, ginger)
  4. Bring to rolling boil – boil 2 minutes

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