Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tezpur Station Club, Assam

The letter to my Great Uncle with details of his father's death was sent on headed paper from Tezpur Station Club. I'm delighted to say that this place still exists, as a club, with what looks like a great bar, and some tennis courts still in use. A very kind gentleman who runs the place (and has worked there since 1963, after time in the Air Force), showed me around.

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

Elephants, One-Horned Rhino, and a glimpse of a Tiger !

Three safaris in one day:

5:15am (yes, really), taken to Kaziranga Central Range, for an Elephant-Back safari. This was brilliant, sat on top of an elephant for an hour (with two other people who I believe we're Finnish), we saw Elephant, Rhinos, Deer & Boar in an hour.

Then, back to the resort for breakfast.

7:45am (yes, really), picked up in a Maruti Suzuki Jeep for a 2 hour safari in the Western Range. Elephant, Deer, and a close encounter with a very large Rhino. Also brilliant ! Interestingly, there's also a guard, armed with a rifle...

Then, back to the resort for lunch.

1:45pm, picked up in the same Jeep, this time for what turned out to be well over 3 hours, on the Central Range. Another armed guard. These are there to protect the visitors, hopefully by scaring any animals thinking of attacking a Jeep, rather than killing anything... This time, we obviously saw Rhino, Elephant, Eagles, Pelicans, Turtles, Kingfisher (not the beer, the bird), Boar... But also a Tiger (or at least the glimpse of a tiger) - brilliant !!

Very, very, tired now. An early night, and back to Guwahati in the morning, via Nagaon.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Trip to Kalaigaon, Assam

A potentially successful day trip to Kalaigaon, about 3 hours drive from Guwahati, led me to a potential site for my Great Grandfather's grave.

I arranged to hire a car and a driver for the day (Sunday, 7th April), and we headed for Kalaigaon. When we got there we stopped at the Police Station to get some advice/directions. This led us on a longish route out of Kalaigaon to what was believed to be the nearest British-era cemetery. It turns out that the villages around Kalaigaon are majority Christian, so there are a number of churches around, some dating back to the British era, some much later. However, none of them have cemeteries with them. Another clue led to a burial site on a tea plantation. The graves had been moved from their original site. Though these graves were the right era, none of them had the right name on. Dead end. Back to Kalaigaon.

This time, at the Police Station, instead of the guys in the "General Room", we were led to the office of the Office in Charge. Now things started to look up. Mr Habibur Rahman sat us down, game us tea, and parathas, and made some calls...

One man who turned up, Mr Jayanta Das, is a journalist who lives in Kalaigaon, who, by an amazing coincidence, had recently begun to search for British-era graves. He had found a site with 4 or 5 plots. They had been buried by mud from the Brahmaputra river flooding as recently as the early 2000's. Previously they'd had a small boundary wall which had fallen into neglect in the 1960's. it sounded promising. After some more journalists turned up and "the letter" had been read out, pictures taken, etc (all in the police station), off we all went. In my car I had the police chief, the journalist, and another very helpful man who's name I never found out.

We came to a tea estate in the town itself, and, after the police chief pulling rank to enter the tea gardens, and all of us climbing over a barbed-wire fence, we walked across a field to the likely burial site. Pictures below.

There were a few people around, who were old enough to remember the cemetery and lived practically next door, or who had worked on the tea estate for a long time. They confirmed the layout of the plot, the existence of 5 graves and the boundary wall, and the timing of the floorings which eventually buried the plots.

So, the likely location of Hamilton Charles Gordon's burial site is: 26° 34.121 N, 091° 58.777 E.

I was then asked to give an interview for the local media, and to pose for photos. I was presented with a traditional Assamese scarf, and a VERY large packet of tea, by the Tea Estate people (very very welcome, thankyou).

Then, we dropped off the police chief, and went to Jayanta's house in the town, for a drink, some food, some pictures, and some Wi-Fi (again, all very welcome, thankyou!) which enabled us to exchange emails, Facebook IDs, Blog URLs etc. and finally, back to Kalaigaon.

I discovered that I'd made it to a local newspaper. I'll post up either a URL or a picture of the article.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Guwahati, Assam

I said goodbye to Jenny at Delhi Airport, she flew home and I flew to Guwahati, the capital of the state of Assam, in North Eastern India. This is where I hope to find my Great Grandfather's grave (see earlier posts), in a village called Kalaigaon, about 3 hours' drive from here.

Because of the militants active in this area (at least, according to a guy from the local AirTel office) mobile phone roaming doesn't work here, so I'm offline except for sporadic Wi-Fi, until or unless the local SIM I've bought gets activated. This is an odd situation for me, as I've not been without a working mobile phone since about 1990! To be honest, I don't like it one bit... I wish I could have brought my satphone, but they're banned in India.

I'm writing this post from the local branch of Café Coffee Day, a little haven of peace we found everywhere we've been so far. The photo is the view from the veranda at the front of the café, over an artificial lake here in Guwahati.

Tomorrow I'm going to Kalaigaon for the day.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Visit to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

Yesterday was our last full day in Delhi, and Jenny's last full day in India, we booked an organised trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The trip also included a guide (who was excellent) and a visit to the Red Fort in Agra, which predates the Taj Mahal and the almost identical Red Fort in Delhi.

Wikipedia entry on Taj Mahal

Here are a few of the far too many pictures I took at the Taj Mahal itself.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A recursive post - how I'm updating this blog...

I thought I'd note down the tools of the trade for keeping this blog updated.


* iPad (happens to be a 64GB iPad 3 with 3G, not that the 3G is set up but it means the GPS works)
* Canon D600 SLR
* Apple iPad camera kit (basically an SD card reader for iPad)
* the Google Blogger app (I could just use the website but this way I can write posts offline)
* the Apple iPhoto app
* iPad charger and travel adapters
* hotel or café Wi-Fi


1/ Open the Photos app, plug the camera's SD card into the camera kit card reader and plug it into the iPad's dock socket. Pick the photos to download & download them.

2/ create an album for the new photos (makes them easier to find)

3/ open iPhoto and touch up photos as required

4/ save edited photos to the "camera roll"

5/ open the Blogger app

6/ create a new post, write some stuff, add the location (if you're online). Tap the photo button (rather than the camera button), and add some photos from the camera roll, or an album.

7/ Save, then, when happy, Publish

8/ View blog

9/ Hit the Twitter link to share to twitter. The Blogger app itself only supports sharing to Google+.

10/ Bask in the glory, or, at least, order another Kingfisher from the barman (as I'm about to do now)...

Darjeeling to Delhi - harder than it should have been...

A quick update: we were picked up at 8:50 and driven to Bagdogra airport, near Siliguri, some 90km from Darjeeling, losing about 1800m in height and gaining about 25 degrees in temperature. This took until 12:00. Our flight was at 15:05. It took an hour of queuing to get our bags x-rayed and they insisted on putting the Sitar in the hold rather than in the cabin (mild panic). The plane left on time, and arrived over Delhi some 2.5 hours later. However, we didn't land, instead we gained height again and headed to Jaipur. "I abandoned our approach and we're just going to Jaipur to refuel" said the captain. Jaipur was another 30 mins flight. We landed... and... we waited... For over 4 hours. The weather was so bad over Delhi that flights were being diverted away... There was a thunderstorm at Jaipur too, and hailstones... Finally we took off back to Delhi, landed about 23:30 or so, and waited for the Sitar to come off the baggage belt. Eventually we found it dumped on the floor of the airport concourse (in the oversized baggage area, of course), fortunately in 1 piece. Then a prepaid cab to the hotel. We had to explain to the cabbie where the hotel was, naturally... Finally checked in about 01:30. Decent wifi at last :-)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Darjeeling, days 3 & 4 (Sunday 31/3/13, Monday 1/4/13)

On Sunday morning we walked to the Bhutia Busty Gompa, a Buddhist monastery in Darjeeling. It's a shortish walk down a steep hill and a long slog back up. You're not allowed to take pictures inside, which is decorated with friezes and statues of Buddha's life. An amazing and very calm place, and some of the principles of Buddhism were explained to us by a regular worshiper there, a former Gurkha soldier from the British army.

We had our evening meal in the Lunar restaurant, which the Lonely Planet rates, but we didn't.

We booked a cab for 4am the following morning to take us to Tiger Hill, to watch the sunrise over the Himalayas.

On Monday, we got up at 4 (yes, really...) and were taken on the 45 minute drive to Tiger Hill, south of Ghum. There for 5am, we saw dawn break and then bang on time (5:28) saw the sun rise over the Himalaya range, with Kanchenjunga clearly in view, not shrouded in mist as it has been since we got here.

And we finally got to go on the Toy Train, the joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghum and back. Unfortunately, the steam engine wasn't running, so we were pulled by a diesel loco. However, it's still a very scenic journey to Ghum station and back, with a 10 minute stop halfway at an Eco-garden, and 30 minutes in Ghum to look around the museum.

Packed and ready to go to Delhi tomorrow. Back in Sonam's kitchen for our last meal in Darjeeling.