If I have to wake up at 4AM in the morning, it should be a rather good plan!
The plan was to go to Bhigwan, a place 100kms from Pune, teeming with migratory birds this time of the year. I was hoping it was worth getting up at 4am. Our group of five set out from Pune at 5am and reached Bhigwan at 7am. The sun was yawning its way through the morning; its first rays tingling me as I stood at the shores of a huge lake, shivering, trying to hypnotize myself to warmth and cursing myself for forgetting my sweatshirt.
All around us were boats and a few dozen tourists braving the cold to see the birds. Storks stilt-walked at the shallow end of the lake. After a while, we were ushered unto one of the boats. An odd smell of fish, stagnant water at the bottom of the boat. I didn’t mind. I put my feet on the wooden plank ahead and sat tight. As the boat slowly moved away from the shore, it seemed to be devoured by fog. White everywhere, all around us; a tiny speck of a boat ahead of us; the sun trying to pierce through the thick fog without success. I have never been to Halong Bay but from all the photos that I have seen, I guess the feeling of being immersed in fog at Halong would feel like this.
I took photographs and felt the inadequacy of a point-and-shoot camera against the highly professional DSLR that others were carrying. But still I shot… I didn’t trust my memory and I didn’t want to forget this feeling; this beautiful moment. The sound of the water lapping the boat, the rhythm of the oarsman, the sun, water as far as the eyes can see. The peace of mind.
Slowly, we moved towards the middle of the lake. The seagulls hawked around a boat as people fed them fish. A group of painted storks flew overhead in their typical V-formation. The boat went further in search of the greater flamingoes.
After a while, the oarsman pointed towards the flamingoes and said that they will follow the leader and if it decides to rest, the others will follow. And sure enough, the leader *alpha male,eh?* decided it was time for a break and the rest of the flock settled nearby. Our boat went as close to them as possible without disturbing the flock.
And there we feasted our eyes on the majestic looking greater flamingoes. A beautiful pink, a hint of orange, a poised stand… they looked so lovely! We must have been there for more than 20 minutes. Slowly, as humans are bound by the minutes of time, the boat started going towards the shore. On the way, we saw a colony of painted storks and open bill storks. It must have been 9am; I really lost track of time. The sun was up. When we reached the shores, we went to the food stop and had poha and tea.
The entire day was ahead of us and so we decided to go to the Bhuleshwar temple nearby. This monument was built in the 13th century; the carvings and architecture looked similar to the ones in the south (by which, I mean, the carvings were intricate!). It’s a Shiva temple which is fascinating for me because I seem to visit Shiva temples (planned or otherwise) in most of my excursions. It’s a very, very beautiful temple.
And in one of the carvings, you will see a female Ganesha. How awesome is that!
The rest of the day, we drove back to the city with a stop for lunch, we chatted about travel… you know, there’s something about travelling in company with like-minded travelers! (Vachana and Aishwarya, thanks for this trip!)
I will wake at 4am if every day is like the day at Bhigwan!