Have you ever visited a place that you can’t find on Google Maps or any other Map application? Have you ever thought to yourself, what it would be like to go to a place, which is completely off the tourist radar? If I ask you to imagine what a place like that would look like, what are the first things that come to your mind? Are they dusty roads with small townhouses in a deserted valley? Or a rustic village with cowboys riding their horses and old men sipping on their beer? Or an untouched white valley, with a backdrop of white snow-clad mountains and a single house in the middle of nowhere? Really, what do you imagine?
When I was selected for the Bodoland Ambassador Program S02, little did I know that I would visit a place as picturesque as my desktop wallpaper. And a place that I couldn’t find on Google Maps! What is this place? Why is it so enchanting? You are about to find out.
Kalamati – A Place Untouched
After about an hour’s drive from our hotel in Bongaigaon, we finally arrived at Kalamati. The sun had just risen and our van stopped right on the smooth ground after which we could see nothing but a bed of gravel. We all got down from our van and the excited me started running behind the Forest Guard who was accompanying us that day. With every hop that I took on the boulder, my heart skipped a beat, my breath halted a bit longer, and my eyes sparkled with ecstasy. I had seen something that I had never seen in my life before.
An ethereal beauty of Mother Nature.
A panoramic view of lush green hills that kissed the sky, a bed of grass flaunting the lovely shades of autumn, and a perfect river that separated the bed of gravel from the bed of grass. This was Kalamati. An extended part of Manas National Park.
As I sat on the boulder gaping into the infinity of the magical view in front of me, the Forest Guard who was sitting next to me told me that what I was staring at was nothing but the territory of another country. I turned towards him and asked him ‘Which country’?, to which he replied ‘Bhutan’.
So here I was, sitting in the border region of India and Bhutan, separated by just a single river.
I smiled. Geographic boundaries are man-made. They are divisive. But nature, is absolute. It unites.
The magnificent view in front of me cannot exist partially. For if it did, it wouldn’t be magnificent at all.
So, as I stared into the landscape before me, our guard interested me with another fact. He told me that elephants crossed this river and came to feed on the black soil. ‘Feed on the black soil?’, I asked in surprise to which our host and local champ, Ms. Gayatri replied, ‘The elephants come here to lick off of the black soil because of its saltiness’. ‘Ah!’, I exclaimed. ‘Now I understand why it is called Kalamati. ‘Kala’ means ‘Black’ and ‘Mati’ means ‘Soil’.
The specialty of this black soil is that it had salt content in it. And the elephants loved it. That’s why they made frequent visits to this place.
After absorbing the entire view into my mind, body and soul, I headed back to the place where my fellow mates were standing. They were munching on something. I went closer and helped myself with a serving too. It was the familiar ‘Pitha’! Also called as ‘Intaap’ – a sweet roll made from sticky rice, coconut and sugar.
While I was generously chewing on the pitha rolls with occasional sips of piping hot black tea, I suddenly heard one of our team members scream. We all ran towards her and found her holding a beetle in her hand. She looked thrilled.
To me, it was just like any other beetle. So, I asked her what the whole deal was about. She looked at me and said, ‘This beetle is a local delicacy in Bodoland. It costs 40,000 INR per kilo!’ And I was taken aback! 40,000 INR for a kilogram of brown beetles?
As I stood there in astonishment, few locals were voraciously digging up beneath the gravel, and collecting as many beetles as possible in their plastic bottle. I peeped inside the bottle and found at least two dozens of beetles swarming around one another. Goosebumps sprang over my arms and legs!
After spending about two hours in this spectacular land of Assam, it was time for us to head back to our hotel and freshen up before our next journey commenced – visiting the Bodo tribes at their village. I was sad to leave. My heart denied to leave as well. So, I left a piece of my heart at this beautiful, untouched, unexplored land of black soil – a place that will always be etched in my memory for its picturesque views and interesting stories.
- Visiting Kalamati requires one to have permit from the SSB which is one of India’s Central Armed Police Forces guarding the Assam-Bhutan border.
- Kalamati is 28 km from Bongaigaon and one needs to take a taxi or drive there as there is no public transport. To know how to reach Bongaigaon from Guwahati, click here.
- Since Kalamati is an extended part of Manas National Park, one is required to adhere to the laws and be accompanied by forest guards.
- If you visit Kalamati, please don’t litter the place.
Note: Some of my pics in this post are clicked and edited by my wonderful friend, Bhagwan Das and I can’t thank him enough! You can visit his profile at https://www.instagram.com/an_another_mile/