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Thread: Rongmuk: Where small wilds live in a tea garden

  1. #1
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    Default Rongmuk: Where small wilds live in a tea garden

    All around you there is a beckoning of the green nature. Wherever the eyes go the green tea gardens will attract your attention. In between the series of the tea plants are the shade trees. The sky is sometimes being covered by gloomy clouds, and then gleams of scattered sunlight will fall on the slopes of the either sides of the hill.

    As we proceed towards Darjeeling from Siliguri along NH 55 there is a tiny hilly hamlet named Sonada, about 60 km from Siliguri and 8 km away from Ghum. All along the road was our companion, the narrow guage rail line of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. From Sonada it was about 40 minutesí drive down towards the Balasun river. The condition of the road from Sonada downwards was very bad and driving along the road was a nightmare. And we sighed of relief when we arrived the Rongmuk-Cedars Tea Estate at last. We could see series of hill top lines all around. We could see a misty view of the Kurshiang city with the Balasun river below our viewpoint. Here we have come to participate in a 4 day nature camp.
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    Default Part 2

    We were aware beforehand that we would have to spend our nights in tents. And that was why I did not bring my favourite tele lens with me. Time was passing by very quickly. There were frequent and unnoticed spell of heavy rains and in the midnight the rainwater started entering our tent. We had to leave our tent in that cold to excavate trenches to bypass the rainwater away from the tents. After that we left the tents very early in the morning and had a pleasant lesson of nature around the tea garden, of the leisurely livelihood of the small hilly settlements along with the chirping of so many birds and the sound of the water of the busy Balasun River. In between all these I did not forget to click my Olympus camera from time to time. After a long period the haunt for small insects overshadowed the haunt for birds, because I could not bring my tele lens.

    Somewhere near the Balasun river I discovered a small Pea Blue sitting on a leaf wet with dewdrops and waiting to drench its wings with the first mellow sunrays of the morning. After a long and overnight spell of rain it was not in a position to fly with its wet and heavy wings. Poor fellow!
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    Default Part 3

    Somewhere else is hiding a very small yellow lynx spider with its first prey, a Damshel fly, in itís mouth behind a blade of grass. Unknown to anyone a murder was perpetrated and the murderer will not be punished! Because the act has been carried out according to the Law of Nature.
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    Default Part 4

    The connection between the settlements on either sides of the river is through a cable suspension bridge only. It is the only means of communication and movements of the people from one side to the other.
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    Default Part 5

    At times when the level of water recedes you can cross the river with a motorbike as well! People here have to face tough hardships for their daily livelihoods.
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    Default Part 6

    Almost all villagers work as manual labours in the tea garden. Rongmuk Cedar is a very large Tea Estate spanning about 700 hectares of the Kurshiang Sub-Division and is very old and a prestigious one.
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    Default Part 7

    Along with tea plantations people here have started beekeeping, livestock production and working in orange plantations. Also, they catch fishes in the Balasun River at times.
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    Default Part 8

    Starting from this Balasun River upto Sonada extends the area of the Rongmuk Tea Estate. Rongmuk Tea Estate is a heaven for the insects. Previously I heard that a lot of insecticides are sprayed on the tea plants. But during my four daysí trip here I have never seen that being done. What I have seen is the safe world of the insects in the rain washed tea plants. The tea gardens are usually good places for observing various birds and insects. In some tea gardens leopards prefer to hide themselves for some possible ambush. The narrow trenches for passing of rainwater or the recesses of the tea plants are very appropriate places for the leopards to wait in hiding for their preys to come. In many tea gardens of the North Bengal the leopards are frequently heard of attacking domestic animals. But there is no evidence of that type of incidence in this tea garden. But The presence of so many colourful insects here has pleasantly surprised me to a large extent. Although, to speak the truth the tea gardens are in no way natural habitats created spontaneously; they are artificially created by the humans for business purposes only and which slowly and gradually have become house to an outstanding biodiversity. The butterflies and the moths lay their eggs on the leaves of the shade trees, if not directly on the tea leaves.
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    Default Part 9

    Please see the adjoining picture where a larva has been eating a leaf of a shade tree without fear of any danger.
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    Default Part 10

    In another place a hunter Assassin bug is lurking in expectation for its prey to come close to him.
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    Default Part 11

    The tea garden at times serves as a fantastic place for some romance. Somewhere I saw a tiny Beetle hiding beneath a tea leaf giving an enticing signal to its opposite companion.
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    Default Part 12

    The companion gave her consent.
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    Default Part 13

    The former one wasted no time to draw her close to him.Then they started mating. For that moment the tea garden came to be a honeymoon spot. Completely unnoticed to the outside world an arrangement is going on to create new lives!
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    Default Part 14

    Suddenly the sky clouded over giving a sign of impending rain. A moth taking shelter on a leaf seemed to have fallen asleep!
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    Default Part 15

    But this butterfly is very smart! As it guessed that it might be raining it hid itself behind a leaf!
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    Default Part 16

    It will be quite improper if I do not mention the birds of this place. The nostalgic calls of the Indian Cuckoos and Great Barbets orchestrated my trip to this place. On one occasion I saw a rare White-crested laughingthrush hopping around in the premises of a house. I also saw Green Magpie, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Blue Whistling Thrush, Spangled Drongo to fly over the tea plants here and there.


    Our four day nature camp ended and it was still raining. The amount of annual rainfall in this part of the eastern Himalayan region is quite large. The pre-monsoon rain has started here at the end of May. In this rain bathed Rongmuk I witnessed how the hard but simple lives of the hilly people is nicely coexisting with the mother nature there. Who says that the lesson of the mother nature does not include the humankind? A warm welcome to Rongmuk, where there are numerous small wild beautiful creatures amidst the calm, serene and green surroundings, where you can take a memorable lesson of the wild in a virgin natural surroundings.

    Concept, travel, photography and written in bengali by Samrat Sarkar.

    Translation into English by Biswajit Debnath

    Equipment used - Olympus OMD EM-1 + Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO

    Month of visit - May

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    Nice to know more about this small village. I agree, during British times, once dense forests were cut and tea plantations took their place. Normally lot of pesticides are used in tea plantations, we had seen them spraying when we visited Valparai. Its good if Rongmuk-Cedars Tea Estate are not using pesticides. Loved the macro photographs of the beetles and the butterflies. Thanks for sharing the detailed report.

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