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In search of Hummum

  • Published at 06:33 pm June 30th, 2016
  • Last updated at 06:38 pm June 30th, 2016
In search of Hummum

In the shadow of summer sunlight, which mostly was blocked due to long bamboo trees that guarded both sides of the narrow canyons, amid the gentle soft breeze that whispered through the ancient rock faces, Mifta Bhai created a massive wave as his 108 kilo body slipped and fell into the water. I was right behind him, tried hard not to burst out in laughter, but I too was struggling to balance my body on a four-inch slippery rock trail, at the stream's bank.

Fortunately, Mifta knew how to swim and wasn't injured, which was every bit of a possibility as the water hid several sharp rock faces under its serene surface. But his iPhone (I didn’t know why he brought that along with him since there was no network inside the jungle) was ruined and he was all soaked with muddy water. He shot an angry look to Rohit, our guide, who was in front of us and was supposed to warn us about the slippery sections in the path. For a few days now, we had been guided by the wrong guys in our search for the waterfall named ‘Hum Hum’ for which we had, by then spent two days in the reserve forest of Rajkandi, in Srimongol.

We came upon Rohit the day before, while he was in the midst of illegally cutting bamboo in the forest. Initially, our appearance gave him quite a scare as he thought we were a group of armed rebels from across the border who frequented that area. The Indian border was not far and in that deep jungle there is no ‘white flag’ rule. Some rebel armed groups from India make regular visits there to cut down trees and bamboos and they beat and sometimes kill lone bamboo cutters like Rohit if found.

By the time we met him, we were quite frustrated with our 'progress'. After seven hours of hiking through the somewhat monotonous landscapes of tea-gardens, deep jungle with intermittent bamboo forests and a long sandy water stream, we stood in front of what was no more than a pitiful trickle of water. We didn’t have much to do then as the guide named Momtaz Mia that we hired for that day, guided us through the wrong trail.

Once Rohit's initial fear passed, he quicky warmed up to us and gave us quite the impression of himself and his knowlegde on the local geography and promised that he would guide us in our quest of ‘Hammam.' We decided to trust in him and discharged Momtaz Mia from his duty. Though, as per our itinerary, we were supposed to leave that area after dark, we boldly decided to spend the night in a spooky old boarding in Vanugach, a small bazaar, about an hour's travel from the Rajkandi reserve forest, and planned to start fresh early in the next morning.

We discovered, much to our frustration, that Rohit pretty much had no idea what he was doing. In the morning we found that Rohit had brought three other people along with him to guide us in the trail and we thought that it was some sort of a practical joke. Four guides for five people!

Shumon Bhai was convinced that the four would rob us once we were in the deep forest, Rony and I were worried about the payment of three extra guides, Roman, ‘the reticent’, didn’t say anything as usual while Mifta bhai began to berate the newcomers in his native Sylheti accent. Soon enough we realized that Rohit didn’t know the trail and that’s why he brought three kulis (worker) from the nearby Champaroi tea-estate to guide us up to Hammam.

In the first hour of our hike through the forest, we followed a trail that was otherwise hidden among think foliage, amidst the background sound of jungle fowls cooing somewhere in the deep, breaking the muted silence of the forest. Occasionally we spotted monkeys, jumping from one tree branch to another.

The trail led us to a charra (hilly canyon river), the dark surface of which was strewn with floating leaves. We waded through its knee-deep water and gradually reached the heart of the canyon. The canyon wall was getting narrower and the water in the stream was getting deeper. We had to use the 4-5 inches slippery trail by the side of the stream, and this is where Mifta bhai met with his little water accident!

We found ourselves stranded on a 5-6 inches wide trail with our backs to a rocky wall.

We hadn’t thought to bring rope with us, but at that point, we silently cursed ourselves for not having though of it before. Finding no other way, we sent two of our guides back to cut down bamboo from the forest. They came back and we, with the skill of Mifta bhai’s engineering knowledge built a temporary bridge to cross the rest of the narrow but deep and treacherous water.

After a few more hurdles, we finally made it to Hummum, and as we emerged into the almost amphitheatre-like clearing around the waterfall, we decided that our arduous journey had been well worth it!

We were surprised to come upon another group who we had seen lagging behind us in the jungle, was already there. They said that their guide took them through the shoulder of the hills, not through the canyons. We then realised that the risky canyon path that we had gone through was not even a short-cut. (Prior to that we thought it was a short cut, otherwise there would have been no reason for the guide to bring us through that way).

On our return to the village, we rebuked Rohit and his three guides for taking us through the dangerous canyon trail, but we later confessed to each other that it all turned out to be a good adventure!