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BANGLADESH DIARY 3
           2015

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From Diary 2, I am now entering the Sundarbans.

19/1. When we wake up in the morning, the ship have brought us into the Sundarbans. At the ranger station in Chadpai, we picked up two armed guards - which will protect the wild life from us. The first bit is on the mighty Passur River, then we turn right on the lesser Mirgamad Kha and then so some even narrower.
At ten, we all go into the smaller wooden boat, and paddled down a narrow side branch. The sun breaks through, and chase away the mist and coldness. The vegetation is dense, and the closest to water made up by the pioneering  Sundri Gewa mangrove tree. In several of them a parasitic plant is flowering with flowers, not that different from their host. Some low palms count for another dominating species, and it is used for roofing and still harvested in the not protective areas of the Sundarbans. It is real high tide, and the water goes almost into the forest, only half a meter higher. The tide are around four to six meters here, and at low tide, the wide mud-banks will be the place to see the huge saltwater crocodilians sunbasking.
Here are many birds, among them Oriental White-eye, Blue-eared-, Brown-winged- and Common kingfishers, Greater Yellownape, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo,  a big white egret, some bulbuls, Jungle Foul, Oriental Magpie Robin - and others. In the trees, some Red-Faced Macaques are foraging, and we can get pretty close without bothering them. After an hour, we turn around, and by engine head back to the ship, where cake and dub-tar awaits us. Our skilled guide give a lecture about the area and our tour. It is actually The Bengal Tours Ltd. which organises this tour. One, if not  the most serious I found from home, but their prices was way too high - then.
The general plan is to head down to the south-eastern area, which is one of the three protected areas: Sundarban East in the Sarankhola Range. Here, the trees reach fifteen meters, and the under-forest is more open, giving us a chance to spot wildlife.
While he speaks, a small group of the pink Ganges Dolphins passes us. Hard animals to get a photo of! We are heading the entire way down to Katka, around 60 kilometres south. Several groups of dolphins passes us, and at any given time, a Brahma Kite will hunt in the stirred water behind the boat.
We sit on the top-deck and watch the mangrove pass bye, and occasionally an animal reveals itself on the shore. Here are rats, Jungle Fouls, Egrets, Kingfishers, falcons, and deer. A rare mangrove duck pops up a few times, getting the Bangladeshi birdies all op and hype, making the rest of us think of tigers. I get a lot of pictures with the rings after dolphins. A few fishers and crab-fishers have their nets a teins here, some are arranging their net along the muddy brinks.

At four, we reach Katka, and head out on a walk. The wooden boat brings us in to a jetty and into different types of mangrove. On the "beach", numerous small crabs have filled the area with small sand-pearls. The first part of the trail is rather open with big trees, A large hurt of Spotted deer crosses a opening.
Some pointy snails are found everywhere, while the rest of the animals have vanished. The area is a bit like the Roskilde Festival, the day after: All is bare mud, and it is completely covered in footprints - here it is by deer.
There are two forms for epiphytic ferns, and vide and a narrow leaved.
The ground is dominated by the air-roots from the four different types of mangrove trees in the area. Several times we see groups of Red Faced Macaques and Spotted Deer, but the tigers have only left a few, old pore-prints.
We reach a few mounts, which will be dry at any given time. Here are numerous old broken clay pots. The area was used for salt harvesting from 200-100 years ago. They heated seawater with firewood in the clay pots, till there were only salt left.
Now, we reach an area with significantly lower and denser mangrove trees, mixed with the bush-like palms. The guards want us to keep close together, and they actually seem to be on alert. Then we reach the big river and it feels like coming out to the sea. Besides from the snails, here are some spotless, small ladybirds. Here are a lot of old, dead trees, victims of a cyclone some years ago. What appears as giant bulbs, some over a meter tall is found in the area. I ask the guard, which - wrongly for sure - tells me it is parasitic plants. I have to check up on that! (I guess it is Crinum asiaticum) .Here are also some strange terrestrial ferns - can't figure how they cope with the brackish environment?. We see the sunset, and head out to the ship in the dusk.

We are served a small meal of noodles, and then a old BBC film about the first filming of the tigers, some years ago. The supper is served on the top-deck, which start to be a bit chill by now. I retreat to the saloon to work on photos and diary.

20/1.  A fast mug of tea and bisques, then we sail down the canals in the little boat. Tigers have been spotted here recently, but we only see some Small Herons, a White Bellied Fishing Eagle and some finches. Here are a few plants I haven't seen before; one mangrove tree and a small bush with spiny leaves. It is real high tide, and the lower leaves are flooded.
Then I spot a rather small but fat Water Monitor, strangely sitting at water level on the brink this cold and sun-less morning. A single Spotted Deer look at us from the water-edge. We head back to the mother-ship for breakfast.
The tour is surprisingly cold, both due to the breeze and the mist, I guess. The 15,3C and 91% humidity does its part. I had not expected to be freezing at the sea level this close to equator! I sit in the slightly warmer cabin and lookout out on the Spotted Deer in the mangrove, waiting for the tiger to do its thing, while I eat my breakfast.
At half pass nine, we head out for a eight kilometre walk to Kockikali. The mist and cold still dominates, when we leave the ship. A tall viewing tower offers a misty glimpse over the different areas around. Some are with rather tall trees, some with bushes, some low palms and some with grass. The only animals are the deer.
A single yellow flowering Fabaceae and what almost look like tea bush, is the only flowers I see, but the nature is still special and interesting.
A square pond is made to catch rainwater to the wild animals, but vacant, except for some huge snails. We reach an area with white sand, covered in trees. Then we are at the beach, facing the sea. A bit in from the beach, the dense forest seems to be the perfect place for an ambush, but we are left alone. Here are plenty of pore-prints in the sand: Jungle cat, monkeys, birds, deer and crabs.
When we turn into the forest, we find a larger Water Monitor, basking in a small clearing.

I have gotten a bit bored, and when Chris show me how he spells his name in Bangladeshi (strange letters), I tell him I can do that too. I get our guide to do it for me, and when Chris show the guide how can spell his, and the guide read "Finn??", I get the wanted laugh.
Then a new plant catch my attention: A small but fiercely spined Solanaceae with purple flowers. It is quite common - in a tiny area.
The beach is almost perfect sand, only the inner part is covered in nuts from the mangrove trees. A few animals have been washed up: Jellyfish, mussels, snails and crabs. I find a nice snail-encasing, which is tiger-striped, and I figure that might be my Bangladeshi souvenir.
We find two live Horseshoe Crabs, fighting their way up on the beach. Back at the boat, we are met with some nice, cold yoghurt milk, and a bit later; lunch. On the beach, some Wild Boars are having their.

At three, we head in to the tiger-jungle once again. Now, the sun have gained full straight, and the temperature reach the perfect 27C. This is the area that usually are used for filming, but the guide admit; he only see a tiger in every hundred tour. The area is first dominated by grass. In December hundred Bangladeshi people are cutting the tall grass in the area, to make shadow huts to grow plants in. Now, only their primitive huts are back - and the short grass. The deer love it, and here are several Wild Boars who dig-up the "lawns" quite effectively.
We walk for an hour, but beside the environment photos, showing dense forest, I don't see anything interesting. The boat pick up us op at a canal, and we are delivered to the ship. The tour out through the slack water canal offers some good motives including the air roots. A Crested Serpentine Eagle, White Throated Kingfisher and Lesser Adjutant Stork spice up the adventure. Back at the boat, I ask for a bucket of hot water, and while I enjoy that, the others watch two crocodilians. I don't really feel cheated - until they tell me one of them was six meters, the other one bigger. A bit later, I do see the little Otter, running into the bushes.

Nice grilled chicken and saltwater fish along with the usual noodles, rice, vegetables, potato mash and soup, make up a nice supper, and then anchor up, and onwards to Tambulbunia. I sit in the cabin and have a great time with the others, and don't get to finish my work. Chris and I get good laughs, looking at each others sparkling red faces. Strange the sun only got to me now? And half the day, the mist dominated.

21/1. I get up early to catch up with work. When it starts to lighten at half pass six, I realises it is a misty morning, and the first tour of the day might be candled. No point running around as live bait, if you can't see the tiger anyway.
I sit in the viewing cabin working, while I once again drink way too much tea. Or rather: Condensed milk and sugar in the tea.
At ten, it clears up a bit, and we start a tour up a real narrow canal in the big ship. We are heading up to the major river and the rest of the world. Our guide know that crocodilians have been spotted frequently on this particular canal, and we do this detour to try and spot some. No luck, but after the sun came though, it was a nice tour. I spend quite some time talking with Chris, till he spots some big pore prints in the mud, and disappears like a ghost. We reach one of the ranger stations at the mouth of the mighty Passur River, and head in on a long board-walk.
Here are Red Faced Macaques and the national flower in a pond: The Pink Water Lily.
As we enters the jungle, the small Red Crabs hides in their tunnels and the temperature start to reach something nice. I spot some long, stick-like leaves, but it take some time for me to get close. It is just another fern. Then a large plant of a orchid sit in a tree. There are fourteen species of orchids in the Sundarbans, but despite I have been looking for them, this is the first.
Many areas of the muddy ground is dominated by thick air roots, and big, light green ferns cling to the tree stems. Only a few birds are seen, and soon after, we are back at the rangers camp.

Here, a few Hoopoes are finding food in the tall grass, mud-skippers on the muddy shore and some ladybirds sit in the spiny-leaved bushes. Most are having a break, I try desperately to find more interesting plants and animals. A group of five different species of insect-eating birds are passing bye. Here are Great Tit, flue-catchers, sunbirds, bulbuls and a treecreeper. I don't bother to make any photos - it won't work anyway.
We are transported out to the ship, and we start sailing up the huge river to Khulna. We passes huge silos and other industry along with tiny fisher boats and super tankers.
I start to work, but once again, the file I've been working on for days are empty! Luckily, I have a backup from this morning - nothing lost at all!
The oppressions leader has been released, and immediately announced a new strike, hitting the busses. Something about they burn a few busses here and there, and the rest won't drive. They have done pretty much the same with trains, de-railing some.  I'm glad I have some spare days to reach the northern boarder!
While we sail on the wide river, I start working. Among others, with the Sundarban slideshow. It was not the intense wild-life experience I had hoped for, but due to the crew, travelling companions and the weather, it turned out to be a great tour anyway.
The tour back is rather eventless except for several dolphins and the beautiful "coastline". We pass more and more ships, some rather large, some loaded a bit too much perhaps? When we close in on Khulna, the refuge-like ferries crossed frequently. We are all gathered on the front deck for a group photo, and later on in the back for a de-breathing. The crew is presented, and we have collected a tip for them. I gave 500 Taka, which might have been a bit too much, but they actually was twelve and the guide and the guards to serve the fourteen of us. We have been served some real great food, the tea water has been warm all the time, so was my bathing water.
Then we tell what we think about the tour, and supper is served. One of the small overfilled ferries drift by in the dark with shouting people on. Apparently, they have lost engine power, and are drifting fast down the stream. Our crew catches them, and pull them to the harbour.
We are delivered to the dock at half pass seven, and a smiling Md. Shahadat Hossain from Arranger Tours & Travel is waiting for me at the boardwalk. They have deliver a fantastic service, and I can only recommend them highly. He arrange transport back to the hotel, and I am so pleased I'm not the one, having to spend the entire night in a bus to Dhaka. I get a nice room, my laundry and my stored cloth.
Soon after, Shahadat returns with some cakes. Last time, I asked him how the bakery with the palm-sap tasted, and he have found a bakery selling some various types: Papapita  telepits and tjitoypita. The first is with coconut and some real sweet ingredients. The second is cooked in oil, and reminds me so much about ębelskliver. The third is not sweet at all, and it is served with a spicy, green sauce. The palm sap is a great ingredients for sweet cookies!

Despite the rather short page, I think it is time to leave the Sundarbans Mangrove and start a new page.

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