You could say it was the fault of my insomnia. Falling asleep late I awakened at 4 am. I was thus able to start my Srimongol trip three hours ahead of time.
When I approached Habiganj on the Dhaka-Sylhet highway, extra time on my hand afforded me an opportunity for a detour. At a roundabout I headed east towards Chunarughat. This pretty road meanders through several tea gardens, cuts through Shatchori National Park and leads you to a smaller road that connects back to the Srimongol Road. The approach to Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary is also off this road.
But Rema-Kalenga, though tempting, was too far. Instead I decided for a quick stopover at Shatchori National Park. The sun had just broken through the clouds and shone bright. Meanwhile, the April heat was building up.
I stopped at the Park's visitor entrance. The tall trees here often host Capped Langurs, but there were none today. Birdsongs came from treetops outside the range of my camera. Two banyan trees in the compound looked like good candidates for photographs. As I was setting up my tripod someone said “Hello!” from behind.
It was Haris, my guide from a previous trip into Shatchori's forest. He knew the trails well. I asked him if we could go into the forest for a quick one hour hike. Sure, he said. Could I see some big trees, maybe some wildflowers? Yes, of course. So I grabbed my cameras and tripod, and we were on our way.
In my rush I forgot my water bottle.
The forest was beautiful though not as dark and deep as one would like. The sun went behind clouds and reappeared. Colourful butterflies fluttered about. A garden lizard scurried across the trail and stood watching me, its tail erect in a semi-circle. Banyan, wild fig and chapalish trees reached skyward. Fat creeper vines spiralled around the trunks, squeezing them, but the trees did not mind.
I sweated profusely in the humidity and was soon drenched. I also started feeling thirsty.
But we kept going. Haris said there was a flock of Hornbills in the forest. Sometimes they can be seen if you are lucky. We saw Bulbuls and Barbets. A tiny citrus called Micromelum was growing in the forest. The tiny orange fruits spread out like a fan-shaped bouquet.
My thirst kept growing. But I wanted to see a little more.
We emerged from the forest after two hours. I was running late and bid a hasty goodbye to Haris. Inside the microbus I reached for my water bottle. It was only a quarter full. Worse, the day's heat had warmed the water.
On the road I looked for a grocery store with a refrigerator. It was not until Chunarughat Bazar that I spotted such a store. “Give me the coldest bottle of water you have,” I requested the shopkeeper. He reached deep into the bowels his large freezer and pulled out a half-litre of Pran water. Inside the light-blue bottle was a welcome sight: pieces of ice floated in the water.
Not only was it the coldest water I ever had. It was also the sweetest.