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Old 9th January 2009, 19:47   #1
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Default Hyderabad to Guwahati - Memorable Trip

This was long due.
I had done the trip of Hyderabad to Guwahati during the last week of September.

Route - Hyderabad - Vijayawada - Vizag - Bhubaneswar - Kolkata - Siliguri - Guwahati
Plan- to do the distance in 4 days


One thing to remember is that i drove in a Mahindra Scorpio CRDE 2005 model - vehicle made a lot of difference as driver fatigue was less, since it was only me and my wife who were there and of course my wife too drives the vehicle and sometimes better than me

Day 1
We started at around 0530 h from hyderabad. Got out of hyderabad pretty easily and was on the highway to vijayawada and reached vijayawada around 1430 h and had lunch at a good hotel. Proceeded towards Vizag and reached vizag around 6 in evening.
Road condition- excellent
Stayed at Palm Beach resorts in vizag, a very picturesque location, enjoyed the evening and strolled on the beach and hit the bed at 2230 h

Day 2
Started driving around 0930 h towards Bhubaneswar. Road to Bhubaneswar was excellent and that brought down our driving time considerably and reached bhubaneswar around 7 in evening, checked into the budget hotel Ginger and had a nice evening once again

Day 3
Next day waking up was a bit shaky and both of us had body pain and slight rumblings by the body, nevertheless we had to reach guwahati before the puja times, so no choice but to drive drive and drive
Started pretty late around 1100 h and it was a big mistake as it turned out later.

After around 5 hours of drive and 250 kms from bhubaneswar we suddenly found 4 lane expressway turning into a single lane potholed nightmare of 80 km stretch which took us 3 hours to cross enroute to kolkata, after the stretch of 80 kms the rest of the drive to kolkata was a breeze. We reached kolkata around 10 in the evening and was looking for a hotel to stay when we landed up in this huge traffic jam near the airport and had to sit in the vehicle for nearly 3 hours with traffic moving metre by metre. When the clock hi 1'o clock in the night my wife gave a brilliant idea, she said why do we have to hit a hotel now as we are already halfway through the night, turn by turn we will continue driving. I too thought it to be a decent idea and continued driving, after around 3 hours of drive through the pitch dark night from kolkata towards siliguri it started raining and sleep was catching up on both of us. We stopped in the roadside BP motel "Ghar" and the pump guys were nice and got our vehicle parked in a nice location and we both went to sleep in the car itself, u know scorpio is quite big that ways, i realised it that day

Around 6 in the morning after having got 2 hours of sleep we decided to proceed rather than halt somewhere and started our drive again, man it was a roller coaster as we found out. The road condition is pathetic, we had breakfast at Malda and proceeded further with stop for lunch and again i have to say the roads are just too bad. Ended up driving the whole day before reaching siliguri at around 7 in the evening so that makes it close to 35 hours of drive with only a rest of 2 hours in between. SCORPIO rocks man, atleast in terms of endurance.....

We checked in to Hotel Cindrella at siliguri a nice and warm hotel, slept off at 8.30 and got up at 8.30 next day morning, had the hotel breakfast and hit the tarmac at 9.30

Day 4/5

We found out from the petrol pump guys that there are two routes to guwahati from siliguri one is through main route and the other through tea gardens, but the tea garden road is hilly terrain and the roads are better than main route since trucks dont use that route, i took the chance and my wife's pestering to see tea gardens, i got into that route, the route was comparatively ok for around 150 kms before we ended up in a stretch of around 70 kms where the one side of road has been dug up for building the 4 lane expressway and the other side of the road is yet to be built
In the scorpio i managed to get into a speed o 60 km in that stretch but if you are in a small car then you will not be able to go above 3 gears or 30 km per hour and that too with lot of pain and bumps in the backbone

The whole road till for about 100 kms into assam was the same but the it got better, the last 200 km to guwahati was a breeze even though single lane traffic roads but the roads were better built and the scorpio showed its real mettle when i needed to speed up and reach guwahati before 9, i just pumped the accelerator and just kept overtaking and the ride was smooth, and managed to reach guwahati before 9. But the bad stretch from siliguri costed me 1500 bucks as i had to change both my front shock absorber assembly (few parts), i think that was worth it!

If you ask me which was the hardest part in all this, well it was washing away all the dirt from the vehicle body that had accumulated through 5 days of driving, the vehicle could not have been recognized with all those dirt on it

Now my next plan is to drive from Guwahati to Hyderabad via Delhi
Any suggestions for it.
Planning to do Guwahati to Delhi in 3 days and Delhi to Hyderabad in 2 days
Suggestions with halts and kms to be done daily are welcome and i will post my travelogue after the journey for sure
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Old 10th January 2009, 10:51   #2
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Quite a memorable trip! Did you happen to take any pictures enroute?
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Old 10th January 2009, 13:17   #3
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Rajesh, the flaw in your trip planning was the late starts. Unless you start early enough - by, say 4-5 am - you are unlikely to cover much ground, since traffic picks up later during the day.

When I drove to Guwahati from Bombay via Hyderabad, I was much faster on pre-GQ roads (completely 2-laned), which went as follows:
- Bombay-Hyderabad-Vijaywada
- Vijaywada-Kakinada-Annavaram (halt for temple darshan)-Vizag (lunch)-Bhubaneswar
- Bhubaneswar-Puri (Temple darshan)-Konarak (Sun Temple visit)-Bhubaneswar-huge traffic jams between Kharagpur and Calcutta on 2-laned roads, costing us over 2 hours delay-Calcutta-Krishnanagar (overnight stay)
- Krishnanagar-Malda-Siliguri-Bariposha (Assam border)(overnight halt)
- Bariposha-Nalbari-Guwahati

Apart from the temple halts, and the 2-lane road jams, we managed to make good speeds because of our early morning starts (before 5 am everyday).

Guwahati-Delhi
D1 - Guwahati-Siliguri-Dalkola-Malda, please avoid going from Dalkola via Purnea, Begusarai, which is actually the direct and shortest route, but the worst
D2 - Malda-MOregaon-Siuri-Durgapur-take Nh2 all the way-Barhi-Aurangabad-Sasaram-Varanasi
D3 - Varanasi-Allahabad-Kanpur-Etawah-Agra-Delhi

Going to be long drives daily, you have to leave by latest 4-5 am, and drive till 10-11 pm to do it in 3 days. Road is very fast on NH2 from Durgapur onwards.

Delhi-Hyderabad is possible in 2 days as follows:

D1 - Delhi-Agra-Gwalior-Jhansi-Lalitpur-Sagar
D2 - Sagar-Laknadon-Seoni-Nagpur-Adilabad-Hyderabad

The roads between Laknadon and Lalitpur are a disaster, and have poor facilities.

I will be happy to share with you log books of my drive on these routes (except Moregam-Durgapur).
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Old 10th January 2009, 13:21   #4
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Nice long drive. But, where are the pictures?
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Old 11th January 2009, 05:12   #5
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@rajeshchand

Wow mate! This is excellent stuff! Whilst I was just sceptical about driving from Delhi to Dhubri (I almost made my mind to do it until I realised I would not have time and besides my OHC was probably not the right car for this arduous task )

Please please do post a lot of pics

@hvkumar

I have followed your other travelogue posts and you seem to only testing your endurance further However, I could not find your Guwahati travelogue. If you have already posted it can you please show me where it is? If not, then please please do post it.

Last edited by abk : 11th January 2009 at 05:12. Reason: Too many smileys!
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Old 11th January 2009, 13:26   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abk View Post
@hvkumar

I have followed your other travelogue posts and you seem to only testing your endurance further However, I could not find your Guwahati travelogue. If you have already posted it can you please show me where it is? If not, then please please do post it.
I don't normally write travelogues, but my log books are available if you wish. Please PM me in case you wish to have the log book of my trip to Guwahati. You must also bear in mind that my drives go back 23 years, when we did not have internet!
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Old 11th January 2009, 13:42   #7
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Nice trip, Rajeshchand. I admire your endurance.
But there is something wrong with your timings on day 1. Vijaywada took to 9 hours from Hyd against the normal 6 hours. From there, assuming you started at 3 pm, after a lunch break of 30 mins, you could not have reached Vizag in 3 hours, not even in a BMW. The distance is around 380 to 400 kms.
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Old 12th January 2009, 05:17   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
I don't normally write travelogues, but my log books are available if you wish. Please PM me in case you wish to have the log book of my trip to Guwahati. You must also bear in mind that my drives go back 23 years, when we did not have internet!
23 years!!!!! That's about the time I was just growing up in the school. Dear hvkumar, I would be extremely happy if you could jog your memory and pen down a few lines narrating what you remember now of that trip. Maybe just the highlights, road conditions, life as you would have seen along the road & in the towns, old world hospitality and so much more. Would you ?

am waiting eagerly..
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Old 12th January 2009, 08:56   #9
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Rajesh: I can feel the trip from your post. Have you taken any pictures through your trip ? Why don't you post some of them that would be wonderful to view.

Regards: Badri
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Old 12th January 2009, 09:27   #10
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Rajesh, sorry to interrupt your thread, but here it is, on request of abk, my story of the North East India drive:

H V Kumar and his friends drove all the way from Mumbai to visit the 7 sisters of North East India in November-December 2001 by his Daewoo Matiz car. This is their story.

Guns. Gun running. Terrorists. Kidnapping. This is what we were told.
Post card sceneries. Exotic destinations. Friends. This is the story we will tell you.

A motoring holiday in North East India in the winter of 2001. Driving down from Mumbai, we covered 15 states and 10,000 kms in 18 days. 2 days driving by night, the remaining 16 days in 16 different places – we never woke up looking at the same ceiling again! Most of the days, we witnessed the glorious sunrises and equally spectacular sunsets. Sounds implausible by Indian motoring standards, but believe me, this was no rally, it was the tourist’s day (or is it days) out!

We were driving a Daewoo Matiz car out of Mumbai. No, we did not head straight out to Kolkata, but we went down to the fertile basins of the River Krishna and Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, via Hyderabad and Vijayawada. Then the drive up the East Coast to seek the blessings of Lord Jagannath at Puri in Orissa. We navigated Kolkata’s Park Street and Chittaranjan Avenue in evening peak hour conditions, a map on the lap and the memories of a visit over 15 years ago.

En route to Siliguri, Bengal is a conveyor belt of paddy fields and we almost mistake the River Ganga at Farakka for the Arabian Sea, so wide and blue that it is flowing through the 100 plus sluice gates to Bangladesh on the other side. You ponder on the meaning of river civilisations.

The gateway to the North East is arguably Siliguri. Go north, and you climb up to Darjeeling and Sikkhim, straight East is the plains of Assam. Startled by our fog lamps perhaps, an elephant charged at us when we were whizzing by the Jaldapara and Buxar wild life sanctuaries. Luckily, we ducked just in time and dodged the grey largeness that lunged at us in the darkness. The Bengal Police dissuaded us from venturing into Assam in the night, and so we held the border post in a resort hotel in the village of Barobisha.

Our arrival in Assam the next day morning was not entirely uneventful – An encounter with a certain “Inspector Rana” unpleasantly reminded us that Assam is being torn between internal conflicts – the Bodos on the North Bank of the River Brahmaputra, the ULFA on the South. Luckily for us, we assuaged his bruised ego. Some more miles down the road, almost on Guwahati, a mob waylaid us and politely extracted “donations” (we did not want to test their behavioral responses when impolite!).

There are only 2 bridges across the River Brahmaputra for almost 700 kms through Assam. We crossed the first one at Saraighat to enter Guwahati that is located on the South bank of the mighty river. Guwahati is a bustling city, basking under the benevolence of the Goddess Kamakhya. Drink in the view of this tempestuous river from the courtyard of the Bhubaneswari Devi temple. Guwahati is the virtual centre of this part of India, and a cosmopolitan mayhem. Our friendly travel agent Jungle Travels had organised our permits in advance saving us a lot of bother and time.

The roads of Assam were superb. Paddy fields and tea estates. They say the best tea in the world grows in the Assam plains. For those of you who have seen tea grown on steep mountainsides in Ooty and the Nilgiris, here it is in undulating terrain. Well populated along the banks of the River Brahmaputra but equally ravaged by it during the monsoons, the river dictates the economy and mood of the state and its people.

If there is one place we wanted to go “once in a life-time”, that was Tawang. Arunachal Pradesh – a state hugging the Himalayas, gurgling streams, roaring waterfalls, swirling mists and deep valleys. The progression up the road to Tawang from Tezpur is a lesson, would be a delight for the botanist. From tropical fauna, comprising coconut palms and banana plants, climb the zigzag roads to meet the clouds and under the shade of the lofty conifers, we touch stratospheric heights and travel through desert-like landscapes shorn of trees. We see a new definition of blue in the skies above us, pollution free and pure, but prickly heat from the blazing sun. This is truly one of the few incomparable journeys of the world, if you have the guts for the narrow roads – towering cliffs on one side, abyss on the other. The roads curve round itself again and again ascending rapidly. The Buddhist culture is omnipresent, what with prayer flags, wheels, and the occasional gompa or monastery. The ascents are very steep: remember, we are climbing up from near Mean Sea Level to a height of 13,700 feet, up and down like a roller coaster.

Bomdila, the largest town on the road from Tezpur to Tawang, is a one-street town that we cross in under a minute. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Tezpur to Bomdila is only 180 kilometres – instead of the typical 4-hour journey elsewhere, this one takes almost a full day. The next stretch of 180 kilometres takes as much time. We left very early that day at 3 a.m. and traveled from Tezpur to Tawang in the same day. We were well wrapped up to combat the cold of the winter.

From Bomdila onwards, the villages become even more scattered and the land forbidding. The army has full control over the area and you cross several camps on the way. The highlight of this journey is the Se La Pass – at 13,700 feet lauded as the second highest motorable road in the world. We were already above the cloud line and once there at Se La Pass the car window becomes a virtual aircraft window. The Se La Lake is a sheet of white almost 6 months in a year, but when we first saw this enchanting expanse of blue water, the freeze was setting in. We slid on snow on the road rising away from the suspension Jainath Bridge. The mountains all around were dripping snow to form rapids and cascading streams of water.

Tawang is at a height of about 3500 metres and bitter cold. Buddhism radiates all around. Don’t be disappointed that Tawang is not the usual type of tourist destination. No parks, no fancy eateries, no shopping malls. The Tawang Monastery is one of the largest in this part of the world, and headquarters of one of the sects of Buddhism. The huge prayer hall has a statue of Buddha that is a few stories high, and richly decorated with tapestries, thankas and carvings. We are very close to the China border: in fact, during the 1962 war, both Tawang and Bomdila were annexed by the Chinese armed forces. Most interestingly, we are as close to Beijing as we are to Mumbai – over 4,000 kilometres! On the way to Bum La that is the border, we cross the P T Tso Lake and the Takstsang Gompa, one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the region.

We are back to the plains of Assam, cruising along the South bank of the River Brahmaputra. Our next port of call: the Kaziranga National Park, the home to the one-horned Indian Rhinocerous. The jeep safari on the dirt track that is rebuilt every year after the earlier one is washed away by the floods is very scenic. A treasure trove of wild life – various species of deer, innumerable birds, otters, etc. The tall elephant grass is home to the Rhinos, 15 of who were sighted during the couple of hours that we took the tour. Beyond the vast grasslands was thick forestland where the most important inhabitant is the Elephant.

The River Brahmaputra dominates the landscape. Jorhat, one of the largest towns in Assam, is on the banks of the river. At Nimati Ghat, the ferry crosses the 10-odd kilometres with of the river to reach Majuli, which is considered to be the largest River Island in the world.

After Arunachal and Assam, now it was time for us to pay our respects to the others in the family of 7 sisters. Nagaland was hosting the Great Hornbill Festival when we drove into Kohima, the capital city. Kohima has a lot of history – this town resisted the advance of the Japanese forces during the World War II. The War Memorial pays homage to the thousands of soldiers, both British and Indian, who fought for British India. Kohima is a nondescript town otherwise and not very well endowed in tourism infrastructure.

This is total bamboo country. Hills and hills covered with bamboo trees. Houses made of bamboo. Bamboo shoots for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Handicrafts made of bamboo. Bridges of bamboo across streams.

From Kohima to Imphal and the state of Manipur. Recent insurgencies in Nagaland have been tough on the Manipuris since their only all-weather road to the rest of India was often blockaded by pro-Naga terrorists. The beauty of the countryside keeps you awake. Terraced rice fields in the wide valleys surrounded by hills. Near the town of Karong, we travel through a valley bursting with the yellow of sunflowers.

Manipur is an ancient kingdom mentioned in the Mahabharata. It is said that Arjun was betrothed to the daughter of the king of Manipur (immortalised by Tagore's (/) Chitrangadha poem). The Keibul Lamjao National Park early in the morning has a mystic atmosphere, with the mist snaking down to the waters of the Loktak Lake. The Sangai deer is so small, some not larger than a dog and we strain our eyes to sight them grazing in the marshy grasslands. The nearby town of Moirang witnessed history when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the Indian tricolour for the first time when the Indian National Army swept across the Burmese forests to shake the British Raj at its foundations. The international border is not far away, and the shops are stocked with not Nirma and Amul chocolates, but with velvet blankets from China and groceries from Thailand.

Now was to come the worst or rather most adventurous part of the trip. There are 3 ways to get to Silchar, which is in the southern part of Assam from Imphal. Fly Indian Airlines. Take the long road via Kohima and Hafflong. We took the third: NH 53 direct to Silchar. What masquerades, as NH 53 is a dirt track that does not see any vehicle on most days. Probably closed completely during the rainy season. “Gun-runners” highway, which is what it, is called locally. But let me tell you that it is one of the most scenic highways I have ever traveled in India. The 2 army checkpoints were astounded at our audacity to ask to go through that road. On being asked for advice, they took the line from the Hindi movie Border, “Marega ya marenga” (Assault or die)! They told us that people are not just kidnapped, they are also scalped for no rhyme or reason whatsoever. Well, the condition the road is in, even the terrorists will find it difficult to lurch towards us, and the road is so full of craters and mountain-high in muck. We virtually lifted and carried our car in places, and speeded by the 150 odd treacherous portion in something like 8 hours – crawling at less than 20 kph. On a more serious vein, this countryside is the favourite camping ground for several terrorist groups and their smuggling route for arms from Burma and other places from where arms are supposed to come from. Bamboo jungles surround us all the way. Whew, we reached the other end at Jiribam to be detained by the Manipur border police who suspected us of being gunrunners ourselves. An hour of questioning later, they shook their heads in disbelief and congratulated us for coming out of it alive. The Assam side of the border was no better – police checking twice and apparently bandit-infested country. We were rather happy that we had taken the precaution of hiding our cash and valuables in at least 4 different places in the car!

Silchar, a night later and after wrestling with the Mizo authorities for permits to visit their capital city, we were in Aizwal in the Mizo hills. This city vibrates even at midnight unlike the rest of the region that goes to bed by 8 p.m. They say that the fires of the insurgency movements of the past still burn, but we probably got the best hotel rooms of the trip here and met hospitable people. Although the state is steeped in cultural tradition and rich cultural heritage, we had too little time in this touch-and-go trip, but yet managed to soak in the ambience of this hilly state and resolved that this is one town we must visit again. The state is so far-flung, exotic and picturesque that even a weeklong holiday out of Aizwal may be found wanting. The warm Madrasi family who we befriended told us that we were the first tourist visitors to the home they have lived in Mizoram’s capital since 1984!

Now it was the turn of Meghalaya, the land of clouds. Believe me, the sun did not spy out even once, it was so overcast and cool the whole day we were there deserving the sobriquet. Long the capital city of the whole North Eastern region, Shillong is a typical British contonment town, built on the lines of Shimla. Parks, waterfalls, statues and lots of hotels. But we had our sights zoomed in on that charming place from our school geography lessons – Cherapunjee. Not for us Mynsram which has wickedly usurped the title as the rainiest place in the world. Take a sample – in Mumbai, it rains 3000 mm annually, Cherapunjee gets 12000 mm. One day in 1977, it rained nearly 3000 mm here in 24 hours! Alas, it did not rain while we were there but the mighty waterfalls of Nokhalikai at Cherapunjee Point peeping through the constant fog assuaged our spirits somewhat. Somewhere way below the rock cliffs are the plains of Bangladesh and another world altogether.

The best was yet to come on the way back to Guwahati from Shillong. The spectacle of the Umiam Lake took our breath away, it could keep a professional photographer busy a full week, and more perhaps.

For the first time when we drove out of the North East region that night, we felt scared at the eeriness of the lonely country side that is totally desolate after 8 p.m. To drive home the disappointment of Cherapunjee, it rained cats and dogs that night in Assam. Back to Bengal, we had a torrid time at midnight crossing a biggish river (what happened to the original bridge – blown up?) on what was a mix between a footbridge and a footbridge – certainly made of bamboo! Heavier vehicles swam across! We survived the night and narrowly missed sunrise at Tiger Hill in Darjeeling. This Queen of the Hills wore a wet saree and left us cold, but the Fairy Queen chugs on as it has done for over a century. We were all travel-weary and ready to hit the road back home – only 3,000 kms, that is!!

Starting from Darjeeling, we had a dream run back home. The first day, we whizzed past the fields of Bengal, Kolkata and halted at Kharagpur overnight. Fearing bandits in the Bengal-Bihar border, we woke up and left late (i.e. 500 a.m.) and ended up at Raipur by 900 p.m. The River Mahanadi was no mean sight at both Hirakud Dam as well as Baragarh. But the wilderness and poverty in this part of Orissa touched our hearts. The garage mechanics who spend 3 hours repairing our car said it was free because he could not solve our problem. The day was miserably hot and served a reminder that Orissa has real hot summers……and hot winters too. The last day of the trip saw us beating the Howrah-Mumbai Gitanjali Express from Raipur to Mumbai – we did 1,200 kms that day from 300 a.m. to 900 p.m., through Chattisgarh and the entire width of Maharastra from Nagpur to Mumbai.

PLANNING THE TRIP

Planning the trip can be a more exhaustive exercise than the trip itself. Route planning has to be done in advance and we work out detailed itineraries right down to the hour. You cannot stop by and ask the bystander “Bhaiya, tell me the route from Kolkata to Mumbai”. Keep your own counsel and stick to your route unless you have strong reasons not to. You must carry good road maps of each of the States that you are visiting.

You need permits to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. These are limited-stay/destination permits and have to be obtained from the tourism offices of the respective states. All of them have offices in Delhi and Guwahati. Applying in advance through a travel agent could save you a lot of time and spare you the running around. After all, there is a lot of corruption in India.

The North East is not well-visited, hence getting hotel accommodation is not very difficult. On a motoring holiday, your precise planning may come unstuck and the hotel rooms you booked in advance may go unoccupied. Although this is supposed to be the peak tourist season, we had no difficulties in finding ourselves good mid-budget rooms to stay in. Whenever in doubt, ask for the Government-run Tourist Lodges (equivalent to MTDC) – they are often the best in town. During winter, try to arrive at a new town before 600 p.m., else you may find yourself totally shut out. And sleep in the car and munch the crumbs of bread and biscuits that were left over.

Estimate expenditure, and carry at least double the cash you will require for the trip. Always provide for that contingency when you may have to pay for some repairs to your car or worse, medical care. Credit Cards are still not widely accepted, so do not bank on them. In case you have ATM cards, keep addresses of ATM locations in case you need to withdraw en route. All highways are not safe, it is advisable to split up your cash and find yourself a couple of good hiding places in the car itself.

In case your mobile phone has a national roaming facility, let me tell you that presently most of North East India is not on the network.

India is a vast country that should probably have 2-3 time zones to adjust the watch for the daylight hours. During the course of our trip, we saw sunset at 415 p.m. at Jorhat in Eastern Assam, and a week later 615 p.m. in Mumbai.

ITINERARY

Left Mumbai at 10 p.m. for Vijayawada on the eastern coastboard in Andhra Pradesh, passing through Pune, Solapur and Hyderabad. This journey was over 1,000 kms long and lasted 17 hours, with a break in Hyderabad for breakfast.

The next day, we drove along the East Coast from the south to north. The Beach Road in Vishakapatanam, written about as one of the most beautiful coastal roads in India. After staying overnight at Bhubaneswar (841 kms), the next day we prayed at Puri and visited the Sun temple at Konarak. After crossing the River Mahanadi at Cuttack, we retired to bed late at night at Krishnanagar, north of Kolkata (736 kms).

Fourth day out of Mumbai, we traveled the length of Bengal and reached Siliguri and were compelled to halt at the Bengal border town of Barobisha (704 kms). The next day was spent driving on the north bank of the River Brahmaputra via Bongaigaon and Nalbari to Guwahati and finally to Tezpur for the night retreat (495 kms).

The next 2 days were to Tawang and back via Bomdila and the Se La Pass (529 kms). Return from Bomdila was through Tezpur to visit Kaziranga National Park and then onwards to Jorhat (347 kms). The next dawn saw us at Nimati Ghat, and then we took the road to Numaligarh, Dimapur and Kohima (294 kms). Kohima to Imphal (153 kms). Moirang in Manipur and Silchar in Assam through Jiribam (277 kms).

Day 12 was spent travelling to Aizwal (200 kms). From Aizwal, we returned to Silchar and reached Shillong (473 kms). After visiting Cherapunjee near Shillong the next day, we drove the night through Guwahati, Dhubri, Tufanganj and Siliguri to Darjeeling where we spent a whole day (950 kms).

The return to Mumbai started with non-stop daylong runs at Darjeeling. The first day saw us end the day at Kharagpur after crossing Kolkata (818 kms). The next day was to Raipur via Keonjar and Sambalpur (733 kms). The final day (Day 18) was the longest (1,204 kms) from Raipur to Mumbai through the Maharastrian towns of Nagpur, Akola, Jalgaon, Dhulia and Nashik in about 18 hours.

In short, the beginning of the trip was long – almost 4,000 kms in the first 5 days – and so were the last 4 days – 3,700 kms.

ROAD CONDITIONS

Most of the time, we were travelling along the National Highways. The roads out of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh were being relaid and in a terrible mess, so were several of the roads in Bengal. North East had splendid roads, except in certain mountainous and offbeat stretches. Such as the roads north of Tawang to the China border, where we broke a shock absorber. Or NH 53 from Imphal to Silchar, where the front bumpers came off at least thrice after it mowed (or is it, slid/ slithered through) through slushy territory. Winter normally is a good time to motor in most of India because the roads are freshly laid after the monsoons that ravage them for nearly 3-5 months. Organisations such as the Army’s Border Roads Organisation are doing a great job keeping the roads ship-shape for obvious security and strategic reasons, but at the same time caution yourself, you can drive off the cliff any time. Due to the present ethnic tensions in Assam, most traffic (even the lorries) is off the roads after 800 p.m. even though there is no restriction by the police. There can be certain stretches throughout the whole route where you can encounter highway robbers during the night, so take care and do your homework well before you decide on the timing to take those stretches. Driving on these roads is definitely not for the squeamish ones amongst you.

On Indian highways, several odd signaling practices are in vogue. The truck flashing his right indicator is actually clearing you for overtaking, not turning right. Which he sometimes does too! Never overtake from the left in a 2-lane road, it can be fatal for both of you. In case you use bright headlamps/ fog lamps at night, remember that if the guy hurtling towards you gets disoriented and loses control, you are likely to get hit too! Hence, dip your headlamps for safety, this is not a film shooting in progress. Night driving requires skills of a different kind and very strong nerves so do it only if you are ready for it.

FOOD & HEALTH

Food was quite a problem since we were all staunch vegetarians. This is the land of Pork and Beef. But thank goodness, also of splendid white rice. The hotels go into a tizzy whenever vegetable dishes are requested for: either the markets were already closed or else the trucks had not yet arrived with their merchandise of onions and potatoes. But the hospitality of the people always ensured that we got something more palatable than what we get in many of the restaurants back home.

Relax, you are on a holiday, but take care, don’t fall ill: head aches, fever, dehydration, stomach upsets and nausea are some of the most common ailments. Eating light and a heavy liquid diet are good when you hit the road. Try carrots, bananas, dry fruits and biscuits. Drink lots of water, as much as you can, never mind if you need to stop every now and then to answer the call of nature. Mix electral with water to save yourself from being dehydrated. Particularly on the tough legs such as Tezpur-Bomdila-Tawang, where the steep ascents and descents require you to get acclimatised fast, else you may feel nauseated and have a heavy head. Avoid oily food, and keep away from culinary adventures with food you have no clue about. Stick to eating foods using oil that you find edible. If you do not like mustard oil in your food, insist on refined oils of other types. Abstaining from drinking liquor is a must for the driver, advisable for the passengers too. This was our recipe for the trip to North East trip – we came back fresh, healthy and without those extra pounds.

Carry your first aid box, and any other medicines that you are used to. Even toothache can spoil your holiday and the nearest dentist may be 500 kms away! Mosquitoes can be malarial, have coils and mats on hand. Ensure that throw-up bags are easily accessible, you never know when you will need them.

True testimony to the medical care that we took came during our Tezpur-Bomdila-Tawang trip. This is the stretch that several do over 2 days, we did it in one. The army has acclimitisation camps to help them adjust to the rarefied atmosphere at that height. We had our juices throughout and the weak-kneed had their Avomims. Persons suffering from vertigo, beware.

CAR CARE

Your car is the most important person during the trip. Lavish your attention on it before, during and after the trip. A well-maintained car (with an intelligent preventive maintenance schedule) is the best guarantee for a trouble-free smooth trip. Have the car serviced before you leave on any long trip. Make sure that all vital signs are OK – oils (engine, brake), coolants, belts, etc. Sensitise yourself to listening for those tiny squeaks and noises that signal impending failure or mechanical problems.

Tyres are the most important. Good treads, proper air pressure (keep checking them often, invest in your own pressure gauge) and inspect for bent rims and cut sidewalls. If possible, balance your wheels even during the trip (i.e. if you find a balancing shop). Check your spare tyre, keep a couple of spare tubes and don’t forget your jack and spanner.

Keep away from roadside mechanics as far as possible and collect addresses of dealers and service stations en route before hand. Maruti car owners, don’t worry: that ad of Gypsy in the Ladakh Himalayas was not exaggerated – there are Maruti service stations all over India.

Remember you are not driving in the city. Refuel well in advance of your tank emptying out. Quality of petrol can be dubious, so always try to refuel in relatively larger towns, especially in pumps that appear to be popular. Keep track of your consumption.

Familiarise yourself with simple mechanical tasks to do if something goes wrong in your car. Several problems can be traced to the electrical fuses, so locate them in advance. Carry your service manual with you always. Carry spare keys, spare spectacles and photocopies of important documents. Carry a couple of powerful torches and simple tools such as scissors, scotch tapes and adhesives.

During our North east trip, we had to replace one of the shock absorbers, balance the tyres twice, clean the filters midway and top up the engine oils and coolant. Air pressure in the tyres was checked daily, often a few times during the same day itself. Fog lamps failed thrice because the wires were swept away by impact with rough roads. Two punctures, but then we carried 4 spare tubes and we have mastered the art of changing a tyre in 5 minutes flat.

Driving is definitely not for the squeamish.

Last edited by hvkumar : 12th January 2009 at 09:38.
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Old 12th January 2009, 09:42   #11
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You can read my log book of the North East Trip, and see photos in the following link:
H V Kumar - Driving Log Books - KUMAR'S DRIVING LOG BOOKS North East India, Dec 2001

Or read about my earlier bike trip to Darjeeling, Siukkhim and Bhutan in the following link:
H V Kumar - Driving Log Books - KUMAR'S DRIVING LOG BOOKS Bombay to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sikkhim, Bhutan by bike, Apr 1994
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Old 12th January 2009, 10:37   #12
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Truly amazing trip hvkumar! Even without pictures I can vividly imagine your journey. The well summarized advices would certainly benefit a lot of people.
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Old 12th January 2009, 15:57   #13
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Dear hvkumar,

Thanks so much for taking the trouble of penning down your experiences along with those log books (one running close to 1000 rows!!!!). To be honest I was expecting a much shorter narration. But you seem to have filled in with as much as one could have hoped for (sans the pics). Reading through it I really do not have one or two words to condense my range of expressive feelings and eagerness. However, I must say it is absolutely astounding. The courage and the grit to traverse across those lands during a very hostile period is unparalleled. It is one thing to munch miles on safer long stretches of road with good conveniences and services available dotted along the highway and much a different ball game altogether to venture into what you have.

I am so glad that you posted your experiences and looking forward to hearing more such saga of your extreme adventures that you will undertake in future. Finally, i must conclude (before i ramble too much!) that your sense of adventure deserves no less than a salute. Bravo

On sidelines, you conquered all those arduous road on a Matiz! Demonstrates the man-machine relationship exemplarily
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Old 12th January 2009, 19:17   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vnabhi View Post
Nice trip, Rajeshchand. I admire your endurance.
But there is something wrong with your timings on day 1. Vijaywada took to 9 hours from Hyd against the normal 6 hours. From there, assuming you started at 3 pm, after a lunch break of 30 mins, you could not have reached Vizag in 3 hours, not even in a BMW. The distance is around 380 to 400 kms.

yeah i got that timing wrong, we reached vijayawada around 12 and reached vizag around 7 in the evening, my wife got it right, you know i dont maintain logbooks, bit lazy on trips actually so all the timings are from my memory

Quote:
Originally Posted by badris View Post
Rajesh: I can feel the trip from your post. Have you taken any pictures through your trip ? Why don't you post some of them that would be wonderful to view.

yeah i will post some pics for sure


Regards: Badri
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Rajesh, sorry to interrupt your thread, but here it is, on request of abk, my story of the North East India drive:
oh you welcome, its all yours

Between, kumar i have changed my plans again and not going to delhi but decided to go to hyderabad from guwahati. Return route i am planning to follow the same except for the stretch from siliguri to kolkata, is there any way i can skip this and take a shorter and better route to say land up on the NH between Kolkata and bhubaneswar, i am assuming there is a NH joining at kharagpur....right... which connects me from siliguri directly
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Old 12th January 2009, 23:20   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rajeshchand View Post
Between, kumar i have changed my plans again and not going to delhi but decided to go to hyderabad from guwahati. Return route i am planning to follow the same except for the stretch from siliguri to kolkata, is there any way i can skip this and take a shorter and better route to say land up on the NH between Kolkata and bhubaneswar, i am assuming there is a NH joining at kharagpur....right... which connects me from siliguri directly
Rajesh,

The best route to take on your return is to come on NH34 via Siliguri, Raiganj, Malda and Farakka till Morgram, where you turn off to go via Siuri to reach Panagarh/Durgapur on NH2. This will save you the bother of coming to Calcutta on the congested NH34, and helps you shift to the super-fast Durgapur Expressway from Panagarh. You will bypass Calcutta, and join Nh6 which is now the Kona Expressway to Kharagpur. Again another super-fast road. Watch out for some traffic dislocation on Kolaghat Bridge.

There are shorter routes from Panagarh/Durgapur to Kharagpur via Bishnupur and Midnapore, but these small country roads of Bengal are not recommended, being conventional highways and much slower without town/ village bypasses.

So I would recommend the NH34-Morgram-Siuri-Panagarh-NH2-NH6-Kharagpur option. Maybe, if you leave Guwahati early enough, you could even land up in Durgapur for the night's stay (but quite a long drive).
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