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Old 19th July 2009, 18:49   #1
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Default Exploring a part of my own State on wheels

After Suman's "Better Leh'd than never" had appeared in TBHP I used to fill my wife's ears about how badly we missed such trips. When I told her that we could cover the easier part of Suman's route by my brother's car from Gurgaon I noticed a frawn in her face. "You don't want to see Kashmir?" I asked her. "I do, but I haven't seen half of my own Assam and I want to see Upper Assam (Eastern part of the state) first", she replied. Then it dawned upon me that I too haven't been to places within my state for travel and site seeing. I had been to most of the places alright but not seen anything. So there and then it was decided that we would drive to Upper Assam on July 9.

I rang up our old partners in crime, the family of my wife's sister. Brother-in-law is a senior officer of Indian Oil Corp and is himself a car and travel buff. We traveled many places together by car. He didn't need any pursuation in including himself, his wife and the kid in the tour. Thanks to him our accommodation was booked at the CTA Guest House of IOC at Digboi. On 8th evening I did the necessary checkup on the car. We all dined at our recently married youngest sister-in-law's place and spent the night at our father-in-law's house at Mirza. Mirza is a small township located on NH 37 about 25 km to the west of Guwahati. Our destination Digboi next evening was 540 km from that place, all but the last 25 kms along NH 37.

We heard that because of the ongoing construction work under East-West Corridor project the road condition in the stretch of NH 37 between Guwahati and Nagaon was poor. We therefore decided to divert to Baihata from Guwahati crossing the Brahmaputra at Saraighat along NH 31 and then take NH 52 upto Tezpur and then cross the Brahmaputra again at Kolia Bhomora to get back to NH 37. This would increase the length of the route by another 50 km. A remote village to the north of NH 52 about 100 km from Guwahati is the field of study of the Ph.D. project of my sister-in-law. It was decided that we would enter the village on the way to get some data already collected by project assistants.

There was the news of a bandh call by a Bodo outfit in one of the districts we would have to pass. My general observation is that untoward incidents rarely occur in the early morning even during worst situations. So we backed ourselves to pass the district without any problem by 7 am if we could start at 4.30 (summertime in Assam it is full of light from 4.00 am). We could not get ready in time and could set off from f-i-l's place only at 6.25 in the morning. When I tanked up the car at Guwahati it was 7.00 already but none of us had any feeling of apprehension about crossing the bandh district. So we kept the route unchanged. I reset the trip meter to zero after coming out of the filling station and hence began our trip to Upper Assam.

Some moments of the trip was captured with my Panasonic point and shoot camera which was sometimes handled by my wife. Because of the limitations of the camera as well as my shooting skills I wasted a few great photo opportunities.

The morning of 9th July was exceptionally free of traffic on NH 31 and from Baihata NH 52 was having even lesser traffic. The road condition was pretty good too. We could enter the village by 8.25 am. The road into the village was partly built by the Prime Ministers Gram Sadak Yojana. The villagers have taken to agricalture in a systematic way and we could see ready to cook vegetables in the fields. The population is predominantly Muslim and population density is thick.

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Our sister-n-law didn't take much time in collecting the data and we were quickly back on our main track: on NH52 at 9.15 am. The district where the band was to be observed was very near but the comfort zone of the morning hours to cross disturbed areas was over too. We were a little apprehensive. And the apprehensions were not unfounded because we were stopped behind a line of other vehicles after a short period of time. Our hearts were pounding. The least you expect in these situations is a few broken windows in your car. But then we noticed who actually were stopping us. Those were cops! We were told that all the vehicles to pass through the disturbed area are to be escorted in a convoy. Ah! what a relief. And now the endless wait for the escorting vehicles to arrive. We had to wait there for about half an hour for the convoy to start. My car was perhaps the 6th or 7th from the start. After moving for about 5 kms after the escort vehicle I noticed a couple of cars speed up and overtake the escort. I didn't think twice for doing the same and made the most of the opportunity to drive at 100 plus in the free and smooth road. And yes, we found no resistance from bandh supporters.

Last edited by tortoiseNhare : 19th July 2009 at 18:52.
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Old 19th July 2009, 21:28   #2
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The colour green as is is truly enticing, posting a few such lovely pics and for you to leave people waiting longing for more till they post their eagerness is not a fair way to win brownie points.
Move your hiney buddy.

That rare natural touch.. look at those kids going EEEE from end to end... toooo much good!!!

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Old 20th July 2009, 06:35   #3
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We had started off in the morning only having tea and biscuits and all of us were feeling very hungry. By the time we reached Tezpur it was past 11 O'clock. We didn't want to enter the city for food as it would take a lot of time. So we entered a roadside dhaba to have paratha-subzi and tea. The dhaba was not decent looking but very crowded. 'They can't stock yesterday's food to serve today,' I told myself.

From Tezpur (Mission Charali) NH 52 turns left towards Lakhimpur. Straight ahead is NH 37A which links NH 52 with NH 37 crossing the Brahmaputra at Kalia Bhomora. This is the second bridge over Brahmaputra, and it is a road bridge. Saraighat near Guwahati and Pancharatna near Goalpara are the only other bridges over the mighty river (both are road cum single track railway bridges). The fourth bridge coming up near Dibrugarh is not yet complete after many years of construction. The stretch of NH 37A linking the north and south banks of the Brahmaputra is a driver's delight. The greenery and views of the river and the hills are also eye catching.

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NH 37A meets NH 37 at Kaliabor and from there we turn left to go eastward. The Kaziranga National Park is just about an hours drive from that point. An elephant safari in Kaziranga is a major tourist attraction but it is not allowed in the rainy seasons. Since the national highway passes through the park for a decent stretch one expects to see a few wild animals from some the view points. We were rather unlucky in that regard.

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We reached Jorhat at about 1.30 pm and it was time for lunch. We didn't have any idea which roadside eatery will be decent. My wife suggested to look for one in front of which a large number of cars and other small vehicles are parked. This according to her is a pointer to quality. We all agreed and entered such a dhaba. The dish (rice and fish) they served was quite good and by the time we finished it was already 2.30. From there it was another hour's drive to reach the first tourist destination in our itinerary, Sivasagar. Sivasagar was the capital of the Ahoms who ruled Assam at a stretch for six hundreds years before the advent of the British. There are many places of tourist interest in and around the town but we had a long way to travel yet during the rest of the day and it was already half past 3. So we decided to visit the more famous and easily accessible ones only. Some other places further into the outskirts could be covered on our way back.

Just after entering the town we see the Temple built by King Lakshmi Singha in memory of his father Rudra Singha. Near the temple one can also see the Rudrasagar tank (lake?) built by the king. We somehow forgot to click the tank.

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Next comes Kareng Ghar which is a palace with three underground floors known as the Talatal Ghar. The upper storeys are known as the Kareng Ghar. This palace was built by Rudra Singha ( 1696-1714). There were two underground tunnel connecting Talatal Ghar and the Gargaon Palace with the Dikhow river. This tunnels which served as emergency exits were however later blocked by the East India Company.

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The house near Kareng Ghar where ammunition was stored by the Ahom army.

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Old 20th July 2009, 06:56   #4
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The Rang Ghar is believed to be the first amphitheatre in Asia. A two-storeyed oval-shaped pavilion from which members of Ahom royal family watched elephant fight and other sporting events. It was built by King Pramatta Singha (1744-1754) and stands close to the Kareng Ghar.

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Yours truly trying a pose before the camera.
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The kid in our team having a ball inside the Rang Ghar.
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And here is a very interesting odometer reading of my beloved Palio.
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The Joysagar Tank was built by Ahom King Rudra Singha in memory of his mother Joymoti at Rangpur in 1697. Joymoti, who had sacrificed herself to save her husband Gadapani is considered a patriotic martyr and is a legend in Assam history. The tank covers an area of 318 acres.

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While we see the lakes and monuments, my Palio waits patiently.
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The main town is located around the huge Sivasagar tank, an artificial lake constructed by Queen Madambika in 1734 A.D. The Shiva dol or Shiva Temple on the bank of this tank is believed to be the highest Shiva temple in India.

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It was getting dark while we were exploring Sivasagar but our destination Digboi was still quite far. So our stay at Sivasagar was hastened to an end. From here we will drive non-stop to Digboi.
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Old 20th July 2009, 07:48   #5
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Awesomes. Likes a lots.

That color is the color I love - post more pics of your car
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Old 20th July 2009, 14:05   #6
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Default At IOC Guest House

The drive from Sivasagar to Digboi was uneventful. Two major places we passed on the way was Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. We stopped at a tea-stall in Dibrugarh town for having tea. About 10 km from Tinsukia there is a place called Makum from where we left NH 37 at last. About a couple of decades ago Makum was a vibrant business hub for the plywood industry. Government policies regarding forest conservation have put paid to this business now.

The right turn that we took at Makum is the starting point of a very short
national highway, NH 38 (only about 55 km of total length). Digboi is on this
highway which ends at Lekhapani, bordering Arunachal Pradesh, touching places like Margherita, Ledo etc. known for coal mines.

We entered the CTA Guest House of Indian Oil Corporation in Digboi at about 9.00 pm. The location where CTA is situated was a part of the Dehing Patkai Rainforest range which is famous for wild elephants. What makes the place more interesting is that the guest house actually was built on a corridor used by wild elephants. It is said that elephants have great memory and they are known to revisit places. Long back, my brother-in-law told us an interesting story of wild elephants coming to CTA and the younglings using small cars parked there as toys, in the process destroying a few. This story came to my mind as soon as I parked my car there and exactly at that moment I heard my b-i-l ask the guard, "Elephants don't visit this place now, do they?" I could not believe my ears when I heard the reply. The guard told us that after a gap of several years a small heard visited the CTA Guest House just the night before. They played with a couple of cars parked there. One car had been rather badly damaged which was towed away to a garage for repair. The other (a new Swift Dezire) got away lightly.

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I then went to see the extent of damage that car had. We got to know the owner later, a jolly good Bong, who seemed to be proud of those jumbo inflicted dents in his car. I convinced myself that the elephants don't have any business to visit this Guest House every night. Had some light beverage before dinner had sound sleep.

Woke up early morning and went out to have a look of the area surrounding the Guest House. Near the CTA Guest house there is the Digboi Golf course. According to locals the golf course was on a natural landscape. Everywhere it is green green and green. You can have a view of the not too distant Patkai range. Thick rainforest starts just outside the place. Well, the summer in Assam is not pleasand because of high humidity but the kind of greenery that you enjoy during this season is incomparable.

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The others woke up by the time I was back. After breakfast we would visit the place where crude oil was pumped out for the first time in Asia.
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Old 20th July 2009, 14:17   #7
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Dig boy Dig, I mean Post boy Post, more posts
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Old 20th July 2009, 15:19   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SAHIR.KITTUR View Post
Dig boy Dig, I mean Post boy Post, more posts
Digboi got it's name from that particular phrase only. During british raj when someone discovered oil and was trying to dug up oil well. one of the oldest oilfields in the world and probably the first one in India.
Boy oh boy, this photos and logs are moistening my eyes with nostalgia. I so much wanted to create a travelogue like this but was never ever able to. Well done mate. Waiting for more.. I wish you had travelled to Gargaon and then Saraideo also to get the glimpse of erstwhile Ahom Kingdom. But the road is in pathetic shape and I can understand the exclusion.
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Old 20th July 2009, 15:26   #9
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Great snaps and excellent write up. I really love the green cover that is out there and it's mind blowing. The Okra farm looks great as well.
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Old 20th July 2009, 15:38   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaushik_s View Post
Digboi got it's name from that particular phrase only. During british raj when someone discovered oil and was trying to dug up oil well. one of the oldest oilfields in the world and probably the first one in India.
Boy oh boy, this photos and logs are moistening my eyes with nostalgia. I so much wanted to create a travelogue like this but was never ever able to. Well done mate. Waiting for more.. I wish you had travelled to Gargaon and then Saraideo also to get the glimpse of erstwhile Ahom Kingdom. But the road is in pathetic shape and I can understand the exclusion.
The power situation and internet connectivity at this moment is much more pathetic than road conditions anywhere faced by me during the trip. I did cover Gargaon and Saraideo on the way back. Please bear with the delay in posting. Imagine having uploaded 10 photos a sudden power-cut and internet disconnection washing away everything.
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Old 20th July 2009, 15:40   #11
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Excellent pictures and amazing travelogue! Hope you are enjoying with red hot Palio.
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Old 20th July 2009, 17:47   #12
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Default Digboi Centenary Museum

The Digboi Centenary Museum was founded to commemorate the centenary of the India's oldest petroleum refinery at Digboi. This museum is has a wealth of information for those interested about the petroleum industry. Many of the items on display inside the museum were not to be photographed. I was allowed to carry my camera inside and nobody was spying on me but I didn't feel like letting them down by clicking at prohibited areas. I did click on the Ford V8 engine with due permission.

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The existence of crude petroleum in Assam was first reported by Army officers who went into the jungles of Upper Assam some time in 1825. On 26 March 1867 Mr. Goodenough of McKillop, Stewart & Co. of Calcutta struck oil at Makum at 118 feet. This is the first successful mechanical oil drill in Asia. It took another 20 odd years to seriously consider crude oil production commercially. Some employees of Assam Railways and Trading Company (AR&T Co.) came across oil seepage at their work sites around Digboi.

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In 1889 AR&T Co. started drilling for oil and in 1890 they struck oil at Borbhil at 662 feet. This ushered a new industry in India: Petroleum. AR&T Co. was soon renamed into Assam Oil Company. In 1900 the construction started for the refinery at Digboi which was commissioned in 1901.

In 1964 the public sector Indian Oil Corporation was formed. The Assam Oil Company was merged into the IOC in 1981 as the Assam Oil Division.

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I could spot oil seepage in many places within the area of the museum. I tried stepping onto one such spot with this result:

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Old 21st July 2009, 13:21   #13
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Good going, have you traveled any further towards Lidu?? Where are the next installments?
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Old 21st July 2009, 16:21   #14
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A very nice travelogue,with pics doing their best.
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Old 21st July 2009, 21:25   #15
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Jaysmokesleaves, Phamilyman, Sahir, Kaushik_s, Muralisk, funda2max, Ramsagar, thank you all so much for your appreciation.

Off to the story again

After the Digboi Centenary Museum our plan was to visit the Digboi Oil Field of Oil India Limited. In this site commercial crude oil extraction is on. One requires permission from OIL authorities to enter the site but a polite request to the guards on duty suffices more often than not. In our case we had no written permission of the authorities and our polite request too didn't work. Don't blame on the guards on duty or the degree of politeness in our request. Actually about a couple of hours ago a group of mighty visitors entered the oilfield who were supposedly chasing away even cows and dogs from the area inside. And you guessed it, the mighty visitors were none other than some wild elephants! This failed mission enabled the sisters in our team go for some shopping in the AOD market. We went back to CTA for lunch and soon afterwards came out to conquer the last mile of NH 37 : Saikhowa Ghat.

Both sides of NH 37 towards east of Makum are laced with enormous tea estates. Many of these large tea estates are owned by large corporates like TATA. I failed to capture the beauty of these gardens in my camera, I must admit. Still I am posting a few of them here.

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Beyond Doomdooma the tea estates are not found. The railway track, a constant companion from Dibrugarh onward parallel to the highway is also lost sometime after Rupai. And then from the place called Dholla the highway itself is lost! But I have grown middle aged with the knowledge that NH 37 ends at Saikhowa Ghat! Well, what I learnt from books and what I see with my own eyes are both correct, courtesy the mighty Brahmaputra. With no proper road for the last 2-3 kilometres do we go back without looking at Baba Brahmaputra from Saikhowa Ghat? No. All of us were unanimous in the opinion.

So it was time for Palio baby to do some OFF ROADING! The true off roading scenes could not be captured because my wife holding the camera was too nervous about the well being of the car.

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We spotted this giant off-roader on the plains but we could also see plenty of large pits full of water on its way. So we took the small muddy road instead, although one of the local boys told us that small cars can pass through those pits. This was a mistake because this road led us nowhere and the condition of the road turned out to be worse as we went ahead. Our passengers got off the car and I tried to drive off the road to catch that route taken by the bus. The job seemed easy but execution was difficult.


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Finally the Palio did herself proud by making it just with the popping out of the cover of the right fog lamp.

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Having found our destination it was now time to have a look at the mighty Brahmaputra. At this place the river is several kilometers wide. To the northern side of the river is Sadiya town. Ferry and motorboats are the modes of transport between Sadiya and Saikhowa Ghat. The boatmen told us that if we came in the morning they could have given us a tour of Sadiya.

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Soil erosion at the bank of the river (above) and (below) the "market complex" with ample parking space. In the last picture the guy is off-roading at a different plane altogether!
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Last edited by tortoiseNhare : 21st July 2009 at 21:38.
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