Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware of and at the end of this journey all we gather are innumerable memories, experiences, happiness which we spin together into a story to relish for the rest of our lives. Though in our case, our destinations were not secret but the quantum of happiness and satisfaction we attained is just unquantifiable. A trip planning which was going on for more than two years, two months of actual ground work, sleepless nights for finalizing routes and destinations and here we are, a chapter of our lives when we visited the enchanting North East (NE) India and spent 26 beautiful days.
Safely hidden under the bosom of Mother Nature, lies the unexplored and untouched land of NE India which has been provoking nature lovers in recent times, from far and wide, to explore its magnificence. With mesmerizingly unbound natural beauty and verdant landscapes, this section is tucked away amidst pristine mountains, green hills, cascading waterfalls, undulating streams and exotic wildlife. Being a Northeastern myself (I’m from Guwahati), this was the first time I have seen the true magical beauty of this region. Having visited many places as a kid I might have no recollection of how it looked, but now, the frames are vividly clear and I would definitely reminisce these memories for many more years to come, maybe, till my last breath.
From a very long time, Atul and I had plans to explore NE part of India. Hearing stories of these beautiful places from me and seeing pictures from various sources Atul was highly determined to do a NE ride sometime very soon. It all started two years when we were at a friend’s place and brought up the topic of riding to NE. The need of minimum 3 weeks leaves, riding to unknown roads and somewhat difficult terrain was what setting back most of them. Despite making an almost final plan for 19 days, somehow the trip didn’t fly off and we ended up doing a Central and Western India ride instead. Yet the itch to do NE ride never left us and we constantly used to follow up with travelogues and stories of people who were explore this region. We subscribed to many NE news feed, Facebook pages and websites which gave us more information about happenings across these places. The mind-blowing images and pictures were too compelling and inviting to be ignored.
By the beginning of this year, Atul and I were completely determined to do NE ride in the next couple of months. With that motive we had been saving up for the trip for quite some time and serious planning started from the month of February. We decided to do this as a solo trip (only Atul and I) just to see if we are capable of doing a month’s trip all by ourselves. Most of our rides are either accompanied by friends or they would be some short solo 500-600, 4-5 days trip. A lot of research went in understanding the road conditions, weather scenes, accessibility of places by bike, safety and stay. North East has started opening up now for tourists and people are getting to know more about it, however, one can find very less information and detailed description on the internet. We spoke to a lot of our relatives and friends staying in various parts of NE to understand and receive all necessary details.
Many plans were made, dropped, re-made, again dropped and this continued for several such plans until we boiled down on the final agenda of our ride, day wise destinations, places to see, route maps and stay bookings. Our initial plan was to cover all seven states but then this would mean going off from work for more than a month (we had to take 16 working days leave, and with 8 weekends days and 2 holidays combined for the 26 days). Also, after extensive research, asking around people and Google search we could figure out that major parts of roads in Tripura and Mizoram were literally inaccessible and in very bad shape. We did check with HVK Sir as well on all the roads, their conditions, safety and other details. Finally, we zeroed down on five states, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Atul listed all destinations for each day, distance to be covered every day and approximate time of arrival. This time we decided to book hotel on the go.
Next thing to do was some tweaking with Hulk and make it ready for an almost close to 10K kms ride. It was very important to keep Hulk fit and fine for the roads less travelled, specifically crossing the notorious Sela Pass. We would be riding through extreme conditions, rains were predicted, snow covered terrain and roads, sudden outburst of Sun, etc. All these things meant Hulk should be strong enough to endure all of the situations. Atul fixed the below items in Hulk:
• New chain sprocket kit worth Rs 12,000
• New tyres – Pirelli MT 60 front and rear worth Rs 20,000
• New Aux lights of Mad Dog worth Rs 9,000
• New EBC brake pads worth Rs 9,000
Along with the upgrades, Hulk was serviced here in Bangalore with the all requirements as our next service was supposed to happen when we reach Kolkata.
One of our biggest dilemma for this trip was to whether ship Hulk till Guwahati and then carry on with our journey or ride all the way from Bangalore. Shipping the vehicle would mean that we would get additional 7-8 days to explore NE. However, both Atul and I always have this strong feeling that a car/bike trip should begin from home and end at home with the vehicle. It gives us more satisfaction and a kind of inner peace on the wholeness of the journey (this is entirely our notion and we are not at all against people who ship their bikes while in a road trip). Moreover, we are a bit skeptical of the physical damage a bike goes through with most shipments as we heard many incidents where our friends shipped their bikes to particular destinations and the bike wasn’t handled properly by the carriers. The last thing we needed was an injured Hulk so we decided to ride all the way from Bangalore.
Coming to the amount we spent during the ride, the total expense was Rs 1,04,695. A break-up can be seen below:
The most important thing after we were done with the final planning and fixing up Hulk was with preparing the check list of stuff to be carried along with us for this mega trip for 26 days. We had to carefully choose what to take along with us and what not so that we don’t overload ourselves and Hulk, hence prepared a list of all the essential items needed to be carried. The list we prepared was something like this:
• Bare minimum clothes to survive 26 days (mostly dry fits, extra jeans, extra towels, etc.)
• Extra pair of shoes, socks
• Sleeping bags
• Marriage certificate Xerox (never know when a hotel guy would ask for this)
• Tool kit, puncture kit and electric inflator
• Chain lube and cleaners
• Rain gear
• Medicines (fever, cough, cold, stomach ache, headache, stool, bandages, crape bandages, motion sickness pills)
• Gloves to wear during extreme cold weather
• All electronic items and their chargers
• Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, hand sanitizers, hand wash, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, comb, sunscreen, body lotion, lip balm, lens solution, etc.)
• Torch or flash light
• Bluetooth speakers (this was to listen to music when we are bored)
• Snacks (some biscuits, quick bites, etc. This we refilled along our journey)
• Tissues (both wet and dry)
• Sunglasses and anti-glare glasses
• Cloth cleaning soap (just in case we need to do some quick laundry)
• Scissors and a small knife
• A spoon and a glass
• A notepad and a pen
This list actually covered us up really well. To carry all the things, we took our Dirtsack Frogman saddle bag, Rynox Optimus M Tank Bag, Viaterra Raptor Tail Bag and a back-pack from Decathlon. We also carried our tent chair, extra bungee cords and camera tripod. A week before the ride day, we visited Decathlon store in Bannerghatta road and picked up some important things like warm gloves, trek dry fit pants, flash lights, etc. Atul also picked up a Jio sim to be on the safer side when we run out of Airtel coverage, in case (this wasn’t of much help though).
As mentioned earlier that we would decide on our hotel stay as in when we are approaching each day’s destination, here is a list of all the hotels we stayed (along with fare for each night):
• Visakhapatnam – Treebo MVP Grand (Rs 1660 for 1 night in a Deluxe room)
• Kolkata – Vinayak Guest House (Rs 2541 for 2 nights in a non AC Deluxe room)
• Siliguri – Hotel Gitanjali Inn (Rs 920 for 1 night in a Deluxe AC room)
• Guwahati – no stay required, as my parents stay here
• Bomdila – Anu Homestay (Rs 2000 for 1 night in a non AC Deluxe room)
• Tawang – Bumla Inn (Rs 2778 for 2 nights in a non AC Deluxe room)
• Tezpur – Hotel DL (Rs 1076 for 1 night in a Deluxe AC room)
• Majuli – Kamalabari Satra Guest House (Rs 700 for 1 night – standard room)
• Sibsagar – Hotel Shiva Palace (Rs 2688 for 2 nights in a Deluxe AC room)
• Kohima – Hotel Pine (Rs 2000 for 2 nights in a non AC Deluxe room)
• Imphal – Hotel Lanchenba (Rs 4400 for 2 nights in a Deluxe AC room)
• Kaziranga – Hotel Kaziranga Continental, Golaghat (Rs 1751 for 1 night in a Deluxe AC room)
• Shillong – OYO 11853 Pumpkin rooms (Rs 3569 for 2 nights in a Deluxe AC room)
• Guwahati - no stay required, as my parents stay here
• Siliguri – Hotel Golden Inn (Rs 1007 for 1 night in a Deluxe AC room)
• Kolkata – OYO 4102 Guru Kripa (Rs 985 for 1 night in a Deluxe AC room)
• Visakhapatnam – OYO 13123 SRK Grand (Rs 862 for 1 night in a Deluxe AC room)
Most of the hotels were good, friendly and quite accommodating, barring few where we had some bitter experiences. Will write about it in details when I get into day wise travelogue.
In between we kept checking for more details, present situation of the region, floods, landslides, earthquakes (entire NE region is susceptible to earthquakes of magnitude more than 8.0), anti-social activities, road conditions, etc. Though I was happy and excited at the same time, I’m riding towards my birthplace, towards the beauty of my Motherland, yet it is always better to be cautious and alert at the same time. Nearly covered up everything with respect to planning and arranging things, both of us started counting our days backwards as we couldn’t wait for the ride day to come.
As usual, some quick bytes from our ride:
Riders: Atul and I (pillion)
Bike: Kawasaki Versys 650
Dates: 7th April to 2nd May 2018 (26 days)
Route taken: BTM > Visakhapatnam > Bhubaneshwar > Kolkata > Dumka > Purnia > Siliguri > Guwahati > Bomdila > Tawang > Tezpur > Majuli > Sibsagar > Kohima > Imphal > Kaziranga (Golaghat) > Shillong > Guwahati > Siliguri > Purnia > Dumka > Kolkata > Visakhapatnam > BTM
Distance covered: 10000 kms approx.
Total expenditure (for two people) – Rs 104695 This was a complete toll free ride
Along with photos, we have also documented the entire journey in videos. Below are the two videos summarizing our experiences and memories of these 26 days:
Day-wise videos will be posted shortly.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 1 (Bangalore to Visakhapatnam – 1105kms)
Like any other normal ride, Atul did the rituals of filling up Hulk and optimal air pressure on both the tyres, the previous night. For me packing was a bit hectic as I had to travel to Mysore the previous two days on official work and returned only by Friday 8pm. With just few hours left to start the ride and sensing this hassle, I did majority of my packing beforehand. Had to do minor last moment stuffing yet it was taking time. Having slept around 11pm, both of us got up by 2am, got ready, geared up and made the bags ready. By 2:30am both of us were in the parking lot, helping Atul place all the bags properly and securely, it took a while to fasten up everything tightly. Around 3:15am in the morning, locked home, started the bike, hit the road and here it was – beginning of 26 days blissful trip.
We took the KR Puram road to exit Bangalore city. It was a beautiful, cool, breezy Saturday morning and both of us were extremely excited to embark on this journey for lifetime. The ride was smooth till we reached Kolar and then Mulbagal, by now we crossed 100 odd kms and it was a blissful journey with 4 lane highway all the way. Not much that we could enjoy the nature as it was totally dark at that point of time. We stopped by at a toll booth right after Mulbagal for a quick break as we felt our tail bag was a bit loosely tied up and we needed to fasten it. All of a sudden from nowhere the entire place was covered with a thick blanket of fog and visibility dropped to a large extent. With a 15 mins break we started with our ride once again and may be after some 20kms from this toll booth spot, the 4 lane highway got over and we entered double lane highway with relatively poorer road conditions. Thankfully it started becoming dawn and there was a bit of day light to pour in, this helped us gauge the road and avoid getting inside potholes. The road conditions continued to get worse and pathetic with too many potholes, gravels and uneven road surface. Reached Chittoor at about 7am and all the way till we reached Srinivasa Mangapuram Tirumala Road junction, the state highway was in completely bad condition and it ate up a lot of our time. We did a quick pit stop for tea and some biscuits in between.
Around 8am we reached Tirupati and took the Tirupati bypass to reach Renigunta, this was a four lane butter smooth highway. From here we reached Srikalahasti and took Puthalapattu-Naidupeta road to reach Naidupeta from where we would connect the highway, NH 16. The road till Naidupeta was in ok conditions, not many potholes but a double lane state highway. After touching highway at Naidupeta by 9:45am, the highway opened and it was mostly a combination of four and six lane highway. The ride was highly boring and the heat of Andhra was getting into us with each passing minute. By now both of us were hungry as well and started looking for a place to eat. We couldn’t find a decent restaurant for quite some time and kept going on and on. Finally, we couldn’t wait any longer and agreed to stop by at a local hut kind of place to have whatever available with them, it was around 10:15am in the morning. The lady gave us some oil dipped vada, plain dosas, some sambar and coconut chutney. With no other option left we gulped down the food and flushed the utterly oily things with a cup of tea. Done with the food, and some rest we decided to move ahead. While turning the bike to get on the highway, Atul couldn’t judge the surface of the ground and the bike fell. I wasn’t on it as was waiting for him to bring the bike up on the highway. Nonetheless nothing happened to the bike as the crash guards took all the impact, only the hand guards had some minor scratches. Not a single bruise for Atul as well. A guy was helpful enough to give a helping hand to Atul in bringing back Hulk onto the wheels (225kgs and with all the luggage, Hulk is a beast in itself).
Moving on, we kept riding ahead and our next stop was a petrol break. This came after traveling 450kms approx. from home. We have a long way to go. As mentioned earlier, the heat was just unbearable and the highway was a damn boring one. We kept taking breaks in between, be it for photos or for drinking some water, cold drinks, etc. to keep us cool and sane. I was feeling fatigue at times due to lack of proper rest yet reaching our destination was highly important, so we kept going on.
With lesser breaks from now on and trying to cope up with the hot weather, we covered a lot of kilometers and finally reached Vijayawada at around 3pm in the afternoon. Surprisingly, the weather here was a bit cooler compared to what we faced on the way. However, the worst part was in order to exit the city we almost took 45 mins due to heavy rush, traffic and flyover construction. Hulk and we definitely caught a lot of attention while crossing the city with people asking us the usual curiosity questions (where are we from, where are we going, etc. etc.). As soon as we exited Vijayawada, our next stop was to have lunch. Halted at a dhaba called Dinesh Restaurant and ordered our food, tandoori rotis, dal fry, chicken curry and some cold drinks as they were not serving tea.
By 4:15pm we completed our lunch, paid the bills, did a quick petrol stop in the petrol bunk nearby and hit the highway again, we had 350kms more to go before we reach our destination. We took lesser breaks and agreed to cover as much distance possible before darkness sets in. It was almost sunset time and we reached a place called Tadepallegudem when Atul felt some wobbling of the wheels. We immediately stopped and after looking properly, there was this puncture. A new tyre and then this puncture, but what else can be done rather than fixing the puncture. Couple of locals offered to help us but with illogical and senseless conditions. One guy told us he will take us to the nearest puncture point but we would need to fill up his bike’s tank fully. Another one told he can point out to the puncture shop but would need Rs 200 from us. Not sure why some people are so insensitive and always in the lookout for minting money from someone’s plight. Anyway, we ignored all of them and took out our puncture kit to locate the exact point of the puncture, fix it and inflate the tyre using the ResQtech Micro electric tyre inflator which we connected to the cigarette lighter port on the dash of the bike. Luckily this place was somewhere near vast crop fields and being evening time, the area was not all crowded. We could do our work peacefully. We wasted some 30 mins here and looked like we were already behind schedule. I quickly clicked some sunset photos and once the puncture was dealt with, we started with our ride.
Attachment 1785356For some reason Google asked us to exit the national highway and proceed further by entering Rajahmundry city, which we did around 7pm. Evening time and the town’s roads were jammed with traffic, once again we lost a lot of time navigating through the town roads and reconnecting the national highway. Google Maps can totally screw up someone’s direction at times. The only thing we didn’t wanted to encounter today was rain, but Rain God had other plans. To our dismay, it started drizzling and we could see dark rain clouds all over the sky. There was lightening too. A straight highway, lightening streaks from sky to the horizon, drizzle and windy surroundings, it can’t be scarier than this. We decided to keep moving ahead.
The entire highway was wet and there were water puddles towards the edges, looked like it rained heavily a while ago. We were very sure that the weather is going to get worse so we stopped right after a toll booth and wore our rain gears, which means even if it rains heavily we could continue moving ahead to how much ever distance possible. Luckily it was just mild drizzles and quite ok to keep riding ahead in the highway. We agreed on not taking dinner break to not lose extra time, decided to call our Treebo hotel to check if we can get food even if we reach a bit late. Hotel folks were quite accommodating and told us that food shouldn’t be an issue as they will arrange something for us.
Around 11pm we entered Visakhapatnam city and it started to pour in a bit heavily now. It took us a while to locate our hotel but it was 20 mins pass 11 o’clock and we made it to our first destination halt within a day – 20 hours. We were a bit drenched when we reached the hotel but the guys were quite friendly and asked us not to bother about the dirt and all. They were amused by the fact that we rode all the way from Bangalore. We unloaded the bags, which got a bit dirty with the rain splashes and mud on the way but not a single trace of water leaking inside the bags. Atul completed all the hotel formalities while the guy guided me towards our room.
Treebo MVP Grand in Visakhapatnam is a nice affordable and cozy stay. The hotel is a bit in a cramped up location with not much space to park (Hulk was somehow parked in front of the hotel itself), apparently it is very near to Kailasagiri Beach. But the hotel staff are quite friendly, helpful and polite. The interior of the place is kept very neat and tide (we felt guilty of messing it up with our shoes and wet clothes). We paid Rs 1660 for a night for a Deluxe AC room). The guys also reminded us of the complimentary breakfast in the morning which started from 7am till 10:30am.
For dinner they helped us with two chicken biriyani which they got it from a nearby restaurant, was still open. Rs 500 for two biriyani was a bit expensive but then in that hunger we didn’t complain much. We got freshened up, took only those things needed for the night, ate our food, kept all electronics for charging and immediately hit the bed. In no time, both of us went to sleep. It was a long tiring day but a fruitful one. Covering more than 1100kms in a day wasn’t easy and we both did it. Next day would bring in another destination but till the dawn let us both rest for a while.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 2 (Visakhapatnam to Kolkata – 875kms)
Our day started at around 7:30am when both of us got up. Surprisingly we weren’t tired at all from the previous day’s ride. Had to leave for Kolkata as soon as possible but then we had to clean up our luggage a bit which got dirty the previous night, we also decided to grab some complimentary breakfast from the hotel before starting. Wiped cleaned all our luggage, riding gears, and shoes/boots. After this we took bath, got ready and headed for some food. Vada, idly, upma, puri and sabji followed by tea was what served for breakfast. Food tasted too good and we ate properly so that the next stop for food should be lunch. One of the hotel guy helped cleaning the dirt off Hulk, such good people. Took us some 20 mins to load the bike with the bags and it was 9am when we started the journey ahead, towards Kolkata.
It was a nice cool Sunday morning and traffic was a bit low. As soon as we exited Visakhapatnam city limits and entered the national highway, the first thing we did was to tank up Hulk. A straight boring open highway and all we did was keep going on and on. The weather was on our side, it was a breezy warm summer day. Around 11:30am we stopped for a quick water and photo break, this was just to break the monologue of riding continuously. Some more kilometers ahead and we entered Odisha state border by 1pm in the noon between Ichchapuram and Brahmapur. As soon as we entered Odisha, the highway started becoming a bit bumpy and few occasional potholes here and there. The worst was traffic coming in the right lane from the opposite directions with high beams and the herds of cattle, sheep, and cows grazing on the road. We had to be extremely careful and cautious all the while.
At a place called Ganjam we took our second petrol break for the day around 2pm. This was a large spaced out Indian Oil Petrol bunk with not only many lines for petrol/diesel but also other amenities like rest room area, super clean and tidy wash rooms, changing rooms, food area, etc. I guess the place was called ‘Coco Subalaya’ and I was totally impressed. They had an area towards the back of the main petrol filling station where they had a wall with vehicle number plates from all across the states and union territories in India. The railway tracks ran right behind the station as well. After filling in fuel, taking some rest and freshening up, we started our ride but in another 20kms we had to stop again, the view of Chilika Lake was coming up.
As we crossed some 20-25kms, the highway turned into a valley and from the top one can see the magnificent view of the vast Chilika Lake. Stopping here is kind of ok if you park your bike/car towards the edge of the highway as it is one way, the opposite lane runs in from a different direction. During my engineering days whenever I took the train between Guwahati and Bangalore, the railway tracks used to pass on very close to the periphery of the lake. The distance view of Chilika is just so mesmerizing and looks almost like a never ending ocean. One can see a lot of fishing boats and also boats giving tourists tour of the lake. Apparently, this is the largest coastal lagoon in India and second largest in the world. The lake is home to many migratory and endangered species of birds. It is also noted that birds as far as the Caspian Sea, other remote parts of Russia, Ladakh and Himalayas come here during season. Since we were quite far from the actual lake we couldn’t see any birds but just some flying by common cranes. The highway, green mountains, blue sky, arrow straight train tracks and the vast spread lake, the sight was just gorgeous and soothing to the soul. We were lucky enough to even witnessed a train crossing by as well. We spend some time here enjoying the view, clicking pictures, some water and by 3pm we moved forward.
With continuously riding for the next couple of hours or so, we finally reached Bhubaneshwar. Without getting much inside the city we could easily exit the city and just before reaching Cuttack we stopped by at a highway dhaba and grabbed some food for the day, it was a long way since we had our breakfast. We ordered tandoori roti, dal fry, fish curry for Atul, omelet and our favorite beverage, tea to end with. It was 5:30pm and another 430kms to reach our today’s destination. Looked like a difficult task but then we didn’t have any other option but to do our best and try to reach Kolkata today itself. Each passing hour made us reach closer to our destination and around 9:45pm we left Odisha border and entered West Bengal via Jaleswar.
By now fatigue started creeping in and both started feeling restless. We decided to do a quick tea break, while we realized we needed a fuel break as well. Filled in petrol, stopped by at a highway tea shop and drank some 3-4 cups of tea, ate some biscuits and snacks. This was a much needed break for both of us to regain energy and complete the remaining last leg of the today’s ride. We called up the hotel guy and informed them that we would be a bit late in reaching. He told us to reach safely and that to give him a call when we reach, he would open the door. 15 mins and we hit the highway again, didn’t want to spend more time and invite unwanted attention.
It was 12:30am and we entered the city of Kolkata. Once again locating the hotel was a bit difficult because Google Maps kept giving us alternate routes all the time and Kolkata city roads in itself can be quite confusing. After taking some wrong turns, we finally reached our stay, Vinayak Guest House in Salt Lake City. Gave the guy couple of calls and finally he picked up, opened the door for us and all we needed at that time was confusion. Apparently on the app we booked a room wherein the bathroom is not attached and have to use the common bathroom outside. We asked him if the room can be reallocated now as we would definitely need an attached bathroom room. After much deliberation and discussion he finally agreed to give us a room where the occupant will come in next morning. I felt it was a hassle to get into one room and then in the morning again move to another one with all the luggage, and also pay more. We decided to continue with our existing room and thought of adjusting with the bathroom part. I did a quick check and found it to be neat and tidy to be used (the guy told us that the bathroom is not used by anyone as all other rooms have their own one and this is just like a spare). Atul finished all the checking formalities, got all the luggage and we settled inside the room which costed us Rs 2541 for two nights.
Vinayak Guest House is an apartment turned into a homestay, neat, clean and very well maintained. It is located in the heart of Salt Lake City overseeing a massive football ground. Parking space isn’t too much as cars need to be parked outside, but Hulk could squeeze into a small space inside the main gate. The staff was friendly and quite accommodating, since we reached quite late at night.
We decided to skip dinner as both of us weren’t hungry. Settled our bags, freshened up and hit the sack. No riding tomorrow but have to take Hulk to the service center. The second important task was to reach Nagaland House and get our state permit. 1:30am and both of us went to sleep.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 3 (At Kolkata – roughly some 50kms)
The day started a bit late today as it was more of a relaxing no ride day but then had to finish two very important work – get Hulk serviced and obtain Nagaland state permit from Nagaland House. Both of us got up around 9am in the morning, breakfast was complimentary in the hotel and once we freshened up, folks served us aloo paratha and tea. Done with our food, took bath, got ready and we headed out from the hotel around 10:30am towards Nagaland House.
Being a Monday morning we did encounter some city traffic and our Google Maps was always on so as to reach places without much hassle, not that G Maps is always accurate but something is better than nothing. We first went to Nagaland House which is in Salt Lake City area but apparently that wasn’t the office from where we would get the permits. They guided us to a different one which is located in Shakespeare Sarani. Without spending much time we headed straight to that office. It took us some 20-25mins to reach the place, made entry into the register book and went upstairs towards the office (located at the 2nd floor of an old building). We had a little argument with the security guard who was quite rude and didn’t let us park Hulk inside the premise of the building, which means park it outside and have the uncertainty of it getting towed away. After some explanations, he reluctantly agreed if we promise to come back really soon.
Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by Government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period. Indian states in the North East which require ILP are Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. This document is an effort by the government to regulate movement to protected areas located near the international borders.
We already got our Arunachal Pradesh ILP via online purchase for a sum of Rs 100 (www.arunachalilp.com is the website). Nagaland permit was something which was to be collected in person from offices either from Kolkata, Guwahati or Dimapur. We also needed Nagaland issued ILP as we needed to enter Manipur by road via Dimapur or Kohima. Once we reached the small cramped up office, there were few people lazily sitting around the space. We approached a lady and asked her for the forms and the procedures. She handed over two forms to us very uninterestingly, asked Rs 50 per person for the registration process and Rs 2 per form (we paid a total of Rs 104). We filled in the forms and provided all necessary supporting documents. She told us to come the next day to collect the permits, we told her we were there just for a day and needed the forms by today end of the day since we would leave the city early morning tomorrow. Rudely she replied that she will try what can be done, all the four designated signatories were out of office and not sure when they would return. She asked us to come around 4pm in the evening. I was really pissed off at her behavior, first of all she was reluctant to do her job, and secondly what does she mean that all signatories were out of office – what would happen if there is an emergency situation and someone needs the permit as soon as possible and thirdly, the attitude was so unhelpful. Why is it that the job they are assigned to do is such a burden for some people? Anyway, not much that can be done but to wait until 4pm and see what comes our way.
Atul called up the Kawasaki Service Centre and asked for appointment. With the present traffic, Google predicted to reach there by 11:45am and our appointment was for 12noon. While we were taking a turn somewhere near the service center few traffic cops stopped us seeing the KA registered vehicle and also Hulk was huge enough to catch their attention. They asked us for our papers, NOC papers to enter Kolkata and the reason for coming to the city. I found this really stupid as in why is it so difficult to travel within our own country and questioned with so many irrelevant questions, neither did we break traffic rules, nor are we some illegal foreigners who entered country illegally. Nonetheless, while we showed all our papers and the reasons for which we were in the city, we didn’t have the NOC papers to be shown as we were not aware that one should carry such papers while traveling within country, within cities. Taking advantage of the situation, the cops demanded Rs2000 as fine from us which was absurdly foolish. When we resisted, questioned back saying can they show us the rule where it is written to pay such amount as fine, and that we were mere travelers who want to go around and see unexplored places and not want to cause any harm, and won’t have so much money to give out, the junior cops asked us to speak to the senior guy. The senior guy looked quite educated, well-groomed and someone who would be in a very high post. Atul went and told him that we don’t have so much money, don’t even have the NOC papers as we were not aware of such rules, the officer asked him to settle the issue and pay whatever money we have. Atul ended up paying Rs200 to them instead of arguing and wasting time. Incident like this really annoys normal citizen like us and takes away whatever little respect we have for the policemen. With a bit of disgust and frustration, we proceed further towards the service center after having lost considerable amount of time in that nuisance situation.
Sharp 12noon and we were there in the Kawasaki Service Center. There were other bikes lined up, including UMs, Aprilias, Vespas, etc. Atul instructed the guy to do what all work needs to be done in the bike, including oil change, coolant top up, brake checks, etc. The guy promised to deliver the bike around 2pm. Instead of going anywhere else, we decided to spend some time there in the center, wait for the bike to be ready and get it back along with us. Clicked some pictures, took some GoPro videos, drank tea, chit chatted for a while, looked around the other bikes, and time just flew away. Around 2pm we got the bike, bill was around Rs 4240. Thanked the service center manager for getting Hulk serviced on priority (we mentioned him that we are on a 26 days road trip towards NE India, listening to this made him super excited and wished us luck for the remaining part of the ride and gave us a pack of UM branded chain lube and chain cleaner free).
We had two hours to kill before going to the Nagaland office to collect the permit and Victoria Memorial was quite nearby. I visited this place long back when I was a kid and don’t even recollect how it looked from inside. I convinced Atul to quickly get inside and roam around the palace from outside, this way we will kill time and get a place to visit as well. Just when we were trying to park Hulk in some proper parking area and not finding one, we asked a nearby guarding traffic cop if there is any designated place to park two wheelers. His answer was negative but then he told us we can park next to his vehicle if we gave him Rs 50 while we leave. Not sure whether to laugh, get frustrated, agree to him or keep going round in circles to find some parking place, finally we agreed and parked Hulk next to the vehicle of these cops. Entry fee inside the memorial was Rs 20 for two people.
Dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria, Victoria Memorial is one of the most iconic structures in Kolkata, a large marble building. The building is now turned into a museum and tourist destination. With the Hooghly River flowing behind this building, the place is truly a sight to the eyes. The building is surrounded by a sprawling garden, a beautiful clean water lake with trees all along, and statues commemorating Lord Curzon, Queen Victoria, Lord Hastings, Edward VII and many others. We spent some 45 mins here looking around, clicking pictures and then decided to head towards the Nagaland House to collect our permits. Oh! By the way, we did pay the cop Rs 50 as parking fee.
Reached the premise around 4:15pm and once again had to convince the security guard to let us park within the premise and we would return soon. Disappointment to the highest level – our forms were just lying there with nothing done and upon asking she told us that the forms can’t be signed today as one of the signatories didn’t come to office, we need to come tomorrow morning. We asked a refund of our money which she refused to give and told that is processing fee. I told what processing fee when the forms were lying there just the way we left it in the morning, but she told whatever it is money can’t be refunded. We asked to provide us a receipt of the same and she mentioned that the receipt book is over. Well, we knew that the money is going nowhere apart from her wallet, we walked out from the office. Our next chance was to try and get the permit from Guwahati office, which meant we would have to stay an extra day in Guwahati (this was not in our actual plan).
We both were completely furious at the behavior of those people but then we had no other choice left. Decided to forget what has happened and enjoy the remaining part of the evening. The city of joy was not at all joyous for us.
We planned to go next to famous Prinsep Ghat which was some 12 kms away from Shakespeare Sarani. Evening time and traffic scene is something that goes hand in hand with any city in India. To our much delight, we also got a glimpse of the iconic Eden Gardens (this was the time when IPL was on). Around 6pm we were near the park entry for the ghat. We withdrew some cash from a nearby ATM as we were running low on cash and decided to have some lime water and chaat before entering the park. The porch was constructed on the bank of Hooghly River in the memory of eminent Anglo-Indian scholar and antiquary James Prinsep. The structure resembles a lot towards Greek and Gothic architectures. People visit here in the evenings to go boating, stroll along the bank, eat from the food stalls and get a magnificent view of the Vidyasagar Setu (2nd Hooghly Bridge). Since both of us were completely tired running around the whole day and have to ride again the next day, we spent some 30 mins here and decided to head back hotel.
By 7:30pm we reached our hotel, took some half an hour rest and then decided to step out for some food. Since everything was within vicinity, we agreed on walking. First we went to a local food place and ordered some authentic Bengali Biriyani, both mutton and chicken, some tandoori rotis and then anda tadka. We were so hungry that the food got over in no time and to top it up, they were extraordinarily awesome. After dinner Atul wanted to have some Nolen Gurer Rasogullas – Rasgullas made out of jaggery and misti doi (sweet curd) (something that can’t be missed if you are in Kolkata). We got inside a sweet shop and had Rasgullas and Misti Doi. With a full stomach and equally full blissful soul from the amazing sumptuous dinner, we took a stroll back to the hotel.
Did most of our packing for the ride again tomorrow to reach Siliguri. Plan was to start as early as possible and reach Siliguri during day light. 11pm and we went to sleep.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 4 (Kolkata to Siliguri – 680 kms)
Atul and I got up at around 6:15am in the morning. Time to get ready, gear up and head for our next destination, which is Siliguri. We would take the Purnia route to reach Siliguri and this route was almost 700kms. With all sorted with packing bags, tying them up on the bike, we started the ride at sharp 7am. It was nice bright Monday morning and there wasn’t much traffic while exiting the city. Once we left the city limits and entered the highway, there was a huge pile up of trucks before the NHAI Toll Plaza. Apparently, this is one of the busiest junction for entering and exiting Kolkata city, trucks being parked on both sides of the highway and huge flow of vehicles makes crossing the section quite time taking. We had to be careful while squeezing through the trucks and other vehicles and somehow after some 20 minutes we cleared the jam and hit the highway. Did a quick stop for petrol in a HP bunk.
By 9am we reached Bardhaman town and this is where we decided to have our breakfast, of not being sure if we would get anything to eat later on. Quickly had some puri, aloo mater sabji and tea. This didn’t take much time and once again after a 20 mins break we resumed our ride. We had the plan of taking very less breaks today and try to cover maximum distance in lesser time. We reached Durgapur and around 10:40am we entered Asansol. From here we had to let go off the highway and take a right diversion towards the Asansol Gourandi Road which would take us to Dumka.
After some kilometers we reached the Ajay River which separates West Bengal and Jharkhand, which means we entered Jharkhand state now. This is when the roads started becoming bad until we reach Naugachia near Bhagalpur to enter the national highway again (few good sections in between though). Most sections of the road were getting constructed, fresh gravel being laid down, huge cranes and bulldozers, road rollers, etc. were the common sight. The ride was a bit painful with the tyres running around the loose gravels and not getting a proper grip onto the ground. Additionally, there was a lot of dust on the road due to heavy vehicles blowing it off by their big tyres. A painful, dusty and tiring ride it was almost for the next four-five hours. We crossed Dumka zilla, then reached Hansdiha and then finally Bhagalpur via Dumka Bhagalpur state highway. Lost a lot of time between Dumka and Bhagalpur trying to ride through extremely bad roads, crowded market and towns, cattle and cows walking on the roads, insensible people trying to cross roads and vehicles coming from all directions. The only thing which was making us sane and keep going was the amazingly beautiful landscape and incessant wind across the country side roads.
In between, around 2:30pm we entered Bihar state. This wasn’t a very pleasant ride for both of us and we nearly lost patience and got restless. We thought of taking a break for lunch, relax for a while and then start fresh once again. Kept looking for a place to eat, we were also running low on fuel by now. At the next nearest petrol station we filled up Hulk and then around 3pm we stopped by at a local eatery called Spice Villa for food. Ordered simple chicken curry, dal fry and rice followed by tea. This eatery was some 20kms away from Bhagalpur town and we had another 250kms left to reach our destination. This is where we booked our stay for today in Siliguri. Done with food we started our ride with the intention to not waste time. Just before entering Bhagalpur, there was a huge traffic piled up on that two lane highway. More than a thousand trucks were parked on both sides of the road leaving very less place for two way traffic to go smoothly. We somehow tried squeezing between vehicles and find our way out. Even this wasted a lot of our time and we were already running behind schedule.
Bhagalpur is a city with historic importance and one of the largest cities in Bihar. It is a major educational, commercial and political hub and listed for development under the Smart City program. We reached this city at around 5pm and the traffic was a complete mayhem. Google guided us through some interior residential roads and this cut down the jam to a large extent. The city bypass is still under construction and once it is ready it will ease out a lot of traffic for people who intend to go further and not enter the city. Roads inside the city are in pathetic conditions and due to heavy rainfall, most of them are completely filled with water as well. While exiting the city, we crossed the iconic Vikramshila Setu across the Ganges. It is the 5th longest river bridge over water in India and connects to Purnia through NH31.
Around 5:30pm we reached Naugachia (Zero Mile) and connected with the NH31 to go towards Purnia. This road is also called as Barauni Purnia highway and a nice scenic road to cross by. It being a two lane highway yet vehicles move here insanely fast without bothering about the safety of others. Though the roads were in an ok conditions with occasional potholes here and there, Atul could easily keep up pace and cover distance easily. By 6:30pm we reached Purnia and took the Purnia Siliguri highway (this was a four lane highway all the way up till Siliguri).
As we reached Kishanganj, it started drizzling. Looked like there was a big thunderstorm sometimes earlier destroying the trees, tree branches falling on the highway and large puddles of water. We halted at a place with sufficient street lights and put on our rain gears, wanted to reach Siliguri as early as possible before it starts raining heavily once again. There was a lot of water splashing by heavy trucks on the highway which sprayed rain water back on us, rain gear helped us a lot of time when trucks used to almost get us drenched by splashing water.
Moving forward with no breaks at all, around 10pm we entered Siliguri. The freshness of tea estates was still lingering around the atmosphere and there was a mild foggy blanket all around the road. We stopped for a moment and gave a call to the hotel guy saying we would be there in some 20 mins and if food would be available. He asked us to get some parcel on our way as the kitchen was closed for the day. Luckily some of the eateries were still open and we stopped at a place to get some food packed. Took rotis, mutton curry and dal fry. It started raining drop by drop and this time Google Maps didn’t fail us at all. It took us straight to the hotel where we booked our room. 10:30pm and we reached our stay.
Hotel Gitanjali Inn is situated right behind the tea auction center and is in a close proximity to the rail station, bus station and Bagdogra airport. The straightforward rooms are amazingly great for the price we paid (Rs 920 per night for a deluxe AC room). The hotel folks were good too, they let us park Hulk inside the hotel basement and helped us finish check in formalities quickly. We unloaded the bags, got inside the room, quickly freshened up and then sat down to have our dinner. Food was quite nicely prepared and we both ate till our stomach was full, only thing missing was a cup of tea. While I opened the window and looked outside, it was raining quite heavily with thunderstorm and lightening, lucky that we got inside just in time.
A quick cleanup of our stuff which got dirty while the ride, keeping things ready for the next ride tomorrow, both of us decided to call it a day. Around 12am both of us went to sleep.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 5 (Siliguri to Guwahati – 475 kms)
Isn’t the excitement of going home, always the best feeling? Same was the case with me today, we were riding home, Guwahati. Both of us woke up at around 6am, packed our bags, freshened up, got ready and just when we were about to leave the room, Atul just took a sneak peek outside and alas! It was raining very heavily. Apparently it was raining cats and dogs the whole night and the forecast for today was equally gloomy, cloudy and full of rain. While we waited out the rain for a while, we decided to load Hulk with the luggage mean time. When it started becoming a bit lesser, we wore our rain gear and decided to not waste time and keep moving forward. We started our ride by 7am.
Not much traffic other than the school buses, army vehicles and some trucks and in no time we exited Siliguri town. Our plan was to stop by at the Coronation Bridge over Sevok/Teesta River which was some 23kms away from our hotel. The moment we were crossing the Sevok Forest, amidst the military base, it started raining heavily and rain gear wasn’t of much help. We partially got drenched and it was a very awful feeling. Somehow we reached the junction of the Coronation Bridge at around 8am and luckily the rain almost stopped. This junction is a very important one, as one road leads to Sikkim, another towards Guwahati and the one we came from leads to Siliguri, obviously.
We parked the bike, took some photos, and enjoyed the beautiful Teesta River and the mountain ranges seen at a distance. While vehicles are not allowed to stop in this bridge, there are small pavements on both sides for people to walk around and enjoy the scenic view around. Prayer flags all over the place, fluttering, makes the atmosphere more colorful. Teesta River is one of the major tributary of Brahmaputra River, flowing through India and Bangladesh. During monsoon the river flow is the heaviest and glaciers supply abundant meltwater. The river is rich in biodiversity and provides livelihoods to the residents along its entire length. The river has been under constant dispute between Bhutan, India and Bangladesh, with India claiming to hold 55% of the river’s water. However, whatever said and done, the river does provide a soulful view, gets you mesmerizingly admire its natural beauty. After a 30 mins break, we resumed our ride forward at 8:30am.
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All the way from Sevok to Hasimara, roads are amazingly breath-taking with rich green vegetation on both sides of the highway, mild mist flowing across the trees, grasslands, numerous tea plantation, trails of Teesta River and fog covered mountain ranges. This is a two lane highway with fast moving traffic so have to be careful and not drift away just by enjoying the view. We stopped at places to click pictures and got off from our rain gears to get dried. By 10:15am we reached Chalsa and decided to stop for our breakfast. Most places were closed and not yet opened for food, somehow got a place where they agreed to prepare something for us – aloo paratha and tea. After food we relaxed for a while, cleaned off some of the dirt from our saddlebags, arranged our rain gears, took a quick petrol break from the nearby petrol station and resumed our ride again at 11am.
For the next couple of hours, we agreed on not taking breaks and cover distance. After crossing Alipurduar town, we connected to NH27 which turned into a four lane highway but the road condition was highly pathetic. There was huge crater shaped potholes, mud, slush and rain water puddles in most sections of the highway. Most parts of the highway had large road rollers, cranes and construction materials dumped into and as a result the traffic had to take a lot of diversions. For a long while one will not be able to figure out if they are in the right side of the lane or on the wrong. Our saddle bags turned completely dirty and muddy white, thankfully, Dirtsack’s Frogman didn’t let a single drop of water go through the main compartment.
Around 1:30pm we entered Assam and there I was, riding all the way from Bangalore to my home state. The feeling just couldn’t be expressed with words and the excitement to reach home instantly doubled. However, the highway between Kokrajhar and Kochugaon was once again in a very bad shape with big potholes and the hard concrete highway was way too bumpy. It started getting better once we crossed Kochugaon and enter Gossaigaon. It was 3pm and we reached the famous refinery town of Bongaigaon. Our main aim was to keep going until and unless we badly required breaks, both of us were not too hungry as well as the morning parathas were quite filling.
By 4pm we reached Rangia, and this was time for a petrol break. Tank up, filled in air on the tyres we saw a tea stall next to the petrol station. We decided to have some quick snacks and tea. I called up home and informed that we would be home in another 2-3 hours or so, distance to home was just 60kms. Post the tea break and photo break, we started our ride, this time straight to home. Around 6:30pm we entered the Guwahati city limits (crossing the double decker rail-cum-road Saraighat Bridge over River Brahmaputra is a moment of pride for me, brings out all the glorious childhood memories I have with this city and its people). With the second bridge constructed over the river, next to Saraighat Bridge, it has eased out traffic flow in/out of the city, one for incoming vehicles and the other one for outgoing ones. We decided to take the highway route to reach home, thinking it would be faster. However, entering the city was inevitable.
A deviation from highway to go home and a wrong turn spoiled everything for us. The dream of reaching home a bit early became thin as we got caught in between heavy peak hour traffic. People kept inquiring about us, giving us strange looks, some showing thumbs up, some totally confused about who we could be, etc. Google Maps took us through interior streets which I’m remotely not aware off. The city keeps changing so much with each passing day and it becomes really difficult for people like us who get to visit their home only once/twice in a whole year. Somehow I could figure out couple of shortcuts and around 7:30pm we reached the parking of our home.
My mom was already waiting for us in the porch and seeing her I felt so much relief and happiness, all the tiredness from the journey vanished in an instant. Reaching home sweet home is a heavenly feeling I suppose which is priceless. My four-year-old niece came running towards me to hug me, and I was almost in my tears. Traveling 3200kms for this moment is something which can’t be compared to anything else. My brother helped Atul unload all the bags, park it in the garage (Hulk badly needed a shower). We relaxed for a while and went for a quick shower. My folks were immensely happy when we told them that we would stay back for a day in Guwahati as we couldn’t finish Nagaland permit in Kolkata and need to get it here in Guwahati (our initial plan was to stay in Guwahati just for a night and head to Bomdila).
Around 8:30pm we had our dinner, did some quick family talks, I played a while with my niece and then both of us decided to call it a day. 9:30pm, we went for a peaceful sleep.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 6 (At Guwahati – roughly some 20 kms)
There is nothing like home for real comfort. Waking up to such comfortable mornings are a blessing. After a sound and peaceful sleep, both of us woke up around 9am in the morning. This is the best part of staying at home, before you get up, your breakfast is ready. We freshened up and straight-away went for hogging. Mom prepared puri, aloo sabji, bread omelet, coconut ladoos, some kheer and tea. Atul was more than happy to have such a lavish breakfast after a really long time (son-in-laws are anyways pampered when they step in to their in-law’s house, isn’t it?). After we devoured our breakfast, Atul and I thought not to waste more time and head straight towards Nagaland House for the ILP as getting the permit today itself was very important.
We got ready, took Hulk and rode towards Nagaland House located at Six Mile, around 7 kms away from my house. By 10:30am we reached the office and requested for the forms and if we could get the permit today itself. We narrated our story what happened in Kolkata and that we have come all the way from Bangalore to explore NE region and getting the permit today is very critical. The officials present there were very helpful and friendly, mentioned that they would do whatever is possible from their end. We filled the forms, provided all supporting documents, proofs, etc. and waited for the officer to hand over the permit to us. He asked us to wait for some 15 mins to let us know when we can get the ILP. We sat outside the office and kept hoping to get the papers as soon as possible. Within some 20 mins the guy came back with the signed ILPs and wished us Happy Journey for our ride ahead. Atul and I were so relaxed to get the ILP finally and thanked the guy. He mentioned that the signatory was about to leave for some official meeting and had signed some forms for the people who would come for the permits today, so that they don’t have to keep waiting until next day. This clearly shows the difference in the level of work commitment in Kolkata and here in Guwahati. The officer also gave us some tips on how to travel within Nagaland, what places to go explore and other necessary details. By 11:30am we were done with the work and we rode back home.
Our plan was to give Hulk a bath before going home. On the way, we saw Express Car Wash and checked if they do bike wash as well. They agreed and finally Hulk was getting a shower after being covered with tons of dirt, mud and grime. The guys cleaned Hulk with so much care and perfection that by far this was the best wash treatment Hulk got till date. They were using foam spray, high speed water gun, cleaning gel to remove each and every speck of dirt from the bike. It took almost 40 mins for them to deliver the bike to us and all this costed us only Rs100. Hulk was as clean as a new bike. We were totally satisfied with the work and the customer service of these guys and recommended them to my brother as well for his car and bike. We left the place and headed for home. On our way, Atul stopped at one of the famous and renowned sweet shop ‘Makhan Bhog’ to have some Rasmalais and Rasgullas. I ate samosa and packed some sweets and namkeens for home.
By 1pm we reached home and Mom was already done with her lunch preparation. With all the food we had on our way back, we decided to have lunch after a while. In the meantime, I cleaned some of our clothes, shoes, boots, riding jackets, saddle bags and other necessary stuff. We also agreed to leave behind some clothes that we wouldn’t be using for the next few days during our ride, this will lighten our bags to some extent. After this I spent some time with my niece and my Grand Mom who was already home to meet us.
By 2pm Atul and I had our lunch, Mom prepared chicken curry, Ilish fish curry, some sabji, dal fry, rice, salad, pickle and papad. A full course lunch is something which we haven’t had for a long time. Such sumptuous lunch is a bliss. A relaxed lunch and then followed by some rest time. We just kept lying on the bed, doing nothing and enjoying these carefree moments which are hard to get. Not sure how time just flew away and it was already 6pm. Atul and I went out along with Mom for a quick walk while Mom had to do some grocery. My parents have been staying in that locality for almost 35 years now and each and every one around that place knows them. It is really a great feeling that even when people are so busy nowadays in their life and work, here people still have time to greet one another and exchange quick words. Back in Bangalore, we hardly get to see this, Atul and I hardly know who our next door neighbors are leaving aside talking to them. Nonetheless, walking along with Mom, doing all small grocery shopping, the bargains, eating the yummiest plate of pork momo along with piping hot soup, each and everything reminded me of my childhood. We returned home by 7:30pm.
The plan for dinner was to go out as a family and have some food outside. Once my brother returned from his work, Mom, Atul, I, Brother, Sister-in-law and niece went out to have food. Dad and Grand Mom decided to stay back and we get parcels for them. We went to this place called Spice Route and ordered rotis, aloo gobi masala, chicken curry, paneer curry, lassi and some shakes. Dinner was quite filling and after the food, we headed back home by 10:30pm.
Made all arrangements we needed to do for the ride early morning, Mom advised us to hit the sack as early as possible. Though I would love to stay back and enjoy the remaining days at home, but reality was to keep going ahead and complete our remaining journey. 11pm and we were fast asleep. End of a beautiful and relaxing day at home.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 7 (Guwahati to Bomdila – 335 kms)
Sun rises pretty early in the north eastern part of India and by 5am it is already sunrise. There was a slight drizzle the night before and hence the weather was a bit cool. Mom woke us up at around 5:30am and we got ready, got geared up, and loaded the bike with the bags and other stuff. Mom gave us some tea and milk to drink before we head out. With a heavy heart and sadness, I hugged my Mom, Brother, Sister-in-law (niece was fast asleep so didn’t want to wake her up so early) and bid goodbye. The next section of our ride towards deeper into North East region just started and it was 6:15am in the morning.
We took the Saraighat Bridge exit to ride out of the city and since it was so early we hardly got any traffic inside the city. Took the NH27 for 40 kms after which we had to take a diversion at Baihata to go towards Udalguri. Roads were quite ok for most sections of the ride with few potholes here and there, at least they were in rideable conditions. Infact, some of the interior roads were way better than the main state highways. We kept on riding non-stop for quite some time, amidst remote country side roads, dense greenery and vast crop fields, until Hulk’s petrol indicator started blinking. In this remote village area finding a petrol station was quite bleak and we didn’t want to buy petrol from some bottle or cans kept outside the local shops (it is a very common scene in remote village areas of Assam, local shop keepers store petrol/diesel inside bottles, cans, etc. and sell it for all two wheelers, provided the next petrol station is quite far. Somehow we took a chance and kept riding a bit further until we reached Udalguri town around 9am. Checked with locals around and they mentioned us at the nearest petrol station would be hardly some 3-4 kms away.
Finally, we reached the BP petrol station and astounded to see the huge rush the bunk had. We had to wait almost 15-20 mins for our turn to fill in petrol. I hate situations like this as seeing our bike, luggage, us dressed in full gears, attracts a lot of unwanted attention from people around who approaches with ridiculously nonsense questions. I have no problem people coming close, observing us and asking normal sensible questions, what irritates me is well educated people trying to act smart and ask highly irrelevant and stupid questions. Nonetheless, we filled in petrol, took bio breaks and started our ride once again. From here the ride was pretty straightforward via the Udalguri Bhairabhkunda road, the road was scenic amidst mountain ranges, small water streams flowing through the plains, lush green vegetation and cloudy misty weather.
Around 10am we reached Bhairabhkunda, which is a place as if it is set in a canvas perfectly painted with all the colors of nature. This is a popular picnic spot owing to its calmness and serenity, located on the international border of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan. The army presence here is tremendously high because of international proximity but it is a lesser sensitive and tense border place. Bhairabi River and Jampani River which originates in Bhutan merges here to form River Dhanshiri, being one of the most important tributaries of River Brahmaputra, with a lovely view to behold. The place is in a shape of kunda, which means place for worshipping Lord Shiva. We stopped here for a while to click some pictures as the border looked amazingly breathtaking with the river flowing through rocks, distance mountain ranges (beyond those mountains is Bhutan) and mild cool breeze. This is where Hulk also completed 20K on the ODO.
We reached a small town called Balemu on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and decided to stop at a local joint for some quick breakfast as after this ghat roads would start and we weren’t sure if we would get any place to have food. The place we stopped just opened and most of the food items were not available, only chowmein, maggi, some snacks and tea, the lady owner of the shop was about to go out for shopping grocery but obliged to stay back and serve us some veg chowmein (I was moved by her kindness and gentle behavior to serve us food even though she was hurrying for her daily chores). Some of the locals started to strike conversation with us, gave us update about the roads ahead, which were mostly done be BRO (Border Roads Organizations) roads, weather updates and how to prepare ourselves which was quite helpful. The lady served us some delicious chowmein along with cucumber and tea. For ages I haven’t had such authentic and tasteful chowmein. Done with food, paid, thanked the lady and the locals, we resumed our ride. It was 11am and we crossed Assam to enter Arunachal Pradesh. This was the start of experiencing mesmerizingly beautiful Arunachal Pradesh amidst twisted roads, hilly mountain terrains and soulfully enriching landscapes.
As you all would know that BRO develops and maintains road network in India’s border areas and friendly neighboring countries. It is staffed by officers and troops drawn from the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers and army personnel on extra regimental employment. Some sections of these roads were under-construction and riding through those were a bit difficult but mostly the ride was comfortable, scenic and enjoyable. There were prayer flags everywhere adding more colors to the view. We stopped at multiple locations to click pictures, enjoy the view, or at times giving way to passing army convoys.
By the way, I would like to mention here that we didn’t take the usual Tezpur – Bhalukpong road to reach Bomdila. Most people take this route, however, Atul through his extensive research of the routes and also from one of my cousin found out that there is a new road which has been just recently opened via Kalaktang and Rupa and is more scenic, less traffic and pleasant experience for riders/drivers. Google Maps kept prompting us to take U-turn and join the Bhalukpong road but we sticked to this new route until we reached Bomdila. The only disadvantage of this road is that when there is a major landslide or road construction happening, the authorities close the gate until the road ahead is cleared and ready to be traversed. There are no specific timings as such and can happen at any point of the day. Some sections were still under construction when we took this road (hopefully by now the route must have been completely done, given that it is already 3-4 months).
By 1:30pm we reached a village called Tenzing Gaon and stopped at a local tea shop for some hot tea. As we were riding up, the air was getting cooler and I decided to wear my thermals. We had few cups of tea to keep us warm, the folks there were also preparing delicious looking beef momos, I gulped down two plates. There was an elderly couple from Guwahati who were driving to Tawang for the weekend and we ended up having a good conversation with them. They were quite encouraging that young people like us prefer to explore our country rather than spending money on expensive foreign trips, when our country is so beautiful in itself and has so much to offer. They wished us all the best for our entire journey and left. In another 10 mins even we decided to keep moving ahead, had another 75kms to reach our stay.
Most part of the ride was smooth and we kept crossing small towns and villages, river streams snaking through the plains and the blue clear sky – this was so blissful. Finally reaching Rupa town. We halted at many places to click pictures and enjoy the landscape. Once we crossed Rupa and was some 20kms away from Bomdila, around 3pm the all vehicles were stopped by the BRO authorities as they were clearing a landslide off the road (a road was getting constructed by cutting through the hills). It was almost done and we just had to wait for some 10mins before they let us through and proceed further.
Around 4pm we entered the town of Bomdila. Locating our stay, Anu Homestay was quite easy as Google took us straight towards the door of the property. We booked this hotel when we were in Guwahati, it costed us Rs2000 per night for a deluxe non AC room. The property is run by a family who are staying in Bomdila for many years and have converted most section of their buildings into stay for tourists who come to Bomdila. We decided to take a room in the ground floor for easy access to bike, loading and unloading of luggage. Owners were quite friendly and accommodating with well-behaved stuff. After all the check-in formalities, we got inside our room, settled with our bags and checked if they can help us with some quick snacks. They gave us tea and some packets of biscuits.
Bomdila is a small town perched amongst the panoramic settings of lofty ranges of the eastern Himalayas. It is known for its scenic environs along with monasteries and apple orchids, attracting adventure tourists with its numerous trekking trails. Most people come here and move further ahead to Tawang as well. Bomdila is a remote destination and like few other Indian towns it has escaped the virtual tourist invasion in recent times. Nature is still protected within the widely spread mountain ranges.
After tea and relaxing for a while, we decided to go and explore the famous Bomdila Monastery as it was just 2 kms away from our stay. Took Hulk, parked it in by the roadside as the actual parking area was not ready and still under construction. The walk towards the monastery was very refreshing and peaceful, no crowd at all at that point of time. Also known as Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Lling monastery, this monastery not only has religious significance but also known for its natural beauty. Stunning vistas that you can see from here is breathtaking and fabulous. One can see a big Buddha statue on a mountain at a distance. We spent some time exploring the monastery, looking around the buildings, the art work, the natural landscape surrounding the monastery, clicking pictures and experiencing the serenity. It almost started getting dark around 6pm and we decided to head back towards the hotel. On our way we purchased few prayer flags to be tied up on Hulk and extra for back home to put up on Skiddy (our car).
Once we reached the hotel, we started craving to have something hot. Requested the hotel folks if they can give us some tea and snacks. They told they have maggi and if we are ok, we obliged and asked to serve maggi and tea. Within 15 mins, maggi and tea was served at our room, piping hot and super tasty. We also gave order for dinner which was prepared in-house (only veg food though with option to have eggs). While dinner would be served around 9-9:30pm we killed our time relaxing inside the room and it was extremely cold outside to even step out and walk for explore the locality.
By 9:30pm we were called for our turn to have dinner. They serve dinner inside their main living hall and due to space constraints, serve food in batches. Food was simple yet sumptuous – dal, rice, some veggie curry, curd, pickle, omelet and papad. It felt so much like eating simple homemade food, filling not only the stomach but also the soul. We thanked them for the food and Atul decided to settle up with the bills as we would leave for Tawang very early. We met some bikers from Guwahati and they informed us that some sections of Sela Pass are filled with snow on the road and hence it is better to leave early so that we reach Tawang early without any hassle. There was also prediction of heavy rainfall the next day. Done with all the settlement, we went to our room, as usual did some quick packing and jumped inside the bed to go to sleep. 11pm and we dozed off. Next day ride was the focal point of our entire NE ride.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Some more pictures from Day 7
Prayer flags everywhere
More from Bomdila Monastery
Passing Army Convoy
Our lids which keeps our head protected all the time
Beautiful town of Bomdila
Meet Moti, the friendly canine from Tenzing Gaon
Bulldozers and the Hulk
At the border of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan
The scenic view of Kalaktang
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 8 (Bomdila to Tawang – 180 kms)
Today was the most adventurous and exciting part of our North East journey, primarily because we were going deep into this beautiful region and then crossing Sela Pass, an experience worth remembering for lifetime. Some of the locals told us that we might encounter heavy rains, snowfall and snow on the pass. However, this didn’t deter our determination to go and explore this high-altitude motorable road. Both of us woke up at around 5:30am, got ready, geared up, loaded the bike and bid goodbye to the hotel folks (bills were already settled the previous night). Before embarking on the journey, we tied up the prayer flags up on Hulk, with heartfelt happiness and curiosity, we started the ride by 6:15am via Chariduar Tawang road. A quick petrol fill was done before exiting Bomdila.
Crossing Bomdila town was highly scenic amidst twisting BRO roads, lush green mountain ranges, snaking around of the Kameng River, colorful prayer flags all along the way, small villages, the light dim sunlight and the happy faces of the locals. What was most striking were the tacky road-safety messages/signage all along the highway constructed by BRO. Some of my personal favorites were “Darling I like you but not so fast”, “If you love her please divorce speed”, “Drive on horse power not on rum power”, etc. We could also see the Bomdila monastery from a far off distance and the sight was simply breathtaking. The charm of these regions is so magnificent and quite different from the rest of the country.
By 8:30am we reached the small hill station town of Dirang. It is mostly an overnight tourist destination for visitors going to Tawang. Most people stay either here or in Bomdila to reach Tawang, given the bad road conditions between Assam and Arunachal. The town of Dirang is situated on the bank of river Kameng, the weather is not very cold and quite pleasant during the most part of the year. There are supposed to be some hot water springs located in this area, considered holy by the locals because of great medicinal properties of the water. After crossing Dirang we kept on riding for some more kilometers until we reached a place called Dirme and stopped for our breakfast. This was a small local restaurant run by an elderly couple providing breakfast and lunch. We ordered some veggie masala maggi, roti, dal with some sabji and locally made chutney. Food was really delicious and we finished breakfast enjoying the beautiful view in-front of us. Until now the weather was bright, sunny and perfect for a ride.
Came across many small villages, several army base camps, saw couple of wild yaks walking across the road, many army convoys, snow covered mountains in the distance until we reach a place called Senge from where the climb towards Sela begins. The terrain started changing with the weather becoming a bit cooler, more hustling of wind, curvier roads, patches of snow on both sides of the road and one could feel the drop in air pressure, though breathing wasn’t getting difficult at all. After riding for a while, we saw the famous Mount Gorichen Peak from a distance, which was partially covered by snow. It is considered to be the highest peak in Arunachal and offers climbing opportunities for seasoned climbers. This peak is considered to be sacred by the inhabitant tribes as they believe that the peak protects them from all the evils. The view of the peak was quite alluring and we stopped by at a nice place to click some pictures. Resumed the ride and after few switch backs and turns finally we reached the Sela Gate. We have already completed almost close to 100kms by now.
It was 12:30pm and we both were super excited to have reached the iconic Sela Pass. This pass is the lifeline for people of Arunachal Pradesh as it is the only way that connects Tawang to the rest of the country. The Sela Pass and the Sela Lake together combines to enchant one and all by their mystical beauty. Besides of its geographical importance, this pass is a breathtaking place always covered in snow (summer days there might not be as much snow as now) providing some beautiful views of the eastern Himalayan range. The snow covered mountains, half frozen Sela Lake, super cold weather and even colder breeze, it was all so surreal. Removing the gloves even for a second was difficult as it almost freeze the fingers and hand, the temperature was almost close to -7 degree C. We quickly clicked some pictures, spent some time to enjoy the nature and then went inside the Prahari Café (a café run by the Indian Army) to have some piping hot maggi and coffee. There were few other bikers from Guwahati who did a pit stop inside the café. We exchanged some friendly conversation and they were really excited to see us ride all the way from Bangalore till here. After spending sometime here we decided to keep moving ahead as couple of army officials told us that the road conditions way ahead isn’t really great and if it would rain by any chance it would be difficult for us to ride.
To let you know about the road conditions, from Bomdila till Senge the roads were in extremely good condition (wide single lane highway) but after we crossed Senge and entered twisty roads, it started becoming bumpy, occasional potholes here and there, dusty due to major road constructions, dump of gravels and stones, etc. One has to be utterly careful from landslides as well. Also, the road condition changed drastically after crossing the Sela Pass, more of snow, water puddles on major sections due to rains and melting ice, no tarmac road and too much of potholes, bumps and slush. There were couple of sections where the road was completely covered with water and we couldn’t judge the depth of that potholes, I had to get down from bike so that Atul could balance the bike well along with all the luggage.
But the sight was marvelous and looked like a frame from somewhere outside of India, in some snow covered foreign land. As far as eyes could see there was snow everywhere, with pine trees and scattered green vegetation. It was a picturesque view and something out of this world. Occasionally we would cross an army vehicle or a patrolling army personnel, few bikers here and there, some local cabs transporting people through the pass, apart from which there was no sign of human civilization. There were many army base camps though, which were totally covered with snow but when looked properly could be identified. Riding cautiously, somehow we completed the Sela Pass and crossed the famous Jainath Bridge constructed over the Nuranang Chu River. We also crossed the famous Jaswantgarh War Memorial on the way in memory of late Jaswant Singh Rawat, an Indian rifleman of 4 Garhwal Rifles, who fought bravely during the Chinese war. The joy and accomplishment of crossing Sela Pass, one of the most difficult motorable road in the world was quite satisfying and both of us felt a kind of achievement to do this. We were proud of ourselves on this small feat among all our travels till date.
We kept on riding until we reached a small town called Jang and our stomach demanded some food, it was already 3:30pm. The first thing we did was to find a place to eat who would still serve some lunch so late in the afternoon. Luckily, we got a restaurant run by an Assamese lady which was open and they were serving food. Ordered veg thali along with some chicken curry and omelet. Both of us had some tea after food, relaxed for a bit, freshened up and resumed the ride. We were around 30kms away from Tawang and it was 4pm in the evening, wanted to reach our hotel before it starts getting dark.
From here on we took another 1 hour to reach Tawang, as it started drizzling. Google Maps took us straight towards our stay at Bumla Inn. While booking our stay at Bomdila, we confirmed our booking for Tawang at Bumla Inn as well. A nice cozy hotel with a beautiful view of the Tawang town, monastery at the far distance, and well spread sow capped mountain ranges. We were lucky enough to get a room overseeing the view. A deluxe room for two nights costed us Rs 4778. Atul completed all the hotel check in formalities and we got to get inside our room. The guy helped us bring in some of our luggage and also served us some tea and biscuits to get warm from the biting cold of Tawang. We also checked with him if he can help us get the permits for Bum La to which he said that due to heavy snowfall army has stopped giving permits to any bikes currently. So we asked him to arrange some guide or cab who could help us explore Bum La and the famous Sangetsar Lake (also known as Madhuri Lake) along with some nearby places in Tawang. In a way it was good, Hulk got a day off.
The hotel guy connected Atul to one of the local taxi cum guide who agreed to come down and discuss on where else to go and the amount to be paid. After a while two folks came to meet us, one named Tashi, don’t recall the other person’s name. Apparently, road to Bum La has been blocked by army for everyone from the last couple of days due to extreme bad weather and terrible road conditions. Also, doing Bum La and Sangetsar Lake both in a day’s time wouldn’t be possible as time wouldn’t be sufficient. Finally, we agreed to go visit only Sangetsar Lake and see places in and around Tawang. After lot of negotiations, we decided on paying them Rs 4000 (taxi and sightseeing) for the entire next day. They would come to our hotel around 8am the next morning.
After relaxing for a while, Atul and I stepped outside the hotel to take a quick stroll in the Tawang marketplace around 6:30pm. It was cold, mild breeze and slight drizzle, the town was almost getting closed for the day, we looked around for tea but couldn’t get any. Bought some warm clothes for the next day as locals informed us that it might get extremely cold in a higher altitude when we reach Sangetsar Lake. Got some snacks as well for the trip since we were not sure whether to get any food on the way or not. Post this we returned to our hotel by 8pm. Before going out we had already ordered our dinner which the care-taker would get for us.
Sharp at 9:30pm the food was served at our room, rice, dal fry, some rotis and chicken curry. Food was great, simple homemade yet sumptuous and stomach filling. After food both of us came out to the balcony to enjoy the night sky which was partly cloudy and partly starry. My idea of getting a long exposure shot couldn’t be done, as the sky was very unclear due to thick rain clouds. We spent some time experiencing the mild cold wind blowing silently through our face, both of us relish the memories until this part of our journey and contemplating on what’s stored ahead of us. Time flew by and it was 10:30pm, already bed time. Tomorrow will bring in a new day, an experience for lifetime to treasure.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Some more pictures from Day 8
While leaving Bomdila
The town of Dirang
Enroute Sela Pass (The scenic Chariduar Tawang Road)
At Sela Pass Gate
While crossing Sela Pass
Crossing Jainath Bridge and Jang Town
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 9 (To explore Sangetsar/Madhuri Lake Tso – no riding today)
It was 7:30am and we woke by a phone call that came into Atul’s phone. It was the hotel guy who called us to tell that the guides would reach by 8am. In a hurry burry both of us got up, took shower, got ready and in the meanwhile ordered for some breakfast as well – bread omelet and tea. Sharp 8am, Tashi and his friend arrived to pick us up. We requested if they could wait for some 15-20mins, by then we will be ready completely. 8:30am and we started our drive to Sangetsar Lake (on a Mahindra Bolero). It feels good at times to not ride/drive and let others do the task and we reach our destination, relaxed, exploring and enjoying to the fullest.
We crossed the beautiful town of Tawang to reach at an elevated snaking and twisting road called Bum La Road which will take us to the iconic Y Junction from where one road leads to Sangetsar Lake and another one to Bum La. The view of Tawang was extremely breath-taking from a height, one can see the complete spread of the city, the tall sky touching 26 feet high Buddha statue, golden shiny buildings of the Tawang monastery and the snowcapped mountain ranges surrounding the town. There were many army base camps throughout the surroundings. We stopped at multiple places to click pictures, selfies and enjoy the nature. The total distance to reach Sangetsar Lake is just 35 kms but due to bad roads it might take us more than 3 hours to reach there. Most parts of the road were completely covered with snow and it was good that we didn’t get our bike today, as it would have been very difficult to ride on those treacherous terrains. Even Tashi told us that local taxis are the best for sightseeing as they will be well versed with the road conditions and extreme weather situations (they also have a taxi union which at times don’t prefer tourists bringing in their own private vehicles).
Tawang has a number of high altitude lakes and locals say that there are in total 108 lakes spread all over the district, most of them spreaded in and around Bumla road. After driving for a while we reached the famous Pankang Teng Tso (Tso means lake) or most commonly known as PT Tso Lake). This lake is spot of natural union of beauty of the mountains and the expansion of the grassland, however, today all that we could see was thick layer of snow. This was my first experience of touching snow and I was overly excited. Now I understand the joy of touching snow, grabbing a snow ball and throwing it on the person next to you, undoubtedly it was one of the best days of my life. With the advent of winter at the horizon, the blue sky floats literally on the lake water but today it was mostly cloudy and the lake was almost covered with snow. Yet the view was splendid and something very surreal. Within few minutes, snowflakes started falling down and it felt as if I’m in some winter wonderland. Clicked some pictures, played with snow and then decided to keep moving ahead. Weather today was partly cloudy and at times Sun used to play peekaboo. But most part of the day, there were slight drizzles, small snowflakes falling down and the grey clouds all hovering on the sky.
All along our way, we pass crossed many army camps (I wouldn’t be able to describe much about what we saw in those army camps as because of the border sensitivity, photography and videography within the vicinity of army camps was strictly prohibited, also, writing down about these areas in any form might give out critical information about our army strategies – I think we should obey and abide by these rules, as they are nothing but only to ensure our safety and security). I would like to mention here that for us surviving in this extreme conditions are so difficult despite wearing three-four layers of warm clothes, gloves, socks, boots, and what not. But these brave Indian soldiers are not only guarding the international borders but also ensuring that while they guard the lands we sleep peacefully without any fear. The hardship that they go through each and every day, away from their near and dear ones, far away in some distant remote land, just increases the respect I have for them in my heart. Clearing the snow filled roads so that we tourists can pass the road easily, working at -10°C or at 50°C, guarding under some bunkers whether it is rain, or snow or hot scorching sunlight, daily safety drills, driving heavy army vehicles, etc. they are truly the real life heroes for all Indians like me. I wouldn’t agree much to this quote – “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our glory”. Warriors are not born. They are made in the Indian Army.
Around 10:30am we reached the Y Junction cafeteria and as already mentioned, one fork would lead us to Sangetsar lake while the other towards Bum La. Just before us an army convoy arrived here so the place was completely filled with soldiers, along with few tourists. Taking photos or videos are totally prohibited here due to security reasons, we didn’t even take out our phones or DSLRs. Took a bio break, had some maggi and piping hot coffee, spoke to some of the army personnel who were extremely happy to know that we have ridden all the way from Bangalore to Tawang to see this part of India, which many are reluctant to come and explore. After a good conversation, we decided to not waste much time here and head towards Sangetsar Lake. On our way we crossed a Gurudwara, apparently known as the Teesri Udassi Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurudwara Sahib, serving tea, coffee and biscuits to all the passerby tourists. I was surprised to see the presence of Sikhism in the middle of this place, however, as people say, faith can exist anywhere in any form. We thanked the army personnel for the tea and in return he told me “Come after 30mins, we will serve you lunch as well”. I was completely moved by the humbleness and gentle nature of our Indian Army towards common people like us.
Time was 12:30pm and we reached the iconic Sangetsar or Madhuri Lake. This mysterious lake is treasured beneath the Mother Nature amidst trees, snowcapped mountains and amazing landscapes. Created by falling rocks, boulders and trees in an earthquake, the lake is truly a Himalayan vista. With a heady mix of spirituality, surrounded by the mighty Himalayas and tree trunks jutting out of this lake, a wooden cabin on the lake bank, it gives an oomph factor to this lake. One requires a special permit from the District Commissioner’s (DC) office located in Tawang to visit the lake, but for us the paper work was done by Tashi at the main entry gate before entering the Bumla Road. This place is also known as Madhuri Lake after the famous Bollywood movie Koyla, featuring Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit, was shot here (I have never seen the movie though). The lake is considered to be holy as well, both by the Buddhists of India and Tibet, the water of this lake is extremely pure and devotees come here on pre-defined days during the year to offer their prayers. Apparently one more tale about the place is that the lake never dries out even during the driest of days and never freezes even during the coldest of months and that too when the surroundings are deeply frozen. Also, the lake is under the surveillance and guard of Indian army because of its close proximity to international border with China.
We spent some time clicking pictures, exploring the nature, taking videos, drinking some coffee and eating chole bhature in the cafeteria run by Indian army. There is a white board placed inside the cafeteria as well where visitors for that day can write down messages for the Indian army. I took the opportunity and wrote down a note from Atul and my side as well. If one wants to buy goodies with Indian Army branding, they can purchase it over the counter from the small shop stationed inside the cafeteria. Around 1:45pm we headed back to our vehicle and moved towards Tawang town. The memories of this beautiful lake will remain forever with us, with a promise to come to back here once again in this lifetime.
It didn’t take us much time to reach the base of Bumla road and reach Tawang town. Tashi took us to this beautiful tall Buddha statue which we saw while climbing up. The statue is one of the tallest Buddha statue in India measuring at 26 feet height. It looks like the Buddha statue overlooks the beautiful town of Tawang and protects it’s from all evil spirit. From here we went to see the Tawang Monastery. Arunachal Pradesh’s tourism gem, the Tawang monastery is India’s largest monastery and the world’s second largest. Situated at an altitude over 3000mts, this monastery is very important for Buddhists all over the world. It is a collection of more than 60 residential buildings for monks along with other structures for different uses. This divine celestial paradise has many tales and legends behind how it was established. All the halls are brightly colored and beautifully decorated, rooms consisting of a big assembly hall, a study, a library, a school, and an own printing press to print Buddhists text. At any given point of time, 700 monks can reside in this monastery. Being a Sunday, the monastery was almost empty and prayers were about to start only at around 5pm. We spent some time exploring the monastery and after a while, decided to head back to the hotel.
Tashi and his friend decided to drop us to our hotel and on the way we needed to withdraw cash, one, we were running out on cash and two, we had to pay the guides their Rs 4000. Searched through all the ATMs in Tawang and not a single one had cash inside it. This was very disappointing and we couldn’t figure out a way to pay Tashi. Finally, they agreed that our hotel guy will share his bank details and we will wire transfer him, who will in turn pass it on to the guides. Thanking Tashi for understanding our situation, and them being amazingly friendly and helpful throughout the day, we bid them goodbye. Took their numbers, just in case someone wants to come to Tawang and need any taxi or travel guide. It was already 4:30pm and not having a full meal made us quite hungry.
Got inside the room, dumped our stuff, freshened up a bit and immediately head out towards the marketplace in search of some food. It was only 5pm, and most of the eateries were closed but then there was this restaurant which was open and serving food (luckily they were accepting cards). We ordered chicken chowmein, chicken momos and mixed fried rice along with some tea. We had our food, relaxed for a bit, had some conversations and around 7pm we started walking towards our room. It started drizzling as well by now and the weather outside got colder.
With so much food, we decided not to have dinner today and go for an early bed time. Meanwhile, the hotel guy was added to my banks app and we could transfer him the required cash (along with the additional bills that we needed to give him for food). We did most of our packing for the next day, and slept at around 8:30pm.
A peculiar thing about Tawang – there are millions and zillions of street dogs in Tawang and when it starts getting dark all the dogs start barking at the same time non-stop all throughout the night. They are huge in size and quite capable of attacking strangers so one has to be utterly careful on the streets of Tawang. Many people fill in some blue liquid in bottles and keep them all around their house premises, apparently, it keeps dogs away since the smell of that blue liquid irritates them and chases them off. So next time I’m in Tawang, I’m definitely going to plug in my earplugs to avoid listening to non-stop chore of street dogs and damage my ears. :)
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Some more pictures from Day 9
The beautiful Tawang Town
While we explore more of PTSO Lake
On our way to Sangetsar Lake via Bumla Road
Some more clicks from Sangetsar Lake
Attachment 1794181Attachment 1794174
Couple of more Buddha Statue clicks
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 10 (Tawang to Tezpur – 335kms)
Time to wake up and it was 6:30am. Our greatest dilemma today was to whether take the same route via which we came (Kalaktang) to reach Tezpur or the most commonly used one via Bhalukpong. The only problem with the Bhalukpong road was that due to four lane construction work the highway remains closed between 12-4pm on all days. And also whether we would reach the check post right before 12noon was a big question, given the fact that we would have to cross Sela Pass once again. The weather forecast for today however, was much better compared to the day we came. We took a chance and decided to go via Bhalukpong. Got freshened up, geared up, loaded the bike with bags and started our journey back to Assam, towards Tezpur. By the time we left it was already 7:15am. Bidding Tawang goodbye was the hardest thing to do as it was so memorable and something special which got over so soon. But then life of a traveler goes on, isn’t it? We promised to come back to Tawang again.
The ride was very pleasant, light sunlight, mild morning breeze, thin blanket of fog and relaxing environment. In no time we reached the town of Jang, where we decided to fill in petrol for Hulk. While exiting the town we were stopped by some policemen in a check post, they insisted us on showing our bike papers, ID cards and other details. They were checking on other vehicles as well, must be some sort of entry exit records. However, we didn’t have to do this while going to Tawang. Somehow I felt the police personnel were very rude and all the time we were there they made a fuss out of Hulk being parked in such a way that it blocked all the vehicles which wasn’t true at all, we left sufficient space for two vehicles to go easily. May be they were intimidated by the size of Hulk and all the luggage up on it. Later we explained them that we are on a North East India trip on bike and coming from Bangalore. Listening to this they mellowed down a bit and finished with our entry. All this wasted our time and it was already 8:30am when we left Jang and entered the climb up for Sela Pass.
Most snow started melting from the mountains by now and hence the road was completely slushy, muddy and slippery to ride. On top of it there was a huge army convoy of around 15-20 trucks crossing Sela along with us and it was at times getting difficult to overtake them due to slippery and water filled roads. The weather was however very refreshing, no rain at all which made the ride a bit easier and also, thankfully traffic flow in Sela Pass is very minimal.
We didn’t take much time to cover Sela Pass this time around as we were almost well versed with the road conditions and around 9:45am we crossed the Sela Lake, decided to rest for a while in the Prahari Cafeteria. Ordered some coffee, maggi and bread pakodas as both of us were quite famished. The thought of crossing Sela Pass as soon as possible left us with no choice but to finish breakfast quickly and cover Sela as soon as possible. Relaxing for some 30mins, a bio break and both of us started our ride further down to reach Bomdila. All of a sudden out of nowhere there came a thick blanket of fog which almost blinded us and visibility dropped down to a great extent. We kept on continuing slowly and cautiously until we reached lower altitude and somewhat better terrain. After a while it was time to say goodbye to Sela Pass and instantly it became a part of our North East India ride memories.
Couple of places we were stopped by BRO workers due to landslide road blockage and authorities were trying their best to clear the debris. We lost considerable amount of time here and chances of reaching the check post before 12 noon became quite bleak. We checked with some of the in-coming cabbies and local vehicles if the highway towards Tezpur would be closed by 12 noon, all had different answers, some said yes, some said no, some said that the timings are lifted a long time back. Despite all the talks, we agreed on taking a chance and proceeded further. The worst that could happen is to wait at the check post and then once it is open, head ahead. My cousin did warn me that due to four lane road construction the road via Bhalukpong would be in utterly bad condition and it would take longer for us to reach Tezpur. Without much breaks we kept on riding until we crossed Dirang and then reached Bomdila by 1:30pm. Weather was perfectly gorgeous with blue clear sky and bright sunlight. However, God has different plans for us. Just as we were exiting Bomdila town, Atul felt some wobble in the rear wheel of Hulk, we parked the bike on the edge of the road and damn, it was a flat tyre. Checked with water on the possible location for the puncture, couldn’t find any, Atul used the air inflator to pump in air inside the tyre and we resumed our ride, kept on looking for a puncture shop which was a bit difficult to locate once we had crossed the town.
We wouldn’t have gone much further ahead that the tyre was flat once again. This time we took off saddle bags, poured in a full bottle of water and bang on – we could locate the puncture. Atul fixed the puncture and once again inflated the tyres. Having lost almost an additional hour in fixing the puncture, there was no more time left to waste, it was 2pm already and almost 150kms left to reach our destination. Checked at army check post on the exact direction on how to reach Bhalukpong and if it would be closed now, even he was not sure of the situation. Kept riding until we crossed towns like Rupa, Tenga and Dahung. This road was still known as Chariduar Tawang Road, same which we were supposed to take, not in the best shape due to occasional potholes and bumps, but super scenic with the Kameng river following all along the side of the road. Most sections of this area is under army surveillance and heavily guarded by army base camps.
On this highway, there is a famous Nag Mandir and the check post was just some few kilometers away. There was a big pile up of vehicles and by this we got to know that the post is nearing sooner and the gates must be closed. As thought of, we reached the check post at around 3:15pm and the gates were closed. On having checked, the guys told us that it would reopen around 5pm. Since we had to wait here anyway, we decided to stop by at a restaurant and have our lunch and also book our hotel for the night at Tezpur. We got inside a restaurant named Hotel Palchok and ordered our food – pork thali, fish thali and not to mention, tea). Using Goibibo app, we also booked our stay at Hotel DL in Tezpur. We called up the hotel folks and mentioned that we would be a bit late in reaching, gave a heads-up of our situation. We killed time checking our social media accounts (luckily mobile data was working), planning our ride ahead and calculate on the amount spent till date. By 4:45pm the gates were opened and everyone started to rush up. We waited out for the traffic to clear and around 5pm we got ready and began riding.
The landscape via this route is mesmerizingly beautiful but the road condition was extremely bad and rough. Too many potholes, bumps, dust blown away by large vehicles, at places slush and mud. Ignoring all these obstacles our main goal was to keep on moving and cover distance, I didn’t even ask Atul to stop for pictures. Until a town called Tippi roads were horrible and after that it started getting a little better. We crossed two forest reserves, Pakke Tiger Reserve and Nameri National Park and Forest Reserve. It was getting dark and Atul was a bit scared of wild animal attacks, hence all the time we kept following a car or made sure there is someone right behind us. Somehow we managed to reach Bhalukpong around 6:30pm and took the Balipara Bhalukpong road to move ahead. From here on roads were in good condition but the only fear was the forest area on both sides of the road. Few kilometers more and we re-entered Assam.
By 8pm we reached Tezpur town and Google Maps took us directly to our stay, Hotel DL. The reception guy was too grumpy and looked like he wasn’t happy with our arrival, not sure why (not that we were staying there for free). Highly uninterested he gave us a room, checked for our IDs and hotel booking details. Atul finished with the check-in formalities and we got inside the room.
The hotel doesn’t have their own parking space so Hulk had to be parked somewhere in between two shops, closed as of now, but will open early in the morning (not a problem though as we would leave quite early in the morning). After relaxing for a while, got freshened up, Atul and I stepped out for having dinner around 9:30pm. I wanted to have some snacks rather than a full-fledged meal, so went to a chat house and ordered chicken chowmein, chicken rolls and some tea. Atul was craving for sweet and there was a sweet place still open, he had some misti doi (sweet curd) and some rasgullas.
By 10:15pm we were back inside the room. I did some cleaning of the dust from our riding gears, saddle bags and other luggage. Both were completely tired from the day’s hectic ride and wanted to sleep at the earliest. Time was 10:45pm, Atul and I hit the sack.
re: Amazingly magnificent & enchantingly awesome North East India - A 10,000 km Ride!
Day 11 (Tezpur to Majuli – 200kms)
Our hotel was just next to a Ma Durga temple and we woke up today by the beating of drums by the priests inside the temple, it was 7am in the morning. Both of us got up, immediately got ready, geared up, loaded the bike with luggage and checked-out. It took a little while today to fix in the saddle bags along with the tail bag as the bungee cords were not fitting in properly across the bike. Nonetheless, around 8am we started our ride for today’s destination, Majuli. It would be a very unique kind of ride today since Hulk, for the first time ever would cross a river on ferry. I’m a bit scared of water journeys due to not knowing how to swim, but this would be a very unusual lifetime experience.
Being a weekday and piling up of traffic for office and school hours, exiting Tezpur town and hitting the highway was a bit difficult. We tanked up Hulk before getting off the city limits. Later on we connected with the NH715 that would take us directly to Jorhat from where a diversion has to be taken for Majuli. The best thing about taking this route is once we hit the Kaziranga forest region, there is almost close to 90% chance of spotting the legendary one horned rhino and wild elephants who would come so close to the highway in search of fresh green grass. It is a delight for any passerby who may want to have a glimpse of these rare endangered species. And, not to mention, the series of tea estates one can view on both sides of the highway. Since this is a forest region, there are many speed limiters or rumble strips installed for almost 20-30kms. We just got lucky today, as there was this herd of rhinos grazing towards the far end of the grasslands and we got good glimpse of the animal, I clicked some pictures from my zoom lens as well. There was a wild elephant as well roaming around the field.
Around 10:15am we stopped at a place called Bagori at a local dhaba to have our breakfast. The restaurant was completely empty and we were the only customer, may be the first one for the day. Ordered puri, sabji, omelet and tea. The puris were the oiliest one I ever had in my life but then there was no other way out and had to eat whatever was available. Done with eating and relaxing for a bit, we started our journey again by 10:45am. Most sections of the highway were in good condition with few potholes here and there, weather was pleasant too with no rains and clear blue sky. Four lane highway construction is happening across most parts of North East, this may cause inconvenience at times due to diversions but the scenic landscape of lush green tea estates curtails the hassles and fills the heart and soul with happiness. Blue sky, green surroundings, one bike and a journey ahead – the ride was definitely getting better with each passing day.
Within an hour we reached the outskirts of Numaligarh town and from here the roads started deteriorating, few sections being concrete, few being tarmac, construction of four lane highway, diversions, vehicles coming in the same lane from opposite directions, big stones and gravel lying on the highway, multiple potholes and this continued until we were few kilometers away from Jorhat by 12:45pm. Just before entering Jorhat city, we had to take the bypass road and connect with the Nimati Ghat Road to reach the Brahmaputra ghat from where ferry services are available. There are no such timings for the ferries as in regular intervals they keep moving to and fro between the two river banks but the first ferry for the day starts at 8:30am (from both sides of the river) and the last ferry for the day is at 3:30pm (from both sides of the river). The only catch is that the ferry has to be completely full with two wheelers, four wheelers and passengers. There are different kind of ferries, large vessels (carrying 8-10 cars and 50+ bikes with 60+ people), medium vessels (4 cars, 20+ bikes and 30+ people) and ferries carrying only humans. People can sit below the deck but it is always highly crammed up. Around 1:30pm we reached the ghat to take ferry. There were couple of vessels already getting loaded with vehicles and both Atul and I got a little scared on how we are supposed to get this almost 250kgs (with the loaded bags) heavy beast on that boat. Kept staring at each other, having second thought on whether to go or not, how to ride the bike through that tiny small plank of wood and to top it up, the whole crowd staring at us as if we are aliens coming to evade Majuli. Some people however, did come forward and offered to help us getting the bike up on the ferry. Slowly, steadily and utter carefully, Atul somehow managed to get Hulk on the ferry surface using the wooden plank. With all the luggage, it occupied space almost as equal to as a car. Ferry fare was Rs 60 (for two person and bike).
Around 2pm the ferry started to roar in and the engine kicked started. We are ready to cross the mighty River Brahmaputra along with Hulk and get inside the largest river island of the world. Water spreading all along the horizon and it feels almost like a sea. As the ferry moves away along the water current and wind, we are getting further away from the shores and the landscape of the distance mainland just amazes us. The vast river, flowing water, hustling noise of the wind, roar of the ferry’s engine and endless sky – this gave a completely surreal feeling. While I clicked some pictures of the landscape, some of the fellow passengers started conversation with Atul with the usual enquiry on our ride till now, where we are headed from here and so on. People do get excited by the fact that we are recording all of these moments and would be making videos out of them. Few of them tried to be helpful and gave us important information about Majuli, where to stay, return ferry timings, etc. There was ticket collector who would walk through the entire ferry and collect ticket fare from people and for bikes/cars. An hour long ride and we reached the other shore of River Brahmaputra. Getting off the deck was quite easier this time as the wooden plank was wide enough and firmly fixed with the river bank’s ground. There would be a lot of tempos and ASTC (Assam State Transport Corporation) buses which helps in the mobility of passenger from the shore to the main market place of Majuli. Once we got off the ferry, we headed towards Kamalabari Satra which provides guesthouse for visitors, this place is located near the main town center. With no rain for past couple of days, the ground was filled with river sand and this flew from all sides as any vehicle tried to get on the road from the shore. Anyway, we are finally here at Majuli, a strong contender for a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
Majuli as most of you would know is the largest river island in the world located in the Brahmaputra River and in 2016 it became the first island to be made district in India. It is lush green environment friendly, pristine and pollution free fresh water island, mostly called Assam’s capital of culture because it still retains Assam’s historic traditional values. Life here is as simple as it gets with bamboo huts having looms underneath to weave dresses, mud pits to make clay pottery, people making fishing nets and rods, traditional mask makers and wooden boats used by the villagers. The town is inhabited by tribals, speaking Assamese, leading a unique and interesting yet simple living. The festivals celebrated here are all joyous and vibrant, with Raas Leela being the main one and witnessed in an interesting spectacle. A word of caution is that the island has lost significant land due to erosion and have shrunk as the river surrounding it has grown. Authorities are doing all possible means to preserve this island.
Around 3:15pm we reached the Kamalabari Satra guesthouse. The care taker was quite gentle and he helped us get a room after we finished showing our IDs and marriage certificate (the guy wanted to be sure that we are husband and wife and not some random couple doing bike trips moving around aimlessly). Rooms are quite simple, two cots, bathroom, table and a chair. To avoid mosquito bites at night they provided us mosquito nets as well (I’m not a big fan of those things though, makes me feel claustrophobic). All this was for Rs700 per night. Food however, had to be had outside as the cook for the guesthouse took off due to Bihu holidays. After dumping our luggage inside the room, the first thing we did was to go out and have some food. Both of us were extremely hungry, it was already 3:45pm.
We rode towards the market place to see if any place was open yet serving lunch. Most restaurants were closed and didn’t have much to offer other than tea. Just when we were about to give up and return to our room with only some snacks to fill in our stomach, we saw a small eatery open. On checking they told they only got dal and rice, some left out chicken curry with no chicken in it and at best they can give us omelet. We agreed to have whatever available and ate like food deprived humans – rice, dal, chicken curry minus the chicken, omelet and as usual ended the food with tea. When in hunger even the simplest of food tastes heavenly. Paid the bill and returned back to our room.
I wanted to badly take a shower after all the dust that got stuck to us after the dusty ride from the shore to the guesthouse. Both of us took quick showers and decided to go out around 5:30pm and see the satras located at different places within the island. Majuli Island has been the hub of Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture, initiated in 15th century by the revered Assamese saint named Srimanta Sankerdeva and his disciple Madhavdeva. Many satras or monasteries were constructed by the saint which represents the colorful Assamese culture. There are almost close to 8 satras in the island which are places of grandeur with historic and auspicious importance. They are also famous for various reasons like Garamurh Satra is where Raas Leela is enacted every year, Auniati Satra is famous for ancient Assamese artifacts, utensils, jewelry and handicrafts. Kamalabari Satra is known for art, culture, literature and classical studies, Benegenatti Satra is again known for performing arts and so on. After exploring all these places and it started to get dark, we headed back to our guesthouse. We picked up some biscuits and snacks on our way to have something, both of us were not up for dinner, because stomach was already full with the late lunch.
I did some cleaning of the luggage and riding gears which got dusty on the way. Nothing much was there to pack as we didn’t bring out much stuff from the bags. With some mild snacks, both of us decided to sleep early. 9pm and we were on bed, sleeping, getting ready for the next day’s ride.
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