1400 km road trip across Assam in a Hyundai Santro AMT

I calmly decided to take the humble Santro out for the road trip. People have done longer trips in M800s and Altos.

BHPian BhaskarG recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Destination: Longest bridge (Dhola Sadiya).

Travelling from: Guwahati.

Pit stops: Sivasagar, Duliajan, Kaziranga.

Duration: 4 days, 3 nights.

Time: Mid April, 2021.

Type: Road trip.

Vehicle used: Little City Hatch!!

Gang: Me, wife and a mutual friend.

Photography: Smartphone and Nikon S9100.

“Ouch! My back hurts. Should have brought the Duster, at least.” I said for the 13th time.

“Now look who is complaining.” mocked my wife.

“I am not joking.” I said as I started checking the balance in my account for the money that I might just need to cough up to a physiotherapist.


This travelogue was pending for a long time, almost a year now. Time to pen it down, else it will not happen ever. This is a story of a road trip that took place in April 2021, after the first series of lock-down(s) got over, and just before the pandemic hit Assam for the second(?) time.

By the way, who am I? I am a young professional starting out in life. But again, I have been trying to make myself believe that I am free spirited and adventurous. But in between all that, a thing called life happened. I got so busy in earning money that I started to forget what I was passionate about. I forgot what made me happy. This trip was an attempt to reclaim my senses one year back. Read on!

Pic: Under Dhola Sadiya bridge. This bridge covers stretches of land and water alternatively.


Why during the pandemic times? No, I didn’t risk my life and get all travel-lusty during the peak pandemic season. I was not that ultra-courageous. I did it because life was about normal here in Assam, with Bihu functions going on in some places. Schools had resumed. It was supposedly a safe slot, April 2021.

Traveling in the times of pandemic was a gamble. Fear of Covid-19 aside, you are in a constant risk of being stranded because of a sudden lockdown. On the positive side, places are less crowded. I got some space in between two lock-downs, and decided to grab it like a crab. Jo hoga dekha jayega.


For me, adventure always involved the feel of the road behind the wheels. But the pandemic had closed my usual road-tripping routes. Meghalaya, the heaven of a destination nearest to my place, had closed its door to tourists. Sikkim followed suit, and so did the other neighbours.

All I was left with was the state itself to explore. Which was not a bad thing at all. In fact, I had not visited many parts of my state yet. It was time to explore what I should have already explored. I’ll try to put out some gyan about the northeastern state of Assam as you go through this writeup.

A preview of things to come in this travelogue:

The longest bridge:

“Do you know that the longest bridge of India is in Assam?” I asked my wife.

“I heard”, She replied.

“Well...!” A big grin on my face.

She looked at me skeptically.

“Obviously another road-trip on your mind?”, she said.

“Yes”, Said I.

“Just like that? Do you even realise how far it is?”

“So what?”

“Pandemic, that's what.”

“Mask, sanitiser and we already have two dose vaccine”, I said

“Well…!” A big smirk on her face. Women, huh?

Let me explain the resistance. My wife is working on a startup, and does not like wasting her time on weekends. I am, on the other hand, more of a free spirited kind. You are getting the drift, right? Now the biggest challenge was to get her onboard.

“You know, I’ll ask Amit to join us. Business on the way” I tried to negotiate. (Who is Amit? You’ll know in the next section.)
“Good idea. Let’s go, then” Said she. First and biggest hurdle being over, let me come back to the topic in hand:

Popularly known as Dhola Sadiya Bridge, the Bhupen Hazarika Setu over the river Lohit, Commissioned in 2017, is currently the country’s longest bridge as on date spanning over 9 kilometres in length. It connects Arunachal pradesh to the rest of the country.

 Pic: Sign at the start of the bridge (on entry from southern bank).

You may want to take a look at this list of bridges in Wikipedia. Now this list will change with time, as new bridges are being constructed. But this bridge is the longest as of now.

Bridges do fascinate me, as do rivers and mountains. I love the sheer majesty of a big bridge. Such a wonderful creation of mankind that mingles with mighty mother nature, yet stands proudly above her. I can sit in awe and watch for hours, provided the bridge is big enough.

Pic: The other side: I might win some photography contest with this one.

Livelihood of local boatmen had been crushed by the bridge. This old man with his rotting boat no longer in use.

The route:

Note: you can skip this part entirely, if you are not interested in geography. No effect in the narrative. Promise!

The route that we were going to take would cover a very large part of Assam and take us to almost the easternmost tip of the country. The China border will not be far away. We were to start at Guwahati and travel the width of the state, reach Arunachal Pradesh, and come back to Guwahati.

Let me genuinely try NOT to bore you to death with a little geographic idea of Assam. As a layman, you can divide Assam into 2 segments: Brahmaputra Valley and Barak Valley. Our drive will be limited to the Brahmaputra Valley only. Now Brahmaputra Valley is popularly divided into Lower Assam and Upper Assam. Lower Assam is the part connecting North East India to the rest of the nation, which also includes Guwahati city. Upper Assam is the more scenic part of Assam, with an abundance of tea gardens and oil fields here. Our trip was from Lower Assam to Upper Assam and back.

There were two possible routes: 1. The northern bank of Brahmaputra, which would have been longer; and 2. The southern bank road, the route is shorter, but 4-lane highway construction work was going on at some places, I was informed.

Pic: Two possible routes from Guwahati to Dhola Sadiya. Point D is the bridge.

We decided to take the second route, as nobody could confirm the scale of construction work. And that route was more familiar. But it was recommended to take an abuse-friendly car. But how abuse friendly? How bad were the roads in Upper Assam? We did not know then. We thought, “How bad can it be?”. Oh, we were so wrong! Bunch of naives!!

The people:

  • Me: Petrolhead and the sole driver for the whole trip.
  • My wife: Me and my wife are best buddies, though our interests are completely different. That way, we complement each other perfectly. However, the thing that I cannot comprehend is her apathy towards driving. She just hated it. She hated it so much that I could not get her to learn it in 3 years’ time. Wife of a petrolhead. Oh, the irony!
  • Our friend and business partner, Amit: he was included, so that we could combine some business with the trip. Cool and composed, Amit is our own Rahul Dravid. He is more of a scooter guy and he has just recently learned to drive. Should he be behind the wheel on this trip? No, I guess.

Having only one driver on a long road trip has disadvantages:

  • More stops. Less continuous road-time due to fatigue. Either the duration of the trip gets extended that way, or the trip content gets compromised.
  • Again considering the fatigue factor, the driving needs to be done mostly during the day, we would get limited daylight for sight-seeing.
  • More chai (or sutta for some) breaks.

Yes, there are some bhpians like @LONG_TOURER who can drive a continuous 20 hours without breaking a sweat. But that is not me!

The places:

Ah, here comes the places of interest:

  • Dhola-Sadiya, at the extreme end of the country. The longest bridge is situated here.
  • Sivasagar: City of ancient/mediaeval monuments and palaces of the Ahom kingdom.

Pic: Rang Ghar, an amphitheater at Sivasagar.

  • Kaziranga National Park, home of the one-horned rhino.
  • Duliajan: A oil township. We had to stop there for some business related work. I love to put some business work into my road trips whenever possible. This ensures that money spent on the trip is recovered.

Pic: Tilinga Mandir on Duliajan-Tinsukia road.

All of us being busy people, finding a common time for a trip became a challenge. We somehow managed a 4 days common window to do the trip. Now the biggest challenge now was to fit all of the above into these 4 days. So the plan was:

April 16th:

  • Plan: Guwahati to Sibsagar on day 1 night stay at Sivasagar: Mostly good roads.
  • Execution: Perfect!

April 17th:

  • Plan: Sivasagar to Dhola Sadiya on day 2, night stay at Duliajan: Mix of good and bad roads.
  • Execution: It did not go according to plan. Had to skip Dhola Sadiya.

April 18th:

  • Plan: Duliajan to Kaziranga on day 3, night stay at Kaziranga: Mostly bad roads.
  • Execution: As Dhola Sadiya could not be done on day 2, this resulted in a 14 hour drive on day 3, ten hours of which was almost non-stop.

April 19th:

  • Plan: Finally, Kaziranga to Guwahati on day 4: Excellent roads.
  • Execution: Perfect!

No hotels were pre-booked, since there were almost zero tourists, but hotels had opened.

The Machine:

I have my “Little City Hatch”, a 2019 Hyundai Santro AMT. But a car of its class is best for use in the city. Ride quality is on the stiffer side though. Stiff is considered to be good on the highway, but stiff will not be great for those potholed roads in Upper Assam. My wife looked for a more suitable car for this trip.

“You need a Duster at least. Potholes galore in upper Assam”, said my wife.

“Ok”, said I, and didn’t give a hoot about it. “My car will handle it”, I thought. Oh boy, I was so wrong!!

I calmly decided to take the humble Santro out for the road trip. People have done longer trips in M800s and Altos. I know a BHPian who takes his SS80 Arunachal, Meghalaya, Nagaland. So why cannot I?

The Preparation:

(You can skip this section if you wish, without any effect.)

The Little City Hatch got prepped up:

  • Took the Santro to the HASC for servicing and got the fluids topped up, brakes checked.
  • Alignment balancing done.

Already I had installed the following few months back for peace of mind:

  • A dash camera: A very important safety device nowadays.
  • Portable tyre inflator: Good to have, comes handy sometimes.

Checklist before the trip:

  • All lights, electricals checked.
  • Wipers checked.
  • Tyres, spare checked.
  • Basic first aid kit and medical supplies.
  • Water bottles.
  • Snacks.
  • Tissue box.
  • Flashlight.
  • Clothes, brush, flip flops and towels.

And most importantly sanitiser, masks and wipes.

You might feel that it is not a very long drive, and you do not need to check most of these. However, I always recommend a little prep-up, specially, if you are traveling with your wife at night.

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