Part#4–Unleashing Northeast India–Land Of Lama, Rains, Rhinos and Momos by Abhimanyu

Abode of clouds - Meghalaya!

Please excuse me for writing the final part of this journey after a gap of more than a month. Was caught up in adjusting with the “new normal” way of life and remote working.

There were struggles to get the groceries and seamless internet connectivity initially but now it’s all sorted. Meanwhile, I drove down to Raipur from Pune. 1000 kms in 20 hours with a co-driver. It was good fun. 

Reading part#4 directly might not be good idea so please click on the below links to read prequels

After spending 2 days in Assam, relishing local delicacies and meeting Rhinos it was time to hit the road again. Simanta was at hotel lobby with his innova, all neat and clean.

This time for a change, we started late. After lunch around 1:00 pm.

Day#7 –

  • Kaziranga national park to Cherrapunji
  • Travel time – 8.5 hours 
  • Road Condition – Smooth and well consructed
  • Stay – Saimika Resort, Cherrapunji

Lunch served to us @Bonhabi was full of taste and spices. Exactly the way we wanted.

The drive was pretty smooth, and we enjoyed the journey through the small villages, finally reaching the mountains from the plains. We stopped at Jiva Pure Veg to refill our tummies and this place is one of a kind. Very hygienic and full of taste. We ordered momos, noodles and some biryani. Reached at Saimika, resort by 10 pm. It seemed to be a deserted place wherein there was a security guard who led us to our twin-cottages (joined from inside).

Entering the cottages, our excitement reached next level. We had a fireplace inside the cottage. I have stayed in many resorts across India, but this was the first time I had this pretty thing inside the room. We asked the security to lit it up for us. Glasses clanged again with malt on the rocks. It was good fun and very relaxing. Woke up fresh next morning and opened the door of our cottage to be mesmerized by the beauty of this resort which seemed deserted yesterday. Resort is built on a cliff in acres of land, all construction is done using rocks which gives an ancient Roman feel to this place. Looked inspired by Harry Porter movie to a fair extend.

We had some quick sandwiches at the restaurant and left the resort to reach the entry-point of trek to famous “living Root Bridges.”

Day#8

  • living Root Bridges
  • Travel time – Full day trek 
  • Trek level – Moderate to difficult
  • Stay – Saimika Resort, Cherrapunji

At the entry point of the trek, you will meet local boys renting Bamboos and claiming to be guides.

My suggestion – Take Bamboos and not the guide. Because our guide named, Risk DID NOT guide us at all. He just kept walking ahead of us creating un-necessary pressure on us to trek down faster. Guide could be useful for getting some pictures clicked for sure.        

Single root bridge

Started off the hike and reached the,” single decker root bridge” after 1500 steps down hill.

It was tiring but we had some juice left in us so after some rest we moved ahead to the prime attraction of today’s hike – the double decker living root bridge. Another 2000 steps down hill, crossing a river, a few villages, lots of sweating and knee breaking efforts we reached the architectural brilliance, man-made, double decker living root bridge.  

There is a stream flowing underneath it and thousands of fishes are waiting to welcome you from a small pond of fresh, crystal clear water.

Fishes waiting to give you a natural pedicure

We spend time relaxing by the pond side and eating the packed food that we carried from Saimika. Pranthas that were packed had lost the taste completely and I suggest to better order Maggie from small shops around the root bridge.

Some wiki gyan for youA living root bridge is a type of simple suspension bridge formed of living plant roots by tree shaping. They are common in the southern part of the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya. They are handmade from the aerial roots of rubber fig trees (Ficus elastica[1][2]) by the Khasi and Jaintia[3] peoples of the mountainous terrain along the southern part of the Shillong Plateau. Most of the bridges grow on steep slopes of subtropical moist broadleaf forest between 50m and 1150m above sea level.[4] As long as the tree from which it is formed remains healthy, the roots in the bridge can naturally grow thick and strengthen. New roots can grow throughout the tree’s life and must be pruned or manipulated to strengthen the bridge. Without active care, many bridges have decayed or grown wild, becoming unusable. *

*Source – Wikipedia

We had to trek upstairs again. Although none of us wanted to but we did as we had to.

Knees, thighs and back hurted bad but we kept walking and motivating each other. 

I will write another post on does and don’t while you take this tiring trek of Living Root Bridges. Finally reached the car parking after 7~8 hours to meet ever smiling Simanta.

Had maggie and tea and ditched all plans to see some waterfalls to reach Saimika resort so that we can enjoy this beautiful stay a little more. 

Evening was set with a lovely bon fire outside our cottages where we enjoyed endless chats under the sky full of stars, zillions of them twinkling all night long.

Next morning was a lazy one, got up late and enjoyed our pre-ordered breakfast at the gothic Sai-mika. After quick check-out Simanta took us for some sightseeing around Cherrapunji and Dawki river. The water has no colour and odour is true in the transparent river which flows from India to Bangladesh and merges in Bay of Bengal via Sundarbans. Boating is a must here and if you are enthusiastic like us the do take a dip in the freeazing crystal clear water. Left Cherrapunji by 4 pm for our next destination which was just a night halt for us.

Day#9

  • Cherrapunji to Umsning, Meghalaya
  • Travel time – 4 hours
  • Road condition – Very good and scenic
  • Stay – The Sanctuary Song Resort, Umsning, Meghalaya

All is well when it ends well. Reaching this serene resort, we thought to ourselves, what a showstopper trip end planned by the curator. Nested in nature’s lap within a forest, small stream flowing besides the resort and NO MOBILE NETWORK available. What else does a metro lad need!!

Final Night Celebration

Some local strawberry wine was bought from the reception, bon fire was lit and the night went on and on till 1 am. Crashed in our cosy beds and woke up with chirps of birds, Trisha was the 1st one to wake up and got outside to greet the birds singing in a foggy cold morning.

Day#10 was finally here when we had to board our flight back to Mumbai from Guwahati airport, which is around 3.5 hours smooth drive from the heavenly stay on earth called The Sanctuary Song Resort. I leave you with some pictures here as we end this epic journey of a lifetime with a promise to come back again soon.

Reach out to us for any queries about this trip and for planning and booking yours.

#travel-click-eat-repeat

Send your love to us in comments section and by sharing this blog as much as possible.

Meet the star – Simanta – The ever smiling Mawa Man

See you soon again!

Cheers!

Abhimanyu @yatripandit

Part#3 – Unleashing Northeast India – Land of Lamas, Rains, Rhinos and Momos!! By Abhimanyu

Arriving in Assam – land of tea, tradition & one horned Rhino!

After the lovely dinner and cosy night stay at luxurious Gonpalok home stay at Dirang it was the time to bid goodbyes to Mountains and hit the plains.

As always, we left early morning and Simanta was waiting for us with the engine on of innova. He seemed happier, may be because we were going to be in his state of Assam.

Our personalised travel consultant took special efforts to accommodate our modified plan of going to Assam. Waving hands and exchanging smiles with the sweet caretaker, we left for the state of Assam. Assam is famous for Tea, rice, history and wildlife.

Hold on, if you have landed to this page directly, please click Part#1 and Part#2 to read the prequels. Do come back here.

Day#5 –

  • Dirang to Kaziranga national park
  • Travel time – 9 hours  
  • Road Condition – Worst (mostly under construction) that I have ever seen
  • Stay – Bonhabi Resort, Kaziranga

It was not the best days of the journey. Yes, we left early but the route that Simanta took was the worst road that I have ever seen in my lifetime. About 100 Kms was totally under construction and full of bumps. It seemed we are driving on a bullock cart both by speed and jerks. Dust clouds prevailed almost on the full stretch of 100kms of that road.

Dirang to kazi

We were stopped on the mid-way of those 100kms because some blasting was going on for road construction. Here we were in the middle of nowhere, waiting on a check post. There were a few more vehicles waiting behind us. We tried to kill time by clicking some infact many pictures, taking a walk around the area.

We could find a small café which served Maggie and eggs. Yes, throughout our journey Maggie, mawa, sleeping like pigs and leaving early morning have been constants. Finally, after slowest 5 hours of my life, the post officer let us move past the barrier. Simanta, loaded his Mawa and we were back to life. Before crossing Arunachal’s border and entering Assam, we stopped to buy some more liquor stock to be brought back with us to Maharashtra.

The roads in Assam were smooth and scenic, I am sure driving would have been a pleasure on them. All off a sudden I noticed, Simanta opened his door and peeped outside the door bending downwards for a second and was back again on the wheel. We understood, he did that to spit the mawa stuff. We realised he was in his own state and his confidence was touching sky.  

Usually, we visit 1 national park every year because being in the jungle brings you closest to mother earth. The birds, wilderness and flora are the real kings and we humans are just a small part of this majestic nature. I will share the link to National part stories at the end of this post. Do read ‘em all. This time we got a chance to meet 1 horn Rhino and its friends in one of the most famous national parks of India – Kaziranga National Park.

While entering the buffer area of Kaziranga, we were lucky to see hundreds of 1 horn rhinos grazing and swaying carefree on the grasslands on both sides on the road.

One Horned Rhino - Courtesy Outlook India
Image Courtesy : Outlook India

We finally reached our resort, Bonhabi around 5pm and we were tired for sure because of pointless waiting and bumpy road. The car was full of dust and dirt, from the inside and outside.

We went to our rooms; took shower and relaxed for an hour before we meet again to clink glasses, bawaa! it was mine and Trisha’s anniversary day. Cheers to two amazing and enthralling years of married life, we had no complaints by far. We reached the dining area to find probably the best food that we had during the journey. Full credit to our talented trip curator who ensured that we were served authentic assamese vegetarian food along with a cake specially ordered for our anniversary. She also tried to arrange local rice brew but maybe it was not our day. If you have tasted, let us know how it tastes in comment section. Seeing all the food we were damn excited, and it seemed that we were never tired of today’s journey. There was a wide variety of delicacies and we could not decide from what to start and where to end. Trying to list a few below: –

1) Local white or red rice (depending on season and region)

2) Bhoot Jhukoliya (Ghost Chillis – the hottest chilli in the world) – handle with extreme care

3) Aloo and Baingan Pitika (Steamed and salted Potato and Eggplant)

4) Dhekiya or Lye saag depending on season

5) Aloo, Aloo Potol, Cabbage, Beetroot or any other vegetable in season Bhaaji (Assorted Vegetables)

6) Yellow or Black Masoor Dal (Thick Lentil Soup)

7) Khoreo (Highly pungent and delicious ground mustard served with onion, garlic and other spices)

8) Pudina, Coconut, Sesame Chutney (Mint, Coconut or Sesame paste prepared with herbs and spices)

9) Salad made from young bamboo shoots

10) Paste made from raw mangoes or ground jackfruit seeds, etc

It was indeed a beautiful evening full of chats, variety of food and lots of love.     

Next morning, we again woke up early to see our pre-booked jungle safari waiting at the resort parking area. Open Maruti gypsy it was! Hopped in to start the jungle safari with a hope to sight rhinos, tigers, elephants, wild water buffalo, swamp deer, birds and many more.

Day#6 –

  • Kaziranga national park
  • Safari time – 6 hours 
  • Road Condition – as in jungle
  • Stay – Bonhabi Resort, Kaziranga

Wikipedia: Situated on the banks of mighty Bhramaputra river, Kaziranga National Park is a national park in the Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam, India. The sanctuary, which hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses, is a World Heritage Site. The park is home to large breeding populations of tigers, elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer. Kaziranga is recognized as an important Bird Area by BirdLife International for conservation of avifaunal species. When compared with other protected areas in India, Kaziranga has achieved notable success in wildlife conservation.IMG_20200213_103235IMG_20200213_093719

We left our resort at 8 am in the safari which was pre-booked by our trip curator. Agaratoli range was about 1-hour drive from our resort but we enjoyed the drive while we crossed tea plantations on both sides of the road and felt the wind pass through our hairs.

Over the last few years of travelling, I have realised the neither sea nor the mountains, but Jungle is my real calling. I love being in nature surrounded by greenery, blooms, birds, butterflies and animals other than humans. Oxygen loaded air unlike polluted one in cities. Blue skies, cool breeze rustling leaves and ant-hills of varied sizes.

We sighted no tigers, few elephants, some wild buffaloes, many birds, numerous dears and hell lot of ONE HORNED RHINOS. River Bramhaputra crosses the national park and the span of the river is massive. People in this region are used to floods every year.

It was a 6 hours safari for 4 of us which costed about INR. 3500/-.  

Our driver was our guide as well, and this was probably a mistake. I suggest hiring a trained forest guide who understands to calls (voices made by animals) precisely.

Back to Bonhabi resort by late afternoon we decided to take some rest and enjoyed the stay.  

Next morning, we were greeted by ever smiling Simanta again with a clean car, he got some time to relax and get the car cleaned yesterday. He took us to Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park which was in close vicinity to our resort. This park houses about 500+ variety of orchids from all-over north-east India and you are briefed by learned guides about the variety, identification and importance of orchids.

Additionally this place also has a Bamboo garden, cactus garden, photo gallery and handloom display and weaving centre. One can witness the dying art of weaving the cloths by hand and also buy some shawls, stoles or gamchas to carry back home.

Next up was a stage which showcases Assamese folk dances like bamboo dance and other forms and every evening they depict special show of 1 hour. Try to catch that and let us know how was it, in comment section below. We had a good time cheering and applauding local folk artists but its sad that only 4 of us were doing so in an audience of about 25 people. All an artist need is applause and cheers, and we must do it.    

The entry fee is only 120 Rs per person and this place has a lot to offer.  

Reached our resort and packed our luggage for our last leg of trip where in we were about to experience the rains, dense forests, transparent rivers and living root bridges.

Also, as a bonus you will get to see Mr. Simanta. So, stay tuned for the last part of this journey of life time. 

While leaving kaziranga chai lovers like us purchased kilos of Tea for ourselves, friends and family.

Here are the links which will take you to our earlier travelogues about jungle trips. Enjoy reading and do share if you like them.

  1. Barnawapara – A not so famous Wildlife Sanctuary
  2. Bow Down to the King – Bandhavgarh
  3. Bastar – The land of whispering Mountains – Chhattisgarh
  4. YP Original || Rules of the Jungle by Abhimanyu

 

See you soon again!

Abhimanyu @ Yatripandit

Part#1 Unleashing Northeast India – Land of Lamas, Rains, Rhinos and Momos!! By Abhimanyu

Part#1 – Reaching Tawang from Assam via Bomdila !

It was the occasion of our 2nd anniversary when four Sharmas’ planned to explore North-east, India.

We had a fantastic company of Dev and Akshata who got married a day earlier than me and Trisha in the same month of Feb and year of 2018.

Me and Dev shared room during my 1st job in Mumbai and we jelled up pretty well for obvious reasons like being Sharmas’ from MP/CG and loving beer. Since we got married almost on the same day, we could not attend each other’s weddings, and this was the chance to cut it by celebrating the anniversaries together.

Tickets were booked in August’19 and we then finalized our itenary during December’19.

We read a few posts and then finally decided to book ourselves with a Freelance travel consultant from Assam.

7th Feb 2020, finally the day had come when me and Trisha embarked the road in our new Honda Amaze from Pune to Mumbai. Akshata arrange for a safe car parking over a week’s time in Mumbai. It was an early morning flight from Mumbai to Assam, we had our masks on as there was a buzz of Covid19 around the world already. Landed in Assam to find our driver, Simanta and pre-booked Innova Crysta.

IMG_20200208_035105
Mumbai Airport

None of us had slept last night but there was no sense of deprivation. It was the time to make memories, none of us had been to this side of Incredible India.

I decided to narrate this trip in multiple stories in sequence as it was a beautiful long ROAD trip.

Day#1 – Trip start, 0 Kms

  • Guwahati Airport to Bomdila
  • Travel time – 9+ Hours
  • Road Condition – Good (Mostly)
  • Stay – Norgay Guest House Homestay

Journey starts from plains and takes you to the mountains. Located on the Foothills of Himalayas, Bomdila could be considered as an entry point of Arunachal Pradesh. Simanta played some asamese music while driving and halted at a random café so that we can have some Momos, maggie and tea. After 1st stop Hindi music took over Assamese and we were friends with Simanta. He was a character, loved his dose of Indian tobacco(jarda or mawa) while driving and always smiling. Never said no to our demands and was a true host in all senses.

IMG_20200208_143131
Lipsmacking Taste

We also got a chance to Enter Bhutan Border, smart Simanta got his diesel tank full as it is cheaper in Bhutan than in India.

As we were driving up-hill the air was getting colder and heavier. We drove alongside a river stream (Kameng river), Simanta told us that it comes all the way from China to meet the mighty Bhramaputra before merging in Bay of Bengal. We will meet Kameng river multiple times during our journey through Arunachal. Just before reaching our homestay in Bomdila we purchased some liquor as it will be helpful in keeping ourselves warm during the course of journey and its cheaper than Goa in Arunachal. 🙂

IMG_20200209_081857_765
Bhutan Border

IMG_20200211_113111
River Kameng

Homestay was clean and economical, we had to pay extra Rs. 300/- for a room heater. That’s Ok we were happy and rich (as it was just the first day).

For dinner we walked down the stairs and found a restaurant (name forgotten), but please find it right opposite Dragon restaurant. The momos and noodles which they served were the best that we had during the trip. Please let me know the name of this restaurant in comment section. I can eat those momos all my life and die happily.

Pet-full aur dil housefull, reaching back we slept like pigs would do after spending some playfull times in the mud. Woke up to sunrise, cool breeze and blue sky – What else does a metro lad need!!

We were sporting jackets and woolens now. Simanta was ready to drive us to Tawang, the dreamland that I wanted to visit since the time I saw it in TV a decade ago.

Day#2

  • Bomdila To Tawang
  • 200 Kms (approx.)
  • Travel time – 8+ Hours
  • Road Condition – Hilly and average
  • Stay – Hotel Mon Paradise

Visited the mesmerising and peaceful Bomdila monastery, saw the little monks chanting and praying in sync. The whole atmosphere was so serene, that trying to narrate it here would be loud and might kill the serenity of the place. Check out our youtube video link below.

IMG_20200211_081526
Nam yo ho !! – Buddham Sharnam Gachhami 🙂

After, seeing the monastery we commenced our journey to the land of Lama. The car was cruising slowing with 2 constants, Simanta’s Mawa and Kameng river running alongside.

The drive from Bomdila to Tawang will always be extremely close to my heart because I was about to experience my 1st snow sighting.

Sela pass – You beauty!! I had heard that there is silent a kid within every adult, I was unaware of mine till I saw the 1st snow of my life. I could not stop myself and ran down the stairs, which led to a frozen lake called Sela lake.

IMG_20200211_110713
Stairway to Heaven

The whole area was covered with snow we were playing, while clicking some pictures on our phones and many many more in our hearts. While we were down near a frozen lake, those stairs which we walked down seemed like a stairway to heaven. God was generous and suddenly it started to snow, we had such awesome experience before we had to run back to the car as it was a hailstorm. My 1st snow was a helluva experience. Remember the liquor that we bought last night; finally we could do justice to it using fresh snow from the sky..

I even ate some snow. 🙂

Hailstorm turned violent & we had to leave or rather escape from Sela to reach our next pit stop aka Jaswant Garh war memorial. It’s about 22 Kms from Sela and 21 Kms before Tawang.

You must see this video to live Sela Pass a lil more

A bit insight about the memorial – Jaswant Garh is a famous tourist attraction in Arunachal Pradesh and it is widely visited all year round. It is dedicated to the warrior, Jaswant Singh Rawat who was killed during the Indo-China War in 1962. He was an Indian rifleman of 4 Garhwal Rifles, Uttarakhand and for his bravery; Jaswant Rawat was honoured by a memorial at the post where he fought the Chinese army. This magnificent memorial is well kept at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. A small canteen is run by army personnel offering free tea / coffee and hot water to all visitors to keep them warm in cold weather. It is unbelievable in today’s world of worshiping money as God, where almost everyone is running behind money and becoming rich leaving behind empathy towards fellow humans. We relished dosa and idli in Arunachal at such height, it still have the taste in my head while I write about it. My wife, Trisha loved the patty and muffins.

Last but not the least; there is a small shop from where you can buy jackets, socks, gloves, caps, etc to withstand the negative temperatures of Tawang.

The memorial is surrounded by beautiful valley perfect to gaze on while sipping your unlimited free tea.

PANO_20200211_133335
Panorama from Jaswant Garh

Hopped back in the innova with happier Simanta, he already had starting chewing mawa.

We reached Tawang in another 1½ hours, the sun sets early and it was almost dark by 5pm when we reached. While, Dev was co-ordinating with the pre-booked homestay owner we had some difficulties in locating the stay. Finally, have found the homestay just to realise that staying there was not a good idea. It was located far away from town in a dark and abandoned area. Girls felt some safety concerns, and we had to honour this being responsible companions. Simanta’s “never say never” attitude and always smiling face helped us find a hotel in the market area. Name of the hotel is Mon Paradise. It was freezing cold, we quickly changed and reached the lobby area with our packed food and theplas. The hotel guys were happy to heat those for us and serve it with dal, egg bhurji and rice which we ordered from them. Sharing our food with a soldier from Indian Army with a lot of border stories was the best thing that we could have thought of in this trip.

Pet-full aur dil housefull, reaching back we slept like pigs would do after spending some playfull times in the mud. Woke up to sunrise, cool breeze and blue sky – What else does a metro lad need!!

Hope you liked our journey till now! Write some encouraging words in the comments section and share the link with your friends, also ask them to share and comment…

Read the part#2 of the story to see Tawang and Dirang from our eyes.

Much Love 🙂

Abhimanyu@Yatripandit