Road Trip to North East – Mizoram & Nagaland (Nov-Dec’ 2017)

Distance Travelled – 8440
Duration – 17 Days
Dates – 25th November 2017 to 11th December 2017
Vehicle – Mahindra XUV W8

Day wise details on the route taken and road conditions.

Day 1: Chennai – Vijayawada – Rajamundry – Vizag – Bhubaneswar – Cuttack – Bhadrak [12.30 AM – 10.45 PM] // ODO – 0-1440 / 1440 kms.

Roads were very good & free flowing till Vijayawada and from there on had to deal with 2 wheeler traffic and so many barricades till Vizag. Post lunch from Vizag, had to deal with city traffic and no dedicated fast tag lane till we crossed Andhra. All these caused considerable delay. Once we entered Orissa, our pace was better but road conditions remained patchy until Balugaon. Once we crossed Bhubaneswar roads were much better.

Day 2: Bhadrak – Kharagpur – Asansol – Jamtara – Palajori – Deogarh – Banka – Bhagalpur – Purnea [8.00 AM to 10.45 PM] // ODO – 2298 / 858 Kms.

Roads were good till Asansol bypass but once you take right for Jamtara you are on 2 lanes roads. Roads after Palajori is in very bad shape and it got better when we neared Deogarh. At Jharkhand – Bihar border, the road was suddenly closed. It was 6:33pm, the detour suggested by locals had fabulous road surface. There are very bad roads in Katoria & Banka and it was like that more or less that way until we reached Bhagalpur. Road from Bhagalpur was good.

Day 3: Purnea – Siliguri – Coronation Bridge – Bongaigon – Rangia – Guwahati – Shillong – Jowai [7.25 AM to 10.50 PM] // ODO – 3088 / 790 Kms

Roads were good almost on the entire stretch except some pot holes, under construction stretches until we cross the infamous Srirampur border. Roads improved after that and got better once we enter Meghalaya.

Day 4: Jowai – Silchar – Vairangte – Aizawl [7.45 AM to 7.00 PM] // ODO – 3428 / 340 kms

Roads from Jowai to Meghalaya border was good and it got bad after entering Assam. There is a junction at Kalain where both roads go to Silchar, we took the left one and the road is pretty bad. Lot of pot holes & craters all through, even beyond Silchar. From Vairengte to Aizawl, the road condition is pathetic and it took us 4.45 hrs to cover a distance of 130 kms, feel pity for those who travel on those road day in and day out. On our return we took Aizawl – Sihphir – Lundgai, which is much better compared to Sairang route.

Day 5: Aizawl – Selling – Keifang – Kawlkulh – Khawzawl – Champhai [9.00 AM to 6.50 PM] // ODO – 3621 / 190 kms

Roads are good at patches but not up to the mark. There are stretches where you will not find any traces of road as well. When you pass through villages & towns you will see some tarmac and that’s it. Once you cross them then the roads will bad, very bad & worse. The average speed will come down to 15kmph in some stretches and the max will be 30kmph. Though, we could see road work is happening in some stretches, it’s a long way to go.

Day 6: Champhai – Rih Dil – Champhai – Khawzawl – Biate – Lungdar – Keitum – Serchhip – Thenzawl [5.30 AM to 9.00 AM / 10.50 AM to 6.35 PM] // ODO – 3873 / 252 kms

Champhai to Rhi Dil is around 36kms but it will take about 1.5 hours. The roads are a mixed bag and there is road widening happening from Mualkawi. Once you enter Myanmar, road is much better, though you would travel only a few kms into Myanmar, it will be a relief after travelling Mizo roads.
Back to Champhai, the roads from Champhai to Biate is somewhat good compared to the roads we traveled so far. There were occasional pot holes, some bad patches but much better than the previous day. After Biate, the roads are bad and it took us 40 minutes to cover a distance of 13km to reach Lungdar. From Lundgar to Thenzawl the roads are okay in some stretches & bad to worse in some stretches. At Keitum, we intersected with NH 54 and the next 10 kms to Serchhip was fabulous and one of the best stretch in whole of Mizoram so far.

Day 7:
Thenzawl – Vangtawng – Lunglei – Lawngtlai – Zero Point – Saiha [7.45 AM – 4.00 PM] // ODO – 4103 / 230 kms

Roads from Thenzawl are decent until Tlawng bridge and one can do 35kmph easily (so far the best). The next 9km from Tlawng bridge is in very bad shape and roads are narrow in many places. After Lunglei till Hrangchalkawn junction roads are decent again. From there on till Saiha, the roads are fantastic 95% of the time and it got bad only when we were some 10km away from Saiha.

Day 8: Saiha – Kalchaw – Phura Rd – Kaladan River – Lawngtlai – Lunglei [9.30 AM to 6.00 PM] // ODO – 4278 / 175 kms

Saiha to Zeropoint the roads are good and at Kalchaw we turned off to try our luck to visit Phura. Locals said roads are OK, but when we ventured out we could find only the dirt track and it got treacherous and narrow with slush as we went on for about 7 kms. We decided against visiting Phura and took the road back to join the road to Lunglei. From here on, the roads are good until we reached Lunglei.

Day 9: Lunglei – Thenzawl – Sialsuk – Aizawl – Sihphir – Lungdai – Vairangte – Silchar [7.00 AM to 6.30 PM] // ODO – 4610 / 332 kms

Few kms after Lunglei the bad stretch is about 8kms and once you cross that roads got better and can drive at 35kmph speed all through till Aizawl. From Aizawl, we took the route Aizawl – Sihphir – Lungdai – Joined NH 306 before N.Kawnpui. This is much better than the sairang route. This will save you about 1 hour while reaching Vairangte compared to Sairang route.

Day 10: Silchar- Halflong bypass- Mahur- Langting- Lumding- Lanka- Nilbagan- Doboka-Dokmoka-Manja- Dimapur [6.30 AM to 6.30 PM] // ODO – 5025 / 415 kms

First 35kms from Silchar is a breeze and then the reality of the road hit us. There are a numerous potholes & craters, slush and what not. Follow the bypass route all through else you may end up in some very stretches. There is a railway underbridge before Hajrangjao and the road is very bad and even our XUV wouldn’t have made it due to such a bad road. There is an alternate route which is slightly better to avoid this bad stretch and joins at the start of the village. From there just follow the bypass until you reach Haflong. Roads are bad throughout but manageable. An horrendous drive of about 5 hours we crossed Haflong. After Haflong, the road will change to 4 lane and you could do a steady 90kmph until you reach Doboka. Roads will become 2 lane and is in decent condition until you reach Manja. From there on you will see a lot of potholes and bad stretches until you reach Dimapur.

Day 11: Dimapur – Kigwema [8.30 AM to 11.30 AM] // ODO – 5115 / 90 kms

Roads are OK to bad and there is a lot of road work happening throughout this stretch. It will take 2.5 to 3 hours to cover a distance of 90kms.

Day 12:
Kigwema – Viswema – Dzoku Valley [10.30 AM to 4.00 PM] / Took cab to Viswema village and then trekked to reach Dzoku Valley.

Day 13: Dzoku Valley – Viswema – Kigwema / Again a trek from Dzoku to Viswema and then took cab to reach Camp David.

Day 14: Kigwema – Dimapur – Manja – Nagaon – Guwahati – Bongaigaon – Alipurduar – Coronation Bridge – Siliguri – Purnea – Bhagalpur [6.15 AM to 2.30 AM] // ODO – 6201 / 1076 kms

Kigwema to Dimapur took about 2.5 hours and then crossing Dimapur city took another hour as there was so much traffic. Once you cross the city, roads are bad till Manja and become better until you reach the turn to Nagaon. From there on it’s 4 lane road all through and excellent to drive on till Bongaigon. Bad stretch & some under construction roads after crossing Srirampur and then onwards good roads all through.

Day 15: Bhagalpur – Banka – Deogarh – Sarath – Chitra – Chapria – Jamtara Bypass – Asansol Bypass – Kolkata [9.00 AM to 5.30 PM] // ODO – 6679 / 478 kms

Till Deogarh, road is a mix of decent and bad, especially the bad stretches around Banka and Katoria. To avoid the bad stretch to Palajori, we took the shortcut from Sarath to Chapria via Chitra, not only did we have much much better roads but we also saved quite some distance. At Jamtara, we bypassed the town by taking another parallel route which saved quite some time. Once we hit NH2 at Asansol, it was going to be GQ for rest of the journey.

Day 16: Kolkata – Bhubaneshwar – Srikakulam – Vizag – Rajahmundry – Tanuku [6.15 AM to 12.30 PM] // ODO – 7837 / 1158 kms

Roads are excellent throughout and FastTag lane was followed strictly in West Bengal and to some extent in Orissa. Once you touch Andhra it’s very difficult to find the fast tag lane as the indication isn’t correct and it may be in extreme left lane or the one before that.

Day 17: Tanuku – Vijaywada – Nellore – Chennai [6.00 AM to 12.30 PM] // ODO – 8440 / 603 kms

Roads are good throughout, no issues here.

Brihadeeswarar Temple – Great Living Chola Temple (Nov ’16)

This is one place I would love to go again and again. The Grandeur of this place never ceases to amaze me and no matter how much photographs I took, I still feel incomplete. Looking forward for my next visit to this place. Until then here are the pictures taken during my last visit to this wonderful place.

Rameshwaram (Nov ’16)

A trip to Rameshwaram was a long pending one and I have been fascinated long to visit India’s first Sea Bridge. Fortunately, my wish fulfilled last November. Pamban Bridge is a railway bridge which connects the town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. This bridge also designed to open to allow ferry movement, though I couldn’t witness this during my visit.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part VII (Dec ’16)

Route Taken: Guwahati – Nalbari – Bongaigaon – Alipurduar – Coronation Bridge – Khalijora – Melli (Sikkim) – Tista Bazzar – Sixth Mile – Darjeeling

As we saved a day while coming, we wanted to take a chance to do to either PURI/KONARK or my personal favorite DARJEELING and we verified the possibilities with Adithya, who also seemed so encouraging all the way from Day 1. He gave us the route plan and possibilities and time limitations in case we go for it. All of us agreed.

We ensured to make it fast to Darjeeling, as we knew it would be up the hill and that we cannot move fast after sunset. So, we finished our breakfast at the hotel itself (not to miss a mark about the tastiest complimentary breakfast we had, in fact even the bread sandwich tasted too good over the poori subji, I had my tastiest tea, while the men opted for fresh juice)

The route was all scenic all the way till Coronation Bridge, saw the beautiful, huge, mesmerizing beauty of the Teesta river. We kept moving, and sudden plan change to see if SIKKIM could be possible (Thanks for tempting us enough all the way Adithya). Sikkim came with a price of 20+km one way in traffic and so we requested for any other option. Adithya suggested us to just take alternate route via Triveni Sangamam to touch the border and come back, that would just be a 2+km detour. We agreed and did.

My God, while going we saw Triveni Sangamam but didn’t stop as we didn’t want to click pics on Sikkim border post sunset, as it gets too dark. I was counting every minute to not miss both, and yes we did them both! Sikkim border had all police officials near the border gate, and we were clueless how to stop and click pics and return asap, but they were very friendly and as usual wondering on enquiries as to how we made from Chennai all the way. They even helped us park our vehicle near the gate and allowed us to click a few pics and gave us a very warm send off.

We rushed our way back to Triveni Sangamam point where Teesta River and Rangeet River joins. It was beautiful to see two color mix in a point. Thank God, we did not miss and we thanked Adithya for suggesting us the 2km detour.
Time up and we had to make it fast to Darjeeling before it got too dark after sunset. We were about to make it to Darjeeling but took some time to find the hotel, as the streets were all busy, crowded, not a place to park the car and enquire, poor signal in mobile to update the hotel people. Finally we made it and just dropped our luggage, and went to shopping. We found a shop which had all the woolen items, couldn’t bargain, bought what was essential, but definitely cheaper to buy stuff. Hari booked us the toy train for the next day at 10.30 AM and we had a little more time than usual the next morning.

We kept hunting for hotels, didn’t find big ones, stopped in a small hotel, had roti, which wasn’t that good. Mohan wanted to try garlic bread and kept walking to order in dominos, as it was already 10 PM. We had a tasty garlic bread sticks. As we were the last group of customers and the mall was already closed, it was really a moment of adventure to hunt for a way out, which took some time.

We walked back to the hotel all the way for more than 2 kms, as we had no choice and almost exhausted, we knew we definitely had sound sleep. We were a little unfortunate for missing out to find a shop to buy Darjeeling Tea packets or taste one from the local shop. But, it was Christmas Eve, and there were colorful lights all the way, and big musical instruments, speakers were transported around the city by different groups. I am sure it would have been a big celebration time, treat for photographers, had we come a couple of days later.

We got up late, and packed everything in the car, segregated what was scattered, ensured our cycle was fit/tied well. Parked the car in the hotel and planned to get it in return. We kept walking to the railway station and saw the beautiful steam toy train with two compartments instead of one.
Thank God, we made it by 10.15 AM itself for 10.45 AM train time, as they combined two trains into one for some reasons. Then started some confusions for someone who booked a coach fully vs those who had made it early taking seats of their numbers in both the coaches.

Train started 15 minutes late than the usual start time for the same reasons. Everyone was equally excited to see the train move after the long quarrel. It went to GHUM station, then to a park (10-minute parking), then to a museum, where it stopped for 30 minutes. We had options to visit the museum or stay and click shots in the train, with the train / engine. We opted for clicking pics. We then realized it was the steam engine moving in front with the help of electrical engine compartment pushing from behind. That was funny though. We had a feel of visiting almost all the streets of Darjeeling.

With no energy to walk back to the hotel, we took a taxi up to the hotel, took the car and started driving down from Darjeeling.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part VI (Dec ’16)

Day 13: Route taken: Mawlynnong – Dawki – Krang Suri Falls – Jowai – Guwahati (Dinner Cruise)

We wanted to start early, as we knew it was a long day. Tourist attraction at Mawlynnong was the Rewai Village, with single living root bridge, Dawki river, bamboo house view point etc. We went to the bamboo house view point and it was quite an adventure climbing up/sliding up and down. View point was beautiful, we clicked a few pics, couldn’t see the Bangladesh border from there though, due to fog.
We all wanted to make it to the 500-meter root bridge, and it was another lovely natural bridge that connected two trees, with water underneath. Couldn’t spend more time, we left early, had breakfast enroute, where the bearer told us the Dawki river had another short route, if at all we would go but we told him that we already went.

We decided to take the shortcut route, which was only 28km from the point, which otherwise was around 40km usual route we came by. We all were convinced that we shouldn’t have missed taking the scenic routes, captured lovely trees, landscapes all the way, and also hit the Bangladesh border, TAMIBIL border again and saw the beauty of the DAWKI again. Though we missed Shonpodong view point of even more clearer Dawki River, one policeman wrongly guided us our way back to Guwahati, instead.

Adithya also was telling about KRANGSHURI waterfalls enroute Guwahati asking us not to miss that at least. We took a deviation and made it to the view point of the waterfalls, it was so beautiful, but none of us had strength to walk down and climb up again for another 1+1 hour. So, we skipped that one and clicked a few snaps from the view point and left, as we had another target to make it to Guwahati dinner cruise.
We reached Guwahati as per plan and took our stay at Hari Krishna Sweets and Restaurant/Hotel, which was almost a luxury for the night. But it was more for just an overnight stay, as we had dinner cruise from which we would only return by 11 pm post dinner.

Yes, refreshed, buckled up and geared for the dinner cruise, but decided not to take our car in the city traffic, which is a wise decision and took two small rickshaws to reach on time for the dinner cruise. The sun dawn cruise was returning with all lights in the dark and we were so happy to see the huge ship and the beautiful Brahmaputra river at night. We got in to the ship and were given reserved seats that were the second table from the stage.

We thought we would only be witnessing one cultural event but were stunned to see back to back events, starting with a brief introduction about the river, about the state, a run through about a wonderful sand art video about North East India warriors, followed by a very beautiful Classical Assamese Dance performance, followed by Assamese Group folk song and dance accompanied with Tharkha and Dhol, followed by an introduction session given to explain all the musical instruments of their state, finally with karaoke solo singing performance of a singer who was accompanied by a keyboardist, picking up all old Hindi melodies. He seemed to invite all guests to come forward and dance / sing and participate in the musical evening.

Every performance was a treat to watch, soothing for the ears, and pleasing for eyes, cheerful with the music and dance loving crowd around.

Finally, it was time for dinner around 9.00 PM and we were asked to go to the basement to have the tasty dinner. We wouldn’t have got to see so many performances, even if we had stayed in Assam for 2-3 days, but all in one place, we were really delighted and thankful to the Almighty who made it favorable for us and help us get through our plans one by one without a miss.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part V (Dec ’16)

Day 11 & 12: Cherrapunjee – Mawsmai Caves – Nohkalikai Falls – Double Root Bridge – Cheerapunjee – Dawki – Mawlynnong

Roads from Kaziranga were just wow. I very well knew my wife won’t be able to do double root bridge on the same day. So, we planned overnight stay at the bridge and so the previous night we had to stay elsewhere near to it. We chose PALA Resort, which was a big resort in Cherrapunjee with scenic views, and near to 7 sister falls, a few km to Nohkalikai falls and Mawsmai Limestone caves.

I wanted to try cycling from the resort to the root bridge. Roads were climbing down mostly, so it’s quite good to cycle all the way. However, our first stop was to Nohkalikai falls after seeing Mawsmai caves. So, my wife took the wheels and both my wife & my friend went to Limestone caves.

In the mean time, I reached Nohkalikai falls and the views were just awesome. What was more awesome was the shopping point and both my travel partners found a big shop which had almost everything they needed and also some showcase items, some shawls, etc. After shopping and loading the car with the items, we met few friends/tourist from Coimbatore and Chennai, whom we also met again at Mawlynnong, the place where both the gangs proceeded to.

The time came when we reached Double Bridge and the board reading “Living Root Bridge 3 KM”, my wife almost exhausted reading it but had no choice than to proceed. We had to carry our own bags with the next day dress, while I carried couple of carry bags along with cameras, she carried another bag which has clothes. NOTE: LESS LUGGAGE MORE COMFORT, plan it such a way.

The trek to living root bridge consists of 2000+ steps climb down & another 1200+ steps climb up. So, it’s a mixed bag and just not one way climb down and one way climb up. You will also cross couple of bridges which would be a thrilling experience as it’s quite narrow and also both are hanging bridge. The first 1000 steps itself would dehydrate you very much and your legs will start begging for rest. Fortunately, you will find few shops / villages enroute, so you can recharge by having black tea, fresh lemon drink, maggi etc.,. Crossing of the iron bridge, was a WOW moment as you will witness pure bluish water below, with cool breeze around. The second bridge was even more difficult to cross but quite safe. A fit person would be able to do the trek in 2 to 2.5 hours flat with couple of breaks. We manage to do it in 3 hours.

We booked our room at Serene home stay and it’s a basic one with couple of rooms availabe for the guests. We got a 3 bed stay with mosquito nets. After checked in and left my wife to catch her breath, Hari & myself went to check out the bridge which was hardly 100 mts away. There is a fee that has to be paid and after paying we went to visit the bridge and took few photographs and back to the room. During dinner time we met fellow travellers from Israel, Scotland & Russia.

We also met two lovely people, by then famous Honeymoon Couples Ramneek and Swatabdi who just out of nowhere started for a long trip on their Enfield bike, a day after their wedding. We were spellbound hearing their adventures in a bike who also made it to the rainbow falls, but said that they had to stay a day extra to make it. After hearing this we made up our mind that we wouldn’t be able to do rainbow falls, as we had to reach Mawlynnong next day.

Next day morning all 3 of us visited the double decker bridge again and spent close to an hour before we start our return journey to the base village. My wife managed well on the return leg and I took a detour at the single root bridge while they went ahead with the ascend.

The return leg took close to 3 hours and we managed to reach the base at 11.30 AM and we started our journey to Mawlynnong. Roads from Cheerapunji to Mawlynnong was good except few rough patches around Dawki.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part IV (Dec ’16)

Day 10: Kaziranga & to Cheerapunji

We are up as early as 5.30, so that we could be there at the Kohara camp by 6.30 to get our tickets for elephant safari. The person from Nature Hunt Eco Camp was waiting already and procured tickets for us just in time. We along with a guard got in to an elephant and set of for the safari. AS soon as we entered the safari route, we spotted couple of one horned rhinos and we took some good amount photographs and set of further in to the forest. However, we could spot only a couple of deers & a bison during our 45 mins safari. However, it’s worth to take elephant ride instead of jeep safari, as you get pretty close to the rhinos.

After the safari, we drove straight to Cheerapunji, though the original plan was to stay in Shillong. We stayed in a lovely resort named Pala Resort, which is very close to the seven sister falls, though the last few kms to reach the resort is awful. However, they have a lovely set up with some very good food options.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part III (Dec’ 2016)

Day 8-Day 9: December 17: 325 kms / 7 AM to 2 PM

Majuli: Biggest River Island in the World.

From Bhalukpong, we had an option to take Ferry at North Lakhimpur, but we decided to take the road to reach Majuli via Ghilamora, India’s biggest river island between the mighty Brahmaputra. It was an amazing scenic route, saw Kameng River joining Brahmaputra enroute. Roads were good till Ghilamora and from there on to a single lane with occasional bad roads, but the landscape was amazing throughout the drive. Had Assam Chai, and a tasty lunch with Roti/Chowmein costing us just Rs. 150/- for three (with two water bottles purchased as well) near North Lakhimpur.

The whole route had lovely milestones with lovely messages, captions, and I was waiting to click one pic with the most apt one, found one that said “LIFE IS A JOURNEY; COMPLETE IT” and was so happy posing.

Majuli, a place we never wanted to skip irrespective of anything that could obstruct. Anyone with a taste for art, culture, passion for photography cannot miss this beauty in many ways. It was just a photographers’ paradise and we kept clicking anything and everything enroute. One can see ART living in any form in the place. People are so talented. “Aaya Kalaigal 64” is what we call in Tamil Nadu for a mastering 64 forms of ART, but we were surprised to see the numbers became countless as there were as many satras. Not to miss mentioning a tasty Assamese thali in Ural, a home type restaurant, for food from natural herbs, veggies. Not sure if everyone would like it, but we just loved it though the rice wasn’t that same one we have.

The place we stayed, was like a natural paradise, La Maison De Ananda. We got a bamboo cottage and a tent for our accomodation. Bamboo hut had a half footed steps to climb to reach the upper deck and the rooms are tastefully done. A very scenic place to stay. It was too early but too dark by 4.30 PM, and we just wanted to have a walk for some shopping, but unfortunate again as the shops were all closed having only some bakeries, and tea shop open. Had tea and got some snacks for the next day. I tried some cycling on the streets of Majuli and all 3 of us happilly roamed the street for almost an hour. Though, the stay has an option to order tribal food, we skipped it as we had a late lunch and had some snacks and retired for the day.

More About Satras: 33 + 2 Sattras are recognized by the Majuli Cultural Landscape Region Act, 2006 out of 64 + 2 original Satras of Majuli island

Day 9: Dec 18: 236 kms / 2 PM to 6.30 PM (text by co-traveller)

We went to Dhakshinpat Satra, but a little early before the temple inside were open. Met guruji there and learnt from him about the art taught. Got to know they have over 8 lakh students till date. The place had a lot of paintings in the form of half sculptures on walls, had their disciples of different age groups, small kids were so enthu, running around, doing their activities.

We then went to old Samaguri Satra, but unfortunate to not meet the artist, and then came to the new Samaguri Satra and met the living legend Sri Sri Hem Chandra Goswami. We were awestruck by the variety of his art work. The pictures drawn by him, dolls made by him, the animated faces, the giant God / Goddess models OMG, we were just seeing how passionately the master himself kept explaining everything about how they make it and how many days it takes to etc. I still wonder how a person of such a versatile talent, who is so popular, who is the master for so many lakhs of students, can be so calm, polite, down to earth, so friendly, live in such a small village, in a small house, OMG! He is simply a living legend. Hats off to you Sri HEM CHAND ji!!!

The ferry was at 1.30, so we had to rush. The village roads are too confusing as even if we miss a left or right, you may have to go far to even take a u turn. Some roads were very narrow, some have steep sides. We somehow found a small hotel and had roti, and rushed to ferry. Found out that the ferry was already blocked for three existing cars of some foreigners who visited Satras after we did. Also, that ferry at 130 PM was a small one accommodated only 3 cars. When enquired, the booking officer said there is another ferry at 3 PM which can accommodate 6 cars. We were late by 10 mins to miss out a space in the 130 ferry. But to our surprise, 3 PM ferry came at 2:15 itself and ours was the first car, and it started at 245 PM itself.

Mohan decided to sit inside and we both came out to click some pics. But it was way too crowded with a lot of bikes and 6 cars, that we couldn’t move around. Hari went to sit on top but I stayed inside. Had a good chat with the local villagers. Surprised with their way of life, amazed to see how they depend on ferry for every day work (like buses and trains here), how they share their food, bring chocolates and distribute to all friends in ferry, how kids enjoy seeing us, speaking with us etc. Typical female moment to cherish when I enquired about their sarees and they started explaining with pride as I told them they were looking awesome, I was told not to buy from local shops and suggested to go to Guwahati where I would find a lot of wholesale shops having sarees.

Note: Popular varieties were “Mekhela chador” worn by all women of all ages except kids. There are three major types of native silks—golden Muga, white Pat and warm Eri silk.

I also made my time to step out of the ferry and have some view of the giant Brahmaputra river, stood next to our car. To everyone’s surprise, they were seeing me and was waiting to speak with me. I realizing it started the conversation with how long it would take to reach sort. That’s it, one started giving me suggested places to visit, that includes Shivpuri, one told to go to Kaziranga (which was already the place where we were heading to). I stayed calm not to react and kept nodding, but was so pleased to see how each one was happy for us visiting their place all the way from South. They were equally surprised how we took our cycle so well packed, and tried shaking it and witness it was well fit in our car.

Note: The ferry would take some 1.5 hours from Neamati Ghat to Jorhat. Roads to Kohora are good. Ferry has a small stall selling black tea, and some biscuits and you would not miss it if you are a tea lover.

After the ferry it was a straight drive to reach the beautiful ECO Nature Hunt Resort at Kaziranga. For dinner we tried their tribal food & traditional Assamese thali which was very tasty.

Next up is Kaziranga.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part II (Dec’ 2016)

Day 5: Today our plan was to reach Tawang and also visit Dirang / Sela Pass enroute. Before we started from Bomdilla, paid a visit to the Monastery at 7 am, and spent a valuable 45 mins and started our journey. The route from there onwards were more scenic and we had photography stops quite often. We had breakfast at the Awoo Resort at Dirang (a recommended place to stay for the best views and natural location of the resort). We also visited a WAR MEMORIAL of the Jawans and had tasty hot veg momos made by the ARMY canteen staff.

We went through the SELA PASS (13703 ft above the sea level), and OMG, what a lake…what a view…with cool breeze pushing us, we enjoyed walking down and climbing up the lake and spotted fresh snow…which was tempting to play… and we did! Spotted a beautiful waterfall named as Nuranang or JANG falls, spotted next to tough and a mighty river stream… but again it required us to climb a long way down, as we had limited time to reach Tawang, we skipped with just the view of the fall, which was about 34 kms from SELA PASS.

We spotted domestic YAK all along…in different shades…as big as it could be… spotted sheep, goats and cows, which had very small legs… cute to watch and not to miss mentioning, it was always a wow moment for us to spot the snow peaks, big or small, full or partial… Scenic beauty.

Finally we reached Tawang by 4.30 PM and met Mr. Tenzing, who was our host at Tawang and he promptly helped us unload our luggage and quickly helped us to get in to our rooms.

As it was already dark, we didn’t venture out that day except that I gave a much needed wash for my bicycle and also do a couple of rounds around the hotel. One thing which I noticed while driving in Arunachal was, every driver in Arunachal on our way was kind enough to leave way for us, even if they were on a uphill climb, which made driving much better on the narrow roads. This happened throughout our journey in Arunachal and a big salute to all of them. This included the cab drivers, army trucks or any goods carrier.

Day 6: We had plan to visit Bhumla & Sangetsar Lake today and we left as early as 7 AM. The roads were really bad and it was a backbreaking trip throughout. But the landscape unfolded in front of our eyes made the journey exciting and memorable. We stopped on the famous P T TSO lake and we were the first group to enter the lake that day. We spent good amount of time in the lake and would have loved to spend the whole day just watching the landscape. However, we had to cut short after taking some good amount of photographs and then proceeded our journey.

From there on, we had another problem, as Viji developed uneasiness and probably hit by AMS. When we reached the Y junction, she got headache, vomiting sensation & giddiness though she wanted to proceed to Bum La. Finally we reached Bum La and the army came to our rescue and gave hot water, tea & sweet to make her feel better. One army officer brought pulse machine to see if she was in any danger mark and finally said she was fine to proceed. Another officer came all the way to accompany her up to the border point, which had a board saying THANK YOU, crossing which is CHINA. She could walk a few meters just before the mark but returned as again her health bothered too much. So, the officer took her back and made her rest.

Hari & I went up to the border and had a little chat with the soldiers and took a few photographs and returned. With this condition we didn’t want to proceed to the Sangetsar lake, though it was on a much comfortable altitude, but didn’t want to take any chance. Hence returned back to the hotel and rested for the day. I wanted to do my car wash before we proceeded for the next leg of our journey, but for some reasons, the shops were closed and I couldn’t find a single garage open. So, I had wash the car myself on that cold evening. We then ordered snacks & dinner at the hotel, which was very tasty and retired for the day.

Day 7: What a start for the day at the Tawang Monastery, so huge yet so clean. We were lucky to witness the morning prayers for Buddha. Also, we met our fellow HVKian Tejesh Gowda and his friend, who were on a similar trip. We took a few suggestions from them. Had breakfast at Jung, and tried to visit hot water spring at Dirang, where one had to climb down for about 750mts and upon reaching, saw it was too crowded already and hence returned back. We actually could have made it to the beautiful Sangti Valley (20km detour left turn from Dirang), had we skipped the time taken to climb up and down to the hot water spring but there is always a next time, so no regrets. We proceeded to Bhalukpong as we didn’t take this route due the wrong turn during our onward journey.

We also had a lovely evening at the Tenga Haat, military canteen, where we had our late lunch, worth a delay, as we had really tasty food there, which also had some shopping outlets, but unfortunate we had to reserve cash for our onward journey. So, came without purchasing anything. It was tough to find the location of our planned stay at hotel SOLU, which we didn’t know it was renamed as Hotel Mandal Chang, run by brother-in-law to the owner of Gayki Khang Zhang at Tawang. It was a pleasant evening to meet so lovely people at our stay and they offered us a very tasty dinner.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part I (Dec’ 2016)


Visiting North East was on the cards for a very long time. We were not very clear on the routes & road conditions on the roads less traveled, which kept us from visiting NE for long, but not any longer as we decided to take the plunge and visit North East last December. From that day, the preparation started by reading blogs about North East and the places I was intended to visit and the locations where we would stay in North East, both for strategic location to stay for some night photography (which never happened, as I lost the tripod before the trip begun) & also for our travel next day, as we won’t be spending more than a day in most of the locations. In about 20 days’ time, got the draft plan for the places & location where we would stay. The biggest catch was reaching Tawang, as most suggested it would take 4 days to reach Guwahati from Chennai and procuring ILP for Arunachal Pradesh, which would take another day in Guwahati. Since, we planned visting Tawang first, all other hotel bookings should be based on that and hence we couldn’t book any hotels in advance.

ILP for Tawang

Getting ILP online isn’t very much clear and had mixed reviews/results from earlier travelers. So, looked for someone in Guwahati who could procure ILP before we reach Guwahati. From Facebook, found a person in Guwahati who was organizing tours and spoke to him about getting an ILP. He promised to get us the ILP in a week’s time and asked for relevant documents (passport size photograph & an ID card) to be sent to his email id. We forwarded the documents and the got the ILP ready before a week of our travel. That saved a day for us in getting ILP. There is another way to get the ILP but you have to reach Bhalukpong before 4 PM and do the paper work done and get ILP, which would take 20 minutes, but I would recommend to get the ILP from a travel agent to avoid hassles on the travel day.

As we wanted to spend maximum time in North East as much as possible, we decided to reach Guwahati in 3 days and that meant we had to cover the maximum distance on the first 2 days, so that the foggy morning and early sunset doesn’t spoil our plans.

Onward Journey:

Day 1: As planned, we started as early as 2.30 AM so that we reach Bhubaneswar, which is 1200+ kms from Chennai. There is nothing much to report as the roads are mostly 4 laned and with the early start we could cross Vizag by 3 PM and reached Bhubaneswar by 10.30 PM as planned. We got the hotel booking through OYO and it was a good stay close to the NH.

Day 2: We were supposed to reach Purnea, but a wrong turn somewhere between Deoghar & Banka, meant we had to deal with early onset of Fog and a delay of couple of hours and also able to reach Bhagalpur only. Roads were good till Asansol and from there on bad to very bad roads till we reached Baghalpur.

Day 3: Today target was to reach Guwahati by sun down and try to experience the dinner cruise. Started around 7.45 and the roads were too good with early morning mist and a fresh outlook of the country roads with mustard plantation on either sides and we were able to quickly cross Purnea and reach close to Islampur. But then the road was blocked for processions due to celebrations and we had to wait for next 2.5 hours and from there on had to negotiate for another hour to hit the highway. There were several check posts from Bongaigaon to Guwahati but none bothered to stop us and roads were almost good till Guwahati. We took a pit stop at a place called Aranya Hotel, where we had some delicious pakoras. So, if you are passing by, don’t miss this place. However, the delay caused us to reach Guwahati only by 11.30 PM.

Day 4: We were relieved that we could reach Guwahati in 3 days as planned, and from here on we planned to take it slow as we had enough time in our hands to explore North East before we hit our first destination Tawang. We visited ECO Camp at Nameri, worth spending 45 mins there. Where we got to know about NE tradition, food eaten, medicinal values of fruits etc. Purchased Star Fish Pickle. We also got to know about river rafting there but due to time constraint, we couldn’t go for it, as we were told to get some permission inside and rafting time would take 2-3 hrs. Roads till Bhalukpong were excellent and from there on it was bad. We also took a wrong turn few kms after Bhalukpong after an iron bridge, that went through Kimi, Khuppi & Nechifu. We thought of returning back at initial few kms but a gentleman stopped us and detailed us to proceed via the lengthy route saying the return journey to the point and the onward would take almost the same time, alas it was a wrong decision as there are very very bad roads to no roads from Kimi to Nechifu. Though, we managed to navigate through those terrains with our XUV, it is definitely not recommended for sedans & hatchbacks and especially with cars having poor ground clearance.

It was getting darker, and none of the maps work there as we cannot see any sign boards. We just had hope that we would reach the place and hit the target for the day, that will power worked well too.

We had something enroute, as dinner but were hungry but since it got very late (7pm, you can expect shops closed, no food outlets open). So, we requested the Bomdila Monastery guest house care taker to make us maggi and had it hot, when the temperature at 8 pm was as low as 4 degrees, which kept decreasing hour after hour.