MEET THE TRAVELERS
After lot of deliberation, 2 most unlikely co-travelers – Bridget & I decided to travel solo (minus kid & husband) to Northeast.
It was supposed to be a simple, value for money back-packing trip but it ended up being a big excursion into 3 States of Northeast viz. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh & Meghalaya.
ASSAM – Day 1 & 2
After about 6 hours drive from Guwahati, we reached Nameri National Park & Tiger reserve (though the last tiger sighting was in 2013-14). It was pitch dark at 5 pm itself so we were mainly huddled in the hotel itself. This place is a heaven for flora & fauna lovers. For us, it was a place to bond with nature.
We stayed in a tent in Eco Camp – a hotel which has tents & cottages. Doing trekking through the national park & lazy river rafting was the highlight of this day. Brilliant pictures of the birds, the park itself & the surroundings – that’s what is in store for you here.
NOTE: Do check the water levels of Jia Bhorelli river before you go for the river rafting option. If too low, it’s not rafting – just boating!
ARUNACHAL PRADESH – Day 3 to Day 7
Before going to Arunachal Pradesh:
You need to get an ILP (Inner Line Permit) to enter the state. This can be easily obtained online OR in designated offices around the country.
In Arunachal Pradesh:
We went to Bhalukpong (border of Assam & Arunachal) -> Bomdila -> Tawang & then back. The stop at Bhalukpong was only taken to reduce the distance towards Tawang – which is an arduous journey. Bhalukpong is a small village with some brilliant views & Tippi Orchardarium nearby to spend some quality time.
Once we left Bhalukpong (recommended to start earlier as it gets dark pretty soon), we went into a world where the only predominant feature was scenic bliss. It was a treat for the eyes & calming for the brain! Our driver was harassed by us to stop at various places – pretty places (Nechiphu falls, Tenga valley, Naag mandir) – to take pictures. The beautiful backdrop & a suitable pose helped us actually show how carefree we were & we felt. It became almost 3 pm till we reached Bomdila where we managed to stay in a monastary guest house (because of goibibo having a ghost hotel listed on its site!) & called it a night. The temperatures can be anywhere between 8 degress to 12 degrees here.
We left Bomdila the next day earlier too since this was the most difficult part of the journey. First stop was Dirang valley & Dirang Hot water springs. We didn’t feel comfortable enough to experience the medicinal effects of these springs when locals were flocking to bathe! We were strongly advised to take a 4-wheeled drive while going to Tawang. Why this is the case, became apparent to us as we started this journey. This road is covered with snow for 6 months & with water the other 6. If the road gets damaged (which it often does) it is closed for 1.5-2 hours – while stopping traffic from both sides – and made on-the-fly by the army people. Do eat in one of the army canteens. You will have some amazing food at a very reasonable value!
“All good things come to those who wait” & our wait ended with breathtaking Sela pass & it’s frozen lake. Post Sela we went to Jaswant Garh (a memorial for Jaswant Singh – a soldier who defended that point from the invading Chinese army for 72 hours in the 1962 war) & then reached Tawang by 7:00 pm. There is very little to do here once it gets dark.
“Dharti pe agar swarg, kahin hai toh yahin hai!” Pt. Nehru said this about Kashmir. I haven’t been there but route to Tawang sure felt like heaven on earth. I was on cloud nine, I was surrounded by pristine snow & I didn’t want to come back from it. It was an arduous journey with really poor roads but the effort was all worth it because of what you see all around you!
Here we saw clear blue skies & white cover of snow as long as eyes extended. Our first stop was PTSO lake – an unfrozen lake surrounded by snow followed by Madhuri Lake (originally named Shungetsar Lake & changed because the movie Koyla starring Madhuri Dixit was shot here)
NOTE: Do check if Bumla pass is open (India-China border) & get the permit – a different one from ILP – to visit that place. Unfortunately, when we visited – it was closed for tourists.
After sumptuous lunch of ‘Thupka’ – traditional Nepalese food, we visited the Tawang Monastary (biggest monastery after the Ladakh one) & went to Tawang war memorial. This entire place reminds you of the sacrifices military did to keep us safe during the 1962 war. The light & sound show, though quite simple, touches your heart!
We left in the morning for Bomdila after Tawang for just staying the night – as the roads are pretty rough. This was the part where we left snow far behind & our journey to lower altitudes started. It was almost 6 – 7 pm when we reached Bomdila & checked in at Tsepal Yongjam.
Next day was the longest ride of our trip – 10 hours since we didn’t stop at Kaziranga! Things we missed on the way up, we saw on our way down. One of them is the mighty Jung falls – huge waterbody!
MEGHALAYA – Day 7 to DAY 11
So, generally people prefer to stop at Kaziranga (Assam) from Bomdila to break the journey & also to see the one-horned rhino. Not too much into fauna of the place, we were just excited to go to Meghalaya.
Tawang had set a very high standard for beauty & there had to be something awesome in Meghalaya for us to go mad taking pictures. In Meghalaya, the brown of mountains & white of snow was replaced by green of forests as far as eyes can go on our route to Cherrapunji. It was here that we saw Elephant falls, 7 sister falls, Nohkalikai falls, Mawsmai caves & stopped at multiple view points on the way. Ram Krishna Mission Museum is also informative. The eclectic things we did here, proved Meghalaya was going to put up a hell of a fight to prove it’s beauty to us!
It’s true what they say, Meghalaya is not only the Scotland of the East but also the land of innumerable waterfalls.
After getting fully wet in the wettest place on earth, we hurried to our hotel Eee Cee in Police Bazaar to get ready for date night 🙂 This fancy place is Cloud 9 – we unfortunately went when it wasn’t a live performance night – a club that is highly recommended.
Next day we went to Mawlynnong – cleanest village in Asia, Dawki – the place of crystal clear waters, Living Root Bridges & Brun Khongmen view point, Nature & wonder rock & finally to India – Bangladesh border. It is not flashy like the Wagah border, just a road where one side was Bangladesh flag & other side was Indian flag & you see line 0.
On the final day of our trip, we went to places in Shillong like Wards lake, Barapani lake, Don Bosco museum, Polo grounds etc. Each of them was as commercial as the other with a whole lot of entry fees, camera fees etc. But they did help us take some very good pictures & gave us significant information about the locals & their culture.
Finally, after 11 days we took a flight back from the lands of raincoats & sweaters to the overheated oven that Mumbai was.
Throughout the flight I kept thinking of how it had to be fate – that got Bridget & me together, that got us to plan this trip together & the icing of the cake – realize that we weren’t too different after all (it took 10 days of the trip to do so 🙂 )!
As I always believed – C’est la vie (such is life)!!!