Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BackPacking North East

The trip provided Amazing Spectacles

The original plans had started off with a back-packing trip across Europe. Ultimately, keeping in mind all kinds of restraints it ended up being finalized to North East India. And it was quite a trip – plans changing every day, every moment during the sojourn. The 3 people had something in common. All three names started with ‘S’ and their company’s name started with ‘I’. Sanchit and I caught the morning flight from Delhi while Suvo reached Guwahati from Kolkata. We were to travel and trek for the next 12 days.
The final destinations encompassed 3 states – Assam, Arunachal and Meghalaya. The first destination was Tawang - a small town situated literally in the lap of the magnificent Himalayas. The first morning was a sight to remember. It was bright and sunny, clear blue sky and wherever you looked you had snow peaked mountains staring down at you.

Paradise Lake at Sela Pass

It was truly breathtaking. Next 4 days were spent at Tawang. In that for 2 days we trekked, climbed the nearest mountains and altitudes of around 4000 feet to snow ranges. The whole region is army dominated. There are different posts at different heights and it was a close range view of how tough the army life was there in that area. For us, it was remarkable. For them, it was routine and tough. Apart from the treks to PTSO lake – a small water body amazingly unfrozen at 13,500 feet, we also saw the Tawang Monastery – largest in India and second largest in Asia. We also found out that the town went dead at 8.00 PM. The shops close down by 6 – 6.30. There was a electricity cut for 1 – 1.5 hours at 7.30 PM everyday and any traces of ‘night life’ left went off at that time. It was tough resisting a comparison with Mumbai. Another interesting thing was the internet penetration. In Tawang where there was no Mobile connectivity (in fact mobile was off for the whole North East trip) and where a call from a STD/PCO took around 3 minutes to connect – still the place had a cyber café with broadband with decent speed and cheap prices (even the computers were quite modern with flat LCD screens and all)

PTSO Lake: The trek Objective standing at more than 13,500 feet

After 4 long days and 5 nights in Tawang, we left back for Tezpur. The plan was to go to Guwahati from there and then carry on to Tinsukia, Miao and finally to Namdapha – which is a rare Tiger reserve at the extreme East end of India. But destiny had some other plans. On the way to Tezpur, we were stopped and our huge back packs checked 3 times. Then we came to know that serial bomb blasts had taken place that very evening in the area – it was ULFA's rising day next day. Neverthless, Suvo’s uncle was contacted and he gave a green signal to come to Namdapha where special permission had to be taken to enter the area. We found buses leaving from Tezpur itself so booked ourselves. We had an hour to leave so decided to quickly check our mail once. By the time we reached back and Suvo made another call to his uncle to confirm the plans, everything had changed. The bomb blast news had just reached them and we were asked to drop all plans and go to Shillong. The original plan was in fact quite interesting. Had we gone ahead with it, we would have traversed through whole of Assam on the eve of ULFA rising day to the place which allegedly has headquarters of 4 terrorist organizations. May be its good that we went to shillong ;)
Anyways, it was time to check in to a hotel at Tezpur for the night. It was Sanchit’s birthday that day so had a celebration dinner for the most extraordinary birthday of his life. Next morning we left for Shillong. Shillong was a typical tourist destination – not different from our very own Shimla. After checking into a hotel, we enquired about the treks and places to visit. Days here were also full of uncertainty. Plans were deliberated on, discussed, searched, quashed and still changed even after climbing on the bus. The trek to Living root bridge – a rare one found only in India was quite exhausting but enjoyable – through the jungles of Cherapunjee, crossing wire mesh bridges, arduously climbing mountains. The place known for world’s highest rainfall had a harsh sun shining on us on 2 days.

The only double decker living root bridge in the world - Cherrapunjee

Return journey from there was equally exciting. It was a small tribal village that we reached. According to information gathered, there were hourly buses till 3 PM. But our 2.5 hour stay in the middle of the road till 2.30 PM didn’t witness anything which could take us back to shilling. Eventually we took lift in an Ambulance to Sohra (local name of Cherapunjee) from where we took a cab to Shillong.
It was a long journey back from Guwahati but the air journey provided some magnificent spectacles – firstly of the huge mountain peaks of Himalayas and the plains down below in a single view. Secondly of views of 2 other aeroplanes from our plane.
It was one of the longest travel trips I have ever had. The longest time that the Mobile phone was tucked away in the bag. And a rare one where life safety had to be factored in before making some of the decisions. The landscapes , the treks, the grueling bending roads, rare sites and cities – everything has left a distinct mark on the memory – a cherish able mark.

Peaks and the Plains: View from the Aeroplane


Amrut said...

Bahut bada hai be... Aaram se paadonga... But the Fotos are awesome!!

Siddhartha Joshi said...

interesting read, wish you had posted a few more pics :)

i saw much less snow i guess...it was yet to snow when i visited in early jan.