Have you seen skies so blue that they almost start to have a
shade of purple? Have you ever seen trees that stretch themselves out to allow
people to traverse across chasms? Have you ever seen people so humble that they
feel like some long lost relatives? Have you seen waters as clear as the soul
of saints? No? Neither had I. But I along with 40 other people were about to
witness all of it on our Tour of North East 2018 trip organised by Royal
Enfield over the course of 11 days.
I had to take a flight from Delhi to Guwahati from where we
had to start our journey. I landed there in the afternoon and after reaching
the hotel was treated to the sight of dozen Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycles
lined up neatly in a single file. Controlling my urge to get on one, I went
inside and participated in the proceedings. To my delight, the good folks at RE
handed us the keys to our bikes and asked us to take them for a spin and get
lunch. So all of us took our respective bikes and got some appetizing food and
even fueled up the bikes for the ride the next day. The reason for this
activity was to allow the rider to get to know the bikes and also figure out if
there were any changes that were needed. There was a mechanic who was seeing to
everyone’s needs and assisting people in fitting any accessories that they
might want on their ride.
There was a briefing session in the evening and we were
given some basics to follow. There was even a medical workshop to prepare the
riders for first aid in case of an emergency. With all that out of the way, it
was time to grab some dinner and retire for the day.
We were to leave Guwahati and reach Cherrapunjee on the
first day and the ride was about 200 kms. The ride began roughly at 9AM and that
was going to be standard for the days to follow. On the way we were to visit
the fabled Dain Thlen Falls which takes its name after a python. About 5km
before the waterfalls, we encountered some really bad and broken roads, though
I was not bothered by this development as it allowed me to stand tall on my
Himalayan and feel the suspension do its work. The bike swerved easily and with
grace. Sadly, once we did reach the waterfall, we found it to be mostly dried
up and not as charming as it might have looked at other times during the year.
We then stopped on the Meghalaya state highway to have a cup (or two for some
others) of tea. After the refreshing drink and a bit of rest we headed for our
destination of the day and reached there by evening.
The next day we went to a village called Mawlynnong, which
happens to be the cleanest village in India. In fact, it can put many major Indian
cities to shame when it comes to cleanliness. If I begin to describe how clean
this place is then that would cover this entire article. But in a nutshell,
there is a small entry fee which is used for maintenance and every household
has to participate in keeping the place clean. From one clean place to another,
we visited the Umngot river which is, once again, the cleanest in India. The
water was so clear that you could see the river bed below.
We found the best stretch of road on the third day of our
trip. It was just our bikes and the open highway taking us from Shillong to
Kaziranga. The 100 plus kilometers that we rode on the lonely highway was something
like a meditation; a time where you were with others but still a sacred
solitude surrounding you, in a good way. All that changed once we were about
30km from our destination. The road shrunk to a single lane and deteriorated
drastically. Once again, being on a Himalayan motorcycle meant that these
potholes and gravel had no way to slow us down. We reached Hotel Landmark Woods
by 2PM and had lunch. Post that it was time to grab a glimpse of the wildlife
in the Kaziranga National Park. All of us were packed in several open Jeeps and
for once were not the ones behind the wheels. This allowed us a bit more
freedom to appreciate what we saw. We saw rhinos and elephants among many other
creatures of the wild.
On the fourth day we explored the resort where we were
staying at. It even had a small pond of its own which was home to fishes and
ducks. As a result of the morning exploration, we left the hotel late, at about
1PM. This leg of our journey saw us pass many tea plantations and even visit one.
At a certain point it was time to load our bikes on a ferry because our bikes
weren’t amphibious enough to cross the Brahmaputra River. The 45-minute ride on
the tranquil waters under a sky that seemed to stretch for leagues in all
directions was truly a view that invoked feelings of wonder and bliss within my
heart. Once we stepped on land again, we rode for a little while and reached
Dekasang Majuli where we enjoyed a cultural dance of Assam around a bonfire and
some light chatter over the embers.
To get from Majuli to Ziro we had to cross the Brahmhaputra
River again. Our lunch was at a dhaba
near the Arunachal Pradesh border.The roads there were rather rocky;actually
calling them roads would be a stretch (pun intended). Ziro was supposed to be a
place where we would spend the next day just resting and visiting any spots of
interest. We visited the local villages and saw the traditional dance and even
went to the Kiwi wine factory. Then came a visit to the Shiv Mandir in Kardo
after which we went to Viewer's Point from where you could presumably see the
entire Ziro valley.However, we found that that was not the case really.
The next leg of the journey would take us to Chariali. But
how could we start our ride without some good old tea and biscuit? We found a
few shops that were not entirely in the best of shape, bunched together. Among
them was Rose Bakery which was actually neat and tidy. So that is where we went
to fuel ourselves before heading out. The roads were actually very good but we
had to negotiate our way through city traffic for the most part, which
admittedly took away some of the fun out of it.
The road to Dirang, which was our next destination, was
under construction and as a result the road was open only during certain hours
of the day. This meant that we would have to leave early, really early. So
while the sun still had to make an appearance, we left at 4AM. Though people
did feel a little drowsy, the need to cross the under-construction part of the
journey was pressing. The road was basically gravel and mud and leaving early
in the morning meant limited visibility till the sun came out. Since Biswanath
Chariali was in Assam and Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh, we had to stop at the
Arunachal Border to register our bikes. We passed Bomdilla and reached Dirang
where we finally were treated to some good roads. Our stop in Dirang was
Norphel Retreat. Because we left so early in the morning, we were able to reach
the hotel by afternoon and treated ourselves to some much needed sleep and
We left Dirang and crossed Sapper and stopped in Baisakhi for
tea. There was an army cantonment and a small museum dedicated to the
India-China war which we visited. Next came Sela Pass which is known for its
unpredictable weather conditions. The temperature there was below zero so I had
to stop at a small tea stall housed in one of four little houses where I
treated myself to two cups of tea and a delicious bowl of Maggi. For lunch we
had momos which might not sound like
much but these were huge and appetizing. Just four pieces were enough to fill
most people up.
Bumla is a high altitude area that, combined with the fact
that some people wanted to rest, resulted in only some of us going to Bumla. We
saw the valiant Indian Armed forces practising with their canons. It was quite
the experience and filled us all with adrenaline making us forget the cold
temperatures. It had begun to snow a little. We saw the China border where we
got free Samosa and tea from the Army Cantonment. Since the roads were bad, the
35km long journey took us 3 hours to complete. We visited a Buddhist monastery
in Tawang which had some really alluring imagery.
From Dirang, it was time to come back to Guwahati. This time
when we reached Sela Pass, it was snowing which made riding somewhat difficult.
Visibility dropped and so did the temperature. The saving grace was that we found
the only eatery in north east which was selling chole and samose. On our
way back to Guwahati, we also visited and crossed the Bhutan border. The road
was wide but was a single lane road allowing us to cover large distances. Then
we reached Guwahati and had a closing ceremony where every rider was awarded a
certificate of completion.
Needless to say, the trip was enjoyed by everyone. Despite
the lengths that we covered there were no strict boundaries laid to capture the
spirit of exploring which I appreciated the most. The gun wagon was there with
us at all times helping fix any mechanical issues with the bikes. The coordinators
were really kind, helpful and very efficient in handling the large group. This
trip saw many female riders and people who were not ardent riders as well. Still
each one left Guwahati with a wide smile, appreciating the scenic spots we
covered and the RE Himalayan adventure we experienced!
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