ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary

Tripoto
5th May 2018

North East!

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh
Photo of Kochi, Kerala, India by Vishnu Suresh
Day 1

It was a lazy day. I was relaxing after all my final year exams got finished, chilling at home munching on Mom's yummy food at Kochi. I had been thinking about an unplanned trip for quite some time and was talking to Mom about my plans. That's when my Friend and travel mate Akhil came in. He had a backpack with him. I was planning on starting off after a couple of days, but unplanned trips sure don't work that way! . I was not at all prepared.

He gave me a look with mischief and asked me where my backpack was. I was lost for couple of seconds and I understood this is how things are gonna work for us for the days to come. I finished my lunch fast, went into my room and stuffed all sorts of things i could find into my backpack, asked mom for Rs 3000 and bid adieu and started off. Thus began a journey of a lifetime!

Day 2

No destination, but only the journey was in our mind. It was truly mixed emotions we had in our head, fear,excitement, curiosity to see new things all at once haunted us.

Our starting point was Coimbatore, on may 5th. After meeting my friend's brother at his hostel, Akhil and I just started walking on the main road, wondering how to proceed. Sweltering under the hot summer mid-afternoon sun, we took shelter under a tree and tossed a coin to decide our mode of travel. I was beyond glad when the result was hitchhiking !.

Photo of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India by Vishnu Suresh
Day 3

Thus, having decided to hitchhike, we hit the road away from the hustle and bustle of the main city and was lucky enough to stop a lorry. We reached Salem by 10 o’clock and took a train to Bengaluru, since chances of getting a lift are slim during that time of the hour.

We reached Bengaluru by 2AM the next day. After reaching Bangalore and settling down at a friend's place, we decided to hit Himachal after researching for a bit. But we had something to do at Hyderabad, so we dicided to go there first. From there we would go to Delhi, met another friend and set off to Himachal. That was our plan.

After a fun day at a friend’s place, we set off to catch the Bangalore-Bhubaneswar express.

Our train journey gave us a perfect companion in the form of Darshan, a traveler from Coorg, in whom we saw a potential partner in our humble crime .

He vibed so much with us and we got talking, it was his suggestion that made up our minds as to our destination  change— The North East. We were scared ,but decided that it is now or never. We got down at Anantpur, to a friend's place, and Darshan continued on to Bhubaneswar. We had exchanged numbers and he told us to give him a call when we make up our minds.

After spending an entire day at Anantpur, we started off to Hyderabad.

"Every general compartment that we travelled in had nothing in common. Some were super crowded, some empty. Some super clean and smelt really nice while some were unbearable. You meet all kinds of people from different backgrounds. It’s a unique experience that teaches you how to adjust, and at the same time gives you many memories to cherish.

During the long duration of your train journey when you have so much free time, your mind wanders and no matter what you think, your thought process is bound to lead to the ultimate “what to do in life” question. And it’s common knowledge that when in doubt, travel. So I decided to find the answer to the question in this trip”.

Day 5

After doing the deeds we had to do at Hyderabad, we started off to Kolakata. We called up Darshan and made plans to meet at Kolkata and travel the North east together!. It was quiet an exciting time for us. We passed through places like Vijayawada, Vizag, Odisha and Kharagpur and made mental notes to stop at these places next time. For now, we were basking in the beauty of these developing cities as they rushed away outside the window of their general compartment.

Day 6

“Kharagpur is the third largest railway station in India. I was so surprised to see that you can actually park two trains at the same time on a single platform! And upon reaching Howrah, as we got down the train, we were stunned and speechless. The railway station was so huge! Like, super huge. There were a total of 23 platforms, and you could actually bring your car or bike onto certain platforms”.

Kolkata.

The city of joy.

The city which is just lit at night.

The beautifully lit up bridges, specially the Howrah bridge, the tramp ways that are unique to this city, the ethnic ambassadors, the differently structured balconies, the buses, the hardworking people, we were drawn to every single aspect of this beautiful city. After a bout of searching, we finally met Darshan and together all three of us boarded the train to Siliguri, which was 12 hours away from Howrah.

Day 7

We reached Siliguri and got stuck there for the day. We slept at the railway station. After a night filled with huge mosquito bites, we woke up, freshed up at the railway station and set off to Sikkim!

As we reached Darjeeling, we could feel change everywhere.

Day 8

Concrete lands were morphing to give way to beautiful fields and hills.Textures of people began to change. The shops were neater, the roads cleaner, there was beauty everywhere. The vibes were very different. Everyone was happy and peaceful all the time, the influence of Buddhism probably being one reason.

Photo of Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Vishnu Suresh

I don’t know whether it was because we didn’t have much food, or because we didn’t really know what to do next, but we began to feel low for the first time since our trip started.

It was then that we met this beautiful couple who served us the best chowmein we’ve ever had. We also met these kids, who were so happy, so content, so heartwarming to watch. Their innocent, joyous smiles and the food that was served to us with so much love, upped our ante.

Fueled by renewed energy, we decided to walk to Sikkim, no matter how long it takes. We started walking , from Darjeeling to Jorthang,The sikkim border. Luckily we got a lift on the way, from a cab driver who agreed to drop at us Pelling, a beautiful village in Sikkim.

Day 9

We stayed at a hotel overnight in Pelling, to wake up to the view of the highest mountain range of India. Mt. Kanchenjunga was gleaming , the sunlight bouncing off the snow caps. That was our first ever view of the Himalayas,and it blew us away.!

I was so mesmerised by the aura it cast, so caught in its spell, I just can’t put the feeling into words.

It was this very feeling that i was hoping to experience. I’ve never been more content.

Helipads at Sikkim are also a mustn’t miss hotspots. Surrounded by towering mountains, they are a sight to behold. After checking out one such Helipad and a monastery, we decided to go to Yumthang, to get nearer to the mighty Kanchenjunga. We trekked down a forest route and met a few children who helped us find the way down. People here are so good to be true!

That night, they crashed in a hut down by the Teesta River, the owner of the hut having generously offered them his dwelling, which had nothing but a single bed.

The hut was tiny, and had no electricity

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh
Day 10

The hut was tiny, and had no electricity. The owner, who turned out to be a farmer, made us sugar-free black tea and I must say, it was just too good. He was a very jovial fellow and kept telling us “Kheti pati-Saathi-Happy” (Farmer-Friend-Happy). That made our day.”

Day 11

Sikkim-The land of love, beauty and adventure.The land of peace and tranquility.

The land of Paradise.

We woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and noises that the river made. Refreshed and rejuvenated, we got ready to continue on our beautiful tryst with travel and adventure.

Photo of Sikkim, India by Vishnu Suresh

After a decent night’s sleep, we set off to Yuksom, and just couldn’t wait to get closer to the magnificent Kanchenjunga. Imagine our surprise when there was not a trace of the mighty mountain anywhere.”

It was then that we realized that there has been a mix-up, and the place where we were supposed to go was actually Yumthang. Stumped, we kicked ourselves for the mishap. Nevertheless, the trek proved worthwhile because Yuksom, the former capital of Sikkim and the place where the Three Lamas first met, was just as alluring.

“There was a huge natural pond full of beautiful goldfishes and the sight was so pretty, we just couldn’t get enough of it.”

Day 12
Photo of Yuksom, Sikkim, India by Vishnu Suresh

We thought the journey to Sikkim was over and we where trying for way to get back to Siliguri so that we could get to Meghalaya, our next destination. We got a Lift from a couple, who live at Ravongla. The time was late and after listening to our story's and about the mishap, they bursted out laughing.

It happened that the guy whose name was Manish had a hotel at Ravangla,Hotel Ravongla Star where he offered us a room.

Day 13

The wonderful people at Ravongla who hosted us.

Photo of Ravangla, Sikkim, India by Vishnu Suresh

We couldn’t believe our luck. One night we were sitting on a stone cold floor sipping black tea and the next night we couldn’t decide what to eat from the assortment of dishes placed in front of us! The manager was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Understanding our condition and the fact that we had literally zero money in hand, he offered us free rooms, complete with television, coffee maker , and comfortable quilts.

The next day morning, they took a look around the famous Ravangla Monastery. The supremely huge and magnificent Buddha statue, the calm and peaceful atmosphere, the beautiful surroundings, the low sounds of Buddhist hymns in the background — every aspect of this place of retreat had us spellbound.

We bid adios to friends we made and continued on to Siliguri. It was time to hit our next Destination, Meghalaya.

In order to access the seven sisters, one has to come to Siliguri and then go to Guwahati , where the diversion begins. So upon reaching Siliguri by taxi, we took a train to Guwahati. From there, we took a bus to the outskirts of the city, and proceeded to walk on a highway. We were amazed when we saw that on one side it was Assam and on the other side it was Meghalaya — the median literally divided both the states. And finally after a three hour wait, we got a bus to Shillong.

The median which separates Meghalaya and Assam.

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh

Shillong, Meghalaya

“Shillong is a party place. And the people look so good! You can never see the sun, because of which the place has a moody atmosphere. The streets are super clean and dotted with unique trees with lavender flowers. All in all, its a place which gives off extremely good vibes.”

That night, we stayed in a youth hostel and happened to meet an inspiring couple who have been exploring the north east for the past six months. Once IT engineers, they found each other on a trek. A short while later, they decided to quit their jobs and start travelling. It has been one and a half years, and they have never looked back. Their travel tales are truly inspiring.

After a decent meal, all five of us proceeded to a quiet spot next to the river, made a bonfire, and huddled close to it, sharing their life stories.

“Travelling gives you the opportunity to meet so many people who often have so many stories to tell.

Sitting there, in the cold, with the fire heating you up, listening to awesome stories, with only the sound of the river flowing in the background, it’s an amazing experience.

Free from all tensions, you get lulled into a blissful mood, and your whole world condenses to a small bubble where there’s nothing but peace and content.”

Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya

Next day, we set off for Cherrapunjee, taking turns to hitchhike. Along the way we met a guy who had similar plans and by evening, all of us somehow reached our destination, travelling in pairs. After watching the sunset, we decided to stay in a hotel for the night, since it was too late to do anything. Early morning next day, we started trekking to the root bridges.

Trekking Routes

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh

After climbing around three thousand steps, we reached the first root bridge. Cherrapunji once was the wettest place in India, and these bridges were grown from tangled roots which would otherwise just lie there, a wilderness. Further along the way was the double decker living root bridge, which had two levels of root bridges. They were a unique sight. There were a lot of artificial bridges too, but with stunning waters that changed color as we went further- blue to pale blue to pale green.”

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh

After a swim, we bid farewell to our short time companion , and the three of them trekked further to the rainbow waterfalls. It was noon.

“ As I neared the waterfall, I climbed on top of a rock, and when I opened my eyes, there it was, a dazzling 360 degree rainbow that threw me off my feet. It was so close, you could touch it. With the crystal clear blue water below and the rainbow wrapping itself around me, the waterfall was just mesmerizing. The six hour excruciating trek was worth every bit.”

RainBow Falls.

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh

After spending a good time in the waters, tired and exhausted, we trudged back onto the road, hoping for a free ride. After hours of no luck, we almost gave up in sheer despair, when a driver offered them a lift, for free. That’s when we truly started believing the universe. If you want something badly, it will come to you in some way or the other.

Dawki, Meghalaya, Bangladesh border.

Dawki

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh

The next day, we again started taking turns to hitchhike. Me and Akhil went and met at a point but there was no sign of Darshan to be found. Not minding it much initially, we waited for him, but as it grew dark, we started getting really worried. His phone was repeatedly saying switched off. Soon it was night, but no Darshan came. A school teacher who offered us a lift consoled us, asking us not to worry, and dropped them off at a hotel. With still no luck in contacting our lost friend, we decided to stay there for the night, having nothing else to do.

Darshan never turned up. Next day morning, we went to the Dawki river, which bordered Bangladesh. It was a good sight, but our minds were not in it. We were worried sick over him. Along the way we passed Mawsynram too, but just didn’t have the mood to stop by. Clearly the beautiful village was not calling us.Getting separated from Darshan with no clue about his whereabouts was a huge blow. It was time to head back home.”

Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

After going back to Guwahati, we took a train to Kolkata. We were at the Howrah railway station when we finally got a call from Darshan. It seemed that he had an urgent situation and had to go to Bangalore. After ticking him off for disappearing without a trace, our hearts finally lifted a little. We then took a train to Visakhapatnam, where we stayed for a day or two. We visited the Kailasagiri mountains, atop which you could actually see the easternmost curve of india along the sea, just like in a map.

Vizag as from Kailasgiri

Photo of ADVENTURES UP EAST!!!!#Northeastitenary by Vishnu Suresh

It was days since we properly talked to each other because we were too worried about our companion. And finally, sitting there atop the mountain with the beautiful sea below, we were finally calm.

Turning to look at Akhil, I smiled at him, and it slowly dawned on me that we had actually done it. We were safe and sound, almost back home from one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

As we sat there watching the sunset, I remembered all the wonderful people we were lucky enough to meet — I remembered how much love they showed us.

I remembered the kids who dared us to a race through the hills of Sikkim. I remembered the tiny boy who wrapped his little fist around my finger and carefully led me through the trees, to his home.

I remembered how he clutched my collar and said he’ll miss me. I remembered how wonderfully elated and emotional I felt, and how I still regret not asking his name.

I remembered the small girl Avantika, whose energy and joy was contagious and smile heartwarming.

I remembered how it was to see those innocent, beautiful faces, how it transported me back to my childhood.

It was in that moment that I realized how much I learnt from this trip. It taught me what life is, and gave me a clear picture as to how life is meant to be.”

Kochi,Kerala.

“All said and done, there’s nothing like eating puttu and kadala (native food item of Kerala ) after so many days!.”

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