Independence Day was arriving, and ironically we were trapped in this labyrinth of schedules and deadlines. A plan brewed and my lady love arrived from Mumbai on 14th. We had managed an Enfield, thanks to Himalayan Riders. Setting out at 7am from Guwahati, the plan was simple. Cross the Brahmaputra at Tezpur, ride into Majuli, cross the river back to Sivasagar, and finally ride back to Guwahati through Kaziranga. All this with only 4 days in hand.
Ruins of The Ahom Dynasty.
Inside a chamber, Rang Ghar.
There's a highway that takes you all the way to Tezpur. If you want to proceed ahead into Arunachal Pradesh (if you're visiting Itanagar, Ziro or Tawang), you need to apply for the Inner Line Permit here. We would've loved to set camp for the night in Itanagar, but we reached Tezpur late afternoon, and the permit would be issued only in the evening. We decided to instead take the road along the Assam-A.P border to Lakhimpur, the next big town. Unfortunately, it started raining when the moon came out, and the bike began slipping on the wet, gravel-filled roads. We stayed for the night in Banderdewa, a border town.
We had read about Majuli right from our school days. The world's largest riverine island, here in India, nurtured by the majestic Brahmaputra. Day 2 This day, I came to see and hereby respect the role this grand river plays in the ecosystem and lifestyle of a million-odd people living on the banks. After a less than 2 hour ride, we reached Lakhimpur, had breakfast and searched for a waypoint to get across the river to Majuli. When we reached the village and found the last ferry gone, it dawned upon us that it was Independence Day. No demand, no supply. Travelling further east and crossing at Dibrugarh was an alternate, but a far stressful option. Plus, we wouldn't get into Majuli that way. After 30 minutes and a joint, we took the risk of crossing the rapid waters on a canoe. Swimming wasn't a problem, but if the canoe capsized, I would definitely owe someone an Enfield. After a terrorising 40 mins, we reached the banks of an island adjoining Majuli. We were told the road will take us to the town, but another three water straits greeted us before we finally reached. If you're anytime planning to visit Majuli, the best option is to go to Jorhat and then take the 2 hour ferry ride to Majuli Ghat. The Jorhat ferry service was also closed that day. We booked a room in Prasanti Cottages (run by Assam Tourism) for INR 1200, and blew off steam. Don't forget to leave the island without trying some homemade rice beer.
Majuli.. A land of shifting cultivators and animal-rearers.
Day 3 The first ferry out of Majuli to Nematighat near Jorhat is at 7am. The ride from Jorhat to Sivasagar and back is really frustrating. On a two lane road filled with potholes galore, the daily commuters, Swift cabs and trucks engage in dangerous street races. As bad the road is, this city has a special stress buster up its sleeves. Clear water tracts along the road, lush light green grass growing wild, and the perfect mix of sunlight and warmth, it relaxes you even in the midst of all bumps and traffic. The remains of the great Ahom kingdom reign intact and give this heyday town a quite grand historical flair. A very sweet pair of sisters (distant acquaintance) in Jorhat invited us into their home and treated us to a super tasty feast. With our tummy and the tank full, we proceeded towards the world-famous Kaziranga, home of the one-horned rhino.
The road alongside Kaziranga till Nagaon is one of the most beautiful stretches in the country. Elephants, tea estates, temples, tributaries.. the whole plethora of Assam just passes by in 2 hours. Assam Tourism has built a complex of beautiful lodges and guesthouses, in case you're looking for a place to stay. I didn't click a pic of the room but the 'two-bedroom house' seemed big enough to make a whole cottage. Day 4 Starting early around 7, we reached Guwahati by 12 thanks to an impeccable highway. Just in time for Yoshitha to catch her flight to Mumbai at 3. Overall, the North-East is a paradise contrary to how it's viewed pan-India. Barring a few places in Assam, the local folk in the rest of the states are the sweetest and most beautiful you'll ever meet. There are some more accounts of my explorations in and around the North-East, which I hope I'll pen down someday.