Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tawang to Guwahati - The never ending Road

The Rhino's in Kaziranga made the trip unforgettable, while the chilled weather and the breathtaking views of lakes and mountains in Tawang, left a lasting impression of the Land of Dawn Lit Mountains. This in theory also completed 50% of our trip.

A bit of homesickness had started to kick in. A bit of tiredness and mainly missing home cooked food or the regular Idli's and Dosas back in Bangalore.

The next part of the trip was to visit Meghalaya, mainly Cherrapunji, The Root Bridges and the Dawki Border towards Bangladesh.

The articles of the first 6 days are in the below links - 

Now, to enter Shillong, we had to head back to Guwahati. As per our initial plan, we had taken into account 2 days to reach Guwahati from Tawang. After discussing with our driver, we decided to complete the distance in one day. It will be a little hectic but we will end up with an extra day in our hands.  Well, that's at least what we thought.

Day 7 -  28th November 2018

We started around 7:00am from the Tenzing Homestay. We had an early breakfast and left Tawang. The initial part of the journey, the first half an hour was in complete silence. Not even the music was playing the vehicle. It was as if we left a beautiful memory behind us.  Even our cameras were inside the bags. Since it was six days up, we were also running short of cash in hand and had to find some ATM where we could withdraw. Things which are kind of taken for granted by us were not the same in these areas. Most of the ATM's even near the Army Canteen's were mostly running dry.

When we saw a Dzo, on the way, we got back to our core elements. We got the camera out and did what we do the best. Shoot.

As we moved on, it was kind of a refresher of the area which we had traversed a couple of days back. Just that we were looking at things from the other direction.
Change of Direction, does change the Perspective

The views were different, so were the perspectives, not just from what we saw, even what we felt. While going up, there was a sense of longing to see, now it was more of, what we will not see again.

Since it was early morning, while driving through the villages, we could see school children, with their backpacks walking towards the school. Most of them in uniform and many not in. Though we travelled around 2-3kms ahead, we did see kids with the same uniform still walking towards the school. Which means, they all had to travel all this distance on a daily basis. Every place has its own set of struggles.

    We did see a lot of these animals on the way. Mainly the Dzos. Another point to mention, we didn't see a single Yak up until now. What we saw were only Dzo's which are a cross breed between a Cow and a Yak.

    A touching picture of Cow and the Calf.

    One last view of the Sela Lake. We really didn't want to leave from this place. The serenity really makes you stand still there.
Sela Lake, Sela Pass

Houses of locals on the way to Dirang

As we moved closer to Dirang, we saw some structures, which we missed to see while coming.

The Dirang River

Villages Close to Dirang 

When reached the spots where we could see the Gorichen Mountain, we had to stop at multiple places to take the best possible shot again. The snow-capped mountains are always a stopper for pictures.

On Reaching Bomdilla, we found an ATM which had money in it, and we all withdrew sufficient cash for probably the rest of the trip.  A few pics near the Bomdilla town.
Bomdilla Town

We were told by an Army person, whom we had given a lift on the way, to have lunch near Rupa Bridge, after crossing Bomdilla. It was a nice Army Canteen, but with limited options but good food.

We stopped there at Chulha and had a hearty meal. The place was next to the river(Dirang River I assume).  There was an ATM too in that area and a nice shopping area, where all we had was a cup of coffee. I paid him by giving a 500 Rupee note and in return, I got new 100 rupee notes as change. I hadn't seen the new 100 rupees up until then. And its been a month ever since I have come back to Bangalore, and yet to another new 100 rupee note.

We then came towards Rupa Bridge and crossed over to travel towards Guwahati. It was close to 2:40 pm in the afternoon and we only had crossed Bomdilla.  Panic Button?

Crossed a few villages and I can say, it was as if we were literally going next to their houses. The roads were really bad, or I can say, just muddy roads. No Tar. Just because it was the Mahindra Xylo, we were not tossed up and down on those roads.  I am sure even an Innova wouldn't have been able to handle that terrain.
On another note, while we were at the Tenzing Homestay, another guest had come in a new Innova Crysta. which had got hit at the bottom and due to which the fuel tank got a leak. Somehow they managed to reach Tawang.  Though we learnt later from our next driver, that Innova does work well, but only with experienced drivers. Xylo had no issues at all, more so, considering our rash driver, who would only fly the vehicle even on these roads.

Temple after Crossing Rupa.

The Trans Himalayan Highway
On touching the Trans Himalayan Highway, we felt that finally, we were on a smooth road. It had just started to get dark now.  The road was fantastic, but we couldn't really see the views which we were looking for.  We filled in some gas at the next station. We were told that we will almost cross Bhutan Border on the way, and its ideal to fill in gas there, more so as it's cheaper also.  We filled half a tank and continued.

The above picture was the last picture which we took during that day. After a point, due to the same terrain, and darkness, we were resigned to the cars only. Just having the casual discussions with the driver. It had been six days, we have known him. As a person, he was good, not really as a driver though.  During our discussions, we got to know about our driver's family and his place etc. Also learnt of some of the customs in Arunachal Pradesh. Apparently, it's a Matriarchal Society which some of them follow. So after the wedding, the Guy comes and stays over at the Girls place. Not something we are used to hearing.

As we moved ahead, we tried to look for a place, where we can get tea. But we didn't. The roads were no longer that great, and quite bumpy after a point.  Around 7 pm or so, our Driver told us that the fuel is coming down and might get over suddenly. Apparently, the indicator needle apparently doesn't go down linearly, but more of an abrupt jump in the Xylo, as we move into the RED area of the fuel indicator.

Our agenda, changed from looking for a tea shop to finding a petrol bunk. Since we were on the Himalayan Trans Highway, I was expecting some fuel station, but miles and miles there was nothing in store. We tried to take one village or town at a time, hoping that we will get one in that place, but every place left us disheartened. The fuel indicator is going down slowly. I am the only person in the vehicle, apart from the driver who could see the indicator clearly. I only kept quiet, without making much of a scene. But our crazy driver was all in for tantrums. He started reminding us that, this is Bodo Land, and it's not ideal to get stopped there. Things only got difficult, but still, the vehicle was going smooth.

The worst part was that, since we were very close to the Bhutan Border, our GPS was not working, probably blocked at the International Borders. So was the internet and the phone connectivity. Nothing seemed to go our way. We had the local maps saved in the mobiles and using that, we were trying to see if we can find something, which can lead us to a fuel station. We could hardly see any people also.

In some areas, we could see lights mainly of camps from the BSF, and small shops. But nothing which would have helped us. The other parameter which we were fighting with, was the time. Mostly after 8 pm, most of these fuel stations close down for the day.   At one point, on the bad stretch of road, I could hardly see anything in front. Suddenly I saw a small stick which said, if water is above the stick level, DO NOT CROSS. Took me a few seconds to gather that, we were crossing a small stream. There was water falling from the top also.  But our driver didn't think about any of these and he didn't even know to read English, happily crossed the stream with a huge splash. It was all good again and we were back on the so-called roads.

A new found respect for Mahindra Xylo. Is my next car going to by Xylo ?
There were certain stretches which were completely forest area. So we did feel that we just be able to catch a glimpse of elephants crossing in the middle of this dark road😀

 Eventually, after crossing a lot of dark roads, with no sign of humans nor animals, we managed to a check post. There was a BSF person standing there. So before crossing that barrier, we decided to ask him for the closest fuel station, But he was not at all helpful. Only gave us ambiguous answers. There were two roads there, one which we could have continued on the  Trans Himalayan Highway,  while another would take us to the National Highway.  We did go ahead after crossing the check post on the Trans Himalayan Highway, but after a couple of kilometres, things didn't look good to us. We felt getting back on the NH was better.

So we turned back and came to the check post again, and crossed it and went towards the NH. Once we entered that road, we met a few villagers and they told us that, we will not be able to get inside the Bhutan fuel station at this hour as they wouldn't allow going inside Bhutan. And also, the fuel station would be closed. It was around 7:30 pm. But they indicated that we will get there in a few kilometres if we continued on the same road.  The next few kilometres were not easy. The road was not at all good, and very bad lights on the way. The only good part was that there were other vehicles also on this road, a sign much better than the Himalayan Highway.

Crossing a few more Kilometers, we saw some lights at a junction. We seemed to be on the right path as indicated by the Villagers earlier. We took the designated turn and finally saw a Fuel Station.
After a long time, finally, we all spoke with some energy.  This place was technically Assam now.  Our driver spoke to the person standing there, but he seemed have officially closed for the day, with all the accounts done and dusted for the day. We did request him, but he didn't budge. He told us to go to the next fuel station which was around 9 km from there.

Having no option we headed in that direction and we were glad to see a proper town with shops and fuel station. We filled up the gas and went to have tea. The tea never tasted so good before.  Gulped down some potato chips too.

The next agenda on the list was to find a hotel to stay close by. After a lot of googling, going through the reviews and phone calls, we finally decided we had to go Mangal Doi area to get a decent hotel.  It was already quite late. Around 8:30 then, and the hotel seemed to be around 45 km away from there. We asked the hotel folks to keep the dinner ready for us.  The road again, was not good, but the situation was better. We didn't mind much.

Then somewhere on the way, we stopped, just to enjoy the beautiful black sky. It was kind of Bodo land, but we didn't mind now. We had gone through enough for the day.  While we got close to the hotel, there seemed to be some kind of mela that day. I think it was Ram Navami or something that day. So, we did see a lot of activity and a lot of people suddenly. It felt good to see the people around.  Once we reached the hotel we quickly had our dinner and resigned for the day.

What a hell of a day it was !!!!

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