Trip to North East India was a dream come true. I got the best opportunity after I resigned from Amrita Institute before taking up the post in Believers Church Hospital. I took a two month break and started off with Papa for a 3 week journey to the Northeastern states of India.
On the 9th of March, 2014 at 6.30 am, we started off from Trivandrum and reached Chennai at 7.30 am by air India. We took the 10.10 spice jet to Bagdogra via Kolkata. Bagdogra is a defence airport. Reached by 1.30 pm. Mr. Sanjay had come on an Innova to pick us and we started at around 2.00 pm. We met papa’s friend Mr. Joshua on the way. I was happy to see Ayyappan Temple written in malayalam in Bagdogra
The road along the teesta river gorge was magnificent. On the way we Saw a Bike fell in teesta gorge near sevak.The guys were recovered. One guy looked quite serious. Only thing that we knew was that he was alive at that moment.On the way we saw factories of pharmaceutical companies like alchem, cipla, torrent, sun, Himalaya. We Reached Gangtok at 6.30 pm. Gangtok at night was looking great. papa had to buy a camera battery and we saw the Gangtok MG market; so beautifully maintained. The room was booked by papa’s student, Mr. Janga police ADGP in the Police guest house. The room name was Harini- Verditer flycatcher. We had chapathi, dal fry and chilly chicken for dinner.
Next day we started off to namchi. Sanjay was our driver for our entire journey in Sikkim We were told be him that there were three tribes or races in Sikkim, the Bhutia who are Buddhist, lepcha who are considered the indegenous nature worshippers and the Nepali hindus.On the way we saw a Dam built half way by the Andhra reddys
We stopped for tea in a shop near a Tea estate and the view of the estate and view and rhododendron trees were good.We had refreshing black tea.
On the way to Namchi, we visited Samudruptse Buddha statue which was a tall statue on a hill. I was amazed to see and excited to photograph innumerable species of birds around that area. We had to wait near the car for some time as our driver Sanjay was immersed in carom play with other drivers and we waited till the game was over.
Shirdi sai mandir was a good place to visit. The place was so silent and less busy when compared to our next destination. Siddheshwar char dham was a tourist destination on top of a hill and it had duplicated most of the temples in India. We could see the Samudruptse statue from far. We had Veg momos and wai wai noodles for lunch. I was a unique experience.
Due to the arrival of some VIP we had to change to the SIB the guest house and fortunately that was a better option. The night view of the city was awesome.
on the 11th of March we started off to Nathu la which is a mountain pass to China at the Indo China border which was along the old silk route. The road was quite treacherous. We got passes on the way. The view of the snow mountains were amazing. The ride along the slippery snow road was quite risky too but so exciting. Finally after many hours we reached Nathula.
Its a must see destination. The cherry on the pie was the opportunity to photograph a Himalayan Griffon. Near to Nathu la was baba mandir which is a shrine of a soldier. It was a unique experience. On the way we saw the beautiful Tsomgo lake. The scenic beauty was unexplainable. We had a ride on the yak near the lake. The snow fall on the way back was a thrilling experience. Momo was a favourite dish there and we did not miss any chance. We had veg steamed momo for breakfast and lunch, pork fried momo for the evening and chapathi, rice and chicken for dinner.
Next day we did a city tour . We enjoyed the Rope way, We paid a visit to a nearby Gojang monastery. There we had a funny incident where a monk hit a dog and fell from scooter. Ganeshtok was a high point where the view of the city was quite magnificient, The Zoo had very little animals but with great potential to expand.We also visited flower park, namgyal institute of tibetology, tashi view point, Do drul chorten stupa, enchey monastery and handicraft bazaar. On the way back we were shocked to see a scene where people were waiting to get the LPG cylinder. The queue was horribly long.
We had dinner from Tibet restaurant with Mr.Jenga and the menu was wanton soup, momo, fing and fried rice
On the 13th morning, We started off to darjeeling. We took around 4 hrs including time for breakfast.We bid farewell to Sanjay, He was a wonderful driver. The stay was in luxurious circuit house. In the evening we did a joy ride in the toy train from darjeeling to ghoom which was 7 km one side. We also visited the ghoom museum.
Next day we woke up at 3.30 am and started towards tiger hills. We got a new driver. Got the super deluxe ticket on the waiting area building. The sun rise was supposed to be at 5.55 am. We sat on the top floor of the building on the luxurious couches only to see the thick white mist.the view of the great Himalayas including Mount Everest, Kanchendzonga hit by the golden morning rays still remain as a dream. After breakfast we visited the Buddhist monasteries and also rope way which was recently reopened. It had been closed for 12 years due to an accident where some tourists died. The 40 min ride above the tea garden was good but the ride above Gangtok City was better. The Padmaja Naidu Zoo was quite a good one and we visited the Himalayan Mountaineering institute which was nearby. We paid a visit to the Dunggon Samten Choling Buddhist Monastery. After lunch we came down to siliguri and visited papas friends Joshua and Jonathan. Joshua uncle took us to another place where we had a bible study session and papa shared his experiences regarding the Allahabad history of change of Ganesh mani Pradhan to Joshua Pradhan. After dinner he dropped us in new jalpaiguri railway junction. To our shock we came to know that our train was 6 hrs late. It was to start at 12.10 am on 15th. On trying to confirm it, we came to know that the delay was extended to 7 hrs. We found that there was a train to Guwahati at 2.00 am, the saraighat express. We took the second class ticket. The train came and I headed towards the general compartment. Luckily papa saw the TT getting down and we managed to get two berths in the first class coupe. It was my first time in first class. We had to pay extra 1000 each. Inspite of reminding the TT, we were not given the receipt and so we can imagine where the money had gone to. We reached Guwahati at around 10.00 am and we took a share taxi to Shillong. There were 11 people in the Tata sumo including the driver. It took 3 hrs including the 30 min break in Nongpoh where we had masala pineapple and banana.
Our stay was arranged in Don Bosco Savio juniorate, the minor seminary. We were received by Fr. Sebastian Palatty who is a friend of Lakshmanan. They were together in Silchar. We also met Fr.Jose who was the director of Don Bosco museum for indigenous culture. After lunch we visited the museum. It was a marvel. It’s supposed to be the largest museum in Asia. We could learn the cultures of the various north east tribes. The view of Shillong City from the sky walk above the museum was unique and beautiful. There was a nine min video presentations also about north East India.
In the evening we met Mrs Peace Lyngdo who was a student of papa in agriculture college vellayani. They had met after 25 years. We did a city tour and visited golf course, ward’s lake and cathedral. We visited her house too.
She explained to us regarding the various tribes of Mekhalaya like the Khasi, Garo and Jintia. We had dinner from City Hut Dhaba and the ambience there was great.
Next day we set off to our dream destination the Chirapunjee or Sohra. Chirapunjee was a shocking experience. so unexpected. The place could only be compared to an inverted empty tumbler because everywhere there were coal mine which caved the land and also there were massive waterfalls only during rainy season. No wonder it can be called the “wettest Desert”. The forst destination was Duwan Sing Syiem View point from where we could see the Mawdok Dympep valley. There was adventure tourism happening there that included the ropeway. On the way we saw Nohsngithiang falls. The view was gorgeous though the water was less.
Nohkalikai falls was yet another marvel. It is also a must see destination. It tells the story of a girl who jumped off the cliff. We could only imagine its massiveness during peak of monsoon. Mawsmai cave was a unique experience. The walk along the 150 metre cave in the midst of forest was quite thrilling. I always longed for a cave expedition. Next destination was Thankharang park. It was a large park and was quite well maintained. It was quite unfortunate to see the dry Kynrem falls in the back ground of the park. On the way we saw huge Khasi Monoliths; the femaale ones were lying horizontal and the male ones were erected up. We also sawThomas Jones School of Mission named after a missionary who came in 1841. The Ka Khoh Ramhah was a huge rock that carried a myth of a giant that was killed. The place was unique as we could see the beautiful Bangladesh plains from there. The next destination was Elephant falls. It was a wonderful 3 step falls. Inspite of the pace being busy, it was clean and the bird life around it was also amazing.
For dinner we had Shillong noodles with chilly pork and also live music by Peace’s teacher Felix.
On the 17th morning 6.30 am, we started from Shillong. Peace arranged car driven by Sunil all along the Shillong trip. We had breakfast in local shop. We had jhado , it was masala rice with pork salad and fried veg. It seems there is a preparation where rice is made mixed with blood of pork, a Khasi delicacy. It would look red in colour. We missed it. jorabat kaziranga road had paddy fields on one side and tea garden on other. As we were nearing the park we saw tea garden on one side and national park on either side. We really started to enjoy Assam.
At Kaziranga we were welcomed by Lakshmanan’s friend, Sunny Choudhary, ACF. We did a Jeep ride in the evening inside the sanctuary . We could see lot of animals and birds. We had dinner with Sunny and he shared many stories.
Next day early morning we had a sanctuary ride on elephant. We watched many birds like vultures, storks, Pelicans and animals including rhino, deer,wild buffalo, boar really upclose.
After breakfast, Sunny dropped us at kaziranga bus stand. We waited there from 10 to 11.00 am. In between an Assam transport bus passed and didn’t stop. Standing was not allowed in the bus. We got a bus to jorhat. Reached at 12.30. After lunch we took the Assam transport bus to tinsukia. It was so luxurious with only around 30 seats.
Lakshmanan and family waited for us in tinsukia and took us to joinulabidins banashree resort in guijan, 8 km from tinsukia opposite to dibru saikhowa national park near the banks of river dibru. Cute looking bamboo huts close to nature. The huts were named after birds. We were staying in and Lakshmanan and family stayed in next hut. That night we went to nearby exhibition ground called riya enterprises. We got into the giant wheel, rotating helicopter and visited local stalls. We met the owner.Lakshmanan has helped to give permission to set up the show in his place sadiya. So everything was free for us as his courtesy.
On the 19th, we were taken to a near by ghat. Papa and me were on one boat, Lakshmanan and family on another. We had guides with us.it was maguri bheel (lake), a birders paradise. We were a bit late regarding the season. As things started to be exciting the clouds began to creep over. The thunder was frightening and it began to drizzle. Luckily we got back to the bank and found a safe cover. The downpour was heavy. As the sky became a bit clear, we roamed around the glasslands and did some bird watching. There were lots of ruddy shelducks and other birds. As we got on to our boats, a terrific lightning struck right on a metal wire right on top of us. Lakshmanans children got really scared. I felt a hit on my right ear. I guess it was a narrow escape for all of us. Lakshmanan and family any way had to go early and there was no better excuse to go earlier. We continued our ride in the boat. The climate became better. We had breakfast in the boat. I was really excited by the number,type and close proximity to the birds. In the evening we went for a grassland stroll and did bird watching.
Lakshmanan had discussed with ADC of Jairampur regarding the ILP(Inner line Permit) for us to enter Arunachal Pradesh to visit pangsau pass. So next day Joinulabidin took us in his jeep along with his helper . It was around 150 km from the resort. There were a lot of check posts including Arunachal police, Assam rifles army, Myanmar police and army posts. After all the hurdles, we managed to enter another country, Myanmar, without any passport or visa. Entry is usually permitted on 10th and 20th of every month when they conducted Burma market. Unfortunately Burma market was not there that day as the children had exams. But some shops were open. We drove around 5 km inside the entry check post.
There was a Buddhist monastery near by. I bought a handmade carry bag for my wife. The view of theChanglang ‘Lake of no return’ in the valley was beautiful. The condition of the road in Myanmar side was pathetic. While returning we met a malayali army officer at pangsau check post. From there I had to drive the vehicle as Joinulabidin was feeling so sleepy, we just escaped an accident and that was the reason I took over. We visited Digboi war cemetery and Digboi oil museum on the way back.
We stayed in Tinsukia circuit house that night.
On the 21st we started our most exciting journey to the place where Lakshmanan was working as Chief Judicial Magistrate; Sadiya. It was a trip of a lifetime. We started off early morning on a bus and reached on the banks of River Lohit,one of the tributary of Brahmaputra. The bus travelled along the sand banks . From there we look the boat to cross the ghat. It took around half an hour to cross the river. We were told it would take around 2 hours to cross during floods. We could not even imagine the might of River Brahmaputra. A 10 Km long bridge was under construction and so we would not experience this in the future. We took another bus from there to reach Sadiya. In most places roads were not even there and the trip was quite bumpy. We reached Sadiya by around noon. straightaway we were taken along with Lakshmanan’s family and his guard in his vehicle to Mayodiya Pass which was in Arunachal Pradesh.
We didnt have any difficulty in entry. The border was Roing and from there Ghat road started. The crossing along the dried river bed, watching wild Mithuns and the view of the valley from the top were all quite exciting. But the experience at the top surpassed all these. Mayodiya was 2655 metre altitude mountain pass. The view of the snow mountains was so beautiful and they still cherish in our memories. We stayed in the Circuit house that night. Next day Lakshmanan took us and showed around Sadiya. It was a small beautiful village. We visited the silk wormm farm also. We thanked good bye to Sadiya and Lakshmanan , crossed the ghat and reached Tinsukia Station. The Railway heritage park in Tinsukia was a wonder and it threw a lot of light regarding the history of not just Northeast frontier railway but the whole of Indian Railways.
On 23rd morning we reached reached dimapur. Got refreshed in circuit house. We obtained ILP from Mr.Thavaseelan who was the SDO, Dimapur and Lakshmanan’s friend. We took a share taxi to Kohima which took 2 hrs. We were welcomed by Papa’s friend Lanuakum Ozukum and he gave us typical Naga lunch. He explained about the different naga tribes. It seems there are around 14 major tribes. Altogether around 30 tribes. All have different dialects. But they speak mainly nagamese, which is a mixture of Hindi and Assamese.
Next day we had breakfast with David and Merlin who was also Papa’s friends. We visited the Museum and war cemetery, The kisama naga heritage village was a good place to be. But it became active only during the Hornbill festival in December. We had lotha which was a special naga dish for dinner. We also paid a visit to the State handicraft emporium and had a good walk back home. The cathedral of Mary Help of Christians was near to our stay and the view of Kohima from the top was beautiful
We came back to dimapur on 25th and stayed in circuit house. We Met papas friend Sharon there. It was a good experience to visit bamboo resource centre. We had dinner in Sharon’s house. The only thing we missed in Nagaland was to taste dog meat.
On the 26th of March we took the 12.00 noon air India flight from dimapur to Kolkata via dibrugarh.We saw a fascinating view of the Himalayan Mountain range through the aircraft window. The Kolkata to chennai flight was delayed by 3 hrs. We stayed in aunts place in chennai.
On the 27th we visited papas friend PC varghese in Chennai. We took the evening flight to Trivandrum with fond memories.