Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tryst with Snow

My celebrity friend Siddhartha Joshi is the inspiration behind my visit to Tawang in West Arunachal Pradesh. He had visited Tawang some years back and shared his pictures; and instantly I was like, if one place I want to go before I die; it has to be Tawang. 

Finally after procrastinating and contemplating all these years, day finally arrived when I embarked on my journey with a friend to the much talked and heard about destination. Another incentive was the Tawang Festival.

Tawang is approximately a drive of around 16-18 hours or more from Guwahati. But it is not suggested. One can drive from Guwahati till Bomdila, around 10-11 hours drive. Bomdila is almost midway between Tezpur and Tawang. Tezpur can actually be called the gateway to western Arunachal Pradesh. Tezpur is located around 3-4 hours drive from Guwahati. But before travelling to Arunachal Pradesh one needs to make sure to have Inner Line Permit (ILP for Indian Citizens) and foreigners too need to have their permits.

We started from Tezpur around 5.30 am in a shared Sumo. And as soon as we crossed the boundaries of Tezpur town, the surroundings started to turn greener and fresher. We reached a small town called Bhalukpong, around 1-1.30 hrs drive from Tezpur. Bhalukpong is the place where all the shared taxis hault for morning snacks. We bought some chips, water bottles, gums for the journey ahead. 

On the way to Bomdila
On the way to Bomdila
A passing Army Convoy 
After a drive of approximately 6-7 hours we reached Bomdila. Bomdila is a small town, and it mostly acts as a transit point for people travelling to Tawang and beyond. We decided to stay over in Bomdila at Lungta Residency. It's a family run hotel and with very good service; though it's priced on a little higher side. After we dumped our luggage in the room, we decided to take a stroll in the town. We couldn't do much, as it was raining and getting dark.

Monastery at Bomdila

Fresh mint tea at Lungta Residency

Evening in Bomdila

We got up next morning to a brilliant BLUE SKY.

We had booked a cab for 5.30 AM, but as usual it was late. If you are travelling to Tawang for the first time I would say don't take a share cab. It only stops at its regular places and for a very short time. Thus, you won't get an opportunity to stop at some of the great spots on the way and click some breathtaking pictures. We hired a cab; being festival time in Tawang it was damn expensive. We had to spend Rs. 5500 for a Maruti Alto. But generally the taxi prices are very high in hill stations here in north-east as roads are mostly pathetic and therefore it calls for quite a high maintenance cost.

We were pretty excited about the journey ahead. I was very very excited as I heard from some of the locals that it had snowed in areas near Tawang last night. In anticipation of heavy snow, our driver stopped in Dirang to pick up stuff that could get us through if we were stuck. While the driver was shopping I decided to take a walk and was able to get some nice pictures. Dirang is a cute little town.

A street in Dirang
A general store in Dirang
After a drive of almost five hours (don't remember it exactly) my excitement knew no boundaries. I could see some snow at a distance and higher we went it was getting whiter and suddenly snowflakes. It was snowing. WOW! WOW! WOW! that's what I screamed. Literally. I was super duper thrilled, it was my first ever tryst with SNOW. I was over the top and my friend couldn't stop laughing looking at me. But I least cared. Had waited whole my life for this moment. I couldn't control, asked the driver to stop the car, got down and went crazy. It was end of April, which made it even more awesome.

Wannabe SRK :P
We started again after some 20-30 minutes of playing with snow, posing for some self obsessed pictures. After driving for 30 minutes approximately we reached SELA PASS, one of the highest motor able passes in the World. SELA Pass is located at an elevation of 13,700 feet, 78 kms from Tawang and is the main road connecting Tawang with rest of India. We got down from the cab, and first thing I saw was the SELA LAKE and my instant reaction was "if there is heaven, this is it, this is it, THIS IS IT".

I think the post is getting too long, more about the trip in the next one. VERY SOON.

Friday, October 9, 2015

I am BACK :P

Thanks to the motivation from some of my close friends I have decided to blog again. Now on it won't be gossip about college days, the reason why I started this blog; but about my travel experiences that inspire me every now and then in my creative activities and gives me much needed break. 

I have been born and brought up in Assam, lived in Dibrugarh during my childhood days before I headed out to India's capital city for my higher studies. I finally returned to Assam due to unavoidable circumstances. But I feel it has been a blessing in disguise. Returning to Assam has helped me build my own brand and has given me the opportunities to travel the north-east which I hadn't explored all this while. But as they say, it's never too late. 

I start blogging again with my trip to Cherrapunji, allegedly the wettest place on Earth. I have had heard and read about Cherrapunji all throughout my formative years, but never bother to visit the place. If I look back now, I regret it. Anyways. Finally a sudden outburst of emotions gave me an opportunity to travel to Sohra (popular name for Cherrapunji) on weekend trip with my cousins. It was peak of monsoons in North-East India, and I would say best time to visit Meghalaya, as its LUSH green and waterfalls in full bloom everywhere. 

We drove directly to the town of Cherrapunji, about 4-5 hours drive from Guwahati. The drive was breathtaking. The view of the open lands was mesmerizing and absolutely romantic (unfortunately I was with my cousins).

Umiam Lake
On the way to Cherrapunji
After reaching Cherranpunji, we started with typically typical tourists spots. We went to the Seven Sisters Fall, The Caves at Sohra, The Eco Park, and a couple of more places, which I don't remember as we didn't find them exciting enough. Seven Sisters Falls is a good spot for clicking a selfie, a view point at the Eco Park gave an awesome view of the neighboring Bangladesh and caves were just ok, over-crowded. I always prefer doing all touristy stuff first and then explore further. 

Seven Sisters Fall
View of Bangladesh from Eco Park in Sohra
As the sun sets early in this part of the world, we had to call it a day. We drove back to the resort we were going to stay that night. It's about 25 kms before Sohra. The resort is called Cafe Cherrapunje and we were pretty impressed. As it was full tourist season we had to stay in the tent outside. Tent was pretty decent, but we couldn't sleep much as the drizzle during the night made noise on the tent surface. But one has to be prepared for this as it rains mostly during the nights in Cherrapunji. 

Tent at Cafe Cherrapunji
Next morning we decided to go to the Double Decker Root Bridge (DDRB), which I had recently heard about from a friend from Mumbai. She had recently visited. Such a shame on me. During our drive to the village of Tyrna, from where the trek to the DDRB starts we got to see some stunning skies. We started our drive at 4.45 am from the resort and it was bright day light. Village of Tyrna is located about 1-1.30 hrs drive from town of Cherrapunji. In the northeast mentioning of kms don't really give you a time estimate of a journey, as roads are hardly well kept. 

Morning Sky
The Morning Sky

On the way to Tyrna Village
The trek from Tyrna to the Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge is about 3000 steps, a couple of swinging bridges, one or two single deck root bridges and lot of stamina. Luckily as we started early, the sun was not harsh and it was not raining, basically a great weather. If it was raining it would have been tough as steps would have got really slippery. We were able to reach the DDRB in not more than 2-2.30 hrs if I remember faintly. But not before some scary moments for me. We had to cross two swinging wire bridges, first one was not that frightening but the second one almost made me cry and I thought of returning. I am scared of heights. But encouragement from cousins did it for me. I was somehow able to cross it. 

Scary Swinging Bridge, it is scarier than it looks. Trust me
We finally reached the now world famous living root bridge. It is considered to be a natural cum man-made wonder and one of its kind in this ever depleting planet. These root bridges are formed by roots of very old rubber trees with the help of the local Khasi tribes of Meghalaya. The roots are channelized by the locals in such a way that they form natural bridges over rivers and streams. The Double Decker Root Bridge is definitely one place that everyone should visit during their trip to North-East/ Meghalaya. As it was peak of monsoon, the bridge and the area surrounding areas were LUSH green. One could only hear the water flowing and that's it. It was very peaceful and a kind of much needed break after a hectic city life. 

The Double Decker Living Root Bridge
Now comes the real tough part. Climbing back. It was almost mid day and sun was as hot as it can get. In the hills sun is always much stronger than the plains. We were biggest fools, we didn't carry any water bottles or food to munch on. If anyone of you ever go trekking there please don't make a mistake like us. During the trek you won't find any shop as such to buy some food or water. We somehow found some taps with water in it. That was the only savior for us. We took much longer to climb back. It was extremely exhausting. EXTREMELY. But on our way we spotted a few pretty butterflies. Whatever said and done, the trek was worth every step we took. 

Butterfly spotted while climbing back
Another one
Everyone visits Cherrapunji to see the rains. We were in Cherrapunji for almost two days now, but hardly got to see any rain. I was a little disappointed but not for very long. While returning from Tyrna village till most of our journey till Shillong, we drove almost in the clouds. It was a little risky as we couldn't see anything beyond 20-30 metres, but who cares. It was INCREDIBLE. 

Literally couldn't see anything