"I love to travel, but hate to arrive." ~ Albert Einstein


North East Travels

Sudhakar Vishwanath undertakes a 54 hour train journey from Bangalore to travel in the North East. Picture postcard perfect Shillong, Guwahati the capital of Assam, rain drenched Cherapunjee, one-horned rhino at Kaziranga...

Each year we plan a long holiday (usually less than 10 days as our tour is sandwiched between 2 weekends) to explore our mighty India, with Indian Railways. This year my wife, Jayashri and I, ventured out to explore the North East of India. We had some experience of travelling in this region, this being our third trip. In the past, we had covered Darjeeling and Gangtok in one visit, and on another trip, Bhutan and Jaldapara wild life sanctuary in another. In both these trips, New Jalpaiguri (or Siliguri) in the State of West Bengal was our base destination and this was the farthest train journey that we had ever undertaken.
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welcome-to-assam Our self designed tour itinerary was to board the Friday night Bangalore-Guwahati express at 11.30 pm on 19th December, 2008 and reach Guwahati on Monday 22nd December, 2008 at 5.50 am. The minimum travel time was close to 54 hours, plus any additional hours that our tired train driver may wish to add for chugging his way through a distance of 3020 kms.

I got into the train and quickly found recluse in the top berth of the Second Class railway compartment. The train primarily comprised of students and inhabitants of the State of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Sikkim, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh who were all heading homewards to make their Christmas vacations as merry as it could be. The train passed through the State of Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam. We finally reached our destination in a State of Exhaustion. Our railway smoke begrimed face gave us the look and feel of a coal miner returning back from a hard day at the office.

Monday 22nd December, 2008
meghalaya We came out of the station and took a Share-a-Sumo at INR 140 per head to the city of Shillong. The distance to Shillong from Guwahati is about 100 kms and it took us around 3.5 hours to reach our hilly destination. In between we partook of some juicy pineapples and oranges which are a delicacy in this part of the world.

The city of Shillong, also known as the Scotland of the East, is the capital of the State of Meghalaya as well as the head quarters of the East Khasi Hills district. It is located at a height of 1496 metres and is bedecked with fruits and flowers and shaded by pine and fir trees. By noon we checked into a budget hotel and got ready for the local sight seeing.

We visited the famed golf link at Shillong, a huge 18 hole course it perfect setting. In the heart of the City is the Ward lake, developed in the year 1893, named after the then Commissioner of Assam, Sir William Ward. The Beadon and Bishop Falls also offers some spectacular scenery amidst mist and greenery. We visited the Don Bosco Cathedral, and the Butterfly Museum which pays respect to many rare varities of the winged beauties. In the east it gets dark by 4.30 pm. We visited the Bara Bazaar for obligatory tourist shopping. The temperatures during our visit was 14 degrees C during the day and dipped to 5 degrees C at night.

Tuesday, 23rd December, 2008
The next morning at 8.00 am we took a Meghalaya State Tourism Departments package tour to Cherrapunjee. The locals call it Sohra and are set upon a plateau in the southern slopes of the state. Sohra is 56 kms from Shillong and is a place renowned world over for having the privilege of receiving the highest rainfall in the world (Mawsynram near Shillong is now the wettest place on earth). En route we saw the breathtaking Mawkdok Valley, the Nohkalikai falls, the famous stalactite caves of Maswmai, the single rock formations of Ka Khoh Ramhah, the Bangladesh View Point, Thangkharang and Eco Park, Ramakrishna Mission Museum. We returned to Shillong by 4.00 pm. We scampered to pack some veg momos and then boarded an Assam State Transport Corporation bus to reach Guwahati at 9.00 pm. We checked into a hotel near Paltan Bazaar and started to plan our trip to the World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park.

Wednesday, 24th December, 2008
one-horned_rhino We checked out of the hotel at 7.00 am. As the Inter State Bus Terminus had shifted to the outskirts of Guwahati, we were told by locals that we might not get a direct bus to Kaziranga from Paltan Bazar and that it would be better if to take a bus to the town of Nagaon from Paltan Bazaar. Located at a distance of 120 kms from Guwahati, we reached Nagaon by 11.00 am. Here we took another bus to Kaziranga (the locals call it Kohara) at around 11.30 am reaching Kaziranga by 1.30 pm. The total distance from Guwahati to Kaziranga is around 220 kms. At Kaziranga, we walked inside the Assam Tourist Complex to find an overwhelming vacation rush and no available rooms. We walked onto the main road and checked into a very decent Florican Lodge. We decided to rest and spend the evening observing the star filled sky at Kohara.

Thursday, 25th December, 2008
The Kaziranga National Park has become synonymous with successful conservation of the great one horned Rhino and is also home to many threatened species including elephant, tiger, swamp deer, river dolphin etc. Kaziranga is also an important bird area with about 500 avifaunal species recorded in the park. There are four separate safaris that one could venture into viz the Central range, the Western Range, the Eastern range and the Burhapahar Range. We shared a jeep with another family and entered the jungles of Kaziranga through the Central range. The open jeep safari was a wonderful experience and the vastness of just one section of the jungle gave us a peep into the treasure house for nature lovers. We spotted the one horned rhinos and a herd of elephant. We also spotted a few Pelican, Stork, Snake Bird, Eagle and Kingfisher. The visual expanse and forest environ and scenery was spectacular. We finally came out of the forest, had lunch, took a direct bus to Guwahati and checked into the Paltan Bazaar Hotel. The railway station was just 5 mins away from the hotel.

Friday 26th December, 2008
As there were no convenient week end trains to Bangalore from Guwahati, we boarded the Guwahati Ernakulam express at 6.30 am and reached Jolarpet (150 kms away from Bangalore) on Sunday noon of of 28th December. The train was 3.30 hours late. We then took a town bus to Bangalore and reached home at around 5.00 pm having covered more than 7000 kilometres in a tightly packed schedule.

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