After our (mis)adventures in Meghalaya, we headed north to Tezpur, Assam. Tezpur is situated on the banks of mighty Bramhaputra river and is fastest growing city in Assam bustling with activity.
Almost every visitor comes to Tezpur to visit Kaziranga National Park. But before that, we had to obtain ILP (Inner land Permit), which is required to enter Arunachal Pradesh. We managed to submit documents at the office just in time. But we would only receive ILP in the evening, which coincided with our Park visit. Luckily, a local shop-owner agreed to pick documents on our behalf. We heaved a sigh of relief and headed to Kaziranga National Park.
You have to book a Jeep safari to go around park and as always we were just in time for last batch of Jeeps to go out. We hopped on the Jeep with two other visitors and off we were for the safari. Kaziranga National park is known for providing natural habitat to majestic One Horned Rhinoceros. And we were not disappointed, as soon we entered, we saw a Rhino just across the road. We were advised to keep a low profile as rhinos may attack and we took heed this time. We took a lot of pictures of the different wildlife. The jungle roads had huge mounds of rhino potty on sides. The driver explained that rhino shit once a week and when they do, its in huge amount!
The weather was perfect with clouds and mild sun trying to peep through the clouds, with rhinos strolling across the park. The safari lasted for an hour and a half and we were back to the main area. We reached Tezpur and collected our ILPs from the shop owner, offered him some money as token of gratitude and headed to our army guesthouse.
We left for Tawang early in the morning, back on the road for Day 4 of our trip. We were greeted by patrolling army men who described the life of civillians and army men in the North East. We stopped for customary morning tea and were back on the road. Once you start climbing hilly roads it is very serene and quiet. Unlike other hill stations in India, you don’t have a lot of cars on the road. There was a small problem though. We crossed a place called Bhalukpong and saw a board saying “Fog area starting ahead”. Ignoring the sign we just kept on going for some time before dense fog engulfed entire area.
We were four of us and none experienced enough to drive in such conditions and that too a Ford Figo – perfect recipe for disaster. We drove through the area at snail’s pace avoiding falling into flowing river on one side and crashing onto the mountain boulders on the other side. Finally, we crossed the area – phew! What an adventure! We then made some futile efforts to make up for lost time only to get further delayed by our friend’s whacky idea to go fishing with locals in the river. He entered river after stripping down to his innerwear. Not only did locals ignored his act of ‘bravery’ but had to bear a pantless and sulking driver for rest of our drive.
Late afternoon, we reached Sela Pass, and it was exactly what we imagined it to be. It was snowing and the whole area was under a blanket of white snow. There is a small army post, which also doubles up as a small canteen with pakodas and tea. Munching pakoda with hot chai and pakoda under tiny, delicate flakes of snow! A lot of people just dream of this; for us it was the reality. Amidst all the awesome scenery and friendly banter, we lost track of time. As soon as we realized, we had to rush to avoid driving at night. BUT there was again a big problem. While going downhill from Sela to Tawang, a snowstorm hit the upper area and we were again caught in incessant rains and fog.
Plus, we had to face rapidly decreasing light, no mobile signal and slippery roads. Finally, our foolhardy nature actually punished us and we were actually SCARED! It was so cold that the windshield froze. I decided to get out of the car and walked in front of the car. My friend Shikhar chose to walk behind it and the car moved at walking pace. We relied on GPS navigation for turns and there we encountered a plenty of hairpin bends. And then suddenly, a white moving object with two eyes flashed in the light-beam of the car. We almost got scared to death. Luckily, it turned out to be a yak with snow on its fur and it crossed road without getting bothered by our presence. Phew!
After 3 hours of driving in this terrain and enjoying every moment of it, we reached Tawang. But wait, our tryst with mishaps wasn’t still over still as the Army guesthouse was at top of a hill with an extremely steep incline. Our worst fear came true, as the car wouldn’t move ahead! After 14 hours of driving, our Ford Figo had almost given up. We had to get out of the car in rain and pushed it to start twice over the hill and finally reached the place.
Tired and drenched in rain, we got out of the cars and yearned to crash on our beds. But hunger kept us awake for dinner. It felt weird to have Punjabi food in Tawang, one of the farthest corners of the country. But, thanks to gifted cook of 14 Punjab Army unit, we gorged on delicious food. We all crashed in our rooms, which were heated in old-fashioned way using bukharis.
Finally, we had reached our destination though a late and after a lot of adventures and memories for lifetime! Ghumrs can read about my last leg here.