A biker's tales

A biker's tales

on the road

A biker's tales

When you think of North East, what conjures up in the mind is a distant, mysterious land. When four of us from Bengaluru decided on a round trip by road (three of us on bikes and one in car), many eyebrows were raised — close to 10,000 km and around 40 days on road, a distance more than that between Bengaluru and London! And we touched down borders of five countries — Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

To reach and return from the Seven Sisters (as North Eastern states are called), we crossed 10 states and over 55 towns and cities in India. Questions and warnings were flying thick and fast on factors like safety, security, insurgency, food, people, terrain, weather... Many such doubts were unfounded.

We faced no issue whatsoever, including vegetarian food. It’s time the mainland people open their eyes and ears, and their mind, to North East.

We encountered a variety of roads — smooth six-lane express hill ways from Shillong to Guwahati; countless curves and hairpin bends with steep climbs and nasty descends from Bhalukpong to Tawang; lovely village lanes in Majuli; dust bowls called roads in Dimapur and Kohima cities; sandy, skiddy, muddy, slushy, slippery roads on the way to Dzuleke (zu-lay-kay); rocky, pebbly, bumpy sectors from Jowai to Silchar (it is supposed to be NH6!); picturesque hill roads in Meghalaya; and alleys in Aizwal city. Our bikes took them all on their chins and we, on our backs.

Song connection

The Tawang Monastery was almost bereft of people when we landed there. The town itself consists of just a couple of streets. Tawang has the potential to be the next Leh if infrastructure is improved.

Bum La is a pass between India and China. We stepped into the Chinese territory, a couple of feet that side. There’s an Indo-China Peace Rock, half of that tiny rock in China, and the better half in India. The Sangestar Tso Lake is also called Madhuri Lake because Madhuri Dixit swung her hips here for the song ‘Tanhai Tanhai’ (film Koyla) for 20 seconds. The lake is serene and freezes during winter with pine tree stumps strutting out. 

In Majuli, the world’s largest river island on the mighty Brahmaputra river in Assam, all the houses are built on stilts for flood waters to go through. Majuli is the seat of Vaishnavite tradition. At the Uttar Kamalabari Satra, established in 1673, we witnessed a grand dance called ‘Bayon Gayon’ featuring drums, performed by kids. We also visited Samaguri Satra, the mask-making centre.

Bikes, cars, people, goods, goats — everything was on transit by ferries across Brahmaputra. It’s so wide that one cannot see the other bank, and it takes a couple of hours to reach the island. We chose the eco-village Mepco Utkom for our stay. To reach our huts, we crossed a fragile bamboo bridge.

Dzuleke is a village with a population of 300 Angami tribespeople, in the fringes of the reserved forest in Nagaland. The approach was compounded by slushy roads. Hill roads looked beautiful from a distance, but my biker-bro Shridhar Rao quipped, “These roads are good from far, but far from good.” The silence in the village is so much that you can hear your breathing!

I visited the house of the oldest couple of Dzuleke — their rooftop displays the hunting souvenirs — skulls of monkeys, wild boars and barking deers. The oldest man, nearly a century old, wore black cane-rings around the leg — each ring is of some significance.

A water sport

Loktak Lake in Manipur was picturesque. Sangai deers swam and feasted on the grass floats. Fishing at Loktak Lake in Manipur is considered a skill game. Fisherfolks dab sandal paste on their face as sun screen and play the waiting game.

Here, a fisherman had a sharp, multi-spiked rod. With keen eyesight, he was watching for air bubbles released by the fish with a steady, pointed angle. And with one swift swish, the rod pierced the water like an arrow towards the bubble, and when it was pulled out, the prize catch was stuck in it!

 Meghalaya is one state that packs a punch. Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in India, has numerous waterfalls and also a few root bridges.

The Double Decker Living Root Bridge was a marvel. We went through a gruelling four-hour trail through jungles with rocky, steep, slippery steps that passed through thick foliage. If going was gruelling, returning was killing — as the route had 4,000 concrete steps! And with our kneecaps creaking, calf muscles cramming and lungs choking, we screamed many ‘aaahhs, oooohhs, ouches, amma, appa, ayyos’. In pitch darkness in those remote jungles, we passed through the swaying steel rope or bamboo bridges, with gushing rivers 100 feet below. This spot is considered so rare that the University of Amsterdam has a chapter on the Living Roots Bridge for architecture studies! The roots of two trees have found the hard soil of the other side (hardly 50 feet) through aerial route instead of the slushy rivulet route. The roots have intertwined strongly to form a walkway.

We looked like aliens in Aizwal, where everyone had a dominant Mongolian look. It’s the city full of smart-looking youth. Streets were narrow with lots of ups and downs, with thousands of two-wheelers and many one-ways. But very disciplined. No honking. No overtaking. No cramming the opposite side. 

If you are airdropped into Aizwal, you would think you are in any of the far-eastern city but for the ubiquitous bank branches and fuel stations. Here, the three-million-dollar project under construction, the Solomon’s Temple, is under way. They believe this is from where Jesus will reign after the Armageddon. It has a huge pillarless prayer hall with a capacity for 3,500 people. The man behind the church, Dr Sailo, invited me for the inauguration, scheduled for two years later. When Jesus calls, I will go!


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