Trekking across India’s Paradise Unexplored.
The seven sister states are the contiguous states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura in the north eastern part of India. The location of the region is strategically important as it has international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Tibet. The area is endowed with forest wealth and is ideally suited to produce a whole range of plantation crops, spices, fruits and vegetables and flowers and herbs. The rich natural beauty, serenity and exotic flora and fauna of the area are invaluable resources for the development of eco-tourism. Total area of the region is about 2,55,168 Sq. Km. The Seven states comprise about 7 percent of India’s total land mass, whereas its share in the total population of India in mere 3.7 percent.
The region has a high concentration of tribal population. The states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are mostly inhabited by a number of native tribes. Each tribe has its own distinct tradition of art, culture, dance, music and life styles. The numerous fairs and festivals celebrated by these communities and their friendly nature are irresistible attractions for the visitors. Although there is great ethnicity and religious diversity within the region of the seven states, there is lot of similarity in socio-political and economic spheres.
With numerous mountains, valleys, unadulterated landscapes, majestic waterfalls, the living root bridges, vibrant National parks with rare fauna and avifauna, the North Eastern States of India offers immense potential to hikers and adventure lovers from across the World. Various trek routes are available across these states that allow you to explore the vibrant natural wonders especially across Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
Some of the popular trekking circuits in North East India are as below ~
- The Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trail Trek ~ Meghalaya
- The Dzukou Valley Trail Trek ~ Nagaland
- The David Scott Trail Trek ~ Meghalaya
- The Namdapha National Park Trail Trek ~ Arunachal Pradesh
- The Dong Village Trail Trek ~ Arunachal Pradesh
- The King’s Highway Trail Trek ~ Meghalaya
- The Nameri National Park Trail Trek ~ Assam
- The Garbhanga Reserve Forest Trail Trek ~ Assam
- Conquering the Jaintia and Khasi Hills ~ Meghalaya
- The Chandubi Reserve Forest Trail Trek ~ Assam
- Conquering the Monpa Highlands ~ Arunachal Pradesh
- The Largest River Island Trail Trek ~ Assam
Trekking in Kaziranga National Park ~
This has come as a big boost to adventure seekers who come to Kaziranga National Park – the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Assam famed for its population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros as the forest authorities have opened up a new trail at the Chirang Nature Trail for visitors to go for trekking inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park. The Chirang Trekking Trail at Kaziranga National Park (part of the Chirang Nature Trail) is a new dimension of Eco-tourism here at the famed Kaziranga National Park that will allow tourists to get a panoramic view of the flood plains and the ecosystem of Kaziranga National Park. This Chirang Trekking Trail of Kaziranga National Park is located at the Burapahar range at Ghorakati under the Eastern Wildlife Division of Kaziranga National Park and this range is a grassland with animals species like Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, Hog Deers, Capped Langurs, Hoolock Gibbons, Giant Squirrel, etc. and it is on a very satisfying trail for nature lovers and bird watchers who want to go for an adventurous hike inside the forests of Kaziranga National Park. The Kaziranga National Park is home to around 495 species of birds both resident and migratory and once you embark on this trekking route inside Kaziranga National Park at Chirang then have your cameras ready to capture pictures of rare birds and primates including the One Horned Rhinoceros of Assam.
The trekking trail at Chirang runs to up to 3 km inside the Burapahar range of Kaziranga National Park at Ghorakati and in addition to the Chirang Nature trail there is another trekking trail at Kaziranga National Park that extends to around 5 km and it is the Natundanga and Baneshwar trekking trail. These fall under the Karbi villages and to provide income generation among the locals various homestays and ethnic food centres have been encourages so that when visitors enjoy their trekking expeditions inside Kaziranga National Park they also get the opportunity to explore the park on foot and enjoy the local food and stay with the local people of Kaziranga National Park.
Assam occupies the lush lowlands of the Brahmaputra Valley and is the most densely populated. Arunachal Pradesh occupies the densely forested and sparsely populated foothills of the Himalayas, and is one of the major tourist attractions because of its Buddhist influence. Meghalaya, with its pine clad hills and lakes, is famous as the wettest region of the world. Nagaland has a rich war history that attracts tourists. The other three states -Manipur, known as the ‘land of jewels’, Mizoram and Tripura make up a fascinating area consisting of green valleys, lush hills with variety of flora and fauna. According to the 1971 census there are about 220 languages spoken in these states, belonging mainly to three language families, namely Indo Aryan, Sino-Tibetan and Austric. The Indo-Aryan represented mainly by Asamiya and Bangla, Austro-Asiatic represented mainly by Khasi and the Sino-Tibetan family of languages is represented by the Tibeto-Burman and the Siamese-Chinese sub families also there are languages of the Tea-Tribes. However the majority of languages spoken here belong to the former and the latter is represented by a few Thai languages like Khamyang, Khamti, Aiton, Phakyal and Turung. It is worthwhile to mention here that Ahom a language belonging to this Thai group has over the years merged with Asamiya.
From times immemorial, India’s North East has been the meeting point of many communities, faiths and cultures. A place renowned for its magical beauty and bewildering diversity, North East India is the home for more than 166 separate tribes speaking a wide range of languages. Some groups have migrated over the centuries from places as far as Southeast Asia; they retain their cultural traditions and values but are beginning to adapt to contemporary lifestyles. Its jungles are dense, its rivers powerful and rain, and thunderstorms sweep across the hills, valleys and plains during the annual monsoons.
The lushness of its landscape, the range of communities and geographical and ecological diversity makes the North East quite different from other parts of the subcontinent. In winters, mist carpets the valleys but swirls around the traveler in hills during summer rains, thus creating an enchanting and romantic atmosphere. The region has borders with Myanmar Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The festivals and celebrations in the North- eastern states of India are a colorful reflection of the people and their lives. Throughout the year, different people celebrate festivals with lot of fanfare in different ways, most of them centering on their modes of living and livelihood.
Each state is a traveler’s paradise, with picturesque hills and green meadows which shelters thousands of species of flora and fauna. In addition, the states provide scope for angling, boating, rafting, trekking and hiking. Besides, there are a number of wild life sanctuaries and national parks where rare animals, birds and plants which will surely provide fascinating insight to the visitors.
Let’s see some of the states at a glance ~
The State of Awesome ASSAM ~ the ‘Gateway to North East India’ ~
Assam is the gateway to the north-east, a state known for its breathtaking scenic beauty, rarest flora and fauna, lofty green hills, vast rolling plain, mighty waterways and a land of fairs and festivals. Known in the ancient lore as the kingdom of Pragjyotisha and Kamrupa, the capital having been Pragjyotishpura situated in or near Guwahati. It originally included in addition to modern Assam, parts of modern Bengal and modern Bangladesh. The name Assam is of recent origin. It came into use after the conquest of Assam by the Ahoms. It is also known that “Assam” is derived from the word “Asama” meaning uneven. Assam is almost separated from central India by Bangladesh. Nagaland, Manipur and Myanmar bound it in the east, west by West Bengal, north by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh and south by Meghalaya, Bangladesh, Tripura and Mizoram.
Its geography is dominated by the mighty Brahmaputra, one of the great rivers of the world (length: 2900 kms), which not only has a fertile alluvial plain for growing rice, but also is famous for tea, the only male river in India. Straddling either banks of the Brahmaputra, Guwahati-said to be the legendary Pragjyotishpura or City of Eastern Light was said to have been founded by King Narakasur, who is mentioned in the Puranas and Epics. is a bustling, busy and crowded city. It is the commercial capital of the North-East. Guwahati are actually two words: Guwa meaning areca nut and Hat meaning market or market for areca nuts.
Flora & Fauna ~
Nature has ungrudgingly blessed Assam with an abundance of scenic grandeur, a wealth of rare and near-extinct wildlife. The flora consists of tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems; many are now protected as national parks and reserved forests. It forms part of a global bio-diversity “hotspot”, out of 41 listed endangered species a considerable list of species are found in Assam, these includes Golden Langur, One-Horned Indian Rhino, Hoolock Gibbon, Pygmy Hog, Hispid Hare, White-Winged Wood Duck, Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Swamp Deer, Gangetic Dolphins, etc. Moreover, during season, flock of resident and migratory birds make Assam their natural habitat. Rainfall, one of the highest in the world (between 178 and 305 cms), is concentrated in 4 months, June to September.
Festivals & Fairs ~
Assam is a land of fairs and festivals. Most of the festivals celebrated in Assam have their roots in the diverse faith and belief of her inhabitants. They reflect the true spirit, tradition and life style of the people of Assam. The culture of Assam is a rich tapestry woven with multicolour yarns of distinct heritage of all the races that inhabit there. The harvest festivals and fairs like Magh or Bhugali Bihu(January Mid), the Brahmaputra Beach festival, the Jonbeel Mela Festival (January Mid), the Rongali Bihu (April Mid), the Raas Leela Festival, the Dol Utsav (April), Kongali or Kati Bihu (May) celebrated by people irrespective of caste, creed and religion throughout Assam. Other festivals are- Baishagu (celebrated by Bodo Kacharis during mid-April), Ali-Ai-Ligang (festival of the Mishing tribe, February-March), Baikho (Rabha tribe, spring season), Rongker (important festival of the Karbis, April), Rajini Gabra and Harni Gabra (Dimasa tribe), Bohaggiyo Bishu (spring festival of the Deoris), Ambubachi Mela (most important festival of the Kamakhya Temple is celebrated during mid-June every year. It is a ritual of austerities celebrated with “tantric” rites).
The most unique of the fairs is the Jonbeel Mela (Fair) which is following the customary barter system till date, being inaugurated by the Tiwa (Tribal) King in Assam’s Morigaon district. ‘Jonbeel Mela’ is a three-day community fair held the weekend of ‘Magh Bihu’ at a historic place known as ‘Dayang Belguri’ at ‘Jonbeel’. It is 5 km from Jagiroad in Morigaon district of Assam and 32 km from Guwahati. The ‘Jonbeel’ (Jon and Beel are Assamese terms for the Moon and a wetland respectively) is so called because a large natural water body is shaped like a crescent moon. Moreover, the people of Assam also celebrate Janmastmi (August), Durga Puja (October), Diwali, EID, Muharram, Me-Dam-Me-Phi, the birth and death anniversaries of the Vaishnavite saints Shrimanta Sankardeva and Shri Madhabdeva.
Places of Interest ~
Wildlife Sanctuaries & National Parks:
- Kaziranga National Park: Kaziranga, the world-renowned park lies in Golaghat and Nagaon district. It covers an area of 430 sq. kms. It is the home of the great Indian one- horned rhino, breeding place of pelican.
- Manas National Park: The only Tiger Reserve of Assam. Manas is one of the most magnificent National Parks of India. It is also a world heritage site.
- Nameri National Park (on the border of Arunachal and Assam).
- Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
- Orang (Rajiv Gandhi) National Park.
- Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
Guwahati the gateway to Assam and N.E. region & principal city of Assam hosts Kamakhya & Bhubhaneshwari temples; Basistha Ashram; Navagraha Temple; Assam State Zoo & Botanical Garden; Assam State Museum; Regional Science Centre; Planetarium; Purvottar Balaji Mandir; Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra; Umananda Temple; Shree Shyam Mandir, Gandhi Mandap, Iskon Temple, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika Samadhi Kshetra etc. Dispur is the capital of Assam
Diphu (centre of Karbi art and culture)
Sivasagar (seat of Ahom rule in Assam- Shivdol, Vishnudol, Devidol, Rang Ghar, Talatol Ghar, Joysagar, Ahom Museum, Gargaon, Kareng Ghar, Charaideo, etc.)
Suwalkuchi (famous for Assamese silk – Muga & Pat)
Chandubi Lake (a natural lagoon and picnic spot)
Barpeta (Vaishnava Monastery, Shrine of Shri Madhabdev)
Hajo (where three religions meet – Hinduism, Buddhism & Poa-Mecca, a mosque for Islam)
Jorhat and Dibrugarh (major tea producing areas)
Tezpur (temples, ancient ruins and monuments-Da Parbatia, Agnigarh, Bamuni Hills, Bhairavi and Mahabhairava temples and the twin tanks of Bar Pukhuri and Padum Pukhuri and Cole Park)
Digboi (one of the world’s oldest Oil refinery)
Margherita (the Oldest operational Coal mines of India, the Land of the Historic Stilwell Road of the fame of World War II, India’s only Coal Museum, a Prime business area of the British Regime and a place of the highest concentration of the Legendary Tribes of Assam)
Majuli (largest river island of the world, center of Vaishnava culture. There are many Satras, which are regarded as the main centers for Assamese art, music, dance, drama, etc.)
Jatinga (famous for the bird suicide phenomenon near Haflong)
Haflong (only hill station in Assam)
Bhalukpong (famous for scenic beauty, picnic and angling spot)
Bordowa (birth place of Shri Srimanta Sankardeva, famous Vaishnavite reformer of Assam)
The State of Mesmerizing Meghalaya ~
Meghalaya, the ‘Abode of clouds’ has never failed to thrill its visitors. From the Majestic landscapes, the pleasant weather, the Music, the Landmark Monuments, Cherrapunji – ‘the wettest place on Earth’, Mawlynnong – ‘Asia’s cleanest village’ to the Living Root Bridges are a part of this Paradise and one is surely going to mark his visit to Meghalaya in his memory book forever! The city of Shillong in Meghalaya is home to many churches and India’s only glass mosque. Other places of tourist interest in Shillong are Umiam Lake, Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak, Butterfly Museum, Air Force Museum, Golf Course, Don Bosco Museum, Ward’s lake and many more.
Just about 90 kms from Shillong city is Cherrapunji – ‘the Rainiest Place on Planet Earth’ where the clouds cease to clear the sky and drops of rains continue to fall on your windshield in the majestic three (3) hour drive from Shillong to Cherrapunji. The picturesque landscape on your way will surely make you fall in love with this drive across the misty hills and you will surely make your mind to visit Cherrapunji again!
Cherrapunji is located in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya and is home to five of the most famous waterfalls of the State that has now turned into favorite tourist destinations. One noteworthy among these list of five is the Nohkalikai Falls, which is also India’s tallest plunge Waterfall standing tall at a height of 1115 feet (340 meters). As per the Khasi folklore an interesting story exists behind this waterfall’s name. The Nongriat Village at Cherrapunji is renowned across the World for the famous Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Double Decker Living Root Bridge is a unique sight to behold and aptly referred to as by the locals as the Eight Wonder of the Modern World! Our Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trail Trek takes you on an adventurous journey across the flight of 3500 stairs to reach the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat Village. Coupled along with a night halt at the Nongriat Village, you get to experience ecotourism at its best by sharing a day in the life of the Khasi locals of Meghalaya at Nongriat. The Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trail Trek also allows you to sight the Single Decker Living Root Bridges at Tyrna Village, the Longest Living Root Bridge at Pynursla and the Single Decker Living Root Bridge at the Cleanest Village of Asia i.e. Mawlynnong Village.
Mawphlang the site of one of the Khasi Hills sacred groves.In this tour, you will also experience a tour of Shillong and visit the places of tourist interest of the likes of churches, mosque, museums, falls and golf clubs. Visit Cherrapunji – the Wettest place on planet Earth and visit the living root bridges and see India’s tallest plunge waterfall ‘the Nohkalikai Falls’. Visit Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest Village and witness Ecotourism at Mawlynnong and witness Khasi Culture at Mawphlang –
The destinations covered are:
- Shillong (the Scotland of the East)
- Cherrapunjee (the Rainiest Place on planet Earth and home to Double Decker Living Root Bridge)
- Pynursla (Longest Living Root Bridge)
- Mawlynnong (Asia’s Cleanest Village)
- Mawphlang (Khasi Hills Sacred Groves)
- Dawki (the Border of India and Bangladesh)
Arunachal Pradesh: Receives the first sunlight in India, hence called the ‘Land of Rising Sun’. Just like sunset in Kanyakumari, sunrise in Arunachal is wonderful. It shares international borders with China, Bhutan & Myanmar. The Tawang Monastery is the Second Largest Monastery in the World and the Largest in India.
Nagaland: Apart from its diverese culture and the famous ‘Horn Bill Festival’, Nagaland has contributed largely to the defence sector of our Nation. And not to forget, the legendary footballer Dr. Talimeran Ao hails from Nagaland.
Tripura: Most literate state in India beating Kerala
Mizoram: Third most literate state in India after Kerala. The only place in India, where the tradition of ‘Nghah lou dawr’ meaning “Shops without attendants” are common along the highways that sell vegetables and fruits.
Manipur: Its has a huge contribution to the nation in the field of Sports. Likes of boxing world champion M C Mary Kom and many national level players in different sports. Kebul Lamjao National Park is the only floating park in the World.
Sikkim: It is blessed with natural beauty all year around with snow peaked mountains and lush green mountain cover. Also, it hosts the world’s highest altitude ATM
To Custom Create and Plan your Trekking Itineraries across North East India across Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh please fill form below ~
North East India Trekking experiences ~
We narrate one of our trekking explorations across North East India in the state of Meghalaya and then we will have another few experiences across Assam and another one in Arunachal Pradesh at the Namdapha National Park. The first experience is one where we hosted a group of 30 students from a prominent International School in India and we explored places of interest across the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya and many of these explorations were through trekking rather than driving as it was more of an outdoor learning experience for student wherein we understood the life, traditions and culture of the Khasi people of Meghalaya and also explored the various places of interest across Shillong, Cherrapunji, Pynursla, Mawlynnong and Dawki and we would even trek to the Nongriat Village to spot the grandeur of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge and even the longest Living Root Bridge at Pynursla. The tour began from the LGBI airport at Guwahati and we started on our drive on our Toyota Innova vehicles where we drove from the airport to travel towards the Khanapara area in Guwahati and further towards the Jorabat area of Meghalaya and we entered Meghalaya and continued on our drive towards Burnihat and further towards Nongpoh.
The pristine green landscapes of Meghalaya greeted us and we admired the lush green mountain cover and the beautiful roads of Meghalaya as well and everyone was getting excited to know more about the trekking tour of Meghalaya and North East India as well. We soon approached the Nongpoh area and we stopped for our breakfast at the Excellencia Dhaba at Nongpoh that is a very fine restaurant and we took time to freshen up and enjoy our meal along the lush landscapes of Meghalaya in North East India. After breakfast we continued on our drive to Shillong that is the capital city of Meghalaya and we soon reached the beautiful Umiam Lake area near Shillong that is the largest artificial water reservoir of North East India that is filled with waters crystal clear and the entire stretch looks completely blue and absolutely breathtaking. We stopped here for a while to admire the pristine waters of the Umiam Lake and later we continued on our drive further to Shillong city. We didn’t get stuck in traffic as it was a Saturday with the government offices being closed or else the traffic in Shillong upon the entrance to the city is quite chaotic and we drove towards the Laban area of Shillong where we would check into our place of stay at Laban.
We were scheduled to halt at the Sunrise Guest House and the Nalgare’s guest house in Shillong and we took our luggage and the students and teachers along with the group captain entered their rooms and we prepared to have our lunch and have an informal discussion about the expectations from this group tour before we started on our exploration of the ‘Scotland of the East’ viz. Shillong city. We had a nice lunch of various offerings like rice, dal, sabji, fry, chicken curry, papad, salad, etc. and after a short round of discussion we started on our exploration of Shillong city were we first went to visit the Police Bazar area in Shillong that is a vibrant and bustling market area that provides a glimpse of the traditional and modern markets of Shillong where on one side you get to see the old family run business shops and on the other side of the road you will see all the high ride malls. The local vendors who setup make shift stalls can also be seen here with them selling varieties of local produce along with the very spicy pepper of the King Chilly as well. We allowed the students about an hour’s time to spread out in groups led by the group captain to explore the Police Bazar area in Shillong.
The students were very much pleased to see this market area because it is a different setup market when compared to the city one they came from and it reflected the various ancient shops and the unique offerings at these shops were one thing you wouldn’t find in any other city. The emporiums of handicrafts and handlooms also impressed the students and they were really surprised to see how bamboo was used to create such beautiful and exquisite showpieces of daily use and interiors décor especially. But one thing that intrigued everyone was the local vendors who had setup their stalls along the roadside and they were selling some very fresh produce of the famous Meghalaya turmeric, cinnamon sticks, various fresh herbs and vegetables and the hottest pepper in the World of the Bhut Jolokia. The Bhut Jolokia is said to be among the hottest peppers in the World and the chilli pod is a very different pod the looks very fiery once you see it itself. The various betting shops of the Shillong Teer also intrigued everyone that is a very popular game across the state where the people place bet on certain numbers of the day at these shops and the game of traditional archery is held every day at the Polo grounds in Shillong.
In this traditional game, archers gather at the Polo grounds and they target their arrows at a board that has the numbers of the day attached and the number that gets the maximum number of arrow strikes is declared the winning number of the day and the winner gets an amount that is much higher that the bet amount he had placed. We finished exploring Police Bazar and our next destination for the day was the Wards Lake area in Shillong that is a pristine man dug out lake in the heart of the city that is surrounded by the growth of pine trees and the various cherry blossom trees. As we had not included any physical activity during the day, the group decided that instead of boarding the cars to go to the Ward’s lake, we decided to walk from across the Police Bazar area to head to the front entrance of the Ward’s lake and this would be across the beautiful growth of the cherry blossoms and the pine trees and we enjoyed the walk and soon approached the Wards lake area in Shillong on our North East India trekking tour across Meghalaya and we split into groups and went ahead to explore the Wards Lake in Shillong.
The Wards lake in Shillong was commissioned to be dug out by the then commissioner of Assam during the British Raj (General Ward) when he had visited the Central Jail in Shillong and he found that the prisoners here were sitting idle without any physical activity and hence were putting on much weight and so he ordered them to dig out this lake and later beautify it as well that allowed the British officers to use this place as a recreational area in the evenings. Today Wards Lake has come a long way and has become a very popular tourist attraction of Shillong city drawing visitors from around the World to the place who come on a vacation to Meghalaya and North East India and they come to enjoy boating on the waters of the Wards lake in the late afternoon and later to enjoy some snacks and coffee at the coffee bar at the place. We took some time to explore the Wards Lake and later we called it a day and started on our drive back to our guest house where we had our evening snacks and the students got busy with their evening activities. Dinner was served at 7.30 PM and later everyone returned to their rooms to call it a day.
Night Halt: Sunrise Guest House at Shillong
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 2: Shillong – Mawphlang – Cherrapunji
Today we started our day early and as it was mostly a tour of trekking and adventure so we started our day to travel to Mawphlang that is the site where we would explore the Khasi Heritage Village at Mawphlang, the Mawphlang sacred groves and later we embark on our trek of one of the most pristine hiking destination and trek route of Meghalaya – the David Scott trail trek. We had a quick breakfast and we boarded our luggage on our vehicles and we started on our drive to Mawphlang crossing Shillong and the Upper Shillong areas. The drive is across the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya and we could see the River Umiam travel along with us on our way. We soon reached Mawphlang area and we drove on our way to the site of the Khasi Hills sacred groves. These sacred groves are protected forest pockets across the state that were earlier used by the Khasi ancestors to offer prayers to the Gods seeking a year of bountiful harvest and hence these are considered to be sacred and the prayers were offered at a site of the sacred stones called as Monoliths.
In the earlier times when they had to figure out whether or not the coming year would be good for their harvest season or not and so they would come to offer their prayers at these sacred groves and perform various rituals at the sacred monoliths here. It is believed that God would appear in the front of these elderly either in the form of a tiger or a snake and if it was a tiger it would mean a season of abundance with a bountiful harvest and if it was a snake then it would mean a year of famine and drought and hence the people could brace themselves accordingly to face the year ahead. We took the services of local guide who would help us trek inside the Khasi Hills sacred groves at Mawphlang and learn more about the various ancient rituals and practices of the Khasi people of Meghalaya. The guide explained to us about how the locals have taken the task to preserve these sacred groves and even do not allow people to cut trees inside this forest pocket for their timber needs and this has resulted in the place becoming a rich biodiversity area harbouring various species of flora, fauna and avifauna as well.
The guide explained to us as to how this place is a haven to look out for the varied orchid species that bloom in the time of the monsoon season and the place looks even more beautiful. We took our time trekking inside the forests of the sacred groves and the guide even told us that there are several plants and trees inside the place that are known to have various medicinal properties and some even have the potential to cure cancer as well. We took around 30 minutes to explore the sacred grove and we came out of the forest pocket to visit the model Khasi heritage village at Mawphlang. This model Khasi heritage village was the site of the monolith festival of Meghalaya that was a festival that was held earlier to showcase the rich culture, heritage and traditions of the Khasi people of Meghalaya and there are model traditional Khasi huts here as well where visitors can catch a glimpse of the earlier Khasi way of living. We went to explore the Khasi heritage village and soon we were on our vehicles to travel to the site of a village where we would embark on the David Scott trek trail.
Here we were welcomed by our local guide and we took some time to visit the washroom before we started on our 16km long trek that would extend from Mawphlang to Lad Mawphlang. The David Scott trek trail is one of the very pristine trekking routes across Meghalaya and North East India and it was earlier used as a trade route between Assam and Bangladesh and the trek route was initially discovered by the British officer named as David Scott. Mules were used to transport goods across Assam and Sylhet and today this serves as one of the very pristine trekking routes for adventure seekers who love nature and the trekking route offers fantastic valley views of Meghalaya and also the River Umiam flows along the trek route on the beginning of the route. There are numerous stream and bridge crossings and the trek begins on a downhill hike followed by a flat surface hike and later an uphill climb to reach some quaint Khasi villages and countryside and finally the trek culminates at Lad Mawphlang to the onward route to Cherrapunji. We embark on the trek with the local guide leading the way and we admired the beautiful landscapes of the East Khasi hills and we could also view a waterfall along the trek and we continued on our downhill climb and trekked further towards the suspension bridge that is present a little ahead into the trek route.
Along the way we crossed a grave of a small child named ‘Camilly’ who had died at a young age and her remains were buried here. We hiked further crossing a few small streams and the waters of the stream were very crystal clear. The trekking route at the beginning has been well built and there is a pavement that is made of stones and only after you cross the suspension bridge that the road is across a mud track. We crossed the suspension bridge and continued on our trek and soon we approached a stream crossing and it was here that we decided to stop to have our lunch and we were carrying cup noodles, bananas, boiled eggs, biscuits, chips, juice, energy bars, etc. to have as our lunch and we took time to burn a fire and boil the packaged mineral water we were carrying with us and we had our cup noodles and after sometime we started on our hike again to trek further towards the village that is located uphill. This is a toughest part of the trek as the hill is a little steep and so we had to be careful along our trek.
We soon approached the beautiful countryside and the local village along the way and we had carried our thrash along with us and we stopped to dispose this off at the dust bin that is present at the compound of this village area. We were enthralled with the lush green landscapes of the countryside and the beautiful blue sky horizon behind us and we stopped as a shop at this village to take rest and to pick up something to eat as we didn’t have a big lunch and also the up-hill trek made everyone feel hungry as well. It was planned earlier a well because we couldn’t burden the students with extra baggage carrying food and so we had asked the shop to prepare some local noodles for us as well. We continued on our trek after the break and now it was mostly across a plain surface with the grassland and along the way we spotted some very clear water ponds and streams and the students went to feel this absolute clear waters that is to be found along the David Scott trek of Meghalaya in North East India. One thing to be realized when you travel across these remote places in North East India is that there is very less signs of environmental degradation across these areas and therefore you can feel in absolute awe of mother nature when you see the natural surroundings and nature in its pure form.
We trekked further ahead and soon reached a spot where there is a road bridge on top and from under this bridge we had to take a right diversion to walk towards another uphill climb and we soon reached the other end of the trek route of Lad Mawphlang and here we got to see the various valley view landscapes of Meghalaya that are mostly best viewed from the Mawkdok valley. Our vehicles were waiting for us here and all of us boarded our vehicles and after a final head count we started on our drive to Cherrapunji. The beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya could be seen from all across and we soon approached Cherrapunji where we were scheduled to halt at the Sohra Plaza homestay and the Sai Mika Resort at Cherrapunji. Cherrapunji is known as Sohra in the local language and it translates to the ‘Shade of the Clouds’ and this is true because the cloud cover ceases to clear the sky and Cherrapunji was once called as the ‘Wettest place on planet Earth’ and the place recorded the highest amount of rainfall anywhere in the World. It was only a few years back that Cherrapunji lost this coveted title to another place in Meghalaya named as Mawsynram.
We checked into the Sohra Plaza at the beginning where we were scheduled to have our evening snacks and the staff here had prepared French fries, onion pakora and tea/coffee for the entire group and everyone sat down to eat it as it was a long day and we did not have a heavy meal in the afternoon. After snacks, everyone checked into their rooms and one group boarded the vehicles to travel to the Sai Mika resort and we were scheduled to meet back at the Sohra Plaza at around 7PM to gather for dinner and enjoy bonfire at the Sohra Plaza area itself. At 7PM we all gathered at the hall of the Sohra Plaza homestay and dinner was arranged in a buffet and everyone took their turn to serve the food and it was an elaborate meal that had roti, rice, dal, mixed veg, matar paneer, chicken curry, salad, papad, pickle, etc. and everyone savoured their meal and by the time we got the bonfire ready as the evenings in Cherrapunji are cold and this way the students could gather around the bonfire and reflect on their day of activity and what they could expect from the coming days of the educational cum trekking tour. The group spent some time around the bonfire and by 9PM everyone retired to their rooms to prepare for the following day.
Night Halt: Sohra Plaza and Sai Mika at Cherrapunji
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 3: Cherrapunji local sight seeing
Today everyone were up early and it was our day to explore the area and sightseeing destinations around Cherrapunji and we would also have an interaction with the local Khasi people scheduled in the late afternoon where we would learn more about the place and also the customs and traditions of the local Khasi people of Cherrapunji. We got together at the dining area at 7AM to have our breakfast and the job of the staff was commendable as they were always ready on time to serve the meals and the food was always up to the mark. After breakfast the group took some time to engage in a team building activity and we started our day at around 8.15AM where we would trek from a route behind and travel to the site of the Nohkalikai falls by trekking and later our vehicles would meet us there and we would continue the rest of the exploration for the day by travelling on our vehicles. Two local guides joined us and we started on our trek from across the route behind the Sohra Plaza and we crossed the virgin wilderness of the landscapes of Cherrapunji and we even had to cross over the top of a waterfall as well.
Thankfully this was in the month of March and it was a dry season and therefore there was not much of water that made the trek easier or else we couldn’t have managed to access this trek in the monsoon season. We had to climb uphill for a short distance and soon we reached the area of the Nohkalikai Falls and it was just a short trek away to the actual site of the falls. We soon reached the Nohkalikai falls and the sight of this place was absolutely breathtaking. The Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India and the water falls down from a height of 340m. This is a plunge waterfall because the waters from the various perennial streams flowing across Cherrapunji area come and gather at the summit of this waterfall and later they combine and fall down as one waterfall from the summit. The waters here are crystal clear and it flows down as a blue coloured waterfall and the water turns green once it touches the base and it forms a green coloured pond at the bottom and this change in colour is a brilliant understanding of the natural optics. The students admired the beauty and grandeur of the Nohkalikai Falls and later they went around to explore the area across the place.
Across the area of the area of the Nohkalikai Falls in Cherrapunji there are various small stalls that are setup by the local vendors who are mostly women folks from around the locality and they sell some very fresh produce of various organic fruits of the season like pineapples and oranges and also various whole spices like cinnamon, clove and turmeric that are sourced from the local forests of Cherrapunji. The cinnamon sticks you will find here are pure and has a fantastic aroma and you can either buy these sticks as a whole bunch and later chop it into smaller pieces for everyday use or you can even buy smaller packets that are also put up for sale. The students got intrigued looking at these spices and I asked one of the group captains to taste a piece of the freshly chopped pineapple that were being sold at these stalls and he agreed to it that it was one of the sweetest pineapples he had ever tasted. So after our trek was over and slowly the group was feeling hungry as well and dehydrated and so nothing would have been better than to replenish the body energy and fluids than the pineapple and so we got everyone a plate of the freshly chopped pineapples and today our day was at leisure so we took some time to explore around the places at Cherrapunji. The turmeric from Meghalaya is known to be one of the purest and best available forms in the country and it is high in curcumin content and many of the group members brought this to be taken home to their families. Also one particular thing that is seen here are the home made pickles that are made from various ingredients like chillies, King chilly, small fish, garlic, mango, etc. and these are some special homemade recipe pickles that are very delightful to taste.
We took some time to explore across the area of the Nohkalikai Falls and we trekked along the place and soon we boarded our vehicles to travel to the Mawsmai caves area near Cherrapunji that is about a 20 minute drive from the area of the Nohkalikai falls. We crossed the market area of Cherrapunji and continued on our drive towards the Mawsmai Cave area and the lush cloud cover was hovering above our head and also the fog made the atmosphere more magical and by the time we reached the parking spot of the Mawsmai caves, the fog cover had almost cleared up and we soon reached the Mawsmai caves. This is a pre-historic cave that is a very popular tourist destination in Cherrapunji and Meghalaya as well and the place draws thousands of visitors every day. The place has to be explored on foot and though it is a much larger cave in area but only a small portion of this cave is opened to tourists for exploring and this cave is enough to sight the various rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave as well as certain fossils. We would be exploring the Arwah caves as well that is a much wider cave and so we would not spend much time here.
We brought the entry tickets at the cave entrance and we hiked on our way to visit the Mawsmai Caves area in Cherrapunji. The cave mouth is narrow and one has to watch out for his head and stoop down to enter the cave and we as a group trekked into the cave interiors. The various rock formations could be seen and we stepped inside the cave and it is good that this cave is well lit up and we explored the interiors of the Mawsmai cave and we sighted the fossils on the cave walls and along with it we even saw the stalactites and stalagmites and we soon came out of the cave interiors and we boarded our vehicles to travel to the Seven Sister Falls at Cherrapunji. This is another very beautiful waterfall of the place and is said to be the fourth tallest waterfall in India and the water plunges from a height of 315m. The view point at the Seven Sister Falls offers grand views of the valleys of Meghalaya and also the plains of Bangladesh as well. This waterfall is a segmented waterfall unlike the Nohkalikai Falls that is a plunge waterfall and there are seven distinct waterfalls to be seen here with each waterfall falling down separately to the base.
We admired the pristine landscapes across the place and also the grandeur of the seven sister falls and later we boarded our vehicles again to travel back to our place of stay where we would take time to freshen up and have our lunch and later go out to explore the Arwah caves in Cherrapunji and come back to our place to have a session on the local traditions and customs of the Khasi people of Cherrapunji. We had a nice lunch of veg fried rice, chicken Manchurian, soya chunks, salad, noodles and soup and we boarded our vehicles again to travel to the site of the Arwah caves in Cherrapunji that is another pre-historic cave and a more detailed cave to explore as well. We hired the services of a local guide who would take us inside the Arwah Caves and help us identify the various fossils and the stalactites and stalagmites of the place. The cave mouth is located at a distance of 500m from the entry point and we had to trek to reach the cave entrance of the Arwah caves and upon entrance we could see the various diagrams that illustrated the pre-historic era species that are present in the cave to create fossils.
We made our entry inside the cave mouth and the guide led our group and we could see the fossils just upon the cave entrance. The cave has to be accessed by trekking and so we had to be careful as water stream flows inside the cave and there is a rock bed so that we do not slip. The guide showed us the fossils on the cave walls inside the Arwah cave and we admired this historic fossil on the walls of the Arwah cave and we went in further to explore the cave. The water stream flows along the wall the trek and we had to climb down a stairway to begin accessing the cave and it was a much wide cave when compared to the Mawsmai cave in Cherrapunji. The Arwah Cave is a better viewing experience and also the cave is well lit and therefore the pathway is much easily accessible. The guide was also carrying a high beam torch in his hands that slowed him to show us the various fossils on the cave walls including the stalactites and stalagmites from the roof of the cave. The group members liked this cave quite a lot and they were narrating their experience of exploring caves in Thailand and they compared the Arwah caves to these caves and it felt good they were enjoying the exploration.
We trekked deeper into the cave entrance and occasionally bats would fly over our heads that made everyone scream out loud. Many visitors were also exploring the cave and they were intrigued by this pre-historic cave. Up to a point there is light but going forward there is no light and in case once wants to go more deeper inside the Arwah cave you can choose to explore the cave further but it is a very narrow passage inside the cave and so one has to walk very carefully and also the cave is very narrow at this place as well. The guide asked if anyone wanted to travel across the narrow passage and few of the students agreed to go inside and they explored the place and soon we made our way outside the cave and we boarded our vehicles to drive back to our place of stay at the Sohra Plaza homestay. It was around 4PM and so we would make a round of quick snacks and tea/coffee and later get together for a session of the Khasi culture and traditions at dining area itself.
The staff had prepared hot potato fritters and there was cake as well and so we enjoyed the snacks and everyone took their seats at the place and we awaited the local person who would come and talk to us about the Khasi culture and traditions. The person was a local who owned a guest house and also a restaurant at the market area and he spoke to us about how there were three major tribes across Meghalaya mostly the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo people and how the Khasi people were earlier divided into clans and sub clans. He also spoke to us about Cherrapunji and why the place received huge amount of rainfall when compared to the other places in the country. He also briefed us about the various tourist destinations of Cherrapunji and the famed Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat village and how we would be trekking to the place tomorrow and witnesses this man grown wonder of a bioengineering marvel. The Khasi people of Meghalaya follow a matrilineal system of society and the family linage is taken from the mother’s side and the head of the family is the woman of the house. The ancestral property and wealth is generally transferred to the youngest daughter in the house and she is responsible to take care of the old parents and the unmarried siblings and even the bridegroom has to go to live with the groom at her house after marriage and this is a different form of society altogether that is not heard among other societies in the country.
The person spoke to us about the various occupations of the local people and how agriculture is the basic pillar of the rural economy of Meghalaya and also about the nearby market at Cherrapunji that is a very vibrant market and local vendors from far off villages come here to sell the very fresh and organic produce of rice, vegetables, meat, fish and fruits at the market. The session lasted for about an hour’s time and the student group thanked the instructor for sharing this insight and later the bonfire was lit and everyone gathered by the bonfire for another round of activity. The group captains assigned the tasks to the team and they went about this task. I went to look after the preparations for dinner and today it would mostly be a local cuisine dinner where the chicken would be prepared into thick gravy with sesame seeds and the special rice cooked with lots of organic vegetables in the form similar to that of pulao. For the vegetarian lovers there was a mixed vegetable fry with coconut and a paneer cooked with tomato gravy and the other accompaniments of salad, pickles, papad fry, dal, etc. The dinner was served at 7.30PM and the student group loved the local offerings and they spent some time by the bonfire and later retired to their rooms as the next day was another hectic day as we would embark on the trek to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat Village from Tyrna village and trek back again to travel back to Cherrapunji and this is a moderate trek as there is a flight of 3500 stairs.
Night Halt: Sohra Plaza Homestay and Sai Mika Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 4: Cherrapunji – Nongriat – Tyrna – Cherrapunji
Today would be a long day for us as we would be travelling to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat Village and this is mostly a hike across the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya and alter we go to explore the beauty of the forests of Meghalaya and we will admire this Bioengineering marvel and later we have our local lunch at a small restaurant nearby the root bridge area and we trek back to Tyrna village and later we drive back to Cherrapunji and end our day visiting the Wei Sawdong falls that is located behind the area of the Sohra Plaza homestay. We started after an early breakfast and today we had to ensure that the student group had a heavy and hearty breakfast as it would be a long day and physical day that would involve a trek of at least 2.5km one way across a steep fleet of 3500 stairs and again hike back to top.
The breakfast served had oats, cornflakes, fruits, bread, butter, hard boiled eggs, maggi noodles and the group had their breakfast and at around 8AM we boarded our vehicles and each vehicle being led by a group captain to start on our drive to the Tyrna area near Cherrapunji crossing the market. We would park our vehicles at the Tyrna parking spot and here we would embark on our trek to Nongriat village from Tyrna where the Double Decker Root Bridge is located. We drove across the market and the landscapes around the place looked absolutely mesmerizing. We drove across a narrow road and the evergreen forests of the area made everyone feel in awe of Mother Nature along with the sight of the waterfall that could be seen along the way as well. A sharp U turn led us further towards the Tyrna village and we stopped along our way at a small local restaurant where we picked up our local guide and a porter who would guide us along the trek to Nongriat village and also they would carry the lunch on their back along the way that we would heat up and later serve to the group after exploring the Double Decker Living Root Bridge on our trekking tour of North East India.
We soon reached the parking spot and here we got down from our vehicles and the signage’s were all around welcoming us to the site of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge and the directions marked towards the Nongriat village and also the Tyrna Elaka Ecotourism site that also has a asset of Single Decker Living Root Bridges, caves and a clear water pool as well. In the interest of time we would limit our visit only to the Double Decker Root Bridge at Nongriat Village and later return on our trek back to Tyrna and drive back to reach Cherrapunji by early afternoon. We got down from our vehicles and we started on our trek being led by our local guide and just when we start our trek we visit a very beautiful local village that is filled with many trees and a beautiful garden as well and we admire the place and the flight of stairs started from this village and we cross a very beautiful forest cover area and we continued on our trek to the Nongriat village.
At first the forest cover is quite dense and the only things we can see around are the tall growth of the evergreen trees and the chirping of birds and insects inside the forest cover of the place. Gradually the forest cover of the places open up and we see the mountains across the valleys and the sight of the waterfall as well and from the stairway starts to get steep and we have to carefully climb down the pathway and took us some time to reach the bottom of the place at the village down and here we took a short break to hydrate ourselves and later start on our trek to Nongriat village again. At this place there is a right diversion as well and this takes visitors to the Tyrna village ecotourism area and there are a set of twin Living Root Bridges across this area as well as the caves as well as well but as we were interested in trekking to Nongriat village we took the straight route and crossed the village to continue on our way to go to the site of the hanging bridge that is over a stream of crystal clear waters. This is an old hanging bridge made with iron rods and ropes and one has to be careful while crossing this hanging bridge.
The waters of the stream below look absolutely crystal clear and one can feel in awe of nature once they see this crystal clear water stream. We gradually crossed this stream and reached on to the other side of the stream and here on we were on an uphill hike to reach a sacred grove forest area near the approach of the Nongriat village and we crossed the place over a suspension bridge and on crossing the bridge it is just a short walk away to reach the Nongriat village. We soon approached Nongriat area on our trekking tour of North East India and we caught our first glimpse of the single decker living root that is present just at the approach of the village and from this place you can catch the behind view of the Double Decker Root Bridge as well. We crossed this marvel of bioengineering and soon reached the Nongriat village where we were welcomed by the various homestays that cater to the accommodation needs of the guests from across the World here at Nongriat village to sight the Bioengineering marvel of the Jinkieng Nongriat viz. the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge that is soon to be a triple decker root bridge as well.
The place is a haven for backpackers who go across the World to sight many place of interest and when they are here at Nongriat, they are left enthralled and mesmerized by the beauty of the nature all around and they surely extend their stay here for days and wherever we looked we could see young faces from various Nationalities spending their time at leisure sipping a cup of coffee or reading a book and the entire atmosphere felt so calm and serene. We walked past across these homestays and soon we reached the ticket counter of the Double Decker root bridge where we paid the entrance fees along with the cost of the mobile cameras and soon we reached the spot to sight the grandeur of the Root Bridge. The stream that flows underneath the bridge is a crystal clear water stream and we could see many tourists getting down to bathe and swim in this crystal clear water stream. To facilitate the change of clothes for women there is a changing room as well and few of the students changed into their bathing suits and they got down to swim in the waters but most of the group members took their time to simple explore about the place and click pictures of the grandeur of the Root Bridge at Nongriat Village.
To present a brief on these living root bridges of Meghalaya, they were first learnt to be grown by the Khasi and Jaintia communities of Meghalaya and are still being grown across many of the remote villages. The idea to grow these living root bridges came to the local people as there are numerous perennial streams across the many small and remote villages across the Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya and to cross these perennial streams especially in the time of the monsoon season is a daunting task. To build iron and concrete bridges at these remote areas is also not a feasible solution because in the olden days without much of technology and planning involved carrying the materials to build these bridges was not a solution as well. So the local people came up with a unique idea to grow bridges instead of building them. They used the roots of rubber trees and selected the young roots and allowed these roots to grow in one particular direction. These roots were provided the adequate direction by the use of hollowed out bamboo and areca nut tree trunks and the roots seeped across these trunks to grow in the other direction from one side of the stream to another.
This process took nearly about 20 years and the roots would finally grow strong and cross from one end of the stream to the other end of the stream and later the pathway across the root bridge would be built with wood planks, stones and mud and these living root bridges would be functional to allow people to cross over it in around 20 years’ time and one such root bridge would survive for almost around 500 years. These root bridges turned out to be a blessing in disguise for these local people of Meghalaya as these root bridges grew stronger with rain and with the amount of rainfall these places around Meghalaya receive, the iron bridges would have rusted and corroded very quickly as well. Thus we see that these root bridges are not only a bioengineering marvel of a construction but also a boon to the local people living in the remote villages as well who can now easily cross these streams even in the monsoon season. Today, these living root bridges are recognised across the World and the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat Village has even earned the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well and visitors and backpackers from across the World come to visit the place and catch a glimpse of these bioengineering marvel.
There are several other root bridges across Meghalaya and these are located across various remote forests across the state and the problem of accessibility has not made them shoot to spotlight. The most popularly visited root bridge is that of the single decker root bridge of Riwai near Mawlynnong village and then the double decker living root bridge of Nongriat followed by the longest living root bridge near Pynursla. The ease of accessibility of the Riwai single decker living Root Bridge near Mawlynnong is what draws hundreds of visitors to this place every day during the peak tourist season. We finished our exploration of the grandeur of the Double Decker root bridge and we started to trek back to Tyrna village from Nongriat and we stopped at a small local restaurant where our guide had made arrangements to warm the food and serve to us individually on disposable plates and we enjoyed our meal after a long day of trekking and also now we needed more energy as we had to climb up the fleet of 3500 stairs back to the top. We ensured to dispose of the waste responsible and with this we started on our trek back from Nongriat to Tyrna.
We crossed the hanging bridge and the suspension bridge and we soon approached the fleet of stairs and we made a strategy on how to climb back to the top where we would split into groups led by the captain and each group would leave in an interval of a minute and after climbing ten stairs we would take a break and then climb ten stairs and so on and each of the group would finally await for the others at the parking area where our vehicles were kept and we had to keep ourselves regularly hydrated along the trek back to the top. The students were very active and they showed minimal signs of any physical problems during the hike up the stairs and we reached back to the parking spot by early afternoon and as it was late monsoon season the weather was humid and we took some time to cool down before we started on our drive back to Cherrapunji. We went to the Wei Sawdong falls area behind the place of our stay and this is another very popular tourist attraction in Cherrapunji among the young crowd and this is a three tiered waterfall with the water flowing from the top and settling on each level and later falling to the base and this too has vey crystal clear waters and visitors can even trek to the base of this waterfall as well.
We asked the group members if they wanted to trek to the base of the fall but they were already quite tired and so we simple admired the beauty of the Wei Sawdong falls and later we boarded our vehicles to come back to our place of stay and today will be our last evening at Cherrapunji and we would prepare ourselves for our next day’s travel to Mawlynnong village via Pynursla where we would have a moderate level trek to the longest living root bridge and later we would travel to Asia’s cleanest village of Mawlynnong. The day begins early when we are leading such student educational outdoor learning programs in the form of trekking across North East India because we need to ensure to reach the final destination of the day much ahead of sundown and therefore we need to ensure to start early and complete the activities planned for the day and also adhering to the time limits. For example the breakfast has to start at 7 AM and so to coordinate with the kitchen staff I have to start my day as early as 5AM and get ready to head to the Sohra Plaza as I would stay at another place away from here and I have to walk for 10 minutes to reach the place as the backup vehicle that joins us will be driven by my associate who has the habit of getting up late in the morning.
So I get to the Sohra Plaza homestay by 6AM and I had to make wake the kitchen staff and get them to prepare the breakfast and in the interest of time we mostly kept ready to eat food for breakfast like cornflakes, bread butter, fruits and we had to boil the eggs or scramble them and prepare an offering of noodles or paratha or puri sabji and so the kitchen staff has to rush to get the things in place. I organized the table and the chairs and also spread out the food on the table and the student group took their seats for breakfast from 7AM onwards and gradually the dining hall was filled with the students who enjoyed their breakfast and there was a short group activity session and at 8.30AM we had our luggage’s boarded and we bid farewell to the staff at the Sohra Plaza homestay at Cherrapunji and we started on our drive to Pynursla in Meghalaya. We crossed Cherrapunji outskirts and generally there are two approaches to Pynursla – one after crossing Mawkdok valley and then taking a right diversion and another from the place much ahead and this is a narrower route but a short cut and a very scenic drive as well but the roads are broken occasionally and since we were having SUVs it was not a problem and so we took this route to access the roads towards Pynursla.
This is a very pristine surrounding and the tall cover of pine trees are all along the way with the growth of various other trees and with very less human habitation the place looks absolutely breathtaking and we continued on our drive along the way and we son approached a small town before Pynursla and we joined the highway again that leads to the end of the border of Meghalaya as well as India and this road continues to Bangladesh as well. We crossed the beautiful landscapes and valleys of Meghalaya and we soon approached Pynursla town that is the last town along the place and here we stopped to refuel the vehicles as there are no fuel bunks ahead and we had to ensure that we reach Mawphlang and come back to Shillong the next day.
We stopped the student group at a waiting area and the vehicles went to refuel and we admired the valleys of Meghalaya and soon we started on our journey again where we would go to visit the small village from where our short trek to the site of the longest living root bridge will welcome us. We got down from our vehicles and a local guide was there to welcome us and even though he didn’t speak much of English I interacted with him using gestures and je took us on a community filed at the village and we gathered here before we started on our trek to the base to sight another bioengineering marvel of the longest living root bridge at Pynursla. We checked for water and other necessary stuff we would need along our trek and soon we started on our trek to visit the place. These days the access to the longest living root bridge at Pynursla is across a paved stone stairway and this was not the case a few years back and it was much of an adventurous hike where we had to cross the forest cover and there were small stream crossings and no fixed guard railings along the way and now this has been well made with a stairway and a much broader stairway compared to the ones at the Nongriat trek and also has one guard railing along the stairway so there is not fear of slipping along the way as well.
The trek down takes about forty five minutes and we gradually climbed down the stairway and across the trek route we are in the middle of an evergreen forest that is surrounded by tall trees and we could hear along our way the chirping of insects and the birds and we soon approached the longest living root bridge in the World that spans across a length of 50m here at Pynursla village and this along our trekking tour of North East India. The students were enthralled with this unique bioengineering creation and they took time to capture images of this root bridge and this is generally closed for visitors to walk across it and there is another root bridge aligned to it from where visitors can catch a glimpse of this root bridge and click pictures here. The root bridge at this point is a much stronger one and so the locals use this bridge to cross over to the other side of the stream to access the various other remote villages across the place.
We took some time to admire the grandeur of the bioengineering marvel and we did not spend too much time as well because the place was narrow and it didn’t have a wider viewing point for so many people together and we started on our trek up hill to the village. This is a moderate level difficulty trek and also the stairs are not very steep when compared to the Nongriat trek and so the student group did not have a tough time to cross these stairs and we gradually climbed up towards the village near Pynursla and soon we approached the village and we took some time to relax at this place and one thing noteworthy about these small and remote village across Meghalaya is the cleanliness of the place. The villages are much cleaner than many cities across the country and the local people take up the task of cleaning the premises of the village on their own. Each house has a dustbin that has been built from bamboo or cane and this is places at the entrance of the house and the local people drop the garbage from the house at this dust bins and they also take the responsibility to clear the road outside their house. A separate community is present to keep the community places of the village clean and they also collect the thrash from the dustbins and segregate the waste into organic and non-organic waste.
While the organic waste is used as fertilizers to cater to the local gardens and agriculture, the non-degradable waste is sent across tp recycling plants for processing. This is one very unique thing about the villages of Meghalaya that you will find the place absolutely clean and inviting. We took a short rest room break at this village and later we started on our drive to Mawlynnong village and this would be our last major trek planned in this itinerary and we would not have any further planned treks apart from the hike the student choose to go on across the Mawlynnong village. We drive across the landscapes of Meghalaya across a beautiful road and soon took a right diversion to travel to the Mawlynnong village. From here it was mostly a downhill ride because Mawlynnong is located close to the plains of Bangladesh and therefore the weather here is slightly warmer as well when compared to other parts of Meghalaya. We soon approached another right diversion that takes us to Mawlynnong while the straight road leads to Dawki aka Tamabil that happens to be the border of India and Bangladesh.
We kept driving further towards Mawlynnong and we approached the parking area of the Riwai Single Decker Living Root Bridge at Mawlynnong village but we did not stop here and we had planned the visit to this place tomorrow and today we would spend our time mostly around the Mawlynnong village and we would travel to the Nohwet village tomorrow morning as well where we would get to see the oldest Khasi hut that belonged to the grand parents of our local guide who will welcome us at Mawlynnong. We soon reached the parking spot at Mawlynnong village and we stopped our vehicles and our local guide welcomed us and we got down from our cars and we walked to the local restaurant that belonged to this person and our lunch was ready. To keep things in order and prepared ahead of time my associate used to travel to the place on our visit list much prior to our arrival and he would see to it that the things were kept in order and this would mean that we would not have to keep waiting once we reached the destination for the day and likewise today the food was kept ready to be serve and this was an ethnic Khasi cuisine meal that we would be eating today.
We took time to freshen up and clean our hands and the student group came to the buffet table that has the various offerings and I served them the meal. The lunch had various ethnic preparations including banana flower sabji, papaya sabji with other herbs, chicken with sesame seeds gravy, roasted brinjal and mashed with potato, dal, salad, pickles, papad, etc. and it was a simple yet highly nutritious and delicious meal. I must admit that the students who were mostly used to having food that are from different cuisines were not very impressed looking at the meal and at the first serving they just took a little amount of the food but once they tasted the food they loved it and took a decent second serving as well. This is what is so good about the cuisine of North East India where the locals do not give too much importance to the presentation of the meal but they prepare the meal with various organic ingredients and this is what imparts the taste to the meal. Everyone loved their meal and after lunch we proceeded with room allocations for the students and as there are mostly homestays across the village so we couldn’t accommodate the entire group in one particular property and so we had to choose the places that were nearby to each other.
The room allocation was done and we asked the students to take some rest and come back to the restaurant by 3.30 PM as we would assemble together and drive to the state of the balancing rocks at Mawlynnong village. We gathered by 3.30 and started on pour drive to the balancing rocks are that is a short 5 minutes’ drive from the place and we got down at the site to visit this unique phenomenon of the balancing rocks at the Mawlynnong village. Here we observe that a large rock boulder rests atop and much smaller rock boulder and this structure speak a unique story of gravity and this has been standing like this since many years. The Khasi ancestors used to consider this site to be sacred and they used to perform various rituals here to appease the Gods seeking a year of bountiful harvest. Now this is a very popular tourist attraction and visitors come here from around the World to observe this unique phenomenon of the balancing rocks. The students were left intrigued with this unique phenomenon of the balancing rocks and they tried to look out for the feasibility as to how this phenomenon was possible. Anyways we admired the balancing rocks phenomenon and then returned to the restaurant for evening tea.
The tea was served to us at the restaurant and we also had biscuits and cupcakes along with the tea and after this before sundown we would take a short tour of the cleanest village of Asia to be showed to us by the local resident cum guide Sukher who took us around and explained to us as to how many people live in the place and also as to how Mawlynnong came to be known as the cleanest village in Asia. He told us that this village always had the practice that its members ensured to keep the premises of the village neat and clean and the place has proper sanitation and drainage facilities and the village had ensured to do everything on their own without the help from any person or government. Since long back the houses at Mawlynnong used to have a toilet facility and no person used to go out to relive themselves in the open like it is heard of in many other villages across the country. Long before the initiation of the Swach Bharat campaign where the government took up the task of ensuring to build toilet facility at the households of the various village across the country, Mawlynong was already having these toilets built and it was in the year 2003, that this village was introduced to the World by the Discover India magazine and later by BBC as well and Mawlynnong came to be known as the cleanest village in Asia.
Since then the place has come a long way and today this place can easily be described as one of the most visited tourist places in Meghalaya. Apart from the tag of being the cleanest village in Asia that draws many visitors, another reason as to why Mawlynnong sees many tourists visiting the place is because of the presence of the Riwai Single Decker Living Root Bridge and this is the most easily accessible root br9idhge in Meghalaya and the widest one as well that makes it easier for visitors to come here and explore this bioengineering marvel and it doesn’t involve much of trekking across forest and stairs to access this root bridge. Hence today it can be said that Mawlynnong stands as a perfect example of a place that is now known to build itself in the backbone of tourism and an entire village is thriving with the tourism business. He explained to us as to how the local people take up initiatives to keep the premises of the village clean even with thousands of tourists visiting the place every day and how there is a society that take the responsibility to clean the village premises every day once the army of tourists have left the place.
Also every day there is an initiative of the local people where everything they are to ensure that the premises of their house are kept clear and the thrash is dumped in the dust bins located outside the house that are made up of bamboo or cane and the community people come and collect the thrash and later they take it to a dump site to segregate the thrash and separate them into disposable and non-biodegradable thrash and while the degradable waste is used as a compost for the gardens and agriculture, the non-degradable ones are sent out to recycling centres to be recycled. We took time to trek across the village and also visited the community church here that is over 100 years old built during the time of the British and this church are made with stone blocks and look very aesthetic. We also visited a homestay to see the pitcher plants and took a walk across the village and finally we came back to the restaurant again before sundown and today evening there would be a bonfire along with live music and also the student group would see how food is being cooked in a traditional kitchen over wood fire and they would also have a session to learn cooking as well.
Our local guide introduced himself to the student group and he took a short 15 minute session with the students to speak about the Khasi heritage and to tell us more about the cleanest village in Asia and later there was a short session of Q&A as well. Post this the student were led to the kitchen in groups and shown how the local Khasi people follow traditional practices of cooking using wood fire and the students got the opportunity to see first-hand as to how the natural ingredients were being used to prepare the food and certain unseen vegetables in the cities were being used for cooking here. They loved to see this traditional form of kitchen and how people lived in harmony and peace with nature and used the resources sensibly to make the best use of it and thus this was a pleasant and new experience altogether for them. Dinner was served at around 7PM and this time the chicken was cooked in a traditional Khasi style with potatoes and turnip and it was mostly like a broth and the flavours were powered by ginger, garlic, chillies and the fresh vegetables along with meat, certain special vegetables curries were prepared and this all served with Roti, Rice, papad, salad, pickles, etc.
The bonfire was lit and the students finished their dinner around the bonfire and also after dinner there would be a short team activity to be followed by a session of guitar and songs and then the group would have marsh mellows and chocolates and later return to their homestays for night halt. The local guide had asked one of his friend to play the guitar and the dup played some nice old melodies and also few Khasi numbers as well and later the students took time to enjoy their marsh mellows that they roasted themselves over fire on skewers and we soon called it a day. The group captains went to check for the final round of room allocations and whether or not everyone was alright with their stay at the rooms and also across the village once you enter the homestays, the cell network reception is weak and so we had to provide a walkie-talkie set to the teachers so that they could communicate in case any emergency arose in the middle of the night. With this in place we all called it a day and went to our respective homestays for the night and we were to travel back to Shillong tomorrow.
Night Halt: Homestays at Mawlynnong
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 6: Mawlynnong – Shillong
Today we have to travel to the site of the Riwai Living Root Bridge near Mawlynnong and from there we would trek to the Nohwet village and at Nohwet we would visit the site of the oldest Khasi hut and later we travel to Shillong. The backup vehicle would leave much ahead of us and my associate would see to the lunch arrangements and the room allocations later a Sunrise Guest House and the Nalgare’s Guest House in Shillong. This group couldn’t be accommodated for a visit to Kaziranga National Park due to the interest of time as they had only 7 days to spare or else generally we even plan a visit to Kaziranga National Park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and various other species of flora and fauna and around 495 species of birds as well. So we would spend our last evening in Shillong itself and this would also mark the end of the trekking and outdoor learning program of North East India. Breakfast for the group would be served at the restaurant and today we did not have much to explore and so we allowed the students to have a leisure morning and breakfast time was around 7.30AM and everyone gathered at the dining area of the restaurant to have a breakfast of bread, maggi noodles, cornflakes, scrambled eggs, bananas, apples, etc.
With this we started our day at 8.30AM and the luggage was picked up by the drivers along with the help of the students and we started on our day by driving to the site of the Riwai Single Decker Living Root bridge near Mawlynnong that is the most visited living root bridge in Meghalaya as well as North East India mostly because it involves less amount of trekking to reach the site from the parking spot and people from all ages can come to visit this place. The drivers dropped us at the parking spot and in case we planned to trek from the site to Nohwet village then they would join us at the parking spot at the Nohwet village or else they would wait here itself and later we would drive to the Nohwet village in case we were short on time. We walked ahead and after climbing down the fleet of stairs we soon reached the site of the Riwai Single Decker Living Root Bridge that is said to be the widest root bridge across the East Khasi and West Jaintia hills of Meghalaya where mostly these living root bridges are found. In the peak tourist season across Meghalaya especially during the summer break across the country every day hundreds of visitors come here to witness the Living Root Bridge of Mawlynnong.
This is a better view as well and as we were here early in the morning so there were no other visitors as well and we mostly had the place to explore ourselves apart from a fee local people and the students even went down to the site of the stream the flows underneath the root bridge as well. The students took some time here and so we decided that the trekking will not be feasible as were now short on time and so we decided to drop the plan of trekking to the Nohwet village and instead we could drive there because we had a plan to reach Shillong by early afternoon and after our lunch at the ML05 Café at Upper Shillong we would drive to the site of the Don Bosco Museum at Mawlai and later go back to our place of stay and spend the last evening of our tour at Shillong before we head to the Guwahati airport the next morning. We trekked back the short flight of stairs and we soon reached the parking spot and boarded our vehicles to drive to Nohwet village. The drive is across a beautiful country view and we soon reached the Nohwet village where we headed on to visit the site of the oldest Khasi hut at Nohwet village.
This beautiful ancient style mud house was the home of the grand parents of our local guide Sukher and it was surprising as to how a family stayed in such a small sized hut but when we went to look inside the hut it was spacious and there was only one living room and that had the kitchen as well and it was perfect example of how people in the olden days stayed in close touch with nature because the place had various household items that were derived from the products of the forests around the place. This is now become a very popular tourist attraction at Nohwet village and the general plan of tourists coming to Meghalaya to visit the Mawlynnong village and they visit the Riwai Living Root Bridge and from there they trek and come to the Nohwet village to enjoy the true rural life here and also visit the oldest Khasi Hut and learn about the ancient Khasi heritage and culture and they finally end their visit by climbing atop the tree house cum watch tower built with bamboo that overlooks the plains of Bangladesh. We too will follow a similar routine mostly only avoiding the trek and doing the further steps.
After witnessing the Khasi tribe hut and Sukher our local guide elaborately explaining to us about the various facets of the culture and history of his grandparents traditional house, we bid farewell to the oldest Khasi hut at Nohwet village and we trekked a little ahead to the site of the tree house at Nohwet village and this is a tall structure built with bamboo and guests have to pay a nominal entrance fees and later climb up this tree house from where you can get a majestic valley view of Meghalaya and also the plains of Bangladesh as well and this provides a detailed insight into the various topography of a tropical area and the students went up in groups to catch the glimpse of the beautiful landscapes from atop this tree house. We spent some time at this place and later we trekked back to our vehicles where we bid farewell to Mawlynnong and Nohwet village and started on our drive to Shillong via Pynursla. The drive was uphill at first when we are driving from Mawlynnong towards Pynursla and later it get across a flat road with a steep valley alongside and we enjoyed the drive and the beautiful landscapes here reminded the students of certain of their vacations across Europe.
We soon reached Pynursla and we took a short break for tea here and also gave the student group some time to stretch their legs as they have been trekking since the past few days and this had put some pressure on their legs and sitting in a vehicle for long was not advised and therefore some amount of stretching is always beneficial after trekking. But the students were very active and they did not show signs of displeasure and instead they enjoyed their tea and potato chips and later we started on our drive again to Shillong. It took us about 2 hours to reach Upper Shillong and at about 12.30PM we reached the ML05 Café in Upper Shillong that is a very popular café among the youth of Shillong area who come here to enjoy some mouth-watering Chinese and continental dishes. The place follows a unique setting and visuals that are very appealing to the younger generation and the students loved the ambiance of the place. My associate had placed the order for chicken momos, noodles, fried rice, chicken Manchurian, veg Manchurian, salad, nuggets and the food was served to us in a very unique cutlery and the students loved the presentation and after having to eat the traditional cuisine since long today they got to enjoy some food of their choice that they usually eat in the cities.
We savoured our lunch and in some time we started on our drive to the Don Bosco museum at Mawlai area in Shillong from Upper Shillong. Today was the last day of this outdoor learning and trekking program and the next day early in the morning we would be embarking on our drive to the Guwahati airport and so they had planned for a short celebration at our guest house in the evening and also two of the students had their birthdays today and so we would be celebrating it and I had taken up the task to find the cake at the Police Bazar area in Shillong and later I even had to pack the morning breakfast along with my associate before calling it a day and getting up again in the morning at 4.30AM to see to all the arrangements. The cars drive across the busy streets of Shillong and soon we arrived at the Don Bosco Museum that is considered to be one of the finest museums across North East India. We got down from our vehicles and we assembled near the entrance and I went to purchase the entry tickets and we started our exploration of the Don Bosco museum in Shillong that details the culture and traditions of the indigenous people of North East India.
This museum is spread across seven floors and two floors are below the ground level and one has to start from the base level and keep exploring towards the top that culminates in a skywalk from where you can get an aerial view of Shillong city. As mentioned, North East India is home to around 200 indigenous tribes and their sub tribes who had migrated to the region long back from various parts of Asia and settled themselves along the banks of the major rivers and their tributaries and they carried out agriculture and animal husbandry as their prime occupation. As the region is rich in biodiversity and blessed with fertile land and major rivers these people settled down here and gradually they spread across various parts of the region and carried along with them their age old rituals and practices that were passed on from one generation to another over the years. Though many of these tribal folks have now adopted Christianity and the modern way of living mostly across Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Many of the sub-tribes especially in Nagaland still practice the age old traditions and they live in remote forests that are not easily accessed and this museum aims to illustrate the rich heritage of these indigenous people of North East India.
Upon our entrance we had to walk across a beautiful gallery and the place displayed HD and well framed pictures of the various tribes of North East India all dressed in their traditional attires and jewellery and each tribe has a distinct outfit and colour that separates them from one another. The indigenous people of North East India are very skilled craftsmen and they make various decors and other daily use utensils out of bamboo and cane and the women folks are expert in handloom weaving and most of their traditional attires are woven by them by their hands on the traditional loom and everything is done from scratch. Assam is known for its three indigenous silk varieties of Muga, Eri and Paat and the attires (mostly Mekhela Chadors or Shawls) woven out of these silk fabrics are all done by bare hands including extraction of the silk from the silk worm up to the final weaving process of the attires. The things weaved out of bamboo and cane are a delight to witness and the craftsmen of Meghalaya and known to weave out certain of these bamboo decors and these were place at the souvenir shop that is present at the ground floor of the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong and at the end we would assemble at this souvenir shop to allow the students to go through the shop and buy their souvenir to be carried back home.
We started the exploration from the second floor basement and each of these floors have a different aspect of the varied culture and traditions of the indigenous people to be shown to the visitors. For example one floor completely illustrates the traditional attires, jewellery and weaving processes of these attires of the various indigenous people of North East India like the Khasis, Garos, Jaintias, Bodos, Karbis, Mishings, Tai Phakes, Nyshis, Adis, Apatanis, Angami Nagas, Ao Nagas, Sumi Nagas, Lotha Nagas, Meitei people of Manipur, Lepcha and Bhutia people of Sikkim, etc. The various models of the people of these tribes are built and each of these models adorn a traditional attire that is associated with that particular tribe and also the section displays the loom on which these attires are woven and the looms vary from tribe to tribe. Another section displays the various occupation of these people who are primarily farmers and practice agriculture as their profession and they grow rice and various crops and vegetables. Some people also engage in fishing, animal husbandry, metal crafts, bamboo handicraft, dairy, etc. and all this are displayed in one section.
At the entrance of each of the gallery there is an audio visual system that plays a video of the indigenous people and what they are engaged in that is being displayed in that particular section. The Don Bosco museum is a World class museum and it has adopted various modern technologies while it was built and the galleries here are all SMART like in the lights go out automatically when there is no one in the gallery and it comes on again when a person steps foot in the gallery thus helping in energy conservation as well that is the prime need of the hour in today’s World. We kept exploring across the museum floor by floor and we limited our visit to an hour and half as the museum would close soon and also we had to reach our hotel before sundown and we finished our exploration by going to the Sky walk and walking across it and we came back to the ground floor and the students went to the souvenir shop to buy certain souvenirs to carry back home. With this we wrapped up our visit at the Don Bosco Museum at Shillong and we headed on our drive to our hotel and guest house at the Laban area in Shillong.
My associate had reached the guest house ahead of time and saw to the room arrangements and allocations and also arranged for the evening tea and snacks and I dropped the student group and went to buy the cake and the packed food needed for breakfast and it was around 6PM and we celebrated the birthday at the Sunrise Guest House followed by the reflection of the outdoor learning and trekking tour to be followed by dinner and retiring to our rooms to get up early the next morning. I went to my room and started packing the breakfast for the next day morning.
Night Halt: Sunrise Guest House and Nalgare’s Guest House in Shillong
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7: Shillong to Guwahati airport
Today morning we were all ready by 5.30AM and the drivers got the cars ready and the breakfast packets were arranged and allocated to the students and we started on our drive to the LGBI airport at Guwahati bidding farewell to Shillong and we reached Nongpoh and drive further towards Guwahati and we entered Assam at Khanapara and we headed to the airport to reach by 7.30AM and we dropped the student group along with the group captains for their flight to New Delhi this ending an eventful outdoor learning cum trekking program across North East India. Generally we would travel from Shillong to Kaziranga National Park in other tours where we would take the experience of going on jungle safari rides at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park and the students get the option to witness some of the very rare and endangered animals and bird species that are found at Kaziranga National Park.
In this tour that includes a visit to Kaziranga National Park we travel to Kaziranga from Shillong and we halt for an evening at a beautiful resort and we take the opportunity to go for a jeep safari ride inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park and we get to sight the majestic Indian One Horned Rhinoceros species along with the Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, Hog Deers, Capped Langurs, Assamese Macaques, various birds and if we are lucky we get to the sight the Royal Bengal tigers as well. We also take the opportunity to visit the Kaziranga Orchid Park that is the largest orchid park in India and here we get to see the various orchid species that are indigenous to North East India speaking highly of the rich and varied biodiversity of the state. The Kaziranga Orchid Park also houses a handicraft and handloom section and various traditional bamboo and cane crafts of Assam are displayed here and student groups also get the opportunity to witness local women weaving on the traditional looms in front of their eyes. At Kaziranga National Park, students get to explore the beautiful tea gardens of Assam and also go for a nature trekking trail at the Chirang Nature Trail at the Burapahar range of Kaziranga National Park.
Trekking across Nameri National Park – Assam – North East India
In another of our trekking experiences across North East India, here we mention about the Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve trail trek that we undertook with our guests from Slovakia who had come to visit Assam and Meghalaya in North East India as he was mostly interested in sighting of the Reticulated Python species that he had heard of being found in the forest reserves of North East India and we had thought of exploring the forests of Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve that is in conjunction with the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh that is considered to be one of the very bio-diversity rich forests across the region and also the habitat served ideal for the presence of the Burmese as well as the Reticulated pythons. Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve is located in the Sonitpur district of Assam and this is one National Park in the state that allows visitors to go for a wildlife trekking experience inside the forest reserves of the place accompanied by a forest guard and visitors get to explore the varied beauty of the place on foot and this is home to the Bengal Tigers, Asiatic Elephants, Sambar Deers, Hog Deers, Wild Boars, Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, etc. and various species of birds that are known to inhabit the place. We were exploring the various parts of Assam around Guwahati and we had also visited Meghalaya at Cherrapunji to sight the Double Decker Living Root Bridge by the trek to Nongriat and we had now moved away from the Kamrup (M) district to travel towards the Upper Assam are where our first stop would be at Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve.
Our guest was also interested in the certain of the rare fish species that were known to be in the waters of the mighty rivers of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries like the Jia Bhoreli, Luit and the Dibru River and so we would also travel further to Majuli and the Dibru Saikhowa National Park to try our luck not just to look out for the fishes but also the reticulated python in the diverse biodiversity forests of the place. We reach the area across Nameri National Park and we went to check into our place of stay at Nameri at first at Camp Lalimou. This is a very unique stay experience across a huge area and the place offers traditional Assamese style cottages and jungle tents for the comfortable stay of guests at Nameri National Park. We had booked the traditional Assamese style cottage for our stay here and the place was built on an elevated platform and was built with bamboo, wood and a thatch roof and an en-suite bathroom was also present along with the cottage and later we went to explore the banks of the Jia Bhoreli River.
River near Nameri National Park. The forests begin a little distance ahead and the actual forest reserves of Nameri National Park from where we will commence on our trekking tour tomorrow is after crossing the river and we start accessing the forest cover by foot accompanied by a forest guard. Today we just went to experience the banks of the mighty river that flows into Assam from Arunachal Pradesh where it is called as River Kameng and in Assam it flows across the Sonitpur district as the Jia Bhoreli river to finally merge with the mighty Brahmaputra river of Assam at Tezpur. The river banks looked quite calm and serene and the place was filled with beauty of nature all around and it was with very thrilling experience for us to observe the various bird species that are to be found in the area. Nameri National Park was originally created as a site for the conservation of the White Winged Wood Duck species that was very renowned here and later it was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary and further upgraded to a National Park and also a project Tiger Reserve as well. We explored the beauty of the rive by trekking for a while and later we went back to our place of stay to spend our evenings there.
When we returned back to our camp, we saw that there was a dance troop that had assembled at the area of the reception of the camp and they were all the local people of the place and they had assembles to showcase their traditional culture in the form of dance and songs and their traditional attires and we assembles at the reception area along with the other guests to witness the dance performance of the Mishing people of Assam who are known to inhabit the villages around the forest reserves of Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve and it was a brilliant performance to witness where the local men and women were all dressed up in their traditional attires and they were dancing to the tunes of the songs that they sang themselves and we enjoyed the performance and later we took a walk across the place to admire the rich flora of the area around Nameri National Park. We came back by 6.30PM and our guest asked for his dinner and the same was served before us at the grand dining area of Camp Lalimou and we savoured the dinner early itself as we had to get up quite early the next morning to trek into the forest reserves of Nameri after obtaining the requisite permission from the forest office at Nameri
Night Halt: Camp Lalimou
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 2: Trekking inside the forest of Nameri National Park in North East India
We started our day very early at around 5AM and we get ready quickly to travel to the forest office at Nameri National Park and this was our opportunity to explore one of the top biodiversity rich region in North East India and also for our chance to spot the reticulated python species that our guest believed inhabited the forests of Nameri National Park cum Tiger reserve. The forest office is located along the main road of the park area and we reached the place and the authorities had just got up and they were preparing themselves for a day along the tourists. In general visitors who wish to explore the forest reserves of Nameri National Park on a trekking trail need to register their names at the forest office here and they have to pay the requisite fees that is collected by the authorities on behalf of the government of Assam and late visitors are assigned a forest guard as per the group and the forest guard escorts the guests to the river banks of the Jia Bhoreli river and here the guests need to cross the river on the country boat and later go for a short time of trekking inside the forest reserve of Nameri National Park and later they are escorted back to the forest office by the forest guard and this is to provide a safe passage for guests across the trekking route of Nameri National Park as this is considered to be the habitat of the Royal Bengal Tigers and the Asiatic Elephants and you walk right into their territory.
We too followed the same protocol and we were provided our passes upon payment of the fees and the forest guard we had met the last evening agreed to take us on our trek inside the forest reserves of Nameri National Park. We took our car to the banks of the Jia Bhoreli river and one group of guests had already reached and they were about to cross the river and embarked on their trek inside the forest reserves of Nameri National Park and we were on the next trip on the country boat. The experience of thrill starts when you board the county boat as this allows you to have a fantastic experience on the waters of the Jia Bhoreli river and also in case you choose more thrill then there is an option of going for rafting on the waters of the Jia Bhoreli river and visitors can travel to an area near Bhalukpong and the rafting experience stars there and you flow along the Jia Bhoreli river enjoying its calm and crystal clear waters and you finally come to the point thereby enjoying your rafting experience. We crossed the river and we reached the other side of the bank and the forest guard asked us to keep an eye along the river banks as this is home certain of the very rare bird species who come from all across the World during the migratory season of winters and they make this area this home for the next few months and return back to their homes when the winter ends.
Many rare species of birds have been spotted on this river bank and the forest guard showed us one such bird species that is considered to be very rare and he also narrated one of his previous trekking experiences with guests from UK who had come to Nameri National Park to sight the bird species specifically and they went on several rounds of trekking inside the forests of the park but were not successful in sighting this bird and our luck favoured us so much that we spotted this bird just along the river banks without even having to go for trekking inside the forests of Nameri. Also our guest was not interested in birds and this is one thing about the wildlife sighting experiences wherein you might want to come and visit a forest to sight a certain species of animal, bird or reptile and you might go for several rounds of safari or trekking rounds to spot that species but if your luck doesn’t favour you then you might not be able to sight that particular species and just in case where we saw a species that was so sought after by someone and we did not take much of interest to see it.
We walked towards the forest camp inside the forest reserves of Nameri National Park and the forest authorities are stationed at this forest camp to ensure strict vigil inside the campus of the Nameri National Park so as to protect the animals from any poaching activities and also to allow the tourists a safe passage on their trekking route across the forests of Nameri National Park. Our forest guard went in to the forest office here and took our admission slips and helps us with the final entry here at the forest office and soon we started on our trek inside the forests of Nameri at Assam in North East India. Before we started on our trek there were two young elephants that were born to their mother who was employed with the forest authority of Nameri and our guest went along with the forest guard to catch a closer glimpse of this majestic Asiatic Elephant. At Nameri National Park, unlike Kaziranga National Park or Manas National Park in Assam there are no provisions for guests to explore the forest reserves on either of the safari modes of Jeep or Elephants and the only way to explore the forest reserves is on foot by trekking across the designated route that is laid out by the forest authorities.
There is however a jeep and the elephants kept by the forest authorities who use them to patrol the forests and ensure that the pristine natural habitat of this biodiversity rich area is kept intact and no acts of nuisance is committed by the unscrupulous poachers. The group ahead of us were mostly birdwatchers and so we spotted them staring atop the trees to identify the various birds that are known to inhabit the forests of Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve. We started on our trek and the forest guard had already excited our guest by showing him a few videos of how he had rescued many Burmese python species along with other forest authorities when these huge reptiles had wandered outside the forest reserves of Nameri and had landed up in human habited areas and had to be relocated back inside the forests to keep them safe and so our guest went in with loads of excitement to be able to sight the reticulated python and even if not these then at least the Burmese python in the natural habitat. We trekked deeper into the forests of Nameri National Park and we were soon in the heart of the land of the Royal Bengal Tigers and the mighty Asiatic Elephants.
The forest guard was very knowledgeable about the resources around him and also he knew how to explain the things around him clearly to me in Assamese and I helped to translate the same to English to our guest who was very impressed about the knowledge of this person. He took the extra mile to take our guests near the swamps on the designated trekking routes across Nameri National Park and we enjoyed the moments in the forests here. Soon we trekked further and reached the site of the watch tower area here and we were not yet lucky to sight any python species as yet but we did not lose hope and we continued on our trek inside Nameri and we climbed atop the watch tower to catch an aerial view of the forest cover and also there is a swamp area here that serves as a watering hole for the numerous herbivores of Nameri and it is said that the Royal Bengal tigers also come here to drink water or even try to pounce on the Hog deers for their hunt. The Hog Deers could be spotted near the swamp from atop the watch tower and the forest guard took us further towards the swamp because generally the pythons are known to inhabit such areas inside the forests and we trekked further inside the place to try our luck sighting one such reptile.
Our luck did not favour us and we had to trek back from the swamp area without getting the luck to sight the pythons and the forest guard took us now towards the other stream side area that was where he had earlier left the rescued pythons. We trekked towards this stream and here we took a while to rest and admire the crystal clear spring water that flows across the forest and later merges with the Jia Bhoreli River. The tree growth across this area is quite dense and there are trees that are several hundred years old and this can be seen from the size of the tree trunk. We kept trekking across the forest reserves and we soon reached the banks of the Jia Bhoreli river and we admired the calm and serene waters of the mighty river and later we trekked back to the forest office at Nameri National Park and our search for the reticulated python species remain unsuccessful for the day. The forest guard offered us water and we took a while and later trekked to the river banks and here we crossed the river on the country boat thereby ending our trek across the forests of Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve. Our guest was very happy with the services rendered by the forest guard and he thanked him and tipped him generously and we took farewell and we returned back to Camp Lalimou. We went out for the day of fishing on the unprotected waters of the Jia Bhoreli River and we called it a day to travel the following day to Majuli – the largest River Island in the World.
Longest River Island Trail Trek – Assam – North East India
We started from the Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve to travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park where we would not make a halt as our guest felt this park was very commercialized and also the option of trekking inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park was not allowed and the two safari rides that were allowed inside the park was that of the jeep safari and the elephant safari rides and so the option of being able to sight the pythons on these safari rides was very slim and our guest had already visited the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary near Guwahati where he had got the opportunity to witness the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros sighting from up close on his elephant and jeep safari rides and so he did not want to spend another day at Kaziranga National Park to go on the safari rides.
W would only stop at a view point area in between the Burapahar and Bagori range from where we could sight the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, the Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo, the Hog Deers and the various bird species along with the Indian Elephants and as he was carrying a pair of good binoculars he could take the opportunity to see these animals closely and later we travelled towards Neemati Ghat where we boarded our ferry to travel to Majuli Island that is the largest river island in the World and home to the Mishing people of Assam and at Majuli we would take the opportunity to go on several treks inside the forests of the Salmora village area and also along the Mishing villages and the banks of the River Luit. This trekking trail of North East India can be described as the largest river island trail trek and Majuli is one very popular backpacking destination in North East India apart from Nongriat and the treks across Sikkim and Dzukou valley in Nagaland and this provides the visitors with a very unique experience of understanding a village life and learning a lot about the heritage and cult of the Sattriya cult of Majuli Island and also the traditions and customs of the local Mishing people of Majuli Island. We took about an hour to cross the mighty Brahmaputra River on a ferry boat and soon we approached Majuli Island at the Kamalabari Ghat.
This is where our ferry stopped and we disembarked along with our vehicle and we went on our drive to our place of stay at Majuli at the La Lolat Eco Camp that is a camp owned by myself and this is one of the best backpacker’s paradise and we offer accommodation in the form of tents and bamboo cottages at very nominal prices and this is where guests from across the World come to stay as they want to experience a budget stay (our tents are priced at INR 300 per night and the bamboo cottages at INR 400 per night) and backpackers who come on various trekking tours across North East India and also visit Majuli for a longer duration as they want to explore the largest river island in the World by either trekking or hiring the services of a cycle or scooter and take the opportunity to stay long at our place and explore the mysteries of this river Island. We soon approached the Camp and as it was already evening time we did not have much to do and so we took time to arrange our stay and cook a sumptuous traditional dinner at the local kitchen that is present at our camp and we savoured a delicious traditional meal of the Mishing tribes that was cooked by my colleague at Majuli.
The next day morning we would be travelling to the Namoni village area in Majuli that was where sightings of various snakes and pythons species were recorded earlier and the villagers here were informed of our arrival by my colleague here in Majuli and we started on our drive from the camp to travel to Namoni village and it took us around half an hour to reach the place and we parked our car and embarked on a trek to the core area of the village where we would meet up with the locals and learn as to where the sightings of these snakes species have been recorded earlier and the villagers took us to an open land with thick growth of bamboo trees all across and they has reported the sightings of various snakes around the place and looking at the topography I figured out that the villagers must have sighted snakes like cobras, rat snakes and some other large species as well but surely not the reticulated python species and since we were already here we decided to trek across further and look out if we had an opportunity to sight some snake species in this area. We trekked across the barren land looking around the growth of the bamboo trees and trekked further across the into the paddy fields to look out for the snakes but the only thing we could find was the skin of a snake and no alive snakes.
We trekked further towards a small stream that was ahead of the village but our luck was against us and we couldn’t spot any species of snakes here. Next up we decided to explore the area across the village by trekking and we went to visit a small workshop where the locals were building a boat with wood and our guests loved to see this craftsmanship. As the season of monsoon would be approaching soon and the villages would get flooded by the waters of the Brahmaputra River so the villagers had to ensure to keep the boars ready for movement of people and goods during the tough times. Also to protect their homes from these flood waters these houses are Stilt houses that are built on raised platforms that is made with either bamboo or mortar and this allows the people to stay above water during the tough times of the monsoon. Later we went across the village trekking and we spotted a few flowering orchid species including the state flower of Assam viz. the ‘Kopou Ful’ or the Foxtail Orchid and it was indeed a grand feeling to view and soon we trekked back to our car and went back to our camp to have a later breakfast and later go for exploring the Satras of Majuli Island after freshening up.
Majuli is the largest river island in the World and this place is called as the Neo-Vaishnavite hub of Assam as the holy Saint Guru Srimanta Shankardeva has introduced the culture of Neo Vaishnavism and established the various Neo Vaishnavite monasteries at this place that preached and promoted the culture and at the same time trained the young boys who were admitted to these Satras to learn about the art, literature, music, crafts, dances, etc. There are various Neo-Vaishnavite Satras in Majuli and each of these Satras is associated with something unique and we would learn about these heritage art and culture of the Satras in sometime. We had mostly planned on visit today to two Satras at Garamur and Uttar Kamalabari and the next day we would explore the more further Satras of Auniati and Samaguri and later go to explore the beautiful forest reserves of Salmora that is known to be home to varied species of flora and fauna and we would trek across this forest reserves to be able to sight the Pythons if possible. We went to our camp to freshen up and later have our breakfast and this time my colleague couldn’t join us as he had some work and so I took our guest to explore the Satras of Majuli.
We had planned for an afternoon session of fishing post lunch on the waters of the Luit River that flows behind the area of our camp and also there is a big lake as well and our guest expected to catch some of the rare fishes of Assam in the waters of these lakes and ponds and identify them and later release the fish back in the waters. We started on our drive to travel to the Sri Sri Uttar Kamalbari Satra in Majuli and this is the Satra that is renowned for the practice of the classical dance form of the Sattriya Nritya that is considered to be one among the 8 classical dance forms of India. The Sattriya Nritya dance form was introduced in these Satras of Majuli by the holy Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva when he realized that in order to teach his religious discourses, the masses could relate more easily when these epic stories could be narrated to them in the form of a theatre or song and dance and this Sattriya Nritya performance enacts the various forms of the life of the Lord Krishna and also it depicts the immense flexibility of the human body and at the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli, visitors can take the opportunity to witness this unique classical dance form of India.
We trekked across the campus of the Sri Sri Uttar Kamalbari Satra and our guest admired the built of this Satra that follows a construction that is similar to the various Satras of Assam that has a Namghar at the centre of the campus that is followed by the Huts (Hutis) of the monks and the House of the Satradhikar and the Satra ponds followed by the room where the monks practice the Sattriya Nritya performance. We got the opportunity to witness one such practice session as there was a Sattriya Nritya performance scheduled in the evening and one of the monks of the Satra took us around the place and he explained to us as to how the Sattriya Nritya performance is now renowned across the World and the artists from this Satra are travelling to various World stages to display this dance form and are receiving global recognition. We admired the practice session of this dance form and later we trekked across the Uttar Kamalabari Satra and the monks greeted us and welcomed us to Majuli. Next we travelled to the Garamur Satra area here that has a very unique museum that houses various relics from the times of the Ahom Kingdom and the Neo Vaishnavite movement as well.
We came back to our camp after exploring the Garamur Satra and we were not yet hungry and so we decided to go for a round of fishing on the lake area that is present behind the campus and the place is spread across a big area and many varieties of rare fish species are known to be living in this pond and my boy at the camp got the country boat ready and we began on our boat ride on the lake and it was a very nice experience to row about on the country boat with fishing rods that were brought in from Europe and our guest enjoyed this time and also this bought about a change in our continuous trekking schedules across North East India. We spent about an hour’s time on the lake waters and our guest managed to catch two small fishes and one large catfish as well and after examining the fish species he endured to release the fish back in the waters to preserve the natural habitat of the place. We came back to our camp for lunch and we enjoyed a simple and hearty meal and later we headed out on the car to the banks of the River Luit where we would park our vehicle at a point and from there we would trek a little further to find a nice place on the river bank where we would enjoy our fishing and later call it a day.
Our guest setup a nice fishing counter like it is seen in the Western countries and he carried bait, a seat and certain fishing gadgets that we had purchased from Decathlon and this is a very much unlike how the local people in villages fish where they mostly use a bamboo stick tied with a nylon thread that has a hook and some people also use a harpoon while the most popular method of fishing remains using the fish net. Across Assam, fishing has been an occupation of a certain class of people called as the ‘Doom’ people and these people use various traditional fishing traps that are built with bamboo and these are called as the Sepa and people find a good catch with such things and these traps always help to maintain the ecological balance of the place as they capture only the large fish and the small fishes are not caught in the trap thereby to grow and maintain the healthy fish source in the lake or pond.
The very harmful way of fishing is using fish nets that have very tiny holes in them as these fish nets also capture the young fish and as these fishes are of no use to the fishermen they are discarded and this gets the life of these young fish ones and thus disrupts the ecological balance of the water body and so it should be advised to the local people not to be used. Our guest did not believe in fishing with nets and he always preferred to use the fishing rods to fish not only in Assam but across other places across his country as well. He followed a unique fishing technique where he at first mixed the local bait with certain bait that he had brought in from his country and the local bait was mostly the rice husk that is used to feed the local poultry and this allowed him to have a larger quantity of bait and he threw the bait into the water to allow the fish towards the fish line and he used to setup these rods that he would place at strategic locations across the river and allow the fish to come and chew on the bait and finally get stuck on the hook and he managed to catch a small fish and a big fish as well.
Our guest was satisfied with the day of fishing and even though sighting a python had been a long hope since the time we started on our tour at least our guest had a good time to fish on the lakes and ponds of Assam and we finally called it a day and we headed back to our camp before sun down. At our camp we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner and our guest had brought two special bottles of alcohol from his country and he took our one bottle to celebrate and he poured in small amounts of this drink to the people at my camp and we said cheers to a wonderful day of exploration on the largest river island trail trek. The next day we got up in the morning to travel to two more important Satras of Majuli Island viz. the Auniati Satra and the Samaguri Satra that are renowned Satras across Assam and the World as well. We had an early breakfast and started on our drive to visit the Sri Sri Auniati Satra in Majuli Island that is located near the Kamalabari area in Majuli and as we had planned on trekking inside the forests of Salmora so we had to ensure to take our trekking gear in the back of our car as it is not advised to visit these Satras of Majuli in such attires as the Satras are institutions that are known as very sacred and so one has to follow a certain code of clothing before setting foot inside the premises of the Satra.
Founded and propagated by the holy Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva, the Satras of Majuli are Neo Vaishnavite Monasteries that preach the ideologies of ‘Ek Sarna’ that states that all human beings are alike irrespective of caste, creed or religion and they should not be discriminated on these grounds. The holy Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva when travelling across the country during the medieval period found that the caste system was very prevalent across the country and he did not like the way the upper caste people treated the lower caste people and so he wanted to bring about a change in practice and so he returned to Assam and initiated the Neo Vaishnavite movement and encouraged the masses to participate in this movement. The movement gained prominence when it found the patronage of the Ahom Kings of Assam and thus Assam became a society that became caste free and the holy saint went ahead to establish the Neo Vaishnavite institutions of these Satras that preached his principles and ideologies. These Satras became centres of learning and art and young boys were admitted to these Satras at a very young age where they would spend their life dedicated to the work of God and at the same time learn various art, crafts, literatures, etc.
We started with our visit to the Sri Sri Auniati Satra in Majuli that is one of the very prominent Satras of Assam and has branches across the state to reach out to the masses to help them to learn about the Neo Vaishnavism practices. We parked our car at the ample parking area of the place and then we have to trek across the campus of the Auniati Satra that is a very beautiful campus and it follows a similar pattern to the construction of the Satra and it has a centre Namghar, the Monikut of the Namghar, the House of the Satradhikar, the Huts of the monks of the Auniati Satra, large Satra ponds and a museum as well. We bought the offerings for prayer at the Namghar from the local shop that are setup outside of the Satra premises and we headed to the Namghar area here that is a big hall where the daily prayers to God are offered by the Bhakats of the Satra. We offered our prayers by lighting the earthen lamps and the incense sticks and we visited the Monikut area of the Auniati Satra and we explored the area of the place and we admired the beauty across this Neo Vaishnavite institution that had helped to build the culture and society of the people of Assam and also is accredited with the training of several renowned scholars of Assam and even the Satradhikar of this Satra is one of the very renowned scholar and author of the state.
We later trekked across the place and went to visit the museum here that is known to house various ancient relics and artefacts from the times of the inception of the Neo Vaishnavism across Assam and even prized possessions of the Ahom kings and generals including the sword that was used by the great Ahom General Lachit Borphukan is here as well. After exploring the museum of the place we bid farewell to this prominent Satra and later continued on our drive to visit the Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island. Along our drive we witnessed the country life of Assam and saw how the tribal Mishing people of Majuli live on their hoes that is a stilt house that is built on elevated platforms using bamboo and this as mentioned earlier helps the people to survive the monsoon season when the area get inundated by the flood waters and so to keep them above the waters they build what are called as the Chang Ghars.
We drove across the beautiful villages of Majuli and we soon reached the area of the Samaguri Satra in Majuli and this would be our last stop before we embarked on our trek across the pristine forests of the Salmora village and later after lunch we headed to the 2 No. Futuki village where there was a large lake with varied fishes and we would spend the afternoon fishing here and hereby wrap up our visit on the largest river island trail trek and the next day we will head on our drive to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam. But at first we would witness one of the heritage traditional art of Majuli Island that is the ancient art of traditional mask making with hands that has been preserved at the Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island. The Satradhikar of this Satra had realized that with the adoption of the modern way of living, many of the traditional arts that were introduced by the great Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva was getting lost with time and one particular art that has to find mention is that of the traditional mask making with hands and these masks were used in religious plays called as the Bhaonas where the artists adorned these masks to enact out the characters of the various Hindu Epics.
Srimanta Shankardeva believed that his religious discourses would have a great impact on the masses if he could narrate these teachings of mythology in the form of plays, songs and dance, etc. and therefore he had introduced the concept of the Bhaonas where the artists used to adorn themselves in attires and these masks to depict a particular mythological character and this left a better impression in the minds of his followers. With the advent of the modern society, people started to lose interest in these Bhaonas and gradually the art of mask making also started to fade away until Dr. Hemchandra Goswami decided to take it upon him to preserve this dying art form and today he has taken the Mukha art of Majuli to the World stage and people from all across the World come to visit Majuli Island to learn about this heritage art of traditional mask making. These masks are made completely with hands and bamboo is used to build the frame of the mask followed by wrapping it up with a thin cloth and later applying a special clay on the surface to create the structure of the mask and this in later put out to dry and later organic colours are used to paint these masks and after a final round of drying these masks are ready. We witnessed this heritage art form in front of our eyes and the students along with the Satradhikar were all engaged in the making of these heritage masks and we sat with them and learnt about the mask making art and later we went to the display hall are where the various masks are kept on display.
The various masks displayed at this hell at the Samaguri Satra on the largest river island trail trek are mostly the figures of various mythological characters from the Indian Epics as these were used to narrate the religious plays called as the Bhaonas. The character looks more lifelike when the artist performing these Bhaonas wear these masks and traditional attires and thus they were able to leave a longer lasting impression on the minds of the audience who remembered the characters from the mythological plays as they saw them and this the saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva was able to connect with his followers and spread his teachings of ‘Ek Sarna’ across the state thereby removing the various corrupt practices and elements that were associated in the name of religion during that time and Neo Vaishnavism became a common acceptance among the people of Assam who started to visit these Satras and Namghars regularly and stopped going to corrupt priests.
One member of the Satra explained to us about the various steps in the mask making process and also how these masks were adorned by the artists performing the Bhaonas and how the masks have been improved over the years in their design. During the initial time when the concept of mask making was introduced by Srimanta Shankardeva these masks did not have a movable jaw and later Dr. Hemchandra Goswami introduced this feature on these masks where the jaw moved and this was in tune with the jaw movement of the artists who adorned this mask and this the performance became more lifelike. He also wore a few masks and showed us how the artists performed in these Bhaonas of Majuli wearing masks and he invited our guest to visit Majuli Island during the time of the Raas Leela festival that is celebrated every year in the month of November and is one of the most widely celebrated festivals of Assam. With this we made a small contribution or donation to the Satra as a token of our appreciation of keeping this art of mask making alive and to allow the Satra to sustain itself and continue with this great art and we bid farewell to the Samaguri Satra and we drove to the Salmora village.
Here we had to park our car at a distance and my colleague joined us this time and he would have a better knowledge than us when it came to exploring the dense forest reserves of the Salmora village and this was where we would resume on our trekking and take our chance to perhaps sight the python species in the wild that might be inhabiting these forest reserves as our guest believed the topography of this island would suit the habitat of the place. We changed to our trekking gear and to avoid the insects and leeches we used a repellent and later we trekked towards the entrance of the forest reserve at the Salmora village and this is a very pristine forest that is covered with dense vegetation of various species of flora, fauna and avifauna and it would be hard to believe that such a pristine forest reserve existed on a river island itself. My colleague led the way and we trekked deep into the forest reserves and we spotted some wild hens, wild boars, deer species but unfortunately our search for the pythons of Assam remained futile and we had to come back empty handed again.
After this we boarded our car and we travelled to the friend’s house as he had invited us over for lunch and as we would be leaving Majuli tomorrow he wanted to serve us with an ethnic meal and so we headed on our drive to Futuki village where we would enjoy our lunch and later go for our luck of fishing at the lake that is present near the entrance of the village. The Mishing people believe in eating food that are grown naturally and do not consume any artificial food. They make use of various herbs that grow across their houses to prepare exquisite cuisines of fish and meat and also they grow their own vegetables and also rear their own livestock. They do not add any artificial flavouring or any coloured spices to their food and this is what makes the food very delicious to eat as you can feel all the fresh flavours of the vegetables, pulses, fish/meat, ginger and garlic, herbs, etc. and the flavour of the green chillies as well. We sat down for the meal and at first we had to climb the chang on a wooden plank and the first room is the kitchen and the next rooms are the living room where the family stays.
My friend’s family took a lot of effort to prepare the meal for us today and the meal had various offerings from fish cooked with pumpkin, roasted small fish served with garnish of onions, green chillies and coriander, country chicken cooked with turnip, black dal, a mashed brinjal and potato chutney, etc. The meal was served on bell metal utensils and we enjoyed a hearty and healthy meal and then we spent some time around the place and we understood the local weaving process of the Mishing women as there was a traditional loom kept at the house of the colleague and we enjoyed to see how the local women of the house took the time in the afternoon to weave out these glorious handlooms of the Mishing tribe. With this we bid farewell to my colleagues family and we drove to the lake area of the Futuki village and here we trekked a bit towards the banks of the lake and our guest setup the fishing station here and we took our time to fish.
The sky was getting darker and it looked that it might rain today but still we did not let it deter our hopes of fishing and we stayed there until the rains arrived and we took shelter across a makeshift house and once the rain subsided we went out to fish again and our guest caught a decent sized fish and there was another person who got to fishing on the lake with a net and he too had a nice catch that allowed us to witness the various fish species and our guest identified a few species and he seemed satisfied with the catch and with this we called it a day and we trekked back to our car. I bid farewell to my colleague at Majuli and later we drove back to our camp for our final evening of stay here at Majuli. At our camp we prepared our luggage to be packed and loaded on our vehicle as we would be leaving early morning tomorrow and so it was better to manage our time this way. Our boys at the camp prepared dinner for us and we enjoyed our meal and got ot bed to prepare for our early day the next morning.
Trekking across Dibru Saikhowa National Park
The next day we were to catch the 7.30AM ferry to the Neemati Ghat and from there on we would reach the other bank at around 9.15 AM and from there we would continue on our drive to Tinsukia and further to Guijan where we will halt at the Banashree Eco Camp and continue on our trekking experience of the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Upper Assam that is renowned for its population of the feral horses. But then again our guest was interested in the fishes and the pythons especially the reticulated python species and so we had to trek across the forest reserves to look out for this reptile species. We boarded our car on the ferry and soon we bid farewell to Majuli Island on our largest river island trail trek and continued on our ferry ride upstream on the Brahmaputra River and we enjoyed the early morning breeze that made us feel chilly as well. We reached Neemati Ghat at around 9.15 AM and we disembarked from the ferry and started on our drive towards Teok where we would stop for breakfast and we found a small restaurant here that was serving noodles and we enjoyed a meal of noodles and continued on our drive towards Tinsukia crossing Sivasagar, Moran and Dibrugarh. We did not make any stop just the one to refuel at Dibrugarh and our next stop was to have our lunch at Lahoal. A newly built Dhaba was present here and we sat down to have our lunch and this was a nice place to eat.
After lunch we started on our drive again and our guest expressed his interest of exploring the market around Tinsukia and so we made a stop here and went out to explore the market and again we continued on our drive to Guijan Ghat. We soon arrived near the Guijan Ghat and we went to check into the Banashree Eco Resort that is located along the banks of the River Dibru and also has a sprawling tea garden area behind the campus and thankfully we were the only guests present here today and the caretaker of the place who knew from earlier welcomed us to the place and he assigned the room to our guest. We discussed our plan for the next day and the caretaker would take our guest to the banks of the Dibru River at Guijan Ghat where the local fishermen bring in the catch for the day and they auction this to the highest bidder at the place who takes the fish to sell to the local market and this would be the perfect opportunity for our guest to be able to identify the fish species that are caught from the river Dibru area and also we would take the opportunity to explore the tea garden area as this is known to have snakes around as well.
Trekking across the third largest National Park
Across North East India, the biodiversity is huge and therefore there are there are several protected forest covers across the area and these are in the form of reserve forests, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. Apart from the famed Kaziranga National Park in Assam there are other renowned National Parks as well and one name that comes to mind is that of the Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh that is the third largest National Park in India in terms of area and is home to the big four cat species viz. the Royal Bengal Tigers, Leopards, Snow Leopards and Clouded Snow Leopards. This National Park allows visitors to explore the pristine forest reserves of the place by trekking and this is described as one of the most rewarding trekking experiences across the country because you will explore one of the very dense and amazing tropical and evergreen forests and get the opportunity to sight some of the very rare and endangered animals as well as birds including the flying squirrel that is known to be found inside the forests of the Namdapha National Park. To access Namdapha National Park by air one has to reach the Dibrugarh airport in Upper Assam and then travel to Miao and further to Deban and alternately once can choose to come to the Ledo railway junction and drive from there to Miao and further to Deban.
The journey will take you along the historic Stilwell Road that was built by the American Army during World War II with a team of locals and this ro0ad was the alternate route to China via Myanmar after another road was cut off by the Japanese forces and this facilitated in quick movement of troops and supplies and the Stilwell Road passes across the mysterious Pangsau Pass and the Lake of No Return. One has to drive to Miao and they can either choose to halt at Miao or proceed further to Deban and this is where the exploration by trekking of the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park starts. At Miao that are quite a number of homestays, Eco Camps and guest houses also run by the government of Arunachal Pradesh and visitors can find the opportunity to stay here and while at Deban there is only one forest rest house and so prior booking is necessary to be able to find a place here. The exploration inside the forests of Namdapha National Park is not a day’s task and one has to be prepared to spend around 2-3 nights inside the forests at rest camps in tents because by trekking it takes a while to cover the area and therefore the preparations are needed to be able to halt inside the forest reserve and one has to obtain the requisite permits and also hire the services of expert guides to travel inside the forests and this is that makes the experience more challenging and thrilling.
There are resting camps inside the Namdapha National Park one at the Bulbulia site, another at the Hornbill Camp and another at Haldibari and all these sites are very nice sites to enjoy bird watching. The services of guides and porters are very much necessary to carry you gear, luggage and meals and since you will be exploring for a good period of four days across the third largest National Park in the country and also with the dense forest reserve area with no cellular connectivity inside there is no mean of navigation on your own and there is a high chance of your getting lost in the wild and so the guides who are local and have undertaken numerous trekking expeditions inside the forests of Namdapha National Park are required to join you on this trek. Moreover, without being accompanied by a local guide, the forest authorities will not provide you the permits along to go inside this dense tropical rain forest of the country. So make sure that you have your trekking gear ready to explore the pristine flora and fauna of the third largest National Park in the country of the Namdapha National Park.
To stay at Miao one very good option is that of the Namdapha Jungle Camp that is located along the border of the Dehing river that flows across Miao and this place is a unique eco-friendly place built with bamboo, wood and thatch roof and this is because these raw materials are available in abundance across these places and they form a unique environment that blends in ease with nature and at the same time not compromising on the comfort of stay. Because anywhere you travel you will have the option of staying in deluxe concrete buildings and since you are visiting an area that is blessed with the bounties of Mother Nature so it is a nice way to explore the place that is built with nature in mind. At Deban the only option to stay is the Forest Rest House and this is a very old guest house with modern furnishings and visitors can also choose to stay here in the vicinity of the park. The Forest Rest House at Deban has the beautiful Nao Dehing River flowing along the place and this river is one of the very crystal clear water river and to cross there is a bamboo bridge and crossing it is a thrilling experience as well.
Trekking inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park is bound to be one of the most rewarding experiences for visitors coming to North East India because this is the only rainforest in the country that is in conjunction with the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and these forests are often referred to as the Amazon of the East. The various rare and endangered fauna species to be spotted on our trekking experience inside the forest reserves of this place is what makes the journey an ideal one and also a one to remember for a lifetime. Enjoy an evening at the forest rest house at Deban where you will get to hear the sounds of the occasional roar of a big cat in the wild, the cries of the various other primates and the soulful chirping of the birds. The porters and guides will join you the next morning and you can head on your trekking inside the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park and the trek will be of moderate challenge and so you need to be prepared for certain challenges and hurdles that might come along your way. The experienced guide will lead the way and the porters will follow the group and your excitement begins when you start spotting the smaller animals of the park in their natural habitat along the way.
We will spot the various bird species of Namdapha National Park along the trek and especially we will sight the great Indian Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, etc. and various other birds as well that are a part of the habitat of the rain forest and the glory comes to us when we are able to spot the flying squirrels. Soon we reach the resting point and the porters will help to setup the camping sie and you can enjoy your evening gazing at the starlit sky and admire the sounds of the jungle and call it a day. The next day you can embark on your jungle trek again and this time you will head deeper into the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park towards the Hornbill camp and this is the perfect place to spot the birds of Namdapha National Park and we will spot some of the rare birds and animals along this trek to reach the Hornbill Camp by little afternoon for lunch and to setup the camp for the evening. The next track is towards Haldibari and later you can trek back to Deban at the Forest rest house where you can make a night halt and later you can start on our drive to Dibrugarh to board your onward flight.
On your way back do not miss out on certain sightseeing experiences that are unique to this region because you might never have the opportunity again to visit these remote places in your life again and so try to make the best use of this time after your trekking experience. We would recommend you make a night halt at Margherita at the Singpho Eco Lodge to understand the culture and traditions of the Singpho people of Assam and here you can enjoy various local cuisine and explore the handicrafts and handlooms. On your way back from Deban make a stop at the Tibetan Carpet factory at Miao that is a rehabilitation centre of the various migrants from Tibet who had come to Arunachal Pradesh and settled at this place and they have a centre of carpet weaving at this place and the local women weave out some of the most exquisite woollen carpets that are now exported all across the World. This centre is opened to tourist for public viewing and you can take the opportunity to visit this settlement and in case you are interested you can buy a souvenir of the smaller carpets that are also available on sale here.
Also since you are carrying a valid permit to visit Arunachal Pradesh, you can choose to visit the Pangsau Pass at Nampong that is the border of India and Myanmar in case you are travelling on the 10th, 20th or 30th of the month you can go to visit Myanmar from India at the Pansaung market area as well. Ensure to visit the SDO office at Nampong to obtain the permits to make the visit after payment of the requisite fees and later head on your drive to the Pangsau Pass. This is the famed pass from the time of the World War II when the American Army was building the Stilwell Road across this place and the climatic conditions across the place was so treacherous along with the terrain that they described this pass as the Hell’s Pass and from here you will enter the territory of Myanmar after crossing the International border of India that is heavily guarded by the armed forces of the Indian Army on the Indian Side and the Myanmar army on the other. Visitors are allowed to cross the border of Myanmar and travel towards the Pansaung market that is a vibrant local market that sees traders from both the countries come here to trade their goods.
The Pansaung market is vibrant market where you can get to witness the various local produce of Myanmar and also there are numerous shops here that sell liquor and traditional cuisine of Myanmar and if you are interested you are try out these cuisines as well. Also you can visit the Pansaung view point here from where you get to view the Lake of No Return that is one of the most mysterious lakes across the region also described as the Bermuda triangle of the East since during World War II the Allied forces had reported many of their aircrafts getting lost while flying over this lake. Also here the Japanese forces are said to have lost an entire army of men who came trying to cross this lake and so this lake because to be added as the Lake of No Return. Spend some time exploring the area across the Pansaung market and later you can come over to India and travel back to Nampong and further to Jairampur. At Jairampur you can take the opportunity to visit the Jairampur World War II cemetery cum Botanical Garden and this is the only World War II cemetery in India that has burials of the soldiers of the Chinese Army that can be found here and also the Botanical garden at the place is home to various rare orchid species of Arunachal Pradesh and you can admire this and continue on our drive back to Jagun in Assam.
At Jagun you can stop to have lunch and enjoy some of the finest cuisines of the local people of the area and this cuisine is a simple boiled cuisine with various herbs and vegetables and this is a particular thing you would notice across the cuisine of this place as the people mostly prefer to eat such food that are very less in oil and spice powders and mostly the natural herbs and spices are used to bring this food to justice. After lunch you can continue on your drive towards Tipong Colliery area that were some of the oldest underground coal mines of the region bust now they have been abandoned and you must visit Tipong to catch a glimpse of the DAVID Steam locomotive that is the oldest operational steam locomotive in the World. These steam locomotives were brought by the British all the way from England to work across the coal mines of the region and these steam locomotives used to haul coal tubs from the underground coal mines mouth towards the dump yards from where the coal would be loaded on to tubs and wagons to be transported across the country.
However with the stopping of the operations of the underground coal mining these steam locomotives are now mostly a tourist attraction. After this you can go to visit the Lalpahar Sumi Naga village at Tipong that is home to the Sumi Naga people who had migrated here from Nagaland long back and they have a settlement area here where they live and you can take time to explore the beautiful villages and learn about their culture and traditions. Continue on your drive to Margherita and at Margherita you can go to check into the Singpho Eco Lodge at Inthong village that is a very unique ecotourism destination of the Singpho people of Assam that aims to illustrate their culture and traditions to the various tourists coming to the place. This is a very uniquely built place to stay where the entire construction has been done with bamboo, wood and a thatch roof and it is built on an elevated platform with the lower level filled with the traditional looms and guests can witness the local women of the village weaving on these looms. The place is surrounded by lush green tea gardens and the Singpho people have a special tea called as the Phalap and they were the people who were first to discover and brew tea in Assam.
Once you check into the Singpho Eco Lodge you must try this special tea that is brewed by the Singpho people and it is not served with sugar but instead a piece of jaggery. The Phalap tea of the Singpho people is known to have several medicinal properties and keeps every modern day ailments at bay and no wonder the Singpho people across the villages of Inthong and Ketetong do not suffer from any diseases like diabetes, heart ailments, etc. and they credit their good health to the tea and the fresh organic and boiled food preparations that they eat. The Phalap tea follows a special preparation process wherein the tea leaves are first properly washed and then allowed to dry in the sun and later they are boiled over wood fire in earthen vessels and allowed to dry again and later the leaves are stuffed into bamboo tubes and allowed to be stored for a few days and finally the tea takes the shape of cylindrical bamboo and a piece is sliced up and boiled to prepare the Phalap tea and served with a piece of jaggery and his turn to be a very flavourful and healthy detox drink for people. Today the Phalap tea is found in only this part of the country and there is a huge demand for this tea and South East Asia and the owner of the place exports this tea to across the World.
We will spend time around the local villages and evening we will savour a wonderful Singpho cuisine dinner with Singpho traditional beverage as well. The next morning you will freshen up and after an early bath you can go to explore the nearby Buddhist Monastery present here and this is one of the very beautiful monasteries present here and this is one of the very beautiful monasteries across the area and most of the Singpho people and Tai Khamti people inhabiting this area practice Buddhism as their faith and so you will find numerous monasteries across this place including the very famous Bhante Baba Monastery at the Mounglang Khamti Buddhist Monastery that we will visit later in the day. After breakfast we start on our day of exploration by at first visiting the Namdang Bibi Majhar that is one of the sacred sites of the Muslim community but are visited by people of all faith and this is where the burials of two young sisters are present who are said to have started to predict the future of the people at a very young age accurately but unfortunately they passed away due to a rare disease at a very young age itself and this is a memorial site for them and it is believed that your wishes are granted true here.
We seek the blessings of the holy Bhante Baba here at the Mounglang Khamti Buddhist Monastery and later we will admire the beautiful forests of the Dehing Patkai mountain range that extends towards Namdapha National Park and this is said to be among the very pristine rain forests of the World and also referred to as the Amazon of the East. The next morning we will have time to explore the forest reserves of the Dehing Patkai National Park by trekking that was very recently declared as a National Park from a Wildlife Sanctuary and this was done to prevent unscrupulous mining activities that has destroyed the elephant corridor inside the forests of the area and to safeguard the varied flora, fauna and avifauna of this place and today Dehing Patkai National Park is the 6th National Park in Assam. We will also take the option of trekking inside the Dibru Saikhowa National Park that is another National Park in Assam and home to the Feral Horses and Royal Bengal Tigers and various other animals as well. After finishing our exploration we will travel back to Margherita and we will make a stop at the Singpho Villa Dhaba that is another of the very famous eating joints across the place that serves authentic Singpho tribal cuisine and we will savour a lovely lunch and post lunch we will travel to visit the remains of the 20th General Hospital at Margherita.
During the Burma Campaign when the American Army had come to build the Stilwell Road they had brought along a team of doctors and nurses as well and they established an A Grade American Army hospital at Margherita called as the 20th General Hospital to treat the wounded soldiers who were engaged in the construction of the Stilwell Road and also fighting against the Japanese in the Burma Campaign. This hospital is said to have treated some of the high ranking official of the American Army and also Lord Mountbatten as well and today only the ruins stand in place and yet we will visit the place to be a part of history and relive the memoirs of the Burma Campaign of World War II. Post this we will travel to visit India’s only Coal Museum at Margherita that illustrates the various coal mining practices that were present at the Makum coalfields and also various artefacts from the old era and the World War II as well. The coal museum is located at the heart of Margherita town and once you step inside this museum you will get to view three old steam locomotives of John, Shelly and Hassang. These Steam locomotives just like DAVID and 796 were used to pull coal tubs and take these to the dump sites a where they would be loaded and sent across to various parts of the country especially the brick kilns in Punjab.
Also the Shelly steam locomotive was used in the Ledo Brick works that was setup by the British to produce good grade bricks that were used to line the coal mine mouths so that the ground did not cave in when the underground coal mine was dug and also to build the various offices and residential quarters of the place around Margherita, Ledo, Tipong, Namdang and Baragolai, etc. There are various other ancient machinery and relics that are kept on display here at the coal museum including a demo opencast coal mine and an underground coal mine as well and this illustrates the various artefacts of how miners used to go deep underground the coal mines that stretched for almost 3km and they used to use dynamites to blast the ground and later load the coal into the tubs using shovels and transport these to the surface where the steam locomotives would pull the coal tubs and take them to the dumping cum transportation sites.
There is a large display hall as well at the Coal Museum and the various artefacts from the World War II, building of the Stilwell Road, arrival of the British at Margherita and a rare collection of postage stamps is on display inside this hall and we will take some time to explore the main hall of the coal museum at Margherita and later we travel back to the Singpho Eco Lodge and call it a day. Today is our last evening at the place and the next day we will travel to explore the Dehing Patkai National Park and further visit Digboi – the legendary oil town of Assam and then continue on our journey to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park where we will make our last stop on this trekking experience across the Namdapha National Park and then we will bid farewell and I will narrate about more trekking experiences across North East India. We will savour a sumptuous dinner will various offerings at the Singpho Eco Lodge and later we call it a day. The next morning we will start after an early breakfast and we bid farewell to the folks at the Singpho Eco Lodge and begin on our drive towards Digboi where we will at first head to visit the Dehing Patkai National Park that is one of the most beautiful biodiversity areas across North East India. This again we will be exploring via trekking as there are no other modes of safari options available.
We will soon reach the approach area of the Dehing Patkai National Park and here we will be welcomed by our guide who will assist us with the forest formalities and we will go in to explore the deep forests of the Dehing Patkai National Park by trekking. The forest cover at this place is very dense and at certain places the sunlight rarely crosses the tall tree canopies and all you will hear is the soulful chirping of the birds and insects and occasionally the roar of a wild animal. The various primate species inside the park will be visible to us and the cry of the Hoolock Gibbons that is the only Ape species found in India will be heard. We will go inside the forest reserves by trekking and soon we will come out of the forest reserves of the Dehing Patkai National Park and we will continue on our drive to Digboi town where we will make a stop at the Digboi Oil Museum and the Digboi Wold War II cemetery. The British had accidently discovered crude oil inside the forest reserves during one of their expeditions here at Digboi and so they went ahead and established the Digboi Oil Refinery that served as Asia’s Oldest oil refinery and Digboi became to be known as the legendary oil town of Assam. The various processes involved in oil refining are displayed here at the Digboi Oil museum and we will first go to explore this place.
At the entrance of the Digboi Oil museum there is an air raid shelter from the times of World War II that was built in 1942 and at the parking area there is a huge signage that illustrates the history of the oil industry of Digboi and upon entering there are numerous vintage machinery that were brought in by the British to be used in the oil refining process and some of these old machinery deployed are still operational speaking of the quality of goods during the olden times. An old vintage petrol pump is also present at the Digboi Oil museum illustrating the rich colonial past of this region and we will explore the place and go to visit the Discovery Oil Well No. 1 that was where the first oil was discovered and it went on to become Indian become India’s first commercial oil well and the place is strategically located within the premises of this Digboi Oil museum and we will go about exploring the place and main display hall at the Digboi Oil Museum that illustrates the various models from the times of the British Raj and also a model of the Digboi Oil refinery and pictures of various dignitaries who had visited Digboi including previous prime ministers of India like Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and the Hon. President late Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad as well.
With this we wrap up our visit at Digboi Oil Museum and we head to visit the Digboi World War Cemetery. As mentioned earlier the Burma Campaign of World War II was fought across this region of the country and the Americans had to come over to build the historic Stilwell Road along with the soldiers of the Allied Forces and many soldiers who couldn’t make out of the war alive had to be buried with honour at the various war cemeteries in North East India at Digboi, Kohima, Imphal and Guwahati and these war cemeteries were built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Mission and Digboi World War II Cemetery is one among them and this place has burials of over 150 brave soldiers of the Allied forces who laid down their lives so that we could have a better tomorrow and the place is very neatly kept with a green cover of grass growing all across and the burials of the cemetery mostly aligned and flowers growing across each burial as a model of tribute and respect to these brave souls. A centre Cross looks over the place and we will take time to explore the Digboi War Cemetery and pay our tributes and respects to the brave soldiers of the Allied forces. The entire area around the place is lush and green and one can admire the pristine forest cover as well.
After exploring the Digboi World War II cemetery we head on our drive towards Guijan Ghat at Tinsukia where we will check into our place of stay. At Tingrai we will stop to have our lunch at the Ngai Lung restaurant that is a special Arunachal cuisine restaurant and the unique feature of this place is the low seating arrangement that is offered to all its guests and the place serves some of the very traditional ethnic foods of the region and we will take the time to relax here for a while and savour the ethnic boiled cuisine food preparations that is a signature dish of most of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. The rice is grown locally by the owners of the place at their own agricultural land and it is a unique sticky rice that has a very sweet taste to it and this will be coupled with various boiled meat and fish recipes that are prepared with seasonal vegetables all boiled with the fresh spices of ginger, garlic and green chillies and coriander that imparts a special taste to the food as well. After lunch we continue on our drive to Guijan Ghat near Tinsukia that is the site of the Dibru Saikhowa National Park. We will cross the beautiful tea gardens of Upper Assam and we will reach the Banashree Eco Resort where we check in and we freshen up before we will head on our visit to the nearby tea garden tribe villages to learn about their traditions and cultures and explore the nearby tea garden areas that are known for its various bird species.
These tea garden people were brought to Assam by the British from places far off like Nagpur and also present day Chhattisgarh and they have been working in the tea gardens of Assam since long and today they are considered to be an integral part of the state. They are very hardworking people who get up as early as 4AM in the mornings and walk from their homes to the tea gardens and they work the day to pick up the fresh tea buds that are be to plucked in the morning to retain their freshness and they also need to be processed at the factories within certain time limits and so they work very hard to meet up the time deadlines. With this we will call it a day and prepare ourselves for the final trekking day of our itinerary tomorrow where we cross the river Dibru to trek into the forests of Dibru Saikhowa National Park accompanied by the forest guards and later in the day we will sight the River Dolphins and also go to explore the Maguri Beel.
We come back to the Banashree Eco Resort and we will spend some time by the banks of the Dibru River and this is a very calm and pleasant experience admiring the waters of one of the tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra River. The Banashree Eco Resort at Dibru Saikhowa National Park offers a kitchen where the food is still cooked in a traditional way over wood fire and this is a perfect opportunity for us to savour the food cooked in this way and we will have a sumptuous dinner and with this we will call it a day to get up early the next morning. The next day we will get up early to visit the Guijan Ghat and we trek towards the Guijan Ghat that is a place where most of the local fishermen come with their catch early in the morning and there is an auction held here. Generally the fishermen setup their nets in the waters of the Brahmaputra and Dibru River the previous day and the early next morning they go out in the waters to look out for their catch and they return with their catch to travel to the Guijan Ghat and they auction their catch to the highest bidder and this is how they operate on a daily basis and as the fish needs to reach the local market before opening and they have to be transported to places as far as Dibrugarh and Ledo so this is done in the early morning and we will take the opportunity to witness the auction process in our trekking tour as well.
With this we will come back to our place of stay and we will come back to our place of stay and we will have our breakfast and later a country boat will take us across the Dibru River and from the other bank we will start on our trekking experience across the Dibru Saikhowa National Park. We will cross small villages and later we walk deeper into the forests accompanied by a local guide and forest guards and we will admire the various bird species that can be spotted here inside the forests of Dibru Saikhowa National Park. We will reach the site of the Mora Beel that is a perfect place to enjoy birdwatching and we trek further towards the Kekjori tree that is considered to be one of the largest trees in the country. This tree had branches that spread out across acres of land and to witness this tree visitors come from around the World. We spend some time admiring the Kekjori tree and we might get lucky to sight some animal species inside the park and later we will continue on our trek back to the boat and once we are back the boat will take us to the river dolphin view point on the River Dibru and we will get our cameras ready to click pictures of this endangered mammal.
The Gangetic river dolphins were found in abundance in the waters of the River Brahmaputra and its tributaries but with excessive hunting of this species today they are a threatened species and are confined to the protected waters of the National Parks and the Wildlife Sanctuaries of Assam. River Dibru is one such habitat of these majestic Gangetic River Dolphins and we will be taken by our boat to the site of this place and we have to be patient to be able to observe these Gangetic river dolphins that plunge out of the waters and we can catch a glimpse of them. The river dolphins were earlier a very friendly species and when boats used to ply on the waters of the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries, the River Dolphins used to travel along with the boats depicting how friendly these were but gradually over time once they understood the savage nature of the humans they are now scared to come close to humans and they prefer to maintain their distance. We being animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts will take our time and wait in patience to be able to catch a glimpse of these river dolphins and we will have amazing image captures of these species and soon we will head back to the Banashree Eco Resort to have our lunch.
We will savour an ethnic lunch and post lunch we will go on our drive to the Maguri Beel area that is a very fine destination for birdwatching in the winter season and many rare bird species are known to be present here at the Maguri Beel including the Mandarin Duck, White Winged Wood Duck that have been spotted here. This Maguri Beel area is a vast natural water land that is fed by the backwaters of the River Dibru and the waters of the Brahmaputra River and this brings in very rich nutrients to the biodiversity of the Beel that feeds on them and this in turn allows the population of fish to grow in abundance here at the Maguri Beel and so the birds are attracted to the place and the bird life diversity is huge across the place and we will hire the services of a country boat to take us on a ride across the waters of the Maguri Beel and we will observe how the locals fish on the Beel as well and fishing in a very important occupation of the local people here and we will see fish traps and fish nets that are spread all across the Maguri Beel area and the boat man will take us across a circular round of the Maguri Beel and we will spot numerous bird species like Cormorants, Lesser Adjutants, Greater Adjutants, Purple Swamphens, Ruddy Shelducks, Egrets, Kites, Kingfishers, Bulbuls, etc. that are to be found here at the Maguri Beel area and after this session of ours we will head back to our place of stay for the last day of this trekking tour across Upper Assam and Namdapha National Park and we will pack up our things to leave the place tomorrow to catch our flight from the Dibrugarh Airport.
We will have time in our hands and so we will make a stop at the Bell Temple/Tilinga Mandir at the Bordubi area near Tinsukia and later we will drop you at the Mohanbari Airport at Dibrugarh. We start after an early breakfast and today we will head on our drive to the Bordubi area where there is a sacred and renowned temple shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and this is renowned as the Bell Temple or the Tilinga Mandir. Here at this temple shrine the devotees come to offer their prayers and they come to ask for Lord Shiva’s blessings to grant them their wish and once the wish is fulfilled, the devotes come and tie a bell on a temple tree as a token of thanks and gratitude to Lord Shiva. We too seek our blessings and later we drop you at the Dibrugarh airport.
One very interesting trekking trail across North East India and one that is present very near to the fastest growing city of the region of Guwahati is that of the Garbhanga reserve forest trail trek that takes you deeper into the virgin forests of the Garbhanga Reserve Forest and you will hike across some of the very dense tree cover and also get to visit local villages where you can savour traditional food and wine of the local people and later trek further to the border of Assam and Meghalaya at the foothills of the Garo Hills of Meghalaya and get to visit local villages and come out from the Garbhanga reserve forest either at the Lokhra or the Basistha area of Guwahati. To access the Garbhanga Reserve forest trail trek visitors need to come to the forest office at Lokhra that falls under the Garbhanga sub division and here you will need to seek permission from the forest authority and the trail cannot be undertaken on your own because there is no clear defined pathway inside the forests and you will need to hire the services of a trek planner who will arrange for this trek for you and also you must choose to visit the trekking trail on a Sunday as the local people from the Garbhanga area come to Lokhra weekly market in the morning hours of Sunday and they come along with their fresh produce and this makes the trek more interesting because you do not keep walking and hiking across the dense jungle all by yourself and you will have occasional company of the local people who are warm hearted and great with hospitality as well.
You will need to travel from the forest office at Lokhra upwards towards the mountains and this is where the lush green cover of trees will welcome you to Garbhanga and you will travel across a well paved road that is built with concrete blocks and you will reach another forest office area a little atop the hill and here you will need to get down from your vehicle and you can hike across the forest to begin your trek on the Garbhanga Forest trail trek. These virgin forests are one of the very dense forest cover that is present across the area and one will be left in awe as to how such a dense forest reserve is present in the vicinity of a city premise itself. You will hike deeper into the forest with the tall tree canopy guiding you and soon you will reach a small village area and here you will find people gathered to savour rice wine and some nice meat delicacies.
The meat cooked by a local village person at this area is one of the very flavourful meat recipes you will find and the person cooks the meat generally the intestines of pork with various herbs and it is a spicy preparations as well that is powered with chillies grown from the village garden. We will try our luck to savour these recipes after the trek and we go further inside the forest reserves and reach the local village that is inhabited by the Karbi people of Assam. At this village you will get to see how the rural life of Assam is and how people live in harmony with nature engaging in various traditional activities like farming, growing vegetables, animal husbandry, handicrafts, etc. The Karbi people of Assam are considered to be among the oldest inhabitants of Assam and they are known to inhabit the area of Karbi Anglong and these forest pockets of Guwahati as well in the Lokhra area and they are known for their food delicacies they prepare and we will take the opportunity to look out for these preparations as well. The hike will take us to the banks of a small stream that flows down from the Garo hills and here you can see how crystal clear the waters are because there are free from pollution. We come back to the path and from here you will hike to reach an open area that is filled with agricultural fields and one can get the true experience of enjoying the vast countryside of Assam and we will take time to explore this area and later our trek back to the village will commence and we will come to the makeshift stall of the local person to have our lunch and savour some rice wine that is brewed fresh.
The food is served on banana leaf and the use of plastic is limited to the serving glasses that are used and the rice wine is stored in aluminium vessels that help to keep it cool as well and the waste disposal is done in designated bins that are places just near the stall and this reminds us as to how these villages who might not be literate but they are known to keep the premises of the forests clean and live in harmony with nature without littering. After lunch we rest for a while and later continue on our trek back to the forest office where we parked our vehicles and later we start on our drive back to Guwahati city. Before we reach the Lokhra police point we make a final stop to visit the Lokhra Sunday market that is a vibrant traditional market and the local vegetables and other produce that are sold at this market is the one thing to look out for and we spend some time here and later return to the city.
Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trail Trek
One of the very popular trek routes in Meghalaya and North East India is the trek to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Jinkieng Nongriat Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat village near Cherrapunji. This is a moderate trek that takes you across the vast wilderness of the tropical forests of the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya to the Nongriat Village from Tyrna and at Nongriat you can get to spot one of the grand bioengineering marvels of the mankind that are grown by the Khasi and Jaintia people of Meghalaya and these are none other than the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya. To provide a brief about these Living Root Bridges, there are numerous small villages across the forests covers in the hills of Meghalaya and these villages are often separated by small streams and nothing more than a small pathway connecting these villages and one has to cross the perennial streams to reach the other villages or even access the towns and cities. Meghalaya is known as the Abode of the Clouds and Cherrapunji is known as the Shade of the clouds and with names we can easily say that Meghalaya is a land of rainfall and the two top places that receive the highest rainfall is located here namely Mawsynram and Cherrapunji.
In the winter season when the rainfall is less here the streams that separate these villages dry up and crossing them is not a big challenge but in the monsoon season when the rainfall is at its peak then the streams swell up and crossing them becomes a challenge and to tackle this problem the villagers got in touch with the local authorities to build bridges over these stream but to no avail. The consideration to construct iron bridges across these remote mountains and hills areas that are surrounded by a thick cover of forests is not feasible as well and though the administration has the capacity to build bridges at places that are accessible but reaching out to these remote palaces without any connectivity would have been a challenge as well. Also with the huge amount of rainfall that hits these areas maintaining of such bridges would be a problem as well and so with no assistance to be seen from the authorities, the villagers came up with a unique idea of growing bridges instead of building them. To help grow these living root bridges they identified that the roots of the rubber tree would be the best to serve the needs and so they started to allow the young root of the rubber tree (that are found in abundance here) to grow in one particular direction and these roots were provided direction and guidance by the hollowed out tree trunks of the areca nut trees and bamboo tree and the roots would take this direction and they would grow over from one side of the stream across to the other.
It would take around 20 years for these roots to fully grow across from one side of the stream to another and are completely grown these would last for up to 500 years and this served as the most beneficial way to access across these streams for the villagers and to make the root bridge more easily accessible, the villagers would make use of wooden planks and stones to pit over the bridge and this would make an ideal pathway and people could now easily cross the stream be it in the toughest monsoon time. These root bridges are better with rainfall as they grow stronger with more rains and this started the growth of such bioengineering marvels across the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. Over the years these amazing structures started to gain reputation in the World tourism Map until it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and today is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Meghalaya with people from all across the World coming to visit these bioengineering marvels of the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya. While there are numerous root bridges across the forests of Meghalaya connecting these remote villages, the two most popular ones that are visited by tourists from across the World are the Single Decker Living Root Bridge of Riwai near Mawlynnong village and the Double Decker Root Bridge at Nongriat village in Meghalaya.
The other one is the Longest Living Root bridge at Pynursla and the 10km 10 Living root bridge at Wahlynkhat. All these bridges apart from the one at Mawlynnong need some level of trekking to access the bridge as it is located in remote areas and the one to the Double Decker Root Bridge is a challenge as it takes you across a flight of 3500 stairs and climbing up these steep stairs proves to be a challenging trek. The trek to Double Decker Living Root Bridge starts from the Tyrna village at in order to reach the parking spot of this village one has to drive from Cherrapunji to the place or you can hire the services of a shared taxi to reach the parking area of the Tyrna village. At the Tyrna village you will need to access the services of a local guide to take you but it is not a compulsory option to hire a guide. The stairway to the access the Nongriat village begins shortly and you will be welcomed by a very beautiful local environment that is neat and clean and the trek to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge begins. The pathway at the beginning is having a well paved road that is built with broad stairs and later is becomes smaller.
Then the climb downstairs starts across the narrow pathway of stairs and a little further ahead the vast tropical forests of Meghalaya get visible to us along with a beautiful waterfall as well. The climb downstairs is not very challenging and one has to remember the foot movements because the pressure you put on your toes and ankles need to be calculated or you might feel lethargic and also a pain sensation if you put too much force on your upper toes while climbing down the stairs. At the top before the long descent there is a small shop that sells condiments and water and visitors make a stop here to buy water bottles and soft drinks before they start on their downward trek and the next shop is only to be found at the base of the stairs where there is another small village. Once you end your climb down the stairway from Tyrna towards Nongriat there are two pathways – one that leads to the slight left and the other towards right. While the pathway straight leads towards Nongriat Village, the pathway on the right takes you to another small village and here there are two sets of single decker living root bridges as well and also a cave area and this area falls under the Tyrna village ecotourism area.
These single decker living root bridges at the Tyrna Ecotourism Eleka are also a grand sight to view and in case there is time in your hands you should take the pathway to the right and take the opportunity to explore these two living root bridges that are single ones and each are located at a distance from each other and the view is absolutely grand. Also the cave area is one of the very rarely visited ones unlike the Mawsmai and Arwah caves in Cherrapunji and therefore if you have the opportunity then take your time to explore this cave as well. Post this you can start on your trek again to the Nongriat village and at the small village area you can take a break for your refreshments and also there is a small church here where you can offer your prayers and later commence on your trek again and a short length of the trek is across a flat pathway and you will reach the site of a hanging bridge here and there is a water stream here that has crystal clear waters. Once you trek across the bridge then the trek is uphill and you will cross a sacred grove area and further right you will cross another suspension bridge and this is an indication that you are approaching the Nongriat Village and there is no further hike and only a short time before you are to sight the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat.
Soon you will approach the Nongriat village and here your encounter will happen with another small living root bridge that is a single decker and passes over the stream that flows underneath the Double Decker Root Bridge. From this bridge you can catch your first glimpse of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge and you will trek further to approach the Nongriat village and once you reach Nongriat village you will find a mini World awaiting you here as visitors from across the World can be seen here relaxing in their homestays or sipping coffee at a local restaurant and it is nice to witness such a place in North East India that sees so many foreign visitors and they are mostly backpackers here. Various homestays and camps are present at the Nongriat village and visitors can choose to halt here in case they are planning to trek further to visit the Mawshaw bridge and the Rainbow falls and later return by trekking to Cherrapunji town from the route that takes you to the base of the Nohkalikai falls and further up to the viewpoint of the Nohkalikai falls. At Nongriat village we will trek further towards the counter where you will need to purchase your tickets to go visit the Double Decker Root bridge and also your camera tickers as well.
You will soon sight the grandeur of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Jinkieng Nongriat Double Decker Root Bridge and the view will absolutely enthral you and you will be sighting a bioengineering marvel that is to be found nowhere else in the World. Another feather would be added to the cap of this site soon as another set of root bridge is being grown on top of the existing two floors of the bridges and soon this would become the triple decker living root bridge and this would boost the place to draw more tourists and thereby earn the locals an opportunity to make a decent income out of tourism. Meghalaya as a state is commendable for its ability to generate income from tourism related activities and the places like Shillong, Cherrapunji, Mawlynnong, Dawki, Jowai are using tourism and site seeing as a good way to generate revenue and people here and making decent income for tourist related activities. We will admire the grandeur of the Root Bridge and underneath is a clear water stream that forms a pool here and visitors can take the opportunity to swim in the crystal clear waters and also enjoy a natural fish spa as well. When you sit on the water pool and immerse your first in the water you will see small fishes coming and eating off your dead skin from your feet.
You can either choose to halt at the Nongriat village and spend your time in the natural surroundings enjoy the peace and calm of the place and next day you can hike further to the Rainbow falls and Mawshaw bridge or you can also trek back from Nongriat village to Tyrna this world depends on your schedule and how much time you have in your hands to explore the natural wonders of Meghalaya. The trek will start from the Nongriat village and we bid farewell to the tourists from across the World and we gradually begin our trek towards the Tyrna village and we cross the suspension bridge and the sacred groves to reach the site of the hanging bridge with the crystal clear waters. This will be followed by the small village at the Tyrna Elaka and from here we will mark our ascent up the stairway and flight of 3500 stairs begins towards the top where our vehicle is parked. This is the most challenging part of this trek as this is across a flight of steep stairs and you work against gravity to climb them and the trick is to take adequate breaks and hydrate yourself regularly as this being a tropical climate there is much humidity and ensure to climb ten stairs and then take a short break and continue further and you will reach the summit shortly thus marking the end of the Double Decker Root Bridge trek to Nongriat.
At the parking there are various small shop setup by the locals and they sell meals and tea and you must try to eat the food they serve here because these are home cooked and is the authentic Khasi cuisine and also at such cheap prices with great taste and they even serve the Khasi signature dish of Jadoh that is rice cooked with pig blood and this imparts and excellent aroma. Also on serving will be white rice, potato fry, tomato chutney, dal, chicken, pork, fish, etc. This would complete your trek and you can board your vehicles and begin on your drive back to Cherrapunji town where you can complete the other popular sightseeing activities of the Mawsmai Caves, Nohkalikai Falls, Seven Sister Falls, Eco Park, Arwah Caves, Wei Sawdong falls, Dainthlen Falls, etc. Cherrapunji is a very beautiful town and was earlier the place to have the highest rainfall on Earth and hence numerous waterfalls and beautiful water streams across the place. Also you can take a short hike across the township to admire the natural landscapes across the place as well.
Another thing to watch out for in Cherrapunji are the caves and you must visit both the popular caves here viz. the Mawsmai cave and Arwah caves and both these caves involve some form of trekking to explore the place as well. These caves are must for people who are interested in natural wonders and inside the caves you can sight the various fossils, stalactites and stalagmites as well. The Arwah caves is where visitors need to trek from the cave parking area towards the cave entrance for about 0.5 km area this is across a beautiful landscapes and you will walk across the top of the Nohkalikai falls and now to enter the cave entrance.
Dzukou Valley Trek
Another of the most pristine trek routes across North East India is the trek to Dzukou Valley that is located at the border of Nagaland and Manipur and is best accessed from the state of Nagaland via the Viswema and Zakhama villages. The Dzukou valley is called as the valley of flowers and it is also renowned for the presence of the very rare Dzukou Lily that is found only here. The best time to access this trek is during the monsoon season when the yearly rainfall brings out the best of the flora in the valley and this flowers and orchids are in full bloom at the Dzukou valley. To access this trek one has to first reach the state of Nagaland either via the Dimapur airport or you can also start your journey from Assam when you arrive at the Rowiah airport at Jorhat and then explore the places of interest in Assam and later you go to visit the Dzukou valley in Nagaland and also explore the places of interest in Nagaland as well. In case you are planning to explore the places of interest in Assam and what better then visiting the fames UNESCO World Heritage site of Kaziranga National Park then we recommend that you plan your visit towards the end of month of April because this way you will be able to explore Kaziranga National Park (the park closes for visitors every year in the month of May due to the approaching monsoon season).
This way you get to enjoy your jungle safari options here at Kaziranga National Park and at Kaziranga you can even enjoy a trekking session at the Chirang Nature Trail near the Burapahar range of the park and this will provide an ample opportunity for you to explore the varied flora, fauna and avifauna of Kaziranga National Park and at the same time to appreciate the culture and traditions of the local people inhabiting the fringe area of Kaziranga National Park who are mostly the Karbi. Mishing and the tea garden people of Assam. Once you area at the Jorhat airport you can proceed on your drive to Kaziranga and here you can choose to stay at one of the very fine Hotels and Resorts that are to be found at the vicinity of the park and this allows you to enjoy the calm and tranquillity of the place that is surrounded by nature all around either in the form of the evergreen forests, the tall mountain cover of the Karbi Anglong Hills, the lush green tea gardens, the sprawling paddy fields and the unending chirping of the 500 species of birds that are recorded here at Kaziranga National Park.
Go for an early morning elephant back safari ride inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park as this is the perfect way to catch a glimpse of the various fauna of Kaziranga National Park from up close. The Elephant back ride takes you on an hour long ride into the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park in the Western range of the park and this allows you to catch a sight and glimpse of the pride of Kaziranga National Park and Assam viz. the One Horned Rhinoceros from up close. Enjoy your elephant back ride here at Kaziranga National Park and later return back to your hotel/resort to enjoy your breakfast and later go for a thrilling jeep safari ride inside the forest ranges of Kaziranga National Park at either of the four ranges of the park at Kohora, Bagori, Agoratoli or Burapahar. The jeep safari ride in another thrilling safari option and visitors get to cover more grounds on the jeep safari and they are often heard of sighting many of the rare fauna species of Kaziranga National Park of the likes of the Royal Bengal Tigers, Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, Wild Elephant Herds, Leopards, Capped Langurs, Hoolock Gibbon, Hog Deers, Sambar Deers, etc. and the various bird species of Kaziranga National Park including the Great Indian Hornbills, Black Necked Stork, Bengal Florican, etc. After your day of safari enjoy an ethnic lunch at the Kaziranga Orchid Park – that is one of the finest Assamese thalis you can savour across the state and this provides you with a taste of Assam on a plate.
Take time to explore the Kaziranga Orchid Park – the largest orchid park in India and this place illustrates the various rare orchid species that are found in the region of Assam and North East India. North East India is home to around 1200 species of the 1800 species found in the country and this details about the rich biodiversity of the place and North East India is the region that is filled with the rich biodiversity. At the Kaziranga Orchid Park you can also catch a glimpse of the traditions of Assam when it comes to the handicrafts and handlooms of the place and various bamboo and cane handicrafts are put on display here at the place along with the traditional looms as well where visitors can see the local women sitting beside the looms and weaving out some of the every exquisite handlooms of Assam in the form of Mekhela Chadors, Gale, etc. At the Kaziranga Orchid Park there is also a rice museum where you can get to see the various rice varieties that are grown across Assam. Also there is a souvenir section where you can make a purchase of various handmade products that are to be found in the areas of Kaziranga National Park. Also in the evening, the place hosts a cultural dance evening and if you have time ensure to visit the stage area of Kaziranga Orchid Park to witness the various dance performances of Assam like Bihu, Bamboo Dance, Jhumur, etc.
After winding up your visit to Kaziranga National Park and before heading on to Nagaland we would recommend that you make a visit to Majuli Island as well – the largest river island in the World and the hub of the Neo Vaishnavite movement of Assam. Majuli can be accessed by crossing the River Brahmaputra on a ferry boat and this can be boarded at the Neemati Ghat that is around 20 minutes’ drive from Jorhat and you will need to take the Bypass road of Jorhat to reach Neemati Ghat. Here there are many options of ferry boat from either the Govt. operated vessels or the smaller privately operated ferry boats and for your information these boats even carry motorbikes and cars on them and allow these vehicles to cross the Brahmaputra River. The Brahmaputra rive is the lifeline of the people of Assam and it flows from Arunachal Pradesh flowing in as the River Lohit and at Sadiya this becomes the Brahmaputra River flowing across the state and finally merging with the Ganges to flow into the Bay of Bengal. This river is to Assam what Nile in to Egypt and the Brahmaputra is the only male river in India and it brings in fertile soil that is a boon for agricultural activities and also good for rejuvenation of soil that is needed for the growth of various floral species and the fauna of the National Parks and the forests of Assam are dependent on this.
But every year the state has to bear the wrath of this mighty River as well due to the annual floods and the river water inundates various parts of the state including the famed UNESCO World Heritage site of Kaziranga National Park where many of the animals die every year due to the annual floods. But still the Brahmaputra is considered to be the lifeline of the state of Assam and every person of Assam reveres this river for its power. From the Neemati Ghat you will have to board the ferry and travel to the Kamalabari Ghat and the journey takes around an hour downstream and as you reach the Kamalabari Ghat you will need to drive to the town centre at Garamur where you will find yourself a stay in one of the various bamboo cottages that are present in Majuli that offers accommodation to its guests. The se bamboo cottages are very ergonomically designed and people love to stay to enjoy a different experience altogether staying in a naturally built cottage rather than in a brick and concrete room and most of the cottages are located in a very natural environment that is filled with greenery all across.
Majuli is inhabited by the Mishing people of Assam and they are the tribes who had settled themselves along the banks of the Brahmaputra River and were primarily farmers by occupation and they have a very distinct cuisine that is renowned across Assam and visitors to Majuli should try the special Mishing cuisine and as many of these bamboo cottages are owned by the Mishing people they have these food on offering and you can savour their meal at leisure and also they are known to prepare various alcoholic beverages out of rice and various natural herbs and these are called as Apong – Rice Beer, Sai Mod – Rice Wine and they can be savoured at the bamboo cottages in Majuli Island. Spend the evening at the calm of Majuli and later on the next day set out to explore the mysteries of the largest River Island in World before you set out to travel to Kohima in Nagaland. Majuli is home to various Neo Vaishnavite Satras of Assam and these were introduced and popularized by the holy Saint reformer of Assam – Srimanta Shankardeva. These Satras are Assamese Vaishnavite Monasteries where young boys enter at a very early age and they learn to lead their life in the duties of God and also they learn about art, crafts and literature as well.
The Satras of Majuli are known to have created numerous scholars of Assam and the various arts and crafts practiced in these Satras have found recognition across the World like the heritage art of traditional mask making with hands. The famous Satras of Majuli Island are the Auniati Satra, Samaguri Satra, Uttar Kamalabari Satra, Garamur Satra and the Dakhinpat Satra and thousands of visitors and followers come to visit these Satras of Majuli every year. Start your day by exploring the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island that is considered to be one of the most prominent Satras of Assam. The build of these Satras of Assam follow a typical pattern where in at the centre area of the Satra premise there is a Namghar that serves as a main prayer hall and the regular prayers and other religious ceremonies are held. The Namghar also houses the Monikut that is where the idols of the Gods are kept along with the Bhagwad Gita. The Namghar is surrounded by the huts of the monks of the Satra called as the Hutis and also there is the house of the head of the Satra (Satradhikar) and the Satra campus houses around two or three temple ponds for the water needs of the monks of the Satra. Few of the Satras of Assam also house a museum that stores various ancient relics from the times of the Ahom Kingdom and the Neo Vaishnavite movement of Assam.
The Auniati Satra follows the same build pattern as well and we go to admire this Neo Vaishnavite Monastery of Assam. The Namghar is located at the centre area of the Satra and it is a very peaceful and calm place and one has to light the dia and the incense sticks just outside the entry of the Namghar premises and here you will be witnessing the old monks performing the daily prayers called as the Naam and they would be playing the cymbals. Just ahead of the area of the Namghar is the Monikut area of the Auniati Satra where you can get to witness the various idols of the Gods kept and the place has a unique gold background setup and at the centre there is a Bhagwad Gita kept. As per the teachings of Shrimanta Shankardeva, the creator of the Universe is Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna was the messenger who spread the word of God and therefore the life of Lord Krishna is greatly celebrated across the Satras of Majuli. Every year in the month of November, after the spell of the rains the island comes to life and it gets ready to host the annual Sri Krishna Raas Leela festival – the life of Lord Krishan depicted in an art form and the entire population of the island gets together to take part in the festivities of the celebration of the Raas Leela and people from all across the World come to witness this festival.
The Auniati Satra becomes a major place for visit by the devotees and visitors as this is a prime place where the Bhaonas (religious plays) are hosted and artists dressed in attires adorning the traditional face masks enact out the various stages of the life of Lord Krishna. The Bhaona at the Auniati Satra is a grand one and people from all across the World come to witness this Bhaona. Next up the Hutis of the monks of the Auniati Satra can be seen and there are numerous huts that accommodate the total number of monks staying at this Satra and these huts are also provided to the followers and devotees who come to the Auniati Satra for a nominal price and even the Satra food is provided to the guests who stay here. The very interesting part of the Auniati Satra is the museum that is present at the Satra premises and this is where various ancient relics from the times of the Ahom Kings and the previous Satradhikars of this Satra are kept. This is a very unique museum to visit as the artefacts are worth to witness here including a sword that was used by the brave Ahom General Lachit Borphukan. Apart from this there are numerous artefacts that are made out of ivory like chess board, walking sticks and even a small chair.
The very old bell metal utensils and cymbals are also kept on display and the robe of Ahom Kings and there are memoirs for purchase like books that speak details about Majuli Island as well. With exploring the museum at the Auniati Satra you can call and end to your visit here and later go to visit the Samaguri Satra in Majuli that is renowned as the mask making Satra and it takes around 30 minutes to drive from the Auniati Satra to the Samaguri Satra and along the drive you will witness the lush green countryside of Majuli. One thing to be noted and seen all across is how the local people live in stilt houses that are built on a raised platform (mostly pillars of stone and cement) and the houses are built with bamboo that rests atop this structure with a roofing of either tin or thatch. As mentioned, every year the monsoon rains create a havoc across the places of Assam and the same is in the case of Majuli and with no proper drainage system in place the fields fill up with the water and therefore building a house on the ground is not a feasible solution and so people build these stilt houses and this allows them to stay above the flood waters. When you have the opportunity take time to perhaps visit one of these local homes and see how the local people stay in a small house with a family of four people at least.
We soon reach the campus of the Samaguri Satra and here we will go to explore this traditional and heritage art of mask making with hands. The concept of these masks was introduced by the great Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva who wanted his followers to relate closely with the various religious scriptures and Hindu Epics and so to make them understand better he introduced the Bhaonas viz. the religious plays where the artists would adopt the character and then they would enact out the play at the Namghar of the various Satras of Majuli as well as Assam. To make the character look more lifelike Srimanta Shankardeva realized that if the artists were to adorn the face masks depicting a particular mythological character then the followers would be able to relate more closely with the drama and therefore they will understand the mythology better and his teachings could be imparted more easily and so he introduced this concept. The traditional masks are made with bamboo and clay and organic paints and this proved to be very beneficial as the followers were now able to relate more with the epics and its characters. However with the passage of time people began to forget about this art and it started to die out until Dr. Hemchandra Goswami decided to revive this art of mask making and took it to the World stage.
These masks are all made by hands and this is what makes them very desirable and the concept of creating miniature masks so that people and tourists who come to the Samaguri Satra could buy these as a souvenir and carry back home was introduced and with the sale of these masks and also the donation from the guests this Satra has been able to sustain itself independently without the help of any grant from any government and today visitors from across the World come to Majuli Island to witness this ancient art of traditional mask making and the masks from this Satra have even found place in the royal Buckingham Palace as well. The frame of the mask is created by the use of bamboo sticks and when you visit Majuli Island you will come to know how versatile this bamboo as a grass is and it is often used as an alternate to build houses, bridges, fences, various handicrafts and kitchen utensils and the bamboo shoot I seven eaten as a very important ingredient in certain food preparations as well. Such is a grass that bamboo can be used as an alternate to wood and at certain paper mills across Assam bamboo was used to generate paper a well and this is a very good alternate to timber because bamboo grows back quite fast and so this way you do not destroy the ecology as well.
Coming back to these traditional masks of Majuli, you will notice that the frame is built with bamboo and this frame is wrapped up with a very thin cloth and later a mix of a special clay and cow dung is used to be smeared on this structure to give shape to the facial architecture of the masks and this structure Is allowed to dry out in the sun. Once dries these masks are brought and coloured and the colour is derived from various organic ingredient called as hengul and heital and this provides the final outcome of the mask and this is kept to be dried in the sun and the heritage masks are ready. You can notice the entire stages as they are put up on display at the hall of the Satra and the Satradhikar himself explains to you the various stages involved in this heritage art of traditional mask making. Being able to witness this art from is indeed a privilege and this mask making art was Assam’s the Republic Day for 2018 and this was awarded as the first prize in the Republic Day parade of 2018. After our visit to the Samaguri Satra we will continue on our visit to another place that practices a dying art from and this is the art of pottery making with hands.
Generally when we heat about pottery we think of a giant pottery wheel and men sitting in front of the spinning wheel and using a lump of clay to create various pottery items but that is not the case in this art of pottery making at the Salmora village in Majuli Island because there is no use of pottery wheel and women not men are involved in the art of pottery making here. We will visit the home of a local family here who will demonstrate to us about this heritage pottery art of Majuli Island. The clay that is used to prepare these clay pots are dug out deep from the banks of the Brahmaputra River and later this is mixed with cow dung and the mould is prepared to make the clay pots and the lady of the house will demonstrate this to us and she will use her bare hands to mould the clay and provide shape to the clay pot all by hands and later allow this to dry in the sun and further over fire to provide the adequate strength needed for the pots. These pots were earlier in great demand across Assam to store water and brew curd/cream but with the introduction of steel and plastic utensils have taken away a fair share of the market but still there are patrons who prefer to use these clay pots and the water stored in these clay pots remain cool in the summers.
With this we wrap up the visit for the day and travel to the market area where we can savour a traditional lunch and later in the day we go to visit the nearby villages and learn about the life of the Mishing people of Majuli island and also go to visit a river bank area where we can enjoy a grand view of the sunset here in Majuli Island. At the evening we can go to visit the Uttar Kamalabari Satra is Majuli that is renowned as the Satra that hosts the Sattriya Nritya performance that happens to be one among the eight classical dance forms of India.
The Sattriya Nritya performance is a classical dance form and it is one among the eight classical dance forms of India that is practiced here at the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island. At the Satra this dance form is practiced only by the male monks and there are various forms of the Sattriya Nritya like the Gayan Bayan and the Mati Akhara and this is indeed a delight to watch. While the Mati Akhara is practices only by the young monks of the Satra, the Gayan Bayan is performed by all the monks of the Satra of the Uttar Kamalabari. This dance performance is generally scheduled for guests at 7.30PM in the evening and just prior to the performance a session of prayer and chanting the name of God is conducted at the Namghar of the Uttar Kamalbari Satra and later wind up you rvisit at the largest river island in the World of Majuli and proceed to Nagaland to begin your trek to the Dzukou Valley. To leave Majuli you will need to board the ferry again at the Kamalabari Ghat and travel to Neemati Ghat at Jorhat. From Jorhat there are two ways of accessing Nagaland one is via Mariani to travel to Mokokchung and later go to Kohima to access the Dzukou Valley.
Another route is to travel to Dimapur via Dergaon, Golaghat and Bokajan and later on travel to Kohima. Nagaland is a protected state and therefore visitors need to have valid permits to enter the state and Indian Nationals need to have ILPs while Foreign Nationals need to report to the nearest Police station at the respective area within 24 hours of arrival. The drive from Mariani to Mokokchung is through a hilly terrain and this is why it takes more time to reach the destination while you can travel in a good highway across the other route. So we would recommend you travel through the highway via Golaghat as this is a much more comfortable ride. You will cross Jorhat to reach Dergaon and from here you take a left diversion to travel to Golaghat and further towards Bokajan across the pristine forests of the Nambor Wildlife Sanctuary and soon you reach the border of Assam and Nagaland where your documents are verified and you are allowed to enter the state of Nagaland. You reach Dimapur and from here you will travel to Kohima city – the capital of Nagaland. Halt the night at Kohima and take time the next day to relax and explore the area around Kohima and later plan your trek to the Dzukou valley.