I am sharing my experience for future traveler's as I could not find a place where to share this journey experience
It’s been a long pending destination after J&K, Leh Ladhak, NE is a state to ponder with beauty & Nature. Well it’s very difficult to cover all the 7 states in one go, made a hectic visit to the must visit States. Covered in 12N/13D with lot of road travel enjoying beauty at its best. People say best visit time is from Oct to Dec, but to enjoy the white peaks and snow desert I think mid-April to mid-May would be the most ideal to enjoy all the seasons Sun Rain & Snow. Started our journey from Assam Guwahati to Kaziranga becoz from 1st May the elephant ride closes and Jeep ride restriction as rain sets in from mid-April. One should plan keeping in view the closure dates of the park. One should not miss the Elephant ride as opportunity to be in close vicinity of the 1 Horn Extinct Rhinos.
Ideal plan should have been Guwahati – Shillong (100kms) – Kaziranga(200kms) to cut down on tiredness.
Anyway we started late at fag end of April so made the Park first proceeded further and catch up rains in Meghalaya last
Well before proceeding from Guwahati it was must to visit “Maa Kamakhya” Temple 20kms from airport. Ideally if you can land before 10am chances are you can finish by 12 noon and proceed. (Pre – reservation of special darshan ticket is a must. Find out a Panda of your community and get the tickets in morning itself as limited are sold for 1 hour. Otherwise again window opens after 3pm when morning people have completed Darshan. In such case plan a stopover in Guwahati for that day if one can spare extra day). It takes 1 hour in Q with special tickets (Rs501/-) if pre-booked.
Kaziranga (2N): Drive to Kaziranga was smooth as 70% was 4 lane with rest of the road single road Tezpur onwards. Took roughly about 7 hrs. The beauty of Kaziranga earlier Rhino Sanctuary has become Tiger reserve. The elephant rides are in early morning 5am and 6am slot. Tour operator should book before start of journey. Car driver’s co-ordinate with local agent and arrange the drop to the ride point. Only camera charges need to be paid there as per your type. Jeep safari can be done in afternoon from other location. The agent may try to finish it off the same time after elephant ride but should avoid as different location chances improve. Rhinos are in abundance and it was a sheer pleasure to click from close range. Only balancing your camera is a tricky subject. 55mm-200mm zoom will be enough. Binoculars helps to view the herds of them at a distance. Best part of this park is being located on both sides of mighty river Brahmaputra, water bodies are huge and plenty which bring these big beauties outside. Along with them Tuskers are also of delight. Big cat will be too much expectation – luck. We did our Jeep safari in the evening (included in package). Jeeps normally come to pick you up from your hotel or your car driver will help you to locate your allotted Jeep (can’t believe their strong network). No cheating / no bargain / no out of turn business. Well here one can see what was enjoyed in the morning but from a distance. We came across a Big Cat through our Binoculars / Tele zoom cameras the max one can have is better. Next day morning has the orchid museum visit a must with some culture dance of Bihu / Assamese.
Many Luxury / Budget resorts are available, we stayed at Infinity Resort a nice place to stay with their own walking trail / swimming pool / Recreation centre and MAP basis.
Nameri (1N): Near to Kaziranga at a distance of 70 kms, one has to cross the mighty Brahmaputra river and is an eco-tourist destination. Here the Jungles have to be tracked by foot (of course with forest dept permission & local guide (separate fees – Govt / Guide to shelled out). Other best option is early morning rafting on slow moving Nameri River which covers 18 kms and most enchanting glances of migratory birds / serenity at its best. This also needs Permission (fees Rs 150/pp) plus Raft charges (Rs 3000/- after bargain off season rates) directly paid to Hotel. I think one must enjoy this rafting as its basically drafting at a slow speed with many medium ripples (not Rishikesh types). Rest assure one will not get wet. Zoom / Tele Camera is advisable to capture flying birds (needs practice). Tip the boatman who are really learnt the art to spot and identify the birds.. One can bring a packed B/f but avoid littering in river. Army also has control on this side so need to be careful.
Not many resort options are available this side, Nature Eco Camp seems to be the best. Jia Bhoreilli Wild Resort is totally no no as we had a very bad experience & is in very depilated condition and deserted.
After Rafting have you B/f and by 9:00 leave for your onward destination to Arunachal Pradesh the most exciting and must visit once.
Bomdilla (1N): The long road journeys start climbing to +9000 feet. As usual thanks to BRO the roads are quite smooth and their continuous efforts has made these tourist places accessible much easily and comfortably. As you cross the Border at Bhalukpong the nature starts emerging at its best with curvious roads and flowing river beside as in most of the Himalayan range. River name keep changing based on district you cross. Liquors are cheaper by 50% as you enter the border and one can stock for the entire trip. As a rule, last day of month is dry day. The journey is 7-8 hours long and due to some road work we had to cross Tenga (Major Military Base) by 12 noon or get struck till 5pm. At border ILP is checked judiciously. Most of the hill area / valleys near the river are occupied by our Army. The overview of these camps are so much to be admired the system they follow / the discipline they maintain. The different battalion/camp “names” give us their spirit to safe guard for nation. I love the BRO drive for safety slogans which are very catchy and relevant. Hardly you find such in cities.
As we approached Bomdilla a hill town if took us off guard with chilly wind and lower temperatures. We were not prepared for such climate change in the month of May. Don’t panic, Bomdilla is trading place and has many shop which sell winter wears at much cheaper rate than any city. China is very close by. Our Hotel was Tsepal Yangjom, Main Bazar line and had a shop called “Choice’’ which sells winter wear / jackets / jeans / shoes and most modern wear. Bargain is must.
Nothing much to do in the evening but our Hotel had extended terrace from our floor to enjoy the scenic beauty / clouds hovering as low to feel the mist with a glass of Scotch.
Visit the lower Monastery in the morning as upper monastery was not accessible due to land slide. As April / May are rainy season such is expected. We proceeded to our next destination.
Tawang (3N): Proceed for a long / rough/ tiring journey to +13700 feet passing many army posts / camps / famous pass. During this climb must stop at Baishali Garrison where Army provides access to their military canteen for snacks, stores and merchandise. One can buy winter wears / jackets / electric blankets etc at subsidised rates. These are really helpful as quality is too good. Most products have Indian Army Logo. Tea/Coffee is provided free. SBI highest ATM is available here(with no cash). Try Momos / noodles here. One canteen provides south Indian dishes like Idli / vada / dal vada / Dosa. One will cross Jaswanth Garh, hero of 1962 war (mostly people stop while coming down as Drivers want to reach the destination as early as possible). As you climb the whiter shades of the mountains catch your eyes and slowly reach Sela Pass fully covered with Snow and snowfall started. The Sela Lake is marvel to click. Weather plays tricky here, clouds(Fog)is a pain. I clicked the lake which was blue and in 5 sec fog covered the lake and made invisible. Enjoy here for some time as one feels so fresh and relaxed. Too long can be an issue of acclimatization. Keep drinking water as much as u can. Sela pass is at 13700ft above sea level and u feel at the top of the world. This pass is much flatter and area to move around as compared to Khardung la. Here also Army provides refreshment canteen / convenience facilities. Hats off to Indian Army. These things are missing in J&K side & they are least bothered for civilians. Here hardly you see these uniformed people with arms. After crossing Sela pass one climbs down through rough roads and approach Tawang. Self-driving will be really challenging. By the time one reaches its evening to relax in your Hotel. Ours was at little outskirts so nothing much to do. But the place is one of the best, Try Yangzom Hotel.
Next morning drive around the Tawang city visit the Largest Monastery in Asia and second largest of world, study the life of Llamas picturesque view from the top. Ropeway to the smaller monastery seems to be closed since ages, however can be accessed by climbing steps. Has a museum which depict the history of this place. Visit huge Gorsam Stupa over guarding the city. Evening free to visit the market.
Next morning be ready to strain your back to Bumla Pass, Indo China Border LOC. To reach here we need to pre book separate local jeep and permission. Driver can arrange the same on previous day. We need to give him each person’s ID proof. The jeep cost is Rs 5000/- + Permission cost RS 150 pp. Since these are Sumo’s & Boleros the ride is rough with road condition barely motor able due to chain mounted army trucks use these roads also. Due to heavy snow the road is slushy & risky but they are expert drivers. Early you start is better as need to cross the Y junction two-time by 12pm as by 4pm most of the vehicles need to be out of Army check post. 7am the drivers get the permit and by 8am one should be out for the check post. As many such Jeep comes to the hotel some times its confusion for which party. Check the names on permit first & then get in. Ours got mixed up and got delayed. Jeeps are allowed at 8am from check post after checking the doc, takes 2 hrs to reach the pass enjoying breath-taking views of mountains lakes (Tso Lake on the way) and snow peaks and plains, 1 hr spend time at Bumla Pass as they allow people to go near the LOC in Batches. Hats off to Indian Army for providing excellent facility at the top in freezing cold and heavy snowfall. A big waiting hall is provided with sitting facility. Hot Tea and Hot water is served free. Toilet facility is available if one can wade thru the snowfall. Snow protection warm cloths is a must for Head / Body and feet otherwise very difficult to cross 500m walk in snow to the LOC. Black goggles is must to save you from white glare as the area is flatter and the snow is in abundance. Merchandise / souvenir is also sold her in case one wants an extra pair. The commander will explain to the Batch about the History / Do & Don’ts and will accompany you to the LOC. Visited so many famous Pass, but here we feel respect and proud of our Army as they mingled with civilians. As it was snowing the China Post was not visible but it’s at a distance of 800m from LOC the other side. Our Juwan’s are doing wonderful job in such tough weather and are on their toes. Within 10m we all froze to move and had to return back. Have hot water / Tea after you come back due to lack of Oxygen. After visit trace your vehicle (army people also help to trace if you remember your vehicle number, check the permit its mentioned in it which you need to carry along with you). Return to Y point and take a right turn to visit Madhuri Lake (Koyla Picture if you can recollect). Its again takes 2 hrs to drive down as it’s in the valley created by earthquake as pasturing land became a massive lake. By that time, we felt extremely hungry (suggest carry some packed food don’t litter the packets it’s an offense) its again the Army canteen which saved us with hospitality Hot Maggie/ Chola Bhatura / Momos / Tea Coffee at a very reasonable rate. As we come down the lake looks fantastic, click pic from a waterfall flowing down to the lake before reaching the spot. Here also the fog may play a spoil sports as it happened to us. It started raining and weather chilled. We saw some speed boats, but all grounded. Must be in Oct month they allow such rides. By 4-4:30 pm we came out of the check post and went to Hotel. Last spot to visit is Joginder Singh Memorial which has Light & Sound show which starts at 6:45pm in batches (10min show). Gallantry Memorial has all the names inscribed of 200+ soldiers on the wall with Battalion name who laid their life in 1962. Must visit as Army personnel will accompany as guide for small batches and explain the whole situation which happened during 1962 Indo China war (re-collect history). With such memories and exploring the nature one returns to the Hotel. Tawang is one of the best Himalayan places which one should visit preferable in Apr-May to enjoy the snow and its beauty. You will enjoy more than Kashmir as here it’s not commercialized and in control of Army. Oct Dec leave it for Southern hill as here it will be barren with green patch.
Dirang (1N): We now proceed downwards again towards Bomdilla, and halted at Dirang. On the way visit Nuranang Falls (named after the Girl who helped Joginder) also known as Jung Fall. Beautiful huge fall (Picturized in Koyla), one can go near the fall point down by steps and enjoy photography. The force of water is too high to take a shower. Camera lens to be taken care. Again we start climbing to Sela Pass spend some time here if we missed while coming and reach Dirang, place of orchards of Kiwi & Apple. Its located on the banks of Dirang river. Our hotel Norphel Retreat is right on the bank opposite to the road we travel. Best place to stay I feel with beautiful view from Balcony. Before coming to the Hotel visit the Dirang Monastery (New) which is made so meticulously and sitting on a hill. The gardens inside are awesome. As its already evening by the time we reach enjoy in Hotel sipping Hot Coffee or Scotch.
The last destination in Arunachal which was covered before returning to Guwahati.
Some Info: During road journey one has to compromise on the food / place as shacks in small villages available so be ready for it. However, they cook fresh, eastern side people can enjoy the taste, North / south side people can enjoy the new taste. Carry Water bottle crates from retailer in city as here they price it more. Warm cloths can be bought here cheap, carry extra empty bag to carry it back. Food cost(pricy) in Hotels are as in Big cities. Tel Zoom is a must if you are an arid photographer
Guwahati (1N): We proceeded from Dirang next morning through Bomdilla and a different return route only used by Army via Dharang / Rowta (Bangladesh border) and entered Assam. This road was open to public for some reason. The journey through this route has very beautiful scenic beauty / Military base / Firing ranges / Deep valleys. We rerouted our destination from Tejpur to Guwahati a better place to halt. For shopping its paradise for Silk. Mekla Silk is very famous, the costliest and the strongest silk of India. Mekla Chadder (traditional wear of Assamese) Assam Silk is very famous. Authentic shops need to be identified, avoid Govt Shops as they have old stock and patterns. Umananda Temple can we visited next morning (Lord Shiv Parvati mythology). This temple is located at a smallest island (in the world) called Peacock Island in mighty Brahmaputra river, need to travel by ferry (Govt & Pvt). Try Govt one, cheap & best. The story behind this can be known once you visit or Google. So 2 famous temples one must visit with a ride in Brahmaputra. Tour without ladies shopping is incomplete.
Shillong (3N): Hill station of NE, its 100 kms from Guwahati and take 2 hours but was really surprised to see the traffic jam which ate almost 1 hr to reach our hotel. Scotland of east has totally lost its charm with 3 out 5 vehicles moving are local taxis and creating Mumbai / Bangalore scene. The 4th vehicle is a tourist vehicle entering Shillong. Before entering the city one can enjoy the beautiful Umiam Lake from the top. Boating facility available if you can spare in day time. Our Hotel was located right in the middle of city main market hence more jams. The Habitat (Asian Confluence) is a Boutique hotel located in a by lane with little space for vehicle to move. Next day we proceeded to Cherrapunjee, and we were aghast at the nature and the clouds could be so lower. It’s true the name Meghalaya is becoz of the “Megh” (Clouds in eastern part). The climate plays hide and seek some time sunny and suddenly fogging covered with clouds. You start with Shillong Top Viewpoint inside Air force base, which again requires to surrender 1 of the tourist ID at the gate. Nice place on a sunny day to have a glance of Shillong from top. Place has been commercialized with shops for merchandize & eatables.
Beautiful water falls are on the way starting with Elephant fall / Dainthien fall / Kynrem Fall /Nohkalikai fall / Seven Sister fall / Langshiang Fall. Ask the driver to cover the falls at the earliest before the clouds sets in. Other attractions are Fossil Caves Mawsmai Caves which is still tricky as water ingress from top / lot of crawling inside. Arwah caves has a beautiful pathway to reach (around 800m) walk along the side of the mountain but maintained very well. On clear sky day it has a breath-taking view outside. Here the caves have height so no crawling business. Guide available to explain the history of this place.
Recommended to spend 1 night here instead of all in Shillong. Early morning & evenings can be enjoyed with clouds. Photographers paradise.
Next destination was to discover the natural living bridge called Root Bridge in Mawlynnong known for cleanest village (now not as been commercialized by locals). The drive from Shillong is 2/3 hrs to reach this place. The morning was cloudy and expected heavy rains which happened en route. But one cannot miss it what may come. Thanks to local, umbrellas are available for hire to walk down to the root bridge which is connected over the river. Rubber tree figs are common here and bridges are manmade to overcome devastating rains playing havoc to other type of log/wood bridges. Cherrapunjee has a double & triple root bridge but need 1 extra day as one has to climb down 3000+ odd steps down, imagine coming up it takes whole day. From here we move to the cleanest water ever seen in India place called Dawki at Bangladesh border. Unfortunately rain played havoc and muddy slime flowed into the river which stopped boating etc. On the way to this place enjoyed few gigantic waterfalls which flows down to the river Umngot. Suspension bridge is a marvel to cross & access this place. Shnongpdeng is a place 20km up from Dawki where one can enjoy swimming / snorkelling / kayaking etc. Outside drivers refuse to take as the road is jam packed with truck laden with stone going to neighbouring country. Missed it, must come in local Taxi specifically to this place.
One can catch International roaming signals if your mobile is activated.
With such wonderful memories this tour was a memorable one and must visit in your lifetime. Budget / Luxury packages are available through many tour operators. I travelled with Indian Holiday Pvt Limited in Luxury Package. Innova or Bigger SUV is preferred for comfort (no back seat occupancy for adults will be too much strain)
Wait for my next exiting trip….
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