I have clubbed the last two days into one single post simply because they have been spent commuting between two very different regions — Arunachal & Assam — without any stops except for tea, food and a night-halt at Bomdilla: 8 hours traveling on the first day and almost 12 on the next! Backtracking to Tezpur, on the Brahmaputra, and then heading East towards Jorhat and Majuli.
The first day is rather uneventful, besides the crossing of Sela Pass — under sporadic hail (again, but we are getting used to it !) — and except for the fact that I manage to make a fool of myself by falling full length into a ditch of muddy water… tripping at a standstill while parking the bike!
Another “interesting” moment comes when our enterprising new friend, Kunu, has organised a “tea reception” for us in Dirang, during which Kalki and me, seated side by side in deep armchairs in a hall, are expected to provide “darshan” to half of the village’s population!
As for the second day, I would rather let Kalki provide her own account of events… and avoid soiling this diary with words that I would regret later!
And thus narrates Kalki:
“It was 5 am, everybody was exhausted, nobody was talking. I buried myself in my jacket and slept in the car, apparently we had a 8 hour ride ahead, at least. It had barely been fifteen minutes of quiet sleep when I hear a vague sound of a irritable loud voice, rambling on, I wake up and catch my dad in the middle of a rant. Something about being ‘sidelined’ and ‘lied to’.
I go back to sleep. Later when we stop I get the low down from Alethea who’s travelling with us. Apparently my dad was furious and shouting at everyone one by one that he wasn’t allowed to ride the bike down the scenic mountain road to the border of Arunachal because of some production issue and they lied to him saying the bikes would be loaded in tempos when in fact other riders were riding them. The whole crew was nervous, they expected Diva behaviour from the Bollywood actress, not from the dad! Well that was that.
After the incident we were asked every few hours if we were ok and we needed anything. You can’t take the man who hitchhiked from France to India, started a hang gliding school, biked across continents and flew over mountains his whole life and then put him in a car driven by someone else for 8 hours. He’s a free bird. And so by afternoon we were back on our bikes. As free as the potholes, rain, traffic and animals crossing would allow us to be.”
So, once our freedom was restored, we were punished by one of the worse roads, between the Kaziranga National Park and Jorhat, littered with potholes and packed with heavy traffic. Interestingly, while crossing the Park, we could spot a few rhinoceros grazing under the rain, seemingly unaffected by traffic and rhino watchers parked on the road side.
By contrast, the ferry journey on the Brahmaputra up to Majuli island comes to us like a slice of paradise. After having loaded the bikes, we quietly relax on the deck facing this immense expanse of water in the drizzly, gloomy late afternoon when suddenly Kalki asks “when is the ferry going to leave?” And I reply “we are on our way since more than 5 minutes, my darling!” Poor thing was so used to associate potholes vibration with forward movement that she had not realised we were already a few hundred metres away from the Nimati Ghat, gliding on silky smooth waters!
Fourty five minutes later the ferry reaches the island and dock, and by then rain is pouring like cats & dogs. The one kilometre of katcha road linking the dock to the tarred road is a quagmire of deep slush and muddy clay which — we found out later — seems to be the trade mark of the island during monsoon. I confess having been a little worried, wondering how Kalki is going to handle the stuff, but then, she fared well, passing one more test on her ascending way towards Tough Biker knighthood!
Finally at about 7 pm we reach our rustic guest house where we check in under torrential rain.
We pray that the weather will improve during the night, for tomorrow we intend to discover a few of the many secrets of the island, where we will be spending the whole day.
(to be continued…)
And of course, do not forget to watch our adventures on TV, coming up on Fox Life Channel, in August: “The Great Escape with Kalki”