To Tezpur and beyond

Continuing my journey deep into North Eastern India. I was in Assam after the 3 day stint in Meghalaya and parted ways with my friend on a wet Wednesday morning in Guwahati on his way to the airport. I hopped out of the taxi and waited for a bus at a huge flyover intersection. My destination for the day was Tezpur.

Tezpur is roughly 175 km from Guwahati and I was in for a long bus ride. After boarding, what looked like a good looking bus to my destination the plan was to reach Tezpur early and catch the last bus to Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh from there. But by the time I reached Tezpur the bus to Bomdila had already left, more on that.

I was lucky enough to grab a window seat and the bus was quite empty in the beginning. Slowly the rains stopped and the scenery outside my window changed. We were moving further North-East to the other side of Assam beyond the Brahmaputra river. I looked out of the window and saw vast tea estates for which Assam is greatly known for. The rain bought a blast of humid air into the city. People kept getting on and off the bus during the ride and I caught up with some much needed sleep on the way. Around 2pm I arrived at Tezpur.

The famous tea estates of Assam captured from a moving bus.

The famous tea estates of Assam captured from a moving bus.

I did not factor in a day’s stay here as I wanted to save more days to spend in Arunachal Pradesh. But missing that last bus dashed my hopes. I had to find a place to bunk for the night and arrange the trip to Tawang. I walked around the bus station to find out what other options were available to me to reach Bomdila. I found out that there were no more buses and public transport plying on that route for the day. The people said, if I wanted to go I should arrange a taxi all by myself. But I did not have that kind of money at that point and it doesn’t even sound like a fun thing to do to say the least.

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There was good 3G signal in the town. So I got in touch with a friend back home to guide me through what I could do while I was there. At the station there was a counter and people were gathered around it to book tickets to other cities and towns. Some were also booking tickets to Tawang and Bomdila for the next day. After negotiating the price, I managed to get a direct ticket booked to Tawang on a shared taxi ride for the next day for something like 500 Rupees. I thought it was a fair deal although I wasn’t sure if it was reliable. Stories of tickets being transferred to another passenger even when you have booked one is quite common in India. The deal sounded skeptical but was my earliest way out of Tezpur. The shared taxi ride would leave Tezpur at 5am the next day.

Once that was done, it was almost evening and with a few more hours to sunset I had to find a place to stay for the night. As I walked around I found the government lodge but as soon as I walked in a gentleman came to me and said they were full for the next couple of days so don’t even bother asking. Not everything was going my way at this point. And it was pretty much the same with most of the lodges and hotels I found. I had to either go for an expensive room or find a star hotel, both of which wouldn’t suit my budget and style of travel.

The buildings and interior streets reminded me of old India with a lot of history. Every street was crowded with people. I circled the city and found a small dingy lodge in an interior street. There was nothing fancy here and they offered single rooms for 500 Rupees and that fit well within my budget. The room had no windows, had a small TV with cable, a small bed and a small bathroom, perfect for the night. I found a small restaurant next to it and settled for an early dinner of simple rotis and dal. After dinner I went back to the room, watched some TV and dozed off to sleep.

Blacksmiths at work in Bhalukpong

One of the many blacksmiths at work in Bhalukpong

At 4am I was up and ready after a nice shower. I packed my bag and left to the bus station. The city was still sleeping and dawn just breaking. When I reached the taxi at the station it was full and had no spaces left. After realising it wasn’t my taxi I carefully negotiated for the window seat in the middle for the next one. It sounded all good but wasn’t so comfortable as there were 11 other passengers crammed along in the same jeep. But there was not much I could complain at that point. It was going to be a fun ride all the way to Tawang.

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We left right on time and stopped at the border town of Bhalukpong situated right at the end of a wildlife reserve. This border is carefully guarded by the army and the police and is shut at night to protect the wildlife. We reached the border and waited for them to open it and hung out in the area for breakfast until then. There were small huts around in the vicinity, where blacksmiths heated their furnaces making weapons and knives. After verifying our entry permits the cops let us through to continue to Arunachal Pradesh.


Hill town of Tenga en route to Tawang

A few hours into the journey, the weather started cooling down as we ascended the Eastern Himalayas. The familiar mountain air blew again. I was quick to strike up a conversation with the others in the taxi. And it turned out most of them worked for the Indian Army near the borders. This was so relieving to hear and I felt safe and secure with them around for the rest of the journey.

Read about my experience at Tawang.

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