We hadn’t hired transport to go to Tezpur. So the next day, we asked one of the helpers of the camp to help us take a bus that stops at Tezpur. We reached the highway at 9:00 am. But there wasn’t a single bus that stopped for us. After a while, an Assam State Tourism jeep stopped. For 60 INR per head they offered to drop us at the junction between Tezpur, Kaziranga and Guwahati. I was wary, but we had little choice. One of the men started a conversation with us. He worked for the Assam Grameen Bank. He got down a little before our stop, but instructed another co-traveller to help us catch the onward bus from our stop. We reached at the crossroads of the main road and had to wait near a bus stop with wooden benches and tea stalls for shade. The load of the bag and the heat was getting to me. People stared as they were unsure where we had come from. We caught a local bus to Chitralekha Udyan. I got a place to sit and Basil was made to sit near the driver. Enroute we passed through lush green fields and a fascinating view of a river islands. We couldn’t take snaps because of the crowd in the bus. Tezpur is one of the main army centres, understandably because of its proximity to disputed zone, Arunachal Pradesh. On reaching the last stop, we had agents yelling out Bomdilla, Tawang.
Assam Tourism’s Prashanti Lodge was a 15 minute walk from the bust stop. In the sun, with backpacks on our back, it seemed like eternity. Unlike, other places the lodge attendants didn’t ask for identity proof. Our room was large with a verandah and had a TV. We were back to civilisation once again. We enquired about the permits and called drivers to fix the place we’d go next. To our misfortune there were rumours of disturbances in Ziro due to elections. I didn’t want to go to Tawang and we were once again clueless about the next few days. Being a Saturday the permit office closed at 6:00 pm and would remain closed on Sunday and Monday (Holi). By the looks of it we were stuck in Tezpur for three days and nothing really to do. In the evening we scouted for places to eat and Spring Valley (perhaps the only eating complex in the vicinity) was passable. There are many local bakeries and we picked up food for breakfast. In the evening, the lodge manager got a driver to take us to Bhalukpong the next day. It’s a town on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The manager took his tip, gave us brochures and wished us a safe trip.
Day 9: Short Trips and a Snooze
Weekends in most places are booked or shut; it’s therefore preferable to book your trips in advance. We left the lodge at 9:00 pm on Sunday morning. The route to Bhalukpong is quite scenic. We passed through the forests of Nameri (our next stop), desolate fields of green with blossom trees and reached the bustling border town. However, the guard didn’t let us enter Arunachal without a permit. Although the driver offered to leave his license (some ploy he uses regularly), the guard was insistent since it was election time. So we had to leave the license at the border and go to the permit office. Although it was a Sunday, the office was open due to election duty. We went to a neighbouring cyber studio to click our snaps. The boys were fascinated by us. They asked us where we were from. And then replied that there’s a saying in the mountains that cities may have wealth but the mountains are their wealth. We said our byes and went to procure our permits. Back to the border check point and then we left to see Tipi point. En route we saw the lovely Kameng River (known as Gia Bhorelli in Assam). We were stopped once by army personnel to check our permits. We passed through the villages into the winding mountains which lead to Tawang. Some army check posts were manned while some were just empty. After passing Tipi point we returned back to the Orchid Garden. Unfortunately, it was closed as it was Sunday. We wandered around for a while and then headed back to tezpur. En route, our driver insisted we have an Assamese Thali. I was hesitant but gave in eventually. We had a veg thali complete with vegetables, dal and rice. It was wholesome and appetising. After a quick snooze in the lodge we headed for a stroll in the evening. Unlike the rest of the country, the sun sets by 6:00 pm in the evening and rises by 5:00 pm IST. So your watch might seem a little wrong here. The town is dead by 5:00 pm. Chitralekha Udyan or Cole’s Park is frequented by families in the evening. The heat gets to you but the expanse of the park is definitely captivating. After our stroll in the park, we called it a day.
The next day being Holi, most tourist places of interest and shops were shut. We had to make do with snack for lunch and spent a long boring day watching TV and hoping Nameri would be a better experience.