I titled this post “Kela” and for good reason. If you’ve traveled across the North East (NE), this is the most common cuss word. I shall leave the translation to your imagination!
I usually plan my trips, well reasonably at least. However on this one, I followed my intuition instead. I’m glad I did! I learnt the best lessons of my life, 1) Believe in yourself! We are infinitely mightier than our negative thoughts and the people who feed it 2) Hope! Everything happens for a reason and some of it might not make sense then, but you’ve just got to have faith & hope for better days ahead 3) Empathy! True empathy & Compassion is difficult to find.
The basic itinerary was to watch Steve Vai (one of the great guitarists I look up to) & take baby steps towards exploring the NE. I met my friend/brother Avi and his common friends Ronnie & Sanju at “Phat Town” a quirky café in Guwahati.
A place for quick eats and conversations varying from music, fish, traffic and ‘whether smoking is better than sex or both together?’ (as overheard by two middle aged men & a woman joking around)
Ready! Set! Go time to Shillong (100km) We left at about 4pm in the evening and it was already getting dark. I’m like, WTF dude? This is something to watch out for in the NE. Dusk comes on quickly and it’s advisable to get an early head start when you have the sun on your side.
Avi on his White RE with most of the luggage strapped to it. Ronnie on his Pulsar, Sanju with me on a rented maroon RE.
For the night, we were welcomed to stay over at Avi’s friend/biker buddy’s place. Chetan is a pro biker and has practically ridden all over this country, with over 12 years of experience and an envious modified RE Himalayan. We chilled out! Drank, Ate and laughed.
I understood the value in simple things such as, eating together as a family with good friends, being content with what you have and happy to share it with other’s too. Gratitude! I was totally humbled.
In the middle of the night! Four epic riders/DRINKERS from Manipur decided to accompany us in our shenanigans. They were common friends of Avi, who were also heading for NH7. More the merrier I thought but it turned to “MADNESS”, the word was madness!!
Yaiphaba is an amazing rider with a beast of a machine. A superb RE 500, modified to suit his off road adventures. He lives life one day at a time, enjoys each moment to the fullest, with everyone around and especially with Samananda.
Samananda is mute but THE craziest person of them all. He drinks like a fish but strong as an ox. Never shy to show off his inner child. He taught me how to leave your troubles and afflictions in the past and not to let them affect your present. There was an infectious positive energy about him and he somehow made me smile, ALWAYS!
Il always remember “Wilson” (Hi & Bye Guy) who said ‘Hi’ to me at the beginning of the trip and ‘Bye’ when he left . Those were the ‘ONLY’ words we spoke to each other throughout our trip! It was only until much later, I learnt that he spoke only Manipuri. Sorry Wilson!
Saggy was a peaceful, calm headed, pan-masala loving rider. He had a cheerful energy about him, looking out for the good in every situation.
Day 1 of the NH7 Weekender Festival: We left Shillong to Jaintia Hills (90km) for the NH7 Weekender Festival.
Sorted our tents & partied the night away! I met a few more common friends of Avi from his hometown in Jorhat, Assam.
Day 2 of the NH7 Weekender Festival: I woke up drenched! What’s happening? The sun frying me like a samosa! It was then that it occurred to me, that there was no shade for my tent. Cursed my stars! only, NOT be able to move, my head was throbbing. I needed water desperately, Oh! the pain, the sickness we all forget about. The aftermath! The mother of all HANGOVERS! Luckily, remedy was at hand.
We were back on track, after a few beers. Time for my most waited moment! “Steve Vai” baby! I’ve always wanted to see him perform ever since I witnessed “Joe Satriani” in Bangalore, a dream come true! My most favorite track of his, ‘Bad Horsie’ was the first track on his set-list too. Bring it on!
The venue was amazing! The stages were set in the valleys acting as a natural amphitheater. Huge turnout as well (easily >35,000). The NE’s love for music is unparalleled and their thirst is much greater than what Bangalore craves for.
Post the NH7 madness. It was time to cool off and off we were, to literally cool off! One of the best rides of my life! Jaintia Hill’s to Cherrapunjee (120km)
Picturesque views at every turn. Life Altering!
It was around 3PM in the afternoon and we were engulfed in mist. The visibility on the road was barely 20mts.
We had to ride a few kms to “Traveller’s Cottage” as “Sai Mika’s” were fully loaded. It was around 5-6 pm, pitch dark with zero visibility when I actually felt “FEAR” hit me. Shitting your pants kind of fear! The roads were narrow, just enough width for a truck to pass. One mistake and you could be rolling down the mountains into Bangladesh. The retro fitted halogens of the RE’s belonging to Chetan, Yaiphaba & Avi saved the day, lighting the way for the others. Intense!
Now to head to the homeboys hometown in Jorhat, Assam. It’s quite a distance from Cherrapunjee (420km). So we decided to pit stop at Guwahati (150km) for the night and cover the rest, the following day.
Guwahati to Jorhat (300km) was an endurance ride. Nothing major to see until you have to pass right through Kaziranga to get to Avi’s place. I’ll get back to Kaziranga in a bit. We reached his home, ass burnt, hands & feet numb with the RE’s vibration. A re-union ensued for the next two nights with the guys I met at weekender and some more common friends added into the mix.
Oh! & NE is a pork lover’s paradise! Best Pork thali of my life! Food-gasm! Pork Fry! Pork Chilly! Duck Gravy. 3 types of chutney (salted fish & onions, spicy coconut & spicy tomato) something my clan, the Tam-Villains, can learn a thing or two about. If your ever in Jorhat & a pork lover please to be goings to “Chengmora”.
During the fun times, after ‘He-Man’ went all ‘Savage’, I miraculously managed to injure my hand, NOT while riding or punching a wall as much as my family thinks so! Let’s leave it at that! Moving on…
This was the precise moment when I realized the value of friends in your hour of need. The roads were pathetic, as they were renovating it. Maddening traffic until you reach Kaziranga from where the roads got better. I couldn’t ride the bike and was trying hard to fake it. Sensing this the boys arranged everything for me to ensure i reach Kaziranga which was a must on my “to do” list. Avi & me in Sumon’s i20 and Sanju, the godsend who rode the bike to Kaziranga alone. You guys will hold a special place in my heart for everything you’ll did. Thank you!
The National Park is huge, 400 sq km with numerous resorts, home stays on either side of the highway that cuts through it. We stayed at “Aranya” @Kohora and booked the Elephant Safari at “Bagori” which is about 4km from Kohora and heard is the best. This was THE highlight of my trip!
I really did feel bad for the elephants though, majestic creatures being used as rickshaw’s for human-wildlife interaction. I’m sorry PETA!
Nothing comes close to the experience of roaming the wet marshlands, thick forests and rivers of Kaziranga, perched on an elephant. Giving you a heightened view of the highest concentration of the great single horned rhinos in the world. One more off my bucket list!
Now to get back to Guwahati (180km) for my flight back home. This was by far, the most eye opening ride ever. Beautiful roads, parked cars with couples making out, tender coconuts to quench their thirst and bamboo artifacts to act as souvenirs for their moments spent in the bushes.
That ends my first NE trip. I left Bangalore with nothing but a backpack and a broken heart but came back with memories to last a lifetime. I was hopeless and in search of myself, however I regained perspective of what really matters in life.
Thank you all for making my trip an awesome one!
Special thanks to my brother Avi, without whom none of this would have been possible!
Photo Credits: All “Kelas”