Tuesday, November 11, 2014

North East diaries - Geared up to ride to Shillong on Day 3

Day 1 | Day 2(morning) | Day 2(the rest) | Day 3...

Nov 5th 2014, Kaziranga, Shillong

I had traveled to Kaziranga like a king, alone by taxi. It had cost me a whopping 3700Rs. Not the amount of money that I had planned on spending, when I was traveling alone with a rucksack and a backpack. I had planned on heading to Shillong, since I did not have enough time to get to Arunachal. A taxi from Kaziranga to Shillong would have cost me about 7000Rs.

I had to make amends, and thus decided that I would try and take a cheaper form of transport to Shillong.

Now, on the way back towards Guwahati, the road forks at a place called Jorabat. One to head straight into the city (which is a few kilometers away) and the left turn takes you to Shillong.

Here is a hand-drawn map by yours truly to help depict, the general geography.

On the previous day, that is the day of the jeep safari, I had gone to a souvenir store near the park gates, that sold bus tickets and reserved a seat for myself on the earliest bus that went towards Shillong.
They got me a reservation from a place called Jorahat, which is where the bus started from. I was to get onto the bus at Kaziranga at 7:30am sharp.

This bus would take me to Jorabat, from where I was told I could get a shared taxi to Shillong.

Having learned not to underestimate the punctuality in Assam, I was at the bus stand at 7:15am. The drop off to the busstand from the resort cost be 200rs. which was expensive when compared to the bus ticket that had cost me 350Rs only!

The bus arrived at 7:25am and we were already on our way by 7:30. It was a superb ride. The weather was cool and pleasant, and the bus was quick. It got me to Jorabat as promised at 11am.

A short walk from where the bus dropped me, took me to the junction which lead to Shillong and there were a lot of Tata Sumo's waiting here. I got into one of them. They charged me 150Rs to take me to Shillong! Super cheap!

Then I realised, why it was this cheap. These folks regularly shuttle between Shillong and Guwahati, loading the vehicle to the brim. My taxi had 10 of us including the driver and to top it a couple of kids! The luggage went on top.

I got an interesting place to sit. I was straddling the gear box, with the gear right in between my legs!

This 92 odd kilometre journey is a climb into Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya and the trip took us about 3.5 hours. Trust me, the 2nd gear is the one I feared the most. The driver would reach out and with a crunch shift to 2nd. Eventually, I took up the pose that the footballers take, when they are defending against the free kick. I think I should have offered to change gears, rather than risk him doing the shifting. Maybe next time if I ever put myself in such a precarious position, I may do just that.
Not the most comfortable position to be in, but the journey was not too bad. We stopped once since the engine had overheated, due to the climb and once for lunch.

While a part of the road is well maintained, there is currently work underway to construct a 4 lane expressway between Shillong and Jorabat. So there are parts of the journey that are super bumpy and dusty.
There is a truck right in front of us that you cannot see, thanks to the dust
The large Umiam lake, as one gets closer to Shillong.

Once we got into Shillong (it had cost me just 500Rs.), I realised that Shillong is not the quaint little hill station I had imagined it to be. It was jam packed with traffic, from entering the city, to the Civil hospital, where I was supposed to get dropped off, took us about 30minutes.

I had spoken to one Ms.Sharlene who owned a place called the Aerodene cottage in Shillong about getting a place to stay, so I had to head there. Initially I had planned to take a local taxi to take me to the cottage. But having looked at the traffic, I decided to walk it. It was about 1.5 kms from where I had been dropped off, and the walk to the cottage, with the help of google maps and directions given over sms by Sharlene, helped me find the place easily and quicker than if I had taken a cab.

When I turned the narrow lane, that took me to the cottage I was refreshed again!

The place was beautiful, full of flowers and away from the hustle bustle of the main road, despite being close to the main road.

Aerodene cottage
The rooms

The walk had also helped, after a cramped ride to Shillong. I checked-in, had a quick shower and headed out to check out some place to have some coffee.

Having looked at  the traffic, I had decided to see shillong by walk. I love walking and I think the best place to explore any city is by walking.
I headed to Cafe Shillong, a nice coffee place on Laitumkhrah main road. This place was about 1.5 kms from the cottage. I snacked on chicken hot dog and washed it down with cups of Hot Chocolate.

Laitumkhrah road, had a lot of eating joints and also is home to "Caramel", apparently a very good pastry shop. I made a mental note to come back and get some pastries from here as had been recommended by a friend from Shillong. But I never got around to doing that. Maybe next time.

Shillong was cold and lovely to walk in. I got back in time for dinner at the cottage. Good food.

While I had no exact plans about what to do in Shillong, I knew I wanted to see the root bridges, which required a trek from a village near Cherrapunji. So that is what I planned for day 4.

To the root bridges!

No comments: