1st March 2016, Tuesday…Day (11) Tezpur-Majuli, 218 km
Situated on the north bank of River Brahmaputra, Tezpur is one of the fastest growing cities of Assam. Being from the core assamese cultural region, it is also called the “Cultural Capital of Assam”. It has beautiful parks, hillocks, sceneries and tea gardens surrounding the town. It also houses a major base of the army and Airforce.
I had first heard about Tezpur from a classmate who had joined army and was posted at Tezpur many many years ago. Never thought that one day not only would I drive solo to the place but also sleep inside the car.
I could not sleep well for the initial part of the night. A marriage party was staying inside the dharmshala ( Kamrupiya Sanatan Dharma Mandali near ICICI Bank), which kept me awake till late hours. Had fabulous sleep thereafter though.
The first thing that I noticed in the morning was a flat rear tyre, the first puncture of the trip. It was too early for the puncture shop to be opened, so inflated the tyre using electric pump and drove towards Ganesh Ghat.
Ganesh Ghat is famous for the temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the God of new beginning and obstacle removal and also for amazing views of Sunset and Sunrise over the mighty River Brahmaputra.
The roads and surroundings looked very neat and clean, the reason the city is labeled as the cleanest city of Assam.
Parked the car near the temple and walked onto the sandy beach towards the flowing stream. It was almost half a kilometer when I reached the banks of the River. Sun was already up and It felt as if I had missed the Sunrise by about half an hour.
The atmosphere at the ghat was very calm and soothing. There weren’t many people around, some of them were seen performing pooja, walking, meditating and bathing.
From Ganesh Ghat I drove on NH-15 towards Bihpuria. Soon found a puncture shop and got the puncture fixed. Puncture wala asked for Rs.150- but later settled for Rs.100-
The road was smooth, well maintained and beautiful. The surroundings were vast, green and colorful.
While clicking pictures, I saw a poor boy leading a blind man walking on the side of the road. It made me feel sad, how tough it is for the people suffering from health issues, inadequacy and utter poverty.
The road and surroundings continued to be beautiful though, like most of us, it was unaware of the misery all around.
There were large tea estates all along the route. The diligently working tea workers or the tea tribes looked beautiful in their colorful attires while immersed in the large green tea gardens.
Whenever I stopped the car and clicked the pictures, they would respond with cheerful smiles and waving of hands.
From their gestures, at times it felt as if they wanted to flee from their situation and be on the road.
Whenever a stream arrived, I could see large number of people fishing in the shallow waters with vast open ground and a large number of cows grazing in it.
And the colorful scenes continued to amaze all along the route.
Soon reached a nice looking place called Narayanpur. Parked the car on a side of the road and took a little break. My friend from Gurgaon, Mr Harsh Khullar had advised me to drive through the north bank of River Brahmaputra to Bihpuria and ask for a ghat from where a ferry takes one into Majuli.
Not many people knew about the ghat though. It created doubts in my mind. I called my friend Mr Khullar. He asked me to get in touch with Mr Haren Narah of Majuli. Mr Haren assured me that in fact there was a ghat called Baghora ghat and tried explaining me the directions.
The owner of this restaurant (in the picture) knew about that ghat too. He advised me to ask for Baghora ghat immediately after crossing Bihpuria.
People fishing on small ponds and waterbeds continued to mesmerise though. Soon I reached Bihpuria and reconfirmed the directions to the ghat.
A few kilometers drive from Bihpuria, I arrived at this gate. A road passed through the gate and lead to Bhagora ghat.
The road to Bhagora ghat passed through beautiful, vast countryside. The riot of colors around were just amazing.
The entire drive from Tezpur to Bihpuria was all along the north bank of mighty Brahmaputra. Google was not showing any entry route to Majuli.
As I drove on a narrow country road from Bihpuria to Baghora ghat, I could see large number of cows and other animals grazing in the vast grasslands.
It was around 8-10 kilometers from Bihpuria to Baghora ghat.
It was good to see some vehicles, shops and people around at Baghora ghat. The river in the picture is in fact Subansiri River, the largest tributary of Brahmaputra River. I was told, soon a boat would arrive and would take me and my Lalpari to Majuli.
In the blue waters of Subansiri River I could see a boat arriving from the other bank.
Pretty soon the boat arrived on the shore. Besides a number of passengers, it carried few vehicles on its decks as well. It was a small privately run regular boat from this side of the mainland to Majuli.
The scenes around were pretty good though. The cycle in the picture, seem to be parked on the roof of a shop, is in fact parked on a raised tilla on the shore.
Soon there was a sound of another boat arriving. It was from a different direction and carried more people.
The people seems to be pretty happy and were enjoying.
After some time, the boatman asked me to bring Lalpari on the deck. Two wooden blocks acted as a bridge between the shore and the boat. It was bit dicey driving on those loose blocks, boat wavering in the water, an adrenaline rush, but somehow I managed to drive Lalpari on the deck safely.
A woman shopkeeper who had served me nice tea, waved cheerfully while her man seemed lost in his own thoughts.
The boatman was a very happy go round person. He gleefully guided me in parking Lalpari in the middle of the deck.
Soon the engine of the boat roared and off we go into the river, towards the largest inhabited riverine island in India, Majuli.
The Sun was setting fast and I was aware of the fact that I was solo and going into an unknown territory.
The river was not very wide, so it took just around 15-20 minutes to reach the shore. Paid Rs.300- for Lalpari and landed into Majuli…….what an amazing feeling.
It felt as if I was in fairy land, the vast open vistas, marshy lands, scant population, tribal women carrying wood for fuel on their heads, I was in kind of a different world.
I was alone now, cut off from the mainland. I could see one or two bikes on the island but no car. The road was just an unpaved trek and since I had seen few vehicles carried on the boat, I knew for sure there was a way out from the ghat.
I asked for directions from the women who passed me by. Most of them were confused as I could not tell them name of the proper place I wanted to go.
Luckily phone network was available and I was able to connect with Mr Haren. He sent me a whatsapp message detailing the address I was to reach.
There was a small settlement near the ghat.
I was now able to ask for directions to a proper place. I was told to drive on the bamboo bridge, which looked very feeble. I was not sure whether it could take the weight of Lalpari.
In the picture, you can see the stream which Lalpari and I crossed on a ferry from Bhagora Ghat to Majuli and then arrived at the site of bamboo bridge.
Examined the bridge and then walked over to the other side. Some tribal boys met and confirmed that I could drive Lalpari on the bridge safely.
It felt very so scary. With heart in my mouth, I began driving on the bamboo bridge ever so slowly, fearing it might collapse anytime. Luckily nothing happened and I was able to drive to the other side of the bridge safely.
It was such a relief, but it was not the only challenge I had that evening. Darkness fell pretty soon and I was still far away from any habitation. The road was unpaved potholed dirt trek, cane and bamboo hutments were scattered in between, no electricity and pitch dark.
I kept driving though.
Language was another challenge. It was very hard to find someone on the road in the dark of the night and even if I found someone, it was difficult to communicate. I was not able to properly explain the adress where I was to go, consequently they were unable to guide me properly.
The calls from Haren bhai helped a lot though.
Finally after driving for 15-20 kilometers on the unpaved dirt treks I reached a place which had electricity, homes and few shops. I was told, it was Gramur and Haren bhai’s place was not far away.