Sunday 16 October 2016

Day 9 - Tenga to Dimapur

How interesting it is, to wake up and notice a river flowing at its highest with all whooshing sound effects, right next to the hotel building. The night I could hear the sound of flowing water and it was really an interesting feeling. There are very few such opportunities I have gotten so far, where in I could spend a night next to a river. After midnight, when all other noises fade away, all one can hear is the sound of the flowing water. The feeling is kinda a mixed one. I feel peaceful to be present in the lap of nature and completely a part of it, everything seems to be in harmony. But then having grown up in a concrete jungle, still not used to being totally out in the wild, the thoughts like "What if the water level rises in the river when I am asleep?", "What if there is a flood... ", comes to mind. Glad the worries take very little space/time in my mind and I do my homework of enquiring and understanding the surroundings to a reasonable level and then drop all worries and just chill. That's the best way that I could think of living actually. So anyway, as you can see, the hotel boy (a talkative lad named Raju) has indeed done what I had told him to, last night, i.e. he gave my bike a good scrub, and it looking clean and ready:) 

Parking spot for the night in Tenga, the river from which this town gets its name.

While leaving Tawang, one thing I noticed was that my bike's front brake had started squeaking, every time I pressed the lever. That my friend wasn't a good sign! There were hardly any workshops/garages around, let alone one for the bullet. Front disc pads I never really carried as spare till now as they usually last 10-15 days riding. This time something was different, because of which my disc pads (although it was used well before the trip), got completely worn out at 1500 Km. Well, couldn't see the black magic, until I reached Bhalukpong. So basically I rode (slowly, carefully, and responsibly) for two days covering a distance of roughly 300 km, with a set of worn-out front disc pads. I was actually praying for the disc brake not to give up completely, as that would be disastrous. Touch wood I made it safely to the place called Bhalukpong, which is basically the entrance to (and for my exit from) Tawang. It's a small town where you can find all amenities; like food, workshops, ATMs, you name it. I looked around for a shop that has a pair of disc pads to fit my bike and as luck would have it, I found a set. The guy at the shop also runs a garage.  So he did the fitting. From him, I got to know about the magic sauce behind the worn-out-disc-pad recipe :P It was the mud. I had ridden through bucket loads of mud while riding to Sikkim and back, and then some more on the way to Tawang. So basically the mud sticks to the disc and pads (I suppose) and keeps scrubbing the pads all the time, even when the brakes are not engaged. The drum brake doesn't have this issue. It may squeak if moisture sneaks into the drum assembly, but I don't think they would wear out like the disc. At least in my case, they were A-Ok. So with a new set of disc pads installed and we being on the planes again, I was a happy camper :)

Such a relief to know the disc was still in good/useable condition.

With the bike's needs taken care of, it was my turn:) I popped right into the first hotel that caught my eye. Bang opposite the garage and ordered Veg Momos (dumplings). The bike and garage are visible in the background here.

The sight of planes across the hills. 

Some houses and a warehouse (I guess) on the way back from Bhalukpong

The approach towards the flatlands was getting obvious with every passing turn in the mountains

The irony of my day... Now am in planes and looking at the mountains and reminiscing how it was to wake up there just this morning:) This amazing feeling of contrast is one of the reasons I love traveling.

The initial plan was to catch up with an acquaintance in Tezpur, who had been of great help in reviewing my itinerary and giving some points from his own experience of this belt. Which was of great help. But when I reached Tezpur, I got to know that he was at a conference. What a bummer. As there was no certainty of the seminar getting over anytime soon, I decided to move on to my next planned destination; Kaziranga National Park.

This signpost was the only opportunity at this point to capture the location in the picture.

All people I met on the way confirmed that the park is open to visitors and the flood effects have subsided. After riding for a while, I reached the national part IBs and met a few staff from the national park just to find out otherwise. I had already ridden through the road (from Tezpur), which goes inside the national park for 30-40 km and nothing was really catching my attention. Add to it, the swarm of trucks on that route had kept the stretch so polluted, it was hard to see with the visor up, and keeping it down was no good either, as it was getting dusty quickly or the humidity would start troubling. One thing I must give it is the sense of vastness this part has. Due to the recent rains, both sides of the road were green, yet the grasslands on either side were still filled with water, and there were a bunch of cattle grazing in those grasslands. It was too much of me to expect to see rhinos on the roadside :P Anyway, as it was getting dark, I had to look for a shelter and would love to camp if I get a chance inside the national park. But fate had it another way. After speaking with the staff (who were very kind and cordial by the way), go to know that the park closes for the monsoon season and re-opens for the public in November. However, this year it might just open in the first week of October. It all depends on the condition of the park and other maintenance work to complete before the visitors arrive. They also confirmed the fact that there is a camping option from Government, as it is not safe due to the wild animals. People may prefer to tent inside the fenced/bounded premises of the private resorts, but they're no designated camping sites as such. Well... things were clear as they could be, and I had no more plans to stay in a resort near the park at a time when I can't explore it. By this time it was already 5:30 PM and I was yet to have my lunch. So I decided to first fill myself up (as the bike was already tanked up for any possible destination I may choose) and then decide what to do. Found a small dhaba on the left side with hardly any people (just what I needed to relax actually) and pulled over. 

Well, it was a much-needed break and a decision made by us (me and the bike) to head on to Nagaland :) The name brought some fears and twisted perceptions, which I grew up hearing from a variety of sources. But then I was never a person to take someone's word for it, rather explore and understand what a place is like, possibly through my first-hand experience. But all this after the dark ?!! As I was doing this brainstorming, I started walking towards the hotel staff (2 guys and an old fellow) to have a chat. A bit of discussion lead me to understand, the road from Kaziranga to Numaligad, the 64 km stretch is a two-way road in good condition (same on l rode through Kaziranga), so not many issues there. But after that, I need to turn right, and it's an overall deserted stretch till Dimapur, the first city of Nagaland. Which will be going through the forest and hardly any people around. I was listening for clues I need to focus on and 100 km', 'deserted stretch', and 'forest' is what stuck. Considering the bike was tanked up and seemed to be in good shape, I had no logistical issues that I could think of. The only challenge was safety. Well hell with it, I am gonna ride the night and try and make it to Nagaland. Total of 223 km (estimated by map) or night riding on tar (possibly) road. Awesome! I love the night rides and especially having a sense of fear (let's call it a challenge) is just what gets me going! 

So I rode! Switched on the fog lamps, which broadened my road present two feet on each side of the bike, warning vehicles to keep their distance. An average speed of 70-80 km/hour makes sure, any typical miscreants won't dare to break the streak of this bike. The first 60-70 km was straight from Kaziranga and I had the company of a few other vehicles, mostly trucks. Continuing straight for 100 km would take you to Jorhat, another city with an airport. But I had to turn right after 60 KMs to catch the road towards Dimapur and so I did. As a solo traveler, I must confess, the real threat while traveling through forests or non-populated areas is not from wildlife really, it's from our own kind; people. Yet some of us (including myself) have a positive point of view on life and that supports me in dealing with such moments in an empowered way than, a pessimist (or so-called realist) would.

So the road from Numaligad to Dimapur was an awesome road with tons of twisties, the only catch was, it was the night! So my visibility was only up to 6-10 feet in the front and while cornering, I could see the bend progressively as my headlights turned. So I had to be on the toes (literally pressing against the brake pedal) while maintaining a good speed on those roads. All said and done, I enjoyed the stretch like anything and had fun getting the knee down (not like the MotoGP though :P ). Here is a short clip I made for my Instagram feed, which gives an idea of the road.

Warning: Loud music! So you may need to reduce the volume if you have the headset/earphones on!

So it was a great road, except for those bits of cracks which at one point came so suddenly that I was almost certain, my front wheel is gonna bend or worse, the bike will dismantle. But thankfully nothing of that sort happened (except the front rim bent, which I noticed after I completed my trip). So as I got closer to Dimapur, I had a good data signal on my phone, so I booked a hotel (The Tragopan) and found my way there once there. It was a cheek hotel and I loved the ambiance. I was the dirtiest thing in that otherwise nicely maintained hotel. LOL 

I had to book a two-bed room, as there was nothing else available. Well.. my gear got an extra bed to spread out for the night, again! I wasn't complaining either. I didn't realize that this hotel would become my favorite on this trip. The rooms were big and so was the bathroom. So today's ride spanned 350 odd km, started from Tenga (Arunachal Pradesh), rolled through Assam (Tezpur, Kaziranga), and finally made it to Dimapur (Nagaland). You would understand why I appreciated a relaxing shower in a spacious bathroom so much, once you see my condition below.

Enuf said!! That ain't dust bruv! Thats grime :D lol

It wasn't physically that tiring for me, I was more bugged with all the pollution and dust that was blown from the trucks that I had a hard time with. Anyway, here I was in Dimapur before 10pm, safe and sound, in safe and comfy accommodation, what more a traveller could ask for ?!! Tomorrow I will get to see the true Nagaland in the mountains, as I will be visiting Kohima. So let me rest well for the night.

Until tomorrow.


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