Sunday 13 November 2016

Day 12 - Nungba to Badarpur

This is what I woke up to after a crazy night halt in Manipur. Those are my boots and the kid (sleeping on the bed visible to the left) has gone off to brush his teeth once he comes back, I was planning to step out. There is still mist outside, as can be seen in the image below. 

The rickety shack safely sheltered me from the cold night in a not-so-safe location.

I got tons of mist for a few more hours as I was riding ahead of Nungba. But the road got better and the morning freshness was infectious :) Just see for yourself!

Nature at its best... This was the view that got me so ecstatic that I totally ignored the warnings I had been receiving all along about the road ahead.

As fate had it, I had to face this day and this road, which will become one of the most challenging, yet memorable parts of this whole trip.. no kidding!

Last of the photographs taken, and the camera was the last thing on my mind, once I daringly put the front wheel into this muddy patch!

Boy oh boy! Everyone I spoke with told me not to go on this route (to reach Assam) as it's really bad. Well. I thought to myself, "I have crossed half of northeast India and have seen some of the tough roads so far. What could be worse than something I haven't already seen ?!!". Man was I wrong. Jesus! This was it and it was bad to the bone. I am a person who doesn't give up, especially when I am hardest hit. Trust me when I say this, I was hardest hit as a solo rider here on this patch. This picture may not give you an idea of the challenge involved, so let me give some details. This is the road that connects Imphal (Manipur) to Silchar (Assam) with a length of 145 km (appx). The alternate route to reach Assam from Imphal is via Aizawl (Mizoram), which would be roughly 600 km. This long way around was my originally planned route but now with a shortage of time, I have decided to skip Mizoram and Tripura. Also after seeing the condition of roads on this belt, 600 km would be equivalent to covering 1000-1500 km on highways. There are a few more routes but they can't be trusted or considered not safe. So with the time I had in hand, I had to choose the shortest route and so far. This road from Imphal was fine* till Nungba, where I stayed last night. It's been 80 km since I left Nungba and the road was perfect, including a few rough patches here and there. But what comes after that, is the badass slush patch of roughly 5-6 km or so I faintly remember (I had almost lost all my senses that time to recall the exact details!). This road in the picture is empty despite the busy traffic coming from the Assam side, you know why? Cause they are stuck a few kilometers ahead for the last 2-3 days trying to make it this far (where this picture is taken). Same with a few trucks going from Manipur towards Jiribam (the first town I would reach after crossing this patch).

I will keep this short and just tell you this. I struggled like hell to the point I would have passed out due to dehydration and fatigue. Bull fought like a warrior that day and didn't skip a beat, even when it was sunk in mud all the way to the cylinder head. Man, I love my bike. I was worried that it will give up and that was expected given the situation. Imagine trucks couldn't pull themselves out of the mud, how much a tiny bike can do. I took half-hour breaks for every 5-10 minutes of riding through mud, just to cool off the bike and to recover from the fatigue and dehydration. Had the clutch plates worn out this day, this trip would have told a different story from this point on. I would have to convince a truck going backward (towards Imphal) to take the bike and me. Then had to take the road via Mizoram, which would have taken 3-4 days at least. But touch wood, that didn't happen. People on that route have seen me struggle. Many of the truck drivers couldn't believe their eyes seeing a motorcycle on this patch and that too a lone rider. Many of the drivers and passengers gave a helping hand when the bike was sinking deep in the mud and helped us come out. I am so grateful to them. We (me and the bull) were the only ones to make it to the other side on the same day. Much to my surprise, we were greeted by a lot of excited truckers coming from the Assam side. They wanted to know the situation ahead as they have no access/visibility of the road condition ahead with the line of trucks spreading for kilometers on that mountainous belt. I assured them that work is being done by a crane and they should be able to move soon. A little after meeting this bunch, finally I got some life in me and the bike, as we saw the tar road ahead. "I f#cking love riding", is what I must have screamed out loud (inside my helmet though) that time :) :) :) I was shaky, and the bike was making a lot of clatters, but we were functional and lived to tell this story. What more could an adventure rider ask for ?!!!!

So I reached Jiribam dipped in mud. There were lumps of mud in every nook and corner of the bike; wheels, suspensions, around the cylinder head, clutch cover, basically everywhere. The first thing I had to do was to get rid of all this mud, as soon as possible. As that would affect the cooling of the bike and the mud if left longer may corrode electrical and metal parts on the bike. That will be more trouble in such remote places. Thankfully after a bit of looking around found a water service station. I unloaded all the luggage from the bike so that it can be pressure washed thoroughly and I can inspect for any visible damage. The saddle bag also sunk in mud due to the slush party (pun intended!) and there was muddy water inside them and tons of mud on the outside. It was a mess, but nothing so bad that I couldn't have taken care of it. So all good:)

The thing in the engine bay is my boot soles, which came off while riding through the mud

I, not only got the bike washed and dried (in the sun) thoroughly, I got the bags cleaned as well. By the way, did I mention it was the first proper sunny day I had ever since I left Tezpur (Assam)? All my stuff was either wet or damp and this was an opportunity to make use of the grassy open patch and the abundance of sunlight. I put all my bags tools and a few other stuff to dry. The effort was well worth it in the long run. At this point I just wanted to escape Manipur as I knew we may not be able to handle one more such road, knowing there are none like the one we just came across. Silchar (Assam) was at the center of my focus at that time and I had to make it there by the night. So I skipped lunch (a bad idea!) and continued riding toward Silchar. I had to eventually stop on the way for lunch, as I got reassured that seeing it mostly the planes with good tar roads is all I am going to ride on from this point on. I a small roadside shack I got into and was treated with Pulav (rice with some gravy and a bit of brown chhole thrown in) and it was delicious. A plate cost 10 bucks I remember and I had 2 to fill my stomach, especially after the muddy ordeal I came through today. Had water and filled up my hydration pack. Noticed that the juice or chocolates sold there were made in Bangladesh. When I checked the map, I was heading close to the Bangladesh border at that time. The town (don't remember the name), was mostly comprised of the Muslim population as all were wearing white robes and caps. 

Well, after the much-needed re-fueling, I and the bull, headed towards Silchar hoping for some creature comforts (I guess) and a more familiar environment after all these days of traveling through uncertain territories. But I was utterly disappointed after reaching Silchar. It was a busy (commercial) city and the traffic was horrible. I was already having a long day and this was the last thing I wanted. So after reaching there I was again getting drained out by the pollution, chaos, and maddening traffic. It was afternoon and sunlight was still around. So I decided to move toward my next state on the list: Meghalaya. I filled up my bike to the brim to be ready to ride through the night if I had to. The petrol station owner came to see the bike and wanted to know if I needed any assistance. After discussing with him, I decided to stay at a place named 'Badarpur' which will come on the way. Now with the decision made for the night halt, I finally had a free mind to relax and just soak in the views around me. And I wasn't disappointed really. You must see the images below to believe me.

The views and the route here brought some peace into the otherwise chaotic day I had.

The view just got better and better.

The road was passing through a big lake (or maybe there were two on each side of the road).

Sun was starting to set and I was so happy and peaceful at this point to witness this.

For a moment I felt as if mother earth wanted to cheer me up for the tough day that I had. 

Pure bliss!!!

Last image I shot before I headed towards my last destination for the day.

Roads in Badarpur were horrible, to say the least, and I got to know that they have been like that forever. After searching for a while I found a lodge with a tiny room for 500 bucks. That was the best I could find in a short time. The owner was cordial and the place felt safe. So I decided to stay there for the night, as all I needed was for a night of stay and food for me to continue my way into Meghalaya tomorrow. And this place ticked all the boxes for a price that was half of what I was ready to pay. Win-Win eh ?!! The food was expensive but all in all, I was satisfied with my stay there. During the night, the power went off numerous times and the big a$$ diesel generator was put to use, which was roaring all through the night. It was close to my room in the lodge, so the whole room was smelling diesel when it was running. I was too tired to bother complaining to the owner to move it elsewhere. In the room, at least I could charge my devices which were drained out (Nungba had no electricity, remember?!), and take a backup of my images. And before I knew I fell asleep with the electronics all over that tiny bed in that tiny room. I dozed off, possibly hoping for a better tomorrow and some new and interesting place to explore. 

I still can't believe that all this I came across on the same day. When I was struggling with that crazy patch of road, it was not even in my wildest dreams that I had thought to be so relaxed and witness such a beautiful sunset in the later part of the day. All I could say now is, I am glad that I chose to continue my journey, despite all the challenges.

Until tomorrow..


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