Monday 14 November 2016

Day 13 - Badarpur to Mawlynnong

The fatigue from yesterday's riding, mixed with the smell of diesel smoke from the large Honda generator, kept just outside the room, ensured that I woke up fresh like a flower(pun intended). All these days of the nomadic lifestyle meant it wasn't such an inconvenience for me, considering I was dealing with way more dust, smoke, and stuff at certain patches on the way. So it was all ok. But coming to personal hygiene, I badly needed a scrub to get rid of the sweat coat that I had put on throughout the hot and humid weather riding. The facility in this lodge was that of a common bathroom on each floor. I could only hope guys don't mind a dude walking around in a towel in the corridor and hopefully, there are no girls (or families) in the building to mind either :P Took a quick peek through the door and the course was clear all the way till the end of the corridor which leads me to the common bathroom. About when I was locking the door of my room, the front desk guy shows up out of nowhere with two other guys and I was blocking their way in the corridor. His smile I always found his a bit fake and totally made up. Since the time I arrived, he had been extra nice to me, but somehow I couldn't put up with his fakeness, so I hardly entertained him during this whole time. Now it's the same fake expression right on my face. I was a bit annoyed and snapped "what ??". "Sir kuchh nahin thoda inko aapka wala room dikhana tha. *fake smile again*". I was like, "oh thik hai..", and I had to unlock the door and stand there in a towel for the time they endlessly stared into the room. These two guys were inspecting the room as if they were trying to locate the jacuzzi inside. Once they were done staring at the room and left, I was on my way to shower, without a second stop anywhere in between. After seeing the size of the rooms, I really had set my expectations on the bathroom really low, and glad to report, I was not disappointed. It was a make-do kinda bathroom with a bucket and mug, and a tap whose knob had only two settings; off or Tsunami. LOL. I saw the latter one for a little longer than I wanted, before realizing there is nothing in between. Well... kind of a reverse shower it was :D

As it was getting close to 8:30 in the morning, the starting time of business for the lodge, I had to move my motorcycle out of the reception area. Yep, thanks to the Manager, that's where I was allowed to park it last night. Now to avoid multiple visits downstairs, I got ready on time and went downstairs with all my luggage to check out.

For motorcyclists, priorities are clear; 1-bike stays safe 2-rider can manage ;)

Everything I saw on my way this day, came as a clear contrast to my day before. That had set the bar really high really :D

After riding through the lengths of 5 different states of the northeast, I didn't really know, what to expect from Meghalaya. Well... it didn't take me long to figure it out :)

The kind of trees/woods seen in the background was totally unique and I had seen nothing like it on my way so far.

No matter how much I wished these to be some alien hideouts, they were not.  These small tunnels were the result of some extraction (possibly for sand, as the scale of the work wasn't that large in this patch).

The twisties up here stole my heart. Man!!! It was so awesome to ride here, as if nature had saved the best for the last, in this trip :)

If I get a chance I would love to shoot a motorcycle video clip right on this stretch. I had a helmet cam on, but that didn't cut it.

River Dawki; A beautiful sight with a hidden surprise ;)

So I finally made it to Dawki River, which was supposed to be one of the highlights of this trip. But much to my bad luck, all I saw was a usual river (it offers a beautiful sight though) and no sign of crystal clear water. Upon enquiring with the guides standing close by, got to know it's in January sometime, the mud in the water settles and the water appears crystal clear. Sigh! I was about to leave the spot when I noticed this crowd on the river bank. It seemed like there is some fair happening on the other side with a lot of colorful umbrellas and quite many people enjoying the river. So I asked a guy standing close by:

Me: "Aaj koi festival chal raha hai kya ? Itne saare log ikattha huye hain us side pe?!!" 
(Is there a festival today?)
(Looks like a big gathering on the other side ?!!). 

Bystander: "Woh log Bangladeshi hain" 
(They are Bangladeshis.)

Me: "Achha, ghumne ayen hai, India..?!!" 
(So they have come for a visit..?!!)

Bystander: "Woh side Bangladesh hai." 
(That side is Bangladesh.)

Me: Silent with dropped jaw: "Kya ?? (pointing towards the ground I was standing) Yeh bhi ??" 
(What? This too??)

Bystander: "Nahin, yeh toh India hai, river ka dusra side Bangladesh hai." 
(No, this side is India, it's the other side of the river, that comes under Bangladesh.)

Unbelievable!!! This was beyond my imagination that a country border may look like this. I looked around and could spot a BSF security guard appointed on our side of the shore. Mostly no one tries to cross the border from here (as there are hundreds of kilometers of the porous border we share with them). However, it seems they are always curious to view India, and hence the crowd on the other side. It was a funny feeling to know, if I just walk across the river, I would be crossing a national border :P Zoom in on the below picture to spot the border security guard and the proximity of the two countries.

Two countries: India & Bangladesh, are in the same frame :)

En route to Mawlynnong

Reminded me of the days I spent riding in Sikkim, beautiful waterfall :)

So I rode quite a bit to reach here and 7 out of 10 people I enquired with on the way, didn't have a clue about this place. That should tell you about the touristy awareness of this particular place. Having said that, with an increase in coverage (by tv shows, blogs, etc), it won't be long before you have to deal with a bee-line of vehicles to make it here. All I could hope is the government of Meghalaya, takes care, to retain the natural beauty of this place and restrict possible noise and air pollution due to the increase in visitor vehicles.

Having said that, one interesting thing happened as I reached the village. First when I stopped near the living root bridge (more on this in tomorrow's post ;) ), one of the cab drivers standing close by, approached me. He was a humble chap and seemed quite knowledgeable about the area (possibly due to his job of carrying tourists around the state). While we were chatting, he mentioned there is another bullet (for me it meant a solo rider) with a Karnataka license plate around. That was interesting to know, as I was not alone now, and being from KA means, a high chance he would be from Bangalore. So I had to meet up with this dude. Solo travelers are a rare breed you know:). Before parting, I enquired and got some more details from this guy about Meghalaya and the places I was planning to visit in the coming days. Then I resumed my journey towards Mawlynnong village, while also keeping an eye (rather an ear! lol) for the other bullet. So after 2-3 km of riding finally I came across a few homestays which meant I have reached the village of Mawlynnong. The whole route from Dawki to here was almost isolated and I hardly came across many people or vehicles on the way. So it was nice to finally get a sense of civilization, especially after riding through seemingly endless twists and turns on that narrow tar road.

So I finally made it to Mawlynnong :) No phone signal, no noise of city/vehicles, no crowd, just peaceful nature !!!

I was aimlessly puttering around on the bike, reading all the homestay sign boards and possibly ending up choosing one for the night stay. This moment of wandering bliss didn't last long when after a turn, I suddenly came across this crew shooting for a movie (I thought) and they were in the middle of the road. Much to my annoyance, the director (I guess) was freaked out with my entry (so to and was waving his hand madly for me to move aside. To be honest, I was a bit pissed with his gesture, as a vehicle has right of way on a road and just because you are shooting doesn't entitle you to push aside someone driving/riding. Ideally, they should have appointed someone a few hundred meters from the shooting spot to watch for any incoming vehicle, instead of shouting at unsuspecting people passing that way. Anyway, before I could respond to him, someone caught my attention and I totally forgot all this (inconvenience). There were these two pretty-looking girls and the one close to the left side of the road looked quite familiar. Given the fact that I don't watch tv (or Hindi movies) regularly, and it's been almost 11 years, you could make out the strange feeling of finding a tv/movie personality familiar. Well, it was none other than the ever-beautiful; Gul Panag. To be honest, he had been my crush for a long long time and more so because of her passion for motorcycles. Crazy isn't it, that I had to come across her, in the middle of nowhere, when I am doing a solo motorcycle trip. Anyway, without disturbing the crew anymore, I gave a big smile (kinda like saying, "Heyyyyy! I know you!!!". lol) to her and rolled down the street continuing my search. I think she said "sorry about that..", or something like that when we exchanged smiles as I passed by. 

After some 100 meters or so, I enquired from a lady standing on the side of the road, if she has seen/heard another bullet and the answer was "yes. Please come this way, and I will take you there". I followed her into one of the homestays, where I could see an old Enfield parked. It didn't take me long to find out the guy and also I got a place in that homestay after a bit of negotiation with the owner. So I was all set for the evening and was looking forward to hearing some travel stories from another fellow traveler. And I wasn't disappointed with that. Rommel had tons of stories and got to know that he also runs a travel site.

This was another homestay next to ours.. with a view of Bangladesh.

Available cell phone networks at the home-stay. Only Bangladesh towers are close by.

That night after dinner, we got accompanied by two other interesting people Daniel and David, from Meghalaya and Nagaland respectively. Daniel runs tours and rides a customized Enfield Thunderbird. He was with some clients (tourist groups), as he runs tours across Meghalaya. David was from Nagaland, and this fact alone, got me to interview him for half hour on the possibility of backpacking there sometime in the future. lol. No wonder our group discussion went on till 1am in the morning. That's when I realized, I had to wake up early :P So we had to abruptly break the meeting and head to our shacks. Rommel had planned for a chilled-out day, so he probably would have slept till late. So I bid farewell to him, as I may not see him in the morning when I leave.

It was the first time I was socializing with some like-minded people and it came at the right time after I had dealt with the uncertain segments of the northeast trip and finally was getting to relax and take it easy. Meghalaya was one of the safest and most tourist-friendly state out of all and so was Sikkim. Tomorrow was possibly the penultimate day of my ride or so I had planned. This long evening with the new friends group extended well into my bedtime, but knowing Meghalaya roads (through today's observations), I had very less to worry about. So I just got into bed and dozed off, with an alarm set for 6 o'clock.

Until tomorrow.

Ride Safe & Ride Far,

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