Today’s day will be extremely hectic, tells Neil before night. So we get up early and start by 6.30 am. The traffic between Shillong and Guwahati is so high, that it takes more than one and a half hour to come out of the Shillong city limits. Road widening work at many places further added to traffic woes. We reach Nangpoh by 9.15 am, the midpoint, where we break for breakfast. This place is famous for bamboo pickles. The cost depends on your bargaining power, and I buy a small bottle for Rs 40.
We restart, but again there is a huge traffic jam, and by 12.15 noon, we reach Balaji Mandir. It is next to ISBT, Guwahati. This is the first temple that I have visited in my North East tour so far. It is a fairly new temple and is worth a visit. We take lunch at a nearby dhabha.
Our original plan was to see Kamakhya Mandir, Hajo and then proceed to Manas National Park. It is 2 pm, and so far we have covered exactly 100 km. So we decide to skip these two places for the time being and proceed directly towards Manas National Park. The driver says that the Manas route is not very safe for night travel because of Bodo Land dispute and says that we can see those places on our return journey. So we directly proceed to Manas.
The traffic at this hour in Guwahati is not much. So without much difficulty, we cross Guwahati city and the mighty Brahmaputra river bridge. There are only two bridges across this river in India, the other being at Tezu, tells Neil. The third one at Dibrugarh is under construction. Taking photos in the bridge is an offence, the driver tells us. After crossing over the bridge, we take a left turn towards Hajo, and then on to Barpetta.
I must tell you many things that I have observed on this route. For the second consecutive day, we feel the day temperature is not that cold, and we have to remove our sweaters. Next, the landscape reminds me of my tour in Chhattisgarh. It is plain. I can see betel nut trees, paddy, vegetable gardens, watery bodies, small huts, weekly shandies, bicycles, farmers etc. There are no big cities, or big buildings. Not there are many two and four wheelers. I see fresh and big vegetables ever where. In fact, a knolkhol that I saw was as big as a coconut. The driver tells me that this place is famous for growing vegetables and fish. This is the main source of income for the people here.
We reach Manas National Park by 6 pm, and halt in a lodge close by. As tomorrow is not a busy day, we settle down leisurely. I observe that the temperature is substantially higher than all other places that I had been to, so far in my trip. It is as good as Bangalore weather.
An avid traveler, BP Bhat is among few travelers, who instead of scratching the surface of a destination, prefers to go deep and wide to understand, explore and soak in the beauty of a place. His quest for travel has taken him to all extremes of main land in the Mother India; from Leh to Kanyakumari and from Guhar Moti to Kibithu. He likes to explore all the important tourist places in India, State by State.