North East Chapter 3 - Nameri to Majuli
Second destination on my north-east itinerary was Majuli, The large river island. I had to reach there on the same day after leaving Nameri, which meant travelling 230 km on land and 12 km in water. While this wasn’t my most tiring experience in this trip, it surely involved most number of vehicles. This is the route I took: Hotel – Nameri Bus stand – Charduar – Balipara – Tezpur – Jorhat – Nimati Ghat – Kamalabari Ghat (on boat) – Hotel at Majuli.
Here’s the full story…
For the first installment of my north-east story check this link
Nameri to Tezpur
To start my journey towards Majuli, I had to first get back to Tezpur, from where I would be able to get buses towards that side. So once again I started off early in the morning from hotel. My hotel Jia Bhorali resort was 3.5 km from Nameri bus stop. I contemplated walking this distance, but given the weight of my bag and the strict timeline that I needed to adhere to, it was not a desirable choice. Fortunately my hotel manager offered to drop me till the bus stop in their vehicle (free of cost), which reduced that travel time to only 10 minutes. By 7:20 am I was at the main road waiting for a sharing cab (since it was too early for bus) to take me till Balipara (20 km before Tezpur).
|Waiting patiently at Nameri bus stand|
When I was dropped at the bus stop, there was one more person standing there – a lady with a baby. In ten minutes or so another guy came walking towards this road and continued strolling up and down the street. I couldn’t tell if he was waiting for a cab or just came for a walk. As I stood there I saw some vehicles come and pass by. But they didn’t stop for me or the other two people. I assumed either they were not for hire or might be full. So I kept waiting without knowing which vehicles to target. After a while a car passed by me and stopped for the lady, took her and left. Once again I was confused if it was a sharing taxi or someone she knew. In sometime the guy who was walking also got in a car a little ahead. By then I was desperate and thoroughly confused. It was already close to 7:45 and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Out of desperation, I started trying to stop all vehicles. When finally one did, I asked for “Balipara” and was answered with “Charduar” (since all my communication involved only nouns). I let that vehicle go not knowing what a terrible mistake that would be. Soon another local guy joined me in the wait and speaking to him I realized that most vehicles that were passing were not for hire. That was a relief.
|Sitting inside a shared car|
After a full one hour of wait, at 8:20 am I finally found a second vehicle going to Charduar and this time I didn’t repeat my mistake. I got in with many others and headed for Charduar. We reached Charduar at 8:33 am, 10 km from Nameri and 5 km before Balipara, immediately got in another car for Balipara and reached there by 8:50 am. Both side cost 10 Rs, meaning total cost was same as taking one vehicle from Nameri to Balipara. Balipara to Tezpur (Mission Chariali intersection) was around 20 km and one more such vehicle brought me there in 45 minutes. So despite one hour of wait I was at the junction by 9:40 am.
Tezpur to Jorhat
I was really impressed by ASTC buses during my trip. They are easily available, maintains good quality and does not overload beyond the total number of seats. After reaching Mission Chariali intersection, I enquired about Jorhat buses to a police officer standing nearby and he pointed towards the road on the left side. Looking ahead I could see the rare end of a bus standing behind a tree. I rushed to the spot and discovered multiple buses standing there. One of the bus conductor directed me towards Jorhat bus and I climbed inside it.
|Taking the bridge across Bramhaputra|
All my worries about the bus journeys were starting to feel silly. I worried about being able to find a bus, which turned out to be way too simple. My other worry about placing my 50 litter rucksack inside bus also turned out to be nothing. The bag fit perfectly in the overhead rack and after dumping it there I settled myself down in a comfortable window seat. The bus didn’t wait long, and we were on our way towards Jorhat by 9:45am. It was a non-ac bus, so it cost (Rs. 130) also less than my previous bus ride.
|Landscape viewed from bus|
For a while the bus took the same road as the one I came by while traveling from Guwahati to Tezpur. We took the same bridge across Bramhaputra and then reached AH1 highway at Kaliabor. From there it went towards the opposite direction and headed for Jorhat. Initially the landscape had been similar to my earlier bus ride, highway with small houses, vast fields and some trees here and there. But as we approached Kaziranga, more and more trees started to appear and there were patches of forests as well. The first tea garden I saw was after reaching the main forest area. It was surprizing to see a tea garden on plain lands as I have always imagined tea as a hilly plant. The ground wasn’t completely plain though, it had a wavy nature and the tea garden spread across those wavy lands on both side of the road. These tea gardens became more frequent and bigger in size as we neared Jorhat.
Tezpur to Jorhat distance is 163 km and I had a constraint to reach there by 3:15 pm to make it for the last boat from Nimati ghat at 4. But the bus did better than my expectation and brought me to Jorhat at 2 pm itself, even after a 15 min lunch break in between. So it was 2 o’clock at noon, 2.5 hours more to sunset and I was standing at ISBT bus terminus of Jorhat deciding on my next move.
Jorhat to Nimati Ghat
After reaching Jorhat I checked in Google maps for distance till Nimati Ghat and it was 17 km. I didn’t want to waste time on checking for buses anymore. So I approached an auto driver outside the bus station and asked for Nimati Ghat. He said he would take me there for 700 bucks. I should have expected such extravagant amount given that I didn’t speak the local language. But I couldn’t walk away either as I didn’t know where else to go. I asked the same guy if there was any shared vehicle and he said I would have to go to public bus stand for that. At that time I wasn’t sure how truthful he was, but later I found that he was right. Shared vehicles for Nimati Ghat starts from public bus stand (2.5 km from ISBT) and charges 30 bucks per seat.
|In auto from Jorhat to Nimati Ghat|
Without any other option in hand, I bargained with the same guy and got it down to 320 Rs for dropping till Nimati Ghat. I would say I did surprisingly good job there. Anyways, we were soon on our way to Nimati Ghat. He took the bypass since it would be faster. So it mostly went through empty roads with fields on both side. The highway went for about 6 km, after which we took some village roads. It was quite a long ride and took a little more than half an hour to reach the port. Upon reaching there he asked which ghat in Majuli I want to go to. Apparently there are two ports at the same place, each for different route. I had to go to Kamalabari ghat, so he took me to the one further on the road. When he left me at the port it was 2:40 pm.
There was a wooden pavilion at the side of river with roof over it and next to it a boat was parked in river. People and bikes were already filling in. I tried to look for a ticket counter before boarding, but I was told that someone would collect the fare during journey. So I too went in with others. The boat was covered with a lower section for seating and the top of it was used for parking bikes. I took the stairs down and found myself in a medium sized room with four rows of bench and two aisles in between. At the furthest end there was a toilet (or was there two?). There were long sections in the wall above the benches through which the river was visible and so I could see how lower part of the room was actually below water level. I took a seat on one of the side benches and settled down for a long ride.
|View of river from inside boat|
|Location of the port in map|
I had done some homework and knew that it took about 1.5 hr to travel till the other side. But that turned out to be inaccurate. The boat started sharp at 3 and I traced its progress in map which closely followed the route shown in google map. Turning back in my seat I could see the river outside. There were small islands visible almost throughout the journey. Sometime during the travel a man came and collected the fare (15 rs) from everyone, but there was no ticket.
After 45 minutes of this ride the boat stopped at what appeared to be an island as per my map. I was confused and started wondering “do I have to cross the island and take another boat?” And I asked the same question to a guy seating next to me. He was a biker and probably not from the island. He must have found my question funny. But he answered anyways and explained that I had to take a car from there to go inland. Still I wasn’t very clear what was going on. How would a car take me through water for starter! But either way, it was clear that my boat ride was over and so I proceeded with others to leave the boat.
Kamalabari Ghat to Hotel
The port was a busy place with many vehicles parked on both sides and drivers shouting out to get people. But it still gave a feeling of an island with white sands all around us. The cars were also parked on the sand itself. A driver approached me and asked for where I wanted to go. I said Kerela Gaon as per the address written on my hotel voucher, even though the map showed it in a different location. The driver told it would be 600 if I want to reserve it and 50 for sharing. So obviously I went with sharing.
|Riding on Bramhaputra|
His vehicle was a Tata sumo in white colour and I climbed into the backside of it along with bags of other people. Needless to say I sat quite comfortably for a sharing taxi. The car left the parking area and moved on through a path which can’t be called a road. It was created on the sand by putting some dry twigs and leaves and possibly mud from some other area. It was small path where two vehicles could not pass side by side. Aside from this path everything around was white sand, as far as the eyes could see. We moved on through this desert for quite some time with few other vehicles following us. After a while I observed some vegetation appearing on sides of this path. They were mostly long (4-5 ft) dark green grasses and small fluorescent green ferns. This grew thicker as we progressed and finally stopped before reaching a narrow and equally shallow water stream. This marked the edge of the desert and crossing this water we moved into a land which was more familiar to my eyes. This was the place that was tagged as Kamalabari Ghat in Google maps and so I figured the white desert that I just crossed was the remains of Bramhaputra.
We continued on a better road now passing through villages and fields. By then I could see the red sun on the western corner. I hoped I would reach before sunset. But we had to take some detours to drop a few people and so the sun had already set by the time I reached my destination. It was exactly where the maps had showed and yet the driver understood the place as Kerela Gaon. So somewhere there had been a mistake in the map or my interpretation of it.
So I got out of the vehicle, crossed the road and took the small path down towards those beautiful bamboo cottages sitting in middle of vast field. The time was 4:30 pm.
|Road to my hotel - Ygdrasil Bamboo Cottage|
The story of my stay at Majuli is now published, find it here
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