We live the given life, and not the planned. – Wendell Berry
Dustin and I started our trip to the North-East (Assam) with a stop in Mumbai, from where we were supposed to take a flight to Guwahati in the afternoon. After a rather uncomfortable train ride in 2nd Seating, we directly met up with a tour operator where we registered for a guided tour through Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums. As we were not allowed to take pictures, I’ll keep this short –the place is structured in an industrial and residential area – the industries there have an annual turnover of around 665 US dollars – and in some of the tiny paths the popular movie “Slumdog Millionaire” was filmed. I would recommend the tour not only because it is basically impossible to do something similar on your own (or at least not recommended), but also because it gave interesting insights and serves a good cause – 80% of the fees are given back to the community, creating opportunities for the locals to receive education, training and further qualifications in order to enable especially the children to find work outside the slum.
Speaking about our time in Guwahati, we spent some fabulous days there. Welcomed by Dustin’s girlfriend Krishna, our Couchsurfing host Krish and his wife Mandira received us with a big barbecue and party at their home, where we met many of their friends as well as some other couchsurfers who found shelter at their place. We ate the most amazing food I ever had since I came to India, and the next couple of days Krish even ordered his driver to take us around, which was really convenient.
We not saw some spots in Guwahati, visited the smallest inhabited island, and joined a bike tour of the “Rhino riders”, the motorbike club Krish is a member of. To be honest, we had to go in the car instead of on a bike, but the barbecue (yes, again!) and the camping outside under so many twinkling stars were definitely worth it. Also, as we spent the night on a friend’s farm far outside the center, we were allowed to see some true rural life the next morning when we headed on to Cherrapunjee.
Cherrapunjee is said to be one of the wettest, if not the wettest place on earth. We wanted to go there in order to see the famous root bridges one can find there, but now here’s the thing: We neither saw a single drop of rain (instead, the sky was blue, sun was shining and… all the waterfalls were dried up! 😀 ) nor the root bridges, due to a misunderstanding – apparently the bridges are far away from any road so that one have to plan a serious trek in order to reach there. For which we didn’t have the time, unfortunately… Cool thing was though that we visited the border to Bangladesh!
After another short night we had planned an elephant safari for the next morning, which was supposed to start at 6am. Of course it did not, but anyways the experience of sitting on such a huge, majestic animal was impressive, and much more shaky than expected! 😀 Also, from top of an elephant, even the rhinos that we spotted looked so small…
In the evening, in order to give something back to our hosts – we couldn’t have wished for a better place and family to stay with – Dustin and I cooked some German dish in the evening, while Krishna prepared the yummiest veggie cake I ever had. Our last evening in Guwahati thus ended with Schnitzel and co, and not knowing that we would face the worst train ride ever the next day, we went to bed. The north-east proofed to be really different from the rest of India, and and the people living there looked different (much more Asian) and – sorry guys! – also a bit friendlier than the average Indian, as their looks didn’t feel that intense. 😀 In general, the region is much less touristic than i.e. Rajasthan, which makes roaming around a bit more challenging, but also the whole area interesting enough for me to think about going back there soon… 😉
PS: Horrible train ride – short explanation: no reserved tickets / no tickets at all, as a consequence no place or bed to stay during the nearly 24h long drive, and finally for the first time some really inconvenient male co-passengers that apparently never saw a white woman before. Finally I shared a bed with another random woman, and was allowed to sit there while she was sleeping. It was freezing cold and I barely slept the whole night… Worst thing is that we actually were on waiting list no. 1, 2 and 3… Close but not close enough 😀 However, it came out as a good story and some fellow passengers again proofed how kind and helpful people here can be… 🙂