Travelogue – Mighty Mizoram

Posted: January 21, 2017 in Travelogue
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

After a well thought of depressing status update in FB, I started off my journey to Mizoram utilizing Deepavali long weekend.

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This trek has an interesting background story. I was planning for this for a long while as it would help me complete my travel circle in covering all directions. But I didn’t really think it’d happen in 2016. Initially tried to get tickets to Madurai because there is nothing better than Madurai during Diwali. Experienced it last year. Fortunately or unfortunately it didn’t happen. And I thought I’d end up staying home for Diwali. But the thought of staying home wasn’t really depressing. Deepavali is the one holiday I mostly stay home.

After a while, while being asked for holiday plans and some mishaps in office, I immediately jumped into this Mizoram plan. Peter joined along with me, who accompanied me for Har Ki Dun earlier this year, which too wasn’t planned as early as I generally do. We got tickets, booked for trek and everything was set within a week.

Before we proceed further here’s the list of names which I thought I’ll use to refer my trek mates. Thanks to the pronunciation of Mizo guides and Peter (who doesn’t want to disclose his name), this idea came to my mind.

Trusha Kolke – Jr. Colgate

Sunita Kolke – Sr. Colgate

Anand Haladi – Holiday

Venkatraman – Darwin Uncle

Ramlal – Mr. Delhi

Debottam – The Bottom

Prabhakar – ISRO

Ajith – Lok Sabha

Ranga Sai – Ranga Sai (I can’t change his name, you’ll get to know the reason why below.)

And then there were guides who I’ll refer with the names they introduced themselves with.

P.S: Each one has at least four names to themselves.

Day 1 – The Start

If it was about how I was irresponsible with work last time before Har Ki Dun trek, it was about how I was responsible but have to be more responsible this time during the appraisal discussion. That spoilt my mood and a good one and half hours of last minute packing.

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It was Egmore this time so had to get ready at least half an hour before my usual time because of less frequency of bus. I love the bus journeys to train before a trip. There was lot of traffic when I came home from office, I was afraid, that was going to be the state while going to station but it wasn’t, all the traffic was on the outer part. There was no traffic inside the city. I reached station well before time and settled on stairs.

That status message worked and my next two hours flew by, as well as my mood got changed. In a crowded station, the train was at a safe uncrowded platform far away from the entrance. I switched off the phone and entered the train, what would be my home for the next two days. The faces in coupe weren’t really encouraging, we thought it was going to be another don’t-get-off-the-window-seat family but luckily for the next two days we had one window seat to ourselves.

Day 2 – First Day in Train

Had Kagida Malargal to accompany me, a good 300+ pager which I was sure of lasting for two days at the least and so it did. The whole day went on and off eating Podi Idly, reading half of the novel and sleeping. This monotony doesn’t really affect me. What affects me is getting up and going to office at 6 AM daily. Well, even that doesn’t affect me really nowadays.

Day 3 – Second Day in Train

Sorry couldn’t think of a better title. With the remaining half of the book to go and no more packed food, that day too went fine. Just that we had to struggle to choose food. Most of it had mustard oil as we were around West Bengal region, which wasn’t to my taste. I had the satisfaction of completing a great book. It also gave an idea which I could execute in one of my books in future.

Also that was the day I got to know that there were one billion methods to choose paan. It looked tougher than customizing your sub in Subway. My co passenger looked to be a master of it.

Day 4 – Guwhati

We didn’t reach Guwhati on time but on an apt time, just before sunrise. As soon as we got out, there were various van operators shouting out for Shillong which got Peter interested. I misinterpreted Shillong to be in Sikkim, don’t know why that confusion happened, but happened.

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We searched for few rooms and got a bad room with water stagnating toilet, yellow bulb and not so good ventilation on the fourth floor.

As almost everyone suggested, after taking bath we set off to Kamakhya. Meanwhile enquiring about ILP with YHAI guys, they said they’d take care of it. So our major problem was solved. Kamakhya was amazing, for the first time we saw Buffalo slaughtering, reminded me of Apocalypse now. Thanks to my previous temple outings to the northern states I was aware of the priests ‘Pranam Karo’, so I stayed a good ten feet away from any deity. Kamakhya took a good three to four hours of our time. It was humid like hell, we visited another small temple around there but missed a temple which was around one km from there. I think Bhuvaneswari temple. Actually Kamahya is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas: Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala. Among these, Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples. The history of this place is interesting, you can Google to find out more.

From there we came out to Uma Nanda Temple, which had heights of cheaters leading to it. These people were looting a huge sum to take people to temple through boat. I had read various posts where it was mentioned, it’s just ten to fifteen rupees for a boat ride to Uma Nanda Temple. Shame was that the whole area was cheating saying that it was the only mode of transport to the temple. Thank god, another person like me who said that he would never step foot on those cheaters boat lead us the actual spot where government ferry’s start. Here the ticket price was nominal. Temple wasn’t anything great but the boat ride felt good. We also had a bad tender coconut water at that place.

While asking for locals about any other places to visit, they suggested Planetarium¸ I wasn’t having any great inclination to go there but that was the only option, all places close by 5 to 6 there. We had a couple of sugarcane juice, a much sought after affair and entered Planetarium. I had never been to planetarium before and it had AC. So I thought at least the money was worth it for AC. I was in for a surprise, the visuals, the voiceover, the script and the more than it, the positivity of the script attracted me a lot. When the whole world was fretting about how we are going towards an eternal end. Here was a script that said, “Mankind evolved from destruction, who knows, something better can happen with another destruction”.

Our itinerary for the day was pretty much over, we had a chai and asked them, if there is anything we could do for the rest of the day. There was a very good War Memorial cum park near that area. We spent a good twenty minutes and made our way back to room, in turn booking our bus tickets to Aizawl. The festive mood had set off and the whole city was very colorful. I had Pani Poori and followed it by dinner at Royal Naga, a pork feast. Every time I read the word Naga, it got me reminded of Secret of Nagas, don’t know why.

Day 5 – Bus to Aizawl

Shifted to YHAI in the morning as the Hotelier said that he couldn’t let us for more than 24 hours. It felt as if I finally was at home. After freshening up we went to Kalakshetra, nothing great, add to it, it was sultry, the only good part was museum, that too because of the AC. We got thirsty like hell by the time we reached Balaji Mandir, which is nothing but Guwhati Thirupathi. That placed was far better than other temples. Don’t know what the problem was but there was a couple, out of which a girl was crying quite heavily. That scene got made my heart heavy.

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Once outside the temple we again got our Sugarcane fix and boarded bus to Paltan Bazaar. We had lunch at Sagar restaurant which was nice and got into a mini bus first which took us to ISBT. It was very interesting to see two mute boys speaking with each other in bus.

I was having some irritation in my throat. I thought I had got cold but later Peter too confirmed that he too had similar problem. Then we understood why so many people were wearing masks. But till now I’m not sure whether it was because of Guwhati pollution or Diwali pollution.

I liked the initial phase of bus journey. Was little skeptical about dinner but nevertheless had veg Chow Mein without any veggies in it. Praying that I shouldn’t get stomach upset, I got on the bus and went to sleep.

Day 6 – Reach Aizawl

The bus ride felt like it would never end. It was bumpy like hell. The bus didn’t have shock absorber at all. When I thought that we would reach Aizawl as soon as we crossed the border. Little did we know that we were still a long way to go.

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Near the border we were asked for our ILP which we didn’t have. Peter talked with the police personnel there about our trek and only then he let us free. The previous day he had talked to the secretary and got confirmation about the same. He also gave us the number in the ILP list that we had to tell but we didn’t require that.

The bus stopped for breakfast but I didn’t risk having and so did Peter. I at least had a good night’s sleep, one great power of mine, I can sleep anywhere in any situation, literally, so somehow completed morning ablutions and went for sleep again.

After a long time we reached Aizawl. I read somewhere that Aizawl has the second most traffic, next to Mumbai but good thing about Aizawl is, just like Mumbai even here the traffic is organized, I didn’t hear a single vehicle honk while being in a jam.

Once we reached Aizawl we called the secretary and asked him how to reach the camp. We were asked to come to Luangmual. We took a cab for 300 rupees and went there. Price seemed quite steep but I wasn’t in great mood to argue. The city was dusty like hell. Not how I thought it to be.

Once we reached YHAI we were given Kings Welcome with photographs, firm handshakes and pleasant smiles. YHAI felt like heaven, it always does. That too, out of the various YHAI camps I’ve been, Mizoram base camp felt like the best. Dalhousie was warm and cozy but Mizoram was big and neat. Bathrooms were very neat so within a while, I sorted out the luggage, took bath and freshened up. Mr. Holiday was the first person we got introduced to. A Mumbai based advertisement manager who knew Tamil and could talk on a variety of topics. He was our only roommate in such a big room. Roommate amaivadhelam iraivan kodutha varam. He was a great roommate, of course he snored but sleeping for me is never a problem so it was fine.

Through him I got introduced to Miss. Colgate and Mrs. Colgate. When I was talking to Colgate Junior and Senior Colgate came, he immediately asked me not to go by looks and she is her mother. Guess he knew that otherwise this guy would be up to something.

We then went to a small church/cemetery nearby which was closed and we got the first glimpse of how day ends by 5 PM there. It gets pitch dark by 6 PM. We got introduced to rest of the folks, had an amazing dinner and went for a good night’s sleep.

Day 7 – Aizawl Sightseeing

Morning felt great after a good night’s sleep. Like we discussed the previous day. I, Peter, Holiday and two Colgates were waiting for Scorpio. Unfortunately for us, the Scorpio which had come for us took the other group. Colgates dropped from the plan and we got another driver, Franics, a fine chap.

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We went to Solomon’s Temple first, a church which was being in construction for a while, built only by some select family members. The Wikipedia link says something different but, what I said is what I heard from the locals.

From there we went to Mizoram State Museum in Aizawl, nothing great, just another museum. Watching the kids was more fun than watching the artifacts in there. Once I should do just a museum tour. Art, painting etc. with lots of time and nothing else to do.

From there we went to Handicraft Shop which had a variety of stuff made of Bamboo, I bought an earring and lots of small eats from Burma, and they were awesome.

Here comes the best part. Our next venture was to have lunch at ZoFood, a restaurant which everyone named, when asked for authentic Mizo food. And you know what, we had dog meat there and that got me excited. In fact, nothing was to my taste but Uisa Hmar Bai is not something which people usually wouldn’t have had. The whole setting was amazing, with cabins, banana leaves, laid back setting etc.

From there we went to Aizawl Tajmahal, a building in Reiek Village which a person had built for his wife who died in an accident. Nothing great but we went at a great time, got great photos during sunset.

Theosophical Society was the last place we went, again for sunset but it had already got dark by then. In fact the female security was more beautiful than the sunset. Francis agreed to that too.

Once we reached the camp again, we freshened up and attended the meeting. I don’t exactly remember in which order we got introduced but remember how super enthusiastic Mr. Delhi was, and how easily we could make him camp leader.

Another good night’s sleep.

Day 8 – Aizawl to Vaipuanpho

We were informed that the first part of travel would be through bus. As everything happens at leisurely pace in Mizoram, even the bus came late. We had a round of interview, photographs, another briefing by guide before we were flagged off.

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Once we settled in the bus, Holiday remembered that he forgot his camera/charger in the room. Good that he remembered immediately. Otherwise it’d have become tough. He was consistently taking pictures as if documenting for a film but it was good in a way as it would capture all the moments.

Bus journey was quite long and boring but it was a different experience to see the bus squeeze into such narrow streets. After about two to three hours we reached the point where we were supposed to start our trek. That seemed to be a party place. There were lot of folks with fancy bikes, babes and music hanging around there.

The bridge was quite a spot to take photos. We introduced The Bottom to the Burmese bitter sweet dishes we had. He too liked it. Chai and other stuff in that store were the cheapest till that date. Once we had our fill, we walked to the next camp. That was a piece of cake. No hassles at all. The whole walk was through the road. It’d have been better if we had done the entire road but I guess coal factory or something had come in between and permissions couldn’t be granted.

Once we reached there we had welcome drink, lunch at stream and few of us went to Green House place where they had a nursery, we saw flowers, I was able to take a couple of good photos. The place was relaxing, more than the beauty, that’s what appealed to me.

Once back we again had tea and in sometime dinner. We arranged our stuff in the tent. Chatted for a while. There were lots of mosquitos, so all of us applied Odomos, Holiday went for his music fix with the Mizo guys, Peter too went and by the time he called me, I was half asleep. As I was saying to Senior Colgate, only in treks I get to sleep continuous 8 to 10 hours. She also belonged to the same category.

Day 9 – Vaipuanpho to Ailawng

The best day of the trek. Every time there would be one point where your ego would be crushed and you start accepting that you are part of the environment, rather than wanting to conquer it.

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This time that incident happened while climbing the watery slope. I slipped in the very first step and wet my pants. Such a slap on the face. Lost all my confidence post that and took every step very carefully. No slips post that but the moment after climbing that part, I didn’t feel ecstatic. Darwin Uncle fell down and hurt his face, The Bottom removed his shoes and walked with élan, Junior Colgate said, “that guy is amazing”. Moment of envy for me. When I was saying to Peter that in spite of being a Biology student The Bottom wasn’t interested in flowers and was concentrating just on trek, Peter told, “just like you.” Yes just like me. He’d be the best company to go on a trek. He means business.

Post that there were leeches and it took toll on few people. Kodachadri taught me that one thing. Never stop to take out the leeches. It was fun to see Junior Colgate screeching but that gave her and her mother so much energy that they came out of the forest area first. Earlier when Junior Colgate was falling in water, senior was taking video, it was so much fun to watch.

Peter and I walked that stretch together. We used to think that the forest stretch is over but when we hear Junior Colgate screech we get to know we still have to go and depending on the intensity and volume of screech, with SONAR detection, we put a mind map of the future path.

Even though it was drizzling and we didn’t have a place to have lunch, I ate the two oily fluffy pooris along with aloo standing on the road. Never felt anything as tasty as that. We walked for few more KM and reached the destination. The place was lovely and lit superbly.

The fun part was post that. It was the caving day and everyone were excited. We were initially asked to remove shoes but I preferred to wear it. Also warm water bath for rupees fifty was offered which many took. The Bottom and I refused as per trek ethics. A doctor who was the camp leader there was there along with their family. I was almost the last person on caving expedition, only Darwin uncle was behind me. I didn’t have any hassles to cross it. It’d have been nice without the guides. Anyways fun was fun. We all finished the day with a cold water bath.

For dinner we had Mizo food, didn’t really like the taste but Avocado made up to it. As usual Holiday was singing songs with Mizo guys in one tent and rest slept. It was amazing to see Holiday’s enthu, it never drops and such an interesting speaker he is. Could talk on variety of topics.

Day 10 – Ailawng to Hawlhhah

Before going to sleep the previous day, the camp leaders were mentioning that trek to Hawlhhah would be the longest and with incessant rains it would take even more time, thus they were asking us to start early. Peter was mentioning, “First lets pray that there wouldn’t be rain tomorrow,” but then corrected, “You’d be praying that there would be more rain tomorrow, right?” Ha ha so me.

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I didn’t pray but there were more rains the next day and it was nonstop. I wasn’t in a mood to wear raincoat. Another annoying thing which makes no difference and make our clothes wet anyhow. I think only the rains made the day interesting, otherwise it wouldn’t have been this engaging.

If the morning was about Ranga Sai and Y-Hai. Afternoon was about Senior Colgates story. Of all the things, the thing that got registered in my mind was the cozy room in Ladakh. OMG, how awesome it would have been. It’s not getting out of my mind. Junior Colgate was very interested in people saying Y-Hai, instead of Y-H-A-I, they were saying Y-Hai, which we converted like buoy in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. When a kid said Y-hai, Junior Colgate was happier than the kid seeing us, she turned back and said, “see the kid said Y-Hai.” You should have seen the expression on her face.

Post that Ranga Sai got famous. There will always be one innocent fat guy whom everyone would like but poor Junior, only to her Ranga Sai didn’t reply Y-Hai. So bad of you Ranga Sai. I loved the way The Bottom called Ranga Sai. The tone was amazing. I think I’m using the word ‘amazing’ more than I usually do, thanks to Junior.

Everywhere he went and to every person he saw Ranga Sai started saying Y-Hai post that. And the Y-Hai modulation differs depending on how you say Ranga Sai. You should have been there to experience it. I know everyone who listened would get a smile on their face reading this.

We got a thatched roof to stay. There was some fight for hanging clothes with Group Leader occupying one whole arena to himself. Very good Group Leader. The stream near to it was scary as well. I had a constant dream of being swept away by the stream. One of it felt so real. Food was arranged inside the roof and it was great as usual. The Camp Leader was great, very athletic and swift. Arrangements inside the roof were great.

Funny thing was, when everyone were struggling to find a place to dry their dress, Lok Sabha covered himself with a blanket and started Whatsapping, funny fellow.

The younger camp leader informed the Group Leader that the next day’s trek would be cancelled and there were various other stories as well. Our Group Leader was inept and couldn’t make a decision, he was discussing it with ISRO and Holiday. Holiday said that we would wait and decide the next day after discussing with people, rightly so. I was naturally disappointed.

Day 11 – Hawlhhah to Nghalchwam

As soon as we got up, we got to know that a small stream that we needed to cross had swelled up. What I understood was, we would go till the stream and come back to room. Post that we were to return by the same path, reach our previous day’s lunch point and go to Base camp.

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We had great breakfast and chai in Bamboo cups specially made for us, you should have seen the way that guy made cups out of Bamboo, so swift. It beat the lid which our Camp Leader made at Vaipuanpho. Post our breakfast I got into my wet clothes and got ready for walk till stream but only after that got to know that we were not going to do that. I was made fun of. Damn it!

The Bottom was echoing my thoughts of this being the most leisurely trek he ever had. One more thing is, almost every day we got signal. It was also one of the most fun filled treks too. I used the morning time to inquire about the trek to Shiva Lingam on Mt. Kailash. That intrigued me, immediately felt that I should take my family.

We started retracing our paths at 11 AM. It was a nice slow walk. As we were told that we’d get back to Base Camp, I started using my mobile phone. Put it on speaker and started hearing good old soft rock. Nothing like that.

En route to Hotel the guide boys got us fresh Pineapple and we got few more oranges on the way too. Initially as soon as we crossed the small stream, we got gooseberry plus free leeches. Funny thing while eating pineapple was, the way they kept the Banana leaves, they keep it in reverse, opposite to how we do. I initially noted that in restaurant as well but only after the Pineapple incident, it got registered.

After a day of ‘almost there’, when we were almost there near our bus pick up point, we were greeted by a local with tea and sugarless cake, it felt awesome, cake complimented tea really well. Being a master tea dipper, I can say it for sure.

Only after getting into the bus, I got to know that we were to go to Nghalchwam, our secretary who had come there told us that it was the best camp and we can’t afford to miss. Thus we set off to the camp, lots of traffic and early sunset made it worse. As soon as we went there, Holiday, I and Peter got a tent for ourselves and slept well post dinner. In the darkness we couldn’t see the campsite but tents were awesome.

Day 12 – Nghalchwam to Aizawl

As usual I was the last to get up, we had lots of time, they said it was a small trek, went to stream first, got my back sprained while going to restroom and put data pack in my phone. I wasn’t in a great mood as my mom was getting medical attention back home. When I was out, Colgates had already left the camp.

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After about an hour we set off from there. I cruised, it was sunny, sultry, turf was familiar, last day, no distraction, it was as if completing a steep chase and you know that you are gonna win. Ranga Sai and his ‘Khal Ve’s’ also kept happening. At last I reached the destination first.

Holiday and Darwin uncle were left behind so guides went to look after them. At last it was a happy unit. We all got on bus and went back to Base Camp successfully after completing the trek.

Tea and dinner were great, we got lot of other stuffs too and partied to the fullest at night. Everyone had their own plans from the next day. We hadn’t decided. It was the only day where I slept without any plans.

Day 13 – Aizawl to Silchar

As soon as I got up, Ranga Sai told about his plan to go to Silchar and take passenger train from there. Peter was so sure that he didn’t want that bus journey from Aizawl to Guwhati. I was okay with both. Silchar meant that we’d get one more place to visit, to know. Ideally Peter would have preferred air for everything but I’d like to have the experience more than travel.

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We made the Secretary call for our cab. The first cab we called had only last row seats so we booked another. We went around 3, 4 hours late. Everyone took their own sweet time. Secretary to print Ranga Sai’s certificate for spelling mistake, the driver, traffic etc. There wasn’t one harsh word from travel agent. Also the driver too didn’t wince seeing us this late. I guess that’s their way of life.

The cab couldn’t have looked worse, but it was a new experience. In fact I loved the travel and didn’t feel it as tiring as I expected. Lunch in a local restaurant was awesome but the driver stopped only after begging him to stop for ten times.

Evening snacks near Assam border was awesome, it felt like a mini Bangladesh. Ever since I watched a documentary about ice cream seller in Bangladesh train, I felt like travelling to Bangladesh. That place got me more intrigued.

We reached somewhere near Silchar from where the driver refused to go. Such an asshole. We had to take an auto and go to Silchar station to find room, and it wasn’t easy. It took a long while to get room but finally we got a good room.

For night we had Biryani at restaurant which Pradeep had googled. The taste was different but Ranga Sai didn’t like it. I was tired like hell so gulped something, had Pan and went back to room. That’s when Modi had put a bomb saying 500 and 1000 rupee note can’t be used. That added adventure to our story.

Day 14 – Silchar to Guwhati

We got up and went to station on time, had Poori and Roti there. Didn’t have anything to read so slept for some time but it got boring post that as our entertainment Ranga Sai wasn’t there. He had got AC coach. I got on and off sleep. But unfortunately I didn’t get sleep after the train got free. There was cash crunch so we couldn’t afford to eat much as well. So absolutely no time pass.

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Few minutes that I stayed in AC coach too I was not able to sleep. It would have been good to sleep. This time Guwhati didn’t look like a new place, we went to a hotel which we rejected first as YHAI was not available. We told them that we’d go there the next day.

We ate in a small restaurant named Tibet. Momos and Fried Rice and Thumbs Up felt great. He accepted the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes. That felt even greater. Ranga Sai had train the next day. We had one day gap in between. Peter was saying it’d have been better if we too had had train the next day.

Day 15 – Dysentery Day in Guwhati

Now this is one thing which I’d like to get rid of, this is becoming a habit. I got to know that I wouldn’t be able to move out anywhere due to dysentery and it was as severe as last time, if not more. So shifted to YHAI room, the whole day was lying in bed watching an average 50 Shades of Grey and an awesome The Wolf of the Wall Street, what a film, in Peter’s mobile. At least that was there, otherwise it’d have gotten even worse, as I had finished my book as well.

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Peter was pissed that he couldn’t buy anything in the market. He went for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and then to market. I too felt like buying something but didn’t have the energy to. We had dinner at Sagar. Even though costly, felt great to have Idly and Dosa and Gulab Jamun, what Peter was commenting as My Gulab Jamun for some reason. He thought it’d have been a better idea to have had dinner at Tibet Restaurant instead of this, with me having Momos but I wouldn’t have liked it.

Thanks to Modi Bomb I couldn’t buy Assamese Tea, the only thing I wanted to get it back from my trip.

Day 16 – Guwhati to Chennai Train

Got on train with a heavy feeling, the train was almost empty, got a good sleep as soon as we boarded. The situation was same till afternoon, then people started coming in. We had to be very wise with the money as it was very limited.

Apart from the bachelors there were one Assamese mother/daughter or mother-in-law/daughter-in-law duo. They were funny, they made the coupe their house. Loved their innocence. They weren’t requesting anything, they were just asking us to work for them, took our berth, everything. But good people.

Day 17 – Train Journey

Cash crunch had become food crunch. We could only sit and drool at the food. With only two hundred rupees in hand to go home, we couldn’t afford much. It was fun though. I like crisis situations like this. Feels great once you come out of it. But finally at Vizag, Peter bought three Egg Biryani with old 500 rupees note so all our problems were solved. It’s true that Biryani solves most of the problems.

Day 18 – Reach Home

Morning when we got down from train, the Assamese duo were sitting in train and waiting. When the other guys asked them in a funny tone whether they want to go to Trivandrum, only then they knew that they need to get down. Funny people.

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We got down and early morning at Chennai felt great, it always does. Got a bus immediately. While waiting for my dad to pick up from bus stand. Had a Tea and Vada. No dessert could match this conclusion.

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