Meghalaya Self Drive Tour in July

Himalaya: 8 countries / 3 kingdoms 4 sisters & 1 brother

Transcript

1 Himalaya: 8 countries / 3 kingdoms 4 sisters & 1 brother Arunachal Pradesh / Assam / Meghalaya / Nagaland Bhutan / Darjeeling (West Bengal) / Sikkim / Nepal Culture & Trekking - Pilot Tour from to (39 days) Participants: Klaus Teuchert (Organization & Travel report) & Andre Carlowitz (photos) (*) see ao Explanation 1. Arunachal Pradesh & Assam / 2. Meghalaya / 3. Nagaland (20 days explorer tour - Jeep tour / treks) Tue, Sun, Bhutan: Paro - Thimphu - Dochu La Pass - Punakha - Taktsang (6 days cultural tour - Jeep tour / treks ) Sun, Fri, Darjeeling & Sikkim (8 day monastery tour - jeep tour / treks) Fri, Fri, Nepal - Kathmandu (4 day jeep tour / treks) Fri, Tue, Muscat, Oman (1 day extension) Tue, arrival after India Sun, day 01: Train journey Chemnitz Hbf. 07:31 via Leipzig Hbf. To Frankfurt Airport. (RE, ICE) 12:55. Flight Frankfurt 21:30 to Delhi with Air India AI 120, Boeing Dreamliner in 07:35 hours. I only have my 32-liter backpack with me, which I put on the plane and as hand luggage on site in local buses. Joke gets my knife, fork, scissors and light in his big check-in backpack. Mon, Day 02: Arrival Delhi 09:35. Time change + 4.5 hours flight Delhi 14:25 to Kolkata 16:40 in 2:15 hours with Air India AI 20, Boeing Dreamliner stop 13:15 hours. At the immigration counter in the transit area, the officials take it very carefully The ceremony lasts forever. We hand over the evisas we have already printed out and paid for at home and get stamps in our passports. Page 1 of 85

2 fingerprints are taken and we are supposed to look into a camera for minutes, with and without glasses. Despite transit, we are once again completely x-rayed and our bodies are scanned with centimeter precision, as was the case in Frankfurt. At the airport I quickly exchange 500 euros at the rate of 1: 75.3 for Indian rupees (INR). In India, even in the big cities, it is very difficult to find exchange offices anywhere. The few functioning ATMs only spit out small amounts of money and withdrawals are only possible with a credit card and high fees. Overnight in Kolkata in the nearby Hotel Babul directly opposite the airport. We leave the huge airport building and take a detour to the right, past countless yellow cab taxis, crossing a main street crammed with vehicles. There is a pedestrian tunnel that connects the airport with the small hotel complex in a side street full of simple accommodations, but we don't find the tunnel passage until the next morning. It's got dark, 29 C warm, 100% humidity. We are pleasantly surprised not to meet any beggars or pick-ups. We decide to forego the city tour I planned, for the 12 km to the city center and the river we would need an hour in a taxi in rush hour traffic, not to mention the crowded buses. Dinner in the hotel restaurant costs a pleasant 180 to 230 INR, the 650 ml Tuborg beer 250 INR. Falling asleep is made difficult by loud chatter from hotel staff and barking dogs. Arunachal Pradesh - Assam - Meghalaya - Nagaland (20 days) 1. Arunachal Pradesh & Assam (7 days) Tue, Day 03: In the still dark morning, a driver from the hotel takes us the few meters to the airport, through the connecting corridor we would be on foot certainly been faster. But service is service. Our 1.5 hour flight with Air India AI 705 in the Airbus A319 from Kolkata to Dibrugarh leaves 3 hours later than planned at 9:00 am, at the arrival point Dibrugarh there should be heavy fog. 10:30 am we leave the small airport Dibrugarh in Assam near the south bank of the Brahmaputra. Our 40-year-old, friendly driver is already waiting on the forecourt, introducing himself to us in relatively good English as K. K., the abbreviation goes well with Teuchi and Witz. He works for the Abor Country Travels & Expeditions agency, his real name is Khanin Kalita and lives in his home village of Dudlang (Baranghati) about 20 km from Guwahati. We climb into the large Mitsubishi Pajero 2.8 turbodiesel four-wheel drive jeep. As an English-speaking tour guide, I can of course sit in the front left of K. K. so that I can communicate better with him. We drive a few kilometers past the first tea plantations to the sandy river bank of the mighty Brahmaputra, there is relatively little water in the river bed, we cannot see the other bank. A 7.5 km long new bridge spans the river here, work is still going on on the bridge. We come to a place with a lot of wooden motor ferries. Our jeep drives across one of the ferries on two boards, four cars fit on it. I'm sitting with K.K. on the upper deck and enjoy the 1.5 hour leisurely ride over the calm Brahmaputra. The helmsman has to watch out for shallows and look for the best fairway every day. On the way on, K.K. In a small village, we are allowed to watch the women from the Sonwol tribe doing their hard work on the handlooms and take photos. The ubiquitous betel nut is also tasted here by me and found to be unpleasant to the taste. The unripe fruit of the palm of the same name is crushed, rolled into betel pepper leaves coated with slaked lime, chewed in the mouth and stored. The nut counteracts fatigue and creates well-being. Page 2 of 85

3 similar to alcohol. But it also attacks the teeth. You can see where betel is chewed by looking at the red spots on the streets. We need a total of 6 hours in the Upper Assam Valley parallel to a railway line to the town of Pasighat (150 m). Shortly before Lali or Berung we cross the border to Arunachal Pradesh (pronounced "Aru Natschal"). We got a Special Protected Area Permit from the agency in Itanagar for 50 USD per person, which is also checked at the check posts. This is only necessary for Sister Arunachal Pradesh, not for the other 6 Sisters Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. We have made copies of some documents that will be kept at the checkpoints or in our accommodations. In the dark we drive a few kilometers outside of Pasighat through the jungle on narrow bumpy mud slopes with frequent obscure branches without signs and finally reach the lonely agency Aborcountry River Camp that appears like a mirage in front of us, the place is called Rak Lek, Raneghat and is above on the bank of the great Siang River. White water rafting is possible here and is also offered by the agency. However, there is now little water in the river bed in February. Rokang is the name of the camp's cook and he is related to Oken, the head of the agency. We're the only two tourists here. Drive 155 km in 5 hours with breaks Wed, Day 04: After a tour of the camp and our breakfast we drive back to Pasighat to refuel and shop. The journey now goes up into the mountains through the rainforest, past quarries and steep rock faces, over Rotung, along the broad Siang River and over Kebang to Pangin. Here we make a short detour to a 400 m long suspension bridge, over which many happy locals walk, often with heavy loads in their carrying baskets, the baskets made of bamboo. We drive over a bridge over the Siyom (Yargyap Chu) river, along this over Jining to the big city Along or Aloo (240 m), we are now in the West Siang District of Arunchal Pradesh. In a small restaurant we have momos, maggi (instant noodle soup) for lunch, with tea. We pay our own lunch during the journey, also for our driver. Some guests tell us enthusiastically about Menchukha or Pasang Dorjee Sona (1829 m), a beautiful landscape in the midst of gentle green hills and snow-capped mountains overgrown with pine trees and thorn bushes. The place is 180 km north of Along and 45 km from Tato, just before the India border with China-Tibet. Alongside the 400-year-old Buddhist monastery, there are a few lodges and hotels as well as a small military airfield in Along. The people of the Ramo (Adi) tribe have lived in the Menchukha Valley in the villages of Gapo, Pauk, Padua, Lipusi, Hiri, Purying, Rapum, Charung, Rego and Kart Gumjipang, Barang Gang, Shorang Dhem etc. since time immemorial 18 km away, via Kabu, we reach the Belbom Homestay in the middle of the village of Igo-Kato (450 m) in the Nikte region. We are warmly welcomed by Sri Geyi Ori and his beautiful wife from the Galong or Adi tribe. Then sit together at the large fireplace in the middle of the spacious hut. Little by little, more and more local women arrive and look at us curiously. We seem to like them because they change clothes later and appear in their national costume with a white costume and blue floor-length skirt. Then we get a nice singing and dance program, in which we finally take part ourselves. A traditional dish is cooked for us for dinner. Geyi filled the first green, thick bamboo pole with pieces of chicken wrapped in talley leaves, well seasoned with pickled dried bamboo shoots. Put rice in the second bamboo tube, also wrapped in the leaves. He fills in water between the leaf and the bamboo wall. The two pipes go straight into the fire, are turned every now and then or sometimes placed on the edge and soon begin to steam and cook. Page 3 of 85

4 We get a fermented rice wine drink, it is called Boka in the language of the Kala Apung. It is made with boiled rice grains and roasted rice hulls, and after 7 to 20 days of fermentation alcohol is produced and the drink can be enjoyed. It is filled into a special trumpet-shaped bamboo vessel with a filter and slowly poured boiling water over it. The dripping brew is drunk hot. In Nepal, India and Bhutan it is also called Dongba, here it is sipped with a straw. Heavy persistent rain begins in the afternoon. The views of the green mountains and valleys are now also restricted by heavy haze and fog in February. We sleep in the neighboring house in good beds in a nice room with a toilet and shower. Outside the rain is pounding on our tin roof, we sleep well and are only woken up from time to time by yapping dogs. Drive 100 km in 9 hours with breaks Thursday, day 05: The weather today is cloudy and it is raining lightly. Breakfast is 8 a.m., after which we visit our village Igo-Kato, where there are large huts, a meeting hut and a small school. Then we go with K.K. and host Geyi up in the mountains to the Gallong / Galo village Yigi Kaum or Saansad Adarsh ​​Gram Yojana. Many places have multiple names because of the different languages ​​spoken here. We drive down into the valley to Kabu. The thatched-roof huts of the Galong and Adi are very large, and we are invited to tea by the fireplace in some houses. In Kabu we visit the shell of a new house. A large green lawn between the huts. In the surrounding villages there are public rubbish bins where the residents throw their rubbish in. Without the garbage that is omnipresent in India, the villages look just as much more beautiful. We drive to Along / Aloo for lunch. There are many Indian army barracks here as well as a military airport. We visit the food market and see the outside of the Donyi Polo * temple. Donyi is the sun and Polo the moon, the flag shows a red jagged sun on a white background. In the evening we are back in the homestay in Igo-Kato. Heavy rain at night. Round trip 60 km * Donyi-Polo (also Donyi-Poloism) is the name given to the indigenous religions of the animistic and shamanic type of the Tani and other Tibetan-Burmese peoples from Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India. Religion has developed a system of congregations, hymns composed in the tani ritual language of the shamans, a formalized philosophy, theology and iconography of the gods and temples. The pioneer of revival was Talom Rukbo. Donyi-Polo is related to the Hemphu-Mukrang religion of the Karbi and the Nyezi-No of the Hruso. Tani-speaking peoples - Apatani, Galo, Nishi, Tagin, Na, Mishing, Adi-Lhoba - share a myth that tells of their descent from the progenitor Abotani. Other Tibetan Burmese peoples of Arunachal Pradesh who share the Donyi Polo belief are not descendants of the Abotani. wikipedia Fri, day 06: At 8 o'clock in the morning we drive from Igo-Kato in a westerly direction. Light rain and cloudy weather are our companions through the dense rainforest, wild banana trees and huge ferns line our way. Today we want to reach Daporijo on a muddy track with potholes and huge, unfathomably deep puddles, which first becomes single-lane, then a little wider. On the way we pass some road construction sites. The Nepalese stone knockers are also in progress here, but there are also road construction companies in which the large boulders Page 4 of 85

5 are ground to gravel stones of various sizes, huge diesel generators generate the electricity for the engines. For the construction of the new road, the picturesque, green mountain slopes are being removed over a large area with large excavators and pushed into the gorges. Great walls are painstakingly erected stone by stone under the slopes, which are at risk of landslides. The sight of the breaches cut into the nature of the mountains is ugly, but in a few years there will be a beautiful asphalt road that is safe from landslides. On the serpentine path through the mountains, over passes and through river valleys, we see more Gallong villages, which sometimes stick like eagle nests on the mountain ridges. Once the road is slippery, there is a maximum of 40 km / h, otherwise walking pace. One of the numerous yellow concrete signs from the road construction company says: "This is Highway - not Runway". Well, it is definitely a "high way" with a view. Tea break in the village of Radi Doke (1000 m). We drive on a steel bridge over the great river Ghee Nadi, which later flows into the Siyom. We take a Gallong woman with us who wants to take her carrying case back from the market to her village of Loppo on the other side of the river. You walk 200 m with your heavy bamboo basket steeply down to a suspension bridge and then again 200 m up to the village. We reach the Upper Subansiri District. In the village of Tashi Den we meet the 80-year-old headman who is proudly photographed in his tribal outfit. In the village of Daki there are the big huts of the Galong, pigs and dogs run around, the food supply houses are a bit away from the houses because of the risk of fire. 2.30 p.m. we reach the village of Maro at an altitude of 800 m and at 12 C. Here, too, as everywhere, there are the small grocery stores with the colorful bags of nibbles, the higher the place, the more bulky the bags become. Across from the "Hotel Good News Maro", which is actually just a local restaurant, we have delicious fresh Somosas for lunch, which are puff pastries baked in hot oil and filled with spicy potatoes, vegetables or meat pie. There is also noodle soup and very sweet Indian tea with milk and masala spices. Because of his incessant wailing after a "noodle soup", KK and me have given him a new nickname: "noodle soup" ("noodlesoup"). All villages near the road have an electricity connection, there are high electricity pylons and overhead lines, and we see hydropower plants on the rivers that are currently arid. The coverage of the cellular network is almost complete. A lot of locals use smartphones. 45 km and 3 hours are still to Daporijo, the very poor Hoppelstraße leads past picturesque Gallong villages, but also past extensive army barracks. The guarded entrance gates have imaginative names, countless vehicles, mostly modern Tata trucks are available for the army. Shortly before our destination, we cross the broad brown Subansiri River. In the dark around 5 p.m. we reach the first suburbs on the incredibly poor piste, peppered with meter-deep potholes and lakes, and shortly after 6 p.m. the rather dirty, muddy and poor town of Daporijo (255 m). Since the first bridge is broken, we first drive about five kilometers past the city on the river bank, then we cross the Subansiri and drive the same route back on the opposite side of the river. The road is the same here, only the gray-brown silt is 20 cm deeper. Everything unimaginable comes together here: it is pitch dark, it is raining, there is fog, the "road" including the holes, piles of stones, puddles, mountains and valleys are not recognizable as such, the oncoming swaying vehicles including wide tankers and trucks, they have all fade in and do not fade out even when driving past, there are only a few motorcyclists, cyclists, but countless people are walking on the street, the sacred cows in between. Everything is very interesting, it just demands a high degree of concentration and caution from our driver. Finally, as if by a miracle, we reach the "town center" of Daporijo. Hard to imagine, but there really is a good hotel in the middle of all this mess. And it page 5 of 85

There are 6 free rooms in the oasis of Hotel Singhik, we get No. 204 with a hot shower and toilet including fresh bed linen, towels, electric radiators, TV and balcony.The view is of corrugated metal roofed slums and larger bare concrete houses. The hotel restaurant prepares a tasty dinner for us. Drive 160 km in 10 hours with breaks Sa, day 07: In the morning breakfast at 07:15 am. We visit the Daporijo market. Normally it would be beneficial to spend 2 more days here to visit some interesting original villages to the north. 08:45 am we continue to Ziro. On the way up to the Miri Hills, the sun makes its way through the thick clouds for a short time, then fog is announced again. We see many tribal mountain villages of the Nyishi (Hill-Miri) on the road. They are picturesquely scattered on the countless mountain ridges in the midst of dense cloud forests and rainforests full of wild bananas (only the flowers are edible, the leaves can be used to cover the roofs), tall ferns, palms and green trees. We mostly come across jeeps, now and then small cars and of course trucks. At an altitude of 900 m we reach the village of Baza. In Godak a short tea break at the Anuk Line Hotel. At 1200 m we come to the large village of Raga, where we have lunch. Later we drive down to Tamen (365 m) in the wide valley of the Kamla River, cross it on a long steel bridge and turn right. White water rafting is also offered here. It should be 50 km to Ziro. Shortly after 4 p.m. we worked our way up to an altitude of 1000 m. At dusk we reach Old Ziro / Siro (1600 m) on a huge plateau at 5:30 p.m. The inhabitants live up here. We drive another 6 km past rice fields, a military airport and a barracks, then turn left from the main road through Hong. Continue through the sparsely populated suburb of Siro-Hapoli, where we are warmly welcomed after 6 p.m. by Punyo Chada Yalung and his wife, owners of the Ngunu Ziro Homestay. Both are from the Apatani tribe, who used to be adorned with wooden stakes in their cheeks and mouth. We are now in the Lower Subansiri District. Since we want to go on a day trip in the area tomorrow, I spontaneously decide to spend two nights here. Punyo organizes for us an experienced local guide for tomorrow, Sunday, which is a public holiday in India as it is with us. In the evening it is 7 C cool, outside you need a jacket. But since we are sitting by the heated iron stove, we are always nice and warm. For dinner we get Dal Bhat: rice with fried chicken curry and home-grown steamed vegetables: potatoes, carrots, green beans. In addition, black tea and finally original Indian single malt whiskey. To sleep we are led into the neighboring building, where we have one of the two beautiful rooms with a shower and toilet. 4 people can spend the night comfortably here. Drive 160 km in 10 hours with breaks Sun, day 08: Ziro is a fairly flat valley and is surrounded by hills covered with conifers and pines. The valley is also called the Apatani Plateau and is famous for its rice fields and fish culture. In cloudy, sunny weather, K. K. drives us to the starting point of today's hike, where we meet our local guide Koj Mama. As an animist * follower of an ethical religion, he is very friendly and head of the small agency Brahmaputra Tours. We march off, first through dusty suburban streets, later on the broad embankments through the now fallow rice fields. The seed rice has already been sown on some of the fields, the young plants are later separated on the fields from a certain size. Along the edge of the forest we climb up to 1800 m, past hand sawmills. Koj explains some useful plants, the long, flowing welcome fern, six types of oak, and the order in which the rice fields are cultivated. The fruits, which look like small yellow tomatoes or gooseberries with the thorn leaves, become Page 6 of 85

7 used against the leeches (lychees), the leeches that also occur here in the monsoons. In northeast India there is a domesticated black breed of cattle with giant horns and cute sail ears far below called Mithun or Gayal. They were domesticated by the wild Gaur with normal cattle. The Mithun, who graze freely without a fence or collar, meet at a wall whose concrete has been mixed with salt and which they like to lick off. This way she can keep her owner together well. We walk in the jungle and on a panoramic path through two Apatani tribal villages. On the sacred rock, Pamulaya, which is reminiscent of an eagle, we eat our packed lunch, above us three huge and also sacred pine trees. We have a good view of the spacious plain at our feet. We attend a service in the Hartii Baptist Church in the first village of Bamin Michi, we are immediately involved and welcomed as guests by the talkative young pastor-missionary. Just get away quickly ... Then we cross some villages in Hong, some of which are covered with corrugated iron. We meet some older Apatani women who still have their noses and blue face tattoos. One reason for "beautifying" your tribal women is that their husbands "mark" them and make them "unsightly" for strange men so that they are not stolen from you by hostile tribes. If they do, then they all recognize again, have proof and can demand it back. An old woman skillfully sifts the husks from the threshed rice. The residents of northeast India like to have their photos taken, as very few western tourists get lost here. We don't see any normal beggars either, either in the larger cities or in the villages, except for a few cripples who, however, do not beg aggressively. In Dutta Village we are invited to Koj's birthplace, where his brother lives with his wife and little daughter together with the ancient grandmother. They have a small shop on the street side and the doorbell rings every now and then when people want to buy something. We sit by the open fire and are treated to tea. I also have to try the crispy fried pork bacon smoked over the fire, something very special for the locals, but I could do without it. Finally we go back through rice fields to our homestay in Siro-Hapoli. We reach it just before dark and our K. K. is already waiting for us with delicious black tea. For dinner we get tenderly soft roast pork in a dark sauce. Indian whiskey for digestion. Today is our second night at the Ngunu Ziro Homestay. Trekking +280 m / -280 m = 19 km in 8 hours with breaks * Animism (religion) 1. Basically, the vague term animism stands for the spiritual-religious notions of an all-animatedness, which plays a major role in ethnic religions in particular : Any or certain objects of nature are assigned a personal soul or an indwelling spirit. 2. In connection with today's outdated evolutionism, animism was a religious-scientific theory, according to which this belief was either the oldest or at least one of the oldest phenomena of religious conceptions of man. 3. In colloquial and theological usage the term animism is used as a synonym for all ethnic religions. wikipedia (abbreviated) Mon, day 09: morning fog, then cloudless. Breakfast with porridge, vegetable rice, kiwi jam, massala tea. Our host Punyo Chada Yalung proudly leads us to his spacious garden, in which two Nepalese people saw boards by hand. Fine-leaved Chinese bamboo grows here next to the freshly mated potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, white cabbage, carrots etc. grow in the large greenhouse. Punyo is planning to build two summer houses for tourists in his garden, the view over the mountainous green landscape is superb. Page 7 of 85

8 9 a.m. we say goodbye and start the journey from Ziro to Itanagar. The roads are getting a little better, there is heavy traffic. We drive past the numerous restricted army and police posts without having to show anything. We cross a pass at 1774 m (5754 feet) altitude, then switchbacks down to the Ranga and Dikrang rivers, heading south towards the sun. We pass the village of Joran, reach a road construction yard with a large diesel generator at an altitude of 1220 m, here stones are crushed to different grain sizes and tar is boiled. In addition, the construction site accommodation for the Nepalese workers with their families. The walls of the hut consist of rusted tin barrels knocked wide on all sides. Road workers receive INR 300 wages per day / INR 150 with food, including women. At 1200 m we reach Jachuly, all around green trees, Asian firs and pines. Shortly afterwards we stop to visit a Michi village with the long houses and the roofs with the chimney dome on top. We're talking to a family, we're allowed to marvel at the inside of their house. We reach the small town of Jazali (700 m). We reach Pusa (660 m) via the Ranga Nagi River. Then we go uphill again, on the 1055 m high pass we have a tea break in the Siraj Teastall viewpoint. From here we can see a reservoir including a dam in the valley. We reach Potin after another 9 km. "50 km to Itanagar" is written on the sign, the road is smooth, wide, even with a median and with yellow stripes on both sides. We leave Yupia on the left, pass the village of Nyorch, from here to the destination of Itanagar it is 21 km. (To Guwahati 373 km - 8 hours drive). The river valley is densely populated, there are many high-rise buildings, football and cricket stadiums, and a railway line. Naharlagun (300 m) is 15 km before Itanagar, K. K. parks our jeep, we go out to eat: Barata is a delicious baked puff pastry with a seasoned vegetable or meat vegetable filling, served with dal, massala tea and packaged water. I usually also drink the water on the tables in the basic restaurants when it is fresh from a spring or from the black hose. Four pretty women play man-angry-not-you and don't let us annoy them either. We visit the grocery market, where, in addition to fruit and vegetables, fresh milk and honey, among other things. Black roast rats impaled on wooden sticks (wild wood rats, not house rats: says the saleswoman) and live yellow silkworms. On a side street, according to K. K. a shortcut, it goes through beautiful river landscapes in the midst of many green hills and then up to the center of Itanagar. The first serpentine ends, we spend 3 ½ hours from here in a 1 km long traffic jam due to a closed section of the road in the lively mountain town of Itanagar * (398 m). If we had run we would have been up in 15 minutes. In the center there is sheer chaos, clogged streets, vehicles including excavators, trucks, buses crowd the intersections from all sides, everyone wants to go exactly where the other comes from and everything crosses. In between people about people who are not bothered in the slightest and who happily go about their business. We check into our hotel and then drive to the private home of my agency Abor Country Travels & Expeditions. It is located in the quiet C sector just outside the city. I finally get to know the agency boss Oken Tayeng personally, we are entertained by his wife with local massala tea and we pay our travel expenses. For dinner with chicken, dal bhat and vegetables, we are treated to Indian beer. We spend the night in the nearby Hotel Arun Subansiri below a Buddhist monastry and the state museum. Drive 112 km in 6 hours with breaks + 3.5 hours traffic jam * Itanagar is the capital of the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the Papum Pare district and is located on the foothills of the Himalayas. It has approx. Inhabitants (2011) and is a trading center for agricultural products from the area. In the rainy city there is a new Tibetan Buddhist monastery, a temple that is representative of the Burmese form of Buddhism page 8 of 85

9 (Theravada), as well as the Itafort, a fortress from the 15th century. Itanagar is the seat of the Itanagar diocese. wikipedia Tue, day 10: Today after morning fog sunny hot weather. In the early morning we visit the small monastery and center of Buddhist culture Sidhartha Vihar, directly above the hotel, for which H. H. the Dalai Lama laid the foundation stone in 1983. A monk even allows photos inside the monastery. From the beautiful area we have a view of Itanagar. An inconspicuous "Stasi man" in civilian clothes tries to ask us: where from, where to, in which religion we believe ... After breakfast in the empty hotel restaurant, the long drive from Itanagar to Guwahati (formerly Gauhati) (56 m) begins at 7:30 am. First we have to fill up our jeep, diesel costs 61.04 INR = 0.79 EUR per liter x 57.34 liters = INR. Petrol costs 65 INR = 0.83 EUR per liter. We first drive 19 km on an almost empty four-lane smooth road through green mountains and hills to the south to the Arunachal Pradesh border to Assam, shortly before Holongi. The hills and people's down jackets are gone. Bicycles, in the vicinity of cities also bicycle rickshaws and motor rickshaws, light clothing and above all the brightly colored long saris and dresses of the Assamese women dominate the great plain of Assam (150 m) on the Brahmaputra. The outside temperature is a pleasant 23 C. K. K. leaves a permit copy at the police station. Copies of the permits are usually kept or copied in the accommodation as well. At 9 o'clock we reach Gohpur. The traffic has increased, from here we drive west on the National Highway NH 15, come through endless villages and lined up properties, behind whose small houses and stables the grain fields stretch into the hinterland. These villages, smaller towns and endless tea plantations alternate. Speed ​​Breaker is the name of the innumerable asphalt speed bumps that K. K. drives over with great care and at low speed. In addition to the large Tata buses, we also see luxury coaches, state buses and army buses. Barracks, army vehicles and many soldiers and officers can be found everywhere in northern India. Cows have the privilege on streets - even if they are only half the size of ours, they are at least three times more sacred. A Hindu Nepalese spring ceremony takes place on one of the many cross rivers, the approx. 50 people of the Brahman caste are very colorfully dressed and are happy about our visit, joke is allowed to take photos of everything. We are invited to keep celebrating with them in the temple, but we have to keep going. At 11:30 am we cross the great Kameng River shortly before Balipara. We stop 5 km from Balipara and 30 km northeast of Tezpur and want to visit the Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark Gardens. We think that we will visit a private tea plantation, in reality we should look at the luxurious bungalows and restaurants of this posh resort and I am asked to promote it over a cup of tea. There are 14 rooms in the five huge bungalows. The smaller ones cost euros: "Silver Tips", "Golden Tips", "Ambrosia", each with guiding and full board. The aristocratic 100-year-old "Showcase Heritage Bungalow" costs 375 euros. We register in the visitor book. We are not allowed to enter the tea plantations. At 1 p.m. we continue to Tezpur at 27 C, there are many barracks on the left, there is also an airfield. At 4 p.m. we arrive in the city of Mangaldai. The sun sets shortly after 5, we are just before Guwahati, turn right onto the road towards Bhutan. Our driver K. K. invited us to stay with his family in his home village of Dudhlang (Baranghati), 20 km from Guwahati. He says we're the first tourists he offers this to. I see it as the best proof of friendship there can be and I say thank you, the noble hotel in Guwahati will be canceled, like some before, when we preferred homestays. We do some shopping at the local village market and reach Dudlang at 6 p.m. We are warmly welcomed by K. K.'s wife, daughter (3rd grade), mother and brothers Page 9 of 85

10 was called. We get freshly brewed tea and a snack. We are allowed to spend the night in a new building, the inner walls of which are still damp from the fresh plaster. The family equips the completely empty room with bed frames, mattresses and bedding, window curtains, mosquito nets, electricity, a chair and a table. We feel at home. K. K. tells us that his relatives and friends in the village want to perform a small musical folklore program for us with various drums and brass cymbals. We walk through the darkness to another property with a large inner courtyard, where a group of curious men dressed in white and some women, also spectators, are waiting for us. We get places of honor and the program, which has been handed down for centuries in this tribe, starts. Then we should try out some of the instruments. Countless photos are taken with us and of us, almost everyone has their smartphone with them, including women and girls. And everyone wants to have selfies with us. Then there is our delicious dinner in the dining room next to the kitchen with an open hearth fire. Full and happy we fall asleep in our luxury room under our mosquito nets. Drive 320 km in 10 hours with breaks Wed, Day 11: Breakfast in the house of Khanin Kalita's family. There are i.a. Boiled duck eggs from our own breeding. Afterwards a tour through the village of Dudhlang, we walk to the fields, greet the neighbors, visit the Hindu temple.The whole family welcomes us warmly on our trip to Meghalaya. In the market near the village of K. K. two blind men and a boy play and sing and collect money from the numerous spectators. At 9 o'clock we drive along a good four-lane motorway with separate lanes. In our left-hand traffic lane, we encounter not only pedestrians, cyclists and cows but also large vehicles. It's still 20 km to the busy center of the metropolis of Guwahati *. We exchange money in an exchange office, for 500 EUR we get INR, a very good rate. We drive directly along the Brahmaputra, from the shore overloaded ferries sail to the Hindu temple on an island. 3 km it goes uphill in bends, at the top we visit the most famous Hindu temple Kamakhya of Ghuwahati, located on a hill above the city, there are a lot of believers and pilgrims present, but apart from us two not a single western tourist. To see the Holy of Holies inside, people line up for 5-6 hours. A goat kills a pigeon and eats it, I hadn't seen that before. We leave Guwahati at 1 p.m. On the way we dine in a more upscale restaurant. For Witz there is always the same noodle soup, for us too, freshly cooked and with chicken, INR costs one meal. In the small basic restaurants we usually pay between INR with drinks for the three of us. * Guwahati (formerly Gauhati) is a city in the Indian state of Assam on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. With a population (2011), today over a million, it is by far the largest settlement in northeast India. It spreads directly on the banks of the Brahmaputra and is located in the Kamrup Metropolitan District. The suburb of Dispur, just 10 kilometers from the city center, is the capital and seat of the government of Assam. The main attractions of Guwahati include the Kamakhya Temple, an institution of Tantristic Shaktism that attracts many pilgrims, and the Assam State Museum with a large archaeological and ethnographic collection. Guwahati is home to the Gauhati High Court, a zoological garden, food and petrochemical industries. Lok-Priya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport is located 20 km southwest of the city and is named after the former Chief Minister of Assam, Gopinath Page 10 of 85

11 named Bordoloi. In addition to Gauhati University, the city has also had an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Guwahati) since 1994. Guwahati is the seat of a Catholic archdiocese. * Assam - Languages: (2001) Assamese% Bengali% Hindi 5.88% Bodo 4.86% Nepali 2.12% Mishing 1.9% Karbi 1.5% Santali 0.91% Deori 0.22% Kukish 0.11% Other 6.05% Assam - Religions: (2011) Hinduism% Islam% Christianity 3.7% Buddhism 0.2% Sikhism: 0.01% Jainism: 0.01% Animism: 0.01% Other 0.3% 2. Meghalaya (7 days) still Wed, Day 11: We cross the border from Assam to Meghalaya without noticing. At the toll booth of the four-lane motorway, K. K. pays 60 INR, we reach the city of Umsning after 2 hours. This is also where the motorway ends and from here the expansion of the bypass road begins, which extends to Shillong. We cross a pass at a height of 1000 m, reach the huge Umjang reservoir near Barapani (= large water) 15 km before Shillong. A sign says "no entry", which does not bother me to climb over the fence and go to some young people on the bank. Above we have an overview of part of the lake, boats in the water are waiting to take wealthy tourists to some expensive hotels. It goes up into the mountains, we continue to cool Shillong (1600 m), the capital of Meghalaya spread over several hills. We are picked up by a diligent agency boss and accompanied to the relatively classy Guest House JKR Residency, the apartment for one night costs INR. He would like to convey his own program to us, but I don't react to it, we go through the program we agreed with K.K. In the evening the bald guy takes us to a simple restaurant, where we get local food, beef bowls and meatballs. The funny thing is when I have to pee, there is supposedly no toilet in the restaurant, he leads me a few minutes in the dark through the city center to a new building, where I am supposed to pee in the background, very mysterious. In Meghalaya the people are very different than in the other three sister states. They don't look at us like when we come from the moon. They appear more modern and, like Westerners, are more concerned with themselves than they pay much attention to us. Drive 105 km in 4 hours with breaks Page 11 of 85

12 Thursday, day 12: In the cloudless morning we visit the Wards Lake in Shillong, walk in the green park with the various rhododendrons and flowers around the small lake. Then we walk to the interesting Police-Bazaar and Bara Bazaar markets, where the locals buy everything they need for their daily needs. The betel nut market is very interesting, all of the shop assistants chew it too, you can tell by the red and sparse teeth and the thick cheek. In addition to the betel nut leaves and the slaked lime, we see various types of betel nut processing, the normally dried nuts, which are soaked in water for a month, reminiscent of light brown coconuts, others are put in cow dung. So there are different flavors. Then we visit the Don Bosco Cultural Center, over seven floors all tribes of the "Seven Sisters" are represented as sculptures in their environment. There are many historical photographs, gadgets, household items, jewelry and weapons. From the roof we have a view of the city of Shillong. While strolling through Shillong today we see our first two white tourists, two Germans. 1.30 p.m. Departure from Shillong to Cherrapunji, the rainiest place on earth. At the three elephant waterfalls (a rock looked like an elephant until the earthquake in 1897) or Three-Steps-Waterfalls, only little water runs down to the valley at the moment. This is followed by the larger town of Mylliem, where vegetables are just beginning to be grown in the brown fields. In spring from mid-March everything turns into a green, blooming landscape. We are now at an altitude of 1900 m, all around we see many tunnels and mines, plus quarries. This means that everyone can not only cut down trees on their own property, burn down and clear the meadows and all vegetation, but also tear up the ground, tunnel under and extract mineral resources, as well as remove hills and rock formations as they wish. Unfortunately, this is the way most owners do this here. As a result, nature looks very messed up. We come to a huge high plateau (1700 m), where, in addition to metals, coal is mined in open-cast mining, the crushing plants are centrally located. The green canyons on both sides of the plateau are breathtakingly deep. We discover the Wahkba waterfall by chance, we pay 10 rupees entry and have our photos taken by and with Indian tourists. In Sohra or Cherrapunji * (1400 m) overnight stay in the "7 Star Homestay & Restaurant", our landlady M. K. explains with a smile that her seven children are the "7 stars". Drive 65 km in 5 hours with breaks * Cherrapunji is a place in the Indian state of Meghalaya with just under inhabitants (2011), who mostly belong to the Khasi people. The place is one of the rainiest on earth. The original name of the city was Sohra (pronounced "Shohra"), which was pronounced Churra by the British before changing to the current one. Sohra is still in use locally. Cherrapunji or Sohra is the seat of one of the seven tribal principalities of the Khasi and a traditional market town with good connections to Bengal. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the place holds two world records: 1. The largest rainfall fell here in a single year: mm between August 1, 1860 and July 31, the largest rainfall fell here in a single month: 9299, 96 mm in July Average annual rainfall in Cherrapunji is mm. This puts the place in third place behind Mawsynram (1st place), also in Meghalaya 16 km west of Cherrapunji, whose average is mm, and the mountain Wai ale ale (2nd place) on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, whose rain average mm is. Page 12 of 85

13 Cherrapunji receives precipitation from both the southwest and northeast monsoons, which means that there is only one monsoon season. Cherrapunji is located at 1484 m above sea level on the windward side of the Khasi Mountains in the branch of the SW monsoon that enters India via the Bay of Bengal and the Ganges Delta. The clouds rise here on the mountains, cool down and have to give off their moisture for orographic reasons. This happens every year between June and September. During the winter months, the NE monsoons rain down, descending the Brahmaputra valley. Amazingly, despite the constant rain, there is also a lack of water in Cherrapunji and the residents often have to walk for kilometers to get drinking water. Irrigation is hampered by the excessive rainfall, as the top soil layers are washed away after the forests are destroyed by human interference. wikipedia Fri, day 13: Warm and sunny. For today, K. K. has organized a local guide for us for the two-day trek to the Living Roots Bridges. Our tour is called the Tyrna Trek. At 8 o'clock we drive south on the Sohra plateau via Laitlyngkoi and Pynursla on the NH 40 towards the Bangladesh border. We frequent a few villages, see many beautiful private houses of the rich, as well as accommodations and lodges of all classes. The antenna masts and wild quarries are less beautiful to look at. First we visit the stalactite cave Mawsmai Cave in 30 minutes, entrance fee 20 INR. After 30 km on a partly red dust track, we get a first view of the lowlands of Bangladesh (bangla = Bengali and desch = country). Khoh Ramhah Or Maw Trop is the name of the gigantic barrel-shaped rock formations that, according to legend, were the carrying baskets of a giant. We drive down in switchbacks to a forest plateau at a height of 600 m, from the road bridge we see the several hundred meters high Kynrem waterfall, which flows over several steps, but now it is more of a trickle. After 500 meters we turn straight ahead at a junction, the main road continues to Dauki and Bangladesh. We visit two kilns in which lime is burned, which is of course also used for betel chewing in addition to the construction industry. The stacked layers of wood, limestone, wood, limestone etc. burn for 7 days in order to obtain the finished quicklime, it is finally ground into powder. It's gotten hot. In Tyrna (800 m) at the roadhead we say goodbye to K. K. at 10:30 am and meet our local guide Wesley Majaw (30) from Tyrna. He belongs to the Khasi tribe and has 9 brothers and 1 sister. He is the oldest son who later has to look after his parents. He explains many plants and animals to me on the way. Soon we reach a river valley, over which a Living Root Bridge was built. The living, growing aerial roots of Indian rubber trees or simply rubber trees (Ficus elastica) are woven together and a bridge with a floor and railing is formed over many years. The oldest bridges are 150 years old and strong enough to support a few people. In the jungle village of Nougthymmai there are many betel nut trees, we get lemon juice at a private hut. A steel suspension bridge crosses the Umsai River and connects the towns of Wahumsai and Mynteng. 180 meters in altitude it goes up concrete steps to the village of Myntheng (Bare House). Here is the Bansai Soh homestay, in which 4 people can live in 2 rooms. From here we walk straight for 45 minutes until we reach the main attraction, the Doubledecker Bridge. 2 Living Root Bridges in one place one above the other. The big hit is that the third bridge is currently under construction. We also see some tourists here, mostly from India. We will spend the night in the Homestay Nongriat (450 m), in the four simply furnished, clean rooms with integrated squat toilet including water and bucket, page 13 of 85

14 at least 8 people live, there is enough space outside for tents. The attached kitchen serves the usual Dal Bhat for everyone, with cucumber slices and mixed vegetables. I have a long chat with Wesley about his people. There are 3 main tribes here in Meghalaya: the Khasi, the Garo and the Priar. The Khasi are divided into 3 subgroups: the War Khasi, the Lyngam and the Maram. The Priar live in the Jaintia District and also call themselves War Jaintia. All read and write in Latin letters, unusual for India. Trekking +220 m / -480 m = 10 km in 6 hours with breaks Sa, day 14: Warm and sunny. Today's tour is called the Nohkalikai Trek. Before breakfast I take a swim in the pools under the Living Root Doubledecker Bridges, the water is pleasantly fresh, not too cold. Walk at a leisurely pace on a concrete path towards Rainbow Waterfall. Today we are accompanied by Assistant Guide Arnold, who is supposed to help carry our luggage on the steep ascent. The yellow flowers are called Sunbirds Flowers, we also see beehives. A narrow iron rusted suspension bridge spans the Wahsaw River in the Riat Valley. Later we pass small river valleys on a combined bridge made of iron wire with aerial roots, as well as a Living Route Bridge plus a steel suspension bridge. On stone steps we gradually climb up to a branch that first takes us in a few minutes along the Umsaw river valley past a first bathing pool to the magnificent 100 m high Rainbow waterfall. The pool shines turquoise blue and in the lower waterfall rainbows can always be seen in the sun. In the bathing lake there is a huge rock that a ladder leads up to. The turquoise lake is cold, but swimming is hip for me and for some young Indian tourists. At the first bathing pool, we take a bath and snack break together. From the junction it takes about steps, 885 meters in altitude and 3 sweaty hours of ascent on a good stone staircase that winds up in serpentines to the Sohra plateau at 1400 m altitude. We take a few breaks on the ascent. Joke forced his big backpack on Arnold a few times, and a few times I could encourage him to carry it himself. Arrived happily at the top, we walk over to the viewpoint of the beautiful Nohkalikai Falls, which flows over a huge rock wall into a huge rock basin. A terrible story blows around the place where the young mother Likai jumped into the waterfall because of her wicked second husband, who dismembered her daughter from her first marriage and offered her to dinner (Nohka Likai = leap of the Likai). A panoramic path leads steeply down to half the height and a poor path further down to the foot of the waterfall, which we leave out due to lack of time and strength. A sign reminds us: "Sohra - The wettest place on Earth" (Sohra - the wettest place on earth). There is a small tourist market here that is well frequented by local tourists. We buy 2 bottles of Tuborg beer at INR 120 for the evening and arrive at our seven-star hotel shortly after 5 p.m. We are allowed to move into a slightly better room in the basement. I pay our guides, thank them and say goodbye to them with the Khasi greeting: "Khublei". Trekking m / -215 m = 12.5 km in 7 hours with long (swimming) breaks Sun, day 15: Warm and sunny. 7.30 a.m. Breakfast on the sunny terrace. There is toasted toast, liquid butter, jam and tea. The well or spring water that is served with it can be drunk without hesitation. At 8 o'clock we drive north from Sohra via Mawdok with the beautiful tiered Asian conifers to Umchynga and Laitlyngkoi. Here we turn right on the left side of a huge, unfortunately very hazy canyon on the NH 40 towards Dauki and Bangladesh, it's 59 km until then. We pass through some villages, in some of which short rice brooms are made and offered for sale. In Wahlylkhat page 14 of 85

15 the large three-tower Christian church sits enthroned between scattered houses. The small town of Pynursla is located on a plateau at an altitude of 1400 m. From here the drive goes slightly downhill to the border with Bhutan. The village of Siatbakon is 1130 m high, on a bridge we cross a narrow river valley. In the village of Nongshyrgan (920 m) there are only small, shabby huts, short rice brooms are also made here and offered for sale in long rows. We turn left onto a narrow paved single road that leads 18 km to the two tourist Khasi villages of Riwai (Latang Riwan) and 2 km further to Mawlynnong (Mahlynong) (880 m). The brown grassy landscape has been completely transformed, thick green jungle with bamboo and trees in the middle of small green hills line the road like an impenetrable wall. Here we see cyclists again for the first time. Despite the low season, there are numerous Indian tourists on site, K. K. says that no "mango" goes to earth here in summer. In Riwai we visit another Living Roots Bridge with a beautiful swimming pool. In both places, in addition to the poor local huts, colorful homestays, bungalows, small private houses and at a height of a few meters even an airy tree house (2000 INR per double room, with balcony and flush toilet) invite you to linger in the green dream landscape for several days.Our local guide Wesley also goes on treks to the surrounding villages with his customers from here. Small market stalls sell wooden handicrafts, in small cute and very clean restaurants you can dine. At 12 noon we are back on the smooth main road NH 40. In Mahshun you can visit the cave of the same name. Shortly before Bangladesh near Mawriang, hundreds of trucks stand in endless rows at the roadside, which are loaded with coal or are still being loaded. The road is now turning into a muddy pothole track, on which we stop at a height of 200 m to explore Bangladesh, the now arid border river Dauki (Dawki) (150 m) and the ants workers who use the river sand as free building material in countless numbers Trucks loaded to inspect. Exactly where the beautiful Indian hilly landscape ends and merges into an endless, water-flowing, humid plain, the country of Bangladesh, which is very poor compared to India, begins. After passing the "First Line of Defense" we approach the river bridge over the Dauki River, which is still Indian territory. There are many wooden rowing boats lying on the bank, we are approached by a boat owner and take a one-hour boat trip on the Dauki River. Despite the low water, the river is sometimes very deep, our ten-year-old little boat boy manages to run the boat aground a few times, so I get out to help him maneuver into deeper water. In the river we meet other boats, manned by locals who can also be rowed. There are small camps and bathing enthusiasts on the flat shore, and laundresses work on the rocky steep bank. Our little captain drives us to the point where the river flows in small cascades into our calm basin and then he paddles hard to the sandbar connected to the border, where hundreds of people celebrate, bathe, eat and drink. In between, some soldiers parade with rifles, so that we'd better not set foot on land, only near the shore do I touch the ground of Bangladesh from my boat. Above the bank are covered border posts that are manned by soldiers. But the atmosphere is very relaxed. An hour later we drive over the high bridge with our jeep and come to the border town of Dauki (170 m), we have lunch in a basic restaurant. At the border crossing Dauki (India) to Tamabil (Bangladesh) * there is a large concrete arch "India-Bangladesh Friedship Gate". I ask the uniformed guard on duty and we can take pictures of the border without further ado. Everything relaxed here too. At the border stone 1275 under the banner "Welcome To Bangladesh", the two border guards from India and Bangladesh armed with automatic rifles stand together, intimately deep in conversation. Coming from Bangladesh one reads the signs "Welcome To India" and "Welcome To Meghalaya, Shillong 83 km". Page 15 of 85

16 K. K. warned us to cross the border line, to enter the soil of Bangladesh without having a visa. The border guards have little to do and it would be a change for them to detain us, keep us waiting and ask for a donation. Since almost no western tourists come to Bangladesh, it would be a sensation for everyone. The local Indians and Bangladeshis who have traveled from far and wide wander back and forth unhindered without being monitored. There are millions of refugees who have emigrated to India black and are still emigrating. Bangladesh is also known as East Pakistan, 98% Bengal live here, 90% Muslims and 10% Hindus, a total of 165 million people (2017). Our journey continues on a two-lane smooth road north towards Jowai to Shillong. We see many Bangladeshi workers shoveling piles of coal into baskets, putting them on their heads, running up an inclined stairway and pouring them into high-walled trucks. Here, too, endless rows of hundreds of trucks on the roadside, loaded with coal or waiting to be loaded. At an altitude of 1300 to 1450 m we cross the plains of the Western Jaintia Hills District, pass the small town of Jarain, here again mine holes above and river valleys below. The town of Jowai (1400 m) looks like an English hill station and is spread over a few hills. For lunch we eat puff pastry pockets filled with vegetable potatoes, baked in oil, with milk tea. Unfortunately we hardly have a view of the steep valleys, as it is now very hazy and foggy in February. From Mawlyngkneng, a newly built bypass leads right to the lake near Barapani. But we take the normal left road to Shillong, come among other things. through Pommura, see many small houses in the English-Victorian style. People have wrapped themselves in checkered blankets because it is cold at 1,500 m above sea level. At 5:15 p.m. the sun disappears behind the horizon. At 5:30 p.m. we reach our destination, the noble Guest House JKR Residency in Shillong, over a pass at an altitude of 1900 m and again in the dark. Drive 170 km (including a 36 km detour to Riwai and Mahlynong) in 10 hours with breaks Mon, Day 16: Sun and warm. Tomorrow at the hotel in Shillong, in our Premium Suite there are excellent, crisp white sheets, deck basins, pillows and thick blankets in addition to the small living and dining room. I always get up first. Joke then peels out of his beloved Yeti sleeping bag, which lies on the pure white linen sheets. At 7:30 a.m. we are served breakfast in our room with toast, omelette, jam and tea. Our drive to Kaziranga National Park begins shortly after 8 a.m. I tell K. K. that Indian drivers are the best drivers in the world, which he acknowledges with a laugh. It is very exhausting for him to ski continuously from morning to evening, often on very bad slopes. At Barapani we pass the lake of the same name again, from here on the four-lane road northwards towards Guwahati. A long timber transporter has loaded thick logs, they are lying unsecured on the loading area, it is strange to follow him directly at a short distance, please overtake quickly. In Umsning, Umsning and Umsning we are driving on a new, almost finished motorway. Shortly before and after Jorabat, the chimneys of the numerous cement factories smoke greasy black coal smoke into the sky. But we also see that the garbage is separated. In Jorabat on the elevated road, we turn right onto the busy, well-developed NH 37 motorway. This is also the invisible border between Meghalaya and Assam. Most of the time we pass endless villages. In addition to the many tea plantations, we see countless rice fields in which the women in Assam, again very colorfully dressed, are pulling the weeds. It is also women who fish in muddy pools with various devices. K. K. shows us animals and birds in the numerous river valleys, huge young storks stand in a tree nest. We see a sign that leads to a 9.5 km long bridge over the Brahmaputra. Page 16 of 85

17 In the many small restaurants, the cloudy river water is filtered in plastic canisters that are densely filled with large and small stones, sand, charcoal, braided roots and grass, and layers of fabric. The cloudy muddy water that has been poured in seeps out crystal clear from below. Shortly before the junction to Tezpur, the road becomes two-lane, with army camps stretching along the road for kilometers. We are approaching the 1002 km² Kaziranga National Park, palm trees and huge tropical trees have joined the road, the first signs "Welcome to Kaziranga National Park" invite us to visit. We reach the park on the left side of the road at 2:30 p.m., which stretches about 40 km along the road to Brahmaputra. We see rhinos and water buffalo as we drive past. Some villages have been relocated by the government. When the park and the road are sometimes flooded by the numerous rivers in the monsoon, the wild animals migrate to the right across the road and up the hills. Kohora is the center of the park, K. K. drives us to the right through some streets to the fashionable Jupuri Ghar cottage settlement. We are enthusiastic about the large bamboo chalets with the soft beds, terrace, balcony and all the bells and whistles. Nearby open-air restaurants invite us to the beautiful tree-lined park. Drive 280 km in 7.5 hours with breaks Tuesday, day 17: 4.30 a.m. Get up, after a tea we drive with K. K. to the starting point of the first elephant safari in Kaziranga National Park, which begins at dusk before sunrise. Our group consists of 12 tourists divided into 5 elephant cows, led by the mahouts, the drivers, who are hung with sharp rifles. Everything is cozy and calm, we climb our peaceful pachyderms from a wide wooden tower. Two of us sit behind the mahout, on the back of the elephant cow, and she strides leisurely through the jungle or the tall grass. The little elephant children follow their respective mother. From a safe height we observe wild birds, wild boars, deer, a small stag, then some huge Indian unicorned rhinoceros (rhinoceros) up close. Joke is caught in the photo frenzy. After an hour we reach the second wooden tower at the end of the safari, where the tourists are already waiting for the second tour in the opposite direction. I give our elephant another 100 rupees note, which he carefully picks up with his trunk and hands over to the beaming Mahut. K. K. picks us up and drives us to our resort for breakfast. After breakfast, our jeep safari starts at 7:30 a.m. In a 15-year-old worn open Suzuki Maruti jeep owned by the national park with the ranger and Jupuri Ghar hotel manager Babul at the wheel, we drive 10 km with KK back on the main road to Bagora or Nagagaon to the western entrance of the Kaziranga National Park, from where the jeeps are allowed to drive into the park. From the jeep we see black-necked storks, ibises, wild bankiva chickens, wild ducks, wild geese and large Asian kingfishers called Braunliest. We even get a hornbill or hornbill in front of the binocular shotgun. Rhino mothers leisurely stroll through the area with their young, others lie asleep in the meadows, they watchfully turn their ears when we are close enough. Unfortunately, we only see fresh tracks of the tigers for 10 minutes. The red flowers of the leafless Silk-Cotton Trees, the silk-cotton trees, smell quite unpleasant. Giant vultures are perched on one of the trees, there seems to be a dead animal nearby, from which they get the remains. From a vantage point we look at a water surface with many large fish, a turtle with a yellow neck gasps for air, water birds dive for fish. From this location I count 31 rhinos with binoculars, according to our guide there are currently rhinos here. Page 17 of 85

18 3. Nagaland (6 days) still Tue, day 5: 10:45 a.m. we leave our quarters in Kohora in glorious sunshine. We drive past the eastern park entrance, at Bokakhat the Kaziranga National Park comes to an end. We drive on the NH 37 past villages and markets, temples, petrol stations and banks, past antenna masts and tea plantations on via Golaghat and Dimapur to Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. The tea factories on the street can usually only be visited by appointment. In Numaligarh we turn right onto the NH 39. The drive goes through the National Park Garampani Wildlife Sanctuary along the Dhansiri River on a bad gravel road. In Garampani (Garam = hot & Pani = water) there is a hot spring. At 3 pm we reach the "Welcome to Dimapur Nagaland" gate, the lively, dusty and dirty industrial city of Dimapur (290 m), clogged with vehicles of all kinds, and turn left over a bridge at the intersection that leads to the railway station. Kohima is 70 km from here. We pass passport and customs control, a sign welcomes us to "Hill Area Nagaland". For the miserable mountain road, which is being completely rebuilt, we need 3 hours to Kohima. At 1450 m we drive into the outskirts of Kohima, it is now dark and we first fill the tank of the jeep. Kohima (1700 m) is the capital of Nagaland and is spread over a few mountain slopes. All important offices, banks and agencies are located here, the university has 3000 students. Currency exchange is also possible here. We drive a lot higher on the main road through the mountain village and two places further in the direction of Imphal to Kigwema. We live in the classy homestay Nino's Greenwood Villa, really a large, sophisticatedly furnished old English villa. We are greeted and instructed by the pretty young Amen Lemtür from the Ao tribe from the Explore Nagaland agency. There are large open fireplaces, in the kitchen we can sit by the warm fireplace and let the warmth of the open wood fire affect us. Nino is the head of the homestay and the wife of an English photographer. There are around 16 tribes in Nagaland, some of them are dreaded headhunters, who a few years ago attacked their neighboring villages and impaled the captured heads on stakes in front of the huts. There are the Chang, Sümi Ki, Yimchungrü, Zeliang, Kuki, Chakhesang, Angami (all around Kohima), Ao Arju, Sangtam, Pochuri, Rengma, Phom, Lotha Chumpho, Khiamniungam, Konyak, Kachari Morung and Garo Nokpante. The main language here is Nagamese and the locals can use it to communicate well with each other and also with the residents of Assam. Drive 230 km in 8 hours with breaks Wed, Day 18: Visit the historic village of Khonoma, 30 km and 1½ hours drive away. The tourist village is located on a ridge like a fortress with a view of many fields and rice terraces. Amen leads us through the village. Her brother-in-law invites us to one of the houses for a drink by the open fire. Back in Kohima we visit the State Museum. All the tribes of Nagaland are represented in pictures and sculptures and in their surroundings. Nagaland is now divided, a large part of the country is now in Myanmar. We also visit the war cemetery of World War II. On this hill in Kohima, 2,500 English soldiers, mainly recruited year-old Indians, Nepalese and Nagas, lost their lives in the cruel battle with the Japanese. From the War Memorial we have a good overview of Kohima. This is followed by a tour of the spice market, where you can buy fruit, vegetables and flowers as well as snails, fish and meat (including dogs). Live frogs, page 18 of 85

19 offered in a plastic bag with holes for breathing, should be good against colds. Recipe: Boil frogs, take them out and drink the broth without all the spices, certainly quite tasty. Household goods, plastic products, and medicines can still be bought. Small snacks and sugar cane presses do not make you feel hungry. A street shoemaker sews my torn sandal strap back on in 3 minutes for 10 rupees. Then we drive up to the grounds of the Hornbill Festival, which takes place every year from December 1st to 7th, where all the tribes in their various colorful costumes, together with their families and many guests from near and far, revive their traditions with dance and play. Typical houses with facilities, drums, etc. have been built by all the tribes. Every single tribe has its own special festival at a different time of the year. The Konyak Morung tribe in the Mon district, who are very skilled in their handicrafts and famous for their carvings, are supposed to celebrate the most colorful and beautiful festival. The Konyak also have the curved, pointed wooden pegs stuck into their earlobes. We drive the short distance back to our homestay in Kigwema. In the neighboring hotel restaurant of Dimari Cove we eat ice cream with a good cappuccino. Thursday, day 19: Breakfast in the warm sunshine on a terrace of our house. For the next two sunny days we booked the trek into the Dzoukou Valley with the local Angami guide Menovikho (22) from Kigwema. We meet him at the homestay and drive 20 km with K. K. in 40 minutes on the main road south to Jakhama in the Viswema area (1765 m). Here it is signposted for another 20 minutes on a narrow, washed-out gravel road up to 2410 m to a small square with a fountain and toilets at a tourist hostel that is still under construction. K. K. drives back and has almost 2 days off. Another trek into the Dzoukou Valley begins at the bottom of the main road in Jakama, but it should be much more difficult and longer. We start steeply up in the dense jungle forest. After an altitude of 390 meters we reach the first green summit (2800 m) with a shelter and a view of a hilly, picturesque light green valley with individual bare black trees in 1 hour. We have never seen anything like it before, we are enchanted and have to sit down first. Then we walk comfortably the whole valley on the right side of the slope towards the lodges, stopping again and again to soak in the landscape. Although the rhododendron trees are burned black, they provide a great contrast to the pale green landscape covered with thin bamboo as high as a man, like a cozy mat. In the valley there is an invisible stream and smaller streams flow from the hills into the middle valley. Further ahead there are real forests, the very first red rhododendrons are already blooming on some trees. The lodges in the Dzoukou Valley (2735 m) are arranged differently, there are 2 large huts with bedrooms with ice-cold concrete floors for 100 people each.Next to it is the rustic, smoky homestay kitchen with an open fire, behind it the toilets. Outside there are tables, benches and fire pits. Everything is managed by very young, enterprising men, guarded by two dogs. The individual accommodations in 2 smaller houses are a bit out of the way. We are lucky, as the first guests we can choose the best and warmest room there, the bed frame is normally designed for 5 people, we have enough space for two. The window glass is intact, the roof over us tight, the squat toilet in order, we just have to get water to rinse. After a longer tea break, we go 200 m down with Menovikho and his friend into the green Ao Valley to the bridge over a small river, the ice-cold water of which I will of course briefly try the whole body. There is a helicopter landing platform near the lodges, further down on the left there are some steep rocks that look down on a side valley with a lively brook. Page 19 of 85

20 At the bottom of the river, a large black rock, climbable and brightly painted, surrounded by huge amounts of party rubbish and spoiling nature. Our two guides grimace and are already collecting something in the plastic bag they brought with them, they will soon start a large collection campaign to dispose of rubbish. Back at the lodges some new guests have arrived. After sunset it got really cold up here. At 7 p.m. we get our community dinner, Dal Bhat, in the kitchen, we can eat as much as we want. I'm sitting on a stool next to the warm fire. In front of our huts, an outdoor cowboy from Mizoram lights a small campfire with the help of a shovel of embers from the kitchen fire. We prefer to go to sleep. Our neighbors, 3 people from Mizoram and 1 young Israeli with 2 Egyptian young women continue to riot for a while. We sleep from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Since it is pretty cold, about 3 C and the blankets very threadbare, Joke complains to me the next morning that it would have been the most terrible and coldest night of his life, he would never have frozen so much in his life and he only had one Slept for an hour. But that can't be right, because whenever I was awake for a short time, he would snort or snore softly, that is, slept. Oh poor man, why did you intentionally leave your warm yeti sleeping bag in your homestay? Trekking ascent and way to the lodge: +410 m / -100 m = in 3:20 hours with a 20-minute break Trekking valley excursion: +200 m / -200 m = in 2:20 hours with a 40-minute break Fri, Day 20: After a cool but refreshing night we have another tea at 7 a.m., I pay the rather expensive bill for the three of us. Then we say goodbye and start our hike back on the same path through the green valley. In an hour we will reach the descent point. The old path was longer and ran halfway under the new path. We descend to the launch site at an altitude of 2400 m and decide to go a few hundred meters further down. Our descent, sometimes the road serpentines can be shortened, led us to an altitude of 1925 m. At 11 o'clock K. K. meets us halfway in his jeep. In 50 minutes we drive back to Kigwema, where we pay our guide Menovikho and say goodbye to him. Joke discovers a large tick on his shoulder, even after pulling for a long time with tweezers, I can't get her to let go of him. I get Amen, but she almost faints, even the gardener's wife can't do anything. The younger kitchen lady rigorously tears off the teat, the head and trunk get stuck, well, I would have managed that too. In the afternoon it rains, we take a leisurely tour through our village of Kigwema with K. K. We visit the houses, walk through the sodden streets, many students live here in the Boy's and Girl's hostels. Today we pay back to K. K. all the lunches he paid for during our get-together and get back our expenses from the Dzoukou Valley Trek from him. In the evening he cooks Maggi for us, supplemented with chicken curry and refined with onions and spices. There is also dal rice, fried potato pieces and stewed green beans from the house cook. We learn from K. K. that you should plan around a month for a detailed visit to Nagaland, including an experienced driver with a good jeep. Or you can travel inexpensively on your own as a backpacker with the local jeeps through the villages. It is best to drive from Dibrugarh to Mon (lowland) first, the area from Kohima to Imphal is mountainous. There are only a few villages left that have been preserved in their original state. There are homestays in almost all villages. The roads are the worst in all of India. Our last night in Nagaland is dawning. Trekking +85 m / -835 m = in 4 hours with breaks Page 20 of 85

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