Earthquakes in Assam

We raced down Darjeeling hill quickly. The horrid road at the bottom was busy. There were flat tea estates everywhere, bright green with little tea bushes, all grown to the same height. There was no one around though, so we snuck in and took tea photos. The road carried on and on until we officially arrived in the Middle of Nowhere, otherwise known as Jalpadwara National Park.

We spent the night in a great little hotel with giant tiger photos on the walls, and met some friendly army officers who asked what caste we were. It was a hard one to reply to.

 The ride across Assam saw us stop for tea in a side-of-the-road shack. As we were sat busily consuming rasgullai, there was an earthquake. The whole place shook, and we watched the bike bounce up and down in a ferocious manner. Everyone ran outside to stare at the roof but nothing collapsed. Everyone else seemed a lot calmer than I did. Later we discovered there had been 6 earthquakes in the last 6 weeks.

We trooped back in to the bar, in time for a downpour that really meant it. A drunk guy without a shirt wandered in and sat far too close to us. He mocked us to the others and then ordered himself drinks on our tab. He spoke to me while his spit hit my face, then leered at my chest. We left him sat there. The last thing we heard as we left was the argument he was having with the bartender- he had no money to pay.

Further on, we found a stupidly large stork, prehistoric-looking, catching frogs in the rice paddies. Then a full rainbow formed, all the way over the paddies and the road. We stopped and cooked up some coffee in a field, watched by a friendly cow.

We tried to make it to a large town to sleep in a hotel. We made it to a very small town and rocked up to the only hotel. We stopped to ask directions and got moved on- there were too many onlookers at the junction and the traffic couldn’t pass.

We moved in to the hotel, the bike was surrounded by its largest crowd to date. It didn’t get too starstruck though. We did: we collapsed with laughter, and just waved, like the Queen.

Later that night two Assamese kids turned up outside our hotel door to see us- they had heard about us and wanted to check us out for themselves. They were really nice, and we sat in the restaurant drinking Fanta and swapping photos. We swore we wouldn’t forget Pathsala, and I don’t think we will.

 We left for Guwahati the next day, a huge town on the way with not a whole lot going for it. The goodbye crowd was even bigger.

We saw an elephant.

We saw people threshing their wheat using cows to trample it in circles.

Grain was being laid out to dry on the new road.

We passed huge trucks on the unbuilt road, jumping and jarring over huge gravel holes.

There were beautiful rice paddies, palm trees, little farm huts set around courtyards, swept really clean.

how to transport your goat #1

how to transport your goat #2

Then we hit Guwahati, and had a horrible arrival into a nasty big town, with mad map reading and a bridge in the wrong place.

The hotel was full- we stopped for a moment and a group of boys immediately started filming themselves with the bike.

We left again a day later, somewhat recovered.

Assam turned into Meghalaya. The scenery swapped itself neatly at the border.

It all turned into soggy, muggy jungle and we went up big hills on narrow roads.

The houses were all on stilts at the side of the road, the women wore tablecloths across their bodies, knotted at the shoulder, with skirts and cholis underneath. Some young ones wore modern t-shirts with the tablecloths over. Everyone looked nepali tribal but darker skinned, very not indian. A couple wore thai-looking wraps around them with cholis underneath. Small kids ran around the shacks naked.

There were giant bamboo stalks everywhere, with leaves. There were banana plants, with the giant purple nut underneath the bananas, and leaves as tall as me.
Stopped at a bar, where some young rickshaw drivers drank large pegs of whisky at 12 o’clock, and we ate noodles and bought some rum for later, and got waved at by a huddle of young lads in a hut. We rode past a truck where tribal village men sat on top of a giant pile of sacks, and gawped outrageously at us as they spotted the bike. They didn’t shut their mouths, but waved as we passed.

Shillong was busy but cosmopolitan, with wide roads and flats that could have been anywhere in England. We drank our rum and went to the decent restaurant for munch, where middle class locals were all dressed up in stunning saris, and their small children ran amok around the tables with balloons.

Every time we go anywhere we get laughed at, but people are generally friendly.

We chewed paaan and then more paan, got high as a kite and wandered round town in the dark looking at lights and spitting everywhere, everything speeded up and funky. Found a sign warning us against urinating, next to a urine-covered wall.

Headed out to the Culture Museum, which was a bizarre exercise in Indian bureaucracy, we paid three times the price everyone else paid, had to leave the camera with reception, and got a very long tour around 7 floors of fiberglass tribal figures, with a little hoighty local woman in high heels. It was good though and the art room was the best, with giant paintings on the walls, and pictures of the different tribal tattoos. Bizarre diaromas showed how Don Bosco saved the world.

Later on, we found a hectic market with tiny little streets, just space between buildings, tarps strung over the top, too low for standing straight, with tiny stalls with tribal women sat on top of them, next to huge piles of fish and their scales being chopped of them onto the path, slippery and greasy to step in, or vegetables of every colour and size, or dried fish in baskets, or spices, or tobacco in giant trays.

There were throngs of people, all very short, pushing and shoving through the alleys. An old woman was selling mushrooms. They stank, you could smell them two rows before you saw them, I thought she was selling trotters or something.

The fish stench was overpowering and made me faint and claustrophobic. The tribal men carried the babies on their backs, everyone wore tartan shawls, the women chewed paan, and had stained devil mouths with big smiles and leathery wrinkled faces.

People carried giant bags of shopping with the bands across their foreheads.

Young men stood out in their Eminem T-shirts, looking far too modern for the insane mediaeval crush.


  1. I'm loving this - thank you! Exactly the route I wanna take one day (albeit in reverse) on a similar machine, so I'm keenly keeping up with you.
    If you ever decide to go further than Australia and end up in New Zealand, I'll happily trade you a bed/meal/beer for some stories!

  2. Igor, thanks a lot, if we end up in NZ we will be taking you up on that!


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