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Travel reports

From the East Indian provinces to Nepal's doors

In the morning we left Myanmar using a small steel bridge and immediately reached a small military checkpoint on the Indian side. In addition to the recording of personal data, an Ebola test and a brief search of the cars we now had no idea where police and customs were located. It took a little wandering and questioning here and there, until we found a police officer in a t-shirt and worn trousers in an otherwise empty police station, who stamped our passports. After we had found the (of course) not signposted customs office and more waiting in the heat till around noon we finally met the Indian customs officials. As would learn in the future several more times, Indian officials are not famous for their punctuality and presence in the workplace.

After three hours we were able to leave the small border town of Moreh and followed the road in the mountains towards Imphal. The military presence in the border region is remarkable and the three military checkpoints on the way to Imphal cost a lot of time. The officers of the last checkpoint told us upon arrival in the city of Imphal we would have to report to the local police station.

After a late and spicy lunch based on rice and curry, we hoped to reach the Loktak Lake for camping using a little path. However, nothing came of it and so we moved on to the chaotic town of Imphal where we arrived in the evening - exhausted both emotionally and physically.

While in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar only bigger towns used to be somehow chaotic, in India we immediately realized the large Indian population even in smaller place, being as busy, dusty and noisy as bigger places. The streets in this country are marked by freely moving or lying goats and especially cows that make easy and efficient travelling impossible. This image should not change throughout our whole time in India.

The next morning we first drove to the police station were we arrived around 9.30am. Our arrival was obviously not expected by anyone and the sparse-present staff obviously did not know what to do with those six "report-conscious" tourists. When it was said that we should wait about an hour (so translated: two hours) for the senior official, we said "Ok, then we come back again later" and then left the town for Nagaland.

On the way to Kohima

We followed the winding road lined with potholes in the mountains and in the afternoon found a a place to camp near a village, where our group spent his last evening together. While we finally were able to make use of our extensive camping equipment again, others provided beer from Cambodia and even Scottish whiskey. A perfect evening for a memorable tour together through beautiful Myanmar and the Indian province of Manipur.

We now had to say Goodbye to Martina and Pierre, as they wanted to take a closer look at Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, while Anje, Izaak, Nadine and I wanted to continue our tour to Europe.

Tea plantation
Elephant on the road!

After crossing Brahmaputra river and a few days later in an early evening in the small town of Bongaigaon while searching for a restaurant along the road we suddenly found ourselves in the local police station. When we went walking along the street, a policeman suddenly called for us and asked us to take a seat in the district manager's office. We were absolutely unclear at this time whether we made something wrong and what, or whether the police men were just curious. Actually exhausted by the traffic on the roads and after the long tour we were hungry but now were faced with a few general questions (one of them: why we are doing here). The officials initially looked grim and somehow showed off and it took us a while until we realized that the police were eventually simply just curious and thought with their invitation including tea and biscuits they would do us a favor. We did not want to be rude, especially after the denial of the request to park our cars in the police station over night for security reasons. So to avoid leaving the wrong impression, we forced ourselves to involuntary small talk with the officials. Eventually after what felt like 90 minutes we could finally go.

Huge truck
On the way to Darjeeling
On the way to Darjeeling

Our next destination was Darjeeling, a small town at about 2400 meters on the foothills of the Himalaya.
The roads, extremly narrow and with switchbacks that took backing twice to get through, go worse the higher we came. Potholes. After about a third of the way we were suddenly faced an unattended construction site (it was Sunday). Before us lay an approximately one kilometer wide landslide that came off the mountain and had spilled the road. But the construction vehicles already managed to free a track. However, an excavator vehicle was something in the way and big stones and gravel should indicate that the road was not passable (yet). The locals seem to have had that information about the road closure - we did not.
After I did run along the the passage to see if the road was free and afterwards cleared the stones out of the way I persuaded the others to let us try passing the landslide. For an alternate route we would had to face about 150 more kilometers along such narrow roads. Thanks to 4WD mode, everything had finally worked out great and we were able to get a view of the landslide from the opposite side of the valley, where we became aware of the extent of the landslide.

Children in Darjeeling
Alley in Darjeeling
Road in Darjeeling
Tea plantation near Darjeeling

After arriving in Darjeeling and despite being there at the best season of the year for having blue skies we had bad luck, because typhoon Hudhud caused an overcast sky and a view of the nearby third highest mountain of the world (Mt. Kanchenjunga with its 8586 meters) unfortunately remained denied.
Darjeeling region, famous for its tea growing, today is also a home to many Nepalese refugees. Colorful flag garlands adorn many buildings and one can watch Hindi, Nepalese and Chinese walking through the streets. We found that we were only 35 km from the border with Nepal, 50 km from the border of Bhutan, 100 km from the Tibetan border, 50 km from the border of Bangladesh and 160 km from Mt. Everest away. For us as Europeans these were very exotic numbers.
We visited a large tea plantation and were given an insight into the local tea production as well as numerous tastings and enjoyed the pleasantly mild temperatures before the trip to the next location - Varanasi - should start.