I left jaigaon early in the morning on a bus that was actually from bhutan. My friend guru helped hoist my cycle and other stuff onto the bus. Unfortunately, I later discovered that i had boarded the wrong bus and the right bus was actually behind us. The conductor shouted himself hoarse at me. Initially the bus driver upon seeing my cycle, got down from the bus and refused to drive further. However once both of them calmed down, we managed to load everything and I even got a seat.
It was all smooth sailing for about an hour or so. But later, at some highway, our bus was stopped by thugs on the highway. They had saffron ribbons on their heads and were demanding durga puja chanda from every damn truck, bus and car. Anyone who refused to pay were told that they would not be given further passage on the road and were asked to go back. The peaceful bhutanese fellow passengers in my bus were simply flumoxed at the turn of events and sat there dumbstruck. A few samaritan indians who were travelling in the bus got down to calm down the thugs and talk to them. However, they were in no mood to listen. Finally, the timid driver paid him Rs 50. But upon seeing it, one of the thugs threw it back into the bus and asked the bus driver to go back the same way he came. I hung my head in shame seeing how my fellow countrymen were acting.
After a few minutes, a senior henchman came and asked what was the ruckus all about. Once he understood that this was a bhutanese bus, he asked his “juniors” to waive the bus off. As we passed the thugs, the lower henchmen’s face looked like a candy was being snatched away from their hands!!
At the breakfast point, the other bus in which i was supposed to be caught up with us and thus, i changed the bus and reloaded the cycle and other luggage all over again.
The bus ride till rangia was very smooth. One weird thing i saw near the assam/west bengal border was that there was a very heavy and thorough army checking.
I got down near rangia bus stop and started assembling my cycle amid much amusement and curiosity of the villagers.
As i pedaled away from the bus stop, i felt the wind in my hair and i felt my trip had finaly started. But after only 15 or so kilometers, I was sweating like a pig. I had not accounted for the intense heat of assam. It wwas a bit confusing. This was supposed to be the north east!! So why was it so hot?!! Turns out, most of Assam is flat like a table and most of it sits on the banks of bramhaputra thus making the place hot and humid.
I decided to have lunch before reaching guwahati and hence stopped for lunch in a nondescript dhaba which wasn’t really crowded.
For some reason, the waiter there was very friendly and helped me park my cycle in a safe place and gave me water to wash my face and hands. When he asked me what i wanted to eat, I asked him to bring rotis and any curry that he thinks was the best. He really surprised me with the best paneer butter masala I had in days. Before I finished my lunch, he filled my water bottles and also the water bladder! I thanked him after my lunch and tried to tip him but he refused flatly.
So i left for guwahati with a full and happy stomach. But the ride was a struggle owing to the still hot sun and humidity. As i reached guwahati, I realized that the traffic was as bad as bangalore. And since there are many many cyclists in assam, no one gives you any space or respect.
I quickly found one hotel and deposited my bags in the third floor and locked my cycle in the passage. The room looked dingy, filthy and unlivable but I had no option. I did not want to trawl through the awful guwahati traffic.
The worst part was, when i came down for dinner, i realized that the floor below mine was a red light area and there were women standing around making suggestive gestures. Cursing my fate, I shouted at the receptionist for not making this clear when i paid for my room. He said since I was on 3rd floor, I should not worry about it. Since I had already paid for the room, I had no choice but to go with what I had.
That night in that dirty room was the lowest point of my trip. I almost thought of giving up and heading back home. Thankfully, I had friends I could talk to on the phone and they sort of cheered me up enough to carry on with the trip.