Given a choice I’d travel to every new place all by myself and explore it as if it’s being discovered for the first time ever by someone. And why not, the very idea of seeing things with a fresh eye, every time, can infuse anybody with a child-like excitement and curiosity to touch, feel and question every little experience on the way, which to my mind is an amazing feeling … and as you’d agree, if you are surrounded by a crowd of people who’ve been there done that a plenty of times before or have a different understanding of an adventure road trip altogether, it can completely take the fun out of the whole thing.
When Mahindra Adventure invited us for a drive into the enchanting north east hills, I was in two minds. Riding in long serpentine convoys orderly supervised and watched over all the time by professional tour organizer’s eyes didn’t really ring the bell initially. Not to undermine the fact that it indeed is a must for safety and convenience of the troupe, but still. To look at the brighter side of it though, there was an opportunity to mingle with people from different walks of life who could manage to pull themselves out of the routine & drudgery. I’m sure with a decent bit of an effort, to explore and enjoy the breath taking sights spilled all across the north eastern states, plus an opportunity to drive some proven 4×4 SUVs from Mahindra stable on an adventurous journey through unforeseen terrain was surely an exciting bet. I couldn’t resist for long and decided to jump in right away!
Room full of strangers
The journey was scheduled to begin from Radisson Blu Guwahati, and a customary briefing session was scheduled for all participants on the arrival day. The organizing team sensitised us on safety aspects and the need to align with each-other and act like one single team. For many others like me, however, it was an opportunity to interact with few fellow travellers & realize how strange people coming from vastly different backgrounds can be so close in terms of their expectation from an adventure expedition like this. For some obviously it was a first ever road trip so far away from home. After a while of listening and exchange of some basic niceties with fellow travellers it was time to catch up on a good night sleep for a charged-up start of our first day drive.
Bunched up together
A big fleet of Scorpios and XUVs awaited us in the hotel parking lot next morning. These macho looking machines were dressed in white body paint and sported the bright red Mahindra Adventure badging, sitting snugly on to the front fender. It looked like the support team prepped these up the previous night with all essential checks done and we were ready to roll in no time. As per plan, the convoy was to cover around 400 kilometres over a mix of plains and hilly terrain that day.
An arduous day long journey through some treacherous mountain roads led us into a small hilly town called Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. Short conversations during multiple scheduled halts en route our destination, helped everyone get introduced to one another a little better. Norphel Retreat, our place of stay in Dirang, is situated on the banks of a beautiful mountain river. This was our first night in the hills, cold winds and falling temperatures pushed everyone to unpack and get the woollens out. A bonfire in the hotel lawns later along with traditional ethnic performances by locals ticked off the day as complete. I must say that the group’s excitement kept energy levels high through the evening.
Bonding with nature
Next day, we passed through some dense forests en route to Tawang, our next place of halt. The thick vegetation in the hills of Arunachal is much different than what one would see in the northern part of the country. After a few landslide hit roads and winding uphill roads, we reached the highest mountain pass on our journey – Sela Pass. The beautiful Sela Lake at an altitude of 13,700 feet made for a breath taking view of the place, while a wide variety of colourful wild bushes around the lake literally put life into the surroundings.
We reached Tawang by evening & were welcomed by a sudden cold shower and steep climbs on the way to our abode for the night. A few hundred kilometres of driving together in the hills in close coordination brought all participants closer. The difficult task of remembering everyone’s first names in a large group like this didn’t seem formidable any longer. By now, we all were used to sharing random anecdotes & cracking silly jokes while on the run, thanks to the wireless radio broadcast installed in each car. Evening was meant for relaxing after another long day’s drive and some fun time together with the group. The famous Tawang Monastery and a high altitude lake destination were on the itinerary for next day.
What an experience!
Day began early as usual, all geared up and excited with the thought of exploring new places during the day. Just a few kilometres away from Tawang city, as we progressed further up into the hills, we witnessed a host of native Himalayan bushes and shrubs carrying snow deposits on them from the snowfall last night. Roads gradually started giving way to broken trails and tar roads converted to mud trails. With China border just a few kilometres ahead of us, presence of heavy artillery around was but obvious. Army Trucks along with the Howitzer Guns dotted the scenic landscape. It was time to test the offroad capabilities of our vehicles in some extreme weather conditions. Had it not been for the robust and resolved suspension of Mahindra vehicles journey ahead wouldn’t have been so enjoyable.
Highlight of the trip was a visit to the most amazingly picturesque Sangetsar Lake, formed when an earthquake hit the region in the year 1971. Pristine still water of the lake reflected a beautiful sky on the other side making it a hot spot for couples wanting to get clicked with stunning backdrops. The return back from Sangetsar Lake was equally enthralling. Just after few minutes of driving, the convoy found itself in the middle of a snow blizzard. The landscape changed its colour from a mysterious red and brown to a fairy tale white. The scenic beauty outside the car window acted like a magnet for all. Every small halt converted into a mini photo opportunity. The bone chilling winds and the increasingly tricky road covered with fresh snow was hardly a deterrent for the elated folks. Practically everyone in the convoy stepped out to walk on snow, play with it and absorb the sight to the maximum. We all by now felt like one big family on a long overdue joyride together.
We returned back to Dirang the next day. A surprise riverside lunch organised by XSO team for us will stay in memory for long for many, I’m sure. A few of the participants including me had to skip the balance part of the trip scheduled for Kaziranga, Shillong and a some exotic high altitude lakes, the region is famous for. Nevertheless, the new found friends and adventure junkies met during the short sojourn will stay in memories forever. Mahindra Adventure along with XSO did a splendid job when it comes to delivering a great adventure experience while at the same time ensuring safety and comfort for all. It was an experience that forced me to change my opinion on organised adventure trips.
Finally, as long as the convoy keep rolling, even if individually and separated by miles, I’m sure it will surely find its way back to the next round of adventure. Till then.. Ciao!