It’s 11:00am on the highway and I’m about to enter Sonitpur district towards Tezpur…

Tezpur is a city that is following in the footsteps of Guwahati as far as urbanization goes but it’s myth is captivating. It is a story of eternal romance and the background for a bloody war between the Hindu god Lord Krishna and his daughter’s lover Bana. My plan was to make it to Tezpur and check out the Mahabahairamb temple, believed to have been built by King Bana, and home to one of the biggest and oldest Shivalingas of the world, but the trip to Tezpur seemed more and more uneccesary and I soon realized that it nothing different if not just as crowded as Guwahati. Spending a night here would be pointless.

Nonetheless I managed to find my way to Mahabahairamb temple to pay a visit.

I left Tezpur and took up another suggestion I got from the lady I had hired my motorcycle from – A visit to Nameri national park , thirty kilometers north of Tezpur. The park is a popular Tiger reserve, but is one of the few places left on earth to spot the White Winged Wood Duck, an endangered species with approximately only a 1000 or more birds left in the world.

I planned to spend the afternoon in the reserve; with an option of taking a walk through a part of the reserve, or taking a row boat on the Jai Bharali river that runs through it, (both options would have an accompanying park guide) and then spend the night at one of the camps on the park’s edge .

Unfamiliarity, disorientation and the heat had other plans as missed the turn-off to the park and rode almost 90 minutes in the direction away from the park before I realized my mistake. Now you could reason that I could just back track and head towards what would be a perfect evening in nature but unfortunately due to the location of the Northeast – from the perspective of the earth’s latitude – and winter as well, it gets dark by 4.50 pm. That’s when you’re chances of running into trouble increase.Not wanting to end up on the headlines of the Assamiya Khabor on the first day of my trip,I decided to continue on and ride through the beautiful tea- estate region of Sonitpur and the famous Monabari Tea estate. It would soon become some of the best riding I had that day.

The famous Monabari tea-estate is probably a small town in itself and employs over 2000 people that man its production facilities and tea-gardens. Having a bit of time on my side I decided to enquire If I could get a tour of the tea-estate but to my dismay the manager was not available to make it possible, and I decided to definitely keep it on my list of things to do when I visit the NE again.

With late afternoon creeping in over the horizon and the sun going down I decided to push further towards Arunachal’s capital – Itanagar. The ride continued on the smooth SH 45 with passage through small villages and highway shops selling Lal chai (red tea) and biscuits . At 4:00 pm I reached Gophur a small village, a landmark for a diversion going into Itanagar. You can take the longer route going through Lakhimpur, but this alternative saves you 30 plus kms of riding and definitely looked like a more fun route on the map.What strikes you the most as you pass Gophur and enter into Arunachal Pradesh is, the distinct change in scenery. Straight line roads and flat plains, slowly start to thin out into curvy roads and the signs of dense forests ahead.

The entrance to the high reaches of the eastern Himalayan foothills is one of peace and tranquility against the setting sun. It felt surreal, the entire place vibrates with a different pulse than the plains. The road I was taking was under construction, made up mostly of dirt and sand from blasting and cutting through the hills; the road works were undertaking. So you had a stark contrast of sand, divided hills, and thick sections of forest. A feeling of entering something altogether different – mellowed out by the twilight and the setting sun in the hills behind.

Although the sun was sinking fast and a theoretical idea of where I was actually headed. I could not help but stop and take pictures. Having to switch on my headlights re-enforced the notion that I should not be out on the road post dark, and for good reason as I soon found out.