Bailey bridge over Teirei river on Bairabi road, Mizoram

Bairabi road

There were two reasons for taking this route on our return to Aizawl from Kawrthah. I had not traveled it before. Bairabi Kai, Crossing still uses a ferry. I like ferries since childhood. As someone who is always curious to know where the road goes, the former itself was compelling enough. It was the better route in Dec 2014 and till today for the people of Hachhek hill range in Mizoram west.

Mamit road has always been “the route” to Aizawl from Kawrthah. But in recent years, the construction of NH 44A progressing at a snail’s pace has made Mamit road extremely bad and less preferable. We  took Mamit road while going to Kawrthah. From Rawipuichhip to Dapchhuah (Tut), it’s downhill all the way. All I had to do was put the gear in neutral and hold the steering wheel. There was no need to apply brake as the road was so broken up and rough giving us enough friction. We rolled down like a cart.

In the early 90’s, Tuilut road was completed giving Kawrthah and neighboring villages an alternate road to Aizawl via West Phaileng. During the construction, a Junior Engineer (JE) from Mizoram PWD lost his life. The dynamite set to blast rocks didn’t go off as expected. When he went close by to inspect it, the dynamite did ignite and the explosion with along with debris of rocks took him down into the ravine. But in a few years, we switched back to Mamit road as it was shorter. As I was quite young, I can only guess poor maintenance or no maintenance must be why Tuilut road felt out of favour. Now that Tuilut road is less traveled and hardly spoken about, to me it sounds like a classic route to explore.

Bairabi road was never considered an option in the past. First, there’s no bridge and the ferry service is available during the dry weather only. It is stopped in monsoon due to the rising water level and strong currents. Secondly, the road between Bairabi and Zamuang was never in a condition to be desired. I had no idea what the road was like between Bairabi and Kolasib. From Kolasib to Aizawl, we have NH54, the only National Highway in Mizoram. That is if you exclude World Bank Road from Aizawl to Lunglei, which is not an NH but on par or better than most NH’s and NH44A which is still under construction.

In recent years, the road between Zamuang-Bairabi-Kolasib improved a lot and thus winning favours from travelers in this route. Between Zamuang and Bairabi the road is tarred. There were many big craters caused by the trucks transporting teak logs. From Bairabi, the road was broad but not tarred. But from Meidum, it was tarred and one of the best roads in Mizoram.

But that was Dec 2014. A lot could have changed, one way or the other. As of writing this, Bairabi bridge is yet to be completed.

 

Kolar Gold Fields

Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) is an old mining town, 100 km from Bangalore. The history of mining here stretches  from BC’s to British India to 2001. Mining stopped in 2001 due to low production. The British called it Little England for the colder climate. It was one of the earliest electrified towns in India.

Churches, ruins, old mining gears, cottages, barracks, hills formed by excavated earth and open grass fields. Not much for an average tourist. But I am not an average tourist. I am an explorer. If I haven’t been there, I want to be there.

 

Hunsur Road, Coorg

Drive to Coorg

This was a drive through Coorg, Wayanad and Bandipur.  Starting from HBR layout, we picked up our friends on the way, after several attempts  to wake them up by the way,   and headed towards Mysore.  Breakfast was at Kamat, which was not quite Kamat by taste. We took Mysore ring road and proceeded towards Hunsur.

We visited Nisargadhama and had lunch there after a quick exploration. The lunch was even worst than the breakfast. We purchased some tea and wine at the stalls there. Then we went to see the Golden Temple at Bylakuppe Tibetan Settlement near Kushalnagar.

At Madikeri, we checked into Ganesh Estate Homestay around 5 pm. This was booked through Stayzilla, a startup from Chennai. We spent the rest of the evening by exploring the premises and shooting the airgun. Dinner was at the homestay, some Coorgi style pork fry and chicken. Not upto our expectation but better than lunch and breakfast  .

Our room is in the main building, with attached bath and private balcony. For the money not bad! There are cottages too at a short distance from the main building. The four cottages were fully booked and occupied by a group of bikers from Bangalore.

There were commotions after commotions in the evening. From what we could make out, as it was a dry day in Madikeri, they were trying to find a way to get booze. They rode out in two or three bikes in turn. Around 9 at night, there was a big sound of applause. They bikers got their Booze! They had a bonfire and music going on till midnight. Power went off and the home stay turned on their generator which was so loud. Our friend even had to miss his much awaited EPL football match.

The next morning after breakfast, we went to Abbey Falls. My mates  were not impressed as we had such numerous  falls in Mizoram. We returned to town and went to Raja’s seat which we skipped the previous day as there was too many crowd. We took some pictures and we moved on.

We took Virajpet road and the  destination of the day was Sultan Bathery. We stopped for tea at Virajpet at a small tea stall. It rained while we were having tea.  Somewhere after Virajpet, we stopped at a hilly grassland in a village. The first time when I came here cycling, there were some crowd but just us this time. We walked up to the top and clicked some pictures.

At Ponnampet, the road forked into two. Both goes to Kutta which is the gateway to Wayanad in this route. In my previous trip, I took the left. Since we were visiting Irupu falls, we took the right. My friends were even less impressed by Irupu falls. Atei even decided it wasn’t worth walking up all the way and waited for us at some distance from the falls.

By now we were all worn out and hungry and I counted on the small hotel right after the check post at Tholpetty for lunch. That old man there serves beef, Kerala style. Beef!  But when we reached the joint, we were a little too late, lunch had got over. We had to  wait till Kattikulam to fill our stomach. Beef curry, dry fried beef and on more beef I think. The best meal in this trip! It was worth the wait.

Further on the way to Sultan Bathery, following Google maps navigation, I managed to take the same narrow uphill road that I took on my cycling trip. I laughed to myself, the others will not understand.  As we drive further into Wayanad, the girls keep comparing the houses in Coorg and Wayanad. The beautiful houses in Wayanad totally won their hearts. Towards evening, it rained again. Before dusk, we checked into KTDC Hotel Pepper Grove at Sulthan Bathery, also booked through Stayzilla.

After checking in, we went out to explore the town. We found an Arabic style fast food and packed some Chicken Kabab which was really good. The food at the hotel was disappointing though. The feel at the hotel was very different from that of the homestay in Coorg. There, we were in the middle of a Coffee Estate  and like guests in somebody’s house. Here, the rooms reminded us it was a hotel in every way.

On the last day, there was little left to do except to drive home. The preferred route would have been drive straight to Gundlupet. But me, as I always do, wanted to take the roundabout way so my mates could see the beautiful road through the tea gardens on Meppadi to Gudalur road. Though the drive was scenic and beautiful, I think it didn’t make a lot of impression to my mates.

At Gudalur, we found a neat place to eat, with lots of parking space.

By taking the roundabout way, what I totally forgot to take into account was the extra distance we had to travel on the last day. In my attempt to avoid Mysore, we took Chamarajnagar-Kanakapura road. The drive was very nice but it was a mistake too. Google Maps warned us several times about an under-construction bridge on NH 209. We ignored it and Google Maps was right! We had to turn back to Kollegal costing us even more extra kilometers. Around 9, we had a desperate if not now we may not find one on the way dinner at a hotel in Kanakapura, which was hopeless. It was the only place open. But right after passing the town, we saw more hotels which looked nicer. Damn! A couple of months later on return from a trip to Mysore with church members, we would be making the same mistake.

11:23 PM, 8th June in 2015, we were back home in HBR Layout. The trip meter read 940.1 km. The other thing worth mentioning in this trip is, lots of Zoom Cars.

Riding home from Serchhip

The rest of the ride to Serchhip was uneventful. The road NH 54 had been recently redone making the ride real smooth. At Serchhip I stayed at Pu James’, a friend from misual.com. We had not met in person before and there was a lot to catch up. After dinner I was suppose to sleep in their department guest house but I left sleepy and lazy and chose to crash in their sofa instead.

About Pu James- Pu James is a foodie like a lot of Mizo men but what sets him apart is his interest in cooking and acquiring a variety of exotic Mizo food and dishes. Most Mizo men aren’t interested beyond sachek. He has a stash of exotic Mizo food such as mautuai, baibing and khawi no all year round. He said that he would not open his exotic reserves unless he has a VIP visitor. I felt very honored to be one.

The next morning he helped me chart the next course of travel. He suggested I proceed towards North Vanlaiphai and may be towards Champhai. He wanted to come along but had to leave that afternoon to Aizawl for a meeting.

But trouble struck. Even before I reached the main road, I had a flat tyre. I did not carry tools and spares as the bike was close to brand new. I quickly changed plan and decided to return home. With the help of Pu James’ driver, I found a tyre repair shop in Serchhip but they didn’t have the right size tools to remove the wheel. And also they were not very eager as they mainly catered to cars and trucks. So we just topped up the pressure and I had it repaired at Chhingchhip instead. I also borrowed Pu James’ pump in case I need to top up the pressure on the way.

Instead of coming back on Seling route, I wanted to try the new Khumtung to Muallungthu road. The road was fresh and gravel till Tuirial bridge. For some distances before Tuirial bridge, there were arrays of thlam, jhum hut. I was invited to tea into one of them and I delightfully obliged. I learned the were farmers from Tlungvel and they mainly grow brinjal which they sell in bulk to the vegetable market in Aizawl. They would camp in the farm Monday to Saturday. They work early morning, rest at noon when the sun is hottest and continue in the evening.

At Tuirial bridge, I rode down to the river bank to freshen up. This cost me some worry and energy. As I was about to start, the rear wheel fell into soft earth which collapsed. I had to pull the extremely heavy Classic 350 out all by myself. What feat!

The road from Tuirial to Muallungthu was in a decent shape of tarmac. I passed by farms and stone quarries. A very pleasant ride and sight.

When I reached home, the bullet has clocked 1024 km.

Tamdil

I took break at Tuivawl bridge where there is a small settlement of sand dealers. This is the same river I crossed downstream the day before.

A few kilometers before Saitual, I made a detour to Tamdil, the erstwhile tourist attraction in the state. The lake is surrounded by establishments of Forest and Tourism department. I hope to have some nice cold drinks at the cafeteria but it was closed. The only reason has to be lack of visitors to feed it.

Keifang has grown a lot commercially. I saw several shops and taxis. I stopped for tea and snacks. I think I had my favorite lawng chhang, fried cookie dipped in sugar syrup. At the outskirt of Keifang I was surprised to see a fuel station locally called petrol pump. I topped up the tank for a peace of mind.

Zawngin and Phullen

The night was good at Suangpuilawn. After zing chaw, heavy morning meal, bid goodbye to Maruata’s family and I left for a brief sightseeing before heading out. The hill at the south end of the town offers a good view. The giant stone is what gave Suangpuilawn gave its name. I met a group of village council and NGO leaders at the local playground and they invited to a cup of tea after which I took off.

The next destination was Serchhip. I would be going through Zawngin, Phullen… back to Seling and turn left towards Serchhip.

The hardened earth road between Suangpuilawn and Zawnin was quite adventurous. You could call it off roading. Farmers’ motorbikes and tyre print of tractors and may be that of JCB backhoe were the only sign of motoring apart from me, a stupid novice bullet rider. At some point it felt like riding a horse. I passed by numerous chul, Mizo jhum from the previous year and kangvar, freshly slashed and burned area for the new year’s jhum. I saw a handful of people, farmers enroute to work and those camping at the jhum- ram riak.

In no time I reached Zawngin, a small and quiet village. From Zawngin, the road was still gravel but wider and more motorable and saw a few other vehicles.

From Pullen the road is tarmac. Phullen is a dry village, one of the very few in Mizoram that manages to fully ban alcohol.

Suangpuilawn

Daylight is limited and I needed to get going. I rode to the end of Darlawn way pass East Phaileng just for the heck of it. I rode pass a funeral, the typical black flag and slow down sign placed by the YMA. Then I had to return and with some guilt had to cross the funeral again. I had just rode pass it with much care on the throttle to avoid attracting eye balls. The roar and thunder of Royal Enfield motorcycles is far from pleasant to most people, even when a funeral is not on going.

Apart from having to cross the funeral twice, it was a good thing again. Riding back towards East Phaileng, the view with Chalfilh Tlang in the background was stunning.

East Phaileng to Suangpuilawn is the longest (40 km) stretch between towns I have traveled in Mizoram apart from distance between Saiha to Zero Point. From East Phaileng the road descends to Tuivawl river valley. I saw no man, no running vehicle, just a few parked on the roadside, no farm, almost no sign of civilization except the lonely road.

At Tuivawl bridge I stopped, clicked pictures and checked for phone signal. Dusk was closing in and I really needed to keep Maruata at Suangpuilawn posted. A good guest keeps the host informed. The two of us met in Chennai. He was doing his PG and I was starting my career. He had gone back to his hometown and teaches there.

The setting sunlight high above the horizon, me on a bridge, the roaring river below. It felt creepy and lonely for city boy.

After Tuivawl, the road became wider and smoother and I started seeing signs of life (as well as wildlife, I saw a deer) again such as farms. Quite a relief.

Riding on, I saw a beautiful and pristine looking lake which I later learned is Rung dil and there’s two of them, male and female.

I could now see Suangpuilawn in the far distance and even farmers in their farm hut. They were “ram riak”- farmers camping in the farm to get more work done by way of avoiding the daily commute to farm from home.

As soon as I got phone signal, I called Maruata and informed him of my impending arrival. I rode into Suangpuilawn before sunset. Maruata was to meet me at the outskirt. Not seeing him I rode on, followed the road heading higher ground which took me to the playground and appeared to be a dead end. I turned around and took the other road and ran into Maruata. I had progressed faster than he expected which is why he didn’t make it on time. There are just one or two roads going through town. It wouldn’t have been difficult to meet up anyway.

I followed him home to be welcomed with a nice cup of tea. I did not make any pit stop for food on the way. So the tea was extra replenishing. After tea I showered and I literally showered. The typical way to bathe in Mizoram especially in rural areas is to dip a mug into a bucket of water and pour the water over your head. But Maruata took care to install a shower. Nice man!

After dinner, with two of his friends, Maruata took me out to explore the town. From the hill where there is the Government Hospital to the waiting shed at the other end of town, we roamed. We made it home by midnight. Pretty late time to return home in a thingtlang, rural village or town.

My brother in-law who eagerly lent me the motorcycle passed away a couple of months after this trip.