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.

 

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.