Managed to get more than 5 hours sleep for a change. On a normal basis, I can operate on 5-6 hours of sleep. But the last few days have been physically exhausting too.
Today was supposed to be an easy drive on relatively good roads (compared to the last 3 days), so we were hoping to reach Shillong early enough to explore the hotel we were staying at instead of just burying our noses in our laptops on arrival as we have been doing since we began this trip.
We left Iora at Kaziranga by 8am and as we were leaving we were given a lovely send off by 2 rhinos and a couple of bison who came almost to the highway to bid us goodbye.
We stopped for tea at Dhabha Highway at Rah. Relatively clean washrooms. (Yesterday at Kareng Dhabha, the washroom was a series of broad leaves hastily thrown together in a reactangular shape with gaping holes all around that tried to enclose 2 bricks on either side of a hole in the floor). The dhabha was a popular stopping point for vehicles on this route until the new highway came in, which now runs about 15-20 feet above the dhabha. The enterprising Punjabi owners have added a staircase for customers to climb up and down while also affixing a couple of notices saying "Dhabha customers, please park cars on the service road and not on the highway"
The day was warm and I wasn't in the mood for tea, so I got really excited after a few kilometers, when I saw Tender coconut water (nariyal paani) for sale at Thekeragudi. There was plenty of competition, but they all insisted that it would be 20Rs a coconut and then proceeded to give us a lecture on the health benefits of coconut water!
Our next stop for lunch was 15kms away from Guwahati at Highway Citi Dhabha. We planned to bypass Guwahati completely, but I was extremely tempted to just go home and tumble into my own bed and not wake up to any more 6am alarms. In hindsight, we may have been better off if we had rested in Guwahati for half a day and then headed out to Shillong in the morning. We had basic anda bhurji, dal fry and rotis at the dhabha. We had ordered for butter rotis (rotis here are made with maida and need that extra moisture) What arrived where plain rotis. When we asked the waiter, he said that there was butter in the dhal and hence no need for any to be added to the rotis! That was a first, waiters normally try to upsell more expensive items on the menu, this guy was downselling!
The almost 200kms from Kaziranga to Guwahati was covered in 4 hours. After a 1 hour lunch break (service here is really slow) we reached Shillong (120km) within an hour and a half. But the last 13kms to enter Shillong took us 2 and a half hours. It was absolutely excrutiating to be so near and yet so far away.
Other than a short photo stop at Borapani / Umiam Lake, today was just about the drive and we had been really looking forward to reaching early and getting everything thats been pending organised, but that just wasn't to be. The pitiable point to note is that none of these traffic jams would have occurred if people just followed some basic civic sense.
Shillong is a hilly region and roads are 2 laned. However, when faced with a series of cars in line, there is always one driver who messes up everything by overtaking all the vehicles standing patiently in line and zips up on the wrong side of the road, setting a horrid precedent, thagt is quickly followed by a rush of other irritated drivers and soon they block the path of all oncoming traffic and the situation is repeated on the other side resulting in a complete gridlock.
We finally arrived at Tripura Castle in Shillong at 6:30pm. Ancestral home to the Maharajas of Tripura in Meghalaya. Some of the buildings are very old and some are newer constructions, built to resemble the old. The cutlery all comes embossed with the coat of arms of the Maharaja, but we weren't lucky enough to find him in residence.
Today was a quiet uneventful day, but tomorrow is quite packed, so stay tuned.