ASSAM DESPATCH 5 - THE FRONTIER LANDS (DOWNSTREAM)
GUWAHATI TO DHUBRI
This cruise on a scenic stretch of the Brahmaputra is ideal for combining with Darjeeling, Sikkim or Bhutan. There are frequent trains from Cooch Behar to New Jalpaiguri (eg 1215-1545), while Phuntsoling on the Bhutan border is a drive of c.120km. A variety of attractions are featured, ranging from a Maharajah’s palace to temples, tea gardens and a National Park on the Bhutan frontier.
Day 1. Arrive Guwahati airport and embark on “Charaidew” close to the great Saraighat bridge. Cruise down early afternoon to the silk weaving village of Sualkuchi which you will explore on foot. Visit weaving workshops to see the whole process of silk manufacture, from cocoon to spinning to dyeing and finally to handweaving into exquisite saris and dress lengths.
Day 2. This morning we cruise down to Tarabari Ghat, where we land and drive for 2 hours to Manas National Park on the borders with Bhutan. We stay at the simple Bansbari Lodge, adjoining a tea garden. The Park has lovely scenery and good bird life, while rhinoceros have recently been reintroduced. although sightings at this time of year will be rare. We take an afternoon jeep ride through grassland and forest as far as Mothanguri Lodge, where the Manas River bursts from the hills. We can stroll to the frontier, and see the sun set over the the hills of Bhutan. Returning in the dusk, we could see some wildlife, perhaps including wild buffalo, sambar or gaur. After supper we watch a tribal dance around the camp fire.
Day 3. After breakfast we drive around 4 hrs/130km to rejoin Charaidew at the great bridge at Jogighopa. Later we make a short excursion by road on the south bank to see the peaceful archaeological site of Sri Surya Pahar. Here we will see boulders which have been carved into stupas, lingams and bas-reliefs by early Buddhists, Hindus and Jains.
Day 4. This is a day spent on the river, with a chance to enjoy the rich bird life and look out for Gangetic Dolphin. There will be time to stop and walk through a bankside village, to see a side of India that the average tourist never gets to see.
Day 5. During breakfast we cruise down to the river port of Dhubri. Here we have time for a short ride on gaily painted cycle rickshaws past the great Sikh temple to admire the town’s surviving statue of Queen Victoria. Disembark mid-morning and drive c.80km to Cooch Behar where we visit the great Indo-Saracenic palace of the Maharajahs of Cooch Behar, described by Gayatri Devi in “A Princess Remembers”. Finally transfer to railway station for afternoon departure.