Shipshape in Assam

Peter and Hilary Whitehead enjoyed their time in Assam so much that they were determined to take some Ross Tours travellers to this mystical and lesser-known part of India. And it’s happening again – in late November this year!

By Peter Whitehead. (Part 1)

Our Assam adventure started – and finished – in the historic Raj-era city of Calcutta. Once the seat of the Imperial government, there is so much history attached to this city. Far from the tourist trail, our first evening cruising down the Hooghly River revealed a very different India – removed from the hustle and bustle – setting the tone of things to come over the next few days.

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The colonial architecture in Calcutta (Kolkata) harks back to when it was the seat of imperial government. Photo – NOWAK LUKASZ /Shutterstock.com

From Calcutta, we flew to Guwahati in Assam to board our Assam Bengal Navigation vessel (don’t you love the name!), the MV Charaidew. Accommodating only 24 passengers at any one time, the ship was our home for the next 5 nights as we cruised up the Brahmaputra River. Considered one of the holiest rivers in the world, this vast waterway traverses through some of India’s richest agricultural lands, and provides access to some of the region’s most spectacular wildlife and nature reserves.

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The MV Charaidew, our home for a week, moored at a sandbank at Brahmaputra River village. Photo – Peter Whitehead

Once we set sail, we entered another world. Forget the TV or Internet – for the next few days you’ll be mesmerised by the beauty and serenity of the passing scenery. The intimate river boat is comfortably appointed, including fully air-conditioned cabins, and the food was utterly delicious. Quick tip: the shade covered top deck is definitely the ideal vantage from which to watch the landscape unfold as we motor slowly up stream.

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Boats and bridges of river life in Assam. Photo – Daniel J. Rao / Shutterstock.com

Each evening we moor at a sandbank and step ashore to stretch our legs and appreciate the tranquillity of rural India. By day we pass hamlets and visit some of them to experience true village life. Away from the hoards of tourists, it was a restorative experience. We loved it and didn’t want to leave our little sanctuary, but the next part of our Assam journey was just as good.

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Our welcoming committee. Photo – Peter Whitehead

Kaziranga National Park, on the shores of the Brahmaputra River was our next stop for a couple of nights and it was so utterly different from the river cruise. We stayed at the lovely Diphlu River Lodge to explore the park by jeep… and elephant! This park is home to the largest herds of one-horned rhinos in the world, plus many buffalo, wild elephants and birdlife, including the comical hornbills.

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Peter and a rhino at Diphlu River Lodge. There was water between them! Photo – Hilary Whitehead

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Mahout giving his elephant treats after our safari. Photo – Peter Whitehead

Tea, anyone? You can’t travel to this part of the world without experiencing the ‘step back in time’ Darjeeling. Located in the Himalayan foothills, this quaint town, perched precariously on a hillside, is surrounded by tea estates. There we learned of the most revered of Indian teas – sometimes referred to as the ‘Champagne of teas’ – while enjoying glimpses of the surrounding Himalaya Mountains.  And, of course, a trip to Darjeeling wouldn’t be complete without a trip on the historic World Heritage listed steam Toy Train.

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Gardening Darjeeling style. Photo – tikiri / Shutterstock.com

With our Assam adventure behind us, we flew to Bhutan – but that’s another story and another Postcard! Check out the itinerary

 

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