A long drive through the night, a sleepy flight to Guwahati and there we were. In an amazingly picturesque landscape - more in common to the South-East Asian countries than to Bihar or Rajasthan.
Amazingly, the landscape provided a setting but the people proved to be the same . The same Indianess that permeates through our blood and soul, perhaps the same plastic wrappers found in all towns of the country nailed it right - We were in India definitely.
A sleepy drive from the town where we took precious minutes searching for the RBI office while actually standing next to it, we got into a tough bus (this is was a sign of things that travel in these parts will be tough, for the body and soul). Drove through people chattering and more, we were stopped at 8 pm at a makeshift check-post where menacingly dressed police commandos refused to let us pass. Some of these guys were drunk, if that matters.
An hour of talk led to no result and they too left soon, but our group just decided to go back. A few voices like ours were left to ponder the thrill of the night that lay ahead. We then actually checked into the most dinghy lodge I have ever stayed in. Dirtiness pervaded our souls and next morning, I actually got up happily at 4 and ran off without doing any of the compulsory morning things.
So there we were
At the West Bank Guest House, with Ashwin wearing his leech socks and Kees ready on time, we went on the walk. I took Gopi - my deadly Nishi guide - and went ahead on the Khari road, seeing some unique birds, and the Himalayan Giant Squirrel and some monkeys from far. The first day went past with walks in the forest and the river bank where I lost my cap.
On the second day, I carried breakfast for them and went on one of my life's best walks through the forest, five kilometres of being alone, watching for the sign of an elephant, seeing endemic birds, hearing sounds and resting for sometime - it was a dream that ended when I reached the camp at Muchalung and met the old Nishi.
It was time for us to sleep and sleep in our own dam - so we build our own beaver dam and slept soundly with the open sky above us and everything below. Those few moments of sleeping on the water did a great job in bringing me back to my old self - one that had started appearing remote to me myself.
Cycling time came and both of us took to the local market. Again, on that creaky cycle, chugging along, that feeling - if there is ever any definition for that - Seeing the elegant Bodo ladies in their elaborate sarees, treading softly between the borders of Assam and Arunachal - their flawless faces, their happy world, the strong confident steps - I could not but help falling in love with that world all over again - twice already in a couple of days.
The final few Days at Pakke
What could be better than eating dal from bucket - perhaps the fact that the bucket was being used by the ladies in their loo and luckily not from ours where we had just finished washing our shoe - Atleast the bathing bucket was safer.... But in that delicious orgy of pork, chicken, messed up kitchen, dirty plates, having dal from a bucket seemed just normal(well, almost normal).
Having this fantastic and tasty dal made us highly energetic and next morning, me and Ashwin went on a long beautiful walk besides the Pakke River. The truck mafia mining sand soon made us contemplate from the beauty of nature to the fucked up state we are in now and we slowly walked back. Our group was doing some serious birding and we decided to rest on the floor of the forest or the river.
Never before has choosing a site for my plot been so difficult. Every site seemed enticing, every branch calling us. Yet, one had to decide and with Roald Dahl with you, decide fast. So, we chose two appropiate spots and decided to read and bascially excel in the art of doing nothing. Sleeping over the rocks who were offering free massage - the forest came out alive - vibrant and blue above. Magical couple of hours that.
But we had not given up yet. On the return after some serious maggi in a seriously beautiful Anti-Poaching camp, we searched for newer spots and found a place where I read through Roald Dahl's 'Boy and Going Solo'. That one hour was heavenly as the sky was falling silent and the forest teeming with life and we were in the middle of it. Awesome it was.
The fun of doing nothing in a beautiful place, without anyone to ask us, just being what we want to be rather being who we are, reading as we may please, sleeping as we want - ohh that is life.
Post Script - The Pakke visit rekindled some of the old careless type that we used to do leaving so many memories behind - lighting a fire in the Nishi Bamboo House after climbing using a single wooden pole, sleeping in the river, the dam and most of all the wondrous walks.
Thanks Pakke for the open blue skies and the clear water below....