All the expedition participants have to assemble at the exit point from India, Imphal, Manipur. This is where we will leave India on 17th April, 2017.
This means, before crossing the Indian border, I have to drive across India from Mumbai which is on the west coast to almost the eastern end of India – crossing 10 Indian States. A straight drive from Mumbai to Imphal is about 3,300 kilometers and can be done in about 10-12 days. Google maps showed our initial route within India as:
I haven’t travelled to the North Eastern States popularly known as “Seven Sister States of India”. Or their brother, Sikkim. I haven’t been to Bhutan either. Since I have the luxury of a car while driving to those North Eastern states, we decided as well visit some interesting places like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Bhutan, Kaziranga National Park on our way to Imphal. Some of these places need an extra stay of at least one day each. This adds to 17 days and 4,000kms drive.
As we were finalizing the itinerary, Pushpa revealed that it was her childhood dream to visit Cherrapunjee, the wettest place in India. I would like to spend the rest of my life with her! A good husband that I am, I had no option but to add Cherrapunjee to the itinerary.
A few hours from Cherrapunjee is the cleanest village in Asia – Mawlynnong. There are many other interesting places around like unusual caves, various natural earth formations, double decker bridges naturally-formed out of tree stems and multi-stage waterfalls. The world famous Shillong also falls on this route. How can you be so close and miss all of that? Another 3 days and 400 kilometers.
Just to make sure that I do not miss any interesting places on the route, I collected tourist maps and literature of each of the states I would be passing through. I noticed that there are certain other important places on this route.
Deoghar in Jharkhand drew my special attention. There are twelve religiously auspicious Jyotirling locations in India. We had visited all of them except Baba Baidyanath at Deoghar, at the extreme east end of Jharkhand. We are not sure when we will visit that area again. We added Deoghar. This takes us very close to Varanasi on the Ganges, Gaya-Bodhgaya where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, Sarnath where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon, Jalmahal, Pavapuri where Lord Mahavira attained salvation, Nalanda University claimed to be the first university in the world. You got it right. I could not ignore any of these places when they mean just 3-4 more days. By increasing our daily drive we should be able to squeeze in these places with 21 days to Imphal.
There are many more interesting places, but I froze it to 21 days. For now! The map at this staged looked like:
Written : Badri Baldawa
Edited : Meeta Kabra