Crossing back into India, we were hit by the huge contrast between the two countries. The river in particular. We had left the horrific stone and sand extraction and the workers’ slums in Bangladesh. On the Indian side people were swimming from a beach and taking boats out for pleasure. There were tourists just having fun, so different to the hardship going on in Bangladesh.
There were women about again. Couples were out for day trips. It was Sunday. Gentle singing could be heard from Churches. Small privately owned cars were on the road. The people looked completely different. They were tiny and Far eastern in appearance. Even the names of villages sound Far eastern, like the place we are staying, Pongtung.
Tropical forested mountains rose steeply from the river. There was silence, just the sound of the forest. It felt like we were in an empty paradise, where we were no longer the centre of attention from large crowds of people.
As we climbed, we looked out over the river to Bangladesh and could see the workers’ slums and the sand industry. We were in a different world now. How could two sides of a river be so different? We had left the amplified persuasive call to prayer from the mosques, the masses of people struggling to go about their day, the people toiling in the rice fields and the pretty villages perched on slightly higher ground to keep them out of the monsoonal floods.
There is wealth and order here, mountains and jungle, water falls tumbling down rock faces, and churches everywhere.
Even some of the bridges are living intertwined roots of trees in this magical garden on Eden. A huge storm comes through in the night, torrential rain like you have never seen, thunder and lightning crashed about the warm sky. This region ranks as the wettest place on earth and it’s what keeps these jungle clad mountains so lush and green.
We crossed the mountains of Meghalaya, home to the tiny Khasi people and descended into Assam. Gradually as we approached Guwahati the appearance of people became more diverse. The silent jungle hills gave way to the urban chaos of this cosmopolitan city. Guwahati is the gateway to North East India and where lowland India meets all the different northeastern ethnic groups of people.
With special permits arranged we are ready to continue on the next leg of our trip. We will follow the Brahmaputra river up stream and do some trips into Arunachal Pradesh towards the Tibetan border, where we will find remote monasteries.