Assam. You have probably heard about this place when you drank a cup of Indian tea. The biggest of the North Eastern States, divided by the mighty Brahmaputra river is a place not much visited by western tourists. We were always interested in exploring the path less travelled, so going to the East of India was a must!Assam welcomed us with… a highway! Just a day or two after we crossed there from West Bengal, we started to cycle on a smooth, black road. It was so strange to ride on a broad and flat road, that we thought that we are back in Europe or China for a moment! This feeling did not last long – seeing cars driving on the wrong side of the highway, trucks parked in the middle of the fast lane, cows sleeping on the side of the road quickly reminded us where we were.
The landscape changed from the jungles into the fertile flatlands – home of many species of animals, including Homo Sapiens. There are many great national parks in Assam (you can spot wild rhinos there!), but Assam is generally dominated by man.
The main river of Assam is Brahmaputra. It has its source in the Himalayas and is a rather wild river in the mountainous region but when it enters the plains it turns into a lazy and extremely wide river. We crossed it twice – both times using bridges – and cycling across felt more like going over a lake or even a sea.What makes Assam special? The people. They are the most curious inhabitants of this planet! Wherever we stopped, after not more than two minutes, we had at least 80 people surrounding us! In a matter of seconds after we got spotted when cycling into a village, people used to pour out of their houses just to have a look. We could not do the simplest thing without dozens of Assamese people staring at us. We have never experienced anything like that, neither in India, nor anywhere else in Asia.
It seemed that in most of the places we visited, people have never seen Westerners, especially travelling by bicycle. Whenever we wanted to check our position using the GPS and waited for it to log in to the satellites, we had a circle of people before the fix! At the beginning it was funny, but after some days we started to ask the people to go away – unfortunately nothing worked. We did not even dare to camp – waking up with hundreds of curious Assamese would not be nice.On the other hand, the people of Assam were extremely friendly. Many times they were shocked that we do not speak Assamese (don’t YOU speak Assamese, dear reader?), and we had motorcycles following us or cars driving at our speed with the people staring or trying to have a chat with us every single day.Assam appeared to us as an old version of India, where people still follow the old customs. Indeed, we witnessed a lot of traditional craft workshops and both men and women wearing traditional clothes.
Places where we recharge our mental batteries are local markets. We simply love to look at all the vegetables and local products, and the connections between sellers and customers. We spent Christmas in a very nice town called Tezpur and visited the local market many times. After so much time being in India we got used to the cows eating trash and stray dogs sleeping everywhere. But we have never seen stray sheep before!