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Mon, 22 Jul 2019

Northeast Today

Tea with the Sleeping Giants

Tea with the Sleeping Giants
May 07
13:26 2018

March Edition, Travel, Raheef Aowal

“Come over sometime. It is a different world out there, untouched and seeped in the innocence of rusticity.” I have repeated many a time to my friends as a suggestion for offbeat places to travel in Assam. A subtle, “Definitely! Shall have to plan one soon”, accompanied by a smirk was all I got back each time. Such reactions are common when you try to convince people that those sleepy little towns tucked away in the North Bank of the Brahmaputra are serene getaways.

I am referring in specific to the stretch from Tezpur to Dhemaji along the Assam-Arunachal border. The 250 km long drive has golden paddy fields along its sides, punctuated with contrasting green tea-gardens and cosy hamlets.

Monabari tea estate which is around 1158 hectares, once boasted being the largest tea garden in the world, now is the largest in Asia. As the NH 52 winds through the sprawling estate, the carefully manicured tea bushes and the lines of trees dotting in planned geometry is hypnotic. The sheer magnitude of the garden which needs seven managers to look after its affairs can be felt when you find your eyes unable to find the end of the green spectacle.

Younger siblings of the snow-capped mountains in the higher reaches of Arunachal reveal themselves as one nears Banderduwa, the gateway to Itanagar. The landscape undergoes a massive makeover as one crosses Harmutty. Running parallel to the border, the impeccably maintained roads under the Border Roads Division make their precision work glaring.

Making a pit stop at North Lakhimpur and wandering near to the only airport in these parts, Lilabari, is highly recommended. It is in such wandering that you might have a rendezvous with the blue guardians of Arunachal. The sleeping giants never fail to make one and all gasp at their sheer enormity. An insignificant Lilabari railway junction holds a breathtaking view of its crossing gate. Heading for the Koilamari Tea Estate by the foothills in the same route, one realizes how untouched and virgin the territory is. Wild bushes with white blooms cover the winding road which runs by the side of elevated tea gardens. Dried up streams in winter are popular picnic spots.

Another such pristine location is the Seajuli tea estate which is on way to Dhemaji, around 15 minutes from North Lakhimpur Town. Running along an embankment, the lane leading to it throws postcard scenes both left and right. The setting sun peeking through the clouds, playing in the river water and painting the sky with pink and orange hues adds to the beauty of simple village life effortlessly.

Clustered settlements with a handful of commercial shops for basic amenities are all that keep this region inhabited. The ‘haats’ or local markets are usually full of organic and natural produce vended by locals who never fail to give a smile free with every purchase. Contentment is the key to happiness for them and this virtue has never let them down.

A short crisp trip to such destinations, which have not been covered yet with the garb of commercialization, can provide time, respite and the insight to enjoy the better things in life. So, pack your bags and head for the panoramic beauty of an undiscovered valley perfumed with tea.


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