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Rhinos, rainbows, and a road-trip: Cruising through Assam in the Honda Cr-V, Civic

, ET Online|
Updated: Jul 11, 2019, 03.15 PM IST
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The four-day road-trip took us to Guwahati, Majuli, Pasighat, Dibrugarh, Tezpur, and Kaziranga.

Highlights

  • Honda Cars India flagged off the 9th edition of its popular, annual series, ‘Drive to Discover’, from Guwahati
  • The four-day drive covered a distance of more than 1300 kms in the company's all-new CR-V and Civic
Winding roads past mesmerising greens dotted with pinks and purples, lush tea gardens, and the majestic Brahmaputra. Assam, the gateway to the North East, is all that and more.

A four-day road trip, at the invitation of Honda’s Drive to Discover expedition - now in its 9th edition - into the gorgeous interiors of Assam, took us past the famed one-horned rhinoceros in paddy fields, sudden bursts of rainfall brightened by rainbows, and gave us a glimpse of the state’s rich culture.

The trip began in Guwahati, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the state, from where a convoy of 11 5th Generation CR-Vs & the Iconic All-New 10th Generation Civics (and uber-comfortable ones as we’ll discover through the course of our trip) were to be our rides.

Nested on the south bank of the Brahmaputra, Guwahati - despite being the largest urban area in the North East - retains much of its character (make time for a visit to the Kamakhya Temple), but it wasn’t the city, rather the interior of the state that we drove into; setting off for Majuli, a river island - described as ‘a unique geographical occurrence’ by UNESCO - in the Brahmaputra.

​Assam, with its green borders along highways, is a road-trip to add to your bucket-list.
Assam, with its green borders along highways, is a road-trip to add to your bucket-list.

The drive is smooth; you hit the Asian Highway and it has patches of both a 4-lane road and a single-lane one - however, be wary of cattle that lurk along the route. Thankfully for us, the drive, through small cities and on roads crowded by cows and goats, was made much simpler and safer thanks to the cars’ ‘lane-watch camera’ feature.

Another thing that the course of the over-300 km drive will leave you with is a bright, fresh hue of green (missing from even the biggest crayon collection), that will always remind you of the Assamese monsoon.

In Assam, the roads offer as much character as the destination.
In Assam, the roads offer as much character as the destination.

To get to Majuli, you have to take a ferry, operated by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), from Nimati ghat. There’s no way of pre-booking one and they operate on a first-come first-served basis (they will also ship your vehicles across the river). Depending on the tide, the ferries operate till around 4 pm in the evening, so it’s advisable to reach on time.

Regardless of the number of rivers you’ve crossed before, nothing can prepare you for the magic that is an orange candy sunset on the Brahmaputra. Grey clouds play hide-and-seek, as the sky merges with the river, a resplendent green Majuli over the horizon.

​Sailing across the mighty Brahmaputra​ leaves you with postcard-worthy views.
Sailing across the mighty Brahmaputra leaves you with postcard-worthy views.

One of the largest river islands in the world (it is shrinking due to erosion) and the first in India to be made a district, Majuli is spread over approximately 352 kilometres and is a hub of culture, dominated by the Mising tribe - known for their culinary expertise and knowledge of herbs.

Coming here is a little like going back in time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find accommodation with air-conditioning and TVs. The roads, often, without warning, turn into dirt paths through vegetation, for which not just the CR-V (which has been introduced in a Diesel variant for the first time) but even the lower Civic turned out to be apt companions, making the bumpy ride almost smooth.

I could spend hours extolling the beauty of this river island with wildflowers in wetlands, accentuated by wooden, stilt houses and 22 Vaishnavite monasteries - but even that won’t suffice.

In Majuli, driving past the Luit river (a tributary of the Brahmaputra) will take you to Dekasang, an eco-friendly resort - a great accommodation option if you're looking for an authentic experience.
In Majuli, driving past the Luit river (a tributary of the Brahmaputra) will take you to Dekasang, an eco-friendly resort - a great accommodation option if you're looking for an authentic experience.

Leaving the island on a 209-km journey to Arunachal Pradesh’s Pasighat, took us through pothole-riddled country roads before we hit the highway, a journey that would have otherwise been backbreaking was made surprisingly comfortable in the cars, making me appreciate their spacious interiors.

The CR-V’s ‘driver attention monitor’, a feature that detects drowsy driving behaviour and warn the driver to take a break, was a boon for the long drives.
*Pro tip: The car you pick for a road trip - features, engine, comfort - can make all the difference to your journey.

Vistas of picturesque rice fields were replaced by mist-covered mountains as we crossed the Pasighat Bridge, and made our way to the headquarters of East Siang district.

​The Pasighat bridge promises fairytale ​views that make for envy-inducing​ Instagram posts.
The Pasighat bridge promises mesmerising views that also make for envy-inducing Instagram posts.

It’s a day for crossing bridges as the route to Dibrugrah from Pasighat takes us to Asia’s second longest rail-cum-road bridge. The 4.9 km-long Bogibeel bridge, across the Brahmaputra, built at a cost of Rs 5,900, crore has reduced the travel distance between Dibrugarh and Itanagar by 150 kilometres.

Since no trip to Assam can be complete without a stop at Kaziranga, that’s how we conclude ours too. And while the National Park is closed during the monsoon, if you’re lucky enough - like we were - you might see a rhino (or two) grazing in the fields, and on another glance also spot a wild Asiatic buffalo, ticking two of the ‘Big Five’ (Tiger, Hog Deer, Eastern Swamp Deer, Rhino, Wild Asiatic Buffalo) off your must-see list for the park.

And, at the end, as the country roads give way to city streets leading back to Guwahati airport, Assam leaves you with Louis Daniel Armstrong on loop in your head.

“I see trees of green, red roses too..I see skies of blue and clouds of white..The colours of the rainbow so pretty in the sky...”

Fact File:
The all-new 10th-generation Honda Civic comes in 5 variants:
  • Petrol 1.8L i-VTEC: V CVT, VX CVT and ZX CVT
  • Diesel 1.6L i-DTEC Turbo: VX MT and ZX MT
The 5th-generation all-new CR-V comes in 3 variants:
  • Petrol CVT 2WD
  • Diesel 9AT 2WD
  • Diesel 9AT AWD

(The writer was part of Honda's Drive to Discover 9 experience to the North-East.)

The best freeways, expressways and highways for a road trip

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11 Aug, 2017
Independence Day is near and if you take a holiday on Monday, you could club it with the long weekend beginning Saturday. Here is where you can head to.
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