Another untold tale from the past.
For not many, Aizawl may sound a popular honeymoon destination. But those who haven’t been to this raw and quite North Eastern capital city, may not be the right judge.
I had many unusual travel experiences, but this one makes the top of the list for its sheer merit of occurring on my honeymoon. Though it was not enough to dampen the spirit of union ;o), however we still love to reflect back and have goose-bumps even 8 years and 2 kids later.
We flew into the notorious Lengpui airport on a direct flight from Kolkata. Already in a weather typically hazardous for the difficult airport terrain of Aizawl. While I kept my wife engaged with enthralling technicalities of how it was so easy to overshot the runway in such conditions. She clutched my arms harder than what the pilot must have done to the throttle.
And so after an anxious landing, we were finally relieved when the fasten your seatbelt sign was turned off. We made it unscathed. But only momentarily.
At the airport we were supposed to meet a Mr. Dutta, who was also the Airport Manager for Air India Ltd. and a family friend. We enquired about him with the local staff, but he was away at the grounds attending to the aircraft. We had his number but our phones were dead. Luck was simply so kind on us on that trip.
We enquired with an lady police guard for any public booth and she directed us to some room at the second level which had the only accessible telephone. Now what trouble could that possibly be? A room with a telephone, just walk in and dial – so simple. But not when the board outside reads – Office of the Superintendent of Police, Aizawl. So we decided to wait some more rather rousing the SP for making a phone call.
Nevertheless we met Mr. Dutta some forty minutes later. He was already been informed about our arrival and had already made arrangements for us to reach the city. The taxis charge anything upwards of 750 INR for a trip to the city, so it was Mr. Dutta’s genius idea of asking us to travel with the staff bus which would be leaving anyway in another hour’s time. For a couple on honeymoon, he must have assumed we were not in much hurry to reach the hotel anyway.
So we waited for another one hour watching as the staffs went through their daily routine of wrapping things up, so painfully slow. By 3 pm, the airport was shut for the general public. The last flight had already departed at 2, the airport will open again at 8 am next day for its daily operation window of 7 hours. Finally 30 minutes later, we all wrapped up and boarded the small mini van en-route to the city.
We were finally thrilled as the van hit the roads and we braced for some great hilly views. But fate had other plans. First we stopped at a nearby village market, where the rest of the staffs bought their daily supplies. Then after 45 minutes of further delay some bright guy realised he had forgotten stuff at the airport. And we had to turn back immediately.
Delays over delays, over delays, and then finally 3.5 hours since landing at Aizawl we finally got underway. Our honeymoon was finally underway as the van moved through the many twists and turns of the hilly road. The staffs, mostly locals started singing, chatting, and giggling. All those delays and sufferings started looking like so distant a memory.
But soon afterwards the van came to another halt. This time a bigger one as we could see lines of cars as far as the eyes permit. The roads were choc-a-blocked with vehicles heading towards the city. But no body was moving. I enquired to some of the locals who had went ahead to enquire into the matter.
There was a landslide ahead which had stalled all movements for a while. The army was working to get the roads cleared but it looked like another 2 hours before we can get moving. By then we had resigned to our fate. As soon as things looked bright, something or the other made it even worse. This time it was the landslide. And so we had no other choice but to wait quietly in the dark inside the van.
Soon the situation started getting even worse. Some of the staffs got bored of waiting and so started drinking in the van itself. My wife was getting really anxious and scared at that point. We started feeling insecure, stuck in a landslide and with a group of drinking strangers. Thank god for we had a line of army convoys just next to us which provided the much needed security. But thank god it didn’t came to anything worse. The blockade was cleared in another hour and we got moving again.
We reached Aizawl at around 7.30 in the evening. One of the staffs accompanied us to the taxi stand from where we were to take a ride to the hill resort at Berawtlang. Another 1-2 hrs journey which we hoped to cover with no further trouble. But it just wasn’t our lucky day.
We started in a Maruti 800, fingers crossed and hoping all our troubles were over. We were making good progress and hoped to reach our destination finally unscathed. The road was dark and there was no visibility outside the windows. The only part visible was where the headlights reached. Slowly we realised how easy it was to stop the car just anywhere and leave after looting us. My wife held on to me much tighter as we both prayed to reach our destination in one piece.
The car suddenly came to a stop, and the driver got down without any notice. Our hearts almost stopped. I could follow the driver as far as the lights went, and then he disappeared into the dark. It was one of the most anxious few minutes of our life until the driver returned, and alone thankfully. But he waved for me to get out. I had to gather a lot of courage to do so and amidst strong protest from my wife. But I had to get out to check what he was pointing out.
In some broken English and Hindi, the driver pointed out to a distance where there used to be a road but it was gone now due to another land slide. It was the very road which was supposed to lead us to our destination in Berawtlang. I was dumbstruck. Now what? I wanted to curse the person who suggested us to have a honeymoon in Mizoram. But first I wanted to get back to the safety of a settlement.
The driver explained that there was one more way which was through a forest and not safe in the night. And my wife was absolutely certain that it was one route we were not going to take under any circumstances. The only other option was to get back to Aizawl, and spend the night there so that we could get back to Berawtlang in broad day light. It had also started drizzling by then, so without wasting anymore we turned around and started our journey back to Aizawl.
We drove back along that dark road with no visibility. The rain added more elements of fear as we hung close to each other. Praying to our gods constantly as the rains continued and the road never ended. There was nothing we could see from outside the window, it was completely pitch dark. It took an hour in such perilous conditions for our car to come to another halt. I could see some huts but still no sign of any human largely due to the rain.
I asked the driver if we had reached Aizawl, but no it was Berawtlang. The driver took a risk on his own and drove through that jungle without our knowledge. My wife was mad at him. And he had no clue why we were so angry. We cleared his payments and checked in to our cottage amidst the heavy downpour. Thank god the rooms were warm and lavish. They served hot food in the cottage itself as we crashed afterwards absolutely mad from and exhausted from a terrible experience since the morning.
Thank god we did not came across any other unfortunate experience in that trip. The dawn next day woke us up to a completely different experience. The window of our cottage gave in to a picturesque view of a fog covered Berawtlang slowly showing itself with the onset of sunlight. A hot pot of tea was served. The slowly revealing beauty of the place along with the refreshingly hot tea made us forget the ordeal of our journey as we also remember it as one of our most fond trips ever.