Assam’s hinterland – Majuli Island is one those destinations on earth that I will never forget. I’ve been on various island vacations in the past as an average globetrotter but this island offered more than what I had expected.
This island was simply a curiosity a few months back. I was browsing on the web where else I could unwind in some place away from my home in Mumbai. This secluded destination in northeast India fascinated me. It was not just its breathtaking landscape in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra River but it was also the rich cultural heritage of the Mishing tribe, their colourful ethnic wear and traditional cuisines.
However, this solo journey of mine filled me with excitement throughout, of which I will try to narrate below.
Reaching the gateway to northeast India
After my 3-hour-long journey, I landed in Guwahati. The humid weather was not very different from my native city. The slight drizzle earlier in the day that made it bearable to roam felt quite familiar. However, I could only explore the city’s upscale hub, GS Road, as I stayed in a plush retreat within this area. Nearby, Café Hendrix was an amazing eat-out for a quick bite. Although, it was open until midnight and the vibe was inviting, I had to sleep soon so that I could head for Jorhat the next day early morning.
On the road to Jorhat
As I had enough time for this vacation, taking a flight to Jorhat felt unnecessary. I was more interested on a road journey and believe me it was immensely scenic. The highways were smooth that made the 7-hour-drive a breeze. Stopping by at several locations, I captured all the splendid greenery surrounding me.
Embarking on a ferry journey to the world’s largest inhabited river island
Once I reached Jorhat, I wasted no time to reach Nimati Ghat, which is about a half-hour drive from the city. Lined with numerous ferryboats, this port is a spectacular sight. The last ferry was about to leave around 3.30 hours in the afternoon, and I could sense the rush just as when we Mumbaikers board trains in our city.
The ferryboat dropped me at Kamalabari Ghat on Majuli Island. The sandy banks of the island and the fresh air made me feel one with nature, especially when I spotted some colourful water birds over the distant horizon.
Exploring the Mishing villages of Majuli on a cycle
The pristine landscape of the island was awe-inspiring. Add to it, the view of marshes, water hyacinths and wooden boats all around. Moreover, the juxtaposition of bungalows and guesthouses against the backdrop of the countryside was quite visually striking. I decided to stay in one of them for the nights to follow.
I wasn’t aware of how immersive this splendid holiday was going to become. What was more enriching was exploring the Mishing villages on my own on a rented cycle. Before entering one of the villages, children playing around were glad to guide me through the muddy paths. Upon reaching, the friendly people from the Mishing tribe welcomed me warmly.
The delight of feeling like a local amongst the Mishing people
While the sight of stilted houses with thatched roofs made of bamboos was enough to captivate me, the few elderly Mishing people whom I met gladly invited me to their houses. I visited a house where they served me the traditional alcoholic drink, rice beer (locally called apong) and began speaking to me in broken Hindi (but enough to understand) about their age-old culture.
After a few drinks that I gradually got used to, I decided to head back to the guesthouse. The journey through the pastoral landscape again became more amazing when I could see the sun setting at a distance and when the hue of the land changed its colour.
The next morning, I headed out with some fishermen to the Brahmaputra River on a small wooden boat. These fishermen who belong to the Mishing tribe have their own traditional ways of catching fish through nets and rods. The way they caught fish was a remarkable sight, indeed.
I wanted to stay here longer but this trip had to end after a week. Now that I’m back, I’m a left with a wealth of happy memories to cherish forever. I feel that I too am a part of the mesmerising Mishing culture.