DAY 51 – Ngopa to Aizawl
I had decided on a 5.30 am start to ensure enough time in Aizawl to procure a new tyre and identify a good service station. After taking leave of Kham I hit the Aizawl highway by 5.45 am. While I had thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Ngopa two days back, today’s trip was not at all enjoyable due to tension about the tyre and the rim. My only thought was whether the tyre pressure would last till next village where I can find a tyre shop to fill air. At Pawlrang, the first village after Ngopa, I saw a couple of the guys who had helped me through the ordeal of the previous day. They wished me luck onwards. None of them who had come to my assistance either sought money or cribbed – a feature of the hills people, unlike in the plains.
I reached Kwalkuln by 8.15 am. I stopped for breakfast and noticed that the air pressure was considerably less than what I had started with. The breakfast of Poori and namkeem with tea digested quickly when I considered options if I had a complete flat. I took the car to the village Tyre Repair Shop to be told that he needed a hydraulic jack to prop up the tyre and fill air. It took some convincing before he agreed to fill air without propping up the tyre. I asked him to put in 10 lbs more than normal. He warned me that it would not last even till the next village. I had no option than to take the chance.
I kept nursing the front left tyre and rim, the spare I had put on (no Pun intended), till I reached Kiefang. The potholes and ‘unnatural’ roads were done gingerely and at almost walking speed. An inspection showed that the tyre pressure was comfortable. I decided to drive to Seling, another 30+ kms away. The nursing of the tyre continued. At Seling also the tyre pressure held. I was then confident of reaching Aizawl. But some stretches to Aizawl terrified me. However, I reached Anil’s shop without any incident. Anil is the contact Thomas had given me yesterday. He and his partner, Binoy, helped me get a new radial at a reasonable rate. The new tyre was fitted and the spare tyre was put back in the boot. Anil told me that it is not worth getting any repair and servicing done in Aizawl. He suggested that I get it done in Silchar. Before taking leave of me Anil told me that my looks would be a handicap in the North East. I was surprised at this statement. He clarified by saying that I look like a police officer and that may not exactly work to my advantage while traveling to Manipur and Nagaland. In fact, just yesterday another person in Ngopa made a similar comment. The man in Ngopa said that I have ‘Fauji’ looks. With a grandfather who was in the army and a father who was a policeman, I seem to have inherited the right looks!
After settling in the Circuit House, where my accommodation was arranged, I called up my contact in Ngopa to say that I had arrived in Aizawl. He told me that I had escaped the rains that lashed Ngopa early morning. If I had delayed my start I would have had trouble navigating the bad stretches. Since I had to take the car to Silchar for repair and servicing, I changed my plans and decided to leave for Silchar tomorrow. I rang up a Railway Commercial Inspector in Maligaon to make necessary arrangements in the ORH in Silchar.
After a late lunch and some route planning for the next couple of days, I took a walk to the ‘Millennium Centre’, which is considered to be the premier shopping mall in Aizawl. I was in for a surprise. As I entered the mall there were more people leaving it than going in. By 5 pm almost all the shops in the mall were closed. Most of the shop owners and workers are women and hence, they close early to go home to cook/eat the supper.
Late in the evening I called up my contact in Imphal to tell him of the disastrous attempt to reach Imphal via Ngopa. I told him that I would now try the NH 53 via Silchar and Jiribaum. He warned me that nearly 25 kms along the stretch is reportedly unmotorable. I have to reconfirm this information in Silchar before I attempt this leg of the journey. If all else fails, I intend to hire a Sumo and travel to Imphal-Kohima-Kasiranga-Jorhat-Majuli before returning to Guwahati. In these parts, travel plans change virtually every hour. I was in a shop to buy some biscuits when I overhead a lady informing someone long distance that her flight got cancelled today and she may be stuck in Aizawl for the next few days!