Part 4 : Getting Out and About
We reached Aizawl through the state’s only airport at Lengpui. Nestled between hills, there’s a beautiful runway and while flying in, one gets a bird’s eye view of the lush bamboo forests and the aerial view of a few urban settlements- one of which is surely Aizawl. The airport is under renovations and during last month’s visit en route to Agartala, I was very happy to see that the luggage conveyor is operational- a welcome change from airline staff bringing the luggage on dollies. The airport seems to be having a fair number of flights, although there are none on Sundays. The ATR to Agartala, which operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays saves me from the 11 hours long and (apparently grueling) road journey. The flight takes a Kolkata-Agartala-Aizawl-Agartala- Kolkata route. The Agartala -Aizawl leg takes only about 25 minutes. Yours truly has the habit of rushing to the airport before time and one time, the inbound flight was delayed by 2 hours. In short, it was a very lo-oong wait, but thankfully I had some downloads to watch on Prime and Netflix and the airlines plied some snacks to the stranded passengers.
Aizawl is thirty kilometres away from the airport, taking nearly one and half hours by road. The route is picturesque, and a few cafés have opened on the way offering coffee and pastries. These days, owing to the traffic density and narrow roads, traffic jams are commonplace within the city. One time, during an airport run we were stuck for 45 minutes in Aizawl city traffic. This time, my habit of rushing to the airport and my driver’s skillful hill maneuvering came in handy. However, I do not suggest speeding in this terrain, the dizziness and nausea are way too real to ignore.
Due to the huge rush within the city, bikes are the common modes of transport. Most people own one or the other kind of scooter or a motorbike. Also, bike taxis operate in the city- they are quite economical and save a lot of time. Interestingly, there are no auto rickshaws plying on Aizawl roads. If one is apprehensive of hopping on a bike, there are car taxis for hire at a higher price. There are also a few city buses too, blue, and white TATA vans on fixed routes but I haven’t tried hopping on one yet.
As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, the road discipline in Aizawl is simply amazing. Even if there’s a huge traffic block, the drivers never cut the lane or honk, but they wait patiently till it’s their turn to move ahead. At tricky bends, vehicles often must give way to another and it’s not uncommon to see drivers sending a ‘lawm e’- thank you – to each other for the same. During our initial days, we had a driver who was as new to Aizawl as ourselves and we had to use Maps for navigation. Needless to say, we got stuck in the narrowest and steepest lanes several times. Some of these mis-navigated locations were so steep that I would prefer to get out of the vehicle and walk down the hill, rather than be seated in a Bolero-llercoaster. Finally, good sense prevailed, and our vehicle vendor hired a local driver and peace was restored.
Traffic lights, which are ubiquitous in other cities are apparently absent in Aizawl- I am yet to see one that’s functional. Instead, there are traffic policemen and policewomen, who are expertly guiding the traffic at busy junctions. Now that our bikes have arrived from Indore, we are starting to explore the city and other nearby areas. It has also made the weekly shopping rounds easier, although finding parking is quite challenging. In busy areas, there are designated parking spots for bikes, which can be used for a fee.
Last week we visited Sialsuk, which is quite popular for its views. It’s a two-hour drive from Aizawl- in Mizoram the travelling distance is often denoted in the duration of the journey. Barring a few trucks, traffic enroute Sialsuk was mostly other Sumos, carrying passengers to the southern districts of Mizoram. On the way, many hills bore the marks of ongoing slash and burn cultivation or ”Jhum” cultivation. Essentially, Sialsuk is a camping spot among the hills, and we saw a few people relaxing in front of their tents. There are several viewpoints where one can gaze upon the hills on the horizon and the winding roads below. We spent some time and, on the way back, we stopped at a local hotel. The first item on the menu card was “food”. Although we were perplexed for some time, we realized that “food” was nothing but the Mizo version of “oonu” or thali and ordered some. On the way back we stopped at Maubuang, which has been identified as the exact location of Tropic of Cancer and took some photos before proceeding to Aizawl.
PHOTO CREDIT : DR AISWARYALAKSHMI | MANOHAR KRISHNAN
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