Driving from Tripura to Mizoram we experienced first hand the issues of bandits, kidnappers and law and order issues. In fact it was the Tripura Police that ensured that we don’t become a victim of it. Not surprisingly, this was the ‘Mother of All Drives’ we undertook on our trip!
Destination: Aizawl, in Mizoram
Distance Covered: 335 kms
Unakoti Bas Reliefs: We spent quite some time in the morning walking through the paths in Unakoti. It is a historic Shaiva pilgrimage spot and dates back to 7th – 9th centuries if not earlier. While the marvelous rock carvings, murals with their primitive beauty form the chief attraction, natural beauty including mountain scenery and waterfalls are an added bonus. It is the most desolate of heritage sites one can ever imagine. Except for a local hereditary priest and his wife there was no human being in sight. You have to walk up and down stairs to see all the rock carvings of Unakoti.
The road out of Unakoti is good for just 20 km. Then there is nothing but a pot holed road of very small width. We stopped by at a village and asked a man for the way to Aizawl. He looked at his watch, was surprised and asked us if we have “locals” with us in the car. We said we did not. He said it was risky driving on that road and also we were short of sunlight hours.
Anyway we proceeded to the next village and saw a rural health facility. We went inside, met a doctor and asked for directions. He came to the car park, looked at us four and was surprised. He said we had to travel fast. He looked across the horizon, pointed to a range of mountains and said, “You see the first mountain range, cross it. Then you go down and you will see the second mountain range. Go up on that. On that range you will see ‘small people’. They are not small. They are adults but look small. Cross that range and you will come to Mizoram”. That was one hell of a way we were guided… Unbelievable but true! He was guiding us through a set of mountain ranges as if he was guiding us across blocks of buildings and streets in Manhattan!
We took the road and came to a Tripura Police check post. We were stopped. The policeman asked us if we were mad to go on that road. He told us that just recently bandits had kidnapped an Airtel engineer and the whole area was infested with bandits. (He said all the bandits were from Mizoram!) He said he cannot allow us to proceed. We pleaded with him and said we had a deadline to meet on the drive.
He then asked us to give an undertaking in writing that the Government of Tripura is not responsible for our safety or for any accidents to us and once we gave it, he took our phone numbers and stopped a goods carrying truck and told the two people in that to accompany our car to the next village. He also told us to collect a couple of locals from that village and drive at top speed to exit the Damparengpui Tiger Reserve before sunset as that is the place where all the dacoits are hiding!
At the next village, the two men in the car got us two Bru tribal boys from the village and made them sit in our car. We took off at breakneck speed on a road less track on the mountains, in the middle of a dense jungle infested not only with wildlife but also bandits. We did see “small people” on the way. They were the local hill tribes who are very, very short.
The mountain track becomes a road only as we come near Mizoram. We stopped by at a local police station in Mizoram around midnight. We must say the staff were polite and were surprised by our guts to travel in that area at that time. (They told us that all the bandits were from Tripura!)
As we drive down the mountains, Aizawl comes into view. We feel it is the most well spread out mountain town in India. The whole landscape in front of you is only city lights of Aizawl. We entered a nearly dead town early in the morning and checked into a hotel booked by our local friend Kalpana Sarathy from Tamil Nadu who has made Aizawl her home.
The next morning, the policeman called us to inquire about after our safety. That is something amazing from our security forces!