As you saw from yesterday’s blog, the fact that India is a democracy helps the traveller. A lot. The guidebooks that are the inevitable lead weight in any backpacker’s luggage can be a mixture of good and bad. They are great as a ‘guide’ but they are not bibles, to be taken literally. A guidebook serves as a way to dip your toe into the country, but they are no replacement to actually getting out and exploring the country by yourself. And because India is relatively free, exploring the country on a whim, off the beaten track is an easy (and legal) thing to do. While you may get surprised looks from the locals for turning up in their town/village, ultimately, you will not be chased out of town by the secret service (and yes, that has happened to me in the past, in other countries).
Off the beaten track allows you to see a less touristed part of a country and in India’s North East, off the beaten track really is off the track. But that does not mean it is empty space. India is a vast country and even exploring the hinterland of this tiny corner reveals surprises. Dusty streets, reminiscent of a wild west movie and hidden fish ponds amongst the paddy fields.
But you can have all the fabulous views on the planet, but without people, it is just empty. And thankfully, the North East is not empty. Everywhere you go, the people are warm and welcoming in Assam, especially off the beaten track. This is a place where even if you’re lost, you’re not ever alone in this landscape. Although buffeted by curiosity, you will be helped if you ask, especially if you can spit out a few words of the local language. Of course there is always a place to bunk down for the night, and you will never go hungry, no matter how off the trails you decide to go. So go on, throw caution to the wind and to the guidebook. Just jump off at the next station and see where you are. Worse come to worse, you can always jump on the next bus leaving town…but more importantly, you get to see something that maybe no other foreigner has seen. GO on, take a chance 😉