Crossings of the Brahmaputra River (1) – The Guwahati Ferry

Last year, I went on journey up to Scotland, and broke up my journeys along the Thames by going nuts on the Forth Bridge. Not only did the Forth Bridge mark my furthest point north, but it was also my first break in my series of Crossings along the River Thames since I started that project 25 months ago. And while the Forth Bridge could not be crossed by foot, I had to include it, due to the spectacular nature of the bridge.

Well, I bring the series abroad, and as part of this blog’s India month, as well as an experience in itself that I had to partake in, I crossed the mighty Brahmaputra while I stayed in Guwahati.

(The Guwahati Ferry along with the Saraighat Bridge behind it)

The Brahmaputra is a mighty river that starts in the Tibetan Plateau. It makes a sharp right and then enters India at its north eastern tip in Arunachal before dominating the state of Assam. In effect, Assam is the valley floor of the Brahmaputra, and is one of the reasons why this state is so fertile. Assam is one large deposit of Himalayan silt. Washed down over millions of years, this fertile land, thanks to deposits made by the Bramaputra makes Assam India’s largest tea and timber exporter as well as a state that quite happily sends food to the outside world. After Assam, the river makes a large left, joins with the Ganges and forms what is known today as Bangladesh.

(The Brahmaputra’s silty deposits in North Guwahati)

You will not find North Guwahati in any tourist brochure nor will the ferry crossing feature as one of Assam’s ‘to do’ list. However, for the intrepid traveller as well as the mildly curious, the chance to cross the mighty Brahmaputra is something that cannot be passed up. It is a river steeped in history, both mythological/religious and factual. It has a name that resonates with exotica and exploration. An unknown. Mighty and yet strangely silent when compared with other parts of the world. Partly as it is caught up in the web of intrigue that surrounds Sino-Indian relations as well as the course of the river beginning close to the legendary Mount Kalish and flowing through to the Sunderbans. The Brahmaputra takes in some of the most imaginative parts of the world. And so, you can now see why I wanted to cross this mighty river, when the next chance to see this water course could lie many moons ahead of me…

(The ‘unofficial’ ferry crossing)

There are three was of crossing the Brahmaputra in Guwahati. The most stable crossing is the Saraighat bridge, a road/rail bridge to the west of the city. The next is the official ferry, that runs about every hour or so between the Guwahati City and North Guwahati village. The official ferry is a large, cumbersome object, filled with tetanus welds and bored workers. Then there are the ‘unofficial ferries’ that whip across the river whenever full between North Guwahati and the main city. Both ferries carry motorbikes and cycles as well as pedestrians who for a mere Rs5 can cross this mighty river in style if not exactly in comfort.

(The ‘official’ ferry)

Although this was one of those unplanned holiday events, it shows you a little in what interests me when traveling. Not the river crossing in itself (uneventful) but taking in the scenery (spectacular), talking with the local people (fascinating), seeing sights that few other travelers know of (curiosity satisfied) and partaking in a sense of achievement. Man, this is the Brahmaputra River, a sense of perspective is needed here! Along with the Mekong, the Kaveri, the Indus, the Tigris and Euphrates, these are rivers that have not so much been defined by their natural beauty or their length, but by their significance to humanity. And I have crossed one of them. here is a whole lot more of this river left to explore, but at least I have taken that first ‘step’ and have actually seen the mighty Brahmaputra…


1 Comment

Filed under asia, india, places, travel

One response to “Crossings of the Brahmaputra River (1) – The Guwahati Ferry

  1. Pingback: Wishlist – The Ten Places I would most like to see in my lifetime | The Blog of El Director!

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