BRAHMAPUTRA- VIEW FROM A HOUSEBOAT
A group of foreign tourists get a one of a kind feel of the mighty Brahmaputra during a cruise
A Gangetic River Dolphin bobbed up and down on the Brahmaputra. A little later, an Osprey dived from the clear blue sky and cleanly caught a fish for its lunch. A group of Swedes cruising on the mighty river were in a thrall. From the deck of their cosy houseboat, the tourists were getting a window of the diverse life along the Brahmaputra.
Sten, Par, Wolfe, Louise, Mary and Elizabeth were not new to India but this was their first time in Assam and as they were excited as one after the other the sights unfolded on their three-day cruise.
The beautifully designed houseboat made the experience even more joyful. The 3 AC cabins of the houseboat, lovingly done up, was chugging along Sualkuchi and Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary near Guwahati, giving the Swedes their first experience of the northeast.
Tourists have the option to continue their journey further to other destinations such as Kaziranga, Majuli, Shillong and Cherrapunjee and other parts of northeast or terminate their journey by taking a drop to the Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi international Airport. The houseboat also has six nights to 13 nights cruise itineraries, sailing all the way to to Kaziranga or to Neamati ghat near Majuli Island.
It was almost late noon when the houseboat started sailing from Machkhowa ghat and by then tourists were very hungry. Chef Najibul and his team cooked up a lunch of Jeera rice, chapatti, local chicken curry, fish tenga, dal makhani and green salad which was topped up by the traditional Assamese desert rice pudding made with sticky rice. The Swedes gave the kitchen crew a standing ovation. “The first lunch has definitely raised our expectations of the food we are going to get for the coming days,” said Elizabeth.
The owners of the houseboat have tailored the cruise in such a way that tourists get the real feel of the river and the people who live along it. The programme of the houseboat cruise includes picnic parties and bar-be-queues on the sand banks of Brahmaputra away from the noise and pollution of the city. The houseboat cruise is on exclusive basis which can be hired by a small group of up to 6 people.
The spacious sundeck of is the most attractive part of the boat. Tourists can sun bathe and watch the everyday life of people on the banks of the Brahmaputra. Swede group was curious about India. On the sundeck, under the open sky they were curious to know more about the rich culture of Assam and North East as a whole.
The best part of a boat is being small it could easily moor next to a village. By the time lunch ended, houseboat was almost in Sualkuchi and the boat's crew boys were preparing to moor just next to one of the villages of the famous silk city. Sualkuchi.
The Swedes visited several other villages during the river cruise and in one of the villages near the Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, the houseboat and its foreign guests became a grand attraction for the village kids. Wolfe and Mary, both of them retired school teachers, had an interesting interaction with the kids, learning a little about school life in the village.
As the houseboat sails again, the crew of the houseboat began looking for a nice sand bank to moor for a surprise bar-be-que dinner for the guests. That evening was very special as it was Diwali and the festival was celebrated in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra enjoying bar-be-queue and bonfire on a deserted sand bank. "I am really feeling out of this world, being present on a great river on an exquisite houseboat, ” gushed Par.
As we lit up sparklers, the Swedes got to celebrate Diwali in a way few Indians have experienced--- Under the star-lit sky, along one of the mightiest rivers of the world, far from the noise of crackers.
Udit Bhanu Barthakur
(The author is Director, Eastern Iconic Tours and Travels. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )