Up early and off to the airport, I’m flying direct to Aizawl. I enjoy the flight as I have bagged a window seat and get to track the Himalayas on the horizon right across the country, did you know that over 70% of the Himalayas are found in India?
I land in Lengpui Airport and it is a beautiful sunny day and very different to when I arrived the first time.
I meet my taxi driver and hop in his little Maruti Suzuki (as are almost 90% of the cars here) and go to put my seatbelt on, he stops me and says ‘ no you don’t need, we only drive maximum 40km/h’ whilst true, the speeds are slow here due to the roads, it made me chuckle that he seemed concerned I would be uncomfortable wearing a belt.
Coming straight from a city of 22 million to an entire state that has just 1.16 million is another marked step change and I enjoy the relative peace and tranquility on my drive from the airport to the city. It feels good to be back.
I meet Michael and Sam for a coffee and catch up, it seems a lot has happened in the short while I’ve been away….
Sam had woke up one night to the bed and wardrobes banging against the walls and an earthquake of 5.2 magnitude, quite an experience! Luckily the epicentre was a pretty long way away in the state as I wouldn’t want to chance my bets that the buildings in Aizawl would stand up to much in the way of shaking around. Sam said this one was scary enough.
The night before I arrive Pankaj and Abhinash had crashed the scooter riding back from the trail getting sandwiched in between two oncoming cars, luckily they only suffered scrapes and bruises.
I heard Michael had crashed into the back of a wealthy owners car too and had charmed his way out of the situation, as he does. That’s one thing I’ve come to learn about Micheal, you can be sure of never a dull moment, he throws himself head first into most situations openly without reservation or concern, but always seems to be able to work his way out of any problem.
Pankaj has learnt tenfold more English than when I left, amazing what you can learn with a little motivation, he has been flirting on the phone with local Mizo girls who speak only Mizo and English and not Hindi. Hell of a carrot on the end of the stick.
Sam told me he had to drive everyone home the one night as the others had rendered themselves unfit by eating some local cakes that were laced with some mind altering substances. All this and I was only away just over a week!
I was also updated on some of the challenges faced with the project. No trail works had started in Muthi yet due to difficulties getting all the landowner permissions in place, this was quite a big blow as we had planned to be midway through the build by now. Things had been more productive in Lungdai though with the main switchback section, the most challenging part of the build, already completed. I’m also told the coming week was going to be slow going due to the disturbance of the local election taking place at the end of the week, meaning that people will not be working.
As tonight was the last night we are all together before the boys go back to Munsyari, the villagers of Lungdai had organised an evening of culture in the village hall. We are treated to the Mizo traditional dances, including the Cheraw or ‘bamboo’ dance where the girls dance over a moving grid of bamboo controlled by the guys, it’s brilliant. Predictably we are soon dragged up to join in and dance. There’s a lot of amusement on all sides, language barriers, dance barriers and blokes with two left feet make for a lot of laughter!
Pankaj and Abhinash then connect their phones and play some Hindi sounds, turns out they’re right dance floor pro’s, moving from dance move to dance move and getting the Mizo girls involved. Safe to say they are in their element and don’t want to go home, after a couple of hours we have to drag them away.
Next on the agenda is dinner at Silo’s house with a few village members including the village council member Pozara we have been working with. As soon as we sit down in her home two bottles of local moonshine are revealed and poured into glasses. We are given little choice if we are involved in the celebration or not. Things quickly escalate, it’s Pankaj and Abhinash’s last night so they are going big, in Pankaj’s own words ‘I am full alcoholic tonight’. The rice spirit is flowing, people are called up one at a time to down their portion with Pankaj excitedly playing master of ceremonies and counting down ‘3,2,1 drink!’.
2 bottles of local spirits, 1 bottle of whisky and some high strength beer later and everyone is well oiled with the two youngsters completely finished. It’s been a blast sharing the Mizo ‘culture’, of course it’s safe to say most cultures and people are exactly the same and like to let their hair down once in a while.
Sam has managed to dodge the most of the enforced drinking and therefore is the only person who should drive us home, these roads are twisty and sheer so a steady slow drive is needed. We all agree that Michael should not drive!
We’re half way back to the city when Pankaj finally cracks and says in his new found English tongue ‘sir, you are continue driving and I am slowly vomiting’, we take that decision out of his hands and pull over for him to ‘get some fresh air’ all over the side of the truck, it’s overdue a wash anyway. It’s been quite the reintroduction to the project.