Arrived at 5am in Dibrugarh. It felt like the end of the line already but we had one more train to do to get to Ledo, easternmost point of railways in India. Well, almost. About 10 km further on from Ledo is the colliery at Tipong with it’s own narrow gauge railway.
As we waited the 3 hours for the local train to take us there, a very sorry looking chap with cuts all over him came and lay down in a space nearby. It was one of those incidents when most of us become very uncomfortable and look the other way and try to blank out some of the sadder aspects of this beautiful country. Andrew however, one of my other friends from late childhood, and who just happens to be a health care professional dealing with learning disabilities, immediately switched into pro-mode and whipped out the first aid kit and began to tend him. Some of the girls offered their assistance too. It was near to train time so, partly through my shepherding instinct to get everyone on the train, partly to reduce the crowd who were amassing to witness Andrew perform this novel activity of tending for the less fortunate, and largely cos I was developing a lump in my throat through the pride of claiming such a great guy as perhaps my closest mate for 30 years and very long suffering travel buddy, I shifted off. Andy got the station master to ring up for a doctor, and they all had to run to catch the train.
Following the usual indecision from half the gang, we ended up with 14 people, including all luggage, in 3 rickshaws. We then set off on a sort of rickshaw grand-prix to the colliery. It was a close run race but Team Stretch reached the chequered flag first. To my relief and delight, the uniform on the gate just took the drivers name and waved us into the colliery complex.
It’s a fascinating place with ever so friendly staff. They have temples mounted above the entrances to all the shafts into the mine. They even pulled out David the steam engine, which alas is only fired up these days for tour groups who arrange it in advance and would naturally want to spend a day or two there. The staff didn’t even ask for any money, but I stuck a generous contribution with the supervisor. If you are in Ledo, which can surely be only on a form of this trip, I strongly recommend you stump up the Rs 500 for a rickshaw and visit the happy miners of Tipong.
Next stop, and following yet further dithering, and a further 15km of backside battering aboard the rickshaws, we arrived at Singpho Eco Lodge, for a 3 hour rest and recuperation session, and an appointment with beer.
Then back to New Tinsukia Junction for the friendly experience of 3 tier AC, More news as we get it.
David at Tipong – By Andrew Galvin