Rico Reissmann WALKED All the Way From Germany to India and This is What He Has to Share About North-East India

Rico Reissmann in North-East India (photo: OK! North East)
When Rico Reissmann (Rico Reißmann) from Jena, Germany first contacted OK! North East's Co-Founder, Jim, in Guwahati, and mentioned about his Long Walk, we were just more than happy to give him shelter for few days in Guwahati at our OK! North East Guest House. That was in May, 2017. Rico walked all the way from Germany and it took him close to one and a half years to reach India. He is a globetrotter and the amazing fact of this fun loving and fit as a fiddle person is that, he walks with his cart tied up to his body. People like Rico make this world a better place and we were glad to welcome him on behalf of people of North-East India. Rico entered Guwahati on May 5, 2017 and crossed the border of Manipur to Myanmar on June 20, 2017. Below is his story from his experiences while walking through the green pasture of the North-eastern region of India.

On the road from Sonada (West Bengal) to Guwahati (Assam)

River Teesta (photo: Rico Reissmann)
The first day was really awesome. And it wasn't the 39 kilometers which I covered through slow uphill to Ghoom. Also it wasn't the last 30 kilometers which went steeply downhill while my cart pushed wonderfully from behind especially on the hips. But I was so happy to arrive at the bottom near the Teesta River. My feet lost the senses by then and my knees were shaking. All I wanted to do was scream - not sure whether it was for joy or pain.

It was the rainy season up here in the North-East of India. Something I do not like at all, but as I walked through the gorge of Tista, the fog gave the whole scenario a mystical mood. At some point the clouds in the valley were cleared and in front of me lay the big plain with its many tea plantations. A real feast for the eyes and a good place to camp. Whenever I used to turn my gaze to the north, I could often see the clouds the mountains of Bhutan, a small kingdom that was to remain inaccessible to me on this journey.

Rico camped at a paddy field before reaching Guwahati (photo: Rico Reissmann)
Further east, West Bengal was followed by Assam, also famous for its tea. What I noticed very quickly here was the cleanliness. There is hardly any garbage on the streets here. This is something I really appreciate so much after getting a different picture from rest of India. From the mountains flowed clean and clear rivers. One evening I camped at a small dam and had something like a big bathtub where I could see the bottom and watch the little fishes move. The people in this part are very friendly too. And I was overwhelmed to see that all religious communities live together peacefully. Here's a Hindu temple, a mosque a hundred meters away and next to it, a church and it all worked.

The traffic did not change. It was terrible; especially the bus drivers. Merciless overconfidence, excessive speed, deliberate disregard of simple traffic rules, technical deficiencies and even stupidity.

Now coming back to the beautiful things! I arrived in Guwahati and had a great time here. I was relaxed as I knew I would be able to stay a few nights before I head towards other parts of North East. My host Jim and Jenie (OK! North East) took good care of me and gave me lots of useful tips on the upcoming stages in Nagaland and Manipur. They talked about the awesome traditional food and I was hungry instantly.

A trip to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary

Single Horned Rhinos at Pobitora (photo: Rico Reissmann)
On May 6, 2017, my host Jim and his friends took me to a trip to the Pobitora Game Reserve which is about 35 kms from Guwahati. The reserve forest is known mainly for its population of rare one-horn rhinoceros, Asian buffalo, leopard and many species of birds.

Last few days in Assam - nothing could be better

Assam (photo: Rico Reissmann)
After few days in Guwahati, I continued for couple of days along the banks of Brahmaputra. I decided to knock on people's door for shelter at night as it was not easy to find a motel or guest house in the rural areas. I was even fine to set up my tent in someone's garden. This was not entirely for security reasons (as I found this part of India to be quite safe), but because of wild animals like elephants and tigers which are often considered danger in this region.

The people from Assam allowed me into their premises without any hesitation and in fact they worried about my wellbeing. I was always offered food, which of course I loved, if I had not already eaten somewhere else. The food in Assam was heavenly. Loads of dishes made of meat.

In Bokakhat, a small provincial town, I also sought refuge when I saw two men in front of a church. After some small talk with the priest, he opened the gate for me, asked me in and showed me a guest room. I was very happy and thankful to get a proper shelter, when a violent thunderstorm hit the town at night.

Tea Gardens in Assam (photo: Rico Reissmann)
Rituraj was my host for three nights in a small place just before Golaghat, a small quiet place, which is quite rare for India. I rested for couple of days while enjoying the garden of his parents.

Not only the people on my way were great, the journey itself had a lot to offer. The markets offered a great overview of what was being grown in this region - tomato, aubergine, cucumber, potatoes, all kinds of greens, bananas, papaya, lychee, and lot more. And Of course, poultry, pork and fish which are not to be missed. And again ... What can we call Assam without its tea?

The Kaziranga National Park on the way also created a nice view of the local big game. I was impressed to see the huge elephants and rhinos.

Oh Assam ... you and your people, your nature, your landscape ... you have been so good to me. Thank you!

Nagaland - the land of Nagas

Gateway to Nagaland (photo: Rico Reissmann)
I had reached the penultimate Indian state of my journey. Nagaland, named after the indigenous Naga people. What struck me when I arrived in Dimapur, were the many churches; no wonder, since just under 90% of the inhabitants of Nagaland are Christians. One hundred and fifty years ago, the American missionaries did a great job.

When I left the city the next morning, loud music rang out from a side street. It aroused my curiosity. When I looked around, I saw a Nepalese parish (who would have thought?) with many smiling people. It was one of the Sunday services. Everybody sung the hymns loudly and clapped while the band played. It was contagious, but I had to move on as I had many miles to walk before the next destination.

The Kuki Dolong Village in Nagaland

Kukidolong village in Nagaland (photo: Rico Reissmann)
After walking for little more than 20 kilometers, I reached my destination for the day. In Kukidolong, my host Mhonthung was waiting for me with his small family. It was where I got the first glimpse of the traditional life of the Naga tribes. My accommodation was a bamboo hut. There was no running water. The water had to be boiled over a fire pit behind the house before one could drink it. For laundry and bathing one had to walk down to the river. Wow! What an experience.

Nevertheless, Mhonthung and his wife took excellent care of me. And the food was hardly comparable to what we understand by Indian cuisine. Sure, rice is always part of it and that too in huge quantities. But, meat, especially pork and chicken are indispensable, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The food is mostly boiled instead of fried in oil. Especially the Naga-kitchen is known to use herbs rather than spices. What made this kitchen unique is that leaves are simply picked from the trees, cooked and served as a side dish. So different and delicious!

Pork Preparation

It was Mhonthung's youngest son's first birthday, which I could not miss even though I had to travel to Kolkata for my Myanmar visa. I happily surrendered to my fate and stayed back. In the early morning of the birthday, a pig was slaughtered. I enjoyed the home cooked pork meal, the time with the family, their relatives and the invited neighborhood guests. I didn't exactly enjoy the entrails of the pig which were not my taste. For the breakfast I just had rest of the pork dishes and rice.
Good appetite it was!

Manipur - security, military and extremely friendly people

Rico with his friends from Manipur

Manipur is now the eighth and final Indian state of my journey. I was quite happy with the fact that I could travel to this region which lies in the far northeast of India. Only a few years ago, the states with the borders with China, Myanmar and Bangladesh were closed and not accessible to foreigners. The main reason for this was in-armed conflicts between ethnic minorities seeking more autonomy and the government, which was often very bloody. Today, the situation is much more relaxed but not completely under control.

I was supposed to register in Kohima for entering Manipur which I took lightly. I thought it would be just another gate where I would find a way to pass. Upon reaching the check-gate, the security asked for a specific stamp in my passport, which offcourse was not available. I just stupidly pretended that I did not know about the procedure. The officer was upset but after giving me a pity look, he picked up the phone and talked for two minutes. After keeping the phone down he told me that I was allowed to pass but I had to give them a copy of my passport, which luckily I had in my bag. I said luckily because there was no photocopy shop to be seen. He warned me about the whole affair but also told me that he did not want to send me back on foot. I gladly apologised and was happy to have crossed a rock-like barrier.

There was a lot of military on the streets when I entered Manipur from Kohima. It reminded me of the warnings by the officer. You would feel like as if you're in a movie. Open SUVs roar past suddenly in which masked soldiers sit with their rapid-fire guns in the attack mode. Or, the assault rifle is mounted on the roof and a soldier looked out from the hatch. As if it was a scene from a war movie. But everything was easy. They always waved friendly to me. And if I took my breakfast next to their sentinels, that was fine too. They took photos with me refrained me to take photos of them.

The pleasant surprises of Manipur

Paddy fields of Manipur (photo: Rico Reissman)

Here in the mountains of Nagaland and Manipur I could see the thatched huts; the roofs of which were made of straw. A wonderful sight even if the fields were not in order. However, planting had just started (which they do in the rainy season) and I had the opportunity to be a part of the cultivation during my two-day stay with Mayi and her parents.

Mayi and her folks belonged to the Mao Naga tribe and had revealed to me some culinary specialties. Hence I was gnawed on buffalo skin, which was previously dried over the fireplace and thereby completely black by the smoke. Before consumption, it was cleaned and cooked. Also, quite interesting, were the snails. In contrast to the regular snails that I know, these were slightly smaller and black in color. After cooking, you either pop them out with a sharp object or sucks strongly on the opening.

A market at a village in Manipur (photo: Rico Reissmann)
The markets in Manipur were exotic. One could buy from frogs to dried fish which had its own flavor as well as lot of fruits and vegetables that I had never seen before. I was once offered berries from a tree which resembled green colored pearls. First, there was a sharp burning and then a tingling on tongue and lips which lasted several minutes. It felt like as if bubbles were forming and bursting inside the mouth. It was very similar to Sichuan pepper.

My verdict of North-east India

Just as I got to know this part of India, I have to say, or more precisely, I felt ... this is not India. This is a completely different world and there is nothing to associate with the "typical" India. Asian facial features, the food, the habits, the whole culture and language that characterize this space, all of these do not fit with the image of India. Two hundred years ago, these indigenous peoples were still largely isolated. The tribes fought each other and enjoyed the glory and honor. Some of them even brought home the heads of the enemies of the war and hung them in the village. Thankfully, Christianity changed the mindset of people and now everything is peaceful. Although I feel personally that the new generation is slowly moving out of their traditional lifestyle and picking up western culture rapidly.

The people are exceptionally friendly. I do not know when I last pitched my tent. Because I didn't have to. Every person I met in North-east India opened his/her doors for me. I was super happy spending my days in the north-eastern region of India and can only thank the people of North-east from the bottom of my heart. I am going to carry a few hearts along with me while I bid goodbye with tears in my eyes as I head towards Myanmar.

- by Rico Reißmann, Jena, Germany
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Rico with Jenie and Jim from OK! North East

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