With Assam being the largest tea producing region in India, a trip to this part of the world would definitely be incomplete without a tea garden experience. While plantations are aplenty, only a few offer homestays – unless of course you know someone personally at a tea estate and they are kind enough to let you stay for a day or two 🙂
We chanced upon Wild Mahseer through a friend’s recommendation – and it sounded just right because of its proximity to Kaziranga National Park(though the park is shut till November, we were told to check on the situation a day before we reached, in case a safari could be accommodated, but unfortunately for us it didn’t happen). Wild Mahseer is about a 20 minute drive from Tezpur, in the midst of the Balipara division of Addabarie Tea Estate.
This experience is your cup of tea if –
You like peace and quiet, and can survive a slow pace of life
You enjoy nature
You enjoy having nothing to do (at least once in a while)
You can survive without Wi-Fi and TV
You are okay with a homestay, which means set meal timings and no room service
A drink, a book and greenery to soak in is your idea of a perfectly blissful evening
Now, read on….
We drove down to the plantation from Guwahati airport which took us approximately 4 hours. A guarded gate greeted us as we entered the estate, only to be overwhelmed by the greenery, so much so that it actually looked like a forest. We walked into our bungalow which is called Silver Tips – a three bedroom bungalow with a sprawling garden in front, a decent size dining and drawing room extending into a covered verandah. Though the bungalow is very home-like, there is a certain old world charm to it, with pretty paintings adorning the walls, pottery and other knick knacks on the tables and shelves. I meet Mary, who offers me a cup of tea, and it comes to me in a perfectly laid out tray with cups and saucers, separate milk, tea and sugar and some biscuits, I can’t help but smile 🙂
A quick bath later, we go to ‘The First Flush‘, a shed type hall which is bright and pretty with cane furniture, floral cushions and French windows opening into the forest. We are told that all meals are served here and there are set times for each meal. The menu is fixed, generally a dal, a mutton or chicken dish, two vegetables, paranthas, rice and a dessert for lunch and dinner. Breakfast in more American with cereal, fruits and choice of eggs. A full stomach warrants a lazy nap and post lunch we retire to our bungalows. We are served tea, coffee, peanut butter sandwiches and pakoras in our verandah as soon as we are up. A short walk later, we are ready for evening drinks and conversation.
The next morning, we take a walk around the tea plantation with Deepak, the manager on duty, who takes a lot of pride in explaining the details of tea picking, processing, manufacturing and packaging to us. Due to Durga Puja, all the workers were on leave so I could not see the tea picking in action. Also, there is no factory on this property and all the picked leaves are taken to the nearby Addabarie tea estate, owned by the Williamson Magor Group, to be processed further. If you want to visit the factory, the staff will be more than happy to arrange the same for you.
What all you can do while at Wild Mahseer –
1. Visit Kaziranga which is about a 100 kms away
2. Take a walk around the tea plantation – it’s beautiful
3. The manager (Deepak) will be happy to arrange a trek or river rafting for you – I haven’t tried these so can’t vouch for their fun factor.
4. Use one of the bicycles to take a ride around the property and the neighboring village
5. Try to get a sneak peek into the Heritage bungalow which I was told is extremely opulent (We didn’t get the chance since it was occupied 😦 )
6. Meet Mr. Hardev Singh while you are there, the senior most manager on the property and a perfectly helpful gentleman. Mr. Singh has been in Assam for over five decades and his insight and experiences had me awed. He also mentioned that he could arrange a visit to the neighboring village, complete with an earthy meal with the locals (plus sampling of the homegrown rice beer!)
Don’t make a fixed itinerary if you decide to visit this place. Just land there and let your days take their own course – you will be surprised just how idyllic your experience will turn out to be!
Addabarie Tea Estate
P.O Lokra, Sonitpur
Balipara, Assam, 784101, India
Distance from Guwahati airport: ~200kms