The flight from Mumbai to Guwahati was to take 3.5 hours. So, I had plenty of time to wonder about the Arunachal Pradesh trip on which I was about to embark. I hadn’t visited this part of the country till then. But I tried to curtail my excitement by reminding myself that the itinerary had warned of long journeys on bumpy roads for a major part of the trip. And luxuries were apparently going to be left behind as we proceeded from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh.
Now, about two weeks after my return, I smile amusedly at the image of that brooding woman staring out the aeroplane window. If I could, I would tell her that none of those apprehensions was worth a second of her time and that she was about to experience a wonderful vacation that would throw up many pleasant surprises.
The gist of the itinerary was this – we were to spend two nights in Kaziranga, Assam, and visit the Kaziranga National Park, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and is home to the world’s largest population of the Great Indian one horned Rhinoceros. From Kaziranga, we would set out for Arunachal Pradesh, covering three places in the western part of the state – Bomdila, Tawang and Dirang.
When I think of the time spent at Kaziranga, lovely memories flood my mind. The enjoyable safaris in the morning and afternoon. Jumping up from my seat in excitement as a rhino crossed the path of the first jeep in our small caravan. Seeing a captivating flash of brilliant blue as a pretty bird named Neelkanth flew away from a branch. Standing close to domesticated elephants and laughing at the antics of an adorable, playful baby elephant named Babu. Walking with newfound friends through the peaceful and pretty Iora resort on a moonlit evening and inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of the ‘Raat ki Rani’ flowers.
Then we began our journey to Arunachal Pradesh, the land of dawn-lit mountains, and in the subsequent six days, so many moments were etched permanently on my mind that it would be impossible to list them all.
My heart lightens up now when I think of that divinely beautiful land.
Arunachal Pradesh can overwhelm you with its loveliness and enchant you with the spiritual tranquillity in its air. We would spend about eight hours travelling by Innovas every day, and the roads were often in bad condition. However, that was just a trivial side note in our travel story. From beginning to end, our attention was absorbed by the stunning vistas that surrounded us.
Splendorous mountains…lush fields…pretty villages…sparkling streams…verdant forests…clear blue skies with fluffy white clouds…gorgeous waterfalls…
Each morning, we would set out with a sense of adventure, and each evening, we would retire to our rooms with the contentment of having seen more breath-taking sights.
We visited serenely beautiful monasteries where monks of all ages were absorbed in studies and prayers. At the gorgeous Nuranang waterfalls, all the elements of nature seemed to come together to create a magical display. While strolling through a picturesque, tranquil Monpa village, I found it hard to remember what kind of lives we led in our bustling cities. The stunning Sela Pass had so much scenic beauty that it was difficult to decide which way I ought to stand and stare. At the Jaswantgarh and Tawang War Memorials, we heard incredibly touching and inspiring tales of bravery by the soldiers who fought in the Indo-China War of 1962 and laid down their lives for our motherland.
Patriotic emotions welled up again when we visited the Bumla Pass, which marks the Indo-China border, and saw brave soldiers who endure extremely harsh conditions to protect our country.
The roads that lead to Bumla Pass are in terrible shape. But the scenery more than made up for the gruelling drive. There are a few lakes on the way to the Pass, and we halted for a while at the exquisite Sangestar Tso lake. Then we continued on our journey to Bumla Pass, which lies at an altitude of over 16,000 feet. It was a surreal experience to know that we were standing in a place that separated one country from another. The visit to the Pass was undoubtedly a huge highlight of the trip and I will forever be grateful to Shibani for arranging the required permits for us.
Although the itinerary had said that luxuries would not be available post-Kaziranga, Wonderful World had made the best possible arrangements for us and we got perfectly good and comfortable rooms at every place. Sejal, our group leader, was highly efficient, capable and caring. And her lively nature increased the fun quotient of the trip ☺. Our guide was knowledgeable, resourceful and friendly, as were all the drivers. As for the food arrangements during our daily road trips, the roadside dhabas served simple but delicious vegetarian thalis that were quite inexpensive.
It was an added pleasure to see neatly arranged rows of flower pots outside almost every house that we passed on the way. The flowers were of such riotous colours and shapes that I often couldn’t resist touching their soft petals just to confirm that they were real.
All in all, the trip to Arunachal Pradesh proved to be truly enjoyable and unforgettable.
The long drive up to Bumla Pass was especially memorable. The driver of our vehicle for that particular journey was a cheerful, humorous and talkative person, and he kept us entertained with interesting and charming titbits about the region and its people. It didn’t occur to me until later that he was probably trying to keep our minds away from the rocky roads. He also bought us chewing gum to help us deal with the change in altitude.
At one point, we disembarked to take pictures, and while getting back into the car, one of the doors wasn’t shut properly.
Our driver drolly said, “Madam, aapne door ko pyaar se bandh kiya hain. Lekin yeh pahaad ka gaadi hain….pyaar nahi samajhta.”
All of us chuckled, and after the door was closed forcefully, we set off again.
Those words of the cheerful Arunachali driver stayed in my mind for a while.
The vehicles that ply on those rough terrains may not understand love, but I believe the mountains most certainly do. Approach them with respect and reverence, and they will keep your safe. Approach them with a spark of love in your heart, and their cold purifying breeze will turn that spark into a glorious blaze. And as you stand in the midst of those silent, powerful and unchanging mountains, something inside you may be transformed forever.
Points to note while travelling to Arunachal
Carry the following:
- Medicines for nausea, headaches/backaches and altitude sickness
- Sunscreen lotions
- Ample quantity of woollen clothes – jackets, sweaters, thermal wear, gloves, socks and a cap
Leave behind the following:
All your cares ☺
Courtesy: Ranjana Balagopalan