A ride from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh is like shifting from sixth gear to the first.
Google Maps can not be always right. When I was looking for the best route to Tawang from Guwahati, it was not showing the road from Orang in Assam to Balemu check post in Arunachal Pradesh, which I found out from the travel blogs.
Assam, a land of green valleys and a red river is a gateway to the North-Eastern states. This amazing state, producing 25% of the World’s Tea, was the 19th Indian state I explored by road. The excitement level was high while leaving Guwahati city behind. The highway was wet due to recent rainfall. The cloudy atmosphere is not what I expect on road trips. Within a few minutes, the four-lane highway shrank to two lanes. Then, I was riding on a road that passes through the vast tea estates.
The world-famous black Assam Tea is manufactured from an indigenous plant Camellia Sinensis. Assam is the largest tea producing state in India, making up more than 50% of all tea production in the country. Almost 1/5 of people in Assam are employed on Tea fields, which grows on more than 304 thousand hectares of land. I got an opportunity to explore tea estate on the way near Orang and interact with the local people.
Every region has its own speciality and as a traveller, we do appreciate it. Similarly, every human being is different and special, we just need to understand them.
Never expected such a good road in this remote area. The beginning of the mountainous road was a clear indication of entering Arunachal Pradesh. At the Balemu check post, one army personnel checked my Inner Line Permit which mentions my entry-exit points and duration in the state. The Inner Line Permit is required to visit Arunachal Pradesh and it can be obtained online by verifying the details with Digilocker.
Riding on a single tar road with frequent iron bridge crossings without any distractions was a pleasure. I was more than happy because I expected the worst. For breakfast, I stopped at one small hotel where a cute little puppy was playing around. Rejuvenated, I resumed my riding with excitement. With each turn and twist, the road changes its texture trying hard to match with the varying landscape. It was all good until I took a left turn at the Shergaon.
Soon the tar road transformed into the slippery mud path where I was trying hard not to fall and move forward. Apart from the incessant rain, skiddy road and thick fog, the darkness was a bigger challenge to reach Dirang. I knew, if something happens, there won’t be anyone to call. Even if I shout out my lungs, no one would come to my rescue. I was on my own and that feeling gave me more strength to stay put and keep going on in such a harsh climate.
At the end of every tunnel, there is a light. Finally, I reached the small town of Dirang and found a nice hotel to stay in for the night. The hot water shower, delicious food and good night sleep, that’s all I wanted to end the long day.
Being on your own in difficult situations makes you stronger than you would be otherwise.
On the way to Sela Pass
The next morning in Dirang was so pleasurable that I forgot the horror of the last night’s ride from Kalakatang. Soon, I left behind the cosiness of the hotel Snow Lion and took a beautiful road leading to Tawang. The mountains were covered in a thick blanket of clouds. Occasionally, I passed through small villages with kids waving their hands with smiling faces. Sometimes, the large army convoy of trucks moved along.
On the way, I took a halt for breakfast at a small roadside eatery. There I interacted with the locals who were curious to know about Mumbai.
Arunachal Pradesh is a very thinly populated hilly tract lying on the North East extremity of India. The people are very helpful and friendly. They are very easy to talk to and warm for the tourists. The state is inhibited by the variety of ethnic tribal groups having their own language and dialect. Tawang region is mostly dominated by the Monpas and Sherdukpens, who adopts the Lamaistic ethics of Mahayana Buddhism.
With increasing altitude, the road became more primitive & dirty, making it difficult to move upwards. This was not enough, when I started ascending towards Se La pass, the climate had taken a dramatic turn. After 12000 feet, the snowflakes started covering the road ahead with the thick white blanket. I stopped a while to enjoy the Snow Fall. It was amazing to breathe in such thin air, all alone.
Snow fall always enamoured me, maybe because it’s very rare experience for me.
At 13700 feet Sela Pass, I was stuck in the snowfall, a rare celebration for a guy from Maharashtra. Everything was buried under the layer of snow. Tiny little snowflakes were all over me and Jenny. That feeling was beyond words. Even I lost my self-consciousness for a while and immersed myself totally at that moment.
It’s a very difficult job to build and maintain high altitude roads along the borders in the upper Himalayas. Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has taken up this job and allowed riders to explore these remote areas.
It was snowing all the way up to the Sela pass, on the way to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The harsh climate made a ride a little more challenging, but without pain how one can appreciate such beauty. And when I reached atop the Sela Pass, I saw this wonderful gate welcoming people to Tawang.
What a beautiful Gateway to Tawang !!
Almost feels like a door to heaven. Border Roads Organisation tries to keep this pass open throughout the year, but nature has its own way. After riding in freezing cold, I went inside the army Cafeteria serving free hot tea. That was bliss.
Happiness is – Watching the snowfall in freezing cold while drinking a hot cup of Tea.
The snow flurries began to fall, swirling around me. And then it transformed into a blizzard. The icy sleet started covering everything under the thick white blanket, including Yaks. It was a little hard to breathe in such thin air. The tiny little snowflakes heaped all over the structures adorned in colourful prayer flags. From the warmth of Prahari Cafeteria, I was watching the dance of ice out of the glass window while having a cup of tea.
Riding on the road bordered by snow was a thrilling experience, except for the freaking cold air hitting on my skin. As the intensity of snowfall withered, I mounted on my bike and entered the Gateway to Tawang happily. Immediately, I stopped my bike on the shores of a frozen lake covered in a fog.
One of the 101 sacred lakes in this region, Sela lake is situated near the summit of Sela pass. This 13650 feet, high altitude lake, often freezes in winter and drains into the Nuranang river. One of the rarest moments when I had a chance to marvel at the natural beauty without any human beings around. Snowfall obstructed the view for a long time, but I waited patiently to get this panoramic shot.
Extremeties are the best way to understand your body and mind.
Bong Bong Falls
The road on the other side of Sela pass was in a bad situation. The tyres of the army vehicles had created the tracks in the snow. There were muddy patches filled with potholes. Tourist vehicles were struggling to move ahead. The road was under construction which created a lot of problems for riding. But as I descend down, the climatic, as well as road conditions, improved. I could see the mountain tops under siege by the clouds. Even though it looks good, I know how it feels, because a few moments earlier I was struggling to get out of it.
The greenery had taken over the barren landscape. For a long time, I was descending down the valley, crossed the Jang village and took a right turn to explore the Nuranang waterfall. I parked my bike near the hydel power plant building and walked down the paved pathway.
The first glimpse of Nuranang Waterfall was awe-inspiring and exciting. The huge amount of water was falling fiercely from a 100-meters high cliff. The air carried small droplets as far as couple hundred meters, which made taking photographs a cumbersome job. I was alone there, feeling the excitement of first-time explorers.
Surprisingly, many travellers didn’t even know about this place, which is on the way to Tawang. It is situated around 2 kilometres from the Jang town, hence it is also known as Jang falls. There is a small scale hydel power plant located at the base to generate electricity for local use.
Tawang was one hour drive away from the waterfalls. With eagerness, I was riding the zigzag road. At last, I entered the Tawang and found myself a hotel to stay. It was almost dark so I had no choice but to take a rest. Meanwhile, the hotel guy helped me with the permit to visit Bum La pass the next day. The day was long and I slept the moment I hit the bed.
The beautiful places are never so easy to reach and Tawang is one of them.