To the Eastern Shangri-la of India

Tripoto
26th Oct 2019
Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. - E.L. Doctorow

Every year I try to find as many as possible places that I can travel. I have a strong desire to travel around the off-beat places, untrodden paths and explore the world.

There is no checklist but all I think of, is, my next journey. There is no set objective to roam around and perhaps that's the best part which lets me keep finding the next trail.

This time it was a much needed long time break from daily life yet it was planned all of a sudden. Finally, I was able to make my decision of converting my long time plan of touring Eastern Arunachal.

For the first time it was difficult to freeze the plan as there were several things taking toll on my daily life. All's well that ends well.

Yet again, I had to drop Diwali celebrations with my family but got a chance to roister the festival of lights with the beautiful kids of Roing.

It wasn't much planned itinerarywise as I usually do for my trips because of sudden bookings.

Eventually it routed as below (26th Oct - 3rd Nov)

Day 1: Delhi > Dibrugarh Airport > Tinsukia

Day 2: Tinsukia > Roing

Day 3: Roing > Mayodia pass > Roing

Day 4: Roing >; Hayuliang

Day 5: Hayuliang > Walong > Kaho > Walong

Day 6: Walong > Kibithu > Helmet Top > Walong

Day 7: Walong > Hayuliang > Parsuram Kund > Wakro

Day 8: Wakro > Tinsukia

Day 9: TinSukia > Dibrugarh Airport > Delhi

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India 1/1 by Mohit Jain
Route map

India never ceases to amaze me and after having explored Arunachal Pradesh on the motor cycle, my amazement has grown multiple folds. The seed to go to Arunachal Pradesh was planted in my head during my last few trips to Sikkim, Bhutan, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland.

Day 1

Finally, my friend Saurav and I took the flight from Delhi to Dibrugarh on 26th Oct 2019.

Dibrugarh Airport => Tinsukia - Km covered: 45, Start Time: 1600

Mr. Polash from AllIndiaRental who was waiting outside the airport terminal handed over the key of the storming Enfield classic 350 to us.

It was raining so we quickly wore the raincoat and wired our bags on the giant. A quick formality and we headed straight to Tinsukia.

It was very scenic to view the approaching train so close as the railway track was next to Assam Trunk Road (popularly known as AT road).

By the time (around 5 pm), we reached Tinsukia it was already dark. We met our local friend who happens to be our college mate. He honored us with Gamusa, which is a white rectangular piece of cloth along with a red border on three sides and woven motifs on the fourth.

The warm Assamese welcome made us feel like home.

Gamusa

Photo of Tinsukia, Assam, India by Mohit Jain

After dumping our bags in the hotel room, we rode on the busy streets of Tinsukia to locate the Chowpatty restaurant as suggested by our local friend.

It was a nice open eatery place with lot of menu items to choose from. We had Suryamukhi Pizza Paratha which was bit different but very delicious. Punjabi roll and cheese pav bhaaji were also very yummy. I would definitely recommend people to mark this as one must visit eatery point especially for Vegetarians.

Photo of Modi Lohia Road, Tinsukia, Assam, India by Mohit Jain

Suryamukhi Pizza Paratha

Photo of Modi Lohia Road, Tinsukia, Assam, India by Mohit Jain

I never imagined Tinsukia would be a big town with so many shops and people around.

Day 2

Tinsukia => Roing - Km covered: 130, Start Time: 0800

Our real journey started from today.

And it's the Diwali day.

After having breakfast of poori sabji at a local restaurant, the giant was up for the long ride of 100 kms now.

P.S. Beyond Tinsukia, to and fro Eastern Arunachal, you would hardly find any good option of fooding and lodging. Veg-lovers get ready to eat at tapris (small shops). Non-veg lovers can get several options but I am not aware of how good they would turn.

It was a good highway apart from the small small annoying bumper at times.

We crossed the newly built Dhola-Sadiya bridge which is 9 kms in length and is an important structure in the North East connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The bridge spans the Lohit River, a major tributary of the Brahmaputra River, from the village of Dhola in the south to Sadiya to the north.

After displaying our ILPs at Shantipur-Parbuk border (Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border), we entered Arunachal and it added yet another state in my travel bucket.

Finally, we arrived Nani Maria Kindergarten School in Roing (around 11 am) It was a big compound which had the owner's home, staff residential area, class rooms, hall, children's home and a lot of space to play around.

Photo of NANI MARIA KINDER GARTEN SCHOOL, Mekba, Roing, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain

Mrs. Desai Linggi, the owner of the foundation, popularly known as Nani in the local hosted us with the delicious Bajra ki roti and a cup of tea. Nani is a general title used for addressing mothers in the local. Similarly, Naaba is used for fathers.

We were told by Nani that the children were expecting us, the two people from Delhi. This instilled more enthusiasm in me to engage as quickly as possible.

[With Permission] We entered in a hall where around 120 kids were seated in the carpet on the floor and the teachers-students were reciting poems. I was overjoyed to see so many adorable kids all at one place me, however keeping myself contained, I started for what I came for. That is, celebrating Diwali and rejuvenating myself amongst the children.

An ice breaker round is always necessary to begin with, as the children would like to be comfortable to connect with you first.

Jumping, twisting and clapping, the kids were all in laugh. Probably, they got rid of the regular teaching for some time.

Looking at the children's flexibility and comfort, we started with my favourite game, Storyboard. The game was supposed to be split into 2 rounds - one before the lunch where every team will have to come with a story and post lunch they have to perform a play based on their story.

I must say we really have an extraordinary talent here as the children displayed their delightful plays, melodic songs and outstanding dance performances which filled the hall with enormous amount of joy and entertainment.

Nani got special Paneer prepared for us and we really loved the homely combination with rice.

Honestly, I loved it and I can't jot down the feelings anymore.

Little did we know at the time, that this was just the beginning of Roing becoming our home in faraway Arunachal Pradesh.

Let the photos do the talking here:

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain

Beginning of Storyboard game

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain

It was great to watch kids asking for Phuljhadi and Anaar with so much of innocence.

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain

A fun-filled game of filling the bucket with water

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain

A final pose on the 2nd day after an evening with lot of entertaining games - Musical chair and Animal dumb-charades

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain

Our night stay at Nani's palace

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Day 3

Roing => Mayodia Pass => Roing - Km covered: 133, Start Time: 0830

The next day, we left for Mayodia Pass which is 63 kms far. We wanted to go to the last stretch that is till Anini but we heard that the road is very bad and it would take lot of time to reach so given the limited time we had, we dropped it.

The road was not so good but we witnessed the breathtaking views.

Photo of Mayodia Pass by Mohit Jain

The only available hotel which was able to serve atleast Maggi to us.

Photo of Mayodia Pass by Mohit Jain

We came back to Roing by 4 pm. We were famished and thankfully Sharma sweets saved us. Though the dosa and the papdi chaat were not so good but an empty stomach had to be filled.

Coming back to School, children were once again happy to see us and we too were filled with joy.

Today we played - musical chair, animal dumb charades and filling the water bucket games.

Kids shaking hands and doing hi-fi with us, asking when we will be back with so much of expectations, is one of the best memories I collected.

Later, Saurav interviewed (recordings can be viewed here - Part 1 and Part 2) Nani to know about her, her journey, the school and lots of stories. A few emotional moments made us wipe our tears. (which weren't recorded of course)

Day 4

Roing => Hayuliang - Km covered: 190, Start Time: 0715

It was one of the most difficult mornings for me as we were about to leave for Hayuliang and the kids were surrounding us. One of the kids, plugged his tiny finger in my clasp. Nani rubbing her hands on our hands as if she wanted us to stay for more time.

Lot of emotions and a bit of weeping inside overwhelmed me together. This was really a difficult farewell which was asking for more.

Photo of Roing, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain

Following the amazing road to Tezu, we reached sacred heritage place for the Bhimsaknagar fort (30 kms from Roing) which is a Idu Mishmi tribe. Please see, this is hard to locate, you won't find any signs but once you are in Bhimsaknagar, ask anyone.

It is in absolute dismal condition as the ruins are not yet excavated. It's full bushy with no one to watch here and hence I don't see the purpose to visit this place.

Here are a few pics on the way from Tezu to Hayuliang:

Photo of Bhismaknagar, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain
Photo of Bhismaknagar, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain

An old wooden bridge in Tidding

Photo of Tidding, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain
Photo of khupa hayluliang police station, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain

We opted to stay at Khupa which is 10 kms before Hayuliang. A small diversion of 2 kms leads you to Petrol bunk and an IB (Inspection Bungalow) to stay. It costed us 1000 bucks for a night.

Photo of Ampani Lodge Khupa, Arunachal Pradesh by Mohit Jain

Note:

The road from Roing to Tezu was awesome however, the road from Tezu to Hayuliang was very bad and exhausting, testing one's patience. You can find lot of pebbles and tiny stones which can skid your vehicle anytime.

Like I mentioned before, please don't expect good food in the whole stretch. We had Dal Roti in the small Hayuliang market near Gandhi Statue but it wasn't so good. Again, the dinner at IB in Khupa was also not so good.

You won't find many options for lodging, so better go for IB which is actually for the government staff but may be given if available.

Get your tank full here as you won't find it later in the entire stretch. However, you may get petrol in bottles from the shops at Walong which costs ₹ 100 per litre. At Kaho, it costs ₹ 130 per litre.

Day 5

Hayuliang => Walong - Km covered: 181, Start Time: 0740

It was the time to travel towards the Eastern boundary of India - Walong > Kaho > Kibithu.

Starting from Khupa, we had breakfast of Poori Bhaaji with delicious chutney and a cup of tea at one of the Tapris on the way to Hayuliang.

We met another rider, Rahamutallah Saab, on our way, thundering on Avenger. With all the travelling equipment such as tent, cot, music system and so on, this biker was a crazy 52 year old man. He has been riding solo for last 50 days all the way from Trichy. Another 40 days to go.

Photo of Hayuliang by Mohit Jain

He was also our saviour, the next day, when our clutch cable got broke, he lend me his bike to get the new cable from our reserves kept in our lodge (which was 20 kms far one way). Later, he plugged the cable, as he was a mechanic so he knew every Jugaad.

Rahamutallah Saab, we are very thankful to you and if you are reading this, you must know that I personally haven't find such humility by other travellers as much as you showed.

You are an inspiration and you helped us beyond religion, beyond language and that too to the strangers somewhere in the not so populated area.

May God bless you with great health and lot of amazing rides.

The first 60 kms of stretch was terrible and the latter part was good as that part was maintained by BRO.

The whole curvy terrain meandering through the magnificent mountains, adjacent to the turquoise-blue stream of Lohit River displayed the splendid views of the nature and its serene beauty. Babbling and burbling, the water sprung over the limestone rocks in its way.

Tidding to Kaho, Lohit River was always with us.

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain

We stayed in a beautiful bungalow at a place called Garam Paani (aka. Hot Springs), 7 kms after Walong. Its just 150 m far from the banks of the Lohit River and the actual hot spring. There were only 6 big bungalows in the compound. Usually they charge 2500 but we were given at the discounted rate of 1500 per night. Infact, we got some delicious North Indian dishes available there which was something we were badly missing for quite some days.

Photo of Walong by Mohit Jain
Photo of Walong by Mohit Jain
Day 6
Photo of Walong by Mohit Jain
Photo of Walong by Mohit Jain

Towards the last checkpost of Eastern Arunachal - Kaho. Photography is strictly prohibited after this bridge as the Kaho checkpost appears.

Photo of Walong by Mohit Jain
Photo of Walong by Mohit Jain

Note:

We couldn't go for watching Sunrise which needed 4 hours of trek (one way) [starts] at midnight in Dong. Guides are easily available and are highly recommended. They usually charge 3000.

Walong => Kibithu - Km covered: 106, Start Time: 0915

Here are a few pics on the way from Walong to Kibithu:

Namti Valley - Walong will never fall again

The fierce battle of 1962 was fought here by the Indian forces against Chinese aggression into the valley. A sombre war memorial stands in honour of the sacrifices of brave Indian soldiers.

Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Photo of To the Eastern Shangri-la of India by Mohit Jain
Photo of Kibithu by Mohit Jain
Photo of Kibithu by Mohit Jain
Photo of Kibithu by Mohit Jain
Photo of Kibithu by Mohit Jain
Photo of Kibithu by Mohit Jain

Helmet Top:

While returning from Kibithu towards Walong, we took a right cut for 20 kms to reach Helmet Top, which was so named because of the helmets and the other military gear found strewn there.

Now, this was an interesting yet a very treacherous route. Firstly, you will hardly find a person, a vehicle or any shop for that matter. Secondly, the road is very steep in the beginning. Thirdly, you can see cows (or I don't know which breed it was) but they were dangerous as they may chase you sometimes. The road was slippery and was covered with lot of wooden logs and pieces as it had rained heavily couple of days before.

It was super cold at the top and with just one jacket on, we were freezing like anything. We met a few army personnel who seemed to be very happy welcoming us in their shade. They offered us warm water for drinking and a cup of tea. We exchanged a few political news and they did share the significance of Helmet Top. Infact, the real Helmet Top was still ahead but the civilians aren't allowed there.

P.S. Photography is strictly prohibited here as it is a defense area. We were little late to begin and it was very dark by the time we returned so it was a bit risky. Hence, I would highly recommend to check with the local people about the road conditions and you must start early.

Photo of Helmet Top L/Camp by Mohit Jain

Note:

You won't find any mechanic or even a basic shop to get your vehicle fixed. Beware, if your vehicle is broken, you are on your own. Not everyone is as lucky as we were, as we had a spare clutch cable and got Rahamutallah Saab to help us fix it.

Day 7

Walong => Wakro - Km covered: 223, Start Time: 0710

This day was supposed to be the longest day of our journey and so it happened.

After lot of quest, we were finally rescued by an army truck to get the tyres of our motorcycle filled with air. We also had Maggi and grabbed some snacks from the army canteen at Walong.

Army men were very humble and we loved knowing about each other. A few handshakes with smiles on the faces we moved forward contemplating about the people's life in such geographies.

Photo of Bhagwan Parshuram Kund Mandir, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain

It was late by the time we reached Parsuram Kund and on the top of it, the only tourist lodge was already booked.

We chose to move 15 kms ahead to Wakro as it had more options. Fortunately, we got a room at Circuit House which is actually for government staff and hence depends upon its availability on the day. They charged us 1000 for a night. Though the room wasn't so good but it sufficed our need for a night halt.

Day 8

Wakro => Tinsukia - Km covered: 181, Start Time: 0815

We took a reverse path to Bhagwan Parshuram Kund Mandir. There were 300 stairs which led us to the temple of Lord Parshuram on the bank of the River Lohit. Lot of devotees take holy dip in its water each year on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

The mesmerising views of the majestic Lohit River surrounded by the Eastern Himalayan range can be well witnessed from the Parshuram bridge.

A view from Parshuram bridge

Photo of Bhagwan Parshuram Kund Mandir, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Jain

Important points to note for people planning to travel this region:

>> Fooding and lodging options are very very less. You won't find too many travel agencies but better plan your itinerary accordingly.

>> You won't find too many shops, not even the small ones for cigarettes. So, better keep the stock of snacks with you.

>> Infact, you won't find many people or vehicles on the way. I don't think public transport is easily available. I was able to see only 2 buses in total.

>> After Tezu, petrol pump is available at Hayuliang-Khupa, which also may not be available at times. So, keep the reserve in the jars with you. However, you may get petrol in the bottles from the shops in Walong which is priced at ₹ 100 per litre.

>> There are no mechanics or puncture shops, so most of the time you are on own if your vehicle breaks down. If you are lucky you may get a mechanic and a puncture shop at Hayuliang Market. Also, its better to keep spare parts with you.

>> For medical emergency, I have seen Hayuliang district hospital. I don't think many options are available in this part.

>> Sunrise takes place first, in this part of India, hence always start early and try to halt before sunset which also happens by 4:30 pm here.

>> You must halt and show your DL (keep 3-4 copies with you) and ILP (keep 3-4 copies with you) at the checkposts, even if they don't stop you, its for security reasons.

>> Photography is strictly prohibited in the defense area and the border area. So, don't cross the lines else feel the wrath of the army men there.

>> People in this area usually communicate in Hindi.

We don’t know where we would be if we grew up here. But we do know this for now – Arunachal is the land of the most wonderful people we have ever met. Arunachal is the land of warm welcomes. Land of friendships. Beauty and love.

This land ensured that the next time we visit Arunachal, we come home.

Travelling is magic like that. And Arunachal was nothing short of magic.

Well, I hope you had a great time visiting me. Feel free to connect for any information.