Day 2: Dhekiajuli to Nameri Forest ReserveNext morning we bid goodbye to the good people of Sapoi and continued on our journey. Destination for today - Lalimou Camp, Nameri Forest Reserve, Assam.
Nameri National Park is another exciting place for wildlife lovers. Located in Sonitpur district of Assam, Nameri is only 35km away from Tezpur. The Nameri Eco Camp is also very famous and one of the best places to stay for nature lovers. They arrange rafting trips and you can stay in thatched cottages in a clean environment. The river in Nameri is popular for various kinds of fishes. The most popular fish in this region is the Golden Masheer Fish and measures 3-9 feet. It is also known as "Tiger of the Himalayan rivers". Elephants, tigers, wild pigs, Indian Giant squirrel, bison, clouded leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, sambars can be spotted in Nameri. You can also enjoy boat ride across the Jia Bhorali River, there are forest guards who arrange the trips and also take you for jungle trekking, which is very exciting indeed.
DAY 1: We started from Tezpur by 8.00am in the morning, after about an hour of travel there was a drastic change in the landscape; the lush green plains of Assam transformed into a tropical forest(Nameri), apart from a lot of monkeys and a hornbill we spotted atop a tree, the road was completely deserted.
Our hearts kept longing for Arunachal so keeping everything aside we decided to head towards this quiet hill called Tawang crossing an Orchid sanctuary and the Nameri forest and get as far as possible from civilisation. It was a day where we had to avail our permits from their state government. Like always it proved to be a disappointment as they denied it the same day and said it will be issued after five days. I have never seen my friends this disappointed. Never! We were left with only one option and that was 'tatkal' but we failed to figure out the office and it was sunset by then. Still we went ahead with a major risk. Trusted a local man at the bus stand who promised us to issue permits before entering Arunachal and then early morning on a faithful Friday we set out with three backpacks without an ILP. Sitting on a local bus made it even funnier when buffaloes also overtook us and an extremely loyal bus driver who will gently stop the bus whenever someone wants to board or de-board.Halfway through the journey we had no idea if we will actually get a permit but things were in our favour. As I got down in the sun kissed valley we were welcomed by two men and three of us just went with the flow. We gave them all the documents they asked for and then one of them asked one of us to accompany him. Trust me when I got into his omni van I felt no less than a mafia as he drove it at a speed not less than 100km/hr on those winding roads. In no time I was standing infront of The assistant commissioner's office. I was asked to plead him for the permit.As I entered, a gentleman was seated in one of those high raised vintage chairs. He put a lot of questions on me (where I was studying, why three girls travelling alone, our bookings, purpose and lastly some major warnings about the hilly terrains). Fifteen minutes into the process and three stamps, three signatures, three hundred rupees and a little flirting with the army men the gates opened for us at bhalukpong (not to forget how I almost missed my bus running after paperwork and like a boss my friends tried to stop it).Voila! The phone welcomed us with Arunachal's roaming and one of us (she enjoyed the trip the most) who had reliance entered the no-network zone for the next few days (yes they do not have reliance but you will find 4G Airtel network). This place is untouched by commercialisation and little promotion of tourism. Some of you maybe disappointed but for people like us this was exactly what we were looking for. If you travel in big troops to this place you may end up saving money but honestly speaking, this will defeat the very purpose of visiting this place.
We halted at Bomdila for a night during the return journey and then headed to Nameri National Park. Very different from Kaziranga, we were lucky to see both of them in one journey.In case you're planning to go back from Nameri to Guwahati let me tell you it takes around 4 hours. We were given estimates between 6 hrs and 3 hrs and being the paranoid sort who didn't want to miss their flight, we left at the ungodly hour of 4:30AM to reach Guwahati airport more than 2 hours early. And to top it off, our flight got delayed by another 3 hours. Atleast our dog was happy to see us when we got back home, all sulky and tired.A trip to Tawang will show you something different. A side of India that perhaps we aren't used to seeing. It is exciting and much less commercialized than you'd expected. However that being said, I couldn't help but notice that the main employment other than farming in Arunachal seemed to be roadworks. Almost all throughout NH13 which connects Tezpur to Tawang, you see roadwork being done by young women and children. And I was told this job continues even in the monsoon and winters ! Given Tawang's accessibility through only one high-altitude mountain pass, it cannot be easy to live there. The houses are a beauty though ! Since Arunachal is at the border of China, and Tawang is infact quite close to the Indo-China border, there are so many army cantonments set up everywhere. Some of the jawans/soldiers we did talk to truly brought home the fact about how difficult it is to live in these high mountain areas. Extremely polite and civil, these guys are nice enough to give you momo's and tea(courtesy the Indian Army) when you stop at their cantonments for a break. What I took back with me most from this trip was the utmost respect and pride in the Indian Armed Forces. Whatever be their shortcomings, they bear extremely difficult circumstances to keep us safe at night.