Before sleeping the previous night, I had planned to wake up at around 4 AM and start my climb - the mountain on which 'Menchuka' was inscribed. However, I didn't. I woke up at 7 PM. I am lazy, sue me. Also, I take sleeping pills, and it is difficult to open your eyes before a certain time has elapsed. As soon as I got up, and out of the blanket I went to go to the bathroom, a wave of cold air hit my body. Even though the heater was switched on throughout the night, the room was still very cold. Under the think blanket, I did not apprehend it to a certain degree.
Obviously, I ordered tea. I avoided breakfast and I guess, that was wise.
I left my hotel at 8:30 AM; mostly because after freshening up, I went under the blanket again.
So, to trek on top of that mountain, you need to cross a narrow river. And, in order to cross that narrow river, there are two bridges hanging above it. And, both these bridges are on either side of where the hill starts and ends. Now, u was confused as to which one was closer as, from where I was standing, it seemed as if I was right at the center of it. So, I asked the woman in the grocery store which was adjacent to my hotel.
She suggested that I should cross both the bridges at least once as she explained to me that both of them were very aesthetic. Moreover, she also advised me to take the bridge that was farther from my hotel for the onward journey; and obviously, the other one, the closer one, for the return journey. She made a good point that, when I was to return, I would be tired, and the short walk home would be wise. I did exactly that.
For walking nearly 3 kilometers to reach that metal suspension bridge, I made a lot of observations.
1) Menchuka is an isolated village near the China border. So, most of the populace, either has a small business(grocery stores, employ at the only bank in the village, alcohol shops) or he/she works for the government(MTNL office, Indian Armed Forces). The means of income are limited, hence. And since tourism, in Mechuka, is on the rise, people have converted their homes into lodgings and homestays. There are mere 2 hotels in the entire village, however, almost all of the houses are offered as homestays.
2) Tourists are God to Mechukans.
3) Even though the town is very small, there are 4 alcohol shops in total. Almost everyone drinks only because, in that cold, it is necessary.
4) The city is very clean. After every 50 meters, you will find a board saying, 'A penalty will be imposed if you litter. Please use the dustbin'.
As I reached the metal suspension bridge, I thought to myself that, yes, I can survive a month here, without the internet. The meandering river with its crystal clear water, snow-covered mountains on all four sides and the village in between, the clouds, the air, it was divine. I took a moment to absorb everything and I started walking again.
As I crossed the bridge, I turned left. The bridge ended where the hill started. Although, there was a specific route to make that climb, which was right in the middle of it. It was another 1.5 KMS to my left. Furthermore, throughout those 1.5 KMS, the roads were being mended. The raw roads were being cemented and the only reason that seemed plausible was that it was a tourist spot.
As I reached the middle of the hill and was about to climb, I was already feeling the heat. Yes, it was still around 0° but given the fact that I am obese and I smoke, the 5 KM walk till here was an exercise in itself. Also, now, I was doubting the climb.
The first half of the climb is entirely vertical and the easiest route is marked by white flags. It was easy only on paper though.
As I climbed, I had to stop after every 3 minutes to catch my breath and wipe the sweat out of my forehead. However, somehow, I reached midway. By now, at 0°, the fleece jacket was off, the winners were off, and my t-shirt was wet. I was breathing very rapidly and my heart was racing. Then, I cursed all the cigarettes I have smoked so far, throughout my life. Now, the next part of the climb was relatively easy but my will had given up.
As I turned around, my eyes saw which only a few people who are reading this will ever see. Not because you can't travel to Menchuka, only because you never will. Yes, tourism is on the rise but, still, even if you are traveling to Arunachal Pradesh, you won't waste an entire 2 days just to reach this place, and even longer if you are starting beyond Itanagar or Pasighat.
I thanked my research on the internet that I found this place. I will attach pictures at the end for you to see.
I wanted to sit there for as long as possible but the thing is, cows graze on these hills and dung was everywhere. Plus, I couldn't stand straight because the hill, from where I was standing, was very steep and my back was arching acutely, to an extent that it was paining. Obviously, I bore the pain for as long as I could, and 20 minutes later, I began my descend.
As I reached the bottom, I was standing in front of a yellow house, on the porch of which, there were Lacapa and Dawa.
Yes, the entire village resides on the other side of the river but, there are houses on the hills surrounding it. So, here I stand, in front of a yellow house, Dawa (12) and Lacapa(8) staring at me. They were evidently home alone and I was evidently a stranger from a different corner of the country. Yet, I salute their maturity and compassion. They offered to take me in and asked if I wanted to rest inside their house. When I refused they asked if I wanted water. Obviously, my water stock was empty and I was, in fact, very thirsty. I said yes with a little embarrassment. Then, as I finished my water, they asked to me sit on a small porch by their gate and I did. We talked for about 15 minutes, talking about the skyscrapers of Mumbai. When I told them that my building was 24-stories high, they were fascinated. They started asking about my house, how big it was, and about my family. Their innocence reflected on their faces, however, I was astonished to see their maturity for their tender ages. Before I departed, I handed them two chocolate protein bars and they were over the moon. I said my good-byes and the said theirs.
Before taking the next bridge back to the other side of the river, I sat down on relatively open land, which was sufficiently elevated to give me a panoramic view of the entire village. I was at peace.
I smoked a cigarette quickly and started walking again.
The bridge for my return journey was a rather thrilling commute. It was an antique wooden suspension bridge and at a time, only one person can cross as it was very narrow and fragile. After shaking and trembling, I completed the mere 50 meters of the commute in 15 minutes.
After, I went through a grazing field, military barracks, a military airbase, before I finally reached a more familiar setting - the main market where my hotel was.
Now, I went straight to the only ATM in Mechuka and stood in line after a couple of army officers. Ahead of me was Surrender Singh, an officer in the army. The line mostly consisted of Army personal as they were about to be relocated. A military truck was standing on the opposite side of the street and they all were lining up before the ATM.
And I and Officer Surrender Singh started talking. He has been in the force for the past 7 years and has been posted in Rajasthan, Kashmir, Punjab, and now, Arunachal Pradesh. He obviously did not tell me as to where they were heading but he was telling me his experiences briefly. And then, we talked about Mumbai, obviously. Mumbai, to the people who have not visited, is a dream destination for them. Mumbaikars take advantage of this fact, seriously.
When I told him that I was a tourist, he asked all the army personnel to let me withdraw first, only because the ATM was about to run out of cash and since I was a tourist, I was in requirement of cash more than they were. I was filled with immense gratitude and respect for everyone who shifted a space backwards in the queue.
As I left for my hotel, which was on the opposite side of the perpendicular street on my right, I bought two beer cans for the night.
The rest of the afternoon and night, I spent watching old Bollywood movies and listening to songs. There was no means to contact anyone and I am glad it was what it was.
In the evening, I booked myself a ticket back to Aalo for the next morning and after having Daal and Rice once again, I slept at around 12 AM.