Two man motorcycle trip to Arunachal Pradesh

13th Feb 2021
Photo of Two man motorcycle trip to Arunachal Pradesh by Don Das

When you say Arunachal Pradesh, what comes to mind? Tawang? Bomdila? At the most Ziro? Well these are the famous places. When someone says they went to Arunachal, these are the places they usually go to. So we decided, Niroj (my friend riding with me) and I, that we will not start with these. We will start with the path less taken. The places nobody goes to. The virgin, the unexplored, even the undiscovered. And discover we did.

Guwahati and renting motorcycles

We arrived at the Guwahati Airport. The plan was to fly till Guwahati, rent motorcycles there and from there start our ride to Arunachal. We had not yet done the inner line permits to Arunachal. I had talked to someone there who was going to get it done by the time we reached, but he had fallen short on his promises. So we decided to do it ourselves. Anyways we were not going to Tawang so it didn't matter. Otherwise we would have reached Tawang by the end of the day.

The renting experience at Zola Adventures was not the best. They made us wait for 3 hours from 9.00 am till noon. We started from there and stopped for lunch at Jorabat. Interestingly this was the same place I stopped for lunch when I was going to meet my In-Laws. My wife is from Nagaon, Assam.

The plan:

Reach Biswanath Chariali by the end of the day

Ride till Aalo & Mechuka if possible

Anini (No Man's Land)

Hayuliang & Walong

Wing Ziro



Photo of Two man motorcycle trip to Arunachal Pradesh 1/1 by Don Das
Somewhere en route to Bisvanath Chariali

It was a rather uneventful day as we rode through Assam. We stopped for a few cups of tea on the way. We continued riding through good and bad roads that day, until we stopped for the night at Biswanath Chariali. Weather was good, roads were decent. Motorcycles gave us a little bit of trouble, but it was mostly about getting adjusted to old overused rental motorcycles. Otherwise Royal Enfield Himalayans are absolutely beautiful motorcycles.

Day 2

Biswanath Chariali to Tinsukia

I woke up early in the morning and went out for a cup of tea and to just generally enjoy the weather. By the time I came back Niroj was already ready. I quickly showered and we started our ride to Dibrugarh. We stopped for some breakfast at a dhaba on the way and there was this police constable who was also having tea with us. We started chatting and asked us where we are from. When I said "Hyderabad", he said he has been to Hyderabad and turns out he was a security administrator in a building right next to my building. Consider the coincidence...!

The beautiful Brahmaputra from the Dhola Sadia Bridge

Photo of Biswanath Charali, Assam, India by Don Das
Day 4

Stuck in the middle of nowhere - Hunli

Early in the morning next day we had our tea and started riding. It was the moment of truth. We reached the Arunachal Pradesh border in the late morning and we did not have the inner line permit. We had a disgusting cup of tea and some disgusting samosas in a shop run by a Bangladeshi immigrant (illegal most probably) and I approached the border. In less than 5 minutes we had received the ILP. And the authorities didn't even ask to see Niroj. And we were in.

We decided to ride through Roing and since it was still morning we were hopeful that we will reach Anini by the end of the day. Anini is called the "No Man's Land" because of its extremely low population per square kilometer. Slowly as we got out of Roing and entered the mountain roads, the temperature started falling.

In the mountains en route Anini (The No man's Land)

Photo of Roing, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Don Das

It started getting dark it was already 1.30 we reached a place called Mayudia, and we stopped at Hotel 65 for lunch. It is named so because it is 65 kilometers from Roing. Imagine we had spent more than 5 hours just to cross 65 Kilometers. This is because the roads were not at all good. Not only were they hilly roads with pot holes they were muddy and slushy in places and of course not to mention there was the cliff on one side with no protection. So if one were to fall off the cliff, death would be certain. So we took our time and drove carefully.

Once we reached Hotel 65, we enquired how far Anini is and that's when we found out that 1 hour from there is a place called Hunli, 2 hours from Hunli is Riyali, and 5 hours from Riyali to Anini. We were in the middle of nowhere, no place to stay and it was getting dark.

After talking to the locals we found out that we could stay in a small "basti" or village called "Hunli" there. It was another 3 hours of drive from there. There was a circuit house and an Inspection Bungalow. That was our best bet now. So we got on our motorcycles and we rode to Hunli.

First we reached the circuit house. It was at the most amazing location. Perched on the top of the tallest hill with the view to the valleys and mountains all around. Circular in shape and with glass all around. Unfortunately there was celebrity movement that day and we didn't get to stay there. So we settled with the Inspection Bungalow, which wasn't too bad either. Greenery all around and view of the entire village and the mountains.

View from the inspection bungalow, Hunli

Photo of Mayudia pass by Don Das

Interestingly the day we arrived it was the Reh festival. The most important festival in Arunachal Pradesh. They believe that their forefathers and ancestor souls visit them on that day. So we were really welcomed. We went to the village center where the celebration was going on. We sat around a fire talking to two very interesting men from the village. And when I took out my pipe to smoke, they were curious. They wanted to give it a try. I gifted the pipe to them and then they invited me to smoke a little afeem.

Sitting in a small hut, circled around a fire we smoked afeem and talked politics and religion. You may think it is a small quaint village and what do they know about the world. You would be surprised how well informed and philosophical they are.

On the celebration they cook Bison. I tasted some bison meat and some pork. We slept well.

Luggage lost in the middle of nowhere...!

Day 5

We woke up next morning and started getting ready to ride. We had had such a beautiful experience yesterday that we decided we had already seen everything in "No Man's land". Also there was a bridge that was broken because of a landslide and the waters of the river Lohit were too rough and it wasn't safe to cross that bridge. So we decided we will not go to Anini and we will make our way back to Roing.

We took a quick stop at Hotel 65 for breakfast and rode along. Now just 10 minutes after hotel 65 I asked Niroj to stop because the view was beautiful and I wanted to take some photos. By the way Niroj and I were connected with Sena, a helmet communication system, so we could talk throughout the entire ride.

I took some photos and we rode on. After 5 minutes of riding I realized that I had taken off my leg holster and kept it on the back of the bike and had forgotten to wear it again. It fell off somewhere. Also I realized that a car had passes us by. We immediately turned around and went back, but the leg holster was nowhere to be found. It had at least 8000 rupees, my iPhone, all my credit and debit cards, my driving license and RC and most importantly our Inner line permit in Arunachal Pradesh...!

Sad and dejected we started riding towards Roing. There wasn't much we could do. My phone was on airplane mode and anyways there was no signal in the mountain. So we rode in silence hoping (somehow) we would find the bag. The important thing was to register a complaint at the police station in Roing and let them know that the ILP was lost.

Just when we were reaching Roing, we stopped to take a break. The signal had come back and Niroj wanted to call his family and let them know that we are ok. That's when Nidarshana (my wife) called on Niroj's phone. I told her what had happened and she said, "don't worry, you will find it"... Just then as she was finishing her sentence, a military jeep stopped us and asked us, "have you lost your bag?"

The car that had passed by us was a military car and they had picked the bag and dropped it at hotel 65. They had taken stock of everything in it and had told the hotel guy that if we come looking, they should give it to us. They had taken a photo of my aadhaar card and my driving license and they said that they would call me when my phone becomes available and ask if we have found everything. And if we don't go looking they would courier it to our address.

We went to Roing, a little happy. But I wouldn't be satisfied until I have the bag in my hand. We had two options. Either ride back to Hotel 65, which was a drag considering it was a gruelling ride and we had already seen everything there. Or we could take a car next morning go till hotel 65 and then hitch a ride back. In either case we were losing a day. Yeah I was glad I got my bag back, but I also didn't want to lose a day. Surprising how quickly people get picky once they realize things are fine...!

We checked into a hotel, took a shower and went back downstairs to check "other options". Interestingly I found out that I could take a cab now. It would be expensive, 5000 rupees, but I could go today and get the bag and come back. Which means I could leave for Hayuliang next morning. Day saved...! But most importantly, I was anxious to get my bag back as soon as possible.

We took that option. The driver was an expert. I thought he was so good at driving, he could have driven with his eyes closed in the night with no headlights. We reached hotel 65, got the bag, had our dinner and were back at the hotel in Roing at 11.00 pm. I slept easy.

Had it not been the Indian Army my entire trip would have suddenly turned sour. Kudos to their integrity and their organizing skills. Jai Hind ki Sena...!

Hayuliang Ahoy...!

Day 6

Early next morning we got fresh, had our breakfast and started our ride to Hayuliang with new energy. We crossed Roing and rode through long beautiful trees on both sides. The road was pleasant, the weather was beautiful and there was a song in my heart.

As we rode into the mountains and started ascending, things got even better. Chilly and quiet. So quiet in fact that at one point I stopped for a break and and we were taking photos and all and I asked Niroj "Can you hear that?". He concentrated for at least a minute. And then he said, "No... I can't... what are you talking about...?" I said exactly. You cannot believe what silence sounds like. No noise. Not even birds or frogs or crickets. No sound at all. We were so high in the mountains there was just flora. Not even fauna. And there was no traffic either. So absolute complete silence. Almost piercing.

Photo of Hayuliang by Don Das

We rode on and it was getting dark and we did start getting worried (again) as to where we are going to stay. On top of that it had started raining. I called my father in law to find out if he had any contacts in Hayuliang and he said he would find out. We tried Hayuliang but there wasn't any place to stay. So again we went to the circuit house in Khupa, a small village near Hayuliang. The condition was that we would have to clear it before 7.00 am next day. We agreed and we slept.

Day 7

Walong and Dong - The eastern most part of India, the first sunrise...!

Did you ever wonder where the sun rises in India? For me, it rises from behind Aparna Cyber Zone, and from behind the Nallagandla lake. But where does the first ray of sunlight fall on India? Well, it is Dong, Arunachal Pradesh. The Walong war memorial is close to Dong. You can ride till Walong, have to stay the night in Walong, wake up at 3.00 am and walk down across a stream to Dong to witness the eastern most sunrise of India.

Day 9

The next day, it was raining, but we decided if we had to see Dong, we had to see Dong. We battled the rain and the difficult ride and reached Walong. We paid our respects at the Walong war memorial but could not witness the first sunrise. It was cloudy and we saw the sun after it had risen even on Gujarat. We walked back to our motorcycles, and rode back to khupa. We had retained our room in the Inspection bungalow, so we went back there and relaxed.

The next day was raining too. It wasn't safe to ride down while it was raining, the road to Hayuliang wasn't safe because it didn't exist. It wasn't dangerous or life threatening as there wasn't a cliff on one side to fall into, like on our way to Anini, but it was slippery and rocky. So we decided to take it easy and relax. Our neighbor in the next room was a Naga gentleman, a circle inspector in the Indian Police Service. He had just come to Khupa to take charge of Hayuliang and the surrounding areas. We had some very interesting conversations about local culture, politics and religion.

Did you know that there is a large lake called Naung Yang, also called the "lake of no return" that spans across Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. It is called Lake of no returns because it was believed that if an airplane flies over it, it will crash into the lake. This belief originated from the second world war days. Planes would go to bomb China and on their way back they would run out of fuel. They would see the lake from top, but the water wouldn't be so visible, and it would appear like a large field, safe to land. They would descend to land the plane but coming closer they would realize it is a lake. But it is too late and they don't have enough fuel to re-ascend. Had they not descended, they would probably had gone much further.

Next morning the sun was up and so were we. We packed our bags, bid farewell to the Naga gentlemen and off we went on our way. In act we didn't know where we are going at the time. Roing? Mechuka? Ziro? Tawan? Somewhere else?

We woke up, it was raining we had to clear the circuit house early in the morning so we did. From there we went looking for the Inspection Bungalow and we found it right next door...! We checked in and relaxed the day. Hoping that the rain would stop. But it didn't.

Day 10

Parshuram Kund and Miao

It was a sunny morning we packed and started our descent from Khupa. Half way down where we had stopped for lunch on our way up we stopped for tea, pulled up our phones and started looking for a new destination. Just then we saw the writings on the wall. Parshuram Kund. Legend goes that when Parshuram committed a heinous crime, on his father's orders, of killing his own mother and so as punishment, his axe got stuck to his hand. His father was happy by his obedience and promised him a boon. He asked his mother to be brought back to life. Even after his mother came back to his life, his axe wouldn't come off. So he went to the origin of the Lohit river where the water was pure and washed his hands there, at which point his axe did come off. Since then this place is called the Parshuram Kund. Others also believe that he hit his axe on the ground and water came out. That became the Lohit river.

After visiting the temple we did not know where to go. So out came the mobile phones and the book that I had bought on Arunachal Pradesh. And we found our next destination Miao.

Day 11

Thankfully the roads were beautiful. We started our ride and nothing much happened en route. Just before sun down, we referred to the book and decided on a place to stay. We called the Namdapha Jungle Camp resort and booked our rooms. We reached just after sun down.

We got them to start a camp fire and we spent the evening and late into the night talking about our experiences.

Photo of Namdapha Jungle Camp, Miao Bazaar Road, Miao, Arunachal Pradesh, India by Don Das
Day 12

Next morning we started our ride back to Assam. The ride till Kaziranga was actually quite beautiful. But once we crossed Kaziranga the ride became very unpleasant. There was a lot of traffic and the roads were narrow. We couldn't ride very fast. We had to take our first stop at Jorhat.

Day 13

We booked the room on Oyo and once again Oyo Rooms turned out to be a big diasppointment. The hotel was lack lustre and we werer charged 4 star charges for the room.

Next morning we left for Guwahati and then back home Hyderabad.

Day 14

People usually go crazy over Leh Ladakh and Spiti once they buy a motorcycle. There are so many exotic places in India that are probably as beautiful, if not more beautiful. I haven't been to Leh but I have been to Switzerland and I feel Arunachal, Meghalaya, Sikkim are much more beautiful than Switzerland. Serene, quiet and majestic. Words cannot describe the experience we had.

I would like to end In the words of Ibn Batuta, "Travel - It leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller".