Sunday, December 25, 2011

Arunachal Pradesh - Visiting the North East (Part-II)

Arunachal Pradesh – the land of dawn lit mountains
(From Tezpur to Bomdila)
A typical bomboo house in Tezpur suburb

The trip to Arunachal Pradesh began with a misadventure and ended with a hair raising one. After having been assured that we would commence with our journey at 6.30 A.M. sharp in the morning, we got up early and after the morning chores & ablutions, were all rearing to go for the famed destination. In order to be doubly sure, I went to the agency at 6.15 A.M. and was assured by its proprietor who goes by the nick-name of ‘Bhuttu’ that the vehicle was ready and we should check out of the hotel. On his advice I immediately rushed back to the hotel, cleared the check and was out on the street for the vehicle to arrive. After an irksome wait for about 15 minutes or so on the road, I asked the proprietor regarding the status of the vehicle who informed me that the vehicle which had arrived last night was being washed. Assured, we kept our vigil for another 15 minutes, but there was no sight of the said vehicle. By this time, the proprietor had slinked away and when I asked the person manning the counter, he gave the routine reply that the vehicle was being washed. We waited for a further period of about 20 minutes, sitting like a destitute on the road, akin to having been thrown out of the Hotel for non payment? My patience had really been tried by then and I went to the counter once again and asked the counter clerk to connect me to the proprietor. Having, got him over his mobile phone, I gave him a piece of my mind and asked him that in case he did not have the vehicle, he should tender back my advance payment made to him, so that I could negotiate with some other operator. The rebuke worked and dirty Sumo arrived with the outer side covered with filth and the rest all of you well understand. I got the boys to thrown a few buckets of water on the vehicle and then boarded it at around 7.30 A.M. and started for the onward journey.
Nameri National Park entry

The driver who was an irksome fellow and his antics I have already described in the travelogue of this series (titled – General Information), firstly made a detour to his house with the excuse of fetching warm clothing for the journey ahead. But this detour was pleasant as we got an opportunity to have a peek at the mighty Bharmaputra River and at the local village houses. However, after this brief detour, we commenced with our journey for our first destination for the day in Arunchal Pradesh i.e. Bhalukpong. After getting the tank upped with 45 liters of diesel from Tezpur we raced towards our destination going past lush green fields with tinge of moisture in the air and looming black clouds in the distance. After journeying for and hour & a half we reached Balipara, which is a junction for traveling towards multifarious destinations in Arunachal Pradesh. Having gone past Balipara we entered the famed ‘NameriNational Park’, home to white-winged wood duck (Deo Hanh ) apart from the black bear, deer and elephants, which sometimes move onto the main highways too during the night. As we entered the Nameri area, it had started to rain heavily and as we were about to enter Bhalukpong, the back tyre of the vehicle got punctured, although I noticed the same instantly, the driver did not seem bothered. However, on my insistence he stopped the vehicle and reported that my presumption was correct, but in the same breath blurted out that the owner would not bear his medical expenses in case he fell ill and therefore, decided to take the vehicle at snails pace for the next 2 Kms. or so till he reached Bhalukpong. I was apprehensive that the rim of the vehicle would get damaged in the process, but he assured me that the vehicle usually carried far more weight when it traveled with ten people & luggage on board, with only the four of us in the vehicle, it was almost like running an empty vehicle.
The Jia Bhareli River at Bhalukpong

Orchids at Tipi Orchidarium

We reached Bhalukpong at around 9.30 A.M. and after getting the necessary entry formalities completed, we got ready to fix the punctured tyre and install the extra tyre carried by the vehicle. But to our utter dismay, we found that that the extra tyre was totally worn out and the punctured tyre, due to abuse by the driver, had been damaged beyond repair. The driver rang up the proprietor of the firm immediately, who assured us of sending a fresh tyre on priority. To while away the time, we entered a local restaurant to have our breakfast and consumed the same at leisurely pace, assuming that the tyre would arrive in two hours time i.e. time taken by our vehicle to reach Bhalukpong. But when the tyre did to arrive even at 12.30 P.M and the driver was also slinking away out of eyesight leaving us stranded, I rang up the proprietor myself and sought an explanation for putting such tyre as extra in such treacherous conditions. However, after a long wait which seemed like eons, the tyre arrived at 1.15 P.M and we commenced with our journey at 1.30 P.M., having wasted one hour in the morning at Tezpur itself and four hours in Bhalukpong. This five hour delay cost us dearly as we had to give a miss to some destinations we had planned to visit during the course of the day.
Dense jungles beyond Bhalukpong & clouds gathering

The West Kameng River

Getting past Sessa - clouds enveloping the mountains all around

Beyond Bhalukpong, at a distance of 05 Kms. lies Tipi situated on the banks of Jia Bhareli river or Kameng river which is famous for its Orchidarium. The Orchadarium house a variety of indigenous varieties of orchids inside green houses as well as maintains the species in primitive conditions, having been repatriated from places inside Arunachal Pradesh itself, but now endangered. Across the Kameng river is the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary, which appeared to be an interesting stop, where one can linger awhile, but due to paucity of time we had to drop this destination from our itinerary. Further ahead the road gradually snakes upwards and leads through many a small village strewn across. Our next stop was at a non descript place called Sessa from where the road bifurcates to another place called Seppa, inhabited by the Bungun tribe who are considered to be vicious & notorious by the locals all around and the drivers dread to travel to this place. The driver after having partaken lunch and after some honking of the horn by my daughter, we started our journey beyond Sessa. The next destination that we reached was a small wayside ‘Durga Mandir’ maintained by the armed forces, before passing by the famous Nechiphu pass (zero point) situated at an altitude of 6000 feet/52 Kms. from Bhalukpong. Having crossed the pass, the road started its descent till it reached Tenga Cantonment at height of 4000 feet, in between we had a brief stop at a place called Nag Mandir where the details of vehicles etc. are entered by the local Police authorities. Enroute one can also visit Jamiri, which is at a distance of 67 Kms. from Bhalukpong and is famous for Fishing, Picnic spots, Megalithic stone and Rock climbing. Rupa, which is one of the sub-divisions of Bomdila and situated at a distance of 77 Kms. from Bhalukpong, this place offers views of natural Valley, Rupa Gonpa, Chilli-pam Monastery and the Wild life sanctuary (Near Singchung) and other places like Shergaon etc. The route to the Rupa valley bifurcates from Tenga and is another 10-12 Kms. from Tenga. However, having lost five hours and with the evening approaching fast and consequently the availability of daylight deteriorating rapidly, we had no other option left, but to bye-pass this destination as well. It was late in the evening when we reached Bomdila township and after seeking out a Hotel i.e. Hotel Tashi Den, we were ready to retire for the night. The rain & winds that lashed the township during the day, had brought down the temperatures considerably and we had to seek the warmth of the room heater to get cozy and drown a few cups of Coffee & drank hot water served by the Hotel staff, before we could gather energy to go and gorge out the dinner. The room being cozy and comfortable, we had a very pleasant nights sleep.
The Nechiphu Pass - all mist & rain

Nag Mandir - just before passing by Tenga (being Military base did not photograph the area)
Despite the photographs that I have placed in the travelogue, nothing beats the moving images captured through video, you may enjoy the visual treat -

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