Arunachal Pradesh Travelogue 2: Tawang and Bumla Pass

As we crossed the Sela Pass, we entered the border district of Tawang which was in the news only a few months ago due to the attempted incursion of Chinese troops across the Indo-Tibet border. Our first stop was Jaswantgarh War Memorial, the memorial of Martyr Jaswant Rawat, who during the 1962 war fought valiantly with the Chinese intruders and killed 300 of them. You will find lots of vehicles parked in front of the memorial, some carrying tourists and normal traffic too, as the army canteen here provides free unlimited tea to any passerby, and some other excellent stuff on payment – we ourselves tasted bread pakodas, vanilla cake, and rajma. 

Also Read: Dirang & Sela Pass

The memorial is a somber place at 10,000 feet, you go in and pay respects to the martyrs of the gallant Garhwal Rifles at the Battle of Nuranang with China. Amidst heavy rain, only a few tourists were there at the Smriti Sthal, but we visited all the spots inside before proceeding toward Tawang. 

Another 25 km away was the mighty Nuranag Waterfalls at Jang. The fall looks regal, and after a photo session there we had a quick and delicious thali lunch at a roadside eatery. The thalis in Arunachal, called “Rice Thali” are comfort food, simple but tasty. The locals are primarily Buddhists, and the cuisine has some similarities to the other hilly regions of the Eastern region such as Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Bhutan. When we reached Tawang by the evening, we could not help but notice that the small hill station has a lot of army movements given how sensitive it is.  Our homestay LD Retreat was located right below the Tawang Monastery. It was more of a small hotel with around ten cozy rooms.

Tawang Monastery

The weather continued to be wet and rainy the next day too. Our friends dropped out of the sightseeing on this day. Tawang Monastery is the second largest in the world, after the Lhasa monastery in Tibet. The inside of a monastery campus resembles a small town with monk and student quarters as well as a museum displaying old Tibetan artifacts. The Monpas, who are the predominant inhabitants of this part of Arunachal are Buddhists, unlike most of the other tribes in the rest of the state, and that is the reason there are more monasteries in the eastern part of the state. 

It was still raining as we progressed through rain and fog to Zemithang, a village known for its beauty located 80 km away near the Bhutan border. As you go along the hilly tracks, you can see the border villages of Bhutan on the next mountain separated by a river Manas flowing in between. We passed numerous rivulets and waterfalls, the best view was of a waterfall inside a cave. As we reached Zemithang, a local fair near the Gorsam Chorten resulted in a traffic snarl with literally about a hundred cars parked on the road. On the way back the weather became clearer, and we marveled at the lush green surroundings. The Bhutan villages could be clearly seen across the hill. 

The jewel on the crown of our Arunachal trip was the much-expected visit to Bumla Pass and Indo-Tibetan border. For a trip to the pass, you cannot take your own vehicle, you need to hire a local vehicle for the same (the whole trip costs Rs 5500, a price fixed by the local syndicate). During most of the 35 km journey, it was snowing very heavily, and the white surroundings looked out of the world. Our vehicles had to stop to wrap chains around the wheels to negotiate the snow. We passed the PT Lake and another few lakes, before reaching Bumla at 15,100 ft.  

Bumla Pass is the border of India and China-occupied Tibet, and vehicles can only travel to the army canteen there. Here we recharged ourselves with some hot tea, before the army took over, walked us down to the Indo-Tibetan border post, and gave us a detailed overview of the place through a very nice presentation. Listening to them, our heads bow with respect at the tremendous sacrifice of the Indian Armed Forces in such difficult terrains. After some more snacks and sweets at the army canteen on our return, playing around and posing in the snow, we came back to Tawang. The white surroundings, the snow drizzle, and the lakes en route made our journey truly surreal. It was easily the best day of our trip.

The whole journey from Guwahati to Tawang is 540 km, and most of it is in hilly terrain. So it takes at least two days to travel between the two places. Our Tawang trip was complete, and it was time to head homeward. On our way back, we had planned our night halt at Shergaon, a quaint hill station on the foothills. From the Tawang-Bhalukpong road, you need to take a right at Tenga Valley through Rupa to reach here. It was nighttime, and the well-constructed 25km stretch between Rupa and Shergaon was near empty, we barely had about a dozen vehicles coming from the other side during the 25 km run. 

The Shergaon Farmstay, a new property we stayed in was a few kilometers inside Shergaon located on a hill. The owners invited us to their home for some lovely local dinner including some exceptional Chicken Curry, Kewa Datshi (potatoes cooked in churpi, the local cheese, Bhutanese style), and some brilliant pickles made from fruits like Kiwi and local cheese. As a nice gesture, some pickles made from fermented churpi were given to us in a bottle to be carried back to Hyderabad. We had a fulfilling discussion with our hosts who gave us nice insights into the lifestyles of the local people there. As you travel through the length and breadth of the country, you truly marvel at the diversity we have, and this makes our unity even more special. In the morning we looked at their farm that breeds Turkey birds, and swans among others. We were told that each egg from Turkey is sold for Rs 100 at the local market and each egg of the swan at Rs 50.

The drive through the plains from Shergaon to Guwahati was equally scenic, we moved past the Dhunseri Tea Estate and later along the north bank of Brahmaputra. We stopped at Khar Khowa, a well-known Assamese restaurant near Mangaldoi, where we tried the local fish Bhangun cooked in Tenga style, the local mutton curry, and the Assamese Thali. Assamese food has its own distinctive flavours, and it is a wrong perception that it is an offshoot of Bengali food. They have their similarities only till a certain point and believe me it is a lovely cuisine not to be missed.

As we were waiting for our Hyderabad flight at the Guwahati Airport, we did not forget to try out the Naga Smoked Chicken Thali, at a stall name Local Foods inside the airport, as advised by Kaustuv. A grand gastronomical way to end our nine-day Arunachal sojourn. There are many others locations still waiting to welcome us to the North East in the future. Inshallah, some other time. 

You can contact our Tour Organizer Kaustuv Khaund at  91018 51344. He is based out of Guwahati, and organizes tours to Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal.

No comments:

Post a Comment