Being a fighter for underdogs throughout my life, I have always had a soft corner for the North East states as I feel they are the rather neglected children of India! And having heard a lot about the virgin beauty of the not-so-commercialized part of Himalayas, I wanted to see for myself how different life is for them. So while a trip to Arunachal Pradesh is not in the ‘places to see before I die’ list for many travelers, for me it has been a dream destination for a very long time. A dream that finally came true last week! I had the privilege of traveling to this serene destination in the comfort of a close family group and also enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Armed Forces!
Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh was the main attraction of our trip. In the north-western part of Arunachal Pradesh, it stands at an elevation of 10,000 ft. The town has been named after the Galden Namgey Lhatse monastery, whose location was chosen by the Lama’s horse – Ta means horse and Wang means Chosen. Tawang is at a distance of more than 500 km from Guwahati and considering the hilly terrain, it is not possible to reach Tawang in one day. The scenic hills started soon after we entered Arunachal. With every turn the road took, the view changed, keeping me enthralled. Prayer flags, omnipresent in the hills, soothed my mind. As dusk fell, we took our night break at Tenga Valley – a picturesque small town with major military establishment.
Our party hit the road again early next morning. The first relatively bigger town we saw was Bomdila, a serene yet busy town. The journey continued with changing faces of beautiful mountain, with streams and rivers flowing leisurely. Tiny villages with cheery people relaxing outside, enjoying the wintry sun on a cold December day was a constant scene across the route. Before we knew it, we started to see snow on the ground and the water in the stream partly frozen and by early afternoon, we reached Sella Pass, at an elevation of 13,700 ft.
Frozen Fingers and Humbled Hearts
With constant reminders from my brother (an army officer who had earlier served in that area) to cover our heads and move slowly to adapt to the high altitude, we got down from the car to enjoy a better view of the paradise lake in the pass. A stunning semi-frozen lake. As the bitterly chilly breeze struck us, our fingers froze. Eager to capture the beauty of the lake for posterity, we were frustrated as the frozen fingers did not allow us to click pictures. Till we warmed them up, adapted to the temperature and found our fingers functioning again.
Within a few minutes, however, a strong, intense cold wind started to blow…the wind at this height has a very different sound and reminded us of the power of nature. And we were back in the safety of our car! The next stop was Jaswant Garh, a war memorial paying homage to Jaswant Singh. The memory of the 1962 Sino-Indian war that saw 2420 martyrs in this area alone was very humbling, a silent reminder of the enormous sacrifices the Armed Forces make to ensure our safety.
As we reached Tawang in the early evening, a big Buddha statue in the middle of the town and the view of the monastery had a calming effect. The wondrous sight of bare, snow-covered mountains, frozen lakes and smiling faces removed all traces of tiredness and I could not contain my excitement at finally reaching my dream destination.
The story of Tawang is a story for another day, suffice to say that the tough yet beautiful journey was well worth it!
PS– An airport is being built in Tawang and once it’s functional, I sincerely hope Tawang gets its due credit as one of the finest hill destinations in India!