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Old 6th June 2013, 10:34   #31
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

It's an early morning flight that we catch, reaching Guwahati at 8 AM.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-11.jpg

The 2.5-hour flight is uneventful, except for this page in Indigo's inflight magazine Hello 6E, where a qualified ENT surgeon later decided to change his occupation and become a commercial pilot.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-11-1.jpg

It may be a reflection of what exactly is happening inside the medical (and dental) profession, that forces qualified members of the profession to diversify into other professions. Too many people, too little training, too little pay, too few job openings - there are actually thousands of qualified doctors and dentists who are working in call centres, airlines, in the fashion industry, or running their own business which has nothing to do with their degrees. It may be a matter of pride for Indigo to have an ENT surgeon fly their aircraft, but it certainly is a matter of national shame that a person who worked hard for at least 8 years to get that degree, has to migrate to a different profession subsequently.

Depressing thoughts and a snooze are interrupted by the glorious views of the snow-laden peaks of the Himalayas from 33,000 feet.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-11-2.jpg

The blues and whites of the mountains are blotted out by dense rain clouds as the aircraft descends, followed by the verdant green landscape of Assam as the flight nears LGNB Airport at Guwahati.
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Within half an hour, our checked-in bags are collected, and we are on our way out of the airport.
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For your viewing pleasure - a 4wd Sumo belonging to the Northern Frontier Railway.
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Up in Tawang, we came across another 4wd Sumo, which had been converted back to 2wd with a Spacio 3L engine replacing the usual 2L motor.
So where are the old engine, 4wd TC and front axle? Oh, those were sold for junk at Tezpur where the conversion was done.
And why did the owner convert to 2wd despite living in an area known for its tough roads? It wouldn't climb slopes even in 1st gear unless 4wd was used, but then it consumed a lot of diesel when used in 4wd mode. With the Spacio engine it climbs easily even in 2nd gear.

4wd enthusiasts, eat your hearts out!

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Old 6th June 2013, 11:10   #32
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Our destination for the first day is Bomdila.

We head out towards Tezpur, keeping to the southern bank of the mighty Brahmaputra, where our chauffeur for the trip had to collect his ILP.
Quote:
Originally Posted by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauffeur
...the term 'chauffeur' ... in this context, means something like 'heater-upper'. The chauffeur would prime the hot tubes at the start of a journey, after which the natural compression cycle of the engine would keep them at the correct temperature.
Indeed, the gentleman generally kept his seat in the third row warm, and kept the exteriors & interiors clean, but was not called upon much to display his primary skill-set, that of driving the car. The third row had to be deployed exclusively for him because the 5 of us - Sutripta, his nephew, and my family - didn't prefer the third row at all.

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Didn't expect the roads through Assam to be as good as they were, and we drove into Tezpur soon after crossing the Brahmaputra river, around 11:30 AM even after more stops than my (and Sutripta's) usual - just for photography!

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Old 6th June 2013, 21:05   #33
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Thanks a lot for sharing this. The road that you've shown till now is one I travel on almost twice every month, yet it feels different to see it from someone else's perspective. Even mundane images feel refreshing. Do post lots of them. I'm super liking this.

BTW, this "You are at Tezpur" gate is barely 300 meters from my family home.

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Old 7th June 2013, 10:24   #34
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-11-17.jpg

The road from Tezpur to Bhalukpong can be said to be "good" as you initially start driving on it...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-11-16.jpg

...but soon you add the word "God" to your previous comment.
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The road skirts Nameri National Park, and the motorist is warned about wild life corridors ahead. No wildlife sighted by us though.
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Entry into Bhalukpong is through a gate surmounted by these gigantic horns of the gayal or mithun, the state animal of Arunachal Pradesh.
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Bhalukpong is an uninteresting little town with the usual border check posts for commercial as well as private vehicles. Our entry was recorded and we had to submit photocopies of our Inner Line Permits. The photocopy shop does roaring business at Rs.3 per copy, but I had remembered to carry a few copies of our ILPs anyway.
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Past Bhalukpong, the road starts climbing, and we take a break amongst the greenery.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-11-20.jpg

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Old 7th June 2013, 12:45   #35
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

It's a short drive from Bhalukpong to our destination for the night, Bomdila. From Tezpur, one can reach Tawang in a full day's drive, stretching to about 14 hours, but doing it is a tough ask. The roads are being widened in most parts, and as a result, the tarred surface has ceased to exist for miles at a time. Being in a full-time 4wd vehicle means we don't worry about a little mud and gravel, though the rear suspension of the Fortuner does batter the spines of the passengers in the rear seat in a slightly merciless manner.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdila-2.jpg

In addition to the movement of army trucks in convoys, there are also these massive AMW dumpers going up and down the road, taking up building materials for the hydroelectric power plants being built near Tawang. These hydel projects, when completed, are expected to generate over 3000MW of electricity.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdila-1.jpg

We are in no hurry here, our sole purpose being to enjoy the scenery & the people along the road going up to Bomdila, with the Kameng River keeping good company for most of the way.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdila-4.jpg

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It begins to drizzle, and then it starts to pour as we approach Bomdila.
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Our hotel for the night, suggested by a friend, is the Tsepal Yangjom, located in the Main Bazar, off the highway (NH13). It has space to park the big car, and though more expensive than we anticipated, we were offered a 20% discount, which makes our wallets hurt a little less.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdila-7.jpg
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Old 7th June 2013, 14:01   #36
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere...

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post

Before we venture into Arunachal, there's the small issue of getting an Inner Line Permit (ILP) for all of us. There are Arunachal Bhavans in various cities, including Delhi and Kolkata. But getting the ILP issued does not quite equate to the same experience in every city.
Great start to a great travelogue.

We had our tryst with Tawang just a little more than a month ago, during April end.

Just thought of passing the information that you can get your ILP by post also. We were going via kolkata and the break in kolkata was over a weekend. So I had called the Delhi office and the lady nicely explained to me all the requirements. I had couriered all the papers on one Wednesday, and the next Tuesday the ILP for all of us was in my hand, delivered by Speedpost.

And also we didn't have to submit any photocopies of the ILP anywhere on the route. Our driver was just taking it to the checkposts and showing it to them.

Waiting eagerly for photos from the day 2 of the journey passing through the highest point of the route.
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Old 7th June 2013, 18:34   #37
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
The road from Tezpur to Bhalukpong can be said to be "good" as you initially start driving on it...
A video of a rather nice and sweeping section of the road that I finally managed to upload on YouTube...
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Old 7th June 2013, 20:58   #38
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Quote:
The road from Tezpur to Bhalukpong can be said to be "good" as you initially start driving on it...
A video of a rather nice and sweeping section of the road that I finally managed to upload on YouTube...
Hi SS - T, would like to make a slight correction. This stretch in the video above is not between Tezpur to Bhalukpong. Rather, its the section between Guwahati and Tezpur. This part is on the EW corridor and hence 4 laned. This area is just before the Jorabat bifurcation, straight taking you to Shillong, left taking you to Tezpur and also to Upper Assam.

Anyways, carry on, am liking every bit of this. Have not been to Tawang for a long time, visiting through your lens & narration would feel great.

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Old 7th June 2013, 21:50   #39
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderer4x4 View Post
Hi SS - T, would like to make a slight correction. This stretch in the video above is not between Tezpur to Bhalukpong. Rather, its the section between Guwahati and Tezpur.
Thank you for the heads up. My fault, got a little confused while uploading a batch of videos. The title of the video has been suitably corrected too now.
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Old 7th June 2013, 22:27   #40
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Bomdila. Apart from being the headquarters of the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, and a couple of Buddhist monasteries, there's nothing very impressive about this town. The hotel we spent the night in, the Tsepal Yangjom (I have no idea what that means - can someone help?), is in the middle of the main market, but does have its own space out in front to accommodate about half a dozen cars.

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tsepal.jpg

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The view from the rear balcony of the hotel towards the west, across the valley, is enchanting, with the landscape covered in clouds at the time we were there.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tsepal-5.jpg

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Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tsepal-8.jpg

The other hotel that we noticed, with substantial parking space, was the Siphiyang Phong, located on the main highway, and with tariffs that were significantly lower than that of the Tsepal Yangjom.


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Old 8th June 2013, 16:07   #41
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

If there's one thing about Arunachal Pradesh that bothered us, it was the very large population of street dogs everywhere, from Bomdila to Dirang to Tawang. The canines are otherwise quite peace-loving, and don't growl or snap at passersby. But once you prepare to go to sleep, their world comes alive. In fact, their parties, meetings, conferences, speeches, discussions in parliamentary and un-parliamentary canine language, socialising, reprimanding and all other forms of communication using the maximum output of their vocal chords, happens soon after the streets are absolutely empty.

And that output is enough to make you want to swap the human population of Arunachal Pradesh with the human population of Nagaland for a month or two.

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08258k200.jpg

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dogs.jpg

Obviously, the locals are equally frustrated with the dogs, and don't want them to park themselves anywhere and everywhere - though I fail to see who would pay the Rs.2000 fine when they do. Equally obviously, this sign cannot be intended for vehicles, because it'll have to be one of those really tough 4x4 machines which can climb up the stairs and park there - which seems unlikely.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc04499k200.jpg

These colourful gumboots are much in demand amongst the local folks, most of them women, who work in the road construction gangs either under MG-NREGA or under the BRO, supposedly widening the highway to Tawang, but actually leaving it in quite a mess.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc04493k200.jpg

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Old 8th June 2013, 23:10   #42
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Day 2: Bomdila to Tawang

The peacefully rhythmic chanting of the Buddhist shlokas in a rich baritone from somewhere not far away wakes me from my slumber. I step out of my room and on to the large balcony looking out over the valley. The sun's rays light up the green mountains in the distance, as the valley still hides in shadow.
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Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08262k200.jpg

But wait... it's still just 4:30 AM here. Coming from a city where 6 AM is the time of first light in the middle of summer, my body clock refuses to adjust to the fact that there's bright sunlight at this hour. Oh well, the chanting seems to beckon to me, and I decide to go out for a walk.

A few hundred metres from the hotel is the smaller Buddhist monastery of Bomdila, also known as the Thubchog Gatsel Ling monastery or the Lower Gompa. This is where the chanting is being broadcast from, and it is an uplifting experience to simply stand and listen to the chants permeating the very air that one breathes in. I take a quick look inside, and it appears to be quite crowded. A few snaps for memory's sake, and as the prayers end...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08266k200.jpg

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Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08264k200.jpg

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08265k200.jpg

...I walk back to my hotel.

On the way back I find this hotel that a Team-BHP moderator just may be tempted to come and stay in (or even buy out) some day...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08275k200.jpg

...and I bully this half-asleep fellow to light the fire & rustle up some omelettes for our breakfast.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08276k200.jpg

It's time to pack up and get on the road to Tawang again.

Not quite right now. Back at the hotel, Sutripta-da and his nephew are enjoying the warmth of the morning sun, glasses of tea in hand - or, in Sutripta-da's case, black coffee.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-dsc08277k200.jpg

And then, we finally collectively shed our lethargy, load our bags in the car, and are ready to leave by 7 AM.


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Old 9th June 2013, 16:18   #43
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Before leaving Bomdila, a bit of local sightseeing.

First, a glimpse of the entrance of the other good hotel at Bomdila, the Siphiyang Phong.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-10.jpg


Next, a trip to the Upper Gompa, also renowned as the Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Ling or, in short, the GRL Monastery, located on a steep hill off the main highway.
Quote:
The Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Ling Monastery, Upper Gompa, Bomdila was started by the 12th reincarnate of Tsona Gontse Rimpoche in 1965 - 66. The Gompa is a replica of Tsona Gontse Monastery at Tsona in South Tibet, established during 15th century.

The 12th reincarnate was born in the Morshing, Kalaktang Circle of West Kameng. He constructed this modest Gompa before his demise in the year 1966. The present Rimpoche, the 13th Tsona Gontse Rimpoche commenced the construction of the main prayer hall, which was consecrated by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama on 13th October 1997.
Source
Unfortunately, due to the renovation work in progress, we couldn't go inside. Enjoy the exterior views of the Gompa.
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Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-12.jpg

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Now, I wonder who put up those flags on top of the mountain?
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-21.jpg

Well, I guess there's no dearth of people with special skills!
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After a while, we are on our way. The overcast sky clears for a while, and we catch the first glimpse of this...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-23.jpg

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-24.jpg

Sela Pass, here we come!

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Old 10th June 2013, 10:38   #44
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Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-1k200.jpg

The road deteriorates soon after leaving Bomdila, and this is the way it is going to be for the rest of the way till Tawang. It's muddy and slushy, with road widening and landslide clearing work in progress at a few places. Rusting corpses of a number of vehicles stand mute testimony to the insatiable hunger for vehicles that this road has. Or maybe drivers in Arunachal are more reckless than their counterparts in the North Indian mountains.

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2k200.jpg

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The road snakes away towards Sela Pass
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We had enough diesel to reach Tawang, but just to keep a margin we decided to top up at Dirang. The surprise was that there was only limited diesel which was being rationed to 10 litres per vehicle; we cajoled the fellow to part with 20 litres.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-5k200.jpg

Diesel is as cheap in Arunachal as it is in Delhi!
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-6k200.jpg

The pump is situated next to the WelcomHeritage Pemaling Hotel and the Arunachal Pradesh Tourist Lodge at Dirang. We also filled from the same pump on the way down, and though fuel quality seemed to be fine, there is definite short delivery by 15% at least.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-7k200.jpg

Dirang has quite a few places of tourist interest, but for now we decided to check out the hot water spring at the other end of Dirang.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-8k200.jpg

It's a long climb downwards from the road
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-9k200.jpg

On the way down, we meet this expert at camouflage...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-11k200.jpg



The valley on the other side of the river looks beautiful.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-10k200.jpg

The hot spring is a bit of a letdown though...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-13k200.jpg

...because local women and children in various states of undress have monopolized the tank of hot water, and there is no way we can at least soak our feet in it for a while.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-14k200.jpg

In fact, it is a proper picnic spot for the families of the locals.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-16k200.jpg

Looks like everybody in Arunachal Pradesh likes to get into a pool of water!
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-bomdiladirangday2-15k200.jpg

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Old 10th June 2013, 17:48   #45
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

SS-Traveller, hats off to you, Sir! You've had me and lot of other members hooked to your writing! It's like a thriller unravelling in parts .

Have you considered turning an author? Maybe start off with a travelogue?
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AP to AP queries (Hyd-Vtz-Barddhaman-Siuri-Maldah-Siliguri-Tezpur-Tawang-Shillong) Ravveendrra Route / Travel Queries 184 31st December 2009 01:18


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