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Old 11th June 2013, 13:05   #46
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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-road.jpg

The road continues to be slushy as usual, as we continue upwards towards Sela Pass. All-wheel-drive zindabad!

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The weather is cloudy, with the sun playing hide-and-seek over the distant mountains, but thankfully there's no rain.
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It is said that the Chinese had been here. No one told us the Americans had been here too. Mr. Stallone had visited this place and has a gate to his name.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-road-3.jpg

And this yak is going to be steak for dinner soon, with Texans living in the direction it's headed!
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No wonder the villagers of Senge put up this sign! They must be quite bothered with the rate of attrition of their livestock!
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Snow glitters and gleams on the mountainsides as we approach closer to Sela.
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The Nyukmadong (or is it Nyukmadung?) War Memorial comes up on the way, and we stop a while. Having seen the insides of the Memorial through adc's lens (Safari VTT-TMT Exotic Tour - Known and Unknown Western Arunachal and Nameri[Assam]), we decide not to climb up the steps. After all, Sela Pass still beckons.

A detailed history of the Battle of Nyukmadong, for those who are interested, can be found on this link:
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-F...ala-Gompa.html

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Quote:
Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia — a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. The word also evokes the imagery of exoticism of the Orient. In the ancient Tibetan scriptures, existence of seven such places is mentioned as Nghe-Beyul Khimpalung.
...and we're headed to that place, albeit slightly mis-spelt, in 3 km.
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Finally, half-obscured among the clouds at an altitude of 13,675 feet, there's Sela...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-selapassk200.jpg

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Old 11th June 2013, 13:45   #47
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

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The Sela Pass is just a point to drive past and brag about, once you're back home. The right vehicle in the right hands does not even figuratively bat an eyelid (or miss an ignition cycle on a cylinder, if you want to get a little more technical!) when climbing to Sela and going past.

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But the beauty of the lake just beyond the Pass is captivating. It makes seasoned travellers stop and marvel at the scenery.
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Sela Pass itself has the ingredients that make up any of the many high altitude passes in the Himalayas - the chorten (sometimes replaced by a pile of rocks), the prayer flags, the signboards by BRO stating the altitude and name of the pass, and here, a decorative gate announcing your transit from West Kameng District to Tawang District.
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Old 11th June 2013, 13:57   #48
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

You have done it yet again, Sir. Created a T-Log that has T-BHPians hooked. I love the way you write and lead us in with the suspense and those fantastic pictures. I have never thought of going toward the North-East for a holiday, though you are changing my mind.

I have always headed toward Himachal, being closer to Delhi and having all the ingredients to make for a wonderful mountain touring recipe, but Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang are beginning to beckon now, thanks to your inspiring T-Log.

I am sure by the time you finish it and I savor the rest of it, the mind would have been made...

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Old 11th June 2013, 23:29   #49
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

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21 km of testing the way a Torsen differential and ABS work when going slipping and sliding downhill from Sela Pass, and we arrive at a place called Nuranang.

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This is where an Indian soldier called Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, Mahavir Chakra (posthumous), of the 4th Battalion of the Garhwal Rifles Infantry Regiment, held back an advancing Chinese Army in 1962, along with his fellow soldiers - and he was the last man standing, having shot down numerous Chinese soldiers. After reportedly thwarting the Chinese advance for 72 hours, he finally fell to an enemy bullet. The history of the Battle of Nuranang is engraved in granite...
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-nuranang-5.jpg

...as are the names of the other brave soldiers who laid down their lives.
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Rfn. Jaswant Singh Rawat's garlanded bust and personal belongings adorn the memorial, named Jaswantgarh after him.
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The soldier told us stories about how Jaswant Singh's spirit still haunts the place, and how his personal belongings, clothes and bed linen are found a little askew every morning, and everything has to be put back in order daily.
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Bunkers that have been witness to the war long ago, now witness awed tourists like us all through the day. Alongside are some 300 graves of unnamed Chinese soldiers, with a signboard reading "They also died for their country." I suppose those 300 spirits flew back to China, else one wonders what all they'd have left askew through every night!
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A little further up the slope is a temple, with the sign outside reading "Jai Badri Vishal". We walk up to inspect, and I have mixed feelings about what I find.
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The brave soldier has been deified in a temple, and is worshipped on a regular basis. In this God-fearing country of ours, is an act of bravery / valour / gallantry to be honoured and respected, or deified and worshipped? There are many other such war memorials, and some have shrines erected to the soldier who had been most fearless in the battle fought where the memorial is located - yet, is it correct to accord God-like powers to a man who is just exceedingly brave? Or, is this deification meant to appease the tormented soul of a brave soldier who couldn't win a war where he was utterly outnumbered?

The Garhwal Rifles Regiment is deployed far away from Nuranang nowadays, but the unit makes it a point to keep at least half a dozen personnel here to take care of the brave soldier as if he were alive (or as if he is God). He is served bed tea at 4:30 am, breakfast at 9 am and dinner at 7 pm. Five soldiers are at his service round the clock!

These soldiers not only serve Baba Jaswant Singh, as he is known. They also run a canteen for travellers, and locals stop by not only to pay their respects to the Baba, but also to have a cup or two of hot, sweet tea that is served free of cost at all hours. The soldiers also run a cafeteria where they sell coffee and deliciously hot samosas and pakoras, charging a nominal price that goes towards the upkeep of the war memorial.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-nuranang-15.jpg

Tea break over! All aboard to mess up the road ahead!!! That's a BRO truck carrying road repair gangs on their way back from work in the late afternoon.
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How many places can you find such a sign permanently installed?
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-nuranang-17.jpg


Last edited by SS-Traveller : 11th June 2013 at 23:40.
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Old 12th June 2013, 00:13   #50
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
And that is great detective work, Biraj!
That State Bank board pic has Tawang written on shop board there. So you were in Arunachal Pradesh.

NOTE: If all these pics are taken with your Sony Alfa, suggest re-adjust your focusing points once again. Auto setting (if there) should be all right I suppose.

BTW, first pic of low angle Fortuner is superb!!
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Old 12th June 2013, 10:39   #51
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Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
That State Bank board pic has Tawang written on shop board there. So you were in Arunachal Pradesh.
That's another pic of the board, with the shop board in the background, that Biraj had dug out from the internet; hence the appreciation of his detective work. The picture of the board that I had posted was suitably cropped to exclude the board.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
NOTE:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
If all these pics are taken with your Sony Alfa, suggest re-adjust your focusing points once again. Auto setting (if there) should be all right I suppose.
No, it's a mixed bag of pictures, from the Alpha-65 (both the 18-55 kit lens and a DT55-300 SAM), as well as from my old H-3 and my daughter's S-2100 P&S. I can tell you which camera any specific pic you might point out, was shot with.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
BTW, first pic of low angle Fortuner is superb!!
Hmmm... finally - that line of appreciation for one pic, coming from you, recovered the cost of investing in a dSLR and the trouble of lugging it around. Full paisa vasool...
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Old 12th June 2013, 10:54   #52
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
I can tell you which camera any specific pic you might point out, was shot with.
AF point was selective here? Normally in a P&S camera auto focus works like center emphasise metering.

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Old 12th June 2013, 11:06   #53
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Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
AF point was selective here? Normally in a P&S camera auto focus works like center emphasise metering.
Shot from a car doing 50 km/h on the spur of the moment with the A-65. Exif info as follows:
Name:  EXIF.jpg
Views: 1531
Size:  80.0 KB

Didn't get enough time to autofocus before I clicked.

This was the only one person I saw there wearing the Monpa traditional headgear, so I considered this out-of-focus shot better than nothing.
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Old 12th June 2013, 12:25   #54
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Through with our visit to the Jaswantgarh War Memorial, we move on to the rather appropriately named Jang - what else can you call a place where wars have been fought?! There seems to be some small crisis in diesel supply up in Tawang, some folks tell us on the way, and we decide to top up at Jang. All-wheel-drives are stable, fun and a joy to drive in these kinds of mountains, but with an FE heading south of 6 km/l, there's no harm in keeping a full tank for the eventuality that diesel may not be available in Tawang.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tawangk200.jpg

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An uncommon vehicle that seems to be quite common in these hills is the Premier Rio - its USP being its ground clearance. We spotted a number of these during our trip. Regarding car ownership, it must be noted that there are no car dealers in western Arunachal. Every single car owned in this region has been bought from Tezpur or Guwahati, where the nearest dealers are located. Service is through local mechanics, because for someone to access an ASS means a 500-km run on terrible roads from Tawang to Tezpur. That way, the Rio is not all that complicated.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tawang-2k200.jpg

We are headed to Tawang to stay with a dear friend...
Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
My wife and I went to college at Kolkata with a smart young gentleman from Arunachal Pradesh, 25 years ago.
The best part of all - he ran his own little hotel in Tawang .
...and here's a look at the insides of his little lodge.
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Comfortable room, but we don't want to eat at the "Dada-Boudi-r Hotel" attached to the lodge, and nor do we want to bother his wife about making dinner for so many people. We find this little restaurant called Orange in the next lane, and spend the next 40 minutes waiting for our dinner to be served.
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We figured out later that Orange has the fastest service among the restaurants in the vicinity - 1 hour and more can be easily spent waiting for your dinner or lunch to be prepared, at a couple of other restaurants. In the end, the "Dada-Boudi-r Hotel" won hands down when it comes to speed of service! A thali of bhaat, daal, alu-bhaja, torkari and maachh/murgi'r jhol served up in 5 minutes flat! An omelette took 10 minutes more.

Staying with a dear friend certainly has its advantages, one of them being that our special permit for Bumla was already prepared and signed by the District Commissioner's office at Tawang, and there were no anxious moments like...
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Originally Posted by pulsar56 View Post
We spent some tense moments (1.5 hrs) at the Korea Brigade while we were waiting for our permits to visit Bumla.
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Originally Posted by adc View Post
Gave our application over at Korea Bridage and was told to come back in 2 hours. Went back to the hotel and definitely some tense moments there about the outcome.
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tawang-14k200.jpg

The commandant of the Brigade HQ has to countersign the permit. Since our plan is to go to Bumla on a Sunday, the poor officer is chased down in the morning and signs the permit after verifying our presence - again thanks to our friend, it doesn't take long.

Before we leave for Bumla and Madhuri Lake the next morning, a sumptuous and yummy Sunday breakfast at our friend's residence!
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tawang-12k200.jpg

Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-tawang-13k200.jpg

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Old 12th June 2013, 19:09   #55
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Default Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Surprised to see that a gap of just a couple of weeks can make such a drastic difference in the landscape.
This is how we experienced Sela on 27th April.
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Old 12th June 2013, 20:09   #56
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
A little further up the slope is a temple, with the sign outside reading "Jai Badri Vishal". We walk up to inspect, and I have mixed feelings about what I find.

The brave soldier has been deified in a temple, and is worshipped on a regular basis. In this God-fearing country of ours, is an act of bravery / valour / gallantry to be honoured and respected, or deified and worshipped? There are many other such war memorials, and some have shrines erected to the soldier who had been most fearless in the battle fought where the memorial is located - yet, is it correct to accord God-like powers to a man who is just exceedingly brave? Or, is this deification meant to appease the tormented soul of a brave soldier who couldn't win a war where he was utterly outnumbered?
I think that you have perhaps not really understood the ethos behind the temple.

Firstly, the living and working conditions of the soldiers posted there is (I hope you agree) appalling. And that too away from their friends and family for months together. Secondly, in conditions such as these, we need to find reasons to keep ourselves motivated and focused on the job at hand. Thirdly, no matter what the movies portray, putting down your life willingly and unconditionally is not easy.

Put it all together, and soldiers require to find reasons to do what they do.Role models who have done what every soldier is supposed to do, specially when doing the right thing is in no way easy. So they look for one among them who has done all that a honorable soldier is expected to do. They build temples not to elevate the martyr to a God, but just to remind themselves that this is who I what to be when the time of reckoning comes. They worship not the fallen soldier, but their own Gods to give them the strength to do what a soldier is supposed to do and be counted.
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Old 13th June 2013, 09:49   #57
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I think that you have perhaps not really understood the ethos behind the temple.
Firstly...appalling.
Secondly...motivated and focused.
Thirdly...putting down your life...is not easy.
Role models... They build temples not to elevate the martyr to a God, but just to remind themselves that this is who I what to be when the time of reckoning comes. They worship not the fallen soldier, but their own Gods to give them the strength to do what a soldier is supposed to do and be counted.
Thank you for a very insightful explanation of the reasons behind such memorials becoming temples of some sort. As I said before, I have had mixed feelings about this, and your clarifications from the soldier's point of view help to a large extent about explaining this phenomenon.

I wonder if the act of worshipping any deity at a war memorial exists anywhere else in the world.
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Old 13th June 2013, 11:43   #58
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It's a beautiful, bright and sunny Sunday morning. Our chauffeur Adi decides that the car needs a good wash. Little does he anticipate that it will come back from the day's trip muddier than ever!
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Right in front of the Brigade HQ from where our permit for Bumla is to be countersigned, is the Tawang War Memorial. Of special interest is the weather condition on Sunday (twm1), the day we went to Bumla and Madhuri Lake, as compared to the overcast skies on Monday (twm2).
Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More-twm1.jpg

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The massive & imposing Tawang Monastery complex is visible from far away. We shall be taking a closer look of it the next day.
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While we wait for the permit to be signed, we go across to the War Memorial. The history lessons are eye-opening, and there's a whole lot of information that I had not known of earlier.
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Old 13th June 2013, 12:34   #59
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That Sunday evening, my wife looked at me and said, Why did you come here? It wasn't for the history of the place, it wasn't for a relaxing holiday, it wasn't even for meeting your friend. It's just for the fun of driving on these awful roads, isn't it? Please remember, it wasn't much fun for us to go bouncing around in the back seat!

Well, I really won't deny that she hit the nail on the head to an extent (it just surprised me that it took her so long to speak her mind! ). A large part of the enjoyment of a roadtrip by any automobile-obsessed individual is the joy of driving itself. The next best thing to actually driving, is to watch a road being driven by another!

The following set of 5 videos taken during the journey from Tawang to Bumla, then to Madhuri Lake, and back to Tawang, have been uploaded in no particular order. One might say, here's five for the road.





Steep rocky trail for the last 4 km before reaching Bumla


Waiting for smoking Army trucks to pass


Fording water on the way back, near the Y-Junction

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Old 13th June 2013, 14:10   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
It's just for the fun of driving on these awful roads, isn't it? Please remember, it wasn't much fun for us to go bouncing around in the back seat!
Amazing travelogue, beautiful pictures and superb videos. But this above statement got me instantly. Thank you so much for sharing in detail. I think me and my family will be bouncing soon to this place. keep it flowing.
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