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Old 26th March 2015, 08:29   #1
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Default Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India

Arunachal Pradesh.... a place so beautiful that you just stop clicking pics.
This is a place to experience, to soak in, to absorb.
In the scheme of things, you miss clicking or just don’t feel like it.(ive clicked a few though)
Arunachal is a saga, of virgin mountains, beautiful people, addictive air, adventure and a feeling of never wanting to go back.

There are no destinations in Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal is a destination in itself...
... and We will return there again to complete what got left out. Read on to see how things change in the mountains when the mountains decide to change your plans.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-ar-1.jpg

This trip was conceived to be executed about 3 years ago.
However, life had its own plans and mine didn’t fit in then.

Then one fine day in early September, it happened. I was hit by this !!
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So, I started planning in October for a late December departure. However, that got delayed and the trip eventually happened in Feb. Not the best time as we found out later, but we had to do it, come what may.

March 2015 also marks 8 years of my Safari ownership.
So it had to be a looong drive to commemorate this event. And only a journey like this can do justice as a tribute to this fine horse that has taken me on journeys that hold memories of a lifetime.
So this time it was the 3 of us - me, wife and Veeru(Safari)

Arunachal is a very big state to cover especially due to the lack of proper connectivity. Roads are few, mostly bad, almost all single lane and entirely mountain territory from the time you enter to the time you exit the state. Note – when I use the word bad roads, it is by Tata Safari standards which usually gobbles up most bad roads with potholes with aplomb. So bad here means B A D.

I started my trip planning with THIS map.(found on a google search)

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-arunachal_pradesh_districts_map_india.jpg

Given the poor connectivity between the various districts in the state and for ease of making a plan, we divided Arunachal into Eastern, Central and Western. (Note – this is my personal breakup and not official)

Western Arunachal covers the districts of Tawang, West Kameng, East Kameng, Kurung Kumey, Papumpare and Lower Subansiri. The usual tourist circuit of Tawang, Bomdila, Ziro, Koloriang, Ziro, etc.

Central Arunachal consists of Upper Subansiri, West Siang, Upper Siang, East Siang. The tourist circuit includes Daporijo, Mechuka, Aalo, Yinkiong, Pasighat.

Eastern Arunachal includes Dibang valley, Lower Dibang valley, Anjaw, Lohit, Changlang & Tirap.

For this trip we decided to cover central & Eastern Arunachal. Western Arunachal will be covered in another trip with Bhutan in the near future.
This was to be a recce trip to identify places that we will visit later once again in detail. Especially considering that the ILP is valid for 15 days only after which you have to renew it.

Route planning for Arunachal was a challenge. As I started asking around and scouring the internet I found that most people don’t know about roads inside Arunachal.
Roads do exist in Arunachal, but they are not used beyond the tourist circuit and hence the lack of information about them.
Fellow BHPian ADC's TL was helpful here.

Stage 1 of route planning – Mumbai to (North East) Guwahati, Assam.
With 21 days in hand, including buffer days Mumbai to Mumbai, I started with the first part of the trip plan that I call the transit stage.
The transit stage on a road trip, for me, is a total waste of time. This is the route I selected from Mumbai to Guwahati.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-mumbai-guwahati.jpg

I started by posting a few queries here on Team Bhp and the HVK forum of FB. All the advice I got seemed to suggest that Mumbai to Guwahati can be done in 4 days and 3 days is possible but very ambitious.
That would mean approximately 8 days lost in transit(to & fro) + time required to get permits(1 day approx) + 2 buffer days = 11 days, leaving only 13 days for anything else.
This felt like almost half the trip spent in transit and would leave me no time for Kaziranga which I had hoped to visit.
So back to the drawing board with Google maps, my Eicher map book and some very helpful posts from members on the TeamBHp travel queries section and HVK travel forum and I managed to shorten the transit to 2 and a half days from Mumbai to Guwahati.
Likewise for the return from Guwahati to Mumbai. All this while, I could hear the expert voices ringing in my head, ‘too ambitious’.
So, I made 2 plans, 1 with and 1 without Kaziranga.

Departure was set for 18th Feb, a Wed so we could reach Guwahati by 20th Feb(Fri Afternoon) and apply for permits on Sat and hopefully get it the same day. If not then drive to Kaziranga for the weekend and return to Guwahati on Monday for permits.

However, a few days before the trip, I had a chat with Mumbai Bhpian Powertrain and he connected me to wanderernomad in Jorhat, Assam, who further connected me to Wanderer4x4 in Guwahati. Both were instrumental in getting my permits and helping me with stay options, road advisory in Assam and other areas and basically travelling with me to Arunachal from their couches whenever our fones could connect. We almost travelled together throughout the trip via the fone. This was OUR trip TOGETHER. I dedicate the success of this trip to these two fine gentlemen and Veeru.
I was also assisted by BHPian vinodbollini, whose contact in Guwahati provided valuable information about Arunachal. Also, a good friend Tridib, a local from Tezpur also provided sufficient guidance and information through the trip.

One thing I wish to point out here is that the common thing I heard from everyone is that it is not possible to travel across district corridors in Arunachal and that you have to come back to Assam and reenter Arunachal through another entry point(since there are no roads). That also means separate permits for entering through different entry points.

After my extensive research, I have found this to be grossly incorrect. There are roads connecting within Arunachal internally, if one wishes to explore. However, road conditions in Arunachal are always in a flux, depending on seasons and it is prudent to ask first hand information from local Taxi drivers. It was surprising to find out that many locals are unaware/unsure of internal road connectivity in the region. They never travel much, due to the lack of, or poor connectivity. For matters of convenience on the tourist circuit, given the road conditions, tour operators exit the state and enter through another entry point.

Following was the trip plan we were scheduled to follow.

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Vehicle and trip preparation:
This has been an absolutely memorable trip.

I always believe, when the time comes, the road finds you.. You just better be prepared. Yes prepared we were.

At 930am on 17th Feb the Batterybhai.com dealer arrived with my new Amaron battery. The 4 year old Amaron was replaced by batterywale just 1 day before the trip. Although the battery was in good working condition, this was replaced as part of my PM(preventive maintenance) plan.
Here is my post on the experience.
BATTERYBHAI

At 11am I went off to Tata Motors for a quick oil change and standard checks of all fluids and nuts and bolts. Back by 4pm and started loading the Safari up with all the stuff in the car so we just had to wake up the next morning, shower, eat and leave. By the time we finished loading up it was 10pm and we hit the sack at 11pm.

From the information I had, no one knew about the exact accommodation availability in the deeper reaches of Arunachal except for a few places. Reports of homestays, IB’s, circuit houses, etc was available.
However, I was told that the govt accommodation may most likely be unavailable or not given unless permissions were obtained in advance.
I honestly did not have the time to research all the Sarkari babu’s numbers for bookings.

So the back seat of the Safari was promptly ‘ removed’. The rear jump seats were removed a long time ago since they serve no purpose to me. One side holds a 12” sub woofer and the other side has a platform built to hold stuff.
A horizontal platform made of ply on a metal frame serves as a parcel tray.
Luggage is moved up on the tray when we wish to sleep in the car. The total bed length is 6’ feet long. With a super air compressor inplace, I was hoping to buy an inflatable airbed but could not due to lack of time.

Since the weather was going to be good, there was no need for installing auxillary fan and extra battery to support ventilation.
In addition, we were equipped with a tent, tarp, camping chairs and table, 2 sleeping bags, soft dari and light weight bedroll for the bed, 2 home pillows, portable cooking gas, 20 liter Bisleri jar filled with filtered aquaguard water, enough canned food, maggi etc to sustain for 15 days, 300 watt car inverter, car kettle, and cooking accessories(pan, etc).

Emergency equipment included - Air jack, box wrench kit, a 10 meter long 10 ton rated tow rope + a 7 ton rated 20 ft long snatch rope, puncture kit, air compressor, extra tire+rim, Jumpstart cables, foldable shovel, axe, spare fuses, 1 spare fan belt, a roll of duct tape, radiator leak sealant, exhaust leak sealant, fuel tank leak sealant, jubilee clips of different sizes, hose repair kit, axe, 2x22 liter plastic jerry cans for diesel, 2 meters of spare electrical wire, m seal.

All the emergency equipment including tires and excluding the fuel and water were stored on the roof and roof rack.
Ofcourse, we also had a medical kit with essential basic meds for basic emergencies.

From all the information I had gathered, it seemed that the day starts pretty early in the North Eastern India. So in order to reorient ourselves to earlier daylight and to not misss out on those lovely morning hours, we followed a strict 4am departure time for all transit days of the trip(early to bed and early to rise). This meant that we woke up by 3/ 315 am, freshened up, loaded up our bags in the car and hit the road at 4am sharp. This proved to be a very good strategy. We carried a small duffel bag which was used to carry a pair of fresh clothes each, including toiletries, so the main bags stayed in the car for hotel overnighters.

We carried our own water, refilled from the hotels filtered water dispensers wherever available and did not buy a single packaged water bottle on the entire trip. At the start of the trip we had 26 liters of water onboard and returned with a 10 liters to spare.

So, with all this packing and loading done, we hit the sack at 11 pm on Tue.


Day 1:

Opening Kms at the start of the trip - 119,430 kms.

So, we were up at 3am, left at 4am, and I had to fill up diesel, since there wasnt enough time yesterday. So we went to tank up diesel and then to the ATM for some trip cash. As a policy, I do not carry a lot of cash on any trip, and whatever I do, is usually split up in different places in the car. Sometimes I forget where I put it, resulting in a search that helps to clean up the car thoroughly.

By the time we left Mumbai, it was 430am and we headed towards Kanpur, which was supposed to be the first stop for the day. Ambitious, yes, very, but do able.

The star on the move.
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Loaded and on the move. We stopped for some lip smacking country chicken luncheon.

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Universe's way of reminding us of possibilities. Nazar hati, durghatna ghati!!

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However, we followed google maps and ended up taking a turn we should have avoided and ended up going via Sagar to Jhansi. This route was a 2 lane highway that caused us to lose considerable time. We reached Jhansi at 730pm and since truck traffic was picking up and it was already dark, we decided to stop for the night instead of proceeding to Kanpur. We stopped at Hotel Anand.

Day 1 – Mumbai – Nasik – Dhule – Indore – Bhopal – Sagar – Jhansi.
From Mumbai - crossed Nasik at 0615, Dhule at 0815, Bhopal bypass at 1430, Sagar at 1750 and reached Jhansi at 1930.
Total distance covered 1200 kms. Drive time (including numerous stops) - 15 hours.

Below is the route we actually ended up taking causing a loss of over 1 hour drivetime.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-mumbai-jhansi.png

I went to the hotel parking to check on the overhead luggage and discovered a flat left rear tire. The much hated MRF Wanderer was flat. I decided to attend to it in the morning.
Early dinner and we were off to sleep at 830pm.
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Day 2:

Day 2 began with the rooster screaming out loud(from my wife’s fone) at 3am.
The plan was to drive to Siliguri for the night but that seemed unlikely since we didnt make it to Kanpur last night.
330 am I was down in the hotel parking replacing the stepney, which turned out to be a 15 min job thanks to the Air jack.
However, although very useful, i dont trust these jacks, so i added the hydraulic jack below the differential which was easier to install and remove after lifting with the air jack.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img_20150219_035121.jpg

This is an exhaust air jack rated at 3 tons. Lifts the car in about 1 min depending on your car exhaust output. No sweat. Put the punctured tire back on the door rack and decided to fix the puncture later at leisure, if and when required. I had another fully inflated spare tire on the roof too. Now I was back to all 4 of my favourite tires, Continental AT and I was dead sure we would do this trip without a puncture worry and so it was.

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Soon as we left Jhansi town and reached the highway, we entered extremely heavy fog. Visibility was down to just 5 – 10 meters at most times.
However, we decided to just chug along slowly as much as we could. Driving in fog is extremely tiring for the eyes(atleast my eyes).

Here is a short video of the foggy drive(shot by fone by my navigator)



After stopping several times in between we finally stopped at 540am for breakfast and coffee at a dhaba. It was still dark and no sign of daylight. We waited for some daylight till 645am.

Old Monk(8years old) Veeru!!
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This is the route we took.

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At 7am some daylight appeared and by 730am there was sufficient visibility to drive at normal speeds. We started off again at 7am reached Kanpur by around 915am to be greeted by a posse of bribe hungry cops who could not find anything wrong with my documentation, so wanted a bribe for the roof carrier, since it was not registered on my car RC. While all this went on, over a dozen local vehicles with roof racks passed by with invisible cloaks on. From a demand of 8000, they settled for 500. They could have gone down to 200 but time seemed more important than money at the time, since the local traffic was increasing steadily. We were not given a receipt but an autographed cover note(by the senior cop) to show to any other cops who stop us within Kanpur limits. How cheeky is that!!

We lost an additional 45 mins in Kanpur traffic due to a traffic jam at a flyover under construction. The Kanpur Lucknow road was very bad and pothole ridden, which seemed to have been partially patched up before we returned. The Lucknow Kanpur stretch though was superb on the return. However, we stopped for lunch before crossing Lucknow. The border roads from UP to Bihar are underconstruction in some places.

We breezed into Bihar, crossed Muzaffarpur at 515pm and stopped on the outskirts of Darbhanga by 6pm. I missed checking my fone enroute and therefore missed an advisory from the Wanderers, that there is no stay option after Muzaffarpur. Truck traffic and local evening traffic was picking up. So we stopped for early dinner at a big HP pump cum dhaba. Parked in the HP parking lot and slept off in the car by 7pm.

Day 2 – Jhansi – Kanpur – Lucknow – Muzaffarpur – Darbhanga
Total distance covered 930kms approx. Drive time - 14 hours.

This was the first time we tried the Safari sleeping setup minus the back seats and we found it very cozy and comfortable. The plan was to stick to the plan, which meant we drive through the night and cross over in West Bengal and reach Guwahati by afternoon.
So we woke up at 1030pm. Had a coffee and a snack and hit the road at 11pm.
Wide empty 4 lane highway with very sparse traffic, what a lovely drive all the way from Bihar all the way into West Bengal via Dhalkola.

“Bihar is dangerous to drive in the night”. Well, I don’t think so!!
We stopped at a few places to confirm directions, since my faith on google maps was depleting. Never faced any untoward situation or trouble in Bihar. We got lots of truck traffic jammed at Dhalkola, no escape route visible, we jumped 4 big long divider medians and escaped the jam, much to the amusement of the onlooking truckies and the border post folks.

About 15kms kms of road on both sides of the border are bad. The Bihar side has patched up uneven roads with few potholes. The West Bengal side has craters. There on we were greeted by heavy rain and thunderstorms with a good amount of truck traffic on 2 lane highways.

About 330am, we pulled over by the wayside in a small dead highway village while they were all still fast asleep, and we slept off in the car again. Woke up at 7am, had some coffee and breakfast and drove off.
What a beautiful morning. Driving through tea estates on both sides as we drove into the rising sun.
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And then we came across a signboard pointing to the right for Buxa tiger reserve and Alipurduar.
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It was still early in the morning, so we turned right and headed to see BUXA. We were looking forward to see some animals and some wild forest road drive.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-20150220_070047.jpg

Asked some locals on a morning walk and decided to drive into Buxa. Beautiful place, but there are no tigers there. I think the Buxa tiger reserve is waiting in anticipation of tigers. Lot of local human habitation and an army camp in there. I wonder where the tigers will live, if they are ever introduced.

Some views inside Buxa. It is extremely scenic and this place must surely come alive in the monsoon. There is a waterfall too(dry at the time and a river running through.
There is a military camp inside the reserve and 2 local villages too.

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This signboard inside the reserve.
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Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img_9321.jpg

After a tour of the tiger reserve, we stopped for breakfast and then continued on to enter Assam.

We were advised that the first 100 kms into Assam are highly sensitive and truly there was lots of army and police checking. We were also advised that there may be local groups attempting to stop non local cars, and we should not stop for them and speed off after pretending to stop.
The police and military checks for non local cars cost us an hour but we did not face any local groups of any sort.
There on we headed straight to Guwahati after a lunch and tea stop etc and reached Guwahati by 3pm.

I believe if we had seen the advisory messaged by the Wanderers(wanderernomad & wanderer4x4) on time and stopped at Muzaffarpur, we would have got our 7 hours of sleep in a hotel and left the next morning and still reached Guwahati by 1pm if we excluded the Buxa excursion.

Below is the route we took.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-darbhanga-guwahati.png
Day 3- Darbhanga – Buxa tiger reserve - Bongaigaon – Guwahati.
Distance travelled - approx 800 kms. Drive time - 14 hours.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img_20150220_120610.jpg

Entering Guwahati, we checked into Blue Moon Hotel and met Wanderer4x4. Given our time constraint since we would be arriving on Friday and would be unable to get permits, he had arranged to get the permits for us in advance. If not for his assistance we would have to proceed to Kaziranga and then apply for permits on Monday from Tezpur.
Spent the day rest of the day chatting with Wanderer4x4, resting in Guwahati and reorienting the luggage for the Arunachal leg. Fixed a blown fuse for the fone charging socket.
Since the permits were done, we decided to proceed straight to Arunachal the next morning, with a night stopover at Dhemaji, which is the last proper border town on that route to Along.


Day 4:[[/u]

Day 4 began a little late as planned. We woke up at 4am and left the hotel at 5am. We had a short stopover at Tezpur, to meet a friend and his lovely family. who also helped in arranging a homestay for us at Mechuka, the same as suggested by Secretariat. We connected with BHPian Secretariat over the fone when we reached Guwahati. He was a few days ahead of us and was heading to Mechuka at the time.

Some images enroute to Dhemaji.


This bird was the equivalent of a 2 storey building. part of some festival signalling harvest in Assam.
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Very unique sculptures on temples in Assam.
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Tezpur university where we stopped to meet a friend.

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Old 27th March 2015, 00:14   #2
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Default re: Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari

Day 4 continued....

Some views enroute to Dhemaji.

Passing through tea plantations.
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The road.. 2 laned with some traffic.

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The road from here for the next 25 kms are in bad shape.
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These trucks are parked right below this hill which will come sliding down with the first rain shower.
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The left from here goes to Itanagar. Bad roads ahead.
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We reached Dhemaji at approx 5pm and checked into the Tourist lodge at Dhemaji for the night.
The tourist lodge at Dhemaji where we stopped for the night.
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In Dhemaji I decided to fill the other 20 liter jerry can before entering Arunachal , since this is the last proper border town on the Assam side before entering Arunachal for Along.
So we drove into the Indianoil pump. Soon as he started filling the Safari diesel tank, I could smell kerosene. By the time I stopped him he had already filled 20 liters in the tank. I asked him if the fuel was adulterated. He said, no. So I asked him to fill the 20 liter jerry can. After 10 liters of filling the can I asked him to stop and told him, I don’t want this diesel, since its adulterated and it smells of kerosene.

The attendant told me to speak to his boss sitting inside. I met the chap, told him his fuel is adulterated and I have risked ruining my car and possible stalling since I already filled the main tank. Since that cannot be removed and I will treat it with additives, I told him to take back the fuel filled in the jerry can since I wont pay for it.

He challenged me saying this is how diesel smells and I don’t know how diesel is and all diesel looks different, since his looked blue.
I showed him the 20 liters of diesel filled in Mumbai and asked him to smell it so he can find out what diesel smells like and looks like. Finally defeated, he emptied my can and I didn’t pay for the fuel in the can. Went up a little ahead to find a BP outlet. Filled from there into the jerrycan and got fuel just like the one in Mumbai – Pure for Sure !!

I wanted to write to IndianOil when i returned from the trip, but completely forgot about it and trashed the receipt.

The route from Guwahati to Dhemaji.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-guwahati-dhemaji.png

Guwahati - Tezpur - Dhemaji.
Distance travelled - 450 kms. Drive time - 12 hours


Day 5:

Day 5 – Arunachal beckons – Dhemaji – Silapathar – Likabali – Along – Mechuka

Next morning at 4am Veeru started with a cloud of white smoke.The smoke reduced later but continued till the next refill.
From what I noticed, almost all the fuel sold in Arunachal and in many places in Assam is adulterated.

4am - just before departure from Dhemaji.

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Moving on, it was still dark when we left the lodge in Dhemaji and google pointed to a left turn that looked like a thin suspicious broken up lane. The road straight ahead had a sign said no entry for heavy vehicles, and the road was wide but in bad shape.
It was still dark since we left at 4am. We waited for a while and flagged down a passing local in his car.
We asked him directions for Along and he asked us to follow him through the same route google pointed. So, we followed him into that dinghy looking broken gully road for about 15 – 20 kms and he led us out to Silapathar and waved us goodbye. Little did we know that all the roads to come ahead had the same flavor.

Suspicious looking local turned savior in the middle of the night.

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The road from Dhemaji to Silapathar to Likabali checkpost is broken just like in the pic above and below. A large part is under construction to make a 2 lane. Hopefully this should be completed in a year or 2.

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We crossed Silapathar to reach the Likabali post in Arunachal Pradesh.
The entry into Likabali is the beginning of the foothills of Arunachal. Here on, we would just be traversing mountain paths all along.
All single lane, with numerous twisties. Locals drive with carefree abandon and they don’t honk on turns until they see you.


The road from Likabali to Along is in my opinion a difficult drive for the following reasons:
1. It is a road of many winding twisties with almost no shoulder on either side in most places. So if u come across a vehicle on a bend, there are many chances to get caught off guard and in a sticky situation where you will have to reverse quite a bit. Locals sumos drive carefree and can crash into you if you are not alert.
2. Its entirely single laned all the way till Along.
3. The last 40% of the road is in bad shape. It looks unlikely this will be fully widened in the next 5 years, given the difficulty of terrain and logistics.

Some views at the break of dawn.
Notice the single lane track all the way. You have to get off onto the shoulder and stop to let another vehicle pass. This the situation on all the roads we traveled on in Arunachal, except Pasighat.
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I was told by many, that if you hit a local vehicle or so much so as scratch it, u have to buy them a new one.
Keeping that in mind, I honked happily through all the twisties.

Garu village.
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Notice the writing on the wall on the left.
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A trailer of the roads to expect.

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And then we reach this bifurcation. Left will take you to Daporijo, from where you can connect to Ziro and western Arunachal.

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Below, a view of a small town Basar and some small villages follows. Extremely scenic view.
All the villages we crossed seemed very clean compared to the villages we see in the other states.
Villagers too seem to dress well regardless of their economic strata. They all generally seem very content and happy.

The clear blue sky with scattered white clouds is addictive indeed.

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And finally we drove into Along.

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To head towards Mechuka, you dont need to enter Along. Upon approaching the town from Aalo, a right turn leads to a bridge across the river and takes you inside Along and towards Tuting. Heading straight leads to Mechuka.
Along is the equivalent of a city in Arunachal. You find everything in Along. People from the higher villages come down to Along once a month or two for specific shopping.
We were targetting a stop in Mechuka tonight so drove straight past Along on the right.

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Old 27th March 2015, 13:13   #3
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There you are. At last the epic is out. And if the first episode is anything to go by then surely it's going to an epic read.

Fantastic details and narration, am loving it. That too right around weekend to spend time reading this.

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Old 27th March 2015, 14:09   #4
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Jay, while driving through fog, you should switch off headlights and use only fog lamps. The headlamps reflect back thereby reducing visibility (its like driving through cotton) and it also hurts your eyes.
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Old 27th March 2015, 14:11   #5
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Just WOW. Finally it's out. This is going to be another bible of north east. Lots of minute details too covered. Having seen Veeru in person, I am already a great fan of him .
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Old 27th March 2015, 14:16   #6
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Wonderful. This is going to be a great read of a great journey - the not much travelled Central & Eastern Arunachal.

Veeru is a beast. I am sure he took all that Arunachal could throw at him with nonchalance.

Once you cross Likabali is when your trip really starts. But what a long , but seemingly effortless, dash from the other corner of the country. You did Dhemaji to Mechuka in a day ?? I am shivering just reading that

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Old 27th March 2015, 20:01   #7
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Along - Mechuka

From Along to Mechuka the scenery completely changes. The mountain forest gets denser and thicker. The river on our right is deep blue and white sands. I could only imaging what this will look like in the monsoon.

The roads are still the same single lane, uneven, twisty, no shoulders and after 60% of the way, its outright BAD until out the last 10 -15 kms to Mechuka which are ok.

After crossing Along few kms later we reached to this poorly marked bifurcation. It does not specify Mechuka anywhere.
Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img_9346.jpg

Turn right from this point for Mechuka.
Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img_9347.jpg

Its very difficult to click pics here. What to click?
Every turn is a good shot. Everything is to experience in 1 frame and it doesnt fit in the frame. So i shot some panoramas on my fone. Even then, these images do not reproduce even 25% of what you feel while u are there. Hard to explain...

Anyways here goes a few pics enroute Along - Mechuka.

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Local Bison - the state animal of Arunachal Pradesh.(Gayal / Mithun da)
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... and Veeru posing!!
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Since morning we spent a lot of time stopping, standing and staring almost every few turns and it was just getting better. At 2pm we reached this food joint enroute and stopped for lunch.
We had some superb local style river fish.
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This was on display but out of stock at the moment.
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At the restaurant, the locals asked us where we were going to stop for the night. I replied Mechuka. They said you better rush since the roads ahead arent good.

Outside the restaurant was this big route marker.
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Until this time we had not calculated the average time of travel, just happily driving along.
Thinking back our average distance was 20-25kms per hour and as such, with bad roads ahead our ETA in Mechuka would be 9pm as predicted by locals.
We decided not to stop for any more pics.
Gebusona was awaiting our arrival.
It was 3pm and by 530 pm its dark. We had to make the best of the daylight hours. It was "performance time" for Veeru.

Had to stop to click this though and 2 mins stare time!! Simply stunning.
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And this too..
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After that we gunned it. The roads are fairly tricky, lots of blind curves, single lane and bad roads.
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And some heavy traffic..
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along these roads..
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and it was getting dark...
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Finally.. we drove in to Mechuka at 7pm. It was one hard drive and Veeru performed as always - stellar performance. Mile munching... and how!!!

We checked in at Gebusona homestay at 715 pm.
He was awaiting our arrival since 6pm.. which was the ETA i had specified without estimating the delays due to multiple stops... He immediately took us to our room.
A very lovely cozy room, heater, hot water and all. We then joined him in the central dining area which is heated by wood. Met some more locals and had some very enlightening conversations about Arunachal, the locals, local culture and a lot more.
Our hosts and the local guests could not believe we came from Dhemaji to Mechuka in a day. Well, what could i say, ask the champ, hes parked outside!!
The locals were from the village of Monigong, that was part of our plan. However, we were well advised by them not to even attempt it since the roads were extremely bad, to the point that even the military doesn’t dare to travel that route without a convoy of spares. So we dropped that out from our plan and concentrated on Mechuka. From those interested in Monigong, there is a 6 hour trek that takes you up the mountains from where u reach the Mac Mohan line, the imaginary border between India and China.

However, this was an even more interesting and superb ending to an already wonderful day.

A nice spread of very homely, nourishing and tasty dinner and we all called it a night.

This is the route.
Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-dhemaji-mechuka-village.png

Dhemaji - Silapathar - Likabali - Along - Tito - Mechuka
Total distance travelled - 370kms. Total drive time - 15 hours.



DAY 6:

Day 6 was very laid back. Woke up late, had a late breakfast with a morning chat with Gebu about the sights to see and were out at 945am to explore Mechuka.
We are not the religious places types and prefer visiting scenic places instead. So we started out by proceeding to Yarlung which has a military base and is the end of the road.
Enroute, we stopped at a gurudwara to enjoy the stream and the view from the top.

Selecting images for this TL is extremely difficult, especially Mechuka. Do i need to say why!!
Mechuka is a little flatland surrounded by mountains, extremely picturesque.
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An airport is coming up at a frantic pace on woe side and a lovely river flowing on the other side.
I feel Mechuka will see major infrastructure problems due to haphazard development in the coming years.
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Driving on...
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BASH ON REGARDLESS..... YOU BET!!!
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Driving on we stopped at a Gurudwara to enjoy the picturesque mountain view and the lovely river below the bridge.
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Old 28th March 2015, 20:05   #8
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From here we drove towards Yarlung.

The drive to Yarlung has different topography from the Mechuka plains.
More coniferous type trees growing tall. The military is very active here and Yarlung also has a helipad.
The road to Yarlung is extremely narrow with some very sharp & steep hairpin bends.
The view is awesome, the air is different and the experience is amazing.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-2-12.jpg

There are some extremely narrow sections. Here my tire was an inch into the rain gutters while i was negotiating a tight spot. The truck driver spotting me to stop.
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Followed by some very narrow sections.
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And then we reached the Yarlung checkpost. Im not sure if civilians are allowed/disallowed inside. However, we were let in after signing into their muster. Photography not permitted inside. We drove to the helipad beyond which access is not permitted.
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Its painted WELCOME.. so i guess we were welcome to visit. BIHAR FIRST also has a small camp at Garu top between Likabali and Along.
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The drive to the helipad and back is equally scenic. It was nice to see a helipad very well maintained and nicely tucked away into these far off mountains where road connectivity is frequently disrupted.

Signed out on the return.
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Heading back, Gebu had told us about an old gompa that was across the river, so we decided to check that out. Coming from Mechuka you turn right from where the Soaring Six gate is at Segong towards TongkorLa.
We asked a local and he said we have to leave the vehicle and go across the river on foot to the small hill where the gompa is situated.

So, lets see how far the tire can follow the feet. We decided to cross the river with Veeru as far as we could and then proceed on foot.

So we crossed this bridge and then turned right down onto the river bed..
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Once on the river bed the view was just awesome.. the breeze was extremely addictive. We decided to skip the gompa and and camp.
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Water in the river was low, just about a foot deep with the usual boulders on river beds. Not a problem though.. we drove around on the river bed, crossed some flowing water sections submerged above the running boards.
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We found a sweet spot and unloaded the camping stuff. Was trying to put up a tarp that I was carrying, but the wind was just too strong at the time to allow us to tie it.
So we skipped the tarp and planned to cook and enjoy the evening on the river.

What a beautiful setting and a lovely view.
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Camping stuff unloaded, wood was not hard to find.
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My masterchef(wife) whipped up a good stew of canned chicken and noodles.
Some special ingredients and some superb aroma to something so simple looking.

Work in progress... Wah ji Wah!!
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and we spent the afternoon chilling on the river followed by some lovely coffee as we listened to the music from the stream and the local birds.

Custom made.. super strong frothy coffee..
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A lovely afternoon of conversations interspersed with silence followed, the birds chirping away while we just stared away into the mountains.
The view took our breath away... priceless!!
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If we were not booked at the homestay for another night then we would have pitched our tent here for the night, on a little higher ground on the other side.

It was time to leave. We cleaned up the campsite, no trace of any camping except charred stones and left to visit the Eastern end of Mechuka.


I dont think the following images can fully convey the experience...
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And then we decided to cross this bridge.. The wind had picked up and it was quite strong and very chilly. The bridge shook as i walked on it, large gaps between the planks. I went halfway and turned around.. Quite an un nerving experience of sorts for city dwellers like me with no experience. Saw a bunch of locals walk across without even touching the sides.
But im sure they wont be able to cross Bhendi bazaar(mumbai) in peak traffic either
Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img_20150223_163459.jpg

We drove on to the eastern side of Mechuka. There was almost no road.. completely broken track with huge boulders leading to some place unmarked, but it was a village. The sun had almost set and we were approaching twilight. So we decided to stop and enjoy the view rather than indulge in adventure.

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A panorama of Mechuka shot from the East.
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It got dark and quite chilly.. we headed back home.
We return to find the Tiger of Mechuka resting in the warmth of the fire place of the community dining area.

Behold - The Tiger of Mechuka. The housecat of Gebusona.

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Gebu's homestay is a lovely place. A home away from home. Gebu and his wife are extremely good hosts.
Below, the dining area. A place for interesting conversations with fellow travellers who make it to Mechuka.
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Tonight we met an old german couple who love to travel to untravelled or less touristy places.
Some interesting conversations with them and their local guide and driver.
We got a lot of insights into what lay ahead on our trip and what to expect.
We were to soon find out that we were at the mercy of the mountains.

A parting shot of Gebusona homestay. We will surely be back here again for a week. There are some interesting treks in the area, that take us deeper into the beauty of this beautiful place. Someday sooon!!
Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-20150223_070625.jpg

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Old 29th March 2015, 20:50   #9
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For all those who visit Mechuka, I will wholeheartedly recommend Gayboo's homestay. He can also arrange tours around the area including treks.
Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img20150320wa0035.jpg


DAY 7

Next morning at 4am, while Mechuka slept, we were on our way to Tuting.
The mornings in the mountains are simply beautiful. On our drive back we stopped to enjoy the sights we missed while driving to Mechuka.

It had begun raining from the time we entered Arunachal with most of the rain during the night and occasional evening showers. The roads were wet in the morning in most places.



Misty mountains.
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A recently cleared landslide.
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Convoy movement in the hills starts early morning, due to bad roads and many breakdowns. The BRO seems starved of resources here or maybe just neglected. We saw many army vehicle breakdowns. Spoke to a few military guys who confessed that, if the roads were good, they would have not lost so many man hours in repairs.
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And then you come across these loaded supply trucks that leave early in the morning to cover the distance. On these narrow roads, i had to pull over on the extreme left with barely a few inches to spare, to let them pass.
Reversing is out of question, since finding a suitable spot on either side is not always possible without reversing few hundred meters.
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Then we face this convoy of Sumos, the only local transport available.
Notice the front facing third row of seats. This is a custom modification we noticed in all the Sumos in Arunachal. Some relief for people suffering from motion sickness.
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Last row closeup.
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And then finally it happened - the face off.. with a big daddy Stallion!!
They rule these roads. We both managed a 3 inch close squeeze and squared off. Reversing was not an option on this bend.

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Moving on we reached this village on stilts. Very unique primitive looking village.

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ALONG TO DITEDIME:

Returning from Mechuka, we turn left at Along and continue to exit Along turning further left after crossing the bridge. Being the biggest town on this side, its best to fill up fuel fuel and restore any supplies at Along before proceeding forward to Tuting.

If we thought the Mechuka road had less traffic, then on this side the traffic is extremely spartan. Very very few vehicles on this route. The road from Along to Tuting is narrower and quite bad except for small sections. Craters big enough to gobble up the entire suspension.
The topography on the Tuting road is different from the Mechuka side. Lots of orange plantations along the way.

Orange country.

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Some lovely villages along the way.

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Moving on we reached this bridge.

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It’s a meeting of 2 rivers.. we crossed the bridge and stopped to take pics. Some jawans from the ITBP truck parked a little ahead came asking for help. “ we need 18/19” spanner if you have it”. Sure!! Ive got an entire set all the way till 32. They were opening the injectors to release air due to some other part failure. We went about clicking some pics and enjoying the view and over 30 mins passed and they were still unable to fix the problem. So after almost an hour of trying they returned the spanner and we moved ahead.
They called for a support vehicle to return back to Along.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-4-8.png

The wait cost us dearly in terms of time.
We had planned stopping at Jengging and hoped to stop by 5pm after covering as much as we could.
The roads were not very encouraging and at around 330pm we reached Ditedime, a small village just where the road bifurcates right to Yinkiong. We decided to ask about the road conditions and stay options ahead. We stopped at the Maratha regiment IB at Ditedime and asked for information. They have a very beautiful IB situated alongside the river.

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The military supervisor there told us that we were wise to have stopped there since it was not safe to drive ahead at this hour and that we could get robbed by locals in the evening hours(I found that extremely ridiculous). When I asked for stay options, he said there were none.
When I asked if he could accommodate us at the IB, he initially refused saying its full to which I asked if he could allow us to pitch our tent in a corner of their compound for the night.
He refused to that too, but insisted that we should not move further ahead although it was only 330pm and sunset was a good 2 hours away.

While we were contemplating on whether we should take his advice or just move on to Jengging, he came back up to us and said that he will accommodate us later in the evening and we should wait till then.
Since he seemed very positive, we decided to wait it out and spent some time exploring the white sands below. What an absolutely stunning view.

Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India-img_20150224_152951.jpg

Sunset happened and no news from them, so I went down to find out when he will let us in. At this point he said, he is sorry he cannot accommodate us and we should sleep off in the car and he will arrange food for us.

We were pretty upset at this, since we had the time and the option to move on but were asked to stay back with the promise of being accommodated. And it was already dark and we wasted precious daylight hours thanks to them. We could very comfortably have reached pangkang(50 kms away) or Jengging(60 kms away) for a night stop.

However, we were eventually forced to sleep in the car, which was thankfully quite comfortable and cozy, thanks to the weather. The army guys sent dinner, which was quite good local Maratha fare.

DAY 7 - Route map
Attachment 1356259

Mechuka - Along - Dite Dime
Distance travelled = 250 kms. Travel time = 11hrs 30 mins.


DAY 8:

Next morning we woke up a little late and one very kind army jawan came to check on us and on seeing us awake, quickly got us some nice hot tea and profusely apologized on behalf of his senior for the confusion last night, saying that the army guys had an internal disagreement about our stay which led to the confusion.
What was not right was, if u cannot provide, do not promise.
I was not very surprised though. The army is to protect and serve.. atleast those who are in trouble and distress. This is the second time I faced this. First time was in Ladakh when the army turned around and left without rescuing us from a landslide avalanche (inspite of car lights flashing and us jumping and waving).

Anyways.. this is how far we were from Jengging last night.

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While going towards Tuting, soon after crossing Jengging, we see a road going right down below. A new bridge has been constructed across the river to Yinkiong. Note - earlier, this had to be done by ferry.
The new bridge is a book for connectivity in the area.
A pic of the spot with the marker -

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I shall leave you with some beautiful images onwards to Moying.

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The drive to Tuting, is extremely scenic driving alongside the river.
There are no ‘dhabas’ along the road. At best, you will find small local shops, like tea stalls, serving rice dal and some local fare.
So we found a nice scenic spot and decided to stop for a cookout. Once again, masterchef whipped up a delicious tasting differently flavoured, aromatic stew. So nice it was and so hungry we were that we licked the bowls off. Up ahead we found a stream to wash all the utensils and put them away.
We followed up with some nice hot coffee and then headed towards to Tuting.

The view from our cookout site.

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Old 2nd April 2015, 17:07   #10
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Default Re: Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari

Moying and beyond it becomes more dense, narrower and scenic.
Roads - not very good.
Not only was it getting narrower but there were many places where landslides were cleared recently. It seemed to have rained in some sections.

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After crossing Migging, we reach a fork in the road. Go right from here, although it looks like you need to go left.

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Here on the road gets even narrower and densly forested. Feels like driving through a forest or sanctuary.
This is what the roads are like here on.

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Landslide being cleared enroute.
These were the only travellers we encountered enroute towards Tuting. A local family returning back from Along.
It was slowly getting dark and it had begun to rain. We didnt stop any further for pics.

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It was sunset by the time we reached Tuting.
Tuting is a fairly large town considering its at the end of the earth(well almost) with only one connecting road in very bad condition.
Unfortunately for us, the day we reached was a day before elections. The town was buzzing with activity and we could not find a place to stay in any of the 2 hotels there. The IB's were full too anf so were the homestays.

One shopkeeper offered to put us up in his homestay, but was waiting for his wife to showup so he could take permission. She showed up late and eventually he had a fight with his wife and could not confirm a stay for us.
In the mean while we had some basic dinner at a small restaurant and inquired about the places to see and if we could find someone to show us around the next day.
It seemed that the elections were a very big thing there and everyone – including the monks – were busy with it. Again, there are some gompas there and a lovely trek that takes 7 days. We didn’t have 7 days.
So we could not find a place to stay and it had been pouring all along. The rain was intensifying. Had it been dry we would have pitched our tent in a spot we had identified. However, it had become slushy all over the place. So we had another sleepover in the car.

During a discussion and contemplation session inside our 1 room hotel(car)about the course ahead, the rain intensified. We decided to skip Gelling and leave Tuting the next morningproceed to Yinkiong. The weather was definitely getting worse and the rain was relentless and we were quite sure that the landslides we saw on the way in would surely intensify and Tuting would be blocked off.

I found this quite strange since i had not read about rains in Feb-March in any of the research i had done. If it hadnt rained, our second plan was to drive drive to Gelling the next morning and on the return, find a suitable camping spot and pitch our tarp and tent for the night and enjoy another cookout with some proper overnight camping.
The rains however, changed everything that night.


DAY 9

Since we slept early, we woke up at 4am. It had become almost automatic now. it was pitch dark and not a soul in sight. It was still raining and it stopped for a brief spell around the time we woke up, giving us enough time to stretch, freshen up, reorient the luggage inside and make some hot coffee.

The view early morning around 5am. Felt like i was in Jurassic park. Absolutely amazing!!

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This is why we woke up at 4am everyday. Misty mornings, not to be missed for anything.

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Out here, there is just you, nothing and nothingness, absolutely blissful !!


Along the route, we crossed 4 landslides barely managed to squeeze through at a 30 degree angle through very slushy and slippery conditions.
I could see the loose mud precariously lodged above, just waiting for some more rain to let it slide down and cut the road off completely.
As it continued to rain, the road got more slippery and tricky to drive on.

And then this local man flagged us down. He wanted a ride till Migging. I said we said we dont have seats at the back, so he was ready to sit on the carrier on the roof.
That could not be allowed, so he sat on the carpeted hump of the back seat till Migging.

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And then we finally reached Migging, where we dropped our passenger and we stopped here for breakfast at the restaurant on the right of the blue drums.

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View from the restaurant.
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And while we waited for our awesome meal of deer meat, maggi and eggs, we met baby Jackie Chan with his baby Puma!!

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As we left the restaurant, we met our happy and excited passenger waving us best wishes and good bye.
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It continued to rain all along, sometimes a drizzle and sometimes a heavy shower and we reached the exit for the Nubo bridge to crossover to Yinkiong.
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The cable stay bridge across the river to reach Yinkiong. Looks pretty strong to get washed away.
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This is the river that earlier required a ferry ride across. The bridge provides a stunning view of the river and the wide scenic expanse. You can spend an entire evening there by going down till the rocks.

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Driving on we reached Yinkiong quite early by about 3pm.
Google maps does not show this bridge nor does it reflect the ferry crossing.
We drove to the PWD IB in Yinkiong. It was completely empty and the caretaker was willing to give us a room too since we could not connect with the DC on the fone, he offered to get permissions on his own.
However, upon seeing the rooms, we thought we were better off sleeping on the road. Extremely poor sanitation and hygiene.

We asked around and checked into Hotel Libang which is the one of the only 2 in Yinkiong. It had begun raining in Yinkiong too by now.

While we checked in to our room, a local guide and driver arrived with their european guest who was heading to do the 7 day trek into the mountains off Tuting.
They were coming from Pasighat. I was told by the driver and guide that he had credible information that it was raining in and around Anini and Tezu and landslides were quite possible. They also told me that this is the season for rains when the winter ends and the summer comes and that March is not a very good time to visit Arunachal due to unseasonal rains.

With that disappointing information we then decided to visit the local sumo taxi stand for more information.
The taxi drivers i spoke to informed me that they got news that there was a landslide enroute Tuting and we were lucky to make it out of there today. They also said that it had been raining in the Anini sector since over 2 days and crossing the river via Dambuk to Roing didnt look like a doable option since the river may have swelled.
We were also told that the road to Anini is even further remote compared to Tuting and landslides there would take 4 days - 10 days to clear.
We were very disappointed to hear all this since, this meant cancelling the onward legs of the Arunachal trip.

We returned to the hotel after dinner and i informed the guys who were supposed to proceed to Tuting the next day about the landslide. They made some calls and about 20 mins later, it was confirmed that Tuting was blocked off.
Thats when we decided to cancel the onward Arunachal leg and explore other options that I had in mind including Kaziranga and Cherapunjee.

I connected with the wanderers with the latest update. Wanderernomad suggested we exit through Pasighat and proceed to Jorhat via Shivsagar and then proceed to Kaziranga, Shillong and Cherapunjee.

All this while, the rain continued to intensify in Yinkiong. It was as if the rain was following us out of Arunachal.

So it was final. We exit Arunachal tomorrow via Pasighat and head to Jorhat.


Day 10:

Like every morning we were up and out of the hotel at 4am.
The road to Pasighat was one adventure of sorts. A visual reminder of potential possibilities of things that can go wrong in the mountains and a an affirmation to our decision to come back another time to complete what we left out.
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It was raining all night. The road to Pasighat is being widened across many places and lots of mountain cutting was going on everywhere. There are absolutely no road signs and the road almost disappears in many parts.
We had slush all over and we were sliding all over the place( whatever little place was there)
The rain was relentless. We encountered atleast 5 landslides in various stages of action - from almost blocked, to 1 feet of slush blockade to rocks rolling down the mountains. Puddles big enough that gobbled up the entire suspension travel.

The scenery though, made up for everything. And the rain and fog made it more beautiful.

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Some more images.. road conditions..

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Many such rock falls from the mountain in progress. We would stop and watch the rocks fall. Wait for a small window of opportunity to drive through.
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And whatta drive.. lovely road by the river gushing away and a lot of fog.. made it a very dreamy scene.
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Old 3rd April 2015, 17:55   #11
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We reached Pasighat.
Pasighat is a big town. It was time to refuel. here we filled the cheapest dieel of the entire trip - 46.45/ liter.
Wide roads all the way into Assam. We stopped for a big breakfast at Pasighat and then headed out of Arunachal into Assam. No one checked the ILP or anything upon exit, though we stopped and asked if we needed to register our way out. We were waved out.

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Our plan was to reach Jorhat via Shivsagar where we would meet Bhpian Wanderernomad. However, still dreaming of the mountains of Arunachal we did not pay much heed to the directions on google.
As a result, google brought us to the river crossing from the Majuli route instead of what we had thought earlier. By the time we realized, it was too late to turn back since we had covered too much distance.
Turning back would mean retracing our route for 150 kms. After this second screwup, I have learned to thoroughly check the route suggested by googlemaps before moving forward.

As such, we figured we were approaching Majuli and we stopped to ask a local tempo. He said the last ferry across Majuli left at 3pm and it was 230pm now and we would not make it to the Kamalabari ferry point.

After that if was some extreme rallystyle driving(not advisable at all for anyone) through all the villages to reach the Kamalabari ferry. When we reached the riverbed, we didn’t see any sign and turned right instead of going left. The road took us through all soft riverbed sand to a fishing ferry point which was not the right place and the fishermen pointed to the left in the distance. So we would have to go back all the way to the start and then again turn to reach the ferry point. NO WAY. NO TIME for that or we would miss the ferry.

Engaged 4wd H on the run and flew diagonally across the river bed, flying up and down at quite a high speed while ensuring we don’t get stuck, negotiating some very tricky soft sandy terrain on the river bed, powersliding all over the place and finally made it to the ferry.
The last ferry had already left at 3. However, there was one more ferry which was to take the car of the DC’s special guests. The ferry booking counter guys tried hard to get us on that ferry by making quite a few calls but could not get permission. So inspite of there being enough space we were not allowed on the ferry.
So then, we had no option but to stay at Majuli which was just 15 kms from the ferry point and booked the ferry for 12pm next day.
Quite an exciting day with some really fast driving and river bed excursion, not at all recommended if avoidable.

We got a lovely room at the Majuli tourism hotel at Kamalabari.
The place empty, no tourists. Majuli comes alive during the festivals. We went to see the Shatras at Majuli.
Well.. we are not the Shatra type people, didn’t like it, so we decided to go and see the handloom weaving which seemed much more interesting. Almost every house has its own personal handloom. However, by the time we got there, they had all shut for the day.
So, another evening of complete relaxation and discussing the excitement of the morning drive.

From what i was told, Majuli is a place best visited during the festivals, otherwise its seemed like yet another village town.

Almost every house we saw has a handloom like this and they make their own cloth for self use.
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Goat transportation. Inhuman on human cycle!!

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Route map:
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Day10 - Yinkiong - Pasighat - Majuli
Distance travelled - 360 kms. Time taken - 12hrs 30 mins.


DAY 11:

Next morning we arrived at the Kamalabari ferry at 11am and got loaded onto the ferry by 1120am. The ferry was packed to the brim. Every sq inch of space was occupied. People stuffed even between the spaces of parked cars. It was a 3 hour ferry ride across the Bhramaputra.



The Kamalabari ferry point and the jam packed ferry.

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We reached Jorhat at 4pm to be greeted by Wanderernomad and his lovely kids in his Jeep. We were extremely happy to meet. We were hosted by Wanderernomad for the night. After some evening rest, the families met for dinner and we discussed all the excitement of the trip and the plan ahead.

Day 10 - Majuli - Jorhat.


DAY 12:

Next morning we left for Shivsagar after a sumptuous breakfast.
Lots of places of spiritual and religious significance in Shivsagar, somehow not much to our interest.
So we looked around a few places and headed back to Jorhat, wished Wanderernomad and his family goodbye as we headed on to Kaziranga.


Wanderer4x4, who was in the loop with us all throughout, keyed in and booked us at Hotel Bonraja in Kaziranga right next to the western range at Baguri.
We negotiated a very decent room rent and went out for some local assamese food fare.

Route map.
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Day 12 - Jorhat - Shivsagar - Jorhat - Kaziranga.
Total distance - 220kms. Drive time - 8hours 30 mins.



DAY 13:

Next morning we took the 5am elephant Safari into the Bagori at Kaziranga. We love elephant rides. I do spare a thought for the hardships the elephants face – but I still love elephant rides.

We followed this up by a Gypsy safari at 7am into the Central range. Absolutely exhilarating ride later we returned to rest in the hotel at almost 12pm. Eager to see more, we had booked ourselves for a 3pm safari in the Western range. Absolutely exciting ride from 3pm – 630pm and we were completely satiated.

A full day at Kaziranga well spent. We hope to visit again to see a completely different Kaziranga post monsoon.

Some images from Kaziranga. Im sure you all have seen lots of animals, so here are some panoramas without animals, within Kaziranga. We shot a lot of animals too (on the camera). I shall post those pics will a lot of drive videos later.

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DAY 14:

Next morning we had late breakfast at 7am and left for Shillong.
The plan was to spend the day at Shillong and next morning proceed to Cherapunjee.
It was a lovely drive from Assam to Meghalaya. 4 lanes almost all the way till Shillong with some road construction between Guwahati to Shillong stretch.
We reached Shillong and called the hotel suggested by Wanderer4x4. He gave us vague directions and along with some more vague directions fromocals we reached Shillong view point which is on the outside of Shillong on the other side towards Cherapunjee.

Breathtaking view of Shillong from LAITKOR peak - Shillong view point:

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It was still noon and since Cherapunjee was just 55 kms away we decided to go straight to Cherapunjee.. also called as Sohra.

The road from Shillong to Cherapunjee is absolutely superb 2 laned all the way.
The view enroute to Cherapunjee.

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A novel idea to carry extra luggage

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We reached Cherapunjee and found good budget accomodation at Sohra Plaza Homestay. The manager was extremely helpful in providing us with a lot of information about the places in and around Sohra. There are many caves in and around the area which we were not particluarly interested in. However, we were particularly interested in visiting the double decker root bridge.


DAY 15:

So after a nice fat breakfast we left at 730am to reach the Tyrna village. Here we parked the car and trekked down for about 1 hour to reach Nongriat village where the double decker root bridge is located.
Its an utterly beautiful trek down I tell you. You cross a few small villages enroute.
Its a steep trek down, thankfully almost fully paved with concrete stairs.

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The route is clearly marked. To the right we head to the single root bridges and to the left is the double root bridges.
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Some views enroute.

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The only small snack stall enroute run by a local couple. The nature of the people shows in their ways. Given the difficulty in transporting stuff all the way to this remote place, this chap charged us just for the tea and the MRP of the biscuits.
Goodness is probably a way of life. It reflects in everything. The villages here are clean. People have a sense of hygiene and sanitation. And above all there is kindness.

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And then we reach the single root bridge enroute to the double decker.

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And finally - ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and children of all ages - i finally present - The double Decker root bridge.
An image i saw many years ago and stuck within. finally realized.
The life and beauty of this place has to be felt.
The silence of the stream flowing while you sit and breathe air that smells like ...... (fill in the blanks urself please)

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Old 3rd April 2015, 23:17   #12
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The double root bridge is at the village of Nongriat.
We found that there is a homestay here. Next time we plan to book this homestay in advance and then stay here for 2 days. Its a retreat unlike any other.

Following details to help any fellow travelers willing and wishing to experience this heaven:
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I wonder how ISD call can be so cheap from here. Rs.6/- only.

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From here we went to a few other touristy points with lovely views which were covered with fog. Since we had no interest in visiting the caves we returned to the hotel to sit back and soak the day in over some hot lemon tea.

The route for the day.
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We wanted to head further into Meghalaya to Tura. However we were advised against this due to poor roads, situation & place not very tourist friendly etc. Information available was too sketchy.

We decided to head to Siliguri or Phuentsholing. Siliguri won the toss with Arunachal still lingering in our mind.


DAY 16:

With a 6am start we left Cherapunjee for Siliguri via Guwahati.

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We reached Siliguri at 430pm into what looked like almost a ghost town.
The next day was supposed to be Holi and the entire town was shut for the next 2 days since Holi celebration would continue over the weekend.

That was a complete downer and washout of our plans.
We checked into Hotel Anand and planned to return to Mumbai next morning.


DAY 17:

With a 4am departure we targeted reaching Jhansi by evening.
With all the Holi revelry out on the roads we had to be extra vigilant for intoxicated Holi revellers on the roads. We saw many of them riding on the wrong side 4 on each bike barely going straight, some falling off the bikes, some already fallen..
However, we safely made it to Jhansi by 530pm and checked into the UP tourism hotel.
We were the only ones there.

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Day 17 - Siliguri - Darbhanga - Lucknow - Kanpur - Jhansi
Total distance - 1230. Drive time - 13 hrs 30 mins.



DAY 18:

After a superb dinner and good nights sleep we left at 4am from Jhansi and reached home in Mumbai at 6pm.

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EPILOGUE:

Closing kms on the odometer - 128227.
Total kms - 8797
Total toll paid - Rs.5225/-
Total fuel - 910 liters.(diesel)

Finally, i would like to thank my wife and Veeru for making this an ultra memorable trip and roughing it out with me.
Arunachal has created a hole in our heart which only Arunachal can fill.
The people and the place are very special.
On this trip we made many new friends and forged new lifelong bonds with them.
We will definitely be back in Arunachal sometime soon to complete what we missed seeing in the rest of the state.
This was supposed to be a recce trip and turned out exactly like that.
We returned 5 days ahead of schedule, including 2 buffer days, with no regrets and a ton full of memories and fresh plans.

Lastly, thanks to the TeamBHP forum for providing a platform to share this trip and find likeminded folks who share a passion for travel. There is an overload of pictures, some bad quality images from my dashcam, all with the hope of attempting to make it a pictorial rather than a story.
I shall post some superb drive videos from my dashcam once i find time to process them.
Thank you all for patiently reading through.

Cheers.
Jay.

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Note from Mod : Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing
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Old 4th April 2015, 09:50   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderer4x4 View Post
There you are. At last the epic is out. And if the first episode is anything to go by then surely it's going to an epic read.

Fantastic details and narration, am loving it. That too right around weekend to spend time reading this.
Glad u like it. Thanks for the push to keep writing and eventually complete this one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
Jay, while driving through fog, you should switch off headlights and use only fog lamps. The headlamps reflect back thereby reducing visibility (its like driving through cotton) and it also hurts your eyes.
You are right. I tried all the combinations. With only fog lamps, only dipper, fogs with dipper, all lights, only led, led and dippers.
The leds seemed to penetrate the fog better. you are right about the light bouncing back part and eventually tiring out my eyes, but i could surely see more with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodge_Viper View Post
Just WOW. Finally it's out. This is going to be another bible of north east. Lots of minute details too covered. Having seen Veeru in person, I am already a great fan of him .
Thanks buddy. Hope this TL proves useful in some way or the other to those wanting to go to Arunachal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Secretariat View Post
Wonderful. This is going to be a great read of a great journey - the not much travelled Central & Eastern Arunachal.

Veeru is a beast. I am sure he took all that Arunachal could throw at him with nonchalance.

Once you cross Likabali is when your trip really starts. But what a long , but seemingly effortless, dash from the other corner of the country. You did Dhemaji to Mechuka in a day ?? I am shivering just reading that
I loved your TL and salute your courage too in doing what uve done. I wished we couldve met too.

Yes, after Likabali, the trip actually starts. Before that its all transit time.
The only way to achieve the drive times ive mentioned is by leaving early. It gave us a nice window to decide when and where we would like to stop for the day and enough time to cover distance and enjoy the scenery.
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Old 4th April 2015, 13:05   #15
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Default Re: Arunachal beckons! Road-trip with a Tata Safari to North Eastern India

Jay one word Awesome

Had the rain gods slept at Chirapunji, that was a shocker not to here about rains at that place.
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