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Old 5th February 2020, 21:05   #1
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Default Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

The winter of 2019 was great as far as travels were concerned on the personal front. Apart from the usual weekenders, we travelled to Goa, Odisha and Western Arunachal Pradesh. Whereas the former two travelogues were written long time back, this blog is about the 10 days spent in Western Arunachal Pradesh.

Itinerary:
• 7-Dec-19: Calcutta to Raiganj
• 8-Dec-19: Raiganj to Bongaigaon
• 9-Dec-19: Bongaigaon to Shergaon
• 10-Dec-19: Shergaon to Dirang
• 11-Dec-19: Dirang to Tawang, War Memorial in the evening
• 12-Dec-19: Tawang to Bum La & Sangetsar Lake, Tawang Gompa & some shopping
• 13-Dec-19: Tawang to Shergaon; detour to Sangti Valley
• 14-Dec-19: Shergaon to Cooch Behar
• 15-Dec-19: Cooch Behar to Calcutta

Writing after almost a year, some of the memories have be erased. However, I will try to present as much as detail that I can remember. At the outset however, let me state that we had almost escaped from Arunachal and our original plan to stay in Sangti and Nameri couldn’t materialize due to the NRC protests in Assam.

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Christmas Land just after crossing Sela towards Tawang

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Tawang Gompa

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Heavenly beauty of the hills.
7-Dec-19 (Sat): Calcutta to Raiganj
We are wont to leave Calcutta for any journey early in the morning. However, a number of factors cropped up this time due to which we couldn’t start before 9:00 AM. Accordingly I had targeted to reach Raiganj for the night. And since the target was to reach Arunachal on the 3rd day, I figured out staying at Raiganj will not be a problem. Instead of halting at Azad Hind Dhaba or Hindusthan Hotel on NH2 in Hooghly district, we opted for Shaktigarh this time.

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Results of the first snow fall. Taken near Madhuri Lake

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Nuranang Falls.

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Pang Teng Tso
A plate of Kochuri-Tarkari along with some Rosogolla is a great try. At Shaktigarh, we stopped at the first shop and ordered our breakfast. Truth be told, the Kochuris just melted in the mouth. Travelling along SH7 in winters has the added bonus of ripening mustard fields in mist, which is a sight to behold. The rest of the journey was uneventful and we reached Raiganj around 5 in the evening. No prior booking was done. So, we booked WBTDC Raiganj after reaching. At Rs 900 per room WBTDC Raiganj is a bargain and this time we had great food too. Since we had skipped lunch, so we ordered for some tea, toasts and omelettes.

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Clouds swirling in.

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Prayer Flags at Madhuri lake.

Last edited by sayakc : 27th November 2020 at 17:38.
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Old 20th April 2020, 21:12   #2
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8-Dec-19(Sun): Raiganj to Bongaigaon
Next morning we were up at 5.30 and left the hotel at 6. The sun was up and cast its cool light through the leaves of the trees. The roads were empty and overtaking those trucks was a breeze along this single laned highway. But just 1 km before Botolbari we encountered a massive traffic jam – to cross which took us around an hour. Then halted for a short tea break after crossing Dhantola. Progress was fast and smooth and we reached Bagdogra around 10 AM .

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Kochuri & Mishti break at Shaktigarh on a cold and sunny December morning.

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Dinner at Raiganj Tourist Lodge.

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Day 2. On the way to Bongaigaon.

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Lovely weather! Great days which I love to remember.

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Tea break near Islampur.

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Breakfast taken at Sevoke.

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Mount Kanchenjunga, visible near Bagdogra. For a while, looking at this snow white range, the mind wandered to go the Sikkim and North Bengal hills.

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Day 3, plains of Assam as we reach the border of Arunachal.


However, after that the heavy traffic slowed us terribly so much so that it was around 12 PM when we reached Sevoke. Had momos and maggi that served as breakfast cum lunch and continued along NH31. The NH31 skirts along the Buxa Tiger Reserve, Jaldapara Sanctuary before finally crossing into Assam late in the afternoon.

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Betel nut trees

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Tea gardens of Assam.

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The hills of Arunachal, beckoning.

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In the hills, after crossing Balemu we saw these plants, blowing in the wind.

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Tea and maggi break as we near Shergaon.

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The Balemu - Kalaktang - Shergaon - Rupa - Bomdila is a pleasure to drive.

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Random shot.

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Red flowers, growing on the road sides.

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Orange trees, look carefully beyond the red flowers.

Those who have visited the Eastern part of India know how early the sun sets and in the winters the sunset time comes down to 5 o clock. As we were crossing through the town on Bongaigaon we noticed a nice hotel and on the spur of the moment felt why not stay the night there itself since in any case we will reach Arunachal the next day as planned. It was a great decision indeed for the hotel was luxurious and the food was great too. They had a complimentary breakfast, however since we had planned to leave around 6 they promised us a packed breakfast.

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Hilly village on the terraced slopes.

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Kash flowers, turning grey & brown.

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Blue hills - hills that we had crossed.

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Lone hut.

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Old 20th April 2020, 21:18   #3
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9-Dec-19(Mon) Bongaigaon to Shergaon

We were up early in the morning and after a hot bath checked out of the hotel. But we hadn’t gone too far when we were stopped by the police who said “Today is Assam bandh”. It came as a complete surprise for us. For Bengal too, 20 years back, was infamous for its Bandhs. But that was quite sometime back. We pleaded with the police but they wont allow. Trucks were also standing idle on the road side.
However, a private car came from behind and the policeman started lecturing him not to go further ahead and in the melee I started my car and sped off.

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Nearing Shergaon.

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Taken near Shergaon.

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River bed. very similar to what you get to see in the Dooars

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We went on a drive in the Shergaon homestay owner's Duster to the apple orchards. Took this photo there as the sun was setting in.

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The Duster, that being a 2 wheel drive proved what a capable vehicle it is by climbing up the rough, steep unpaved path with ease.

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Dried apple orchards.

I filled up fuel from the first available petrol bunk – enough to carry us to Arunachal. And even though traffic on the highways were very less, we were never caught up. Since we had packed breakfast so we didn’t take the trouble of going to a food joint. Most outstanding was a weather: clear blue skies and a cool breeze blowing. Soon we found ourselves driving through tea plantations and betel nut gardens. Then there were grasslands and finally we could see the blue contour of the Arunachal Hills. We took the Mangaldoi – Rowta – Orang – Balemu route to Arunachal (currently BHPians are frequenting this route).

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Driving in the duster towards Shergaon Gompa.

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Superbly tasting pork momos.

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The hearth

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Frost on the dusters roof rails taken early next morning.

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Frost on the Swift's windshield.

For accommodation we had booked the Lamuzukhi Homestay at Shergaon (found this mentioned in one of BHPian gunin's travelogue - thank you, its a nice find). Reaching Shergaon in the falling afternoon light, we found our way to the Homestay after little trouble. And after a hot bath and cup of tea, we went for a quick sortie around the village. Shergaon is a quaint little village in the lap of the Arunachal Himalayas with its Gompa, Apple orchards – now dried, trout harvesting center. When we returned to the homestay all sunlight went kaput and the hearth was being lit up in the center. We sat around the fireplace for rest of the evening with the owner of the homestay, listening to their stories.

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Robert Frost!

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Spent the next morning trudging along the hills roads of Shergaon and found this bridge.

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Taken from the dining room of Hotel Pemaling at Dirang.

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Staple breakfast: Aloo Paranthas

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Entering Dirang Monastery.

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The car lost one its wheel caps during the drive.

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View from the monastery.

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The Dirang Monastery.

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Old 20th April 2020, 21:24   #4
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10-Dec-20 (Tue) Shergaon to Dirang

We woke up early again, around 6. The sun was shining bright. Found that the dew had frozen on the wind shield of the car. Had a cup of tea and then planned to commence our journey around 7. However, disaster struck yet again. We came to know that day was also a ‘bandh’ in Arunachal. Apparently, the NRC protests were rather heavy in the North East.

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Nyukmadung War Memorial. The climb to SeLa pass commences after crossing this.

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The start of the snow line.

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Dark clouds on the wind ward side of SeLa pass.

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Low visibility.

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So, we spent the day exploring around Shergaon. But the good thing was in the North East the strike timings were 5 AM in the morning to 4 PM in the evening. So, around 3.30 PM we left the homestay after a lunch of momos and headed towards Dirang. Around 4 PM darkness had almost descended on the mountains. And we glided through the roads towards Dirang reaching around 6.30 ish, IIRC.

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Nearing the SeLa pass. Some sunshine.

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At SeLa.

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Customary shot.

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Window with a view.

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Freezing wind blowing on the leeward side of Sela pass.

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The smaller lake at Sela pass.

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The Sela lake.

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Christmas land begins as one descends.

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We had plans to visit the Chiliapom monastery enroute, but had to forgo that. We stayed at Hotel Pemaling in Dirang. Rooms were slightly old but clean. Food was undoubtedly superb.

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Old 20th April 2020, 21:32   #5
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11-Dec-20 (Wed) Dirang to Tawang

This was a long day. But the roads were good again. A few kilometers from Dirang, the climb to Sela Pass begins. The road remains good mostly until a few miles to the pass. Initially what was rain, became snow in the higher altitudes and a good amount of traffic jam later we reached Se La. One can see that a sea of clouds dominated a side of the Se La massif that continue to hit this high massif and precipitate into rain and snow (the wind ward side).

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Jaswantgarh War Memorial.

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Nuranang Falls.

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Swift parked at Maratha Ground Checkpost. Military didnt allow to proceed further without snow chains.

Once on the pass, the weather changes for the better and even though cloudy, the persistent rain does indeed stop. Had some interesting chit chat with the jawan posted there. We had tea at the army canteen. The road from Se La descends into a Christmas land like place where pines, firs grow and with the seasons first snowfall look just like out of a wonderland.

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Chains on the Xylo.

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Heavy cloud and mist on the way to Bum La/Y-Jn.

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Army truck chugs on.
On the way to Tawang there is the Nurarang Falls and Jaswantgarh War Memorial – must visits. You will also observe a glacier high above the mountain near Jaswantgarh which is quite a sight. We reached Tawang late afternoon and went to Shangri La Serene (Team BHPians: Samba & Co. had stayed here). Nice hotel with good food to boost.

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Some snow/ice sections.

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And then the weather became crystal clear with snow on the trees and leaves. Incredibly beautiful. Reminded me of the old silk route in Sikkim.

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PT Tso. While we were returning it was barely recognisable with deep, heavy clouds blocking all visibility.

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But beautiful to see the white of the snows and the dried grasses and colourful flags.

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Several small lakes are encountered on the way.

In the evening we went to the main market and had some momos. It had started to rain then and returned to the hotel soon. I had told the hotel to arrange for the permits for Bum La and Sangetsar Lake but received news that there was heavy snowfall in the upper reaches and military was not allowing vehicles without snow chains. So, as a back up hired a Xylo in case they don’t allow my Swift to go.

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Zig zags.

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At Bum La. The military doesn't allow to walk up to the border any more.

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Reaching Sangetsar lake from Y-Junction.

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A view from the top.

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12-Dec-20 (Thu) Tawang To Bum La, Pang Teng Tso, Madhuri Lake. Tawang Gompa and Tawang War Memorial

Another long day started with light snow falling on the ground and everywhere white. The Xylo had arrived and I too started in my car. It was pretty dark and snowing all around and I had to turn on the heater. At the Maratha Ground checkpost the military folks said that vehicles without snow chains wouldn’t be allowed to proceed further.

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So, parked the car in the confines of the military camp and all of us got in to the Xylo and proceeded to Bum La. The road conditions till Y junction was very good. And infact from Y Junction to Bum La new road construction was in progress with some portions already completed. The Swift would have found it difficult, may be some underbody damage but it would have surely reached Bum La. At Bum La when all the tourists got together we were given a detailed briefing.

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From Bum La we receded to Y-Junction and proceeded to Madhuri Lake. This road was horrific but it was supremely beautiful. Snow on the branches of the trees and on the ground, some of them melting in the sun and dripping. The Indian flag flying high was also a sight to remember.

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I went on to click the lake along with the Christmas like natural decorations. We then went to the Army run cafeteria for some maggi and momos. And then returned.

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It was around 2 PM when we reached the Maratha Ground check post and got into the Swift and headed straight to the Tawang Gompa which is quite huge. The lamps were being lit up and we visited the main temple and followed that by the different rooms where preparations for puja was in progress.

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A drunk woman tried to tell me something, but neither me nor my wife could understand what she was trying to convey.
Next I dropped my wife and kid to the hotel and went to the Tawang War Memorial where I watched the light and sound show. It was quite nice. I tanked up the car and then headed to the hotel. But little did I know that a storm of agitating crowds was brewing in the plains of Assam.

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13-Dec-19 (Fri) Tawang to Shergaon

We were originally supposed to stay the night in Sangti Valley and the next night in Nameri.

Now as I was leaving Tawang I came to know from the hotel reception that there is fuel shortage in many of the pumps of Arunachal because in Assam there is extreme turbulence due to the NRC and trucks were not being allowed to leave Assam. This put all of our plans haywire. So, instead of staying at Sangti Valley we continued our drive towards the plains as far as possible and stayed at Shergaon for the night.

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The scarcity of petrol was alarming. It was not available in Dirang. At Bomdila there were rationing 10 litres per fill. At Rupa it wasn’t available. We were thoroughly shaken because I have never carried a petrol can during any road trip previously and felt how acute the need was.

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But we got lucky just before reaching the homestay in Shergaon where I tanked up the car. And filled up fuel by emptying 5 litre water cans. With that we could breathe a little easy – fuel was secured. But at the homestay we got to know that they were burning cars etc. in Assam.

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Last edited by sayakc : 27th November 2020 at 18:46.
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Old 20th April 2020, 21:50   #8
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Default re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

14-Dec-20/15-Dec-20 (Sat/Sun): Shergaon to Cooch Behar to Kolkata

So at 3 AM the next day, we left Shergaon – it was a continuous run. Most shops in Assam was closed, traffic was also almost zero. Found a fuel pump (don’t remember the location now) but filled up the car to the brim. It ensured that I wont have to the dig into the reserve petrol cans. On the main highway we saw quite a few cars being burnt which was unnerving but since the roads were empty we sped off until we were close to Bengal border – which, IIRC, we reached around 1.30 M. There we had lunch and then by 3 PM we reached Cooch Behar (parent’s place) for the night.

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Lamps being lit for the evening prayer at Tawang Gompa.

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Monk at work.

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This view, I found was taken by D-BHPian Dhanush.

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Lanes and bylanes.

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Baby monk..peering anxiously.

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Tawang Gompa from the hotel's balcony.

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Sea of clouds as viewed from Sela.

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Mud, ice and snow as one descends from Sela.

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It started slightly snowing again.

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Sangti Valley.

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Orange orchards on road side as one descends from Shergaon to the plains.

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Lunch/breakfast near Bengal's border.

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Resting at our Cooch Behar home.

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Magic figure

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Dawn breaking in the plains of Bengal

The next morning we started at 4.30 in the morning and reached Kolkata – with its fair share of troubles (though nothing when compared to what faced in Assam) around 7.30. Had packed Biryani and Chicken Masala from Hindusthan Hotel and that was dinner!

Last edited by sayakc : 27th November 2020 at 18:56.
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Old 28th November 2020, 06:59   #9
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Default Re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!

Going to our homepage today
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Old 28th November 2020, 09:26   #10
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Default Re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

Weekend morning couldn’t have been more better. A log of the state where I grew up is always refreshing and nostalgic to read up. Wonderful write up added with some brilliant pictures made the log an enthralling one to read. The NRC protests did get ugly back in the time and glad that you didn’t have to encounter much.

Here’s hoping for more reminiscences from you and wishes for the future ones,

Regards.

P.S- As an aside, adding this to your reading list. Hope you won’t mind here, https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...rt-tawang.html (Photoblog: Calcutta to Ita Fort and Tawang)
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Old 28th November 2020, 16:53   #11
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Default Re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

I have a big grievance against you~ !

You are back with another blockbuster travelogue, but you deprived us from getting this in April!

What lovely shots & narration, man! No wonder am a big fan of your travelogues. Rated 5*

Where 99% of people would have written their own or their near & dear ones name on the frosted windshield of their cars, you wrote- Robert Frost! Speaks a lot about you.

Last but not the least, red car on white snow looks awesome. I pre-calculated this before buying the Duster & I was not wrong!

Though this pic is not from Arunachal.

Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!-img_9134.jpg

Memories of our Arunachal & Meghalaya trip got refreshed after reading this!

Link of our travelogue!

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...s-bhpians.html (Sailed through the Northeast in hatchbacks & crossovers with BHPians)

Last edited by Samba : 28th November 2020 at 17:00.
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Old 28th November 2020, 22:09   #12
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Default Re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sayakc View Post
For accommodation we had booked the Lamuzukhi Homestay at Shergaon (found this mentioned in one of BHPian gunin's travelogue - thank you, its a nice find)...
Yes, I too recall reading about the homestay in his travelogue on Shergaon. It's good to know that you stayed there, as I can knock at you to get some more information.

I had glanced at your travelogue in the morning but then thought of enjoying your icy cool pictures from the comfort of a comforter in the bed. I have a curiosity: what kind of camera, gears, post processing softwares do you use?

Finally, Sayak, it's a beautifully crafted travelogue with mesmerizing pictures and equally vivid description. Please keep it up.
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Old 29th November 2020, 09:18   #13
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Default Re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

You Sir have brought back very fond memories of our Arunachal / Meghalaya / Kaziranga trip. The Red vehicle looks so stunning on white background. How did the vehicle perform in last 2 kms of the Bum-la ascend ? Duster was mildly suffering from breathlessness.
Thanks for taking the time in jotting down and sharing your experiences with everyone.

Finally a picture of our Duster awd at Se-la Pass.
Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!-fb_img_1606621541890.jpg

Keep traveling and exploring.

Last edited by ARAY : 29th November 2020 at 09:20.
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Old 29th November 2020, 14:27   #14
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Default Re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

Thanks Aray for bumping up this thread, I somehow had missed it. What a fantastic account of the trip accompanied with stunning pictures. Arunachal indeed is beautiful. Must have been a thrilling experience. Rated 5 stars.
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Old 29th November 2020, 17:50   #15
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Default Re: Western Arunachal : A 9-day road trip!

Stunning pictures and lovely narration Sayak! Rated 5 stars. Brought back lovely memories of our Arunachal trip.

Any picture of the Xylo with the snow chains? Did it need chains on all 4 tyres?
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