I can confidently say that it was a once in a lifetime experience! The 345 km long drive from Tezpur (near Guwahati in Assam)to Tawang (in Arunachal Pradesh) , travelling through lush green hills, meandering rivers, permanent fog zones to snow capped mountains, I can proudly say we saw it all. It gave me the opportunity to escape into the serene yet overpowering character of nature in its many hues. I will be back I told the wind…

One can feel the pulse of the forthcoming journey right from the flight you take to Guwahati from Delhi. We get to see the Mt Everest at an unimaginable proximity. It was truly an enchanting sight!

You have two choices to reach Tawang from Guwahati. Either take the charter helicopter ride, arriving straight there in a couple of hours or one can hire a car and drive through the two states. I obviously chose the latter. En route, we stopped for the night at the Nameri Tiger Reserve, where a signboard greeted us stating-“Welcome to a Tiger Reserve”.

The next day we left for Bomdila via Bhalukpong and Tipi, which is home to Asia’s largest orchid park. As we started ascending, the endless green plains of Assam changed into equally lush green hills which are also considered a shelter to wild elephants. So don’t be surprised if you have to wait for them to pass on any sunny day!! As we gained height, we passed through a zone called the “Permanent fog zone” where due to the clouds getting trapped, the region remains foggy throughout the year with visibility close to zero. We accommodated ourselves at a Tourist Lodge in Bomdila for the night.

The third morning, we were raring to go, as we had to pass through a tough terrain and so we started off early… The landscape by now, had transformed into scarce pockets of greenery and highland desert with sights of snow- capped mountains at the horizon. The roads in Arunachal Pradesh are tricky and steep and extremely narrow, and with all the military convoys passing at regular intervals, the drive is risky. We passed loads of photo-op view points; and herds of yaks dominated the scene throughout.

We crossed the challenging Sela Pass at 13700 ft. One of the troubles that tourists face is high altitude sickness, nausea etc. A few from my group fell quite queasy too. Thereafter, we descended and at this juncture, our journey took a turn for the worst. The roads were in any case uneven and on our way downhill our brakes failed! Somehow our driver managed to stop our car and we waited for another jeep to pass through. Finally a group of Army jawans gave us a lift till Tawang. While our rattled body screamed death, our soul certainly got refreshed, thanks to the breathtaking views all around. After traveling in a jam packed jeep, through a windy sparse terrain, which boasts of the lowest population density in India, we reached Tawang well after sunset around, 7:30p.m. Accommodation is not a problem in Tawang being a tourist spot, and we checked into our hotel-“Hotel Buddha.”

Tawang, at 3500 metres above sea level is the picturesque land of the Monpas. It truly is the ‘Land of Dawn Lit Mountains’. Its here you have a heavenly tryst with nature at its best!

Next day was completely devoted to local sight -seeing as there is much to see in Tawang. Though a little terrain lagged, we left early because we had a lot to cover. We clicked the first rays of the sun and set forth for the day ahead. We started with the magnificent, 350 year old Tawang Buddhist monastery called Gompa. It is one of the most gorgeous monasteries with breathtaking architecture yet silent interiors and the constant vibrations of ‘Oh Mani Padme Hum’ provide the perfect ambience. Next on the list was the Sangetsar Lake, fondly called the Madhuri Lake after the Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit, shot a song sequence at this spot for her film ‘Koyla’. 42 km from the main city of Tawang and further upwards, one has to trespass bunkers and even stop for the army to finish their artillery practice! What an unforgettable experience!

The beautiful Nuraneng falls or locally called the ‘Jung falls’ at about 40 km from Tawang is an enticing beauty with milky white water gushing down from great heights.

The Jaswant Singh Garh War Memorial is another must see. It is a place where emotions swell up naturally. It was here that during the 1962 Chinese Aggression, this brave son of the country showed unmatched valor by fighting and holding back the Chinese for 72 hrs all alone before he met the martyrs end.

One of the most striking features of Tawang are its habitants.. It is a small town with a big heart. The people are like the place-beautiful and friendly. Despite bearing numerous hardships for their survival, people are warm and hospitable making the most what nature has to offer them-its bounties. One important point all tourists must remember, – To visit Tawang, Indian tourists need Inner Line permit available at any Incredible India location. Woolens are recommended throughout the year and one must acclimatize before you unleash your ‘traveler’s excitement’ to prevent Hypoxia.

Tawang’s sudden beauty interspersed with sudden danger made it an adventure trip of a lifetime. I am certainly going back and hope to see you there too. The Monpas will be there to welcome you!

Shruti Choudhury

[Image source:http://flickr.com/photos/appaji/285884472/sizes/m/]