By SHUBHAM A MAURYA [EDRC, TI-IC]
RECAP: It was 6:30 p.m. thirty minutes since Jagdish and Madhav went back to army camp. And to our amazement my phone rang…….!
“IT IS NOT THE DESTINATION WHERE YOU END UP BUT THE MISHAPS AND MEMORIES YOU CREATE ALONG THE WAY.”
It was Jagdish on the other side of the phone, he was calling on my vodafone no. to the come to the army camp. He was successful in convincing the army official. But there was twist again, those people only agreed to keep us for a while till we recover from our condition and there were strict orders to those official to make us go from Sela pass at night. Cause a week ago, one lady had happen to die there cause of lack of oxygen, therefore army official did not want to take risk of civilian’s death again. Anyway, that was another part of story, but we were so happy that we got saved, we won’t be dying at least on that day. We took everything and left to army’s base, shivering and heavily breathing. Those guys took us in, shared their rooms. We all were drenched and cold, one of the army official was heating water on a kerosene stove. I directly put my feet and hands in that hot water, those were so cold I couldn’t feel the heat of the water which was actually hot for a normal time. We took our turn on that water, everyone slowly started to get warm and one of the official started to make tea for us. Those guys informed us that we can stay and have food but we’ve to leave after that because they’d orders from the top that they can’t keep us for the night.
As we came back to little better state of body and mind, we started to collect the wet clothes that we’d put on the floor and here and there. Took out whatever was not we in the bag. Cause we’ve to travel and leave from there and reach Jang. Jang was approx. 30km from Sela pass. Storm though had passed and rain stopped but gusty wind was there at the top. As our socks got wet, those army officials gave their socks to all of us for wearing. Some took those socks and wore on the hand to drive properly. We all will be forever obliged to those unsung heroes who helped us that rough evening. Because of them we all were alive. It was around 8pm, we’d all got ready in whatever way we could, helped each other to get ourselves on our feet. Tied the bags and again on the bike.
It was pitch dark, I was sitting behind Chaudhary, as I was not in condition I gave KTM to Oxy. Now things have changed, that moment brought everyone close to each other, we could sense it the untold thing between all of us, everyone was driving together now looking after the fellow rider and guiding them. Threshold had been passed, but road was still difficult, at night, lot of mud pool like the previous one, which was difficult to see at night under the headlight. As road was under construction it was not at all in good condition while climbing down the Sela.
We reached Jaswant gargh, it was the memorial of rifleman of 4th Garwal Rifles, Uttrakhand, the one whom I mentioned previously. In Jaswant gargh, there was one shop in front of the memorial and one army soldier was guarding that place. We all happen to take break and sat there for a while. In Jaswant garg you’ll get tea 24×7 on that shop, which was close. Tea would be prepared by army people and kept in the big thermos flask for everyone whosoever happen to travel that road. When you travel you learn gratitude, you see a whole new world from a new perspective, you see people are so good everywhere.
It was getting late we started our bike, we were fearful by the time we would reach Jang everything would be shut down. As I previously told, in mountains people sleep early and get up early, and after 8 pm almost everything get closed. It was around 10:30 pm we were reaching Jang, me and Chaudhary and 2 other were behind and other two we asked them to went fast and checkout the place to stay and for food as well, just in the outskirts of Jang, we saw two of our bikers. They found a restaurant which was about to get closed, they requested and asked for dinner. Believe me, that food was so delicious, after the morning’s momo we had something at 10:45 pm. Luckily that restaurant owner was having one office place, they told we can stay for the night as it as late and we won’t find anything in Jang. But on one condition their owner should not know about this and we should leave early in the morning by 6am.
We were so happy, at least we got some place where we can stay already we’d enough for one day, we hopped on to our bike and went to their office. Those guys gave extra mattresses and blankets, one double bed was there and rest of us put the mattress on the floor and put our wet clothes for drying. Again all of the items in everyone’s bag was out on the floor for drying. We all slept just after putting our head on the pillow.
It dawned upon us again, we all got up around 6 am, and got ready then all started packing the things we kept out for drying. Though it wasn’t dried in the cold night but still something better than nothing. Then after that daily ritual of tying the bag to the bikes, in which once we were rookie now we were becoming expert. We all thought it would be better to first reach Tawang then have breakfast, so we started as it was 30 kms more hardly 2 hours of ride. But it was just for saying, it started to rain again and adding wetness to already drenched us and this brought cold with that, as we were on bikes we were more susceptible to it.
We reached one bridge it was really beautiful, surpassing a river, decorated with prayer flags. We all were drenched still we knew that journey is more beautiful, And we were reaching Tawang our final destination for the trip after all the challenges and believe me it was all worth it. Tawang is really beautiful and so does the people of Tawang or I should Arunachal in short.
But it was Tawang how would it leave us so easily, we reached but soon after reaching not to our surprise we got to know that as Durga Puja vacation is going on most of the hotels were already booked and again getting room for 11 people is a tough job. Me and Chaudhary reached first, I happened to park bike and started to checkout in hotels simultaneously Chaudhary and Jagdish were searching for rooms in other places too. I found one hotel, I went inside and was enquiring about the room availability, my voice was shivering somehow I could ask in my shaky voice about the room. He told he doesn’t have that many room but will arrange one big room in his hotel and ask for another room in another hotel. 6 of us shifted to this hotel, rest went to another one which that this hotel person has arranged.
Another one was a Home Stay, which was very beautiful, run by a family which was warm and welcoming. We took bags from the bike, rushed to only room we got and started again to keep things for drying. The struggle was really for real in making things dry, everything was wet and cold.
We did our breakfast, the owner of the homestay made excellent Maggie, which was really magnificent cause after facing such situations you’ll really change the point of view of looking at things and see everything as blessing but it was really tasty, maybe we were hungry or something was there in the air or mystical Tawang!
Soon after we left for the checking around the place on our feet having local delicacies, weather was numb but not our spirit we all were super excited to have make it till Tawang. Actually we started to like the weather, we were walking in the streets of Tawang, we saw few dogs, actually the dogs in mountains have good fur, but due to rain their fur also became wet, making the dogs look funny and cute at the same time. We saw one cute child on his father’s back.
It was noon, we went back to room for the lunch, which again the owner of the guest house have slayed it. The chicken gravy those guy prepared was indeed delicious. We had food and wore the half dried cloths did some posing and left for the Giant Buddha Statue.
This Giant Buddha Statue is visible from the bottom of the town, it has a good view point too for the Tawang monastery and the lesser known Himalayas.
After that we left for what we came all this long, Tawang Monastery! It was finally the time to acknowledge the calling of the monastery.
After reaching the monastery I was awestruck. This was my first time in any monastery, and this happen to be India’s largest monastery and world’s second Largest Monastery after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet and home to almost 450 monks.
Tawang monastery is known in Tibetan as Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, which translates to “Celestial paradise in a clear night”. It was founded by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1680-1681 in accordance to wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama. It belongs to the Gelug school of Mahayana Buddhism. The monastery is three storey high, within the complex there are 65 residential buildings.
Truly a masterpiece of civil engineering and architecture. The time we reached was prayer time of the monks, the young monks had to come to practice and during the practice evening tea with toast will be given to all the monks. They had to practice the prayers with the instruments and sing too.
It was an enchanting moment to witness those prayers. First time in life I was seeing it and was enjoying it like anything. After the prayer we were checking out the other places in the monastery. Some corner were restricted due to its holiness and visitors were not allowed to enter such places.
After the monastery we all went to Tawang war memorial, it was dusk again, there was tint of pink in the sky, the cold weather and the drizzle was making the evening an unforgettable moment. After spending some time at the war memorial, we finally left for our home stay.
But before that we hurried up to the market for buying the necessary things for the further journey, as we would be leaving early in the morning back to Bomdila as per our alleged schedule. We all got knee length gum boots, hand gloves and extra pair of socks, did some souvenir shopping as we were aware everything will get closed by 8 pm. We reached room, had delicious food prepared the owner of the home stay. Those people were very kind, as they could give us only one room, so they were giving their mattress to us for the night, but we refused to take it. Instead we took room heater so that we can dry up our wet cloths as again those will be packed in bag and bag will start to smell now because of all the sogginess. Finally we signed off for the day and had a sound sleep in that cold weather.
This time we dawned upon the morning. This morning was very beautiful, rain had stopped and sky was somewhat clear, sun was out and we happen to get up early to witness the mystical sunrise of the Tawang!
We had tea and started to pack the bag with whatever was left dried and wet. Then we settled the bill and got some clicks with beautiful owners of the home stay and finally we did our bid adieu with a promise to meet soon again when we are in Tawang again. Then the daily routine of tying the bag to bike. Then had a pit stop at petrol pump, quenched the thirst of our bikes, after filling their stomach, we left day’s destination Bomdila.
We’ve to cross the Sela pass again, but this time we were all set to face it head on. But the weather was in different mood altogether that day. It was not raining at all, and weather was quite good for the ride, what else we could ask for. We crossed Jang, met those restaurant people again who helped us that rough night, those guys were happy to see us and so does we. We all had breakfast on the same restaurant, we did out bid adieu to them as well.
We were climbing Sela pass again, but weather was in favour, cool breeze was touching us but it was not turning violent like before, may be we’d passed the test of the mighty Sela pass or maybe it was just the normal weather. We could see all the natural beauty that we missed in the darkness of the night and crossed all the roads unknowingly.
Tawang River was flowing beside us the whole night and we never had the idea of how beautiful it was. The landscape literally made us stop many times to experience it and look it one more time.
We reached Sela top again, this time was different. We happen to find that piece of bamboo there itself where we left it after burning it, if you happen to remember. We were now seeing Sela Lake from different perspective. It was calm, beautiful and very serene. The beauty of it can’t be explained in mere words, you’ve to witness it in its elegance. The weather was changing again at top, wind was blowing and bringing clouds with it making Sela Lake more beautiful. Sela Lake actually freezes up during the winter.
After the photoshoot we met the army official who saved our life that day. It was very overwhelming feeling to meet those guys again. We were in good shape all because of these guys.
We started our descent from the Sela pass, it was good, weather was good, foggy, we were honking and driving, everything was so good… and guess what, welcome to Tawang! Dinesh and Tushar were leading the pack followed by Chaudhary and Jagdish after that Oxygen was driving and Shailesh was his pillion after that I was there. On the next turn while descending Oxygen tried to slow down his bike, something was wrong with his bike, he applied the brakes but both of the brakes were rubbing badly and noise was sharp. Total indication of brake pads being worn out, that too both front disks’ and rear drum brake. I overtook him and stopped after hearing the noise. He somehow stopped the bike on the curve and by that time Shailesh jumped out of the bike. Then Oxygen saw me in front of him and he was coming near me to tell about the brakes, but the because of the slope and because of worn out brake he just passed with his bike in front of me, though he was trying hard to stop the bike but he couldn’t. I put my bike on stand and rushed to stop Oxygen’s bike.
Chaudhary and Jagdish have stopped by that time, seeing us in the rear view mirror. Somehow we stopped Oxygen’s bike. Then we were in thought that we’ve to reach Bomdila today but who can we descend without break.
So it was decided that we’ll put their bike on a truck. One pick up was coming by, we stopped it but RE Classic 350 was long to fit on that pick up. Later we stopped a big truck for help. We talked to driver, he told he was going to Dirang 30 kms from Bomdila, he got ready in Rs. 1000 to drop the bike to Dirang. So that’s how 5th day’s destination got changed. We loaded bike on the truck, along with Shailesh and Oxygen for Dirang.
After that we allowed truck to go before us as it would be taking time as compared to the bikes. Now we thought anyway they’ll be reaching by evening, why don’t we take our time, click some more photos and have fun along the way.
After the tiresome drive in the dust, we reached Dirang by evening. Oxygen and Shailesh were already in the garage repairing the bike and changing the brake pads. Dinesh and Anuj also changed their brake pads along with Chaudhary and Jagdish. There is this problem with RE Classic, brake pads gets worn out early. Moreover the terrain helped in wearing, as we were climbing up and down, frequent application of brake with heavy vehicle and rider load was all in favour of wearing out of brake pads more than usual basis. By the time these guys were changing the brake pads some of us went for checking out the room.
There were only few hotels in Dirang as it’s a small town. Chaudhary and I found one descent hotel near the river side. Again same reaction from owner’s side we don’t have that many rooms, we again asked for at least two big rooms. Luckily we got two big rooms with extra mattresses and got settled for the night.
Morning of Dirang! It’s a hamlet getting its name from Dirang River another beautiful place to be. By the time everyone was getting ready Oxygen, Chaudhary and I went out of hotel to enjoy the natural beauty of the place.
By that time rest of the guys also joined us, we all had breakfast and was getting ready for the ride, doing our daily ritual. We started from Dirang, just outside of the town we filled up the petrol in bikes. As we’ve just left the petrol pump Akshar stopped the bike, he was facing the same problem brakes were worn out so, we all thought it would be wise to get it changed as we’ve to cover another 300 km or so till Guwahati.
So Akshar and Tushar went back for repairing, Dinesh and Anuj gave them company till Dirang again by that time we thought why we don’t check out the monastery nearby.
So we headed toward the monastery it was under maintenance though but it was beautiful. School of young monk was going on during the morning time, and we were happy to explore the place.
As we were travelling towards Bomdila we happen to stop at one stall, the guy informed us that there’s another road to Guwahati from Bomdila we need not to take the route we came from i.e. from Bhalukpong and Tezpur, we can bypass it and directly reach Guwahati.
We were not so sure about his proposal. So as after traveling little more we happen to ask a truck driver standing by the road. He confirmed that there is a road which by passes Bhalukpong and Tezpur. So all unanimously decided that we’ll staying for the day in Bomdila.
We reached Bomdila after an hour or so. The hunt for the room began! All bikes went in different way in search of hotel. Finally someone called that we found a hotel, which was good that too within budget. It was actually a flat type hotel, it was having 4 rooms and a kitchen too. The best part in those hotels is they don’t have even a fan cause it’s not required in any part of the year. Weather will be always cold enough that you’ll have to take the blanket for sleeping
After reaching the room everyone changed and got ready to explore BOMDILA! We hit the Bomdila monastery after that. It was really peaceful to be there. There was a school for young monks up to 10th grade, a hotel, a football ground, a make shift cricket ground. Few of us had a vivid conversation on different topics one could find with the monks.
In that make shift cricket ground young monks were playing cricket. The funny part about the cricket ground was that it was on a high ground so if one hits the ball hard, you’ll have to get a new ball for playing next game! We all started to play cricket with young monks, as we were already 11 people, those guys were in practice and we lost the match to them. It was almost evening.
Night at Bomdila was fun. We all were out in evening, trying different cuisines, having fun, checking out places and meeting new people, talking to local people, checking out local vendor market. This day was the only day which we didn’t drive much so it was less hectic and more of a fun in different way.
The day began with a beautiful sunrise and a magnificent view from the balcony. We got ready did morning rituals of tying the bag to bikes had morning breakfast. Soon after the breakfast, we fed our bikes too with its meal and we were on our way to Guwahati now. It was a long long ride of 12 hrs. we left in the morning at 9 am and riding through almost 312km we reached Guwahati at night around 9:30 pm. After reaching we booked the same hotel in which we stayed for the first day we came to Guwahati.
Next day in the morning we were anxious as our train was 11am in the morning and we’ve to return the bike. But after checking the status, we got to know that train is running 3 hrs late, it will be reaching by 2pm. Some of us were in Guwahati for first time so before returning the bike those guys went to Kamakhya temple. Next time you’re do visit this ancient temple, it’s on a hill top just in little outskirts of the city, with a nice view of Bramhaputra River and the city. After they came we went to bike rental people returned the bike, showed them the video of bike breakdown at Sela pass, and also claimed the money to delivering the bike from Sela to Dirang, though they were hesitant but after showing the video and photo proof of driver’s credential they agreed too. So next time you book a rental bike do check its condition but even after that you can’t assure anything when you are on the road. After that we boarded the train and everyone slept like anything till we reached Agartala, some of us didn’t get up at night also for the dinner.
After that back to Hostel with bag full of dirty wet cloths and memories!
ONLY THOSE WHO WILL RISK GOING TOO FAR CAN POSSIBLY FIND OUT HOW FAR ONE CAN GO.T S Eliot