I sat in the common balcony of my Hotel. The cloud covered Tawang Monastery dominated the landscape. The even more dominating mountains in the backdrop stayed hidden behind the clouds. I had just reached Tawang and checked in the first hotel I saw. My Hotel room was basic; no windows, dingy and dark with an obvious dampness. But, I wasn’t complaining. As long as there are blankets and a bed, I was okay. My solo trip to Arunachal Pradesh was not about luxury, it was not about re-discovering myself either. It was about slow travel and going on an unplanned trip.
When I plan a trip, I book the transport and accommodation in advance. But this time, I wanted to live in the moment and not have everything planned. Get up in the morning and then decide what to do. Maybe I would just take a hike and see what that temple, perched atop a distant hill, has in store for me. Maybe I would just find a lovely breakfast place and spend a couple of hours there, scribbling in my diary or just leave the village I’m in and hop on a Sumo to go somewhere else.
Most of the times, I was just following such random paths during my solo backpacking trip to Arunachal pradesh
I was sitting on a chair which had no cushion for back rest. The hotel staff didn’t care to replace the cushion which now laid in the balcony’s corner, gathering dust. I just rested my back against a rectangle shaped iron plate. The chair resonated with my situation then. My life seemed like a chair and the cozy lifestyle back in city seemed like a cushion. A soft & fluffy cushion which was characterized by quick food delivery, doorstep cabs, home delivery of beers, high speed network which allows smooth scrolling on Instagram and everything lined up just to make you, the consumer, happy.
Remove this cushion and my Solo trip was like the iron plate. It was not very comfortable, but I liked it. I pressed my back against it. I was tired from the road trip to Tawang from Bomdila. The iron plate felt good, taking care of my sore back. Just how this Solo trip was taking care of my sore life, which was devoid of surprises, which missed an element of uncertainty, where I am always expecting the expected.
But, these 15 days of Solo backpacking trip in Arunachal Pradesh were all about expecting the unexpected! I spent these days Being Curious.
Being curious in Zemithang, an offbeat destination tucked close to the Bhutan & Chinese borded
Where did I go in these 15 days?
So, initially when I was thinking about a 15-day trip, I had two options in mind. I wanted to either train to become a certified sky diver, or opt for solo backpacking trip in the North East. I wasn’t able to decide as both of these are in my bucket list. So, I asked my Instagram followers!
With 75% of them voting for North East, my conundrum vanished. Now, came the confusion of which state. I finally drilled down to Arunachal Pradesh as I love massive mountains. The mountains are biggest in the western part of Arunachal, so I decided to go for the Guwahati – Bomdila – Tawang – Lumla – Zemithang route.
Arunachal Pradesh demands more time as compared to the smaller states of North East. However, I could have rushed through the route, wrapped it in 7 days and then gone to Meghalaya. But this time, I decided to take it slow. So, all the 15 days were earmarked for Arunachal Pradesh. I can always go back for the other states later!
Now, there are many routes which you can take in Arunachal Pradesh. Until I landed in Guwahati, I wasn’t sure which one to take. So, while applying for the inner line permit (ILP), I just got the permit for all the districts in Arunachal Pradesh. I got the ILP online and it is pretty easy to get, irrespective of the number of districts.
I started my trip from Guwahati. Upon reaching the bus stand, I inquired for a direct bus to Bomdila. I was told about the only bus which leaves from Guwahati at 5:30 AM for Bomdila. So, I checked in a hotel and decided to take this bus.
There are no direct buses or Sumos till Tawang. If you are on your own bike or car, you can attempt reaching Tawang in one shot. But, I would highly recommend to break the journey at Bomdila. In fact, I liked Bomdila more than Tawang. Travelers don’t stay back in Bomdila for lot as they immediately proceed to Tawang. Due to this, Bomdila has much lesser crowd as compared to Tawang.
Next day, when I reached the bus stand, I realized that the direct bus to Bomdila was cancelled due to some strike. I headed to Tezpur instead and got a subsequent Sumo till Bomdila. It was going to be a long journey ahead due to road repair work and massive mountains. I reached Bomdila around 8 PM. For all the further travel, I continued to juggle between buses and Tata Sumos depending on availability and timings.
During my Arunachal Pradesh trip, I only traveled by Tata Sumos & Buses. Sometimes, they were super cramped.
After spending two nights in Bomdila, I decided to leave for Tawang. The road to Tawang goes through Sela pass which is at a height of 13,700 feet. Apart from the Tawang Monastery, I really enjoyed visiting Bum la pass, the peaceful Indo-China border.
On the way to Bum la pass, I really enjoyed the snow during my solo trip to Arunachal Pradesh
Later, after staying in Tawang for 2 nights, I headed to Zemithang. A sleepy town tucked away amidst gorgeous mountains, sandwiched between Bhutan and China.
I climbed a ladder on a mountain which was close to a Stupa, it was all about exploring the unknown
After spending 2 nights in Zemithang, I had planned to trek in Bhutan from Bleteng. In order to reach Bleteng, I had to stay cross Lumla again. There, I met the Assistant Deputy Commissioner to seek permit to enter Bhutan. But, my application was dismissed saying that only folks with Arunachal Pradesh residential identities are allowed into Bhutan from Bleteng. The diplomacy between India and Bhutan doesn’t recognize the Bleteng route as an official border entry point. So instead, I stayed in Lumla and left for Bomdila again.
When I came back to Bomdila, more mountains and unknown paths waited for me. I stayed in Bomdila for 3 more nights, hiking around the mountains in mornings and pouring my heart out on paper at night. Whenever I saw a trail leading into a mountain, I followed it. Unknown trails, which used to hide under tall grass, only to reappear again.
In Bomdila, I just kept walking in the clouds, with no idea where it lead.
After Bomdila, I left directly for Guwahati from where my flight back to Bangalore awaited. As I checked in my Guwahati hotel, I couldn’t help but look back at the unforgettable 15 days spent admiring what I love the most, mountains.