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Trotting into The Tantalizing Territory of Tawang

"There is more joy in journey than there is in destination."

  -Anandita Pattnaik

We all know spontaneous plans are the ones that actually work out. Cause after months of planning a Goa trip, booking and cancellation of tickets, a lot of major disappointments, I ended up going to the resplendent land of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.

Having heard and read a lot about the seven sisters, I was surprised at all that I went through. All of it. No article or picture can ever do justice to what one experiences. My first big shocker after booking the flight tickets from Kolkata to Tezpur was that I needed a permit to visit Arunachal Pradesh.

 "Umm, hello? Indian here."
But I still needed a permit. Which is not that difficult to get but I had to research a bit as there is no clear guideline as to what the 'Local reference' means while applying for a permit online. Well, basically what I did was put a hotel in Tawang as the reference. Apart from that, it is a smooth process.

It is an arduous affair reaching Tawang. And believe me when I say arduous, I mean it.

Day 1 - Tezpur to Bomdila (160 km)

It took us around 9 hours in a shared Sumo Taxi from Tezpur to Bomdila as there was some ongoing road work. They charge you rupees 350 per person. The roads are treacherous and it's bumpy bendy ride.

We reached Bomdila around 9.30pm and the entire town was asleep! Not exaggerating. We just about managed to find a stay for the night. 
I dreamt of levitating up and falling down.
 And this was just the start.

Day 2 - Bomdila to Tawang (180 km)

Having had enough of the shared taxi, empathising with our tired bodies, we decided to book a cab from Bomdila-Tawang-Bomdila for 3 days for rupees 13,500 total. I feel it was worth it.

The roads meander through the jaw-dropping scenery. Snow-clad mountains, frozen lakes, stalactites, vibrant valleys, and some insanely choppy roads with shooting stones kept us enthralled, entertained, and engrossed all throughout.

Home cooked hot food is available at the roadside shops which are immensely delicious and had us licking our fingers. And I feel Maggie is the staple diet of all hilly regions. An interesting phenomenon observed by us was that of Lays chips being sold in normal plastic polythenes cause they burst due to the high altitude and drop in atmospheric pressure.

Another thing I love about the mountains is the amazingly cute dogs with their bushy tails.

On the way to Tawang, we crossed the Sella Pass where we saw the first frozen lake and snow of this journey. And boy! were we smitten by it. There was this bone-chilling wind blowing and along with it the hypoxia had us (or at least me) confined to the comfort of the car.

Frozen Lake at Sella Pass
We reached Tawang around 6.30 in the evening. Thentuk and Thukpa were our favourites for dinner that night. Everything closes by 7.30 including medicine store (but alcohol shops are open till 8.30. Haha). Perennially sleepy towns

We stayed at this hotel which had a magical view of the valley. It was so damn cold that the room heaters supplied by them were ineffective. I won't lie but there were moments when I regretted going to the mountains in the winter, yet again. But all my regrets disappeared the next morning when we left for the Bum La Pass.

Day 3 - Bum La Pass (37 km)

Early morning ( by that I mean 8.30 am ) we left for another picturesque ride to the Indo-China border at Bum La Pass. A permit from the Army is required to visit this place and can be obtained from Tawang a day in advance.

Our first pit stop was the Army Canteen. Every time I meet the Army men I feel this sense of awe at their joviality despite living in such adverse conditions and in such extreme situations. They enlightened us about the tribulations of living at an elevation of around 15,000 ft. It's not just the stress from human sources but the strain of mother nature that they have to endure. Sub-zero temperature, hypoxia leading to dyspnea (difficulty in breathing), and sleepless nights. A big salute to their courage, tolerance, and sacrifices!

The army canteen had some mouth-watering samosa (kept us returning for it!), momos, Maggie and brewing chai for us and some awesome army goodies at bargainous prices. Like I got this incredible jacket which managed to keep me warm even in the sub-zero temperature and protected me from the glacial winds. Just for 700 bucks. Deal of the year!

The road to Bum la is horrendous. I felt like the roads just kept getting worse and worse with each passing day. The sadistic universe must have been like, "Oh you survived that, let's throw something worse at you."

But then again, the universe must be bipolar. Cause it threw at us the most pristine of places which took out breaths away. Quite literally! There are numerous lakes en route. Good luck with counting them cause I lost my count.

I peeked at China's base camps through a spotting scope. Shared the army men's favourite snack with them. Learnt about their lives. Endured the agonizing icy winds with them for a while. And my most exciting moment -- Being in two countries at once! 

We returned to the same Army canteen at the Y-Junction for some more samosas. And then went to the famous Madhuri Lake or Sangetsar Tso Lake where the Movie Koyla was shot (Hence, the name Madhuri)

At an elevation of 16,500 ft, the lake has an interesting history. There used to be a village there until an earthquake created a water body which was barricaded by the Army to create the strikingly impressive lake. The lake was frozen with dry branches of trees erupting from it making it look pretty uniquely fantastic. The Army has put in a lot of effort to add to the charm of the place. We enjoyed ourselves with a little snow fight followed by some hot Maggie at the quaint army canteen with a mesmerising view of the frozen lake.

We returned to Tawang to pack our bags and catch a good nights' sleep before the exhausting yet enthralling return journey back to our regular lives. Until the next time! 


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