Tawang is a small hill station in the Himalayan mountains of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Situated at an altitude of 2,669 meters, it’s a place of chilling winters, the time when I visited the place. Just to add, one needs a government permit to cross the Arunachal border due to some security concerns.
I started the journey from Tejpur, a city in Assam, covering around 320 Km. to the north, taking more than 10 hours by road. I had read somewhere, “Journey matters more than the destination” and believe me, this journey actually made me fall in love with this quote.It brought me all that I sought to experience, be it the local food and the locally grown Kiwis, which were served at the road side dhabas or the breath taking views of the pristine mountains, river, waterfalls, etc. Though the journey was quite a long affair and at times felt painful because of the constant posture of sitting in a cramped up shared vehicle while moving through some really treacherous roads, it was indeed worth a while, especially because being a Delhite it has always been a meditation of a kind for me to witness nature in it’s purest forms. Oh ! I feel I just got carried away, but that’s the beauty of travelling. Isn’t it ? Just throwing yourself into a dreamy state yet experiencing it for real !
The landscapes in this road trip can be very well divided into a wide range from planes to the obviously gorgeous mountains to snow white terrains.
At the beginning, while crossing the planes of Assam I witnessed a beautiful morning sky and fresh cool breeze. A perfect start to a tiring day ahead !! Later while ascending on the mountains I witnessed some of the most pristine lush green mountains, a cool breeze, a perfect morning sunshine and the hypnotic fragrance of the forests, adding multiple cherries to a lavish cake ! Apart from a few halts and slow downs due to broken roads and the on going road constructions the journey was quite exciting, if not smooth. The highlight of this road trip has to be the snow caped mountains and the passage through Sella Pass, which is situated at around 14,000 ft. or 4170 meters. It bestowed me with an experience which I will not forget till my last breathe !
Honestly speaking, I still cannot make out if it was frightening or exciting. So, let me just elaborate and then you decide!
Believe me till now the journey seemed to be a child’s play but as it is popularly said “Picture toh abhi baaki hai mere dost”, the adventure begins now ! First, as I just said Sella Pass is at an altitude of around 14,000 ft. which clearly points that the Oxygen level is low there. Second,the road had a ditch on one side, so deep down that falling and living through it seemed impossible . Third, the road had become very slippery due to frost, which was causing the vehicle to drift towards the cliff and then came the fourth point, strong snowy winds which added to the excitment and finally the fifth… the driver of my vehicle seemed quite drunk , at least he did to me! Doesn’t that sound like a “Deadly Combination”Haha !…but the locals said that almost all these drivers on these roads drink some alcohol to ward of their fears of those treacherous roads and the chilling temperature and they are quite accustomed to it ….. Sigh of Relief ! Plus, I should commend the driver’s caliber that he still drove so well that I cannot drive like that, on that road even with 10 mugs of coffee in my gut ! After many tries to cross that slippery turn, the driver suddenly asked all of us to vacate the vehicle in order to lose some weight from it. Once I stepped out of that car I witnessed how strong those winds were and how difficult it was to breathe. It was so cold that I literally had to use my hanker chief to wrap my face so that I could breathe in some warm air ! It has been my scariest yet most adventurous experience till date ! So, what do you think about it ?Wanna go there ? (smirking).
There is a huge lake with the same name as the pass and it’s said that it has religious significance in Buddhism. But, I had to suffice with a distant view from my car’s seat because the lake was frozen and we didn’t have a scheduled halt there. Still, the very size of that lake amazed me !
After all the ‘Sella Pass Adventure’, passing by multiple small villages, with the sun going down behind the mountains, the road becoming pitch dark and tiny lights flickering in distant mountains, we started descending and ascending and descending again….the cycle actually went on and on till the time we finally reached our destination. When we reached the relatively small hill station of Tawang, we could not believe our eyes, because what we saw was just darkness. It seemed as if the town was abandoned. Reasons? Yes, the very quote, “Early to bed, early to rise”still holds very true at this place. But keeping all the dis beliefs aside what all we could think of was a plate full of hot meal to gorge on since we were very hungry and tired after an entire day of journey through some pretty rough roads! But since, we were among the only 3 groups staying in the hotel, with the 2 other groups been there at the time of scheduled dinner and the hotel staff not knowing the time and conditions of our arrival, they didn’t have a meal prepared for us. Great ! So, we were virtually in a situation where all the shops and restaurants were closed and the hotel’s kitchen was out of dinner supplies. Perks (pun intended) of being at a relatively isolated hill station where almost all the groceries arrive in the morning from the lands at lower altitudes. But then, the hotel cook was very greeting and generous enough to served us with hot and spicy Maggie noodles with nominal amount of veggies added to it . Believe me, it tasted heavenly !!
The next morning we received a very unfortunate news that all the roads to almost all the nearby tourist spots were blocked due to heavy snowfalls, though we could manage to visit a few local sites like the Tawang Monastery (India’s largest Monastery and Asia’s second largest), the birth place of the holy 6th Dalai Lama and the war memorial. Since, we couldn’t visit majority of the sites, we had to return after a 2 nights’ stay, though with some great memories to cherish for a lifetime ! Oh ! I missed out to mention a local specialty, “Butter Tea”, which you must try if you visit the place ! I will like to end this long story with a small suggestion. If you are looking forward to a calm stay among the pristine mountains visit the place during either spring or summer and if you are a person with a young and strong heart, travel during winters. Long story short, whenever you go you will witness something you did never before. That’s the ‘Magic’ of this place !