Pictures, GPS tracks, stories are online!

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

Readers : My apologies (haven’t I done this many times already?) for the delay in posting this. I’ve turned very lazy of late and have become a habitual procastinator(if there is such a word), which explains the delay.

I know that many you are waiting to see the pictures. I have put together a map of our entire tour. The whole tour, plotted on satellite imagery, can be accessed by clicking here. I highly recommend this interface (after all, I wrote/integrated many parts in it ;-) ), since it will let you see the entire tour in perspective. All the pictures of the tour are accessible from the map, and they are tied to the places where they were taken. I believe this helps keep the tour in perspective. Also, links to the stories for many days of the tour are accessible through the map, and this makes for good reading, IMHO. If you find the maps interface too constraining or slow, and want to have a look at just the pictures, then please feel free to look at the Gallery.

I think that, overall, we did only about 1200 kms of cycling. Effectively(look at the map), we only cycled from Agartala to Dimapur, from Tinsukia to Pasighat, and from Bomdilla to Tezpur. The most we cycled in a single day was about a 110 kms (Tinsukia to Miao). Pretty less compared to my other three trips(and KP’s trips too), but it must be remembered that most of the roads were bad and much of the route passed through hilly terrain. Also, biking in the night wasn’t possible and the choice of places to stay and eat were severly restricted. We had all sorts of adventure, and we relished most days - that’s what probably counts…

We pack off the bikes [2nd Jan 07]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

KP: Reached Siliiguri at 6am. I had an idea to check in the railway station to see if we could book our cycles to bangalore. We had went to NJP station and booked our cycles.. (as on 24th we still don’t know where they are.. I have not checked for more than 10 days now). Took a bus to Baghdogra got dropped at the airforce base so we had to take a cycle rickshaw to the aiport and only reached calcutta by 6. The next day morning we took the flight to bangalore and were home for lunch.

Bhalukpong to Tezpur [1st Jan 07]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

This ride was a 60 km yawn! We had to stop twice to wait for the rain to subside. Nothing to write about this, except that my bike’s crank also got worn, just as we reached Mission Charali, 5 kms away from Tezpur. After this, we took the 2:30 bus to Siliguri…

KP writes:The room at Upper Bhalukpong was clean and we watched star wars the previous night. The next morning we started seeing a Jim Carrey movie before we started towards Tezpur. A few kms later it was raining and we had to stop for half hour. We started and stopped again for another 40 mins. The rest of the journey was flat and after we crossed the (add name) tiger park downright boring. Shree also took a boredom stop.

One more thing that happend was that now, on the last day of the trip shree’s cycle got cranky .Yep it was the same bloody problem that my cycle had.

We reached tezpur just after noon and booked ourselves the last seats on the bus to Siliguri. We also decided to take the cycle to Siliguri and see if we could get to transport the cycles to bangalore.

Until nightfall the bus was a local transport too..

Bomdilla to Bhalukpong [31st Dec 06]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

A very good, tiring day’s ride. We had to do some emergency repairs for the bikes. My brakes weren’t working and the first 20 kilometers of the journey was supposed to be completely downhill. So I had no option but to repair them. KP’s gears weren’t shifting and he was trying to set them right. We left Bomdilla at 7 AM. We intended to reach Bhalukpong (about 100kms away) by evening.

Mighty Descent to TengaKP in action

The downhill ride left me with pain in the hands. We were constantly on the brakes. And you know how much more pressure the hands need to apply if the brakes are bad. Tea in Tenga and we proceeded towards Naga Mandir. The road till Naga Mandir had slight inclines and many flats.

The real fun was after breakfast(which we had at Naga Mandir). There was a 12 km climb to Nechi-Phu (Zero Point) and we took two and a half hours for it! KP’s cycle wasn’t shifting to the lowest gears, and so he had to keep the gear wire pulled to keep the bike in the lowest gear! The weather was cloudy and that made proceedings slightly dull. We were ecstatic on reaching the top, and for good reason - the toughest climb of the tour was behind us! Out of the 12 kms, the last 3 kms were only sligh inclines. And in the remaining 9 kms, we had climbed about 1000 meters. That’s an average gradient of 10%. The climb was really hard and we were forced to get down and push our cycles in a couple of places.

Tiring 12 km uphillMother of all gear changesFarewell, Truck Driver!Nechi-phu : Done at lastWater fall

After Nechi-Phu, the climb was downhill for a large part of the remaining ride. The last 10 kms to Bhalukpong tired me out - I was slightly bored by the day’s proceedings and was only happy to reach Bhalukpong without lights!

KP’s side of the story:What a ride, zoom zoom down we go and the rolling hills and then puff puff to Zero point a.k.a Nachiphu. I had to pull the deralieur cable to shift to low gear to climb, some places no gear ratio would help so we would push the bike. Get chilled on ride for I was sweating and it was misty. Beautiful forests and rivers. I think having cycled I will never be able enjoy mountains in a car. Too much obstruction and speed. Huff and puff is the way for me I think haha. I’m still happy that I was able to use the low gear on my bike.

During a nice mountain cycle ride, the amount of things that happen to talk of is much lesser. There is a lot of time for you to think about stuff or just let your mind wander. Spend time trying to see yonder and getting there. On touch climbs mind goes almost blank to a state where you just listen to the breath you take, when you look up you have that lush mountains ahead of you and the light playing magic. These are the moments which you don’t want to get out of. Then your legs start burning and you stop and sit down take deep breaths drink water and when you lift your head up a smile comes up on the face for no particular reason. I was just plain happy. I think the mountains to that to me. They take my breath away and leave me happy.

haha.. I stop.

Sumo to Bomdilla [30th Dec 06]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

Early morning, We left for Bomdilla in a Sumo. Our idea was to cycle from Bomdilla to Tezpur and then take a bus to reach Siliguri. I was itching for some action from Bomdilla.
Military Convoy blocks the Sela PassMisty Sela Pass

KP:This ride was much better(Shree:compared to the earlier Sumo ride). The driver was a local and a good one to. Not to mention a nice guy. We enjoyed the ride. I got to meet a Ani(a female buddist monk) was nice to see her, so calm and composed quite and she reminded me so much of a good canadian friend of mine. She woudn’t eat any lunch so I gave her some biscuits which she accepted.Two other girls in the sumo also tried to talk her into eating lunch but she was firm. I think that would be perhaps the most memoreble face for me in this trip. I have fortunately or not no photos of her.

Shree:We were again delayed by heavy snow in the Sela pass, and ended up reaching Bomdilla only at 3 PM in the afternoon. We had hoped that we could have cycled till a place called Tenga (about 24 kms away), but we had to ditch these plans due to the delay. So we booked a room in Bomdilla and stayed at “Yatri Nivas” - very neat & clean place!

Tawang [29th Dec 06]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

Today was dedicated to sightseeing and shopping. We woke up to notice that the water supply had stopped. It had snowed during the night, and the water had frozen in the tubes! So we had to make do with whatever the lodge maintainer provided.

The day’s weather was ideal for sightseeing. Unfortunately, I had a fever and probably didn’t enjoy the day as much as I could have otherwise. We walked around Tawang and visited two places of interest - the Tawang Monastery & the 1962 War Memorial.

KP: Ah a beautiful place. Want to go there again and stay a few more days. Best described in pictures..

Town SquarePrayer WheelsSurrounded by Icy MountainsMountain, Town and RiderMonastery and the MountainTawang kid-monkKung-fu!
War MemorialTawang MonasteryTale of Snow, Chains and Rocks

Tezpur to Tawang on Sumo[28th Dec 06]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

Shree’s Summary: Our Sumo left Tezpur at 6 AM and reached Tawang at 9:30 PM - after covering a distance of 320 kms! The ride was pretty good since, for about 260 kms of that journey, we were driving through the mountains. The high point of the journey was Sela Pass, at an altitude of 4125 meters above sea level. We were delayed due to heavy snow in the Sela pass. At a couple of places, the vehicle was skidding on the snow. So we had to get down and push the Sumo!

New Age ObelixBhalukpong check gateSumo to TawangLife is a blur...Snow everywhereBird in the snow

Full story (courtesy KP):
We met a couple of cycle rickshaw guys at the bandstand who generally tried to get us into a hotel after a few tries we gave that idea up and decided to wait to catch a sumo to twang. We also decided that we would take a chance with our 22 Assam rifles letter instead of spending half a day to get it and loose a full day. After a long wait we finally started for twang at 6:30.

When we reached the border of arunachal , the driver stopped the sumo for inspection. The inspector came down and asked for our pass, I got down and asked shree for the famous letter. When shree got down the inspector shifted his attention to other passengers and went away. The driver was surprised and I think a bit disappointed that we did not have any trouble crossing border. I was reminded of the argument shree and I had about this ILP business on our way to Mio. Anyway we soon got onto mountains and I was busy enjoying the views as best as I could in the crowded sumo. They were good, It 12:30 by the time we reached Bomdilla. We stopped for lunch around 2. From here we could see snow on the hills above and soon we saw plenty of snow.

The driver was worried about the road condition ahead and kept asking about it from all the drivers coming from the other side. We were stopped at a place called Baisaki (an Army camp full of sikh soldiers). We were told to return and try to cross sela pass (4100mts) the next day for the road was iced up and was considered unpassable. The army was in no mood to bail out vehicles with stupid a.k.a daring drivers when the got stuck in the snow.

After a few mins of talking to the army people on of the drivers of the convoy decided he had enough of it and rode through the barrier. The army really got pissed put and they directed their anger to the next guy who looked like someone who would try funny tickes. Guess who that was? the driver or our Car!! he got a nice punjabi slap and got his sweater torn. For a few mins our man was shit scared it was only after a while he gathered his wits and went back to fight for his sweater. Not to mention his state getting insulted infront of us.

I was perhaps not a very good thing, but I was lauging. I was tired of that guy constanty chatting, bad talking , making losy jokes and constantly smoking.

It was a hour before we were finally allowed to pass. Everyone in the car except shree and I were patting their backs for convincing the army to let them go. About a km later we promptly got stuck in ice. There was a scorpio up ahead which was stuck and our sumo had to stop on ice and so started the fun. It was another good hour before we were moving again thanks to all people except I pushing the vehicle. I was too pissed at the driver to offer any kind of help. A while after we started shree also go tired of the driver and gave him a piece of his mind. The driver got angry and stopped. I had to act the good guy and asked shree and the driver to stop talking.

The rest of the trip passed in silence. We had called up to a hotel and soon as we reached the hotel we ate and slept.

PS: Three of us shared a room in Tawang (third guy being Hussain from Assam; he was a co-passenger in the Sumo).

Mebo to Pasighat [27th Dec 06]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

We had to cross two more rivers to reach Pasighat.

KP: The evening before we could see the lights of pasighat from mebo so we knew that we were not that far off. We had a nice morning downhill ride until we camup on a river crossing. The river looked really pretty with the hills as background. We also got to talk to some locals on the boat. By 10:30 We were at pasighat, we booked our tickets to Mission Charali (charali means intersection of four roads) which is just outside of Tezpur. The bus started around 12:30 laiden with oranges and our cycles. This was our second bus trip. I was with mixed feelings that day, On one hand looking forwared to the trip to tawang and on the other having been slightly sad that we not be able to go to Along , Daporizo and take the high mountain road to Bomdilla. I’ve told myself that that will be for another day. Along with a trip to Vijayanagar from namdhapa and perhaps a trans himalayan trip. Shree is perhaps going to make it a reality much sooner than I am I think. Lets see.. haha.

River crossingFancy a ride on these pink rocks?Dry-putra25 crores for this 480m bridgeBridge under constructionLook at his swordMore river crossingShree struggles

Shree: We had agreed that we would be transporting ourselves till Tawang and ride back to Tezpur from Bomdilla. We had only six days more to reach Siliguri. Both of us had a big desire to see Tawang, and transportation was the only means by which we could reach it.

The bus agent at Pasighat said that our best option would be to take the 12 PM bus to Mission Charali. Mission Charali is a cross before Tezpur and from Tezpur we had an option to take either a Sumo or Bus till Tawang. We took his advice and reached Mission Charali at 1:30 PM in the night. We cycled till Tezpur, a distance of about 5 kms. We had to stop at a intersection not sure which way to go. We stopped a car which screeched to halt for us to find a drunken party of two which included a journalist who offered us help and gave us his phone number, they also told us the route to the bus stand.

Roing to Mebo [26th Dec 06]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

The localites had estimated that Pasighat would be about a 100 kms from Roing. There were a few river crossings on the way, and a lot of sandy tracks.
The road not taken...BlueWe hate crossing this riverStruggles
We started off at 6:15, hoping to reach Pasighat before evening. The first ten kilometers of so, we had a reasonably good road. Then started the rivers. Kilometers of rock and rock. The first big river we had to cross, we got lost. It took a long two and a half hours to cross that mighty river! Do you know that it was 11 AM when we had breakfast at Bomjir ?
Sixty Kilometers to goChained Pachyderms are all you get to see
After Bomjir, we had a seventeen kilometer ride to Dambuk - all at a small uphill slope. I had hoped for a cup of tea atleast at Dambuk (it was being mentioned in the milestones, afterall!), but all we saw was a few houses. We were wise enough to refill our water bottles at a house. A few kilometers after Dambuk, NH52 turned into a stoneway. There was a fork in the road at precisely that point, and I chose the road going straight. A few kilometers later I was doubtful. There was no one to talk to on the road to ask for directions. I was cursing myself at this point for choosing the wrong deviation. KP suggested that we continue for a couple of kilometers atleast. Luckily, he was correct. We soon met a motorcycle and they told us that we were on the right track. They also told us that another river was coming (as if we hadn’t realised it already!) and that there was a bridge on the river that we better not miss. We were supposed to take a left turn at some point.

We chugged on, but never encountered the deviation. Instead, we were confronted by sand and rock. Luckily for us atleast, I spotted the bridge and we just cut our way on the sand and rock, unmindful of the hardship. KP was getting a bit unconfortable - he had expected to ride on bad roads, but not as worse as this. He wasn’t enjoying it all - neither was I, but I was willing to continue on the planned route, irrespective of the hurdles. But KP was suggesting that we transport ourselves to a better location. This didn’t go down very well with me, but at the same time, I was thinking that it was a bigger goal to stick together…

The road was bad even after the river bed was finished. The gears on KP’s cycle weren’t shifting, and it was awful to push the bikes. Meanwhile, a motorcycle caught up with us and the rider smiled us at. He introduced himself as Tora Bora (Tony Blair, if we had difficulty pronouncing it), the person from whose house we had filled up water! He insisted that we chat with him for some time, and we did. Our misery of pushing the bikes ended at a small village called Awhali, after which NH52 resumed its lost glory.

The road after this was good all the way till Mebo. One fascinating thing I noticed was the bridges constructed on the highway. I noticed plenty of large span bridges, and the real thing to note was that the rivers were large and the river bed was slanted. During monsoon, definitely water will gush down these slopes at a terrific pace! We reach Mebo at 6 PM after riding in the dark for an hour or so. We got a room at the IB in Mebo and food was supplied to our room, so one more day gone.

This was a tiring day, but not as bad as the ride to Roing…

Paya to Roing [25th Dec 06]

January 24th, 2007 by Shree

The day we suffered the most also turned out to be the day we travelled the least. We wanted to go end up in Pasighat today, but could make it only till Roing. And we did only 50 odd kilometers to reach there. [In hindsight, a combination of non-existent roads and river crossings ensure that this day ranks as the most adventurous day of the tour.]

With only limited days to go, we had figured that our goal to reach Bomdilla could be accomplished only if we could reach Pasighat today. There are two roads from Paya to Pasighat - one crosses over to Assam and comes back to Arunachal. The other keeps a traveller in Arunachal all the time. We decided to take the latter we took for one simple reason - Inner Line Permits. The idea of the permit is to restrict entry into Arunachal. Once you are in, nobody asks for the permit (except lodges). Arunachal police is very strict about permits at the borders, so crossing back from Assam to Arunachal was out of question. We didn’t have a permit and had no other option but to stay in Arunachal.

Paya IB

The road we needed to take was a road passing through the jungle. On the road to Tezu, we were instructed to take the first left. We reached the junction after riding for half an hour or so. But we weren’t sure of the road since there was no tar on the deviation part. We kept hearing some far off sounds and hoped that somebody would pass by, so that we could be sure of the road. Waiting for a few minutes didn’t yield any results, and KP seemed pretty sure of the deviation, so we took the plunge.

The road was in a half made state - in the sense that it was more of a mud/sand track. It seemed to be used sparingly, but the very fact that there were jeep tyre marks gave us hope. Sometime back, we saw an unpainted milestone and this made us surer that we were on the right track. This assurance was important, since there was only the jungle on both sides of the road, and I wasn’t in any mood to take too many chances. The sandy road offered a soft riding experience, but I was sure that we were spending more energy and travelling less for that effort.

A few kilometers later, KP looked at the GPS. The GPS seemed to indicate a few river crossings. I was a bit apprehensive of rivers since I reckoned that a sufficiently strong river would have ruined our chances of crossing. And seeing the amount of traffic on this road, I was sure that the chances of getting a boatman were next to nill. KP wasn’t wrong and soon we had to cross a sizable stream. As we finished crossing, two fellows on their cycles crossed over too. Sighting people made us happy - for people meant information and any information in this desolate place was much welcome!

Struggle on sandRoad gives no respiteIcy MountainsWith LocalsI hate changing shoes

Naturally, we asked these folks about the route to Roing. One of them told KP to take the next left turn, which would be a shortcut to reach Kornu Ghat. And then they went off. The next deviation we faced didn’t look like a deviation at all. And we soon saw the cyclists again. We had missed the shortcut. The cyclists were carrying water from the stream to a nearby village(two cans of 50 liters each I think). A few kilometers after a nearby village, the road ended - road construction was in progress. So we had to take a small deviation to enter Bhismaknagar. This village has some archaeological relics of importance. But there were no instructions on how to go there, and we were running short of time also. So we continued on the trail (there was no road from now on).

The trail was nice for some time. It wasn’t long before it turned bad. Looked as if only rugged vehicles like jeeps and lorries pass through these roads. The occasional uprooted banana plants and dung pointed, obviously, to the presence of elephants. We met a few villagers who told us to continue on the track. Soon, the track was covered by grass all around - starting signs of (what else?) rivers! The few streams we crossed here were wide and quite rocky. At one of the streams, we spent quite some time trying to find the continuation of the track. We hadn’t had breakfast too. We took solace in some biscuits which we had. The occasional forks in the road only helped to increase our confusion, but thankfully we were right on track. The last segment of the road (before Kornu) was still a jeep track. KP had a minor fall, but was unhurt. Sometime later, we sensed that we were close to a village. A crowd had gathered. That had us wondering about what it was all about. It was Christmas day, and Christmas celebrations seemed like the right answer. A lady teacher, who was passing by, told us that it was actually a Public Picnic! A girl nearby was carrying a small bag full of oranges, and KP couldn’t resist asking where he could get those from! The lady gave us an orange each - and we were very thankful for that. It was about noon at this time, and we desperately searched for a hotel. Bad luck - the lone hotel was closed. A group of boys sitting by the hotel invited us to the christmas feast. I didn’t fancy that they would have much of vegetarian stuff. We ate a lot of junk food at a nearby shop, but nothing filling!

With half filled stomachs and wishing for food, we started riding towards Roing, about 20 kms away. Again there was a wretched river crossing. To compound my woes, all the top screws on my bag mount had fallen away. We took some time to adjust the nuts and then proceeded. It didn’t take much time for the road to get better, but we were exhausted by the time we reached Roing. There was no nearby place where we could stay on the road to Pasighat, so we were forced to stop at Roing. As soon as we reached Roing, I rushed off to eat! I had to make do with a lot of poories and samosas. We called Mr Sankaran, who tried to get us a room in the circuit house. Since the circuit house was full, we had to settle for a hotel room.

We went around roaming in the bazaar, searching for replacements for the nuts that had fallen off. KP purchased a bulb holder extender. This, we believed, would come in handy in places where electricity means only bulbs. Shops close here at 6 PM. Luckily, a hotel was open and we had something to eat for dinner(!). Back in the hotel, we got hot water. Wasn’t it soothing! didn’t know when I fell off, dozing…

NOTE — This was the most difficult day of the tour!