Monday, November 17, 2008

Trip report of Arunachal Pradesh

Trip report of Arunachal Pradesh

After reading the book “Himalayan blunder” by Brigadier John P Dhalvi translated to Kannada by my journalist friend Ravi Belegere my interest on Arunachal Pradesh and its landscape grew. After further reading and web browsing I have collected wealth of information on Arunachal Pradesh and its forests. Then I planned a solo trip to Arunachal Pradesh. My plan for the trip was to start from Tezpur, then to Sessa, Bomdi La, and to reach finally Tawang , Which is after 15000 feet altitude (Sela pass)

I reached the capital of Assam , Gouhati by king fisher Air lines from Bangalore which took almost 7 hours to reach Gouhati , then I took a cab to reach place called Nagoan where my friend Shivakumar lives and he is DFO of that place .The country side of Assam is beautiful and it is hard to believe the usual perception of Assam being a turbulent state, torn apart by ULFA etc, as reported widely in the press. in fact what I observed was that only the VIPs are having security threat, the common man is peaceful and contended , the majority bamboo thatched houses of Assam are having a minimum of one or two fish ponds , locally called as pisaadis and I was informed by my friend Shiva that these are the indicators of the economic status of a person during matrimonial alliance.

The road to Tezpur is having Sal and Teak plantations on either side .Khonuru and Ghamari timbers are widely hacked and transported in the state for domestic purpose, I really don’t know whether any government regulation are there in place . The flowers of Ghamari trees are used in country side as vegetables. After good dinner prepared by Mrs. Shiva we called it a day and this happened to be my last good food for next 9 days!!

Early in the morning I started towards Bhallukpong which is the foot hill town of the Arunachal Pradesh and here one has to get the in land permit to get in side the Arunachal Pradesh. thanks to Shiva and my other service mate Mahesh kumar shambu who served in Bomdi La and Tawang as DFO , they made all arrangement for me to get this permit but I don’t see any problem to get these permit even without any connection, as these are routine passes issued at entry points. From Bhallukpang,the west Kemang district starts. The ruins of the fort at Bhalukpong on the right bank of the river Bhareli is the home of the king Bhaluka , grandson of raja Bana , who was defeated according to purana by Krishna at Tezpur.

My first stop was Tipi orchid centre at Tipi .I was surprised to know that this orchidarium was developed by one kannadiga named Hegde who reside now in Bangalore. Though there was no much flowering I could see Dendrobium nobile, Dendrobium fimbriatum , Phelonopsis, Tipi buluboi (endemic), Acanthopippium( ground orchid) and another bamboo type orchid known as orundina graminifolia. There is one maali by name A.K. Sikia who is well informed about the orchids of this area .
Then I moved to another orchid nursery at Sessa here there are hybrids like Cymbidium Showgirl cookbridge,C,slandsunset etc. Another endemic plant of these hills which is being cultivated in this nursery is pitcher plant.

On the way it is vast stretches of tropical wet evergreen forests. shifting cultivation is very rampant as these are not under the Govt control, all these forests belongs to different tribal communities, the term used in the Govt for these forests is un classified state forests (USF) .I failed understand what is this unclassified state forests, even the local foresters also revealed that they hardly have any control over these forests. White crowned laughing thrush was found wallowing in all the streams that passed by on the way. I found big deployment of the Indian army as these areas are prone to china- India conflicts . These army men are one of the reasons for depletion of Galliformes of this region, besides road workers of BRO

When I reached Bomdi La which is at 9000 feet, the highest administrative centre of the country, it was around 8 pm the forests guest house was cozy, fitted with Bhukari that is local heating system which runs by combustion, the fire wood has to be fed once in 2to 3 hours .Use of these bhukaris has resulted in destruction of pine forest of the region, but in this freezing temperature they have to keep the place hot.

As I was worried about my dinner , the ranger was nagging me about the treatment of his bedridden wife in Bangalore , I gave advise to him about the best hospitals of Bangalore and assured him that I would take care of his logistics in Bangalore whenever he comes down to Bangalore for treatment. After all I had to be in his care for another 5 days! The whole town was in full festive mood .I enquired abut the festival, the ranger informed me that this was mopin festival of majority aadi tribes of this district and both DC and DFO belongs to this tribe and they were very busy in the festival and. The DFO sent his message like that to me, and I was least bothered to meet him as well.

The festival here means celebration for continuous one month, they congregate in one place of the town and there is flooding of the local brew called kala apung with the community feast of mithun’s meat, the dance and songs were in full swing. They are really fun loving guys. But the celebrations are tribe specific other tribes are not invited. Other tribes of the state do have their own festivals like lossar festival of monpas where the “chang” flows like water .These people doesn’t know about rice, curd for which I was craving! I ate whatever was given and rested

Morning I started my day early as the sun rises here at5 o clock. My plan of the day was to spend the next two days at Eagle nest sanctuary and lama camp and to look for the Ramana Atreys’s bugun leo sechla. on the way there is small town ship Tenga from here at about 15 km eagle nest sanctuary starts from the place called lamacamp .the goats of this region are different they have got pot belly and Chengis Khan beard and legs are very short may be adaptation for steep hilly terrain

In Tenga market as per my research I should look for one gentleman named Indi glow who runs nature camp at eagle nest, I went in search of him he resides in a modest house in Tenga market and belongs to bugun tribe, and is well known in this small town. His elder brother is local MLA, here MLA’s are like our members of local bodies the total vote Mr Glow got to become MLA was around 2500!. After meeting Glow, who was bed ridden because of an accident, I took the route to eagle nest, it was the old indo china war route, having lots of Indian army camps on the way , but the jawans of the camps were ignorant of the geography of the area as these personnel are shifted quite often. On the way Rhododendron and magnolias were in blooming. The moss clad trees were magnificent. birds encountered on the way included pale blue flycatcher, striated laughing thrush, grey headed canary flycatcher ,Kashmir nuthatch, white capped water redstart , black bulbul, Blyth’s pipit etc

At lama camp a pleasant surprise was waiting for me Mr Atreya who lives in Pune had come to eagle nest on that day, he was the first person to document the biodiversity of this area and identified and described for the first time to science the new bird bugun leo cichla , which is named after the tribes of this region with whose help the bird was identified . There are around 2000 individuals of this tribe in this valley, as per the popular belief the aakas of the Arunachal have climbed down using golden ladder from the heaven, and buguns have used the bamboo ladder. Hence they are the servants of aakas . These tribes construct their houses by using bamboo; they sacrifice Blyths Trogopan after construction of their houses, and smear the blood of this Trogopan to the main post of the house. The sago palm flour is still being used for their sustenance, kids get lion share of the meat of the birds and animals hunted by the elders. They preserve the dead bodies of the children in wooden boxes and hung them to branches of trees in the forests.

The bugun leo cichala is a good songster, and quite active in April, but I was unlucky. While in search of the bird I found a man with recording equipments in the jungle after nearing him he happened to be Mr Pratap singh of wild life institute , who is having largest collection of voice recording of Indian birds, it was a nice surprise for me what is important is the biodiversity of this area which brings many stalwarts to here, after a brief interaction with with Pratatap singhji I returned to camp. My assistant in the jungle was one boy named Bharat, whose mother was killed while working in BRO road maintenance, in a land slide. BRO is the only employer of these poor people here. Schools are there only in foot hill towns, it is very difficult for the tribal children to reach to such schools, and ultimately they go without education

After Eaglenest my journey was towards Tawang the womenfolk of this area are very hard working, as Verrier Elwin in his book “a philosophy for NEFA” said “this region of the earth is full of jumping kids, hard working women and frolicking men” the men are real parasites on their women, they just booze and frolic. The houses found on the way were all having double storey and made of wood and bamboo, flowers pots of different orchids, wild flowers were arranged in almost all houses, they love decoration.
Next halt was Dhirang valley there are many Buddhist monasteries in this area which is known for kiwi and apple farming and there is a lake in Dhirang where the Siberian black necked stork visits every year, local ranger told me that the number of birds visiting the lake has came down drastically, this season there were only two birds, they were gone when I was there. Locals calls them Tung-Tung . Few km from Dhirang , thre is war memorial of 1962 war from this place towards right a road leads to National Yak Research Centre of ICAR, at a place called Nimadung, yak is the lifeline of these people. Three coat fur of the animal is put into different uses, coarser upper coat for the tent making middle coat for rope making and finer inner coat for blanket making even the hide makes the sweater for these people. The milk and butter are used for making drink called “ja”.

My next halt was the freezing Sela pass this is the highest point of the journey, altitude is around 15500. There is a belief that this mountain was broken in to two parts here to make way for guru Padmasmbhava to reach Tawang Gompa. The lake on the way was frozen, sighted snow partridges but could not photograph as they were quite far. After Sela there is small town called Jung there are many waterfalls here .and this valley is having steep slope and is full of kind of bamboo which I could not identify.

When I reached Tawang it was around 7’30 pm whole town was in deep sleep, I had difficulty in finding the forest IB . the range officer Mr Bhaku was not available on phone , at last got the IB ,Taaru reeku was in charge of the guest house , in very strange attire, looking like villain in some detective novels , eerie environment was prevailing in the frozen night, scolding myself for this solo adventure I crawled in to my sleeping bag after eating few sweets which was forcibly stuffed in my rucksack by my wife while starting the trip, I thanked her immensely in my mind, here the food is very scarce and un attractive .

My morning was quite busy, got up early and was mesmerized by the beauty of the place it is like the Shangri-La of the John Hilton. Here is 350 year old Bhuddist Gompa and the region is inhabited by the beautiful tribes called Monpas who are Bhuddists. Terrace agriculture, yak and sheep breeding, carpet weaving are the main occupation of these people. They wear a peculiar cap, the gompa in the hillock is like a fort, the ceiling of the gompa has got art work which tells the story of the lord Bhudda. There I found lamas in red robes, every third child of the family ends up in this gompa to become lama. There is a old museum in the gompa, the main attraction of this is the a book called Getompa which is lettered in gold. The wooden boxes in the gompa are full of wardrobe which will be used in lama dance once in year for various characters.

The influence of Tibet and Bhutan is strongly marked in the Monpa textiles and ornaments, architecture, funeralrites. I heard from my friends served there that these tribes cut the dead bodies in to pieces and wash them in the tawang-chu and namang chu rivers .I visited sangesoor lake,PT su lake which were frozen the local guide told me that these lakes are very beautiful in winter as the ice melts and the rhododendrons around the lakes blooms with different hues and colours. I tried the JA tea at Tawang town which was terrible they mix tea leaves, salt, yak butter. After an awful dinner in the night I rested to get back in the morning to main land Tezpur an arduous journey of 14 hours to reach so called civilized society from tribal country. My mind was full of thoughts about these areas of the country the words of Jawaharlal Nehru were very opt in managing these areas who said “…we can not allow matters to drift in the tribal areas or not just taking interest in them. In the world of today that is not possible or desirable. At the same time we should avoid over administering these areas and, in particular, sending too many outsiders in to tribal territory. It is between these two extreme positions that we have to function.” I was back to tezpur at late night but frames of this God forbidden country were lingering in my mind, I made a resolution that I would visit this place again in next year to learn more and explore further.. And I suggests to all of you that give a try, you will enjoy the sheer loneliness in this wilderness..


Wildlifestyle said...

Nice trip report.
Your report and pics have made me more hunger to visit the Himalayan region.

Cheers looking more of such trips

Jayaram Jahgirdar

sudhi said...

Very neatly presented.. Happy to know there is one more person who has read " Himalayan Blunder"...

jayanth said...

made very nice reading, with all the details, i re lived ur trip, arunachal is the land where the first sunlight kisses the indian subcontinent. ur travelouge is very intresting and takes the reader to the pictursque landscape,
waiting for more on your wild visits

Hamadryad said...

Very informative entry, sir ...Reading this has my hunger to see the himalayan states gnaw harder...

ಬಾ.ರಾ. ಗೌರೀಶ್ ಕಪನಿ said...

Awesome picture and report too... All the best sir.