May 1, 2011

51 My Bike Trip To Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh [Travelogue & Photos]

Travelogue of my first major bike trip.. along with Photos

In the previous post I had mentioned the chain of events which made me take this bike trip. There were a total of 7 members in the group, 5 (including myself) of us were travelling from different locations of India to Guwahati and were transporting our bikes as well.



The original plan:

The original plan was actually a 13 day long itinerary covering "Guwahati - Bhutan (Via Phuentsholing) - Arunachal Pradesh (via Tawang) - Back to Guwahati"..!!

Unfortunately our bikes did not arrive in time and therefore the trip had to be replanned. During the first 6 days, my friends visited Bhutan by Car and then the last 6 days were kept aside for the bike trip to Arunachal Pradesh (by then our bikes had arrived).

I decided to give the trip to Bhutan by car a miss and joined them for the bike trip to Arunachal Pradesh with Tawang as the destination. Even though my bike (Pulsar 220) had made it to Guwahati, I decided to take a 2003 vintage Pulsar 150 (single spark plug) instead for the trip which was arranged by my friend Nilutpal Hazarika.

Nilutpal is also the guy who is responsible for co-ordinating and organizing this trip and making this memorable journey a reality.


The Band of Bikers:



From left - 1. Diptinder Singh Chabra "Kenny" (Bullet Electra 4S), 2. Mrinaljit Dutta (Avenger 200), 3. Nilutpal Hazarika (Pulsar 200), 4. Satadal Payeng (Pulsar 150), 5. Gyanath Moshari (Karizma), 6. Mrinal Doley (Classic 500) 7. Ajit Kumar Bramha (R15)

Except Kenny, the other 6 guys are natives of Assam, out of which 4 (Mrinaljit Dutta, Mrinal Doley, Gyanath and myself) are currently based in different parts of India. Mr. Ajit Brahma who joined us on this trip on a Yamaha R15 happens to be the Uncle of Gyanath.

The Itinerary:


Image courtesy GoogleMaps




Day 1: (Guwahati to Bhalukpong - 254 kms)

The trip started at Guwahati, 6 AM on April 16'th. I had ridden with Kenny and Nilutpal earlier but not with rest of the guys. But only after 10 minutes of riding with this new group, I could make out that the group dynamics were perfect. The riding speed, the stops, looking out for each other etc. everything was coming naturally and the group was gelling well. I was delighted that this was definitely going to be an enjoyable experience for me.

Day 1, Highlight:

Realization that "How Green is my (Assam) Valley"

Having grown up in Assam, the trip from Guwahati to Bhalukpong was nothing new for at least the 6 Assamese guys in the group. The roads were familiar, the people were familiar and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. But to Kenny, Assam appeared to be so Green..!!

Kenny in fact asked us "In which part of the year is the greenery maximum?" In retrospect, as I was growing up in Assam, I never felt that there was anytime of the year when the greenery could be less. In fact every the other guy in the group echoed similar sentiments. My valley (Assam) remains evergreen throughout the year..!!


"Smooth highway between Guwahati - Tezpur (Assam).."


"One of the Tea Gardens.."


"How Green is my (Assam) Valley..!!"


"Road deteriorates about just before Bhalukpong.."

We reached Bhalukpong at around 5 PM. We could have reached there earlier, but we had a stop of around 2-3 hours in Tezpur, during which we had lunch and I changed the rear tyre on my bike.

Bhalukpong is a small town which is situated in the Arunachal Pradesh side of Assam-Arunachal border. One has to show "Inner Line Permits" at the military checkpoint to enter Arunachal. These were arranged by Nilutpal for us before the start of the journey.

There are not many hotels/accomodations in Bhalukpong town as it is basically a small town. We went to a resort called "Solu Resort" which had been booked in advance by Nilutpal (who else?).

And that's pretty much how the Day 1 ended.







Day 2: (Bhalukpong to Dirang - 152 Kms)

Day 2 started at 10 AM. Just as we left the town of Bhalukpong, we were greeted with off road trails and slippery slush. At that point I thought that the rest of the journey would be of similar kinds of roads. But after 20 odd Kms, as we started the ascent, tarmac roads appeared (to my disappointment). We reached Tenga a small town at around 12.30 PM. Bomdila was another 20 odd kms from there.

Day 2, Highlight:

The sumptuous lunch at a nameless dhaba 10 kms from Bomdila..!!

We had lunch at a small nameless dhaba/restaurant some 10 kms after crossing Bomdila. The food that we had there was simply the best that we had in Arunachal Pradesh during the entire trip. During the return journey we actually made it a point to have lunch at that same place..!!

Bomdila is situated at a slight altitude and the air around that place was definitely colder than at Bhalukpong or Tenga Valley. After lunch we started the descent from Bomdila to Dirang, a town which is at a lower altitude and situated some 40 odd kms from the place where we had our lunch.




"Arunachal Pradesh..!! Yeah Baby.."


"Slippery slush.."


"Dusty trails.."


"Surprising smooth twisties.."


"Butt break at scenic Tenga Valley.."


"WTF..?!?"


"Entrance to Bomdila.."


"Prayer flags.."


"Solitary Err.. reaper?"


"The unnamed dhaba where the food was awesome.."


"Wild Horses.."


"Never ending road construction.."


"The longer the destination, the merrier.."


To my delight, the roads started to become off road trails once again. It was actually a welcome change for me as it did not allow me to get drowsy after the relatively heavy lunch..!!

We reached our resort in Dirang at around 6 PM and that’s how the ride for the second day ended.



Day 3: (Dirang to Tawang - 143 Kms)

I was quite excited at the start of Day 3 as we were supposed to cross Sela Pass (the highest point of our trip) and we got the news that there was snow there. So far I had never experienced snow and this was going to be my first experience.

Sela was some 65-70 kms from Dirang. We started at around 9 AM, the drop in temperature could be felt as we started our climb towards Sela Pass. We had breakfast a an Army run cafeteria some 20 kms from Sela. It was difficult controlling my excitement as from there the snow capped mountains were clearly visible.

Day 3, Highlight:

Snow at Sela Pass..!!

We resumed the ride; we soon were riding among the clouds..!! The Sun was no longer visible amidst the thick fog which engulfed the broken roads. Our ascent was slow and steady. And then all of a sudden there we were on the Sela Pass. And yes, to my joy there was snow there. It was a memorable moment for me.



"Resort at Dirang.."


"Yak.. Yak.."


"Breakfast at an army run cafeteria.."


"Ride in the clouds..!!"


"Sela Pass, Start of Tawang District.."


"Snow..!!"


"I finally get to experience snow..!!"


"The "High" point of the journey.."


"Beautiful.."


"Breathtaking.."


"Pay your homage at Jaswantgarh.."


"..a quick snack with the army guys"


"Jung Waterfall.."


"It was very cold.. but it was worth it..!!"


After spending around 30 mins on the Sela Pass, we resumed our journey. The next 20 kms was the most scenic part of the journey. We were riding among mountains partly covered with snow. I have never visited Kashmir but I could now visualize how it would be.

We reached Jaswantgarh, which has been named after a "Param Vir Chakra" decorated Martyr who laid down his life in the 1962 war. We paid our homage by visiting the war memorial and then resumed our descent towards a small town called Jung.

We had our lunch there and then went to see the Jung Waterfall. Nilutpal, Kenny, Mrinal Doley and myself couldn’t stop ourselves and decided to get a splash bath by the foot of the waterfall..!!

Tawang was around 40 kms away and just as we resumed our journey, it started raining. I was cursing myself to have not brought a rain suit. My DSG Maze jacket with mesh construction is definitely not made for riding in the rain. It was getting dark and therefore we had no choice but to resume the rest of the trip.

It must have taken around 3 hours of riding in the rain to reach Tawang and by the time we checked in our rooms, I was shivering badly as I was nearly drenched. We quickly changed into dry clothes and went to bed real exhausted.




Day 4: (Rest Day at Tawang)

Day 4 was reserved for taking it easy and if possible visiting a couple of places around Tawang. We got to know that Madhuri Lake and P.T. Tso Lake are popular tourist spots around Tawang. By the time we were back on our bikes, we realized that it was a bit late to visit Madhuri lake, therefore we decided to visit the relatively nearby P.T. Tso lake instead. But as luck would have it, Gyan’s Karizma broke down and refused to start. We took it to a local garage to find out that it was due to a loose electrical connection.

Day 4, Highlight:

Couldn’t get around Tawang yet no regrets..!!

After getting Gyan’s bike sorted we decided to have lunch at a local restaurant and then head towards P.T. Tso lake. But it seemed that lady luck was definitely not with us that day as the route to P.T. Tso lake (which is under a military area) was closed to the normal public as there had been a helicopter crash (carrying tourists) at Tawang just as were on our way to the lake.

The rest of the guys decided to call it a day and went back to the resort that we were staying. I along with Mr. Ajit Brahma (the R15 guy and Gyan’s uncle) decided to visit the famous Tawang Monastery.

As we returned back to the resort, I saw that the entire Tawang Town wore a deserted look with all the shops and market place shut. They were mourning for the victims of the helicopter crash which had taken place just a couple of hours back.

We went early to bed quite early that night in preparation of a long day of riding for the next day.



"Tawang Monastery & the Tawang Town.."


"Checking out the locals.."


"..and the local pooches"


"Visit to the Tawang Monastery.."


"Tawang Monastery, the largest outside Tibet.."


"A young monk.."

"He wasn't shooing us away.."


"..just wanted to show us the giant prayer wheels"





Day 5: (Return from Tawang to Bhakukpong - 284 kms)

Till now we all were riding at a lesuirely pace. After we had entered Arunachal Pradesh, were just covering 140 odd kms in about 7 hours of riding in the hills. But on Day 5 we had decided to cover the distance from Tawang to Bhalukpong in a single day. i.e we had to ride for an estimated 14-15 hours in a single day..!!

We started the ride at 5 AM. Luckily there were no rains and we rode as briskly as we could on the hilly roads. Unlike the other days, butt breaks were kept to minimum (except for the pee stops). We had decided that there won’t be any photo sessions either. But I did manage to click a few on our return journey.

After we crossed Sela pass we were somewhat confident that we were making good time. The snow on Sela Pass was thicker on our return journey indicating that there had been fresh snowfall after we had crossed it on day 3. We continued with our descent and managed to reach the unnamed dhaba/restaurant near Bomdila by 12.30 PM. By then we had nearly covered 50% of our return journey. We did lose some time as Mr. Ajit’s R15 suffered a flat rear tyre (he had been riding with a tube as the rim had earlier bent on a pothole impact) just as he was about to reach the scheduled meeting point.

Day 5, Highlight:

The physically draining last 20 kms ride in the slush

As pre decided, we had launch at that unnamed restaurant. After lunch I took a power nap of around 10-15 minutes, which was really rejuvenating. We resumed our trip at 2 PM.

One highlight of the return journey was the ride at a stretch on which the fog becomes so dense that the visibility is just about 10 meters. We must have ridden for an hour in this heavy fog.



"Early Start.."


"Fresh Snowfall at Sela Pass.."


"Live free.."


"Welcome back bad roads.."


"Visibility 10 meters..!!"


The sun had set when we were about 20 kms away from Bhalukpong, it was a moonless night and the roads were illuminated with nothing but the light from our bike’s headlamps. Also the roads were entirely covered with slippery slush thanks to the rains. Riding in the slippery surface with limited visibility of the road ahead was making things very very difficult for us.

Till then I had enjoyed riding over bad terrain but the last 20 kms of Day 5 was physically too much draining. Both my wrists and arms were starting to ache. At one slippery patch my bike went out of balance and I did not have the energy to stabilize it, I just had to let the bike fall gently on the ground along with me as well.

We somehow managed to ride through the last 20 kms of slush and reached our resort at Bhakulpong at around 8 PM, 15 hours after we had started our journey..!! At 9 PM we hit the bed, dead tired.







Day 6: (Return from Bhalukpong to Guwahati - 254 Kms)

Even though we had to cover around 250 Kms from Bhalukpong to Guwahati on the last day, we knew that we would be riding on proper laid out National Highways. Therefore we started the ride for the last stretch of the trip at a leisurely 2 PM.

As expected, the ride back to Guwahati was without any hiccups. We reached Guwahati at 10 PM in the night.



Summing up

Even though we could not go sightseeing in Tawang (our destination), I realized that "it is the journey that is more important and not the destination".

I had read about this saying before but looking back at the memories of the trip that I will forever cherish, I truly believe in it as well.







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Disclaimer:

This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.






51 Comments:

Siddharth Soni said...

Enticing. Beautiful. Breathtaking! :)

Akash said...

Man u had a lot more fun than I did. I went with my family on the Helicopter previous year. It was a unique ride though.

I hope to go on a similar bike trip after I join job and start earning in July 2011.
I envy u bro!

Subhankar said...

Aweeesome trip-log Payeng bro. I, for once, want to go on a long trip like this in my life. Lets see if that day even comes or not.

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

Thanks guys :-)

Anonymous said...

Awesome, I just felt like iam travelling along with you guys. Its really superb narration and the photographs are amazing. Thanks payeng for sharing such a wonderful journey with us. I am just loving this website. All the way from starting, the narration and visuals were tooo good. Dirty roads, Ice mountains and specially 13,700 feet altitude..amazing trip. Thanks again for sharing!

Sajal said...

As you summed it up... it's always about the journey and not about the destination and above all, it's the camaraderie in motion which make such trips so memorable.

Your unfathomable joy about this trip oozes out of every word of this trip log!! So refreshing to read and watch :)

Rohit Tendolkar said...

Did u see Dorji Khandu somewhere there?

Sankoobaba said...

this is the most awesome thing..
first the post and pics are so well done..it looks like a documentary ..
and secondly..doing the ride..on that challenging/dangerous route and enjoying it..just great..

hats off...

i dream of such a bike ride..
a distant dream..but dream nevertheless

Anonymous said...

how did yamaha r15 performed right through the trip

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

Thanks again guys.

@above, the R15 is in its elements on smooth roads.. but is a fish out of water on bad terrain.

The R15 is not the most ideal bike for touring hills, the R15 rider had to rub "Volini" on his wrists/arms neary every night. It's punishing on the wrists/arms especially when riding downhill that too over bad roads.

sudhir said...

awesome!!! this is the best motorcycle blog of India.

kudos!

boon said...

My birth place...I hope you have enjoyed the ride...

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

@boon,

it was a memorable experience.. will cherish for the rest of my life

Lightsportz said...

Wow! what an experience bro!

shashi said...

nice..photo and nice bike.....

vinay said...

nyc trip.....i think u guyz have enjoyed a lot........

Anonymous said...

wht was the performance of avenger nd bullet???
ossooooooooooom journey bro!!!!!!!!!!!!

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

@above,

thanks bro

the Avenger is not a bike for bad terrain.. it is meant for open and smooth highways.. therefore the Avenger rider wasn't very comfortable.

Bullets are classic bikes and actually aren't meant for rough riding as well. But since Bullets pack in the most amount of Torque than any other Indian bike, they climb inclines quite well.

abdul said...

nice place,good experience..nice bikes.... ,hope you had enjoyed the trip

yogesh said...

pulsar 220 performance on hills

Anonymous said...

Superb Payang, given a chance would like to be part of the team

LakshmananKB

sanjay said...

hey we should plan a trip like this thru maharashtra also ,lost of places like this for a good ride .any one interested please connect on sanjaykalro@gmail.com . one such exciting route is from thane to jawahar to trimbakeshwar to nasik to saputara and back

Krishnendu said...

Congrats for your successful trip. Nice write up with some good pics. I am also going to Aru on Nov this yr. If interested can visit our website at www.rollingwheels.in

Anonymous said...

i am bit confused as i am buying new bike,so which bike do u prefer karizma or p220?

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

Both the Pulsar 220 and the Karizma are equally capable.. but the Pulsar 220 has the slight advantage of Tubeless tyres and bright 55 watt projector headlamps

Anonymous said...

and how about zmr?i hav heard that it is tailormade for touring and good in performance compared tp p220.

BHIMA RAJU said...

Hey Guys! Congrats U h'v done an adventurus Journey. My Team had visited Tawang on Feb,2011 from Dimapur(Nagaland State) and we experienced very bad climate at Sela Pass and and at Madhuri Dixit Lake.Luckly we went up to Bumla (China Border)due to clear climate and from the very next day on wards there was a snow fall continuously for a week time and at the beginning stage we returned back. From the next day roads were filled with snow and the next batch were unable to move and they stayed for a week time for return journey.Any way the way you h'v presented the journy is like a documentary and i my self followed you and i recalled all the movements. Thank You Very much..............

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

Hi Bhima, thanks a lot for the appreciation

Nishant Rathore said...

1nce in a liftym trip,. so great,.. loved de pics,.!!

Anonymous said...

hey the blog was awesome...have always heard from my bro..about arunanchal who is army officer..u made it live to me....great trip..must have been....

Anonymous said...

will follow ur visit guys............

Anonymous said...

HI..

How can I get Inner Line Permits also please let me know what are the other permits requires for us to travel

Thnaks
Ashwin

Pankaj Das said...

hey gays fabulous...i did enjoy as u do..but it's more fun in bike ride,we want in scorpio with family in Dec.2011..but now seeing ur presantation i feel jealous next time i planned a trip on bike as yours I have heromotocrop CBZ..just suggest is it o.k to take CBZ on Tawang ride.Lastly U R Ride was BORHIYA..

Brijesh Singh said...

i have also P200 cocktail wine red colour.. I Love it...
ALl of u are Awesome riders...

Brijesh Singh said...

Awesome Bikes and Riders...

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

Thanks everyone

Avinash said...

the review was awesome dude
truly the best one i have ever read
this made me wonder how did i miss such a review when i had been following you blog for more than 3 years
well that's it
no more time to waste
reading all reviews from this moment from the starting of this site
thanks man

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

Thanks a lot Avinash

Shyam Sarkar said...

I can't speak English very well, but you inspired me to write something . You journey is a dream cum's true . As a Bengali I quit feel the adventure . Even I don't have a byke ,but I will go outfor some day some how like that. Thank's a lot for searing your incredible journey.

Anonymous said...

My name is Amar Singh Deori,from Guwahati, nice to see you guys making trip to Tawang on bike,I recolected my trip on my Yamaha CBZ in 2002 in the month of August with a friend. At that time there was no road widening works,the roads were narrow but in a better condition.However we came across heavy mud slides for a kilometer or two,i.e just before reaching the nameless dhaba.The trip was one of my most memorable one.Thanks for the beautiful photos...safe riding..Amar

Anonymous said...

Nice to see you making trip to Tawang on bike.I made my trip on Yamaha CBZ way back in 2002 in August from Guwahati to Bomdila and after a nights halt started for Tawang early in the morning reached Tawang at about 3.30 pm.We stopped at the similar spots for tea and photographs..Amar Singh Deori from Guwahati Mobile-9864096289

Anonymous said...

M plannin 4 jan...can ne1 tel me d road conditions nw??

Anonymous said...

too good pics and a well narrated story.. simply superb.

jp said...

which months are better for byk riding from gowathi to tawang

Bhargab Borah said...

jst awesome!!! we r moving on 5th of april to tawang on bikes..

Anonymous said...

Hi Bhargab Borah moving on 5th of April to Tawang? On which bike,anyway happy and safe biking..From Amar,Guwahati

Khwaab Bansal said...

Beautifully written story.....i'm surely taking my girlfriend on a bike trip to tawang...:)

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys... awesome trip...
I and one of my friends are going on similar route (guwahati-Tawang and further) in end of May 2013 (25th May 2013). Can any one please let me know from where can we hire a bike in guwahati..... for about 8-9 days. any lead would be greatly appreciated. ... plz drop your response here or mail me at tony_vikas@yahoo.com

Thanks
Vikas

Anonymous said...

Amazing post :) I'm really motivated to take a trip on this route...of-course with friends which will make it more special :)👍

Aady Aadil said...

awesome journey.. i have a question which bike was the best in during the whole journey. and i am confuse as i am deciding to buying avenger 220 but after reading your article,,, i am scared now my only main purpose to buy avenger was that i could ride on long tour .. suggest me please

TIRTHA KOIRALA said...

u did the best thing dude,i m also planning a similar journey to tawang from Guwahati in my karishma r spot (223) cc. I would be accompanied by classic 350 cc royel enfield.hope i will also hav a gud time as you guys had.nic photography and superb narration of ur wonderful trip.your blog can carry ones feelings along with you

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