Since the first post about our trip to Tawang exceeded my usual post size limit, I decided to split the narrative into two parts, this being the second one. I’ll attempt to add more pictures instead of wordy details.
Our friend in Tawang highly recommended Zemithang, a small village situated in a valley north of Tawang, almost at the Indo-Chinese border. Of the two ways to get there, we were supposed to take the longer route, all because of the views it had to offer. We planned to stay at the village for the night and return the day after. Or so we thought we’d do.
Things really didn’t go as planned from the very beginning. The weather was overcast with heavy fog, it was colder than usual and the cab driver seemed like reincarnation of an ex-F1 champion. We were planning to make frequent stops so we left quite early. We still hoped the weather would clear up as the day progressed. The first major stop on the way was Sangetsar Lake. The route passed through various other high altitude lakes in an area called Bhagajang Wetlands. There are a lot of small, mostly unnamed and unexplored, lakes in this region hidden away between mountains. We caught glimpses of many of them on our way, stopping by some of them to try to get some good shots.
The guards at the lake were surprised to see us so early in the morning. They had just pulled up the shutter on the only military run restaurant at the lake and were cleaning it up when we arrived.
We spent next half an hour walking around the lake, taking pictures and cursing the gloomy cloud cover once in a while. And we did have some steaming Maggi with Chai at the restaurant once the kitchen was up and running.
Looking forward to the most exciting part of the journey, we then headed off towards Zemithang via less travelled back roads. Much to our disappointment, the cloud cover did not clear up the whole day. We descended below the clouds that were surrounding us through long winding roads and dirt tracks.
We could see the soaring mountain faces on both sides of the road, that even clouds couldn’t pass. It seemed like the mountains had set a trap for the unsuspecting clouds which was impossible to get out of.
To our surprise, we reached the village much earlier than expected. Well we shouldn’t have been so surprised given the way our driver was racing through.
This was probably the most deserted village I’ve been to. There were a few houses but no one in them. Roads were deserted. The only sounds we could hear were the flowing river, winds brushing through trees and our footsteps. Our driver eventually found someone and inquired about lodging arrangements. Turned out, there were none. After some thought, our driver assured us he’d be able to take us back to Tawang the same day if we started that very instant. By that time we had enough confidence in his driving skills so we agreed without much hesitation. On the way back, we took a different route that ended up taking significantly less time.
To the immense surprise of our guest house manager, we were back while the sun was still out. We did not have enough energy left to explain the many near-misses we had and other “exciting” parts of our near-death ride. With a lot of cognitive overload to process, we decided to put off any planning for the rest of the trip and called it a day.
One realization we both had after the hypersonic trip to Zemithang was that we had to go back to Sangetsar Lake, on a bike this time. Fortunately, the weather gods decided to show some mercy and a couple of days later, on a beautiful sunny day, we were off to see the lake, again.
It takes just one look to realize how different the two experiences were. Compared to a drab, morose landscape just a few days earlier, the same place now had a spectacular contrast of vivid colors.
We were on the fence about visiting this less known gonpa but the locals believe that if you’ve thought about going to Khromten Gonpa even once, then you must go there or else bad things will happen to you. So to avoid being cursed, we picked the most pimped up ride in Tawang, and headed out for our final excursion in the mountains of North East.
Took us a couple of hours to reach the trailhead and then an hour of easy hike through dense, pristine, lush forest to reach the gonpa.
We met the sole monk who was managing the gonpa. He shared his story of being a monk for almost his entire life, his time at this particular gonpa and his love for football. He was wearing a Manchester United jersey, by the way. He was kind enough to make tea for us too. We chatted for a while, took some panoramic pictures, took a peek into the small prayer hall and headed back.
Of all the pictures we took, the one I keep coming back to is this one. I think yaks definitely deserve a place in the list of top coolest animals.
We took the rest of the day to mentally prepare for the agonizing 13 hour cab ride back to Tezpur the next day. It didn’t help too much though. Arunachal Pradesh left a lasting impression on our minds, be it the people, culture, history or nature. Tawang seemed like a great first step to explore the state. We’d be definitely go back to Arunachal for other amazing places like Ziro, Mechuka and the many national parks, trails and hikes.
PS: Please try carry non-plastic water bottles when travelling to Tawang, or any other hill stations in the country. Upon talking with one of the senior Government official here, we found out there there are no waste management facilities in Tawang and almost all plastic is thrown in a pit and burnt by pouring kerosene on it. Aluminium bottles are cheap, easily available and will go farther to help the environment than you can think.