Adventure

TAWANG-Arunachal Pradesh

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

King Lear! Again, I looked at the book on the small table near the Tawang Gompa in the North-East Hill State of Arunachal Pradesh. The book was hardbound, tattered, and looked to be very old. It had a dark red cloth cover with a design in yellow, which reminded me of ruffed grouse feathers. The man selling the book was a trader from Tibet and wore clothing the color of the book. He had a broad glowing smile and wore his hair in an explosive tangle of dreadlocks. I asked to look at the book. No. I would have to buy it. Half an hour of bargaining later, I was the proud owner of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” I carefully looked through my treasure, reassured all the pages were still intact. After the preface were the initials “A.A.” and the date October 1878. There was nothing noting any publisher or previous ownership, a mystery. In 1913 a surveyor named Bailey, with the British Geographic traveled through here, mapping the ancient trade route with Tibet. Had the book been for sale on this same table ever since?


It took six weeks for the permit. In the course of the long overnight ride, I developed a very numb bum, but I made it. The bus left Bomdila, a small town north of Tezpur, crossed Sela Pass in the dark, arriving at first light in Tawang. Tawang Gompa is largest Buddhist monastery in India. It is said it can house 500 monks. Though there is a road in, because of the exhaustive permit process Tawang is seldom visited. There are some very interesting places to stay and the people watching is superb. This ancient trade route brings people together to trade from the vast forests to the east, the plains to the south, and the vast mountainous plateau to the north. Hmm, didn’t King Lear have three daughters!? Bomdila and Tawang are excellent locales to base one's self and offer endless possibilities for day hikes. This adventure is an excellent opportunity to experience varied terrain, orchids to alpine, without spending weeks walking or camping. It is an exhilarating ‘soft’ adventure only requiring planning for the permit process and a stiff backside for the long bus rides.


This area of India, Arunachal Pradesh, is one of the least visited by western tourists. Translating the local dialect, the familiar local place name means ‘Land of the Dawn-Lit-Mountains.’ I spent a week there, hiking, visiting and watching the shadows move across the land. The ride out of Tawang to Bomdila began in the early morning, arriving at Sela Pass just after sunrise. We stopped briefly on the pass for everyone to stretch while the driver checked the engine and brakes. The sights and sounds were impressive and I understood and shared the meaning of the local place name. Arunachal Pradesh is the land of the dawn lit mountains! For your own sake, take the time and when you do go, take your time. Cheers!

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