It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are........ Ernest Hemingway
It was with the intention of bringing like-minded people close to nature that my friend, Jitu, and I set up NATVENTURE, a unique organization aimed at adventure- tourism. Living in Assam, one of the beautiful states of North East India, mystically adorned by nature, I always had an urge to SEE and SHOW the world, the beauty of my surrounds. Somehow the cycle caught our fancy and this ‘poor man’s transport’ charmed us especially because on the saddle, nature seemed just a blink away.
So in April, 2017, we decided to arrange a cycling trip to Tawang. Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, literally - land of dawn-lit mountains, a delight for the adventure seeker. The Guwahati- Tawang route is among the most difficult cycle treks in the world. The trip aimed to cover around 520 kms, manoeuvring an altitudinal gain of more than 13000 feet in 10 days amidst breath-taking views of magnificent mountains, valleys and forests.
We invited 3 friends, all avid cyclists. It was a big step forward for us as NATVENTURE was to take a giant leap in the field with this trip. We had our plans inked out in great detail and all possible hindrances eliminated.
We were to travel till Bhalukpong, approximately 220 kms from Guwahati, by car and start our ride thereon. Our cycles followed on a pickup. With all official formalities completed at the Check Gate at Bhalukpong, we arrived at our hotel that evening.
As we assembled our bikes for our Guwahati – Tawang Cycling Expedition, I sensed all the guys in the group were brimming with enthusiasm and were simply raring to go.
An early breakfast the next morning, our bags were loaded onto the Back up Vehicle and we were all set - for adventure
On the first day of the Ride, we had to cover 60 kms out of which 80 percent was uphill route.
Soon the group broke away as each pedalled according to their comfort and ease. I took my time in savouring the beauty of the changing landscape – the gradual ascent while leaving the plains below and the mountains ahead.
Post lunch, when we were about to reach Zero point, it started drizzling. Soon it turned into a heavy downpour and with no other option, we decided to get into the back -up vehicle.
Vivek though, had already reached the destination for the day, the resort at Jamiri. We cheered at his perseverance and invincibility that day.
Fortunately, we woke up to glorious weather next morning. The beautiful sunny morning unravelled white clouds atop blue hills all around. At around 0900 hours we started our uphill ride towards Bomdilla. It was an amazing sight with the magnanimous mountains on one side and the quietly flowing Tenga river on the other.
It took more than four hours to cover the distance and finally we managed to reach the site of our planned Home stay near the Bomdilla Monastery, run by a very amiable lady, Tsomu.
Next morning, we decided to visit the Bomdilla Monastery before resuming our ride. The Monastery was well decorated with colourful prayer flags in view of His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal at that time. With the traditional white scarf, Khada, around our necks, a token of respect here, and supplied by Tsomu, we rode on.
The road to Dirang is mostly downhill and we could cover certain sections with a speed of more than 50 km per hour. At Dirang, Vivek and Akshay decided to attend The Dalai Lama’s Sermon at the Dirang Monastery. Others decided to stay back at the river bank and cook some snack on the portable gas we were carrying.
Later at Sangti Valley, we were greeted by Letro, our host for the day and next. Letro arranged a bonfire and some music in the evening and we prepared a barbecue for ourselves. The feast, the talks, the music and the laughter continued well into the night, the next day being a rest day.
Our rest day started with a bike ride to the nearby villages, inhabited by the people of Monpa tribe. Having explored enough, we returned to the valley at the pre designated spot. We had decided to cook our food by the riverside, at the banks of the Tsomkha Amjha. Owing to my humble culinary skill I had the responsibility of preparing lunch that day.
With Letro’s help, I managed to arrange a decent feast of barbequed and curried meat to be downed with the local wine, Aara which was quite a delight. And when I saw the satisfied smiles all around, I was assured that my reputation in this department remained intact.
Next morning we rode towards the 500 year old Dirang Monastery and spent some time there. Bidding goodbye to Letro, we resumed our ride on mostly well-maintained roads dotted with army camps. The end of the day’s ride found us checking into the PWD IB.
After a good night’s rest, we were staring at the significant day of the expedition- to cycle through the Sela Pass, the highest point of the ride, 13,700 feet above sea level.
We were a bit worried due to the strong winds blowing in the entire region since the previous night. But having tested the wind strength on the Gauge, we decided it would be safe enough.
We started our ride by 0800 hrs. Gradually the winds subsided though not completely. Against all odds, we managed to reach Sela Pass by 1300 hrs.
Exhaustion was clearly over weighing our sense of triumph as we spent a few minutes at the pass clicking pictures, taking videos to add up to the library of adventure. The downhill ride from Sela Pass, though mostly off-road, was quite pleasant.
At Sela, we visited Jaswant Garh War Memorial- a tribute to the brave soldier, Veer Jaswant Singh, who single-handedly tried to hold the Chinese army for 72 hours during 1962 Indo-China war. We took a moment to fathom the depth of such patriotism and paid our silent sincere tribute to the Hero before moving on.
The downhill ride to Jung took us to our accommodation for the night, at a local Lodge.On the final day of the expedition, we decided to start early. We visited the 100 metre deep Jung or Nuranang falls on the way to Tawang.
The route to Tawang is mostly uphill from here. As we approached the town, it appeared crowded with Believers returning from the Sermon of the Dalai Lama. We were welcomed by a colourful sight of prayer flags and people dressed in their traditional attire.
We checked into a hotel at Tawang at around evening time. We explored the surrounds on foot and found the atmosphere magical that day. After all, we had triumphed against all odds.
The next day, we started our return journey to Guwahati by car. I was glad that Jitu and I could organise a successful expedition to Tawang. An experience of a lifetime would always be among our claims, hereon.
As I bid the serene mountains good bye, I knew even before I let the thought settle in, that this would be the beginning of the bond of a lifetime.
There would be many sequels after all…. of beauty, challenge, experience and a story…of daring to dream. Wordsworth was indeed right. “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”
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Written bySUPURAJ GOGOI
SUPURAJ GOGOI is an avid cyclist, trekker, biker and an adventure seeker besides being a foodie and a traveller. He has a Business background though the call of the wild always seemed to resonate within. Natventure is an adventure-tourism oriented organisation co founded by him and based in Guwahati. This endeavor has been like the opening of a window to a world which has amazed and stupefied, educated and enriched, elevated and then humbled, leaving him in a state of constant quest. His adventure trips are a testimony of the same. CONNECT, REJUVENATE, LIVE....with Nature is what Supu and Natventure earnestly believe in.