Pictures : Reuben Rato
It has been more than a month since I returned from my first visit to Arunachal. I had gone on a trek to Talle Valley with Indiahikes, my first trek with them. Also, my first visit to this North-Eastern state. The reason for writing this so late is not because I was lazy, but that I wanted to give it some time. A month later I ask myself, what is it about the trek that made it special?
I had to reach Guwahati from Kolkata, take an overnight train to Naharlagun ( which is on the Assam- Arunachal border) and 10 kms from the capital Itanagar, and from there a 4 hour sumo ride took us past the Ziro village to a place near Hong Village. By then I had met all my trekmates. We put up at a hotel and it still did not feel like a trek. That afternoon we did a warm-up walk to the Hong Village, were greeted by a local family celebrating a newborn, were treated to tea and I also tasted some roasted pork. The next day our trek would start.
This trek has started only recently and it will take a while before the route and everything else is figured out with more clarity and this becomes a permanent fixture for Indiahikes. For those who have trekked in the Himalachal or Uttarakhand and seen the splendid views of the magnificent Himalayas, this trek could be a disappointment. You walk through dense rainforests to Pangey Valley campsite on Day 1, next day you go to Talle Valley and camp there, on day 3 you come back to Pangey Valley and Day 4 you are back at the hotel. On day 4 we took a different route back to the hotel and we were supposed to take a different route on day 3 as well, but this route was anything more than 25 kms long and only some of the experienced trekkers made it. We took the same route back. There is still some issue with documentation and maybe this could be done over 2 days as those who completed the route said that it was really beautiful. And dangerous too.
I have always maintained that the best part of a trek is the people you meet. In our group of 14 there were a bunch of very interesting people and we ended up knowing each other, becoming close friends and spending a lot of time together. The trek leader was very efficient and managed things well, we also spent a lot of time playing games and generally freaking out.
When we think of Arunachal, the first thing that comes to our mind is the village of Ziro, Tawang and the high-altitude Sela pass. In our case, however, we were moving through lush green vegetation and in the last leg through the beautiful paddy fields to hotel. There were no spectacular views of peaks or lakes to actually look forward to. Why, I asked myself should one go all the way to Arunachal for this trek?
A month later, I have the answers. Having been on several treks, I would list down some of the salient features of this one.
- A hike through the jungles is therapeutic; it heals your mind and body like nothing else. Especially for those of us living in the cities, a few days in the dense forests is actually like a rehab, a treatment for our bodies abused by the pollution in the cities. This trek will heal you like nothing else.
- The forests are dense and beautiful. And unspoiled and clean. Not being a popular trekking route, you do not come across other trekking groups or tourists on the way. There is no well- marked route. At places your guide will cut through the vegetation with a machete to make way. You get to see a variety of lichens, orchids and ferns that you would not get to see anywhere else. As the trek starts, you come across the Holong tree, standing tall against the clear blue sky. Then as you walk along the forest trail, you find the mountainside covered with thick ferns, as if some landscape artist has been at work. You come across dense bamboo forests (Pleioblastus Simone is a bamboo variety found only here) and flowering rhododendron plants. Higher up, the sub-tropical forests give way to the Alpine vegetation. The forests thin out a bit and the landscape is full of pine and silver fir trees.
- Now coming to the animals. Some research will say that Talle Valle is the home to the endangered clouded leopard. We weren’t lucky to come across much wildlife but came across the state animal – the Mithun, which looks like a cow but is far removed biologically . The males are giant, fearsome creatures and the females with white faces and a black lining on their eyes look surprisingly timid. Generally they are huge animals , but are tame and will not bother with you if you do not irritate them. We learnt that these are valuable animals and many communities use it for sacrificial purposes to appease the soul of the dead. Though the trail is not frequented regularly, tribes from Ziro climb up to gather the mithuns during March for the Myoko festival.
The place is also a treat for birdwatchers and some of my friends got to sight some beautiful birds, though we were surprised that the trail was relatively quiet and we did not hear too many birds among the trees.
- Both the campsites are near the Pange river. Trust me there is nothing that puts you off to sleep like the murmur of a stream flowing by. This provides a constant background melody at the campsite, and is a part of your conversation. While the camp at Pange valley is scenic and kind of cute, the one at Talle Valley is disturbingly beautiful. The trees are stunted, burnt down and the place bears the look of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Am yet to find out what led to this, could be a forest fire or a flood, but you are transported to a world of beauty which is ruthless and kind of scary.
- The last few hours of the journey were through paddy fields. The vast expanse of paddy fields with mountains in a distance was surprisingly refreshing. We had to walk over the ridges and sometimes over logs where there was some water to be crossed. The locals were at work in the fields; women were making bundles of grains and sorting them out while the cows walked about lazily. We were back to the idyllic village civilization where people work hard and live in harmony with nature.
If you are looking for a trek through the jungles, Talle Valley is a good option. The trek is sure to make you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, calmer and happier.