From one valley to another – Tawang to Ziro
Following in the footsteps of earlier nomads, when the current part of the land is explored and exhausted, they moved to another green pasture, I moved to the next pasture to explore. Because of the second part, I had planned for Arunachal Pradesh travel, was eagerly calling. Days of Ziro Festival of Music were coming closeby and still, I had to travel down from mountain terrain to flat land of Assam and start next journey to another valley. I had kept a day’s buffer, so that journey to these far shouldn’t be just touched and go, but to be enjoyed properly. Decided to utilize that buffer day by visiting one more place on the way without taking a detour.
Tawang’s minuscule copy, Dirang:
Dirang and Bomdilla were the two places on my way back from Tawang. Had heard about a beautiful small town settled at the bank of the Kameng river.
Dirang or Bomdilla are the two places, travelers prefer to take an intermediate stop, to avoid a long journey of 13/14 hours either way between Tawang and Tezpur. Dirang lies just about 130 odd km from Tawang. This small town is, I would say a younger brother of Tawang. A beautiful newly painted main monastery, a market, and a permanent defense settlement as a second force to support the main regiment at Bum-la pass. Looks like this arrangement is a lesson learned from the 1962 war of not having any command if the front command falls.
Like Tawang or other small towns of this part of Arunachal Pradesh, Dirang is also a Buddhist town and the culture can be seen everywhere. You will not see a poultry farm or chicken selling places as none believes in butchery. Meat comes from Assam in frozen packets. Just like Tawang, found a hotel to spend a night very easily and after dumping my rucksack in my room, left to see a couple of interesting places.
I had noticed the view of the valley while entering Dirang which was mesmerizing in itself. Planned to stroll there on foot. Spotted a bridge over the river Kameng and on the other side, you can see beautiful paddy green pastures.
Though you can get local artifacts in the Dirang market, if you have already finished shopping in the Tawang market, you won’t find more than that.
Though there are several attractions, you can visit, but if you have stopped by just for a night, you shouldn’t think of visiting everything.
Dirang’s newly furbished Monastery is very close to the market and it’s about 500 years old Kalachakra Monastery. For me, I love to visit older or ancient monuments than comparatively new or refurbished structures, but this monastery caught my attention because of the vibrant colors at the backdrop of the mountain with green slopes. By the way, the biggest peak in the state, known as Kangte, towering the entire valley is in this area.
There are couple of more attractions, one should visit since you are already here.
Dirang Fort or DzongThe area is closer to Bhutan and the Bhutanese influence is unavoidable in the local Dzong or fort. The Dirang Dzong is about 150 years old. There are some stone houses around the fort are 500 years old. A stone steps lead you inside the fort. You should visit this fort for the magnificent view of mountains and lush green paddy fields with white water flows like a satin cloth flowing on a breeze is a breathtaking view.
Hot Water SpringI was about to return from the fort and one local informed me about this natural hot water spring which is just a km ahead. He offered to drop me there. A helping hand is always offered as I had noticed from the start of my travel. After climbing the stairs for about 500 meters, you reach the Hot Springs which is considered to be a holy place. The hot spring is like other springs in India. Rich in sulfur content and is known to have great medicinal properties. There is a facility to have a bath in this hot spring which can have a magical effect on a journey tired body. Maybe because of this quality, travelers take an intermediate halt to travel all the way to Tawang.
The next day, as usual in North or North East, travel to my next destination started early morning at 5 in a packed Sumo to North Lakhimpur, another entry point to Tawang which is further ahead of Asam’s Tezpur on flat land.
Ziro Valley – Nature at its best:
My next destination was Ziro valley for the Musical Festival. I was told, North Lakhimpur, was one of the gateways to Ziro valley. North Lakhimpur, another town in Assam like typical other towns of India, has a legend. Once upon a time, it was famous for gold washing in the great Subansiri River, which is no more a present scenario.
I was told about shared taxi services to Ziro valley continues throughout the day. I couldn’t find one in the afternoon I reached, so had to stay for a night in a run-down lodge of a taxi service owner.
The next day, with locals, started my journey was very skeptical about this festival, so hyped up for many years. I was expecting tourists from out of Assam flocking on this route, but I hardly found any except a couple of them in other taxis.
The route was as usual a hilly route, but much better than the Tawang route. This route is comparatively much smoother. While talking to a taxi driver could figure out. On this route, not many vehicles operate and Tawang has continuous traffic of army vehicles and during winter, no vehicle is allowed on that route without chains on tyres for anti-skidding measures and due to it, road targets uprooted.
Travel to Hapoli, a major town in Ziro valley was covered in just 4 hours and the driver promised us to drop at the village Ziro, the location of Ziro Festival of Music with an extra amount.
ziro, where green merges in blue:
Arrived at almost mid-day, entering the Ziro village was like a transformation of a dull vast land to a picturesque Himalayan village, enchanted by tall pine trees entering in the blue sky. Nature didn’t leave any color shade (not stone) unturned of green and blue to create this captivating landscape.
Ziro is a quaint old town, home to the Apatani tribe and famous for its pine hills and rice fields. After reaching, I realized the climate in Ziro is mild throughout the year, making it comfortable to travel all year round.
The cab driver dropped me at a kind of deserted chowk with very few vehicles and humans. My doubts about ZFM’s clout had slowly started weaning off. Clouds of doubt started darkening. Over and above that, a number of the campsite co-ordinator, I had booked with was non-reachable. I have attended or part of an event team as a job in my professional career and here there was no sight of vehicles or humans moving frantically with last moment preparations. I had heard the stories of the magnitude of the festival.
As per the festival’s nature, this area was supposed to be the busiest in the whole of Arunachal Pradesh with a congregation of 3/4000 music lovers, 20/25 campsites, each campsite with the capacity of housing 150/200 campers each. 15-20 Rock/Rap bands playing over 4 evenings.
Didn’t know where to head as there were no bigger boards of campsite names of any signs of ZFM, started walking with heavy steps and a heavy sack as well. Finally, one goods vehicle driver showed pity and gave me a lift. While talking to him, all those doubts started dispersing. Like a boom of wind blew clouds of doubt.
I didn’t realize or forget, the festival was supposed to start the next day and normally enthusiasts arrive the day of the festival before the start which is in the evening. I had a buffer day and wanted to witness the extravaganza before it starts. This news boosted my enthusiasm and a speed in my steps rushed me to the campsite from the place the goods vehicle dropped me which was the center of activity. The real zest started from this point.
I could see campsites everywhere and a glimpse of the ZFM’s ground Zero points.
A glimpse of musical waves:
Suddenly, on the road leading to the campsite, I could see many enthusiasts started popping up from the entrances of campsites around and everyone was busy either finding a place for lunch or busy discussing the line-up of the festival.
The main Festival was at a place which is slightly bigger than a football ground and in around a couple of kilometers radius, all the campsites are given ground to pitch their tents as per their participant’s numbers along with space for temporary kitchen, food serving area, parking place, and toilets. Apart from these campsites, there are small hotels, homestays, restaurants, liquor shops give a site of one small township. This looked like a village mela or a minuscule replica of a Kumbh Mela.
Finally, my home for next 4 days – Campsite ‘Kite Manja’:
I reached the campsite, ‘Kite Manja’. The first view was so harmful to a mountaineer. 70/80 tents tucked cozily in between jungle of pine trees in a systematic order. The friend got in my allotted tent which was to be shared by another unknown person who was supposed to arrive the next day. Actually, I had asked for permission to get my own tent, but I was very late for booking and this year, they didn’t have a provision for ‘Get Your Own Tent’ arrangements. The next day, I found a slope where one can pitch a tent and use common toilets at the musical festival ground. I didn’t repent because in a campsite, your luggage is safe and you can jam up with buddies from that particular campsite because you are not allowed in other campsites and confined to one due to ID cards of every campsite.
Not many had checked-i for a night before of festival, so again that one small doubt cropped up of so many tents and not many attendees.
Ziro came alive:
The next day was like magic. The morning was lazy. Till afternoon, people started pouring in every campsite. People from all walks of life – Doctors, Engineers, Bikers, and from all across India. From North, South, West, and East. Mainly from Metros. Everyone had one common bond which was music. Though I wasn’t so fond of music and I had come to experience and get a feel of extravaganza like this, but that didn’t matter to any of them. Many were friendly and slowly introductions were inevitable. Somehow, I met a group mostly from the medical fraternity. Still, I couldn’t figure out, how I got gelled so well with them despite the age difference. I think they pity a no sense of music and wanted to give a good dose of Music to convert me to a music lover.
This brings to an end my Arunachal Pradesh’s second valley exploration. In the next blog which will be the last in the Arunachal Pradesh series, let’s explore the actual Musical festival through a non-musical person.