Abhijit Masih chronicles his journey from the heart of Uttar Pradesh to the Sino-Indian border at Bumla Pass.
In Part 1 of the travelogue, he takes us up to Arunachal Pradesh.
Your school buddies are your closest friends.
You can assess that from the conversations that you have on your school WhatsApp group. Imagine having those discussions mistakenly copied onto some other group!
Though we have met perhaps thrice in the 25 years after leaving school, it took me a second to accept the invitation for a roadtrip to Arunachal Pradesh.
Fortunately for me, the North East with all its charm and beauty always had me interested.
The distance from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh to Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh is approximately 2,000 km. With halts every night -- and a full day of driving -- you can reach your destination on the fourth day.
That's what we ended up doing. And we faced no altitude sickness whatsoever on reaching heights of 15,000 feet and above.
So, do not rush, which I am sure you will not be able to as the scenic beauty will automatically put the brakes on. Just ensure you have a car inverter to recharge your camera.
From Gorakhpur to Siliguri
Though our starting point was Gorakhpur, I have included a road map from Lucknow, as it is a major airport and railhead.
Sometimes Google Maps, with its multiple route options has you confused. We were too. This resulted in us having to use both options and made us an authority on the best (read smooth) routes to take to Arunachal.
Since you will be crossing Bihar, a dry state, on this stretch, it is advisable not to carry additional liquid baggage.
But don't lose heart. As you travel east, liquor gets cheaper and it is the cheapest in Arunachal Pradesh.
Why the discrimination you ask? It’s cold up there, dude! We were there before winter hit the rest of the country and witnessed the beauty of frozen waterfalls and lakes and the first snow of the season.
As you cross over from Bihar to West Bengal continue on the highway from Kishenganj to Islampur and on to Siliguri. That's the better road.
Stay the night at Hotel Sinclairs in Siliguri.
From Siliguri do not take the road via Jalpaiguri and Dhupguri to Bongaigaon. Instead head towards Sevoke, over the beautiful Coronation Bridge over the river Teesta.
Then take the beautiful road through the jungles and tea estates to Hasimara, Alipurduar and Bongaigaon.
You could choose to stay in Bongaigaon or head to Guwahati.
As we had a punctured fuel pipe line, because we had regrettably taken the road via Jalpaiguri, we had to halt at Bongaigaon, which had a decent hotel right next to the service station.
Siliguri to Guwahati
The road to Guwahati splits though the narrow strip of land sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh and has jungles on both sides of the road with intermittent tea estates.
Here again the shortest route from Bongaigaon to Tezpur will be to take a left from Rangia. Do not go there, unless you like an offroading experience.
Continue on the four-lane highway to Guwahati to the other side of the mighty Brahmaputra. It will save you a minimum of half an hour if not more.
Guwahati to Tezpur
Since we stayed the night in Bongaigaon, we drove through Guwahati and Tezpur and on to Bhalukpong.
The stretch before Bhalukpong is an elephant corridor. Be careful of straying herds as they tend to come too close, as they did with our car, flanking both sides of the road.
We stayed the night in Bhalukpong -- at Wii hotel right next to the check point -- which is the entry gate to Arunachal Pradesh.
Entering Arunachal Pradesh
In Bhalukpong, you need to show your Inner Line Permits and register your vehicle. It is easy and quick.
Soon you are climbing steep gradients. It is time to get you cameras out and roll down your windows.
The first glimpses of Arunchal Pradesh are breathtaking -- definitely a bucket list worthy tourist destination with unexplored beauty and potential.
With its snow covered mountains, flower bedecked valleys, gushing waterfalls, serene and sometimes frozen lakes and wild rapids it can surely be one of the best destinations for adventure sports, other than obviously being just a mesmerizing high altitude spot.
You cannot help but go slower than the road demands. It is a struggle to drive when you have to constantly stop and stare at the beauty unfolding at every bend.
There are numerous river-cradling valleys with pine and cedar trees forming perfect green Vs as you cross Bomdila -- which is at 7,000 feet, the half-way mark in terms of altitude, and head to Dirang.
Dirang is located in the valley of the same name and has beautiful places to explore on foot.
The best spot for a barbeque would be near the confluence of two mountain rivers. The views here put many a penthouse views to shame.
You could stay at the plush but remote Norphel Retreat with its Kiwi Farms or the more convenient Awoo Resort.
The journey gets even better from here!
Part 2: This is no Doklam!