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Travelogue Nagaland – Assam – Arunachal Pradesh
North East India

 

Part 3 – From the Apatani women with their nose plugs to Tawang

 

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English is not our native language, so we apologize in advance for translation- spelling- and grammar errors.

 

Day 14 – December 13, 2013, Along - Daporizo (180 km) map

Breakfast at 7 am , 7:30 departure. It has rained a lot last night in Along. Soon after leaving it gets dry fortunately, but the clouds remain stuck in the mountains.

 

Scenic drive through the mountains. Everything is so green! The rain has washed away the thick layer of dust on the leaves. We stop at a bus stop near a village. Among the people who wait for the bus are two men who wear a striking red tunic. These two men are chiefs of a village. They are travelling to another village. There appears to be a dispute over land. Therefore a meeting of chiefs is organized. A council of wise men will make a ruling in the dispute; a form of justice that's a remaining from earlier times. Not accepted by the government but widely respected by the villagers themselves. We have a brief conversation with the two men. They have clearly seen infrequently western tourists here.

 

We also visit the village itself. The men in the villages walk around with a (cap) knife, wrapped in a braided sleeve and often have a braided hat. Jan Arend has already fitted a hat, but his head is clearly too large. It's a nice, peaceful village of the Nishi tribe. It's like a big farmers yard here. Lots of chicken with little chicks, pigs with piglings and many dogs with puppies. It seems that all animals have recently produced youngsters. We also see a big fat pig with two chickens on his back. The chickens delouse the pig. He stands still and clearly enjoys it!

 

Women are busy filling baskets with deadwood. Everywhere mandarin trees again. They are loaded! An old man weaves a basket in the traditional way. The baskets here are nice and firm. The houses are made of wood. Bamboo poles, branches, all kinds of natural wickerwork. The roofs are covered with leaves. Sometimes the newer homes have a bottom with pillars of concrete. The houses until recently often had to be completely renewed because of the termites that eat away the base. With concrete pillars the foundation stays firm.

The houses are all about 1.5 meters above the ground. Under the house find pigs, goats, dogs, cats and chickens shelter. The houses are quite large but there is only a limited part screened for cooking, eating and sleeping. Around the house is a very big covered porch with seating.

 

The pigs are reamers. They are also the restroom attendants of the village! Bully tells of a French tourist who wanted to do everything basic. She also wanted to sleep in homestays. But when she had to relieve herself and was hanging above a hole that served as a loo, looked down and saw a pig waiting for her droppings , she shivered and really needed some extra time to regain her confidence.

 

We see an old lady. She walks up to us with a basket on her back. She wears traditional anklets. Bully has a chat with her. A picture is not a problem. We continue and soon stop again in the next village where the peppers are drying.

A fireplace is always the centre piece of the house. Above the fireplace hang two or three large shelves where all kind of kitchen equipment and food is stored. The ceiling above the fire place always looks fierce and black!

 

A man is repairing a reed mat near his house. There are big holes in the mat. The man explains that the rats have eroded the mat. He restores the mat with narrow strips cut bamboo. He is old. How old he is, he does not exactly know. He remembers that there was a great earthquake ones and that he and his family had to flee. His simple conclusion: I was born before the great earthquake (1950).

People here usually profess an animistic religion; they revere nature in general, but especially the sun and the moon. The people of the village we are now, are busy with the staging of a ritual. Poles decorated with bamboo and straw smeared with blood. A pig is slaughtered as a ritual sacrifice. The same sacrificed pig is now deliciously eaten on the large veranda of one of the houses in a joined meal by the men of the village. Again lots of rice wine. Of course we are served too. The delicacy served for food consists of guts again, and yes, we are still vegetarian .... huh. It's quite a mess on the veranda. All kinds of food on the ground. Five dogs trying to steal the meat. War between them. Chaos . In the house is another group of people, mainly women, children and the eldery eating and drinking separately.

 

To our questions about the people who work on the road, we learn the following; the men earn more than the women. The women earn about 40 dollar per month. If they work at a high altitude they can earn double the amount of money. The workers are housed in a kind of family settlements. The settlements are provisional and do not look attractive. Very small rooms. The exterior is made of corrugated iron. The corrugated plates are not new. They are fabricated of cut open and flattened oil cans. The road workers don't have to pay rent. Fire is also free; they gather dead wood from the forest.

 

We see two trucks who are slipped of the road .. toppled and leaning against the mountain. The road is only a narrow lane. The lane drops steep at the side. If you meet an oncoming car and you drive a little too far to one side, you will slip of the road. You can simply do not see what's coming in advance. Therefore you have to honk at every turn.

 

We arrive safely at Daporizo. It was a fun day of travel. Nice encounters and we have had no problems with the not too nice weather. Around 5:30 pm we are in the Singhik hotel in Daporijo. The hotel looks surprisingly chic! It's only been open since last August. We have a good room with coffee and tea facilities and a proper mattress. Nice!

 

We never understand the huge amount of power buttons that they use here in India! A block with 16 switches as you enter the room is no exception. But if you want to put the water boiler in the wall plug you have to keep boiler high because the only power point that does work, is the one that is situated at a spot for which the cord is too short. It says that the hotel has Internet. If we will ask it the answer is .... tomorrow! It rains cats and dogs all night.

 

Day 15 – Saterday December 14, 2013, Daporizo - Ziro (175 km) map

 

The breakfast is fine! Toast, omelets, fresh fruit.

After breakfast we visit the local market in Daporijo. Many scents and colors on the market. It rained a lot. The street is very wet and muddy. The weather has improved though. We buy some necklaces.

 

A lot of worms and beetles on offer on the market ... sometimes we have to swallow again! The fruit all looks very nice. There are self woven baskets on the floor with each a piece or 10 chickens in it. In the middle is a plate of rice for the chickens. A small pig succeeds to enter the basket and goes towards the rice dish but, it is not appreciated. If it is discovered the piggy is thrown out with loud screeching . The basket it immediately repaired.

 

We drive again, along villages. We see everywhere traces of animism. Bully explains the principles of the animistic religion. How the dead are put down in a monument of bamboo, leaves and garlands. Preferably a monkey and a feline is sacrificed for the deceased. The carcasses are emptied and filled with leaves. The monkey will provide vegetables for the deceased in the afterlife, and protect him. The feline will deliver meat. Above the Tomb monument is an umbrella.

The monument remains for a long time. The remains are buried beneath such a decorated monument. There are families that impart pretty much all the belongings of the deceased with the deceased. Clothes, jewellery, sometimes up to a tv or motor! The moment that enough money is saved members of the family place a concrete tombstone on the grave. We see several of those graves. Fresh, and somewhat older.

The houses in this area of Arunachal Pradesh look a little shabby. The roofs are of inferior quality and need to be updated very often. A proper roof serves 2 or 3 years.

 

We spot women with beautiful earrings, children with puppies, men who are weaving baskets along the road.

 

We use the lunch in a nice restaurant on the mountain overlooking the Valley. Down flows the river. We are surprised about the number of new buildings that seem to be constructed in a short time along the road. Everyone is busy. The explanation is simple. The road very probably is going to be widened in the near future. The ground next to the road is the property of the villagers. The villagers will be compensated by the Government if the Government demands your ground for the construction of infrastructural facilities. If there is a house or a barn on the property you get more compensation and a stone structure is worth much more than a bamboo House. That is why the villagers build so many unneeded never to be used structures close to the road in such a short period. Some buildings are almost right on the road, without 10 cm between them. Weird!

 

Bully says he was here a month ago. At that time there were almost no construction activities. Whole families are stabbing themselves into debt. They are charged high interest rates. Everyone wants to earn. But there is a big danger! If too much compensation should be paid, the plan may just suddenly change. If that happens a lot of people in this area are in big trouble ...

It's quite a drive, but about 6 pm we arrive at Cathy's place. Cathy's place is the House of the mother of the wife of Bully. Bully lives there with his wife Anna, daughter Cathy age 7, son Takar 9 months old, the mother of Anna (who is not present at the moment) and a Pretty, a girl that helps the family and is living under the same roof with them. We'll be here for two nights. Anna runs a small shop. We are warmly welcomed. We get a neat room with bathroom. Good beds and luckily enough blankets.

 

It is very very cold now! It is 6 degrees Celsius. The temperatures reminds us of Holland. Maybe it's there about the same temperature now? We get tea with biscuits and leave for our room.

 

We visit the family again to eat together at the open fire in the room downstairs at about 18.30 p.m. We give some presents which we have bought on the market today. Anna gives us a hot water jug to take with us to bed. That is delicious! We have a fine bed. We read in bed, with the delicious jug under the blankets, and go to sleep.

 

Day 16 – Sunday december 15, 2013, Ziro

7:30 breakfast. Slept well last night. By all the blankets it was not cold. It is very foggy! That's because it's freezing at night. If it gets warmer the moisture in the Valley evaporates. We have breakfast in the kitchen-room in the lower House. Toasted sandwiches, jam and omelette. Anna very friendly refills everything time and time. Pretty also helps. She was 8 when she came to live with the family. Soon she will leave. She will return to her own family.

 

After breakfast we set off. The moisture evaporates quickly, the beautiful weather returns!

Today we have the whole day to explore the area of Ziro with some Apatani villages, such as Hong Dutta, Hijo, Bamin, Hari and Mudang Gale. Anna, the wife of Bully, is of Apatani origin. The culture of the Apatani is quite different from the other tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Apatani believe they are direct descendants of Abotani, the first man. Only about 15,000 Apatani live in this region. They have a strict social system that was supposed to protect against hostile tribes like the neighbouring Nishi tribe.

 

Billy leads the way. It does not take long before we encounter the first woman with nose plugs of bamboo. For a fee, we take a picture. She has a cold; we see a little clod green snot next to the plug in her nose .

Not everyone wants to be photographed. Bully is sometimes in a difficult position; he is a well known person by the people here and that is why a few people blame him that he takes people to the villages to take photos.

 

But when you take notice from the do's and don'ts and stay modest and polite it usually delivers no problems to make a portrait. Some nose plugs are really huge.

 

There are a lot of animists here. The people establish themselves special altars of straw, egg shells and feathers. We arrive at the temple of the animists. It's pretty empty inside. Baskets with offerings such as rice, water and alcohol are placed at the front in the temple. Previously, the animists had no place to come together. Threatened by popularity of Christianity with its churches and services, the animists now have established their own place to come together. This temple is such a place where they also sing but this all is only the last 30 years.

 

The traditional houses with porches in rows along the streets in the villages are very different than elsewhere. The Apatani are often highly educated. We get tea in a house that overlooks the valley. The host is family of Bully. He is a local politician. Beautiful house. Later we will meet his mother; a friendly woman with big glasses and big nose plugs.

We see a lot building activities in the village. Preparations are being made for an upcoming village festival and existing homes are expanded. The people help each other a lot in exchange for food and drink.

 

As we return to the sun temple we see a service going on. Clearly not unplugged! Nice people here! It is spoken and sung. The people sitting on mats on the floor. Women left, men on the right. We attend a large part of the service, and get a black bracelet of wool, like all the others. At noon, at the exact the middle of the day, the service is ended. All the men and woman collect on the forecourt for a group photo by Ingrid. Bully has organised that. The event also provides Ingrid the opportunity to take some individual portraits. We get a spicy home-brewed alcoholic drink .. and a snow white kind of rice powder that we must stabbing in our mouth. Not really tasty. Everyone from then has white lips!

 

Bully tells about the villages. The Apatani are quite different from the Nishi. The Nishi are more concerned with the here and now, and have little concern about the future. The Apatani are more prescient. They preserve nature and build on their future. Bully is a Nishi. At the time he went to live with Anna - a Apatani woman - the two families had issues with it, but after a while everyone has resigned themselves to the situation, and now there are no more problems anymore.

Everything is well organized in the Apatani village we visit. There is a large piece of forrest to the village for hunting and there are bamboo bushes for building material. Every family has its own ground. The eldest son inherits from the parents.

 

A shaman is a animist holy man. He performs rituals. If we walk through the village we happen to see a shaman. He has a chick in his hand. His advice is sought by one of the villagers. Someone wants to remodel his home. Is that a good idea? What sacrifice must be brought? The shaman has to give a decisive answer, and therefore needs to make a small sacrifice: the chick. The shaman takes the chick to a sacred tree. We follow him with mixed feelings ... He ties a small bamboo string around the legs of the bird, and hangs him on a twig of the sacred tree. He speaks all sorts of spells and hails the spirits. Impressive to experience. Eventually the chick is killed by the shaman.

He sprinkles blood against the tree. Then he cuts the chick open . He anatomize the liver. He can read the liver. It will deliver him the necessary answers to the questions of his client. Perhaps the renovation of the house cannot continue, or perhaps there should be sacrificed another animal at a later moment. The ritual looks cruel in the eyes of a western but who are we to condemn such a ritual. After all, we come from a country of veal crates and bloated chickens, but it remains difficult to see!

 

We have lunch in a nice restaurant along the road. We meet an American tourist who travels alone. We've seen him once before. He is less enthusiastic about his trip as we are. It is too cold for him during the night and he finds the facilities below basic. We do not recognize ourselves in the story of the man. The facilities up to now are simple, but adequate. Sometimes some improvisation is necessary, but the friendliness of the people and the special environment compensates us for any inconvenience. The American tourist wanted to travel to Tawang but has now decided to skip that part of his trip because he has heard that it's snowing there now. Well, we are still excited to go there!.

On the way to Ziro we visit a craft centre. Ingrid likes to buy some of the beautiful fabrics from here and we didn't see proper shops where you can buy it. The shop is opened especially for us and Ingrid finds the shawl she was looking for.

 

We also visit a market, but there is not much to do because it's Sunday.

Time to return home. We take some pictures of the shop of Anna. In a month time the family will move to Itanagar (capital of Arunachal Pradesh, more possibilities for work and better education for the children). The shop is sold then.

 

Eaten down again tonight; with the family. Bully even had a bottle of wine purchased. Nice! We were called down early because Anna is preparing a special meal in a bamboo shoot. It is a particular dish from here. A bamboo stem is filled up with pieces of chicken, beaten egg, herbs and spinach. After which the stem is held above the open fire. The food is cooked in the bamboo stem. Delicious eaten, special talks with each other. Special day!

 

Day 17 – Monday december 16, 2013, Ziro – Nameri (360 km!) map

 

Oops it's cold ! It is truly stone cold in the house .

At half past six in the morning we get up . We can't fill the bucket to flush the toilet , because all the water pipes are frozen in the night. We have breakfast near the great fire in the kitchen room downstairs. We get a nice omelette masala and make some pictures of the family. And then it is time for parting.

 

We leave at seven o’clock after an extended Goodbye. What fun it was!

 

Nature looks nice outside, but also very wintery! Frost on the fields. Hoarfrost in the trees. The sky is already completely clear and blue. It 's a long drive today. Winding through the hills and driving on bad roads with lots of potholes. Occasionally beautiful vistas.

 

It's very green here. Cows basking in the sun. People washing themselves and brush their teeth outside in the open air. Road workers . We also see workers that work as a pair with a shovel. There is a piece of rope connected to the shovel. One person is holding the shovel and the other is pulling the rope so that the shovel makes a pendulum motion.

Many rules in India are changed under the influence of public opinion, but they often have only a temporary effect before it reverts back to old habits. For example, not so long ago, a girl was raped and murdered in a van. Disgust all over the world. In the Netherlands too it was in the newspapers. So the government set a regulation. Tinted glass - usually self added foil - was not longer permitted in cars and vans. All foil had to be removed so you could no longer hide from view. But now it's six months later and everyone drives around with darkened windows again. Law enforcement? In that regard, there is still a lot to be done in India.

 

The buses look beautiful, but as a chauffeur you can barely look outside! The windshield is split in two elements by a job iron. From a distance it resembles to two separate eyes. All kind of ornaments decorate the windows of the cabin and on the windshield itself a thick opaque strip is glued to the top and bottom. The wipers are often decorated by plastic flowers. Sometimes the remaining visibility really is dangerously poor!

In the car we listen to Indian music. It's nice music, from different tribes. Bully explains where the songs proceed. We drive up to 11:30 am and then stop for an early lunch, Tasty, with all kinds of good tasting dishes.

 

Daniel, the brother of Bully is joining us for lunch. He has just finished the tour with the Dutch travelling party we met in Mon. He says it was one of the best groups he has ever had. We stop a moment at a large weekly market, but we cannot stay too long; we have to move on. It is remarkable; the landscape is flat once you leave Arunachal Pradesh. We drive today partly through Assam, In Assam there are enormous tea plantations and the Hindu culture is ruling. More goings on in the street. The roads in Assam are much better and you even have dual carriageways.

 

That 's nice. We can drive much faster now, but that doesn't mean it gets safer. It is very busy on the road with cars. One tries to pass each other on the most unwise spots. Everyone is driving fast, whereas many people are walking and cycling on the road. And then there are the cows on the road, dogs, goats, etc. But we survive.

It is about 5 pm when we arrive at the eco kamp at Nameri. We sleep in a tent today. It's nice weather all day with nice sunshine and a good temperature . The tent is large, and there are 2 large beds . It shimmers already a bit. So we take a quick walk immediately after arrival . They breed guinea pigs here. Not really spectacular. But then we spot a hornbill bird in the wild, and that is very special! Eventually we see a bunch. Male and female. The bird has become rare so it is quite unique that we can see them here . We put them on photo and film. When the birds fly they provide a great uproar ! Difficult to explain how it sounds , but it is certainly unique !

 

By the evening it becomes a lot fresher. The restaurant is on the side completely open. We have somewhat miscalculated the temperatures in this part of India. Our wardrobe is not sufficiently adapted to the cold (too few long pants / warm clothing). Washing is difficult here because we only have one-day-stops almost everywhere . Anyway; the solution is simple, we just wear more layers for longer.

 

The dinner is very tasty.

 

Day 18 – Tuesday, December 17, 2013, Nameri - Dirang (165 km) map

 

It is the birthday of our cousin Teun. Luckily enough we succeed to send him a message by internet. We sleep well in the tent. The beds are fine. Today we are going to Dirang. We leave after a good breakfast with fresh hot toast, jam and a masala omelette.

 

We have a very nice trip today. It's bright, sunny weather . We leave Assam and enter Arunachal Pradesh again . We stop at the checkpoint. First we go shopping. We buy gloves and hats for the mountains! Ingrid also buys a sweatpants. She draws the sweatpants under her thin summer trousers. Not really nice, but comfortable and warm.

Once we drive in Arunachal Pradesh the environment is hilly again. The road winds up through a lush green forest. Somewhere along the way we see a fire. A building burns out completely. A few people use a measuring cup to throw water on the fire. It seems pretty pointless. We ask if there is no fire brigade in this area? No! Half the village has shown up to help to fight the fire.

 

We stop at an orchid farm, but that 's not very interesting. Probably because it's winter. Here there are 550 different species, but as it stands now ... in the shops in Holland you see more en more beautiful examples. We drive higher and higher into the mountains. The mountains look so beautiful! A large number in hazy layers in succession. It is difficult to put it on photo or film, but for real it 's a pretty sight.

 

We always see the river in the depth. Only occasional homes and sometimes a small village along the way. Life must be difficult here. Cold in winter, hot in summer. Some villages are attractively situated against the ridge. Gradually it becomes less wooded. Lots of soldiers everywhere! We sit close to China . The Chinese army crossed the border here In the year 1962. A part of Arunachal Pradesh has been occupied. The road on which we drive now is also used by the Dalai Lama when he had to leave Tibet in plainclothes in 1959.

From afar we see a lot of fire and smoke again. Somewhere on a mountain. This time it is probably deliberately lit for land cultivation.

We stop at a monastery. It is fairly new and build in the style of Chinese architecture. Delicious stop. We get a tasteful dish served with noodles and momo. We visit the monastery. What a lovely weather again. Between sun and shade the temperature seems to fluctuate up to 20 degrees! It is clear that we have arrived in a mainly Buddhist region. Many monasteries here. We stop at another monastery where young monks play music and sing.

 

The snow mountains loom! Unfortunately, it's a bit cloudy, but it is an awesome sight anyway!

We arrive at Dirang. Our hotel for tonight is hotel Pemaling. It looks good, but inside it is completely extinct. Everything is dim/dark. It reminds us of the movie The Shining ... There is no one to see, even at the reception it is empty and the electricity is not working. No sign of life.

 

But of course, eventually out of nothing someone arrives and hands over the key of our room to us. As long as there are no guests the hotel is simply closed. We are the only guests expected so they don't open the hotel till we arrive. The room looks fine , but everything is dark and cold . We get a pocket torch.

 

There we are. Ingrid has her shawl wrapped and we both set our hats. We look comical! Fortunately electricity starts after a while, and we can use an electric heater. We order our food. In this part of India you should always order in advance, even for breakfast. Jan Arend scored a bottle of wine this morning, so we can drink a nice glass of wine with some .... Maria biscuits. Delicious and very cosy. Even the hot water jars from Ziro are with us in the luggage. Tonight we'll let them fill. What more could we want?

 

We are just fine as we are called away; We have to leave the room, no water in our part of the hotel. We get another room. Well, at the end everything is settled again. The food is served in a cold dining room, but it's delicious!

 

Day 19 – Wednesday, December 18, 2013 , Dirang – Tawang (141 km) map

 

We sleep so well that we overslept. The alarm didn't go of. Instead of 05:30 am (!) we leave at 6:30 am for a walk in the valley. It is really winter outside. Ice on the fields and very cold! First we drive by car to the valley. Some clouds are still low but the sky is mainly clear. A lot of houses here are build of stone. People with baskets full of brushwood on their backs. People warm themselves around campfires. Children with barefoot in their sandals ... brrrr . It's freezing !

We cross the river and bring a visit to a house where an old woman lives alone. She is barefoot and warms herself in her cottage by the fire. She's cooking rice. What a lonely existence here! We walk into the village. Buddhist flags everywhere. We want to visit a 400 year old monastery but the administrator of the monastery is not there, so we cannot enter.

 

After our early morning walk we go back to the hotel for breakfast. The dining room is still very cold, and when you take place on your cold plastic chair .... you shiver. We wear gloves and have our hats on. The breakfast is good. The tea heats. Pemaling hotel is a good hotel with nice rooms and balconies, though it is not really the weather now for sitting outside on your balcony enjoying the superb view on the snowy mountains.

 

After breakfast we depart for the Sela Pass direction Tawang . The road is not good. It's nice and sunny, just above the mountain tops a few clouds .

A long row of switchbacks on a narrow path with occasional a lay-bys . The people here live under difficult conditions. The higher we get the more beautiful and colder it becomes. More and more snow and ice on the track. It is slippery! The car skids on the ice.

 

We have to stop: a car has slipped of the road. The car lays completely on its side . Fortunately, nobody was hurt . More and more snow , beautiful ! We are up on the Sela Pass ( 4175 meters high ) with the Sela lake. There is a gate at the pass . We exit the car . No place to drink or something. What a breeze! The nice shawl that Ingrid bought in Zero becomes very handy .

 

On the way down we stop at the war memorial in Jaswantgarh Nuranang, about 25 km from Tawang. It is a memorial to Jaswant Singh Rawat, who single-handedly succeeded in stopping the advance of the Chinese army for 72 hours during the Chinese hostilities in 1962. A heroic act he must ultimately pay for with death. His clothes and other stuff like portraits are exhibited in the Memorial. It is said that his spirit still frequently knocks about here. There is a large plaque with all the fallen soldiers.

Below is a kind of military. shop. You get free tea, with a somosa snack under a billboard with the text:"Have a cup tea, be part of history". The soldier are honoured by our visit. They find it special that travellers from abroad pay respect to their hero. A Sikh soldier makes a photo from him with us on his phone .

About the girlfriend of Jaswant Singh, Sela are also the necessary epics . Sela was captured by the Chinese. She had to tell where the ammunition was and what the plans were. She has two generals taken to a cliff and there she pushed the generals of the abyss. She herself also died. Therefore the lake now bears her name . Both are revered here as a true hero .

 

We continue our journey to Tawang. We see different waterfalls , sometimes frozen . And Yaks ! Beautiful animals. Fine woolen tails . We stop at yet another monastery that turns out to be a nunnery. Two women sing, recite and make music .

We have lunch in the kitchen of a dingy eatery . We would never have found it ourselves. But the food is delicious! Just awesome . This region is very Tibetan orientated . A lot of women are still in costume. A woman has a very distinctive style; she looks a bit like Whoopi Goldberg, but it turns out that we see points of wool of her traditional cap made of yak wool.

 

Finally we arrive at our hotel. ZaxStar Hotel looks good. The same ritual as in Diran. No one there to receive us. Well we know now: that can happen when you are the only guests . Finally somebody opens the door and let us in.

 

We are brought to a good room with a comfy couch. The generator turns on, so there we have light too. And after a good stove is found an lit, everything is fine. We get tea and biscuits. In the evening we eat our ordered food in a spacious cold dining room. The diner was quite extensive.

 

Day 20 – Thursday, December 19, 2013 , Tawang

We had a good night sleep. It was not cold. 7 am breakfast followed by departure.

 

Our first destination is the famous 400 year old Tawang Monastery. The Tawang monastery is the largest monastery in India. It was founded by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1680-1681 in accordance to the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama. The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa school and has a religious association with Drepung Monastery in Lhasa.

 

The monastery is close to the Tibetan border. The monastery is also known as Galden Namgey Lhatse in Tibetan, which means: to the celestial paradise in a clear night. The library of the monastery has valuable ancient scriptures. The monastery is three stories high. It is enclosed by a 610 m long protection wall. Within the complex there are 65 houses and 10 other buildings.

The Tawang Monastery monitors 17 gompas and several convents in the region. It was renovated in 1997 by the 14th Dalai Lama - The traditionally built structure was demolished and rebuilt with concrete. Gyalsey Rinpochey is a famous incarnation of the Loseling College of Drepung Monastery and the incarnate head of Tawang.

 

When we arrive the young monks have their lessons; there is a kind of service is in progress . Many young monks. Long rows of boys who participate seriously in the teachings but also are very aware of our presence. They watch us from the corners of their eyes. If the service is finished, all the boys rush out. Today, the holiday begins. No school They go to their family today .

 

It is a beautiful, 400 year old monastery. A network of buildings actually. Everything is richly decorated and offerings are everywhere. We look at the kitchen. Huge pots and jugs for butter tea. Young monks walk everywhere. Somewhere out there is a young monk with a waste bin. He must take it away, but he is afraid of the monkeys on the wall of the monastery. The monkeys are eyeing for something delicious. The fear of the boy is justified, because the biggest monkey is pretty aggressive! Eventually he succeeds to dump the waste and runs away.

 

It's a nice bunch, those monkeys! We walk with a young teacher to his group of pupils in the living area of the monastery. Nice to see how they live here. Some monks are studying behind the books. We are not really people who study museums. But since we are here now we go and see the museum of the monastery. We get a good impression of the valuables and historical objects they preserve here. Meanwhile, the nice weather in the mountains changes. There is still some sun but the clouds are approaching.

There is a very nice old woman. She visits the monasteries and stupas of the area as a sort of pilgrimage. She wears a traditional dress and the black hat with yak points. She turns incessantly the prayer wheel around which she holds in her hand. She walks on shoes from dust and has a beautiful necklace. She gives us a handful of rice and nuts as a sign of respect and friendship.

 

Two boys sitting somewhere on a shed with a small dog. They just washed him. After visiting the monastery we visit the Anni Gompa (Women Monastery).

It is cold. The Anni Gompa is located high in the mountains and looks as if it is really died out. Moreover, the ground is very smooth because of the ice. From one of the houses suddenly pops up the face of a young girl. When she understands what we want the little nun goes looking for an older nun who can guide us. After some time she returns with an older nun. The older nun opens the door of the monastery praying hall for us.

 

After our visit to the women's monastery we return to Tawang. We see some unexpected slums. You should not want to live there, especially in the winter not.

 

We pass another monument to the fallen in the 1962 war. The war still lives here very strongly and the people are not confident about the future. It fears a new invasion of the Chinese. There is a soldier who gives us a tour. He acts very formal as if we are VIPs. Funny for us to experience. He trembles a little. He is very proud of his countrymen. There are 2420 soldiers slain in this war on the Indian side. Also, quite a number of citizens. There is a model of the mountains with the place names from here and China. With lights troop movements are indicated. At the end of the tour the soldier provides us some chai. We are told that a monk from the Tawang monastery comes here every morning to lit two oil lamps. To see the names of all those killed is impressive; it makes you silent.

When we arrive back in Tawang we have lunch at restaurant The Dragon. It is dark and quite cold inside the restaurant, but they bring us a stove and the food is delicious ! Momo's, noodles with crispy vegetables and seasoned chicken. It makes us feel good ! It is a well known restaurant and also touted in the lonely planet. Rightly so we can say !

 

Then it's shopping time . We have spent only very little money till now . All of the food turned out to be inclusive. Very luxury to travel that way. Until now have not seen so many nice things we want to buy. In Ladakh they had many beautiful scarves, hats , jewellery and bags. It is much less here. But fortunately we still find some funny things. Bells, Buttons of the Dalai Lama, the cap of yak hair, some notebooks and two Buddha's. We also find a wine store where they have our favourite wine from here .

 

It has become quite dark and it snows in the mountains. Hope that it will be better tomorrow . Fog and smoothness is not a nice combination for a long journey through the mountains across a high pass .

If we are back in the hotel, we have a nice hot cup of tea with biscuits. All electricity is out, but fortunately not for long. The generator starts again. We drink we drink wine on our room with Bully. We talk to each other; especially about each other's culture.

 

We take our stove and with us to the restaurant and had a great meal.

 


Part 4: from Tawang to Kaziranga and Majuli island in Assam