Getting there was half the fun. Soon after we crossed into Arunachal Pradesh
Getting there was half the fun. Soon after we crossed into Arunachal Pradeshthe road merged into the tendrils of the Lohit river. Jeep-boat-jeep-boat-footmarch-boat-jeep. And suddenly we were in Tezu, a disarmingly quiet District HQ. It had all the naïve charms of a small town and none of its despairs. There was a painter of signs, a vendor of sweets and a well-run District Library where I found first editions of Argonauts of the Western Pacific, and News from Tartary. And no, I didn’t steal either one.
We took to the hills, chasing the Lohit up its valley until it slipped away across the border into China’s Yunnan province. On the way we passed a succession of dusty frontier towns that creaked and slumbered like dusty frontier towns. Hyuliang, Hawai, Walong, Kibithoo. Frankly, they sounded more alluring on the map. But the frontier had nothing to do with maps. We were on the edge of a more elusive universe, hidden high in the densely forested slopes that towered above the road and its settlements. At night we could see the flames of Jhuming opium cultivators flickering like beacons. It only took one night in a small Mishmi hamlet for me to get hooked. Maybe it was the timeless impermanence of thee bamboo longhouses. The gentle indifference of old folks on opium. Or waking to the clamour of hysterical cockerels and a day of different priorities. I’ve already been back twice.
It is important to remember that even Indian citizens need an Inner Line Permit to visit Arunachal Pradesh. You can obtain a permit at the Arunachal Bhawan in Delhi (011-23013915) or from Deputy Resident Commissioners in Kolkata, Shillong and Guwahati. See www.lohit.nic.in
The nearest airport and railhead is Dibrugarh, 160km away.
What to do
For beauty and adventure, head to the unspoiled Mishimi Hills.