Visiting Mechuka had been a dream ever since I saw the beautiful posts from this pristine valley of Arunachal Pradesh on various social media platforms. However, I had not envisioned it to come true so soon. When my invitation for Basar Confluence was confirmed, I was ecstatic to know that I will also be heading to Mechuka for another festival hosted by Adventure @ Mechuka with the same travel bloggers group.
Where is Mechuka?
Mechuka is situated at 6000 feet above sea level in West Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh. It is also known as the Forbidden Valley of Arunachal Pradesh since it was inaccessible by road until 2003 when Dalai Lama visited the 400-year old monastery of Mechuka. It is about 30 KMs from the McMahon line separating India and China. And was previously used as a strategic military landing strip during the Sino-Indian War of 1962.
After spending a week and sharing such beautiful moments together in Basar, we all had become one huge family. Even though it broke our hearts to leave Basar, we were looking forward to our next set of adventures together at the forbidden valley of Arunachal Pradesh that we had heard so much about. A traveler bus was arranged for our entire tour to Mechuka. Thus we set off early morning towards our destination. Normally, it takes around 9-10 hours to reach Mechuka from Basar.
We stopped a couple of times on the way for Tea and Lunch. The road from Basar to Mechuka goes via Along. The journey was a comfortable hilly ride with moderate road conditions. The highlight of the journey was, however, the snow-capped mountain that showed itself more with every turn we took, indicating how close we are to our destination.
How to reach Mechuka from Guwahati/Silapathar/Itanagar
- From Guwahati, one can board Lachit Express to Silapathar (9.5 hours journey) or Donyi Polo Express to Naharlagun.
- From Silapathar, shared taxis/sumos are available to Along (around 6 hours).
- And from Naharlagun, shared taxis/sumos are available to Itanagar (40 minutes ride) and then change for taxis heading towards Along (around 8 hours). Halt the night at Along and book another shared taxi/Sumo from Along to Mechuka which usually is available in the early morning (8 hours journey).
We were about to reach Mechuka when our vehicle broke down. The weather was getting cold and we had to lock ourselves up until the driver arranged another vehicle for the rest of the journey. It was dark by the time we entered Mechuka. But the moon was shining and the mountains glittered in its light. We turned in for the night at the homestays arranged for us. Looking forward to the days ahead with beautiful vistas of Mechuka that we had heard so much about.
Places to stay in Mechuka
Due to the recent influx of tourists in the valley, many families have opened up their homes as home stays with basic facilities. Some of them are – Gayboo’s traditional lodge, Grace homestay, Yargyap Chhu home stay etc. All these are within walking distance from the town.
The Adventure @ Mechuka team had organized a 3-day festival, inaugurated by Salman Khan and Honorable Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju. The team had organized various adventurous activities like Rafting, Kayaking, Paragliding etc during the day time. Evenings were reserved for cultural programmes with performances by bands from different parts of the country. Since the days were very short in Mechuka (it gets dark by 4 PM), we decided to spend days exploring the valley. And enjoy the cultural shows at event grounds in the evening.
The roads of Mechuka were beautiful with the myriad fall colors of the trees and followed the bluish Siyom/Siang river. The majestic river is one of the main tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra and originates in Tibet.
A viewpoint overlooking a hill with the natural formation of a face resembling Hanuman on it. Hanuman temple has also been built nearby. The natural architecture was possibly carved out due to erosion. But garnered the attention of all tourists as it truly resembled the face of the ardent devotee of Lord Ram in Indian mythology. This is also the last permanent camp of the army before the McMahon Line – the borderline separating the Tibetan region of China and the North-east region of India. Yarlung, the border village in India is 25-30 KMs from the Hanuman camp.
Guru Nanak Taposthan and Gurudwara
The popular legend goes that Guru Nanak meditated on these spots on his way to Tibet. Two Gurudwaras were constructed in his honor (maintained by the Indian Army) by the Siyom river. There is a local story that Guru Nanak was once attacked by a wild bear while he was meditating. But the huge boulder under which he was meditating lifted him up and protected him. Another story goes that Guru Nanak once wanted to cross the river but there was a huge rock standing on his way. So, the rock got split into two, making a passage for him to pass. This thin passage is still available. It is said that only those true of heart can pass through it, no matter what their body sizes are.
There was also a beautiful waterfall near the second Gurudwara in which the Guru was believed to have taken bath. There was a small cavity filled with black and white pebbles, which lay hidden under the water. It is said that if a person picks a pebble and it turns out to be white, his wish is going to come true. And no matter how many times he tries thereafter, he/she will not be able to pick a pebble of a different color.
Samten Yongcha Monastery
The monastery was built in the 14th century atop a hill in the western edge of Mechuka valley. We started our journey from the event grounds to the nearest base of the Monastery on a traveler. It is around 14 KMs from town. We had to get down near the bridge because the big vehicle could not drive up (though small vehicles can go all the way) and started our walk up the hill. It was not a strenuous trek though it was a bit lengthy.
The road was beautiful which offered panoramic views at many points and was covered all the way with tall pine trees. We saw some blue colored berries which we found out later were edible (tangy in taste like gooseberry). Once we reached the top, the view took our breaths away. I climbed up the stairs to the monastery and sat down facing the Mechuka valley with the bluish Siyom river flowing through it just like a painting. I sat there for a long time, under the prayer flags, while the others got busy exploring the monastery.
Soon, I had to drag myself away to see what is inside the monastery as well. The ancient monastery has beautiful statues of Guru Padmasambhava, masks, traditional musical instruments and prayers left by devotees.
The 400-year old monastery is a two-storeyed building. Made entirely out of wood and has a divine old-world charm to it. There were some antique stone inscriptions stored inside. The monastery is believed to be older than the Tawang Monastery and is maintained by the local people. It is one of the most visited spots of Mechuka, for locals and tourists alike.
Dzogchen Samten Choeling Monastery
The new monastery is situated close to the town but failed to provide the charm of the older one.
Located about 12 KMs from Mechuka, Dorjeeling is a picturesque village with little wooden houses, farms and blue streams. It is not a specific tourist spot. But a quaint little village where one can sit down and appreciate the surroundings. There is a small Buddhist Monastery in the village.
Sika Dido Waterfalls
The Siko Dido waterfalls in Irgo is a towering waterfall, surrounded by rocks covered in green moss. Though this waterfall lies on the way to Mechuka, it is worth stopping over.
Wooden Bridges and Wild Horses
These are a common sight around Mechuka. Wild horses can be seen grazing lazily over the valley. The wooden bridges, held by steel wires are an absolute delight for photographers, often overlooking the beautiful hills of Mechuka over the beautiful Siyom river.
Tribes of Mechuka
Mechuka is home to the people of the Ramo (Adi), Memba, Bokar and Libo tribes, who are believed to have Tibeto-mongoloid origins. They follow various religions like Buddhism, Donyi-Poloism, Christianity and can speak in Memba, Adi, Hindi, and English.
Best time to visit Mechuka
The best time to visit Mechuka is when the roads are not affected by the weather ie., post-monsoon months between October and March.
After spending three magical days at Mechuka, we set off for our return to our respective home cities. Since most of us had flights from Dibrugarh, we decided to leave for Pasighat and spend the night there. The Bogibeel Bridge, that was recently inaugurated by the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi was not operational then. Hence we had to cross over to Dibrugarh via ferry from Bogibeel ghat. The sun was just dipping over the mighty Brahmaputra coloring the sky and the river in all hues of orange.
Transportation to Dibrugarh from Mechuka
Take a shared taxi/Sumo heading towards Along. Then take another shared taxi/Sumo to Silapathar. Local taxis are available to/from Bogibeel Ghat. Ferry to/from Dibrugarh ply at regular intervals. However, with the inauguration of the Bogibeel bridge, direct road transport options are also available between Dibrugarh and Silapathar.
Important Points to Remember
- Inner Line Permits (ILP) are absolutely necessary to enter and travel in Arunachal Pradesh. They are easily obtainable on arrival or online.
- Mobile networks are scarcely available in Mechuka as there is only BSNL tower, which does not work sometimes. There is only one PCO in town in case of emergency.
- Carry warm clothes and proper shoes. Mercury goes down to sub-zero temperatures in winters with snowfall.
- Mainly Tibetan food is available in Mechuka. But one may get a few more options in the town. Recommended you carry some ready-to-eat meals if one has limited food preference.
- It is better to carry cash before proceeding. There is only one State Bank of India ATM, which runs of cash.
This is a guest post written by Priyam Kakoti Bora who represented IndiTales at Basar Confluence 2018