Tenga Valley – Landscapes, Orchids, Waterfalls & Kiwis
There is one thing that you must remember when you travel in the North East and that is that you can never have a concrete travel plan in place. There will be some bandh, some roadblock that can force you to change your plan at the last minute. The news of the same is not readily available. And definitely not online and you have to depend on the local news only. On our way to Tenga Valley, Arunachal, there was a road bandh on the Assam-Arunachal border and no vehicles were allowed to be crossed. So we were stuck and landed up spending the night at a tea estate in Tezpur, about which I will write later.
Permit to visit Arunachal Pradesh
To enter the state of Arunachal Pradesh, you need an inner line permit. That can be obtained by filling a form and giving your photographs and copy of a photo Id card. This can be done in Delhi, Guwahati, and Shillong. I went to the Arunachal House in Shillong to get the permit. Gave all the documents and a nominal fee and I was told to come after 3 days to take the permit. I explained that I need the permit now as we plan to go there tomorrow. The lady and the gentleman there obliged me by giving it within half an hour. Now the permit does not allow you to go anywhere in the state. You have to specify which entry route of the three available will you take. What places you intend to visit and between what dates. Usually, a permit is issued for 15 days.
Need for Permit System!
I took the permit for Balukpong, Bomdila, and Tawang circuit. With this requirement, I assumed that we will have to present ourselves at the border and verify ourselves. But no one at the border bothered to look at our vehicle or us. With 2 permit holders, there could have been 2 others without a permit. The driver took our passes and his driving license at the check post, paid some mandatory money there and we crossed the border. I wonder what was the need to get the permit in the first place. First of all, as a citizen of this country why do I need special permission to visit a whole state? I can understand certain sensitive pockets within the state. Arunachal is a big state. And if for some reasons there is a need, is your implementation not failing the whole purpose of the permits.
Waterfalls en route to Tenga Valley
Watch the video of the waterfalls.
Roads at Balukpong
Roads leading to and from Balukpong only show signs that they probably existed at some point in time. The cut mountains also indicate that there is some intention of building the road. But the driver and the locals would tell you that the rubble had been lying there for many years now. And they will be surprised the day it gets completed. The only roads that are good are the ones that are around Army settlements. In fact, after the Balukpong stretch, you recall roads back home and think, what do I keep cribbing about?
Beautiful Nature at Arunachal
Like they say you have to go through hell to reach heaven. Once you cross 20 km’s stretch that looks like 200 km’s long, you reach the mountains and valleys of Arunachal with the rivers flowing through the creeks. The scenery is breathtaking. I have never seen mountains so thickly covered with trees, lush green pine trees. Here and there the waterfalls are coming out and merging into the river below. The flowers are peeping out of stones, tree trunks, bushes and literally everywhere, wildflowers existing on their own.
Orchid Flowers & Govt. Orchidarium
Arunachal is home to a lot of varieties of Orchids. About 5 km’s from Balukpong border is Tipi, where there is a Govt Orchidarium. Here they are supposed to do research on Orchids and grow 750+ varieties of them. We could find a total of 3 flowers there, probably a wrong time to visit the place. A small museum there showcases varieties of orchids through photographs and charts. We were told to try our luck at Orchid Sanctuary in Sessa that is midway between Balukpong and Tenga Valley. We could not locate it on our way up but we did stop by it on our way back.
There is only a gate that tells you that it is an Orchid sanctuary and then there is the sheer jungle. You can walk at your own risk. We walked about 150 ft or so but we managed to see quite a few varieties of Orchids, much better than the organized Tipi Orchidarium. A local person who very graciously accompanied us during the Arunachal leg of our trip took us to a farmer who does Orchid farming. And on his terraced farm, he not only showed some very interesting orchids but also explained a few things about them including the economy of Orchids. As you go up the mountains, the weather gets better and better for the Orchids. And you would see a lot of wild varieties on the roadside.
The challenge is to stop on those curvy narrow roads to admire them. Wonder if that route can be done on foot for a good study of flowers. And an excellent opportunity to photograph them.
Legend of Arunachal
Arunachal is one part of India that never came under British dominance. So you do not see any structures or any influences from that era here. A rare thing in itself for India today. Legend is that when the first British officers tried to enter Arunachal, which was an area dominated by local tribes, their heads were chopped off and sent back to Assam. This created a myth that the tribals of this area are man-eaters. And after this, there was no attempt to enter these thickly forested areas. Balipara on Assam border was the boundary for British. They referred this area beyond Balipara as Balipara front. Arunachal was a part of Assam before becoming a union territory in 1971. An independent state in 1987. It now has 16 districts and is the largest state in NE India by area.
One of the most unexpected things that I learned about Arunachal is that Hindi is the official language of the state along with English. People speak very good Hindi. They complain that most of the times they are called Chinese when they visit other parts of India. Even when they speak Hindi as well as Dilliwallahs. I was told that Hindi is a link language as each tribe has its own language. And the total number of languages exceeds 50. Not much is known about the ancient roots of tribes of Arunachal, though Mahabharata has reference to this region.
Recent excavations at Malinithan in the eastern part of the state have revealed some ancient Hindu temples associated with the Krishna-Rukmini legend. Most tribal people follow the Doyne-Polo as their religion which is nothing but the worship of Sun and Moon literally. But may refer to natural elements in general. They did not have organized religion for a long time. But now they are taking official religions, most of them choosing between Hinduism and Buddhism. The North Western part of the state, where lies the Tawang monastery, is primarily Buddhist. There is a fair percentage of the Christian population as well.
People of Arunachal still engage in farming primarily. It seems selling timber was the main occupation for a long time. Most mountains were bared by this activity. In last few years, Govt has completely banned cutting of trees. And the mountains are green again. The hill climate is well suited for flower and fruit cultivation. Tomato is a big cash crop for them. We saw Kiwi and Apple orchards. Rose and Orchid gardens in Tenga valley. Tenga valley is a small local town. And a huge army settlement in a valley where most houses are by the river flowing through it. Our host there has a perfect house on the bend of a river. Eaglenest Sanctuary is close to Tenga valley, but to visit it, you have to choose the right season.
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Glow, for being such a great host for us in Tenga Valley.
Recommend you to read following Travel Blog Posts on North East India.