Wednesday 28 September 2016

Day 7 - Bomdi-La to Tawang

The morning in Bomdi-La had a lot of peace and freshness to it. My mind was free from such thoughts, as there was only one way to go, from here. Unlike all other night halts so far, I had to pick a direction to head and decided on places to visit. Today's agenda was clear, it was to head north. So without much further ado, let me allow the images to take you through my day.

Morning view from my room window :)

I had to give the photographer her freedom of expression when I am the one requesting to be photographed! Hence the flowers in the frame :P Still way better than a selfie I guess...

Dining/Breakfast Hall

Didn't know it's been so many years... Amazing how Tibetans could create an ecosystem of their own, and be self-sustained, in every part of this country they have settled. There is so much to learn from them really!

A break on the way to relax and cool down the bike.

Today's distance to cover wasn't much, so I decided to take more breaks and enjoy the view on the way.

Look a little closer and the view was just mesmerizing.

The road ahead is visible for the next 10-15 KMs.

Reminded me of Ladakh, except for the thick green cover.

Interesting how people live in the mountains. Every single time I get to visit the mountains, it baffles me.

A closer look at the village.

Valleys seem to have few big structures (like the one seen here), most commonly these are monasteries or schools.

Army shares half or more of the space, especially if the area is closer to the border

Some photographs don't do justice to the real sight, that I witnessed while traveling. For instance this one.

It appeared much more beautiful to my eyes than (I guess) got captured in the image here. 

Thick clouds and dense green cover the mountains. 

Simply beautiful!

Some colorful flags and a stupa on the way... The mountain breeze brings life to these otherwise barren stretches, in the form of fluttering prayer flags... An important and common practice, in Tibetan culture.

Some of the crazy antics of nature, one can only witness on the highest of mountains. 

After seeing the scary rain and challenging roads, this view ahead could only make a solo traveler more anxious, as in what to expect, once inside the blanket of fog

One of the many army bases on the way and this one had a helipad at the end of the road visible here.

The first sign was that I was climbing beyond average altitude. The fog around me got thicker and thicker and my fingers started to feel numb in cold.

My first sight of something interesting ahead.

Ahh!! the famous Se-La (Pass)...

Officially we (me and the bike) made it to 13,700 ft. Yay!! Damn, it was freezing in there and I couldn't feel my fingers. Just for a comparison, Bangalore is at an altitude of 3,000 ft (from sea level).

I must admit, Se-La (Pass) had gotten me by surprise. Having ridden through Khardung-La (at 18,380 ft), I underestimated Se-La, and by the time I realized, I was already soaked in the constant drizzle till there and the temperature must have been around 1 or 2 degrees (or maybe less). I stopped for taking pictures and when I decided to move, I couldn't flex my fingers. It was a crazy experience. I had a pair of thick waterproof riding gloves, but because my fingers had become so stiff, it was not possible to put those on. So I had to keep flexing and relaxing the fingers many times to get some blood flow going and then immediately started riding down from the pass to the other side, with those stiff fingers. It was challenging, as downhill control was only through brake and clutch, and that was most difficult to operate, given fingers are stiff. Somehow as I descended from the pass, my oxygen level started to increase (i.e. I could breathe normally without putting in much effort), with the drop in altitude. Also, the temperature was returning to a more bearable/safer level. Somehow I managed to come down the pass and find a small shop, which was selling tea and a few other packed snacks. I just wanted to hold something hot, and that plastic disposable cup did the trick. Ah, what a relief. I will live another day. Thanked the mountains (all riders do!) for letting me pass through safely and hoped for a safer journey ahead. There is a photograph of this shop/hotel, which I shot during my return this way. But for today, it was a lifesaver, and I was thanking my stars for it.
And the descent from the Se-La (Pass) brought back life into me.. the numb hands were feeling much relieved now and the views were soothing away the pain. 

Among the clouds, every moment feels amazing.

Am sure, the bull was also enjoying the views here.. After all, not every bike sees such moments in its usable life.

Toy villages:) "Do the people who live here, get excited to see the mountains, every morning they wake up?", I just wondered.

As I was getting closer to the civilization in the lower lands.

How it appeared to me, while I was behind the handlebars.

Notice the amount and variety of flowers in each house... My mom would go ecstatic if she gets to see these :) Maybe through these photographs, she will get to see these places.

Bum-La is the Indo-China border... Tawang, another 37 KMs as the sign says.

I guess the clouds were following us all along.

It looked so cool!! Clouds looked like white smoke initially, but they were certainly not. They are below the ground level here. How cool is that ?!!

I made it to Tawang by late afternoon and found a room in Hotel Zax Star. It was under renovation, so they offered me a good discount and an excellent room. I had time in hand, so I just changed into something more *normal* and headed for the market area for tea and a bit of riding around town. Thankfully the hotel had wooden flooring and a room heater, so I could have a comfortable night in Tawang. After reaching Tawang, the border Bum-La was close by but required a separate permit, which upon enquiring got to know that has nothing worth seeing actually. As there is a big patch of no man's land between our border and that of China. This was unlike the Nathu-La pass in east Sikkim, where one can see the soldiers of both countries guarding the borders. So I decided to give it a pass and definitely not worth a day of paperwork. So I had a relaxed evening in Tawang. Found a shop that made amazing (*not sure, but it was my dead taste buds also) tea, I had at least 3 cups. The manager at the hotel, who was originally from Bihar but has lived all around the country told me a few interesting facts about the place, which were hard to believe. For instance, the chickens are brought from lower altitude places, so mostly they die by the time they reach Tawang. Psssk Se-La (Pass) remember?!! Imagine what it can do to those tiny and meek birds! So it was difficult to get fresh chicken there. After hearing this, I insisted on a veg meal for the night. Lol. So tonight I was blessed with a heated room, wooden flooring, a double blanket, and a decent amount of time in hand, to rest well and have great sleep.

Dressed down to some non-riding gear, to head for a night in town, in Tawang

Until tomorrow...


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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Day 6 - Tezpur to Bomdi-La

Good Morning Tezpur! 
From the name, my mind was visualizing some place in Punjab, or somewhere up north, definitely not a place in the northeast. But in reality, it is one of the cities in Assam and an entry point to Arunachal, especially if you want to go to Tawang. Last night's ordeal had shaken my bike badly and the least I could think of is to get it cleaned up, from all the dust, muck, and leaked oil. This was important, as I will be heading up the mountains from here and garages or mechanics would be a rarity, as I go higher. So the bike should be in a good/clean state for me to troubleshoot, should any need arises. Now I just got up early and topped up the engine oil, which I knew would've burnt out a bit, while doing the highways in the last two days. Once done, I went hunting for a service center to give this bull a shower. This was the 3rd or 4th time when I realized, in cities/towns, shops usually open late, say around 9 or 10, but definitely not around 8. Cleaning up the bike was important and so I decided to wait outside a water service center for say 40-45 minutes. It was nice to sit quietly for a change. I could run my mind through all possible plans for today and the coming days. While I was busy doing the mental simulation of my day and getting excited about what Arunachal had in store for me, the shop opened and my ride got the much-needed treatment... a pressure wash :)

The morning wait, before breakfast.

"BLING!" Close your eyes and then open them in a flash and look at them. That's the sound you would get :D lol

First sight of mountains, before Bhalukpong. Guess lady rain has also come to the party! Things are getting better now!

Hello Clouds! Missed you guys in the last 2 days!

I wish I had more opportunities to shoot portraits of my steed, but it's okay.

Some farmlands in the valleys

The view just gets better and better with each passing stretch of the mountains

Rivers are in full bloom, due to the monsoon, which was ending soon.

Bit of hide and seek with the Sun on the way. 

There is something about rivers, that fills your heart... Flowing water out of taps just doesn't compare!

Nag Devta Mandir (temple) in the background.

Tenga military base ahead

A close-up shot.

Spot the bike! It's parked right at the bend.

I could have shot more photos if it wasn't for the rain and the army convoy (of around 100 trucks and buses) that I had to overtake on the narrow, broken, slippery mountain roads. It was challenging and I remember I was floating over the edges while overtaking, scary at moments. 90% of the time, I overtook on wider patches, but there was this 10% of the time, there were no wider patches for an hour. Overall it was a safe riding day for me and got an idea of this route and the niggles. I have some videos from my helmet cam, which I will try and share at some later point. Until then, hold your breath and enjoy the stills that are coming your way. 

For the night I made it to Bomdi-La, a town, that serves as a midway stop for everyone traveling to Tawang. This time, I wanted to try something else for the accommodation. I looked around and found a monastery on the top of the hill, so decided to try it there, as the view will be nice. Lucky me, found a room at the Monastery Guest House. 

The Guest House Room that I got

A bit of protein and carbs is all I seek in thy land. No seriously! Just serve it hot!

Dinner for the night as well as tomorrow's fuel (breakfast) was made available. It was perfect. The only realization was, the temperature there was around 10-12 degrees (c). Brrrrrrr. My body undergoing an endurance test with the constantly changing terrain, weather, and temperature every day. I had a thermal with me, which I had to layer with a t-shirt to stay warm. Of course, jeans and socks were my armor for the cold night (and the one to come), along with the thick furry blank in the room.

The dramatic lighting in the background is due to the fog. These lights are coming from different houses on the hill

Bomdi-La town at night

This was a library, next to the guesthouse

Last but not the least, an image of the pine (I guess) trees looking up to a clear night sky.

Tomorrow is a big day and I think I was ready for it. Tonight's sleep was essential and rewarding in a manner that I had enough time to rest before I give my best to Tawang! 

Until tomorrow.


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