ChaloHoppo to an Unknown Arunachal Pradesh -Mechuka!
Summers are beautiful. Summers are pleasant. Summertime is a great time to be in the outdoors and doing things. If it means flying to a remote corner of India, a remote corner of Arunachal Pradesh and spending it in the home of the lovely Memba people. Would you be up for it? The magical valley of Mechuka invites you to embrace summer for what it has always been for the people in the mountains, a welcome season change.
Reviews 1 Review5/5
Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Moderate
Group Size Medium Group
From a complete shift in architectural pattern, with wood replacing brick and mortar and herds of stray horses interrupting your path or seen grazing at a distance, replacing the usual cow herds seen on Indian roads, you slowly tend to relate to the deep-rooted Tibetan influence that you have read online about.
Why don’t you hear it from people who have travelled through us before?
To reach this village in Arunachal Pradesh, we took a plane, a train, a cab, a couple of shared sumos, woke up at unearthly hours, survived many hairpin turns, rocky roads, headaches and a near brain freeze. But boy, was it worth it!
Bhumika Udernani, Pune,
Being on the mountaintop where you feel like you are the only one in miles and surrounded by prayer flags is a pretty awesome feeling.
Avinash Kaur, Delhi
The trip gets better when you are received by your warm homestay hosts.
Traditional food preparation sessions, long nature walks and exploring Memba heirlooms( the major tribe inhabiting the valley) punctuate your Mechuka experience.
Mechuka turns fluorescent green from May right till August. September marks the beginning of Autumn and everything turns brown and stays that way until December.
January brings in snow and then spring comes. Regardless of the season, you visit it in, the place offers breathtaking beauty.
- Stay in comfortable, clean and hygienic accommodation, mostly homestays and traditional cottages.
- All entries, parking, tolls
- Transport from Guwahati to Mechuka and back
- AC 2 tier Train tickets to and from Guwahati
- Guide wherever required
- 1 ChaloHoppo guy to lead the tour
- Inner line permits to enter Arunachal Pradesh
- Excess stay & meals due to bad weather conditions or strikes, resulting in delay of flights or any other form of transport
- Soft drink charges, table drinks, bottled water, laundry, cigarettes, telephone expenses, beer and liquor charges
- Lunch and Dinner
- Any other item not mentioned in “Cost Includes” section above
- Your Personal Purchases
- Any insurances
A train ride where we break the ice
The journey begins with a train ride. Oh, what fun it is to break the ice while sitting in the comfort of your 2 tier AC train commuting for less than 12 hours. The best thing about this train ride is that it gives travellers enough time to know each other before the road trip starts. We love train journeys and hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.
The trip requires you to reach Kamakhya railway station by 7 pm. The train departs from Kamakhya station at 8:30 pm and reaches Murkongselek at 7 45 am.
Bumpy roads and lot of pitstops later
Yes, we are not in Arunachal Pradesh yet. That state is far. That is the fun part, isn’t it? But you don’t have to wait any longer. After a few photos inside the train with our chai, we step out to be greeted by a friendly driver Rishi da. His Scorpio/Bolero will be our companion for the next 8 days.
A drive of approximately 6 to 7 hours with many deserving punctuations will lead us to the first stop and the first homestay of the tour-Reyi Homestay in Along. Our aim is to only reach the homestay for a simple dinner and some tasty ash rice beer!
Along the way to ”Along”(name of the first town we layover before heading to Mechuka), we will see the landscapes change from lush paddy fields to rugged mountains. The temperatures are going to be on the warmer side so far but that will change soon.
Tonight we sleep early because the longest part of the journey awaits us tomorrow!
A day of transitions and end of long drives, for now
The view is stunning from the porch of this traditional and modern cross of a house. Acres of paddy fields. Rows of orange trees. A couple of ponds that appear like beauty spots on the lush vista. The constant gurgling sound of a stream running along the length of the of the house.
Yes, you want to take time to take all these in. But time is less. Only for those whose bodies haven’t adjusted to the new clock. The Northeast India clock is a different deal altogether. More details on this once you are on the trip. For now, the tea is getting cold, we need to make a move.
If we manage to leave by 7 am then we would have had a decent start.
After a 2 hour drive, its time for the actual breakfast and loads of stops, keeping in mind that the drive with only 2 stipulated pitstops takes about 8 hours.
No one can get a grip on the weather in Arunachal in general, so if it rains then we have to alter the drive schedules accordingly. Ah, so much excitement and unpredictability already.
If you don’t like the sound of it, then you should probably not check what happens the next day.
The day you say
Last night you were a little tired because despite best attempts we couldn’t enter Mechuka before dark. But hey that’s alright since we will be taking the same route on our way back 3 days later, so you are didn’t miss out on anything. And you cherished the drive up till that point anyway, so all is well.
If you liked last night’s butter tea then the same shall be had now for breakfast.
You met the hosts of the homestay last night remember? We sat around the kitchen fire greeted the family members before we broke into our rooms and some pulled out a few cans of beer. Oh, by the way, May is definitely a good time to carry a few around and guzzle one at one of the viewpoints.
You also go to know by now that we have no restrictions as such, apart from knowing that we get good people who are smart adults making conscious choices.
As discussed yesterday today we hike! Yay!
We will almost walk the length of Mechuka town but at a higher elevation which will give us almost bird-like views of the inhabited land. It will be long, hence lunch will be had when we find the best viewpoint to aid in building an appetite.
Specific brief about how to prepare for this day hike will be shared when you sign up. Don’t worry.
It’s going to be handy to keep the cameras charged since we may lose count of the number of photographs we click.
By evening we should be back at the homestay or just loiter around Mechuka town. Perhaps pay Abdul’s restaurant a visit?
Who is Abdul now? You will find out.
The day we use the car more than our legs
You have worked hard so far. Let us give you some time to sleep a little late today. You can stay in bed till 8 30 am. That according to the rest of the country’s time would be around 10 am. Good enough?
So when we meet for breakfast which shall be served around 8 am, the ones who wake up late can still have it until 9 am. Why these rules? Feels like boot camp is it? Well, it is still a pretty chilled out one, so you can bare with a few timelines here and there no.
Today’s agenda is to have the langar at the Gurudwara because it is lovely. This will take us about an hour’s drive from town. From an elevation of about 6600 feet, we will be driving up to 7600 feet and eventually to the last civilian point at the Yarlung military camp.
Wait but why does Mechuka in one corner of Arunachal Pradesh have a Gurudwara? This and more such intriguing stories will grapple us when we visit the Taposthan opposite to the location of the Gurudwara.
Apart from a lovely riverside location, the Taposthan has s giant rock which has a split and we try and pass through that. Sinners obviously get stuck. Says the legend.
At the Yarlung check-post, we can chit chat with the jawans and the junior officers of the Indian army who have a few interesting stories of their own.
The old Gompa, that is 400 years has always eluded a lot of the travellers so we aren’t putting it on the agenda but we’ll see how it goes this time. The curse of the planned itinerary is hence withdrawn.
The day we hike bearing gifts for the shepherd
Another hike today! How’s the body and the mind feeling now, eh? It better be good because Darjeeling which is our first village pitstop before hiking to the shepherd’s hut in Rinjinling is a beauty and your mind needs to clear to be absorbing the positive energy.
We should definitely pull over by the riverside and dip our feet in the waters and it would be a good time to invest some energy in wild berry plucking. It’s very addictive to pluck one and put it straight in your mouth and the worst part is that you keep eating them as you collect them and eventually you have none to show.
After this distraction, we are again set on our path hike up the trail where the end of the upwards hike sees us entering one of those ”Vs” mountains have. Only then do we get to see a different side of the hill and one that definitely should make us feel like we have gone a level up in the game.
We shall obviously handover the gifts we brought for Doge Philley the shepherd. It would be nice if he is free to sit with us for a cup of his special ghee chai. It’s not going to be very nippy but it will be pleasant with a hint of chill in the air. So the ghee chai will be perfect.
His hut in this obscurely lush grazing paradise is like travelling in a time machine and visiting a place at the confluence of the changing times, changing governments and flexible identities.
We shall have a light lunch in that hut, perhaps time to cut open that packet of Maggi?
The day it was about stopping over at Along
Did we sleep last night? It’s time to bid goodbye. Your new family will miss you. You should ideally not want to leave but a family bound by blood waits back home. Perhaps a job as well that lets you fund the wanderlust waits too.
But let’s not get too soggy already. Remember we had driven into Mechuka in darkness? Now we drive out in broad daylight. Delaying this beyond 10 am won’t be recommended.
We are on course to break the journey at the same homestay in Along. By now you know that Along is the district headquarter of the West Siang district. People of the Galo (tribe) inhabit the town and our homestay hosts are very keen on fitness. Let’s look out and admire the landscapes on this drive. A rest day at Along is all this night is about. But don’t forget that we need to conserve all this energy for the bidding farewell party that we need to rock our bodies to. Some groovy Bollywood numbers need to replace John Mayer, Prateek Kuhad, Porcupine tree playlists. That is tomorrow in Pasighat. Now, eat and sleep. You have had a long day.
The day of the farewell party
We repeat the process we did at Along. Wake up to great views. Have a more relaxed breakfast though. We only head by around 9 am today. Even though our main agenda tonight is to just have a good time at the resort which has been graced by the Aamir Khan himself.
But while we are at it, it will be a great idea to have a walk through the Pasighat market. It should be fascinating. Considering the cities or lives you are coming from probably doesn’t have silkworms, seasonal insects, wild edible leaves, fat chillies and variety of smells lingering in the air. topped off by the sheer pungency of the bamboo shoot, both dried and fermented.
We should gobble on those pani puris in Pasighat, after which we are ready for the night time gig.
Dance till you drop out of tiredness. Let this be a toast to a trip to remember.
We aren’t yet done with breathtaking views. The views from the hill that the property lies on are quite something. River Siang will be flowing down below and you will be at the top of your happiness levels.
The day we felt like children returning to school after summer vacations
Let’s leave this empty.
Our train is at 7 30 pm. We need to plan accordingly. We feel a bit sad. But we know that there are games to be won in the train and incomplete stories that we had left during the onward journey need to be completed.
The day we wanted the train to not reach its destination
Board your flight/ train back home, until you return.
In case you want to visit the Kamakhya temple, then flight tickets can be booked in the evening so that you get enough time for the visit.
You will reach Guwahati at 7 am if the train reaches on time.
Anybody’s dream home, only a few get to live in it. Would you want to be one of those few mortals?
A tasteful mix of the traditional with the modern. Perfect for even those who have never hauled a backpack.
A place to unwind and listen to what Amir Khan and Kiran Rao did when they were here.
The cultural diversity of northeast India is so vast that we can’t blame outsiders for not being aware of communities in the region who are purely vegetarians, so much so that they avoid eating onions( they are indigenous to the region, in case you are thinking about communities from mainland India who have settled here). Having said that, we must admit that the region’s food habits especially in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya are predominantly non vegetarian with a whole lot of red meat based preparations. But the states have warmed up to tourists recently and almost every place you visit will provide the Indian staple diet of rice, dal and sabji, even chapatis if you are lucky. As far as Tripura, Assam, Manipur and Sikkim are concerned vegetarians have decent number of options. Your craving for butter paneer may not be satisfied, but you will do just fine as far as maintaining your health and strength is concerned.
Entry to Arunachal Pradesh will require an inner line permit for domestic travellers. Foreigners visiting Arunachal Pradesh have to get a protected area permit or PAP.
Extra nights can be booked based on availability. You can also visit our Custom trip section to plan a different trip.
A most definite yes, as long as you are okay travelling in a mixed group of other solo travellers or small group of friends.
The sources of such warnings should be checked and speaking from the perspective of locals living in the region we can say that though some parts of Northeast India do have cases of groups clashing against government forces from time to time, it doesn’t affect a tourist as long as the route is chosen wisely and hours of commute are decided smartly, much like travelling in any other part of the world.
If you have seen warnings in the advisory pages of governments, then we would like to remind you that governments (of different countries)will always take precaution and not be in sync with the real situation. Northeast India is absolutely safe with warm and welcoming locals. You should have no issues even going to the most interior places. As with any other tribal dominated region, respect the local culture and don’t hurt their sentiments, and you will have a great time in a beautiful place.
Because so less is known about the region in general, it may be a wise idea to get in touch with some travel experts before you plan your trip.
The roads in Arunachal Pradesh are like most mountain roads in India, i.e. not in a great shape. So your cup holders in the car may not really work. But the roads aren’t risky to be driving on, just a little uncomfortable.
Homestay: Please understand that you will be staying in homestays and not hotels, and hence you are requested to treat the host and the family not as professional staff but as a family that is hosting guests.
Avoid plastic: Please avoid buying mineral water, since it is a major cause of pollution in the delicate eco system of the places you are visiting. Carry a reusable water bottle and fill filtered water or spring water. The hosts and your guide can assist you in showing where the water can be found.
Respect local culture: You are travelling to remote parts of the country where people speak freely and sometimes it comes across as rude, but understand that their intention isn’t to hurt your sentiments, just that they perhaps lack the skill of sugar coating and diplomacy. During your tour you may see things that may surprise you like a cat roaming around in the kitchen while you eat. But understand that many of these things are part of the way of life here and hence respect the same.