ChaloHoppo to an Unknown Arunachal Pradesh -Mechuka!
If you fall asleep through your journey, long enough, to wake up in Mechuka, missing the road signs that give you a reality check, you may have to pinch yourself, and yet the valley may seem unreal. Come get giddy in Mechuka.
- Reviews 3 Reviews5/5
- 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 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.
The second leg of the journey is rather unique.
It is not every day that you get to visit a geographic location that remains cut off from the rest of civilisation for half the year due to the lack of a motorable land. In November nature allows you enter Dambuk and use the dry river bed as a road. So, are you going to decline nature’s invitation?
- Stay in comfortable, clean and hygienic accommodation, mostly homestays and traditional cottages.
- All entries, parking, tolls
- Transport from Guwahati to Mechuka and back
- AC 3 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
Land in Guwahati and start your train journey to the last station in Assam before you cross over into the gargantuan forest-covered region of Arunachal Pradesh.
The time will be spent in getting to know your travel mates as we break bread and play different games.
The train departs from Kamakhya station at 8:30 pm and reaches Murkongselek at 8 am.
A cottage overlooking the river and the first tryst with Arunachal
From now on, our friend on bumpy roads will be the ever reliable Tata Sumo. This is the lifeline of Arunachal Pradesh, and it isn’t like we can’t hire a fancy vehicle but the fun of experiencing and travelling the local way is something else. Rooftop travels, uncomfortable seats are all a part of this journey of a lifetime.
A Sumo awaits to take you to Pasighat, a small town in Arunachal Pradesh. The mountains of Arunachal the bumpy roads don’t greet us yet. In Pasighat we head to our cottages overlooking the Siang river, where you freshen up. We head out for your first trek of the journey as the hanging bridge of Panging awaits you. In the evening we drive down a beautiful road and sip some tea next to river Siang.
The total drive time from the station to the cottage will be 2 hours.
Overnight in hilltop cottages.
The stopover town of Along
Another Sumo, another driver, awaits to take us to Along, the district headquarter of the West Siang district. People of the Galo (tribe) inhabit the town of Aalo or Along. The drive may be long and tiring but worth the journey when you check into their beautiful stay perched amidst orange and mousambi orchards. Walk around the gardens and paddy fields or choose to go explore the local market. In the evening, get to know your hosts better as you try some of the traditional Galo brew(Watch your step here! It’s stronger than you would imagine.) along with some traditional food to go with it.
The total drive time from Pasighat to the homestay will be 5 hours.
Overnight in the homestay in Along.
Welcome to Menchukha valley
After breakfast brace for your road trip to Mechuka. As you drive up a few thousand feet, you will observe how both the air and landscape change dramatically with height. After a good eight hours of travel, you will reach this magical valley in the West Siang district which promises to make you forget the journey as soon as you drive into it. Mechuka or Menchukha, as is traditionally called, translates to medicinal water from snow as the locals believed that the water from the stream which passes through the valley could cure any illness in the world due to its medicinal properties. The beautiful town of Mechuka is home to primarily the Memba tribe, a Tibeto-mongloid ethnic group which follows Buddhism. Other inhabitants, in smaller numbers, would include the Ramo, Bokar Libo and Tagin tribes(some of which are sub tribes of the Adi community). On reaching, let life slow down to the pace of the mountains as you walk around the small town taking in the grandeur of the snow-capped mountains around you. You will be staying in a Memba homestay where you may rest if you choose to leave the walking to the next day. Sit by the fire with your hosts in the evening before retiring to your room for a well-deserved sleep
The total drive time from Along to Mechuka will be 8 hours.
Village walks, folk music and Gurudwara
After breakfast, set out to get to know this paradise of a place a little better. There are many stories and folklore that have been passed down generations among the people here. Hear them out as our local team takes you around to tell you a little more about the region. Visit the Yarlung Camp at a height of 7934 feet and meet those protecting the boundaries of the country. The gate of the camp is the last point where civilians are allowed without any special permission. Certain rocks and sticks have been marked from where one can talk on a mobile phone as even moving an inch results in no network on the devices. Thereafter, drive to the Gurudwara to pay your regards and know more about the significance of the Gurudwara and Sikhism in Mechuka. The Gurudwara is beautifully located with a hanging bridge just behind it. Walk around and explore the area as Langar is prepared. After lunch, walk around and see the places nearby as you hear the stories associated with the spots you will visit. Go back to the Homestay and retire there for the night.
This is the day we use the car at our disposal.
Monasteries and Momos
Hike up to the top of a hill to visit a 400 year old Buddhist monastery where you can see many carvings, structures and other ancient artifacts which though passed down so many hands and generations are still very well maintained. The view from the Gompa is truly exquisite and if you are lucky, you may even see one of the IAF planes making a U-turn just around the Gompa before landing on what the Air Force calls the ‘Advance Landing Ground’, which is the name of the airstrip in Mechuka. After you walk back down to your homestay, bond with your hosts over some traditional brew, while you learn how to make some of their traditional food(read Momos and paa).
There will be plenty of spare time for you to take long nature walks which is the ideal way to explore Mechuka.
*Camping can be done on any of the three days depending on the weather.
Hike to a shepherd’s home
Early next morning, we trek up to a shepherd’s house hidden high up in the mountains of Mechuka. The first time we trekked up there, we didn’t believe someone lived so remotely in an already remote place. “ He tends to his cows there till winter comes” said our guide, a 7 year old boy. Since he was talking about his grandfather Thinley knew what he was saying.
To meet Thinley’s grandfather we drive to Dorjeeling village, an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful place in an already surreal land. Park the vehicle in front of their house in the village and then hike for 2 hours to finally reach the incognito land. It is beyond us to explain in words how beautiful the valley looks as we continue our ascent. Upon finally crossing over to the other side you will see two houses perched on two different hills and huge cows grazing the meadows. One side of this pastureland looks like the famous Dzukou valley in Nagaland.
The next few hours will be spent talking to Doge Phalle, the shepherd who used to trade his wares in Tibet before 1962 when the path between Mechuka and Tibet was open. Different varieties churpi or Tibetan cheese, ghee chai, local eggs were served to us. You can expect something similar. His house seems to be preserved in time and takes you back to the time when Mechuka was a part of Tibet which is as recent as 1959.
Resting at Along
Early next morning, make your way back towards Aalo (Along) where you will spend the night at
the same homestay you had stayed in earlier
A sumo ride and train to Guwahati
Today’s morning should be utilised in taking in the views and just being one with the place. Since it’s time to bid farewell to your hosts and hop to your Sumo for a ride back to the station after lunch. On the way make a stopover at Pasighat to enjoy views of Bodak ghat and Ranaghat before driving to Murkongselek to catch your overnight train to Guwahati.
Total drive from Along to Murkongselek will be 5 hours and the train journey will be 12 hours long.
Train departs from Murkongselek at 7 pm and reaches Guwahati at 7 am.
Bye- Bye Northeast India
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.
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.