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Northeast Today

My Discover Far East Experience

My Discover Far East Experience
February 23
11:09 2020

When I first came across the “Discover Far East” poster, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was told by a friend that we would get to watch the first sunrise of the country on the first day of the New Year and it felt like a nice way to end my year long tour across the subcontinent.

 

Shreyas Danappa

 

When I first came across the “Discover Far East” poster, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was told by a friend that we would get to watch the  first  sunrise  of the country on the first day of the New Year and it felt like  a nice way to end my year long tour across the subcontinent.

As a typical solo traveler, I tried researching about Dong on the internet but  couldn’t find much online. I began to doubt if going all the way to far eastern India was worth it. That’s when I got in touch with the #DiscoverFarEast team and asked them for information about Dong (which they themselves secured through multiple trips  to  Dong  over the past couple of years). After many such phone calls my relationship with the team transformed from a typical organiser-client relationship to a genuine friendship as I began to discover that these people were not travel agents but a community of passionate and eco-conscious travellers like me. Naturally, I tagged along and our journey officially began when we rode from Tezu to Walong which in itself was an experience as we got to witness a beautiful transition from the Brahmaputra floodplains  to  the Arunachal Himalayas and stopped by near the Lohit river to buy some fresh and juicy organic oranges that would serve as our go to snack till the end of our journey.

The next day, we left for Kaho –  the  last  village  of India right before the border LAC (Line of Actual Control) between India and China. It was honestly very surreal to be so close to the border as a mere civilian and to be able to  see the Chinese military outposts and the Chinese Himalayas with our naked eyes. The #DiscoverFarEast (DFE) team introduced us to an Indian Army officer in the Indian outpost who briefed us about the relationship between India and China at that particular border and he didn’t hesitate to share his binoculars through which you could not only see the Chinese outpost more clearly but the camouflaged Indian bunkers as well.

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On our way back from Kaho, we stopped by a long river bridge across Lohit which connected the highway with Kibithu, a village which has been beautified by the artists of DFE. While returning from Kibithu,  we  got distracted by a party which turned out to be the local Meyor people’s- Losar (Tibetan New Year) celebration. Obviously, we decided to crash their party. The Meyor people were so warm and accommodating. They invited us for some snacks (Khaptse) and rice beer (Ronkhu). I didn’t drink due to personal reasons. However, I watched my friends indulge as their glasses kept getting refilled thanks to Meyor hospitality. I got to meet a local Mishmi gentleman- ‘Lakhimso Bellai’ who introduced me to an elderly Meyor leader- ‘Unchen Meyor’. Upon interacting with him, I got a better understanding of their culture and their issues. It was heartbreaking to find out how badly they were  affected by the border which separated some of them from their family members living on the other side of the border. The lack of awareness surrounding this issue along with the government’s negligence made it all the more devastating. However, Unchen Meyor made sure I didn’t worry too much about this by encouraging me to join the dance party because it was Losar after all. Watching all my friends get drunk on rice beer and dance with the Meyors who were equally drunk put a smile on my face.

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Driving through a long winding road with a panoramic view of the snow peaked mountains got us to ‘Helmet Top’ – a military outpost cum war memorial for the martyrs of the 1962 Indo- China war. To be able to see the equipments used by our army and to read the gory details of their sacrifice made me feel like as though I was in   the frontline and it definitely did fill me up with gratitude for our soldiers and made me look at my life as a civilian from a new dimension.

At Tilam, I was introduced to a hidden gem- a beautiful hot water spring which instantly became an addiction for me! Relaxing in the hot springs on a cold night while gazing at the starry Milky Way was something I never thought I would get to do in India! Almost every night, I made sure  to dip into those hot springs and escape into a cosmic trancelike experience. It was pretty much the same for everyone else as we spent hours there. It was so addictive that we ended up spending our new year’s eve and had our new year’s countdown there!

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We sure did end 2019 on a high but why stop there? We decided to start 2020 on a high as well. We immediately took off to the eastern most point of the country to watch the first sunrise of the year. We started at 2 am and hiked through multiple alpine meadows and grassy plateaus which reminded me of that iconic scene from “The sound of music”. It was very cold but we knew that this first sunrise would warm things up eventually. It was around 4 am that we noticed multiple hues on the sky- black, violet, purple, orange, yellow, blue. So many shades! To slowly witness this work of art by mother nature unravel in front of me on the first day of the new decade made me feel more grounded than I had  ever felt. Soon, the sun was out and lit up the entire landscape which we struggled to see on our midnight trek. It felt like opening a present, a feast for the soul and a promising start to a new decade full of more such adventures!

 

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