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Tawang gompa



Sun 22: Rest day

Rupak and Niron took us on a jeep tour of some of the local monasteries. They asked the local military official whether we would be allowed to cycle to Pakang Teng Tso lake; unfortunately permission was not granted.

We believe that westerners are usually allowed to go there, but at the time the Chinese were rattling their sabres in disapproval of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang; the border troops were on red alert; and the road to the lake passed through several military camps. It was irksome to be refused permission, but almost a relief to be confronted by a reasoned refusal rather than bureaucratic obstructionism.

Mon 23: Tawang–Capo (3360m) (62km, 1760m ascent) (and back to Jang)

We didn’t really have a plan for today. We were going to see how far we would get towards the Se La and arrange accommodation as appropriate. The weather remained sunny, though with a tendency for cloud to build up after midday.

It was a pleasant easy descent and a pleasant climb. We verified that there was room in the Jang IB as we passed through. By late afternoon we reached Capo, the village at the bridge over the stream coming down from the Se La. It was with difficulty that Colin was prised out of the tea-house there, and only on the strength of the promise of a nice warm bed in the IB at Jang, which we returned to – degenerates as we are – by jeep.

Tues 24: Capo–Dirang (1600m) (82km, 860m) (starting from Jang)

Our jeep took us back to Capo and we finished the ride to the pass. The morning was again sunny, though cloud again built up during the day. We met Eric and Carla coming the other way at the summit and exchanged notes. The descent was a breeze.


Crossing the Se La on return

Note: We stayed at the Tourist Lodge at Dirang, which was formerly state-owned but is now privately run. It’s in the traditional bungalow style with bedrooms off a communal lounge, and rather attractive. There are more expensive concretey places, but we were happy there.

Weds 25: Dirang–Morshing (2000m) (75km, 2120m)

Chillies drying

Kang To?

Niron has lunch


... and down

cool headgear

We began by retracing the 5 easy km to Dirang Dzong, but there through an unaccountable error in route-finding we took the wrong road, heading across the Manda La instead of returning to the foot of the Bomdi La.

It’s a long and beautiful climb on a traffic-free road. Tourists are unknown. There are views back to the mountains on the border, Kang To and Gauri Chen. We had lunch in a teahouse at the col. There’s a choice of descent routes to the south: we took the left fork signposted Phudung (the other is for Debrabu). Cloud was now building up, so it was a cool ride. The road snaked across the forested hillside in implausible coils, eventually showing us the villages at the foot.

At Phudung a bridge (1840m) crosses the stream. We had done enough by now to justify calling it a day, but Phudung has no facilities. So we crossed the bridge and immediately started climbing, at first quite steeply. You can see the course of the road from the map: after it has gained height on a shoulder it contours along a sidestream to Morshing, another small village which has an IB on a side road. We rolled up in our customary twilight.

The chowkidar turned out to be absent. Rupak and Niron found the lady in the village who had the key, borrowed cooking equipment, and made themselves and us at home. Rupak took on kitchen duties and acquitted himself admirably.

Note: Morshing sounds more like ‘Morsing’ (with a rolled ‘r’) to English ears.

Thurs 26: Morshing–Rupa (59km, 1020m)

By now we were pretty confused about our location. We had brought with us prints of selected regions on the military maps, but had made no allowance for going off route. We vaguely felt that we should be following a valley directly from Phudung to Rupa.

So we were a little surprised to be climbing to a pass, though the sun was shining and we were feeling strong. The vegetation was dense about us.

Descending the
Nechi Phu

We dropped down to Shergaon and soon found ourselves on a road being newly built. It was a splendid affair, wide enough for three lanes and smooth as a billiard table. Enigmatic mileposts gave distances south to OKSRT, which we assumed to be the capital of a neighbouring oil-rich state.

The road follows a valley initially, passing through Jigaon and then crossing the stream and climbing up the hillside in order to contour along to Chillipam, a small place where a new gompa is being built in the Japanese style. From here it’s a brisk descent to Rupa and the Snowland.

Notes: There’s an IB at Shergaon. A conspicuous landslide area in the valley west of Rupa may explain the indirectness of the route.

Fri 27: Rupa–Bhalukpong (90km, 1250m) (and thence to Eco-camp)

An unremarkable final day. The sun retreated behind clouds almost at once, we made good speed along the valley, crossed the Nechi Phu for a second time in fog, arrived at Bhalukpong in mid-afternoon and drove on the the Eco-camp.

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