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View from the
plains

Tea garden

Veg

Sat 28: Transfer, rest and shopping day

We drove across the plains past tea gardens to North Lakhimpur, looking back at the mountains during the early part of the journey. We arrived in time for lunch and strolled around the market and bought books in the afternoon. North Lakhimpur is a large town with a very good hotel, the Maple Leaf.

Sun 29: Kimin (120m)–Ziro (1490m) (96km, 2600m ascent) (plus transfer)

We drove to Kimin, the frontier post of Arunachal, and again let Rupak complete formalities while we reassembled our bikes.

And then we were off again. An easy road meandering around a stream, the sun shining, an endless supply of biscuits and tea to fuel us... After a break at Lichi we climbed a couple of zigzags and saw an elephant strolling along the road below. There were more zigzags and more climbing after them until we reached the large village of Potin, connected by a direct road to Itanagar.

Thus far: 44km, 1220m ascent.

Photo opportunity

We dropped down, crossed a bridge over the main stream, and carried along on gentle gradients. A couple of lads were so excited to see us they hailed us down and took our photograph. Soon we reached Yazali (at 60km), the main town of the valley with an administrative compound including a PWD resthouse.

And then... more climbing. Zigzags up a spur then a road along the ridge, sometimes level, sometimes climbing. We rode through Yachali and past a forest resthouse a little later. At 82km we reached Joram where a signposted road leads to Koloring, which exists in various spellings and is one of the newly opened tourist destinations.

We hoped that we were close to our high point, but for nine steepish km bend after bend opened a view of more climbing. We fitted lights as dusk fell. After 91km we reached Joram Top, and it was downhill all the way to Hapoli, but slow because pitch dark.

Hapoli is one of the villages on a fertile high-level plateau. The name of another village, Ziro, seems to be applied collectively. Hapoli has a good hotel, the Blue Pine, and we settled down dead beat.

Notes: Ziro used often to be spelt Zero as a play on words, but should more properly be spelt Jiro (with a French ‘j’), which is how it is pronounced and how it is written in Devangari (so it’s an anagram of the last two syllables of Daporijo).

This ride now occupies third place in the list of Colin’s biggest daily ascents, but honesty compels us to admit that Tracey’s altimeter credited us with 90m less. It is Colin’s that we rely on, but the discrepancy is not usually so great.

If we had known how hard a ride it was we’d have tried to break it over two days, but having completed it in a day we were glad to have done so.

Ziro receives a fair number of Indian tourists, and has an entry in the Outlook Traveller guide. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you don’t like sharing places) hardly anyone gets any further, so the quality of accommodation declines from here on.

A highlight of a visit is a trip to the food market, where you can see trays of writhing yellow grubs amongst the aubergines and potatoes. Yummm! There is also an interesting museum.

It’s endlessly interesting to look at the people around Ziro. The older people are tiny and have obviously had a hard life (a couple had goîtres); the old ladies often have nose plugs and face tattoos. The younger people are normal-sized and more conventional in their appearance.

Mon 30: Rest day at Ziro

Parasols

We cycled round some of the villages on the plateau. The single-storey bamboo houses are supported on stilts but now gererally rooved with corrugated steel. As you get away from the main centre wooden or thatched rooves become commoner. The style in Ziro is for very small buildings packed closely together, but the houses become larger as you travel east, reaching the size of tennis courts.

Tues 1 Dec: Ziro–Raga (1040m) (76km, 1190m)

Bamboo house

Raga was the place Rupak had arranged for our night’s stop. We started by climbing a low pass out of the Ziro basin, and then enjoyed a long sunny descent through forested hills, passing occasional traditional villages.

We crossed the Kamia river and followed it downstream a little way, and then the road started climbing. We stopped for lunch, and afterwards the road climbed again, leading us into unknown hills. None of our maps gave any indication of the route.

Eventually we found ourselves in the village of Raga which has an IB, and where Rupak had booked rooms from Ziro.

Monument

Weds 2: Raga–Ligu (290m) (97km, 1230m)

Today’s ride took us further into the unknown. The road sneaks around hillsides, cutting across occasional spurs, climbing to high points and descending again to cross sidestreams, all in quite a mystifying way. The topo map is mostly guesswork so we never knew what was coming.

Forested hills

Bamboo house

Mithun

Subansiri

Hills

Eventually a significant descent took us to the Subansiri river, and our nominal destination of Daporijo was a short distance upstream. But our true destination was Ligu, a village a little way from the river, where a simple guesthouse is maintained for tourists by a welcoming local, Pilum Ligu (who speaks excellent English).

Notes: We are told that Daporijo has an IB but that it is often full.

A marker stone in Daporijo gives its alleged altitude, but this is 3·1 times too high. Evidently a value in feet has been misinterpreted as metres and undergone a second conversion.

The police official to whom Rupak showed our documents insisted that we pay him a rather pointless visit. Maybe independent travellers get short shrift here. Pilum told us that a couple of western motorcyclists had stayed with him a few days earlier, and had curtailed their visit to the area, but he didn’t give any reason.

Daporijo is modern and charmless.

 

Cheeky boy

cool headgear

Thurs 3: Rest day (48km, 480m)

We took a morning ride northwards along the Subansiri valley. We weren’t allowed to go very far because our permit wasn’t valid for travel along the road.

As we rode through Daporijo Tracey got a surprise. A boy walking with his family saw us, ran up behind her grabbing her pannier rack (“Gerroff!” she shrieked) and leapt astride it. He got a free ride.

The main road bridge crossing the Subansiri is some way north of Daporijo – about 8·3km from Ligu.

The valley beyond that point is attractive, with limestone hills which become steeper and reminiscent of Thailand. We turned back at Menga.

Pilum and his family invited us to their bamboo house for dinner – barbecued pork washed down with rice wine.

Fierce local

Fri 4: Ligu–Tirbin (540m) (95km, 1580m)

We began by retracing our steps to the bridge north of Daporijo, this time crossing it and heading south on the other side. When we came to the fringes of the town we realised we had taken an unnecessary detour: a footbridge in the town would have saved us 10km.

The road stays by the river for a while and then heads into the hills, threading an unpredictable course through them.

Notes: Tirbin has an IB.

There is a place called Meshing shown on some maps as very close to the actual location of Tirbin, yet there are no signposts to Meshing in the area. I suspect that the former Meshing is now Tirbin.

Sat 5: Tirbin–Along (270m) (73km, 1220m)

The road from Tirbin climbs steadily through a village, Ragidoke, to a pass at 955m and descends through Sododoke to a junction with a road heading through Basar to the plains. A gentleman at a bus stop struck up a martial pose when we asked for his photograph; soon after some local passers-by stopped their car to talk to us: they were afraid that we might be suffering annoyance from the population.

We climbed to another pass and enjoyed a pleasant descent to a valley which we followed for a while without much up-and-down, passing the attractive traditional villages of Doke/Donkeng and Darka.

The road throws in a gratuitous climb of nearly 200m to cross a shoulder where a wedding seemed to be taking place, and let us finally coast down to Along.

Notes: There’s a perfectly acceptable hotel at Along. The town itself though is grotty, and the inhabitants mostly drunk.

The former name Along seems not to be whimsical at all. I assume that the ‘ng’ denotes nasalisation and has been retrenched in the current orthography, which likewise shortens Donkeng to Doke.

Scary bridge

Weaving

Sun 6: Rest day (30km, 250m)

Limited again by not having a permit for the road, we took a short ride upstream along the Siyom river. There are some entertaining suspension bridges, but the roads were full of drunken wedding parties.

Mon 7: Along–N28°08·3' E95°14·9' (515m) (85km, 1410m) (and thence to Pasighat)

We didn’t know whether it would be practical to ride to Pasighat, but we knew there was nothing on the way.

Modes of travel

The first 27km offered easy riding beside the river. Then, near the village of Pangin, the road climbs to the right and its surface deteriorates. From now until lunch it is never quite flat. Human habitation almost disappears until the final descent to Pasighat.

Our lunch stop was by the river perhaps 55km from Along. Camping looked possible in the vicinity. After eating our meal we got back on our bikes and very soon the road was climbing again, this time more in earnest. It eschews the valley here, tracing a route through the hills which has changed several times owing to landslides.

There was a slightly nastly landslip area to cross as the afternoon was drawing to its close. We were nowhere in particular, crossing a succession of small rises in jungly hills, and there seemed no reasonable alternative to calling it a day and climbing into the jeep to find accommodation in Pasighat.

Notes: Pasighat has a perfectly acceptable hotel near the market square and is not an unpleasant village.

The full journey from Along to Pasighat is 110km, 1770m ascent, so we have no real excuse for failing to complete it in a day.

Tues 8: Arbitrary point–Pasighat (32km, 520m)

Jungle road

Being inveterate completists we drove back to somewhere near our end point from the previous day, rode a little towards Along (because the sun was shining), turned back at the landslip and carried on to Pasighat, nearly getting lost in the outskirts (which are indeed confusing).

Weds 9: Ferry to Dibrugarh

Fishermen

We needed an early start to get us to the embarkation point. The ferry’s a boat drawing 18" with deck-space for just two vehicles; mostly it carries passengers and their luggage, much of it living.

The journey took about 6 hours with several stops to collect milk from sandbanks along the way. The Brahmaputra at this time of year is shallow and slow-flowing.

Dibrugarh is a large town with some colonial buildings along the main street. It was an important centre in the last war.

Our hotel was shiny and luxurious – a welcome change from the past 3 weeks’ privations. We said goodbye to Rupak and Niron.

Thurs 10: Flight to Calcutta

... and celebration in the Oberoi Grand.

Fri 11: Rest day in Calcutta

Sat 12: Calcutta–Dubai

Fog delayed the incoming flight; the departure was 2 hours late; and we missed our connection at Dubai. We were put up by Emirates at their airport hotel which had few pleasures to offer.

Sun 13: Dubai–Birmingham

Plenty of time for Christmas shopping.

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