Reasons why you should visit Central Arunachal Pradesh:
- Witness the unexplored, untouched landscape
- Enjoy scenic drives through winding roads
- Learn about the unique architecture
- Immerse in the culture and hospitality of villagers
- Sample local flavours and get high on homemade brew
I was thinking of travelling somewhere to escape the daily humdrum, and just like that, on a whim, decided to sign up for the April chapter to central Arunachal Pradesh, with a focus on Aalo and Mechuka, with WeGoBond.
Arunachal, like most other North Eastern states, is incredibly beautiful yet unexplored, especially the central part of the state. With no organized tourism in the region, we geared up for an adventure through bumpy roads, gushing rivers, swaying bridges, verdant valleys to reach the fabled Mechuka. We witnessed rains throughout our trip—unseasonal, I am told, largely owing to climate change—which only rendered the landscape with rich hues of green. The entire place was lush and covered in a canopy of dense greenery.
We convened at Dibrugarh in Assam and proceeded to a small town in central Arunachal called Pasighat, which is located on the banks of the Siang river; Pasighat also happens to be the headquarters of the East Siang district. After spending a night here, we headed towards our next destination, Aalo, which is the headquarters of the West Siang district. Refreshed after a long drive, in Aalo we visited villages of the Galo tribe and learnt about their customs and got acquainted with their lifestyle. The traditional Galo house is a massive structure built with locally available materials like wood, bamboo, cane, palm leaves, and so on. We learnt about animism, a belief that is followed by certain tribes in the state, which believes that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence.
The entire state of Arunanchal Pradesh is dotted with hanging bridges that are made up of bamboo and ropes, and some partially of steel. These bridges serve as a lifeline for the villagers, to cross rivers and move from one place to another. This was my first time on such a hanging bridge. Unlike the locals for whom it is a cakewalk, I was petrified as they sway a lot! It was either to see what lies on the other side or wait for my fellow travellers to return and share stories. Fear of missing out loomed large, and grabbing the hands of my travel mates, one careful step at a time, I managed to cross these bridges.
The highlight of our trip, Mechuka, was next. It is variously known as Mechukha or Menchukha, which, in Memba dialect means medicine (men), water (chu), and snow (kha), or the land blessed with medicinal snow-fed water. The town is located at a height of 6,000 feet above sea level and lies just 29 kilometres away from the Indo-China border. The place is dreamy and unspoilt with picture-postcard views of snow-capped mountains, quaint wooden houses, and meandering roads with horses and other animals running wild. It is an ideal place for long walks to soak in the beauty of the surroundings.
We also visited some of the popular attractions of the region, such as the charming 400-year-old wooden Samten Yoncha Gompa situated on top of a hill. The Guru Nanak Taposthan, an ancient cave-shrine where Guru Nanak meditated on his way to Tibet, is of religious significance; it is believed to carry the impression of Guru Nanak’s turban embedded in a rock, which surrounded the saint in order to protect him from a bear attack. The Gurdwara nearby, built and run by the Indian Army, has a museum that charts the saint’s travels and houses sacred relics. The hike down to the river behind the Gurdwara negotiating the rickety steps was thrilling. Another popular attraction that we saw in Mechuka was the Hanuman Face, named so after a peculiar formation on the mountain resembling the Monkey God’s face. We were so thrilled that even the leech and damdam (the local name for the black fly) attacks or the incessant rain were not able to dampen our spirit.
Finally, we got a taste of the local cuisine at the homestays that we stayed in as well as at roadside dhabas. Be it the Galo or the Memba tribe, the staple food is rice. One of the main ingredients is bamboo shoot, and boiled or steamed leafy vegetables as well as meat such as pork or chicken dominate the food scene. The cuisine of this state is mostly devoid of spice, nonetheless it is very healthy and tasty. Chutneys and condiments made out of chillies add to the flavour and complement the dishes. Not to forget, we were happy-high on apong, the local alcoholic drink made out of fermented rice!
Mechuka is a hidden gem and will remain fresh in my memory for a long time. The valley is beautiful, its people warm, and the food delicious and guilt-free. If you have a taste for the offbeat then Mechuka should definitely feature in your Bucket List.
Sunita Mitra, a senior analyst with a Mumbai-based credit rating agency, travelled with WeGoBond to Mechuka in April 2022.