2021 Trans Arunachal Drive: Discover Arunachal State in Mahindra Thar-Close-up

Nishmanya Bahadur

In this year’s crazy situation, driving through a state with the slogan “Gateway to Tranquility” is not something I would miss. Also, earlier this year, I was very happy to drive the new Mahinda Tal in the Thar Desert, so I am very happy to drive it again.

The first Trans Arunachal Drive 2021 was organized by Arunachal Pradesh Tourism Bureau in cooperation with Mahindra Adventure and JK Tyre to promote this beautiful state. The 15-day drive through Arunachal Pradesh traverses 16 regions from east to west, divided into three regions-east, central and west.

We chose the last western area, with some exciting high-altitude driving to Dawang on the legendary 13,700-foot Sierra Pass. This route goes through some snowy areas, I just like cold and snow.

Join the team

The long flight from Mumbai took me to Assam Bondi Brugal, which is the nearest airport to our starting point in Arunachal Pradesh. An eight-hour drive to Qiluo. Good roads and some active driving allowed me to join the new Thars and Scorpios fleet of 32 vehicles at their lunch station. We went to Qiluo together, just in time for the colorful cultural activities organized by the Ministry of Tourism. Participants are exciting journalists, former rally drivers, influencers, and of course the film crew.

Ziro To Pakke Kessang

On the first day I was assigned a red Mahindra Thar diesel manual, which was aptly named “Adventure 2”! I received the muddy cars in the first two parts of the journey. I saw that it needed some desperate TLC, and I did not shy away. If only I knew how futile the task was. Soon after heading to the quaint town of Qiluo, a small group of people (including me) split up for a cross-country trail in the nearby woods. This trail is composed of mud and slush, and is a great opportunity to re-understand Thar’s off-road capabilities. The SUV cleared the road effortlessly, even though it was covered with mud again.

Later that morning, after refueling, we set off for Pakke Kessang. The road is a mixture of paved and broken roads, and most of it is hilly. Unfortunately, some cars, including me, were filled with a bad mix of diesel, causing them to enter “limping mode”, which greatly reduced power. In rough terrain, not having enough power was a huge obstacle, and despite the best efforts of the service team, the repair took some time. Therefore, for the rest of the day, I was handed over to a Scorpio. This change made me surprised to find that Thar’s body rolling was better controlled.

The rest of the day went smoothly, and the lush green scenery really lifted my spirits. After lunch, we really enjoyed cruising along the trendy new roads, perfectly carved into the mountains. We ended the day at a campsite in Pakke Kessang, which is located in a remote place. The locals performed a dance performance for us, and during dinner we tasted some exotic local delicacies.

Pakke Kessang to Shergaon

The next morning I woke up to the sound of light rain and found the valley was shrouded in mist. We provided us with some hot local black tea to start the drive, and the breakfast station is about an hour’s drive from the hotel. After packing my things, I walked to the parking lot on foot and saw something that made me grin—”Adventure 2″ was back, waiting for me.

The road is in good condition and the team radio informs us that they will remain in this state for the rest of the day (except for a few patches). The Taal is now sliding on smooth asphalt, and the next few hours will be a breeze. On the way, we passed through the Sepa Valley, one of the largest valleys in the west of Arunachal. It is like driving through a painting, with lush mountains on both sides, and a winding river passing through the valley.

Sepa Valley looks like a lifelike painting.

Good things will never last. After lunch, we encountered a long road under construction. It is full of sand and gravel and has a steep slope. I was in front of the team, and we kept a stubborn pace until we reached a better place, partly because we could maintain the momentum. Although some cars in the back had to deal with traffic problems, sometimes they had to use four-wheel drive.

Bad times will never last. The rugged road gradually turned into a stunning strip of smooth tarmac, with a series of hairpin bends carved on the mountain. I can say now that there are not many cars that can let you through as easily as the new Thar.

The smooth road from Pakke Kessang to Shergaon is a driving pleasure.

The trip to Shergoan’s campsite went smoothly, and we arrived in the east at around 5.30pm before sunset. The village prepared a lively greeting party for us, followed by a small cultural performance. Dinner is one of the best dinners in the whole journey, with local delicacies such as thukpa, fish soup and some authentic and delicious momos.

Sergaon Dawang

As far as the route we take, this will be a challenging day. After departing early from Shergaon, we had to cross some very broken sections to reach Mandala Top-our first stop of the day, which was just under 10,000 feet above sea level. Here, the fog is so thick that we can’t even see the famous Buddhist prayer wall (consisting of 108 stupas) clearly, although there is a calm feeling on the top of the mountain.

From here, we headed to the lunch station of the Nyukmadung War Memorial near Dirang. We paid our respects at the memorial hall and then interacted with a local MLA who came to greet the entire team.

At 13,700 feet above sea level, Sela Pass is one of the highest motorways in Arunachal.

Our next destination is the famous Sierra Pass, one of the highest motorways in Arunachal. As the journey continued, we left the tree cover and started climbing the Sierra Pass, which was obviously very different from the top of the Mandala Mountain we visited earlier in the day. When we climbed the mountain, we saw snow for the first time. As we go up, the snow gets thicker and thicker, until we are completely surrounded by it. The sun, which is just over an hour before the setting, provides a majestic orange hue that contrasts sharply with the white peaks and blue sky. The journey was picturesque, and when we reached the Sierra Pass at an altitude of 13,700 feet, it started to snow. As the daylight weakened rapidly, we only had a short time to go out to enjoy the scenery and the weather. Although those few minutes are enough to make me excited for the next day, because we will spend most of the day in the snow.

It is nice to drive to Tawang. However, the disappearance of the day and the fall of snow mean that we are all eager to stop and rest at night so that we can head to the Bomla Pass the next day.

Unfortunately, once we arrived in Tawang and got together for dinner, we were told that due to heavy snow, we could not travel to Bumla (it was a challenging drive at the best of times). Instead, we will go to Sungetsar Lake and stop at PT Tso Lake, where Pema Khandu, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh will receive us.

Tawang – Sungetsar Lake – Pt Tso Lake – Return

The new plan for the day was to depart from Tawang late. We had lunch at Sungetsar Lake (the local area is also called Madhuri Lake because it appeared in the movie Koyla). From there, we will head to PT Tso Lake, where Arunachal Pradesh CM will make flags for us and hold a small ceremony to mark the completion of the drive.

The monastery is located at the top of Tawang City, with beautiful views of the surroundings.

The late departure gave me the opportunity to walk to Tawang Monastery, the highest point of Tawang, and enjoy the sights. It was a very peaceful and peaceful experience, and it prepared me for the upcoming day. We entered our Tars before noon and started our mountain climbing. When we climbed the snow line, we saw how much the heavy snow had affected the terrain the night before. Except for the road itself, everything the eyes can see is covered by thick snow. The scene is worth seeing, and the weather (ranging from 0 to -6 degrees Celsius) is worth experiencing. As far as driving conditions are concerned, the fresh snow also presents a new challenge for Thar because the road provides very little traction. However, the Tahr calmly accepted everything we threw to it and moved on. As a driver, you have never worried about Thar’s ability to handle terrain. In fact, sometimes you can almost forget how bad the road actually is.

After nearly two hours of rugged and snowy roads, we reached the Sungetsar Lake (formed by an earthquake) that was not covered by snow due to the height difference. Overlooking the lake, if you mistake the area for another country, it is excusable-this is what makes it unique.

After a quick stop for lunch organized by the Indian army chef, we headed to PT Tso Lake, where CM personally drove the lead car in the convoy. We keep a brisk pace up the mountain so that we have enough time to wander around the lake.

Serenity and majesty are the words that best describe PT TSO Lake.

When we arrived, we had to park the car on the side of the road and hike down to the lake, so that our car would not get stuck due to the heavy snow at that time. By the lake, I spent a little time enjoying the peaceful scenery-it looked perfect. However, I had to leave the tent soon. The audience there included guests from the local news channel, the chief minister, and the Ministry of Tourism. The organizer gave them a detailed introduction to our large-scale event. Followed by the Chief Minister’s speech to us. He made his interaction short and clear, and then handed the stage to a local band that came to perform for us.

I can say with certainty that this is the highest elevation of live music I have ever experienced. Thanks to the band, we spent much longer by the lake than expected. However, due to almost blizzard-like weather, the convoy was required to return to Tawang before the road was blocked by snow. Driving back to Tawang is an exhilarating experience (although not everyone likes tea), due to the snow, visibility is poor, it is dark, and the roads are not ideal. The Taal made no mistake, and the entire convoy came back unharmed.

A capable off-road vehicle, heavy snow and 12,000 feet of live music, what more people want.

Tawang to Guwahati

Although Trans Arunachal Drive 2021 technically ended the night before, most of us had to take a flight back from the nearest airport (Guwahati). So, the last day was our longest drive-less than 500 kilometers. This number itself may not seem so impressive, but in the context of mountain roads, it means that we will drive 15-16 hours on the road. A large part of the return journey is our review of some of the steps taken to reach Tawang. Only after Shergaon did we drive on some new roads. Although once we reach the plains of Assam, it is quite simple, highway driving.

In the course of this day, I seriously thought about how to summarize my trip. The scenery was amazing and the roads were good and bad, but what really impressed me was how unaffected this part of our country is. It almost feels like I stumbled upon a hidden gem. Although if we don’t have something as capable as Thar, exploring Arunachal will not be so pleasant. Therefore, before the beautiful roads are completed, I strongly recommend that you buy a suitable SUV and then explore the beautiful Arunachal Pradesh. It is indeed the gateway to tranquility.

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