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Published on: May 31, 2022, 9:36 a.m.
Arunachal offers a holistic experience
  • Hanging bridge with mountain view

By S.M. Boothem

Travel and drive stories are not new to Business India. In 2013, for the first time in India Auto India, part of the Business India Group of publications successfully completed a road trip to the Seven States (popularly known as the Seven Sisters – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) followed by driving to the 12 Jyotirlinga in 12 days in 2014. 

In the span of eight years, infrastructure in Arunachal has been completely transformed. After the successful first edition of the Trans Arunachal Drive (TAD) in 2021, the second edition of the TAD under Dekho Apna Desh, Dekho Apna Pradesh – Arunachal Pradesh organised by the Department of Tourism and Government of Arunachal Pradesh concluded recently on 16 May 2022.

The TAD is the brainchild of Abu Tayeng, Director, Arunachal Tourism and supported by the chief minister whose vision is to showcase Arunachal as a driving destination for India and the world. Mahindra & Mahindra provided their vehicles – Scorpios, Thars and the new XUV700s for this drive. The amazing 2400 km TAD was envisioned and started for the state by the late Dorjee Khandu HCM.

The drive also helps identify the development work taking place across state roads. The issues faced by the participants in the first edition in terms of accommodation were been sorted out in the second edition with proper planning by arranging homestays and village houses for them while promoting rural tourism.

Cultural and economic bonds

The TAD 12-day drive, divided into three legs covering 2,400km  was flagged off from Namsai, known for its famed Golden Pagoda and traversed through Pangsau, a mountain pass perched atop the Patkai Hills on the India-Myanmar border; Rima Village in Changlang district with a total population of approximately 73 people.

Namdhapa, a biodiversity hotspot in the Eastern Himalayas which is home to over 1,000 flora and about 1,400 fauna species; Bomjir, the oldest village in the Lower Dibang Valley district; Kambu Village, one of the oldest villages with a population of slightly more than 600 people; Mechuka, a land that’s blessed with medicinal snow-fed river and streams; Pasighat, a historic town founded by the British back in 1911; Pakke-Kessang, home to the Pakke Tiger Reserve; Dirang, a quaint town known for its hot springs, apple and kiwi orchards, and, after touching Zemithang, the remotest north-western corner of Arunachal Pradesh, culminated at Tawang on 13 May. The successful TAD will further strengthen Arunachal’s cultural and economic bonds with the rest of the country.

With its dense evergreen forests, mountains, rivers and streams, this northeast state offers so much to tourists: a variety of activities including motorsports, cycling, trekking and river rafting. Its five river valleys – Kameng, the Lohit, the Subansiri, the Siang, and the Tirap – all fed by the snow from the Himalayas contribute to its unique geographical diversity. This largely agricultural economy holds enormous potential for hydroelectric power, and will soon have the country’s largest hydropower project.

The first edition of TAD extended across 2,500km from Namsai in the East to Tawang in the West.  It was covered by more than 72 media personnel who drove through the state in specially built Mahindra Adventure vehicles. The event led to a spurt in road trips along the Trans Arunachal Highway, most notably by members of the Super Car Club that saw the likes of McLarens, Ferraris and Lamborghinis being driven through the state.  

The Trans-Arunachal Highway, also called NH13, is an under-construction two-lane highway project in Arunachal Pradesh. The highway extends from Tawang in the western part of the state to Kanubari in the east, covering 1,559 km. The Arunachal Frontier Highway along the Chinese border, the Trans-Arunachal Highway through the centre and the Arunachal East-West Corridor in the foothills along the Assam border are the three major highways spanning the entire state.

Within Arunachal Pradesh, the highway will connect the district headquarters and other important places like Tawang, Bomdila, Nechipu, Seppa, Sagalee, Yupia, Yazali, Ziro, Daporijo, Along, Pasighat, Roing, Tezu, Mahadevpur, Bordumsa, Namchik, Changlang, Khonsa, Longding and Kanubari to name a few, and help in integrating the state.  On our recent TAD, along different parts of Arunachal Pradesh, there were workers rebuilding and repairing many roads and bridges, with the support of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

Exhilarating journey

The second edition of the Trans Arunachal Drive was flagged into Tawang on 15th May by Chief Minister, Pema Khandu to mark the end of an exhilarating 2,500 km journey that saw a convoy of 30-plus vehicles weave its way through dense evergreen forests, river valleys and mountainous and glacial terrain – all of which form part of this world biodiversity heritage site.

Commencing from the historically significant Pangsau Pass, which during the Second World War played a crucial role in the allied forces’ fight against the advancing Japanese army. The guests were treated to the village’s unique cuisine, even as they immersed themselves in the local culture. The warm hospitality from the locals was felt by offering the guests to stay at their homes.

“I must congratulate the organisers and the entire team, including the Director of Tourism. The model you all adopted this time – of promoting homestays – is a model that you should all continue with. Promoting homestays is of utmost importance – it is what will lead to positive changes in rural tourism”, said Pema Khandu.

Abu Tayeng, Director, Tourism Department added, “We started our first edition in April 2021 and have learnt to do better in this edition. Focused on exploring ways in which we could let participants visit homes in places like Mechuka, Rima and Bomjir, we started with homestays. This process enabled us to help the local economy, which is what our intent is – to boost the local economy”.

The 12-day journey was an eye-opener to the enormous challenges and efforts that go into linking many of the state’s isolated villages and tribes, like the Yobin and Lisu tribes that live off the Namdapha National Park, to the rest of the country through road links. It is the belief of the government that the establishment of such road links will act as a catalyst for Arunachal Pradesh’s tourism economy.

Considered to be one of the eighteen ‘biodiversity hotspots’ in the world, Arunachal Pradesh is home to over 5,000 species of flowering plants, including an astounding 500 varieties of orchids. With its extraordinary variety of bird species, it also shelters tigers, leopards, the clouded leopard, snow leopard as also the rare Golden Cat and Marbled Cat.

“I cannot think of a better way than a drive through our state,” said Lhakpa Tsering, one of the main organisers of the event, expressing confidence that the participants had had a ‘very holistic experience’ of Arunachal Pradesh, given that every detail of the drive had been carefully planned. 

With the picturesque mountains, tranquil lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and famous monasteries, Arunachal Pradesh is a must-visit for adventure, nature and wildlife lovers. It is also a beautiful driving destination for a holiday with the family to relax and recharge, away from the hustle-bustle city life.  The state government’s number of initiatives with the tourism department and other organisations to promote tourism will make Arunachal one of the best tourist spots in the country.

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