I get up early and finish my morning routines. As it was a tea grower’s bungalow, the facilities were excellent. I took an early morning walk in their kitchen garden and lawn. It was very beautiful and well maintained, so much so, that I wished, in my younger days I should have worked as a tea estate manager somewhere. I asked myself, “what is not there in this garden?” From carrots, beans, ladies-fingers to beetroots, tomatoes and chilies to lemons to oranges to mangoes to lychee to Indian breed cows to what not… You name it, and it was there. And all were fresh and organic.
The Tyagis gifted us a packet of their best tea powder, which we gladly accepted. After breakfast, we started our journey to Namdapha National Park. First, we enter Digboi town and visit the Digboi Centenary Oil Museum. It is a well documented and well maintained museum, and is constructed in a place where the very first oil well of Asia was dug. From here, we went to the Digboi World War 2 cemetery. It is constructed in the memory of around 155 soldiers, who sacrificed their lives during the Second World War. They all came from various religions and nations.
We moved on and start noticing that the tea estates slowly start disappearing. Then, there were many coal mines, which we came across.
Next, we come across a board which announces the start of the famous Stilwell Road. We take some snaps and move on. We were now on a road which is the beginning and part of the three thousand miles Stillwell Road that stretches all the way to China. Of course, the old road had become part of NH38, and is in good condition.
Next, we came across a junction called Jagun, where the road diverts in two directions. The driver takes the left one without inquiring, and after 8 km, we come across the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh (AS-AR) Namchik Check Post. On enquiry, we were told that, for Stilwell Road, we must have taken the right turn at Jagun. So we return to Jagun, and then take the Stilwell road. After around 15 km, we reach Jairampur check post on AS-AR border. It was our bad luck, as this route was not mentioned in our inner line permit. So the police refuse to let us move further. I pleaded with the police, and after greasing him, he lets us in but more was in store. After a kilometer, we came across a military check post. They also asked for our ILP, and were then directed to approach the ADC of Jairampur for a pass. We went to his office and requesed him, only to be rudely told that we might get it at the end of the day or next day. Unfortunately, we did not have much time at our disposal and had to head back. Tourists should understand by this that it is difficult to travel in Arunachal Pradesh. The Government officials are least bothered about improving tourism and or any other development work.
So with a broken heart, we came back to Namchik Check Post, having wasted precious time and money.
Our next destination was Miao, the last village in the Namchik route. And how is the road? Don’t call it as a road! It is just boulders. The Namdapha forest starts from here, and is more of a reserve forest at this point. Occasionally, one comes across some villages. Otherwise, it is just green and green.
We reach Miao at 3 pm. It is a much bigger town than what I had thought of. There is a SBI branch, few hotels, lots of shops selling all kind of merchandise, BSNL, Reliance and Airtel mobile network, electronic repair shops etc. We took our lunch quickly, after which, Vaivhav went to the forest department to get the necessary permits. I just strolled around the town roads. It becomes dark at 4 pm here and all the Government officials stop working by then. But there was a nice Government official called Mallik, who worked till 5.30 pm and gave us the permits to enter and trek in the Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve. May his tribe increase!
We then try for accommodation at the government run lodges and managed to get one in the Circuit House. After which we settled for the night.
Written by Mr. Bhat, who toured with us for 15 days and explored many offbeat destinations of Northeast India.
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