This little travelogue dates back to late June this year. My brother had gotten married to this lovely girl in Delhi and right after the marriage, we all flew back to our hometown in Dibrugarh, Assam. There was my family and some of the groomsmen who were eager to do some exploring in the northeast. A few of them were Europeans. Meanwhile, Assam and the surrounding hills were being battered by some of the longest and most continuous spells of rain it had seen in more than a decade.
I had been charged with making sure the groomsmen got a taste of the northeastern hospitality and adventure. In an impromptu decision of sorts, I decided to take them to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. A few hours drive from Dibrugarh makes it easily accessible during bad weather. There’s this campsite by the jungle and the river which is a great place to lodge and chill around.
We started on a rainy morning and the rain was not to leave us for the coming days. At the Bogibeel Bridge that unites the north and south of Assam, we saw the Brahmaputra river in a state of mad fury, having engulfed the large swathes inland. By lunch, we had reached our campsite in Pasighat. We loved it. The property covers a large expanse and sits right next to the river as it emerges from the mountains. There are a few rooms spread in three different areas within the compound, a cottage that serves as a restaurant, and a charming shamiana where guests can relax and carry out conversations.
It rained the entirety of the day, the evening, and all through the night. We had some great conversations that evening over alcohol and got served some delicious snacks and dinner by the kitchen staff. We were enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the forest thoroughly. There was no need to go anywhere. We just let the hectic wedding energy of the last few weeks fade away, rejuvenating and reenergizing ourselves.
The rain continued the next day. But by midday, we gathered our lazy souls and went about exploring a bit. A family of the Adi tribe had invited us for lunch to their house in Rani Village a few miles away from Pasighat and it was a rare opportunity for these groomsmen, especially the westerners, to experience the village life of the locals. The weather too had cleared a bit as soon as we were out of the campsite. Rani is a very pretty village, with about a hundred houses that are spread out far and wide. Most of the houses have their own organic garden, poultry, and pigs. The houses are built on stilts and made of wood, bamboo, and cane. Each house has a central fireplace where the household goings take place. There are sit-outs where one can just relax or get some work done in the fresh air.
Our host Mr. Tapir is an interesting Adi man – a butterfly enthusiast, an avid birder, and a search and assist guide for the United States army in their endeavor to locate pilots who went MIA during World War II while flying over the dreaded peaks and mountain passes of the eastern Himalayas. In fact, the region’s airspace got the notoriety of being called ‘the hump’ by the allied pilots and as per a certain General Tunner’s final report, at least 468 American and 41 Chinese aircraft were known to be lost from all causes, with 1,314 air crewmen and passengers killed. In addition, 81 more aircraft were never accounted for, with their 345 personnel listed as missing. We were all very intrigued by the stories of our host and his dealings with the US army.
We were even more excited about the lunch that was soon served. It was an ethnic preparation of the tribe. There was local rice, lentils, a lot of veggies, fried potatoes, pork curry, and some buffalo meat. We devoured like hungry men. After lunch, we enjoyed some tea and a laidback stroll along the lush tiny lanes of the village.
Back at the campsite, the rain was at it. It seemed to us that the campsite had its own little weather system different from that of the rest of Pasighat or Rani. We spent another evening in conversations, more food and alcohol at the shamiana, accompanied by the soothing melody of raindrops and wind. The next morning we left the rainy campsite to return to Dibrugarh and as soon as we were out and about there was no rain.
The farms and plains looked flooded throughout the drive. Roads were broken here and there and somewhere in the sky, the sun would glimpse by. In the following days, it would stop raining throughout Assam. The people welcomed it and the summer arrived in glory with hot and humid days. The Europeans were back in their respective homes but the intense experience of those incessant rainy days in the wild rainforests of Arunachal Pradesh still remain with them.