A Weekend Getaway to Menchuka in Arunachal Pradesh

A Weekend Getaway to Mechuka

Well to be honest, I still can’t believe I’ve been there! I’ve felt the snow melting in my palms, seen the gorgeous landscape, drank the local beverage, and finished reading that book which was long overdue. 

It was quite the rushed trip in a very chaotic scenario! Our college administration did not give us a winter break but due to new year celebrations we had a week sans classes. Then someone suddenly mentioned it might be snowing in Mechuka! 

I was born and raised in Tawang, so for me personally snow is nothing new. But I needed a fresh perspective, and wished to take a break from my monotonous life. Also, the bunny in me said – It’s now or never! 

My friend from Meghalaya, elucidated Mechuka to me “If there’s heaven on earth, it’s here, Menchuka!” I know he plagiarized an old quote of emperor Jahangir about Kashmir but when you see the snow-capped mountain tops, red-cheeked kids, fluffy animals, you’ll be lost for words to describe this place. Alas, my friend did the old school way! 

Prologue of the journey began with lots of documentation because my college is like a government office and a sucker for paper-work! 

The sumo was booked for 4 days. With IDs tucked in our suitcases (already filled with puffy jackets, mittens, and everything which could save us from hypothermia), 10 reckless humans woke up at 4 in the morning, and left the warmth of our hostel dorms for icy cold Mechuka valley.

Everything one can expect the land of rising sun’s enthralling road to provide, we got them all. 

The design of the houses changed as we covered altitude. They got more compact, and woody with the addition of little chimneys. Vegetation got transformed from broad-leaved tropical forest into thin prickly temperate forest, all because of altitude. That’s why in life if nothing works out, chin up and pretend! 

Around 6pm we reached Mechuka, exhausted. The homestay was pre-booked, our rooms were ready and the owner was awaiting our arrival. We quickly freshened up and collapsed around the fireplace to beat the freezing cold. 

Our college is based in Pasighat which is usually hot and humid, even during winter it’s around 24 degree Celsius, the lowest dropping to about 10-13 degree Celsius. And there was Mechuka, staring at us with 1 degree Celsius!  Dinner was delicious. We finished every morsel of it. I think after a long day of traveling our stomachs craved warm, comforting rich food. 

The most indispensable part of the trip was to see the snow. You see, my companions have never seen snow in their entire life! Hailing mainly from Meghalaya and Mizoram, they were excited as hell to experience the snow.

And for this, we needed to go to famous “China border”. We would have to travel from Yorlung to Lamang. Now here’s the tricky part, going there isn’t a piece of cake, you need a bunch of documents (sigh) and lots of patience. However, this is understandable due to border security and no one is allowed without proper inspection. 

After breakfast and lots of arguments about who’ll do certain tasks like buying a carrot for the snowman’s nose, Xeroxing the IDs (Aadhaar card) etc, we headed out to meet the ADC ma’am. She was so kind and pleasant to talk to. 

We filled out the details and paid a nominal fee. I planned to sleep till we reach the snow area but the God of adventure intervened with my plan, throwing in surprising turns of events and that’s how the hopping check-posts came up. 

The documents were meant to be shown at every checkpoint till Lamang, all guarded by the Indian army, CRPF and ITBP. Along the way, there are at least 8 checkpoints starting from Mechuka. It might sound like quite a hassle but the end result that awaits you is worth every damn bit of it! 

I can still hear the happy chirpy laughter of my friends when they saw the snowy mountains getting closer and closer. The first glimpse of snow made all of us sanguine and there was a spellbinding outlook to getting up the mountain.

Salman Khan Point 

I don’t get the weird obsession of our people naming places after celebrities who come to visit. The whole point is that the Bollywood actor Salman khan cycled through this region and hence, they have named it after him. Still, some locals tend to call the place by its original name, kudos to them! 

There’s traditional attire to wear and you can take pictures in the olive green meadows of the valley .The landscape is so beautiful and is certain to leave you awestruck! Even thousands of clicks weren’t enough. We spent the whole day clicking pictures, talking to the local owner of the place and letting the cold chilly air flow through our lungs.

View point 

The last day and last stop to our Menchuka experience – another day, another mountain climbing session, and we reached the Somten Choeling Gompa. As expected, it was breath-taking to watch the Siyom river in its full glory, making an opus operandi through the valley, giving civilization a boon to prosper and thrive.

Colourful houses, small clearings with settlements among the pine forests, smoke coming out of chimneys were a sight to see! Make sure though that you never let go of your mittens, if you fancy having soft, warm hands. 

Along the way, we visited another place called Pema Shelpu. Here, you need to climb steps after steps; cardio for a whole year was done for me! In this place, there is a little hole embedded by water and holding 2 tiny stones – one black and the other white. And the one you pick is said to reveal your luck! White for good luck and poor luck if it’s black. Well, I got white once and black the next time, so I chose to stick with the first result! Last day was celebrated with another shopping spree and exploring Menchuka on foot (again).  

In all honesty, people there were so warm, a polar opposite to the chilly ambiance. I met one Tagin lady who told me about their everyday life. She had a cute, wholesome pup who desired nothing but my friend’s mittens. We chit chatted for as long as our driver beeped reality back into us! She assumed that I was Tagin and asked me about Daporijo. So for the sake of her innocence, I said that Daporijo awaits her and that she should visit as soon as possible. We then bid adieu and parted ways. 

Morning walks are highly recommended. Nothing beats the crisp chilly morning – everything covered by thick fog like in the horror movies. Seeing kids going to school covered from head to toe, adults going to earn their bread and butter (in their gumboots), spotting fat cats and ponies. Life here is very slow paced and people cherish these small things rather than complaining about the cold weather, which I had been doing since our arrival. 

Have to say, people there are so kind and generous. Maybe they are used to tourists or maybe they’ve always been this benevolent. 

It was eye opening for me as an Arunachali to know about the rich diversity of the tribes residing there. The Memba, Adi, Tagin all living in harmony, made my Arunachali heart so proud. One of the kindest people I met was Mui, who is a Galo lady married to a Memba man, running the homestay quite blissfully and successfully. They had tourists packed up and even while we were leaving, some were arriving. We had several chai sessions. She made the most delicious and heart-warming butter tea. 

Some harsh truths you should know while visiting Menchuka: 

I still don’t know if it’s Menchuka or Mechukha but who cares, the better question would be, was it worth it? All the nuisance, dreadful roads and freezing temperatures? Yes. Mui told me Menchuka looks more incandescent during summer months, fruit trees blossoming, flowers and warmer weather. As this was my first visit and that too a rushed one, next time I want to see Mechukha in its full summer glory. Fingers crossed! 

In the end, I’d like to urge my dear readers to let go of any inhibition and get backpacking! Social media detox and living life at a slow pace, feeding your soul with a pristine clear vicinity would be an experience you don’t want to miss. Take the books you have been piling up as your ‘to be read’ list since forever, get immersed into that biblical world, sipping beverages of your choice. Of course, you can choose to dance, sing or even get into a screaming competition with your loved ones. And don’t forget about the Instagram-able pictures (😉). 

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks”

– Gandalf

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