Arunachal Pradesh in a Month

Nepal / India

by | Feb 12, 2017

1/22/17-1/31/17

Racing daylight, I rodeo’d my bicycle down the last few kilometers of broken road through the canyons in Arunachal Pradesh. The road was littered with loose, fist sized rocks, swimming in ankle deep sand. Below me once again lay the flats of Assam and hopefully a clean, dry shelter to rinse away the nearly 8 hours of battle from the day, in addition to the prior 30 days. The road gradually smoothed out as I approached the Assam border. I picked up speed, ducked my chin, and the military gate, as I sailed coolly into Assam just as the sun was setting. The guard never even looked up. I was covered in a full body paste, the same chalk based coating that I experienced in Eastern Nepal. My lungs wheezed. My eyes burned. My teeth, gritty. Literally (and I do mean literally) as soon as I crossed into Assam, the only thing resembling a hill was the speed bump in the road just after the military gate. I had seemingly entered into another country. All of the foraging for food and shelter over the past month in Arunachal Pradesh was immediately vanquished. A new hotel with crisp white sheets, a fluffy, full sized white beach towel, and actual curry, was waiting. Back in Assam, if only for a day before crossing into Nagaland, another great unknown.

Change is coming to Arunachal Pradesh. There is a new highway cutting through the main artery of the state around Seppa, linking together the network of all the unmapped primitive dirt roads. It is coming quickly and will eventually work its way further east. In many places, the “National Highway” is little more than a singe lane broken cart path snaking its way through the jungles, up and over relentless, countless ridges. Development and change I suppose is inevitable.

Arunachal Pradesh was all that I wanted and everything that I needed. It was a life experience that provided a daily lesson in kindness, curiosity, and most importantly, simplicity. The further east that I traveled, the more remote I felt, as if few westerners had ever set eyes on this rugged, diverse terrain. From the snow covered and icy 14K ft Se La Pass, to the mossy, cloud shrouded valley in Seppa, the topographical diversity is astounding. This comes as little surprise when traveling from 14K ft to absolute sea level, something few, if any other places in India can boast of. Food became more basic. Lodging was rare. Eighty percent of my lodging over the past month involved home stays, camping in churches, schools, and restaurants. Food and shelter were minimal, but completely adequate. It puts into perspective the question, “how much is enough?”

My last memory of Arunachal Pradesh was during a homestay in a small village, 3 days prior. I sat, calmly, peacefully, as the sun was setting. A cloudy, orange haze blanketed the valley. Green mountains, seemingly covered in dense broccoli, surrounded me in all directions like the walls of a great and protective fortress. Across the field, young school boys were playing soccer. Their laughs were intoxicating. Next to me, a group of 15 young girls were practicing their dance for Republic Day, the day that India got their own constitution. Their songs were like the sirens. Breathe deep. I am in my place. Everything is as it should be.

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Road development is happening fast

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New road

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Making the new road

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Old road

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Indoor camping

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Public transport

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Local village in Ziro

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Invited for lunch by this family

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Combination fish and rice ponds

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Down into the jungle

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Sitting around the fire, staying warm, checking email

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Pigs live well here, until…

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Republic Day – Local school dance

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Camping at a school and these guys brought us a bucket of fire to keep warm

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Get the Book

The World Spins By is an intimate journey of loss, curiosity, and love—recounted one pedal stroke at a time along Jerry’s two-year bicycle journey back to himself. 

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