Trekking in Dirang?
Well, obviously there are hills and so there will be various trails used by locals but yet we rarely see any tourist talking about trekking in Dirang. Anyway, as I was planning the first post-lockdown trip to Arunachal Pradesh, I noticed some interesting images of local hikes in Dirang posted by my hosts Holiday Scout on social media and it was more or less decided that it’ll be the first thing to be done during this trip.
So, we started early in the morning around 6.30 am. Generally, my Arunachal trips are always affected by inclement weather but finally, I had timed it right. The sky was as azure as possible with no sign of trouble. The October sun was mellow but was expected to get warmer as the day progressed. So, the plan was to do a short hike, barely half of the possible trail, and return by 10 am. As it turned out, the trail started from the area just behind the Dirang Boutique Cottages where we were staying. This area is just adjacent to Dirang Dzong, but at a lower elevation on the banks of Dirang Chu (river).
We made quick progress through familiar settings as a local canine also joined in. We crossed several “mane”s engraved with prayers and I could see freshly harvested corn being offered to them too. We also came across a large, newly built stupa at a photogenic vantage point from where the river is clearly visible.
But still, so far it was a usual affair. I wanted more and I wasn’t sure what is up there at the top. Nevertheless, we continued and completed the steep stretch in 45 minutes and suddenly a completely different world appeared after the last turn. After seven excruciating months of claustrophobia, existential dread, and sanitizer addiction, I’d finally reached this agroerotic elysium, marginally healing all the losses I suffered this year.
Just to make it relatable, I’d like to compare this terrain with Dzukou Valley, where you reach a flat meadow after a short but steep hike. It is comparatively shorter and easier and unlike the wild blossoms of Dzukou, what you get here are the fecund pastures where the Monpas cultivate buckwheat, maize, millets, and much more. To some extent, it also reminded me somewhat of the far more remote Hudan Valley due to the sheer inclined nature of the terrain that eventually dives down to meet the river at the bottom of the slope.
Initially, we reached a patch of cosmos blossoms although the flowers were beginning to wilt already. I could see a bright yellow heap of corn being dried in the sun from a distance (later on I figured out that it is a very common sight in this region in the post-harvest season). As we reached that point, the entire meadow became visible and most of it was covered with blooming buckwheat. I have had many evocative encounters with various types of buckwheats in the past. While these ones lacked the carnal pink of the buckwheats of Kinnaur, they looked similar to the ones from Turtuk with their pale white blooms.
We reached a wooden hut after a few minutes of walk. There are many such ones scattered all over, mostly used as granaries. At this point, we decided to have some quick breakfast with the stuff we carried from the homestay, while continuously ogling at the bright golden corns dangling from the wall. I was really hoping for other colours, like the purple flint corn I once spotted in Manipur, but the only other colour I could spot was scarlet, as you can see below.
Having clicked enough photographs, we moved on and found another hut. It was a bigger one and people were actually working there. Some kids had climbed up to the roof where red chillies were being dried while the adults were busy threshing millet without paying much attention to the visitors.
The route goes beyond these fields and eventually crosses a jungle patch to join the motorable road on the banks of the aquamarine Sangti river. However, we were told that the route is not very clear yet. The last few months of inactivity has allowed the vegetation to overwhelm the faint trail. Still, we could have tried but the same inactivity had also taken a toll on our fitness levels and so we decided not to push ourselves too much on the first day itself and return… but through another route.
We climbed a bit higher up and found a different trail. This also offered us a better vantage point to capture the entire Dirang Valley. At the same time, I also noticed that millet fields which were located higher up compared to the buckwheat fields.
While coming back, we kept noticing more and more varieties of crops. In fact, I noticed a lot of dried sunflowers. If we had managed to get there a couple of weeks earlier, we could have added blooming sunflowers to these frames!
We came across more stupas as we took a longer and higher route back to our place. Eventually, it took around 4 hours for the whole affair of hike plus village walk including the breakfast break, which was a good start considering where we were coming from. However, for anyone looking for more serious trekking, I’d suggest they go the whole way through the jungle to the river. Talking of the river, we did visit Sangti Valley later that day and had lunch on the river bank.
A Note On Trekking in Dirang
Scores of treks are possible in Dirang including the one described above, although not all have been developed for tourists. The more famous Bailey Trail starts from somewhere near Thembang, a short drive from Dirang, and crosses over to Tawang side under the shadow of the Gorichen range. However, that is a serious affair that’ll take several days with local guides and supplies.
A Note On Post-Covid Travel to Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal re-opened the state for tourists from 16th October, 2020. However, there were a lot of regulations and precautions to be observed (which we did), to get into the state. It will still take a while to get back to normalcy. I have explained the post-covid travel rules and regulations in the Northeastern states in this continuously updated post.