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201611 Apr



Come March and the mercury was steadily heading northward in Calcutta. Amid increasing humidity and financial year-end humdrum, the invitation to attend the JK Tyre Arunachal Festival of Speed came as a welcome respite.


Some of India’s top rally drivers had confirmed their participation in the 3rd JK Tyre Arunachal Festival of Speed to be held in Dirang town in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh from March 28-30. I was naturally excited given the prospect of watching some talented rally drivers lock horns to prove their supremacy and the opportunity to escape from the sweltering heat of Calcutta.  


An early morning flight from Calcutta brought me to Guwahati in Assam which serves as the gateway to Dirang. The drive from Guwahati to Dirang is picturesque but long and tiring. The total distance from Guwahati to Dirang is around 380 kilometres and takes around 10 hours to complete which includes two halts for refreshments. There are plenty of small eateries en route to Dirang especially at Tezpur, Bhalukpong and Bomdila where you can get some decent grub. However, it is advisable to refuel before crossing the Assam and Arunachal Pradesh state border in Bhalukpong and petrol pump are scarce en route.The roads are mostly good punctuated with some broken but motorable stretches, especially in Arunachal Pradesh. 


Dirang is a charming little town right out of a picture postcard. Located at a much lower altitude of 4911 feet as compared to Bomdila (8858 feet) and Tawang (10000 feet), makes the weather of Dirang much placid, breezy along the river valley making it a very comfortable and pleasing hill station to stay. The entire township flourishes along the river Dirang (Dirang Chu in local dialect) running parallel to the highway, viewing the small and cozy villages scattered around the hills, the cultivated fields, terraces, pine trees and the kiwi gardens. Bathed in the quintessential halo of Buddhism and the warmth of the local Monpa tribe, Dirang feels like a home away from home.


Some of the local attractions in and around Dirang town are the National Research Centre on Yak near Yewang Basti, the Regional Apple Nursery and Progeny Orchard at Rungkung, Orchid Centre at Jyotinagar, Kalchakra and Palyul Changchub Dhargyeling Nyingma Monastries.


In order to visit the other places of interest, one must travel some distance by a vehicle. One such attraction is the Dirang Dzong or Fort established in the 17th century situated at Dirang Basti which represents the authority of the monastic rule through which the Monpas carried out their public administration during the past. This fort is located at a hill-top which comprises a four storied fortified stone slabs supported with wooden logs in which the entire village could take refuge at the time of war. The entrance is provided by a wooden gate which is decorated with local architectural designs.


Another popular tourist attraction is the Hot Water Spring located before reaching Rama Camp where tourist and locals take bath with faith of having curative possessions. At a distance of around 8 kilometres beyond Dirang is the famed Sangti Valley which is dotted with numerous picturesque spots ideal for holidaymakers. Some of the prime attractions of this region are the paddy fields which attracts the migratory Black Neck Crane every year.


Government organisations such as Regional Sheep Breeding Farm under Department of Veterinary and the upcoming Krishi Vigyan Kendra under Department of Agriculture, also add to the essence to the valley. The road further takes you to Khaso Steel Bridge which is an ideal spot for hang outs and picnics. Every New Year of the English and Buddhist calendar, hundreds of people throng here to make merry, sing and dance with harmony and peace.


The kiwi gardens and the apple orchards can be witnessed on the way back from Sangti village at Namthung and Zimthung villages. Namthung can be an ideal place for promoting angling and rafting. Zimthung situated at one of the highest peaks in the hills surrounding Dirang town is bestowed with numerous apple trees and kiwi plantations owned by private entrepreneurs. The best season to experience the taste of the fruits is August for apple and November for kiwi.


Dirang is also an ecologist’s delight as the town could act as a base camp for trekking and bird watching at nearby villages like Thembang, Namshu, Mandala Phudung, Morshing, Lubrang, and Nyukmadung. These places are situated on mountain ridges high up with sparse houses strung far apart with surrounding virgin forests.


Some of the other destinations that one can visit during their trip to Dirang are Chillipam, Shergaon, Tenzingang, Bangazan and Sela Pass - the second highest motorable pass in the world. Although these places do not have ample amenities for stay, however, these destinations offers spectacular scenic beauty and is an ideal place to halt for a while as time stands still. 


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