The Hill Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, India

Trip Start Oct 20, 2011
Trip End Nov 26, 2011

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Flag of India  , Assam,
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sadly we had to leave Bhutan. The Bhutanese guides and drivers had to leave early in the morning in convoy as the Bodo Assamese separatists have problems with the Bhutanese. The guerrillas were expelled from the hills of Bhutan a couple of of years ago. After breakfast a luxury car arrived for us with our new guide, Dojum, and driver, Ari. They will take us for the next 10 days via Assam to the hill tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Dorji our Bhutanese guide already did our exit customs the day before and the Indian formalities were also a piece of cake. Again the changes of landscape and people are enormous. No more mountains or even hills but a vast flat landscape filled with endless rice paddies and of course the neatly arranged tea fields and people on bikes or walking on the streets, motorcycles and lots of cars everywhere. On our way to Guwahati, the capital of Assam province, we visited a local market. After the stop we were getting closer to the city, the number of cars kept increasing, and before we reached the center we had seen more people in those couple of hours than in two weeks in the whole of Bhutan! Before we went to the hotel we visited the Kamakhya Mandir temple. After relaxing in the hotel we went out to get some Indian rupees out of an ATM and then there were even more people on the streets. Our guide was right, he already told us the program was wrong and we should have gone straight to Tezpur! We are city boys but Indian cities are just a little too much. So the next day we headed for Tezpur. As we had had no breakfast we stopped in a small road side shop along the way for some chapati with dhal and chai (masala tea: with milk and sugar). Jummie, better than the regular toast and jam. The trip was again along these endless flat lands with rice paddies and tea estates. In Tezpur our driver guided us to the lookout in a park with nice views over the river and the river banks of the Brahmaputra River. Our guide is a real Arunachal Pradesh tribal person. Anything that is related to cities or Assam is something he doesn't like or just doesn’t care about and he is very open about this. Next day again no time for breakfast in the hotel so this time in a local shop along the way we had an Egg Paraty (a more oily kind of chapati with an omelet stuck to one side) with spicy potato dhal. Even tastier than the day before! We left the rice paddies and tea fields behind us and went into the green lush hills. After the necessary police check we entered Arunachal Pradesh. It felt like we left India behind. We not only left the crowds behind us but the features of the people here are also different. They don’t have the features of the mainland Indians but more Chines/Birmese/Tibetan features. The first Hill tribes we see are from the Nishi tribe. According to our guide (and also the Lonely Planet) the Nishi are a war like tribe and like to fight and are not a very social adherent tribe in the sense that they don’t live in big communities / villages and the houses are small and of poorer quality. Some elder men here still wear the distinctive hat partly made of the Horn bill beak (now it is forbidden to use real Horn bill beaks for these hats). In the capital, Itanaga, we came across one of them and then later on we saw him again on the market buying new sneakers! Gone was our idyllic idea of tribal life. At the end of the day we arrived in Ziro, the home of the Apatani tribe. In Apatani we visited several of the Apatani villages. The Apatani are known for their more social organized way of life. They live in bigger villages and have better houses. They are sustainable farmers and don’t deplete the farmland and forests. What the Apatani women are also known for is their distinctive nose plugs and facial tattoos. The reason women used to get these plugs and tattoos is that the Apatani women were so beautiful that the rivaling Nishi tribe would steal the women and therefor the women were made uglier by giving them these facial tattoos and nose plugs. Nowadays this is not done anymore and you will only see the older women wearing these nose plugs. From Ziro our journey brought us to Daporijo. On the way we had some great views of the green hills, snow capped Himalayas and villages of the Hill Miri. Like The Nishi the Hill Miri live in small communities on the hillsides of the mountains with only small farmland around it. Daporijo is one of the dirtiest places we have ever been to on our trips and we’ve seen quite some dirty places on our trips. Luckily we didn’t have to stay in one of the hotels ( if you could call them hotels) but we stayed in a small village (Tagin tribe) in a house of the locals. We had a great dinner around a small fire in the living area / kitchen prepared by one of the 3 sisters that live in a shared compound. From Daporijo we headed to Along. This is where the different tribes of the Adi (Galo/Minyong/Padam) live. We visited a couple of the Gallo villages and in one of them they were just having a Puja. A Puja is a name for the rituals they perform here. The Puja in this house was to guard of the evil spirits from the house. Outside men were making all kinds of ornaments from leaves and bamboo. On the veranda in front of the house 3 men were chanting and others were busy with dissecting a cow and every part of it was used for food. For us they made some fresh skewers of meat and they were very tasty. We didn’t try the soup they were making of all the intestines. Inside the house the women were busy preparing more food and one of the women was making fresh Rice Beer in a huge funnel made of leaves. The fresh homemade beer tasted very good but after 2 glasses at 10 am I had enough. In another village they were preparing for the 25th anniversary of their village. Unfortunately we were a couple of days to early for this festivity. On our way to Pashigat we walked across two of the longest suspension bridges (over the Siang River) made of bamboo. Quite an adventure! From Pashigat to Roing we visited a Mishmi village. We were invited by the family to come into their home. They were as interested in us as we were interested to see how they live here. They even wanted to take pictures of us. Getting to Roing we had to drive across the riverbanks and twice we had to cross the river by Ferry. This is not the usual ferry we know but more like small boats for 2-4 cars and all man powered (Rowing!!). Every year these ferries are on a different place depending on the flow of the river. In Roing we stayed in a beautiful place on a hill ( The Mismhi Hill Cottages) The man here really made an effort to make something beautiful. He wants to keep it small scale ( for max 8-10 people) and does not want to be mentioned in the LP! What a great place to end our trip and what a shame we have to leave the next day already. Our last leg to Dibrugarh is one to remember. First we were not sure if we were going to make it to Dibrugarh has there were some strikes in Assam and they blocked the roads. But we tried anyway. This time we had to cross the Brahmaputra River by Ferry. A bigger Ferry service this time. But on the other side a big truck was stuck in the sand and when we tried to pass it along the side we got stuck ourselves! As there were a couple of more cars here we were pulled out of the sand by a truck. We decided to go back across the river again and take a longer route. Again crossing the river on a small Ferry. We did not have permits for this part of Arunachal but they didn’t make a big fuss about it. In was getting dark and then we were stopped by the Assamese. They took the keys of our car and we just sat there for some time. Eventually they gave us back the keys and we could go on. After a long day we arrived in Dibrugarh. What a trip this last day was. Next day we said goodbye to our guide and driver and all that was left was a long day with a flight to Delhi, with again beautiful views of the Himalayas as we had clear views, a long 8 hour wait at Delhi airport and a flight back to Amsterdam. We had a great time the last 5 weeks. I hope you enjoyed the stories and photos. Till next time.
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Linda on

Wat een fantastisch verslag weer zeg! Erg leuk om te lezen; en die foto's zijn wel heel erg fraai!
Wie weet zien we elkaar binnenkort weer eens, in Heemstede?

Anne-Cathrien on

Dear Paul, Ton and Bert.

With every trip you guy's make, you bring so many beautifull pieces of the world to us, with your amazing stories and foto's.

It was with great pleasure I read the interesting stories and watch the amazing pictures..... Thank you for that!

With Love,
Your Sister Anne-Cathrien

Ron Vlietstra on


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