Tuesday, February 16, 2016

North Eastern Odyssey 3 - Aalo

Swift rivers, sliding slopes
After Ziro we travelled to Aalo, around 360 Kms away. As the road was hilly as well as terrible, it was a very long drive. We stopped overnight at Daporijo, about 6 hrs away. We were supposed to stay at a homestay run by a local family but there was a mix up and we didn't have a place anymore. Finally, after much going around the small town, we ended up in a 'work-in-progress' hotel with some 'stay-able' rooms. It was pretty bizarre but since the region is fairly safe, we put our trust in the family running the hotel & who lived in the premises too. Our other option was probably our vehicle which was not an incentive. We ate a small, simple meal cooked by the owner's wife and crashed out. We left early the next day onwards to Aalo. 

A Miri tribal home balancing at the edge of a steep slope

 Banana plantations are in the midst of the wilderness

Jhoom cultivation (slash & burn) is practised in most areas of the North East. Here, in Arunachal Pradesh it's at the pace of every two years. It is not surprising to see forested areas suddenly throwing up patches of cultivated crops.

Bridges like these and some even
more rudimentary are the lifelines across 

rivers. This bridge's strength could only 
accommodate pedestrians & two-wheelers

Enroute we came across many hidden springs like 
these which seemed touched as if with magic

Aalo is north-east from Ziro and approx 6 hrs from Daporijo. The town lies on the banks of the Siyom and Sipu rivers. Locally, the river around Aalo is known as Yongmo and is revered. We spent our time in Aalo trekking along the river, visiting an Adi Galong tribal village, the local market and shopping a little at the local stores. 

Our trek alongside the river wound in & out of dense foliage

Minyong, an Adi village across the river from Aalo
spread out on its banks

A rudimentary bridge built & put up by the villagers themselves

Listening to snippets of life in Aalo from our two young guides, we realised a simple life is not attractive enough for the younger generation. They are well aware of developments beyond the mountains, thanks to the widespread reach of satellite television. The youth here are university graduates or at least have finished high school. Farming and other traditional occupations are not appealing anymore. It's not that they are unhappy with life at home, but they long to experience the glitz and glamour of big cities as they see  broadcast on their television sets. 

Mithun (a large animal of the bison species, domesticated in
the North East) horns in a home represent wealth & prosperity 

An offering to the Gods inside a home, by the village shaman

Adi home on stilts & with large sun-decks, to make 
the most of the sunshine

Our rest stop in Aalo. Was comfortable & not too bad

Employment levels are low and opportunities are limited to what they see around them, the things they feel are within their reach. Joining the government or the security forces is top of the list. The former for the same reason as the rest of India - job security, a spot of 'extra' money to be made and it allows them to mostly live not far from home. The latter for similar reasons (except the extra money) and the power connected with men in uniform, in these parts. 

The unhappiness with the state machinery which they feel has left them behind in the development game is palpable. Basic necessities like good, regular healthcare services, higher education facilities, motorable roads, regular public transport service between villages and towns are all they are asking for. Inspite of the lack of these and the adversities, the people are full of grace, generous and also very thankful they live in peace (as compared to their neighbouring states and with China breathing down their necks at the border). 

Arunachal Pradesh does not have the trappings of development - the big houses, office complexes or industries. But the people aren't poor, they live within their means, are self-sufficient and have learnt to live with what life has given them. But one can feel the winds of change in the people and the place. It's coming. I fervently hope the change is for good. 

Temporary halt on the highway as the road was cleared of 
a minor landslide. These are seen as common occurrences here


  1. Replies
    1. It was mine too. I think there is so much more left to see. By no means finished. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Harshita. Appreciate your dropping by the blog.