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Arunachal Pradesh - ‘a re­mote cor­ner of In­dia with tribes and tigers ’

The Guardian - Travel - - Front Page -

Arunachal Pradesh feels very re­moved from the rest of In­dia.

It rises up like a sheer green wall from the flat As­sam val­ley. For­eign­ers have been al­lowed in since 1998, but it’s still not an easy place to get around. Many of us think we know In­dia, but this re­mote, far north-east­ern cor­ner is a blank space in the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion.

Of­ten, there is very lit­tle ev­i­dence of civil­i­sa­tion as we know it.

From re­mote vil­lages you just see an end­less land­scape of green hills, creas­ing and rip­pling away to the hori­zon. When you’re in a smoky bam­boo hut deep in the jungle, it’s hard to be­lieve this is the same coun­try as New Delhi.

Its hu­man and an­i­mal di­ver­sity is huge.

The state is home to 26 tribes, in­clud­ing the Adi, Idu Mishmi and Khampa, who are cul­tur­ally dis­tinct from the rest of In­dia. But it’s also an amaz­ing des­ti­na­tion for wildlife: tigers and clouded leop­ards both live here.

There is real joy in many of the vil­lages.

Con­sid­er­ing the hard­ships of dan­ger­ous wildlife, ex­treme weather and the chal­lenge of grow­ing food, there’s a sur­pris­ing amount of in­fec­tious, thigh-slap­ping hu­mour. Ev­ery tribe makes their own rice or mil­let beer and wine. The lo­cal moon­shine tends to be strong: one glass is fine, but in­dulge in three and you’ll be crawl­ing to bed.

Tourism is al­most non-ex­is­tent.

The Tawang Bud­dhist monastery sees some for­eign vis­i­tors as it is the largest monastery in In­dia and sec­ond-largest in the world. So there are guest­houses and ho­tels in Tawang, but in the jun­gles and high­lands it’s a case of your guide find­ing you a place to stay with a fam­ily each night.

Be pre­pared to get wet.

In sum­mer it rains un­be­liev­ably hard, and the hot months also see an abun­dance of snakes and leeches. In win­ter, the state ex­pe­ri­ences the kind of cold you get where you have 7,000-me­tre peaks. Oc­to­ber is the best month to go.

Fes­ti­vals and clan gath­er­ings hap­pen all the time.

The Horn­bill fes­ti­val in Na­ga­land is the most fa­mous but be­cause there are so many tribes, festivities hap­pen al­most ev­ery week: stum­bling upon one is quite likely.

• An­to­nia Bol­ing­broke-Kent’s lastest book is Land of the Dawn-Lit Moun­tains (Si­mon & Schus­ter, £9.99). To buy a copy for £8.49 in­clud­ing UK p&p go to guardian­book­shop.com

‘It’s hard to be­lieve this is the same coun­try as Delhi,’ says travel writer An­to­nia Bol­ing­broke-Kent

In­ter­view by Caro­line Eden Take the high road … An­to­nia Bol­ing­broke-Kent in Tawang

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