Feeling like I had conquered the North Pole, I thanked the Army officers for their hospitality at Kibithu (the eastern most motorable settlement in India) and started back in the rain. And then the troubles started.
Rocks of all sizes were having a free run, plonking themselves at alarming regularity on the highway. One big fellow stopped me in my tracks at Walong one hour later, forcing me to spend the night in an Inspection Bungalow (I was lucky to have got one, and the rooms were very comfortable). But it was a cold, long night – and it seemed even more so with the uncertainties of what lay ahead.
Walong is famous for some of the bloodiest battles between Indian and Chinese troops in the 1962 war, with the former covering themselves in glory before eventually conceding defeat. If you go exploring, you can still find remains of helmets and other equipment in the peaks and forests around.
With a prayer on my lips, I set out the following morning – falling rocks had been joined by landslides. The Border Roads Organisation was trying its best to clear the roads with manpower and dynamite and I was lucky that I could keep moving forward, even if slowly. The fear was two-fold: being struck by a rock, and getting stuck on the road between two landslides.
Just when I started breathing easy with Hayuliang only 17 km away, a fresh landslide blocked my way. With darkness setting in, and weather getting worse, the prospect of a night in the car did not seem inviting. And this is when you start believing in the existence of the Almighty – I found a contractor with a JCB earth mover in a remote village of all the place. He agreed to help clear the way – and I reached the comfort of the Circuit House.
The following morning I set out to Dibrugarh with the weather and road conditions no better. But as the altimeter reading dipped, I could breathe more easy. I reached Dibrugarh in the plains – where even the heat was welcome. It was time to spend two nights in a comfortable hotel before setting out further.
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