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Captain Nero in Dirang – Part 2

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Day 35: Dirang
But we must be in heaven or thereabouts. It’s been close to ten days in Dirang (Arunachal). Every day we wake up to a drizzle, the rain falling on our windows and making their own drawings. It falls on the pine trees and makes the cones look shinier. The monastery looks at us from the top of a hill, in all its splendour – a hue of red and gold.
We step out and go to our favourite didi’s little shack for lemon tea. Its a tiny shop, so dark that we have to peer hard to see each other. The moment I enter, I yell “Deeds” naughtily and she comes out every day in her maroon sweater, beaming widely. The lemon tea tastes heavenly.
hill station india
We walk on, past the town, and the mountains open up on all sides. The sound of the river is our constant companion. The only competition it faces is the sound of a hundred chirping birds. One of them stares back at me from his perch on the tree. Excited, I approach softly. A black head complimented will a black long tail, orange breast and a white belly, he is beautiful. I google frantically to find the specie. The pages show me a dozen birds and birding tours in Arunachal and I spend a happy fifteen minutes reading.
The breeze kisses our faces. At fifteen sixteen degrees, the weather is as perfect as can be. Small huts sit alone halfway up the mountain, and I wonder if I could just live in one of those for a month and write a book. White chortens sprout up randomly on the mountain.
We find a path to go down the cliff, to walk close to the river. A gravelly muddy path, that threatens to make our knees creak. But we run down happily. There’s a metal bridge with Buddhist prayer flags. Red, yellow, blue, orange in colour, they flutter gaily in the wind. The bridge heaves and clangs as we walk over it. A local kid crosses us, smiling shyly when we wave at him.
northeast india
The mountain peaks are shrouded with a snowy mist. The mist magically billows up and around the peaks, and I can’t stop staring at this beautiful sight. We keep walking and the path soon opens out to a meadow. Wild horses graze here. Young colts playing a kicking game, little ponies run in gay abandon, young studs show off their wild hair. As we go closer, they look up to see us approaching, herd the younger ponies in the centre and trot off.
We keep walking. Daily. 15-16 kms a day. In this heaven. Every now and then, passing a stray cottage, furry dogs that run to lick us, and natives who are shy and curious to see us. The blistering sounds of the river, the misty mountains and butterflies are our constant companions. I am not surprised that Ruskin Bond wrote so many beautiful books in his years of stay in Mussoorie. Such environs sing to a writer. My heart is full of thoughts. It flits like the yellow butterflies in the meadows, with a plethora of thoughts – nature, explorers, the north east, consuming my head.
nature india stories
By the time we are back, crossing the meadows, the clanging metal bridge, the fluttering prayer flags, back up the muddy cliff, back to town, it’s dark. As the shops close down their shutters, we have a happy dinner. As we step out into the moonlight making our way back to our hotel, the monastery still looks at us from the top of a hill, in all its splendour – a hue of red and gold. So do the mountains, as they have been looking at humans like us, for centuries.
But we must be in heaven, or thereabouts.
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Neeraj Narayanan

Neeraj Narayanan, a.k.a Captain Nero, is the founder of OHOT. In the summer of 2013, he quit his corporate job and went backpacking around the world. In a year full of (mis)adventures, he ended up being chased by a bear in a Croatian forest, being held at gunpoint by a mafia gang lord in Turkey, running with the bulls in Spain, and dancing in the clubs of Spain and Italy. A year later, he started leading group trips for people.

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