The Journey is the Destination

AMemory bytes Liaso Yobin, the 90-year-old gram bura or tribal chief of Nibudi

The sky above us rumbled ominously when we woke up, but the downpour started much later. With its reputation of being one of the rainiest places in the Northeast, we were glad to get out of Namdapha National Park (NNP) and Tiger Reserve in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh dry that day. Armed with leech guards, flashlights, food, water purifiers and insect repellants, we were on a week-long trek to Gandhigram and Vijaynagar, Indian settlements on the Indo-Myanmar border. Away from the tourist map, on the eastern fringes of the park, the distance between Miao (the nearest town) and these settlements can be bridged through air sorties from Mohanbari in Dibrugarh (two per month for civilians and a long queue to boot) organised by the Army, or the recently started Pawan Hans weekly helicopter service. But we wanted to test our appetite for adventure with the 157-km trek along the Miao-Vijaynagar Road, that runs past some of the Lisu tribal settlements inside the park.

The NNP and Tiger Reserve is part of a 20,000 square kilometer contiguous forest that stretches from Arunachal into the Hukong Valley forest in north Myanmar. While Arunachal is known to be India's richest biodiversity hotspot, NNP, spread over 1,985 sq km, is considered to be one of India's largest national parks. It shares its boundaries with the Kamlang wildlife sanctuary in the north, the Miao reserve forest, the Nampong reserve forest, and Diyun reserve forest in the west and the Kachin Province in Myanmar to the south. The Lisu tribal settlement in Gandhigram is in the east. Listed among 12 biodiversity mega-spots in the world, NNP is known for its dramatic landscapes and a wide range of flora and fauna. It's also home to four big cats: the tiger, leopard, clouded leopard and snow leopard. NNP's freshwater lakes Raja Jheel, Moti Jheel, Bulbulia, Manpong, Dipi, Ganja, Katboi are also perfect spots to watch migratory birds.

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