My Journey To The Center Of A Landslide In Arunachal Pradesh With My Family

by Contributor
My Journey To The Center Of A Landslide In Arunachal Pradesh With My Family
It is said that an important prerequisite for a successful trip is planning. But how much planning is too much planning when you are travelling with family. Does it work according to your plan? ever? Well, I’m Monalisa, a writer and tea curator who hails from the Tea Town of India, Dibrugarh in Assam. I’m currently based out of Goa, where I have my own tea-startup. And this is my unforgettable story, about my trip with my family to Arunachal Pradesh and how we got stuck in a landslide.
My family and I

What Travel Means For Me And My Family

Travel has been one of the things, my family and I have done for years to celebrate, escape, express or evolve. Having said that as kids we would do road trips at the drop of a hat because we just needed a reason. My father and his plans can erupt any time of the day or night. It used to depend on his mood and we would be on the road. We have started as early as 3 am and as late as post-dinner, let’s discuss and drive.

Cut to 2 decades later, me being a travel writer (sic!) and taking the forefront of coming up with travel ideas and places that give me good stories, travelling with parents has always been my comfort zone. They are my first choice to travel when I am around. So when I am visiting my hometown, Assam after almost two years, this July 2019, it was obvious that I had to travel with them. My father who recently retired naturally wanted to take the lead and not listen to any “expert” advise I had.

Planning The Trip To Tawang

Exciting as that was, I started planning as we decided where to go and how much time we could all spare. I asked my favourite Uncle and Aunt to accompany us as we were going to Arunachal Pradesh, a place where they resided for over 30 years.

The next few days were spent ‘over planning’ routes and my uncle even took out the ‘Ponjika’- a book that we always refer to whenever there are important events like weddings etc. It was consulted to even help us decide which date we would embark on the journey.

So our final destination was Tawang. Tawang is a gorgeous town in Arunachal Pradesh, it’s known for its beautiful landscape and Buddhist monasteries. So we were to stop at Sangti Valley and then move up towards Sela pass, the nunnery and explore Tawang It would be a week-long sojourn, a distance of 620 km one way. Our first stop would be anywhere we reached by dusk.

On The Way To Arunachal Pradesh

After much discussion and anticipation, we set out in the wee hours of the morning. Research and speaking with a friend who does road trips frequently, I had warned my father to not take the route through Bhalukpong as there was a landslide and roads were blocked. Obviously no heed was paid to my words. time.

For those of you who don’t know, a landslide is a common phenomenon in the mountains, especially during the monsoons. The heavy rain makes the soil loose which results in an avalanche of sorts hindering any kind of movement. For a person like me who hails from the plains,  mountains, trust me mountains are my calling. Though getting stuck in a landslide, isn’t my first choice of plans.

Coming back to my story, we took the Bogibeel bridge that completed after 16 years to decrease travel time to Arunachal Pradesh (apart from other reasons) and drove all morning, stopping for an elaborate lunch at Jakhlabandha and reached Bhalukpong where we had to wait for more than hour for the Inner Line Permit (we had applied it online but nobody had the patience to wait until it arrived).

Bogibeel Bridge

Almost two hours of killing time, the CRPF (they are always present at border check posts as these are sensitive areas) told us what I have been saying since we started this journey. So now, we had to go back the entire Orang National Park which was approximately 78kms towards Mazbat/Dhekiajuli to enter Arunachal Pradesh And more importantly, we have lost time and Papa has been driving since almost 12 hours now.

Forerunners- My papa and uncle

Considering his spontaneity, he did not listen to any of us and even though it was almost dusk, it didn’t deter him from starting the ascent.  It had started to rain and the bluish tinge made the uphill drive quite breathtaking but the truth of the matter was that it was getting dangerous. The internet got slower and the downpour made the visibility lesser. Without Google to help us navigate, we did not know even which was our destination for the night.

When We Reached Arunachal Pradesh

After a point, we see signage that said it was 2kms to Kalaktang and felt a bit relieved.  But being dependent on technology made up for it as we did not pay attention to the road, missed a turn and half an hour later we were again driving uphill. This felt like never-ending; suddenly my phone had some network coverage.

A stop for a quick pic

I received a message about a landslide and also that we were going further into it as I had shared the location with a friend. We were quick to react and the newest challenge presented itself. To reverse an SUV on a slope in heavy rain is not an easy feat but thanks to Papa’s amazing driving skills and to our Eco Sport, we were back on track in no time. With each passing mile, my mother’s blood pressure dropped. Father and I thought we handled the situation quite well but in our heart, we knew the battle had just about started.

By the time we reached Kalaktang, it was six-thirty in the evening and by now, mountain towns this side of the world gets deserted. It felt like a ghost town when we entered. Most of the shops were closed. Papa and I divided the two most important jobs at that point of time; food was his and mine was accommodation. I set out with an umbrella and enquired with the handful of people I saw and was directed towards one and it seemed like the only option available. I checked the rooms, it was clean and fit the only criteria we had. She informed me extremely casually that the bathroom was common and the water was limited and can be only used for minor activities.

Surviving The Landslide

I walked back to my mother, uncle and aunt who by now were annoyed sitting in the car. Without trying to enquire much, they suggested that we must try the Inspection Bungalow for better accommodation.  I was starting to feel the pressure now of having to handle the whole crisis. As much as I wanted to tell them to follow my lead, I did not have the energy to counter their requests. Papa could only find Momos and they all ate in the car as we waited for a verdict at the IB.

Finding the silver lining amidst the chaos

The next one and a half-hour was ‘wasted’ in trying to convince the people there to give us the VIP room as (surprise surprise ) the rest of the property was filled due to the landslide and they couldn’t just give itto Non VIP people. They even tried to help us by showing the old IB but its condition was so dilapidated that we had no choice left but to go back to where we started.

Placid as that might be, those rooms were gone too and now we were basically stranded. The adults start panicking now and I continued pulling off the brave face as it has been a while since I have been handling it already now. Also, I understood what getting stuck in landslides at mountain towns meant.

The kind lady from the previous guest house empathized with us and called out to her friend. Almost 9 pm now, it felt like an impossible feat but this lady kept calling out her name till her friend heard her on the fourth floor. She was generous to open the guest house for us even though she wasn’t taking any bookings that day. Now, in our desperation, we even took three rooms in order to get a better deal. This is when the owner’s daughter explained to us that there has been no water for the past five days and that is exactly when reality struck the adults.

I wanted to call it a day. The adults (except Papa who was too tired and relieved that we were not on the road anymore), wanted to take a shower, answer to all of nature’s calls and basically wouldn’t stop complaining. I tried my best to give them a solution for everything; like wet wipes to clean their behinds, using mineral water to wash their hands and brush their teeth and being grateful but adults can behave really childish at times.

The day was somehow over but hunger pangs were not. With no other food available than the momos, I drank two cups of tea and ate the snacks that Mom had carried from home, specially made for the trip and succumbed to sleep. Oh, what a blessing!

Managing With Bare Necessities

The next morning was beautiful outside as the fog subsided and the rain stopped as well. My inbox was full of updates about the landslide. Our original plan of traveling till Tawang was, of course, a distant dream now and we had to find ways of getting out of Kalaktang.


My mother and aunt found a stream somewhere and they both went to use freshwater for their morning activities, even washed clothes and utensils. I ventured to the rooftop to catch a view and discovered a nursery. This excited my aunt and she got busy. Papa and I drank tea and finalized the exit plan and had a newfound respect for each other. “Adulting is hard”, we both agreed.

Nursery at our guesthouse at Kalaktang

Thanks to no electricity and water for the past five days, the ATM would not function and my phone’s battery was almost dying. I somehow made the online payment to the kind lady at the guesthouse, had an extensive conversation with her and we all set off to take some more risks to go downhill from the same route that was struck by the landslide.

A Memorable Family Trip Indeed!

The way back was full of realizations. Papa realized what a braveheart he was for driving on that route in a natural calamity, the others realized that even after consulting the ‘Ponjika’ they forgot the simple detail that monsoons and mountains don’t go hand in hand. And the irony that they lived up there for almost three decades cracked me up. My mom realized that over the years I have understood patience and that like I keep saying, travel has actually taught me a lot.

The downhill drive was quite adventurous too. The beauty of the freshness around soothed our nerves. We stopped at a gorgeous waterfall and tried to take in all that we got. We got a bit stuck at a major landslide spot and we discussed the entire way why we must be grateful.

Breathtaking scenery

We were finally out of the mountains and as we hit the plains, I directed the adults towards a heritage homestay from 1914 amidst tea gardens. I ensured some luxury for them and assured that for any future travel plans they know whom to follow and sometimes the young know more than the elders.

A full course meal finally

This trip definitely evolved us as a family.  Out of all the emotions that we felt ignorance is bliss was on top and sometimes ignoring the stress works. We stayed at the estate and had a luxurious time and rejuvenated ourselves with great food, great food and great conversations.

A memorable trip for our family indeed

By the time we got home, we were laughing at ourselves and thanking each other for sticking by. We might have completed only 1/4th of the journey but our learnings were 100%.

This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Monalisa. If you have a story to tell us, drop us an email to