On a cold November morning, a bunch of us left Ziro before the winter sun warmed the valley towards a Kiwi plantation in the outskirts of the settlement. Smoke rose out of the chimneys over tin-roofed houses and mist hovered over open fields like a blanket of white. We drove through the sleepy lanes towards Manipolyang, a village 7 kilomteres from the village center, that also happens to be the starting point of the trek to Pange Valley.
Pange Valley is actually the gateway to the more diverse and pristine Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a biodiversity hotspot supporting a wide range of flora and fauna, many of them rare and endangered. Due to paucity of time and an imminent need of some fresh forest air after many days spent driving on bad roads, we decided to hike to Pange Valley for a day’s picnic and return to Ziro before nightfall. It took us two and a half hours at a leisurely pace one way. If you have time, the better plan would be reaching Pange Valley on any 4-Wheel drive and then trek further up to Talle Valley, 15kms further ahead from the forest checkpost. You can spend the night at the Forest Rest House in Pange Valley after returning from Talle Valley.
But like I said, due to a spontaneous plan change and the lack of sufficient time, we decided to make a picnic out of a day hike to Pange Valley instead. Packing our bags with freshly cut chicken from the market and some juice boxes, we were off on our day of fun in the sun.
Here’s a quick photo essay and short commentary on how our day went!
A rough but drivable jeep trail connects Ziro valley with Pange Valley. We chose to hike the last 8 kilometers of this route from the Kiwi Plantation to Pange instead. The trail passes through dense, claustrophobic forests offering little in the way of sweeping vistas. But if fresh breeze and birdsongs ringing through the forest can make you happy, you are set.
We encountered a whole lot of Mithuns on our way to Pange. It was infinitely scary for me to first run into these huge beasts on the trail. But my team quickly showed me that they are gentle like cows and there's no need to fear them. What a relief it was to finally realise the only common trait Mithuns share with their aggressive counterparts was only appearance and not behaviour. Phew!
Nothing like gorgeous blue skies and warm sunshine on a cold winter afternoon. These were the scenes that welcomed us after we reached Pange Valley. The stream cuts across the meadow in Pange and you get to see great views of Talle Valley from the watch tower at the forest rest house.
A Map of Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary at Pange, the gateway to Talle and the possible trek routes inside the sanctuary. My friend Piran of http://www.kipepeo.in/ recently returned from a 4-day exploratory trek of Talle Valley and had only good things to say about it. So check with him if you need someone to arrange your trek here.
And that's how you deal with Mithuns, feed them salt! When we first encountered Mithuns on the trail, they started walking towards us and my heart skipped a beat or several perhaps. But apparently they are used to humans feeding them salt, so they were only walking to us in anticipation of a treat. At one point, we had a whole herd coming at us for more salt. So do carry a bag of salt if you are hiking here, very helpful in defusing a potential Mithun stalking situation.
The only reason there's a clearing in the valley at Pange is because someone actually cut the forest to make way for a collection of small concrete rooms and few bamboo houses for the forest staff to reside in, office building and a rest house. Otherwise I wouldn't imagine there'd be vast open spaces in Talle Valley, the forest here is delightfully dense making it a haven for wildlife.
A lovely picnic, Apatani style! We got raw chicken from Ziro and used the fire inside the forest staff's bamboo house to make ourselves a little barbecue party. Tastiest chicken barbecue ever!
We missed the sunset from an open hillock by a whisker despite running back in time because we got so very distracted by the stunning forest views on the trail. And the other reason for missing the sunset was also that the sun sets very early in winters in Arunachal Pradesh. It was barely 5PM and the last light has already graced the mountain slopes and went beyond.
Prior to this visit I had already spent a week in Ziro during a festival and it was a great cultural experience. However looking at the dense forests that surround the valley, I had wished to spend a day in those forests beyond somehow but didn't know of this hike then. If you are spending few days in Ziro are looking for a break from humans and civilization, would highly recommend going on either a short or extended hike in this region for some essential Vitamin N(ature)!