The Bailey Trail, a rare trek in Arunachal Pradesh. During the month of October a team of three Indians comprising Huzefa Electricwala, Dr. Kamal Limdi, and I trekked in the rarely frequented valleys of Arunachal Pradesh, North East India. We first drove to the northwest corner of the state, visiting the Bum La on the Tibetan border and nearby Zimithang and Lumpho. Just north of Zimithang, where the Thag La Ridge forms the natural border with Tibet, the Dalai Lama crossed on his escape to India in 1959. It was also a dispute about the position of this ridge and the exact alignment of the McMahon Line that precipitated the 1962 Indo-China war, fought with disastrous results.
In the second half of the trip we undertook a 22-day trek going along the old Bailey Trail from the ancient village of Thembang, a little distance to the north of the Bomdi La road pass, to a point close to the Tibetan frontier. This was the trail pioneered (from the border southwards) by British Army officers Lt. Col. F.M. Bailey (author of the classic No Passport to Tibet) and Capt. H.T. Morshead in 1913. H.W. Tilman followed part of this route in 1938 when he was looking for views of the big peaks, Kangto and Gorichen. One of his Sherpas died due to an attack of malaria, and Tilman suffered severely from the same disease.
The forest around the trail was magnificent, with rain forest continuing to high altitudes. The views of mountains, available only in the mornings, were beautiful. On several occasions we could see Kangto (7,042m), a huge mountain rising on the horizon. Kangto is the only peak above 7,000m in Arunachal Pradesh (according to the latest maps) and the highest in the Indian Eastern Himalaya. The Gorichen group was seen from different angles. We reached two points, Pt. 4,640m and Pt. 4,983m, near the Tse La above Pota.
The area now welcomes trekkers and visitors but it does not have many facilities. Trekking is best during the period mid-September to mid-November: Arunachal Pradesh has some of the highest rainfall in the Himalaya and outside this period it either rains, snows, or (in winter) is snow-bound and misty.
Permits and Rules for entry:
The entire area of Arunachal Pradesh remains within the Inner Line. This is a line designated on the map beyond which visitors must obtain a special permit. At present, the rules are as follows:
1. Indians: any Indian national is granted seven days permission to visit the open area of Arunachal Pradesh. This permit can be extended for seven days at a time as desired. Naturally, for a long trek or an expedition, a special permit has to be obtained from Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. This is easily given on payment of a small fee.
2. Foreigners: a group comprising a minimum of four foreigners can visit Arunachal Pradesh for travel or trekking. The current fee is $50 for a period of 10 days, which can be renewed for another 10-day trek. Generally, it is expected that foreigners would go through a travel agent registered in Arunachal Pradesh. There are no restrictions on photography (except in military areas) but foreigners are only allowed to visit open areas.
Harish Kapadia, Honorary Editor, The Himalayan Journal