Deban - the nature's blessed one

by Anand Vardhan

Let me write about an idyllic spot in the far far east called Deban! This spot was featured in the National Geographic also. All my adventures were in the early 80's so expect some changes.

Fly to Culcutta and from there every morning 6 AM a flight takes you to the small airport of Dibrugarh called Chabuva. Now you are in Assam itself, a state where nature refuses to relinquish its territory to the human onslaught. One thing before you proceed further is anybody and everybody need to have a "Inner Line Permit" to enter Arunachal Pradesh! our destination. I don't know how to get that one. I was an Oil India Company employee and had a permanent one. So go to either Dibrugarh or Tinsukia and get a inner line permit from the District office. Lodging, boarding in either of the cities should not be problem. Rent a Jeep and start going towards east. Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Makum, Digboi(The first oil strike was here), Margarita(Famous for its coal mines and coal mine accidents!) then the east most railway station! I have forgotten its name. Just after it comes the famous Steel Well bridge. A 50+ year old board says "Steel Well road Rangoon 800 miles ..." and other far far east places!! This board was erected when Burma was part of India! Follow along and you enter Arunachal Pradesh! You will be checked and let in.

Now expect minimal, if any, human habitation for the rest of your journey. Forest forest and forest. On the way you will pass a small hamlet, its name eludes me but it is famous for its Rasgulla's and also a story is told about that place where a very cruel Burmese King ruled. It seems, to tame a wild elephant he got it dragged 100 miles and it died of bleeding! There is a board depicting the story. Here the Steel Well road forks. (The right fork goes to the Famous Pangsu Pass which is 100 miles ahead. Crossing Pangsu you enter Burma. If you have time on your way back don't forget to visit this famous Pass. You are allowed 5 feet into Burma just for kicks.) Take the left fork and Drive on passing Karsang our Oil India's drilling camp. Take a break here to watch how Oil Drilling is done it is fascinating also Karsang has a Tebetian colony where they hand weave one of the most intricate carpets. I have one, here in the US, and it is considered as a Collectors item. Watch them weave, it was Rs 50/sq feet then. It is worth its money: buy one!

Further east you go and come to the last human civilized habitation Miao. This is a small village with 10 shops, one hotel, a big BSF, CRPF batallion and a small cinema tent. There is no electricity nor telephone facility here. In case of emergency use the Security forces wireless sets. Remember once you are in Arunachal, there are no petrol bunks also. Carry plenty of fuel! The other end of Miao you will find a gently flowing majestic river Miao! On the banks of it is a beautiful Government Guest house. The same place where you get your Inner line permit; you can reserve a room for here and in the Deban guest house. Stay for the day there, go swimming in the Miao river. Don't forget to see the Asia's longest single span Cable Way across the river built by Oil India. The other side of the river is called Kumchai where Oil India has drilling operation going on.

The next day start early and drive South towards Deban. I have gone about 10 odd times to Deban and every time I have trekked the last 10 odd miles. Land slide is very common due to heavy rain and the road gets blocked 10 miles from the guest house. Mind you! the road to Pangsu Pass and Deban are treacherously narrow, prone to land slide and on steep hill sides. Have a 4 wheel drive. Deban guest house is beautifully located on the banks Deban river. You are surrounded by thickly forested sky reaching mountains from whose narrow fissures flow the majestic Deban river. In the far horizon you see the Snow capped Bomdilla, Daffabum mountains. This is a quaint guest house. The sole in-charge of this is Bahadur who is cook cum security cum everything. I can bet you will enjoy every single moment of your stay there including the simple Alu Bhaji and Parota's of Bahadur. The road continues further South and some 10 miles down is the last CRPF camp. In case of emergency you can use their wireless. (In many of my adventures there I did use it twice!) The road ends here. Further the track continues in the thick forest in the Tiger leech infested forest, with the Holook Bandar (The only species of Ape found in Asia) howling around you. The road goes all the way to Vijaynagar, the famous trijunction of India, Burma and Bangladesh. It is about 200 miles in the thick forest. One of these days I shall narrate my adventure into the land of the forbidden. Have a good map, plenty of fuel, plenty of food and robust health before entering Natures blessed forest of Arunachal.

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