It had rained several days and the mind was hungover from an overdose of nothingness; a sort of a vacuum, hungover because it was bright for a few hours. It was early April, a bit early for even the pre-monsoon but the rains were on time for the prepre-monsoon. We have many of those in the Upper Siang. Like right now, in early-October, its pouring; the prepost-monsoon rain. A quick plan was made to go north to cover other villages in the district, to know about their shifting cultivation practice and possible economic opportunities. Bamut Medo, the ever-smiling gaam bura accompanied me, later I came to know he was going to have collateral benefits. He is about sixty years old, had pillioned on a bike only a few times and never for so many hours or kilometers. So after a few hours he complained of butt-ache and I duly stopped. It is such a landscape too; a stream, a river, a big tree, a beautiful panorama is always on the way. Sometimes a black eagle does a cameo too..
We pass the villages etched in the hills of Janbo, Mosing, Migging, Pango, Ningging and then Tuting, 120 km away, all the while viewing the Siang river from different angles each time with a background of a different pair of mountains' rendezvous.
We spent a day and a half in Tuting and Ningging and retracked our way to reach Pango. On the way, we crossed a bridge on the now-murky Sira paté river, since it had rained so many days. This is where the trek to the Takin hunting area for the Adis here begins. Bomdo people travel to this point on a Sumo, get off at the Sira paté and start walking. It apparently takes at least a full-days-walk from here.
The Medo clan was here too, in fact Pango was a branch of Bomdo that split and went further north. So we were more than welcome at Bamut Medo's second cousin's place. The evening meal with fresh mushrooms and rice followed the interesting conversations over rice beer we had swigged. Slowly I learnt about Pango and was convinced it was a far more remote village, cached in the hills, with no electricity or telephone network. Even the road to the village was still not complete. Below Pango though, in a shop I had seen Round-up and 2-4-D, two deadly weedicides banned in most developed countries. Its amazing how these things among others find themselves in the most remote places, I've seen hair straighteners, refrigerators, pool tables, TATA Sky, cosmetics in places with no phone network even! I guess with the arrival of televisions, everything else follows.
The Pango folks make at least three trips a year for the Takin hunt, Bamut Medo's cousin's husband tells me. In fact while we were sitting there in April, a group had gone into the hills to hunt Takin! Then, Bamut asks his brother-in-law for two Takin horns as souvenirs. In Bomdo, among 65 households I think only 6 - 7 households have the Takin horns hunted by the Bomdians. And the next day while we leave late morning, these horns adorned my bike. Star City - Definitely Male with the male Takin horns!
In the morning, we met an old lady, Bamut's first cousin, twice removed, close to a hundred years old, living with her husband. They lived in a separate home this lovely old couple. They also grew the local tobacco called kusér, which is almost locally extinct. They exchanged updates while I looked at a persistent rat trying to pick the rice in the house. Updates about who was born and who had passed on. I was amazed that this kind of information in the times of twitter, facebook, mobile phones and internet gets passed on once in few years! I pointed the rat to the old lady who duly caught it by the tail and whacked it on the bamboo floor a few times, ensured its dead and offered it to the dogs at home who reluctantly nipped at it.
The return trip was mostly uneventful, we stopped by below Migging village for a quick rum in the cold, and oh before that there was a landslide before the Sira paté. I pushed the bike up and slid down with the bike and then we went along. I think four-wheelers were stuck at this point for the day.
I look forward to spending some more time in Pango this year. More takin-hunts every year, more people have been to the Indo-Tibet border here and is definitely more remote. Surely there is more to know and write about this place. Watch this space...for more updates about Pango, Bomdo's elder brother!