Pleasure Pockets: Backpacking around Menchukha in Arunachal Pradesh, God’s Own Valley

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The road is my home, and of recent months, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring some remote rural areas in the North Eastern region of India. Though each destination offered a unique experience, Menchukha is the one place which stood out in my treasure box and I found the need to pen down a few words about it.

The literal meaning of Menchukha is ‘medicinal water of snow’, and as the name suggests, this hidden corner overflows with fresh water. This is a refreshingly exquisite valley located on the far North Eastern region of India, near the Indo-China border, in the state of Arunachal Pradesh – commonly referred to as the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’.

At 6000ft, this magical valley promises to satisfy all our soul searching dream destination quests. The small hillocks surrounding the valley changes colour every season, and is further surrounded by pine forests and snow capped mountains, making it a different world on its own. A river flowing through the town, the banks of which is painted by bright and colourful cottages, this is a must visit for nature lovers, people looking for some adventures, and peace and quiet. Well, I already did, and finally striked it off my bucket list, only to put it back.

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However, everything comes with a price. As blessed as it is with immense beauty, life is hard here. It is not a suitable place for cultivation, and there is less avenues for employment. Local entrepreneurs travel more than 300kms to bring basic commodities. Thus, it is understandable that everything is costly. Should the readers wish to visit, I urge you not to lament at the high rates (higher than the market price), rather buy from there if you have cash to spare, carry those clothes you don’t want to wear anymore if you don’t mind an extra baggage, to donate, and help the locals – the caretakers of this beautiful valley.

Nonetheless, for low budget travellers and volunteers, we have a good news : Meet Mibom Dirchi, an indomitable lady who, as is the case of all visitors, fell in love with the valley when she first visited in 2001, and was equally disturbed by the low living standard and the lack of opportunities of the locals. Not one to leave it as they were, she returned in 2009 – not to visit, but to open a non-profit school and live there permanently.

Against all odds, she opened the school as a single lady in a patriarchal society, overcoming numerous challenges. The school now has 114 students with 14 hostellers. As a non profit school, students receive education at nominal fees. But she also have 16 students from the poverty backgrounds who are receiving free education. One significant feature of the school is the inclusion of free mid-day meal, sponsored by her friends and well wishers.

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Mibom is now married and is managing the school with the help of her amazingly supportive husband, who, together hosted me for three memorable days.

As a non-profit school, Mibom Dirchi offers volunteer opportunity for travellers for any amount of time, where volunteers teach the students (academics, life skills, skill development, etc) for fooding and lodging. Sounds like an interesting experience to take a dip on, isn’t it?

Due to lack of travel companies, allow me to make it simple for interested readers. One may make your travel plans with Mibom at [email protected] (posting with due permission). An initial plan of one-day trip stretched to three days, yet, there were more I couldn’t explore. That’s how much this tiny valley offers. Spending time to experience a new culture was one, immersing in God’s majestic creations was another. In a way, the valley unconsciously helped me reconnect with myself. If you’re anything like me, this is a destination to visit. Trust me. It would all be worth it. Because… I’m already making plans to go back.

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To make your travel plans, one may reach Mibom at [email protected]

Note: As a protected area, one needs a permit to travel to Arunachal which is easily available at all district headquarters and state bhavans in different cities of the country.

About the writer:

Nokho Nyekha is a coffee addict, a nature lover and independent researcher of indigenous traditions.

Photo credit: Nokho Nyekha

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