Secondhand Heroics

Ants Bolingbroke-Kent, author of A Short Ride in the Jungle, is on the road again, this time it’s India. Land of elephants, sacrificial buffalo and sex-pest caretakers... 

Where are you now?

Roing, a town in the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh, India’s most north-easterly state.

What’s the plan?

To spend two and a half months exploring Arunachal Pradesh, a wild and inaccessible region between Tibet, Burma and Bhutan at the eastern edge of the Himalayas. It was closed to foreigners from 1950 up until the late 1990s and is still subject to permits and military restrictions. It’s an incredibly remote region and is probably one of the least explored corners of the planet. My journey is taking me about 3000 miles from the dense tiger-riddled rainforests and opium clad hills of the east, to the snowy peaks of Tawang in the west. At times it’ll be shivering cold, at others sweatingly hot.

What bike are you riding this time?

I’ve bought a £350, second hand Indian bike called a Hero Impulse. It’s 150cc and is a sort of dirt bike. It’s got off-road tyres, good ground clearance and a high level exhaust.

Any issues with the bike so far?

So far my Hero has more than lived up to its name. It might not be the most powerful beast, but it’s carried me 1000 miles across rivers, up steep mountains, over high passes and through incredible monsoon rains. Its fuel range is a brilliant 180-plus miles and to date all it’s actually cost me is a mere £2 in servicing.

What are the biggest challenges you face on this trip?

Due to its vast altitudinal range and extreme weather Arunachal is a fairly challenging place to travel. Most of the roads wind through densely forested mountains and – thanks to the early onset of the monsoon a few days ago – many of these roads are now blocked by landslides. For the past three days I’ve been stuck in Roing, waiting for the road north to Anini to be cleared of landslides. Other than that leeches, snakes and tigers add to the adventure. And I have to constantly report to the police and military.

Best moment so far?

Meeting a Miju Mishmi elder and shaman, whose bamboo house was hung with the skulls of sacrificed buffalo, and who talked to me through a haze of opium smoke. Arunachal has over 25 tribes and it’s fascinating meeting so many different peoples and hearing their tales.

Worst moment so far?

Spending a night in a weird government guest house deep in the mountains, with just one slightly amorous, hairy-eared caretaker for company. There was no phone reception, I was miles from anywhere and the caretaker wouldn’t give me the keys to lock my room! I was out of that place like a shot the next morning.

Biggest surprise?

How worried people here are about a woman travelling alone on a motorbike. There are zero tourists here, let alone single travellers on a bike and people seem genuinely concerned that something terrible is going to happen to me. I hope they’re wrong!

Best bit of kit you’ve brought and anything you wished you’d packed?

I am really pleased with my Water to Go bottle, an ingenious bit of kit that allows you to fill up with water from any tap or river, filtering it instantly. I’ve been in India a month and haven’t had to buy a single bottle of water. But I WISH I had packed some chocolate.

Is there going to be a book about this adventure?

Yes, it’s due out in Summer 2017. Watch this space... 

'It's probably one of the least explored corners of the planet'

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