Sela pass-13750 Ft above MSL-Tawang Valley

If there is one thing which caught my imagination in the trip to Tawang, it is the Sela-Pass. It is a narrow pass in the mountainous regions of Arunachal Pradesh, at  an elevation of 13700 ft above mean sea level and it  signals our entry into the Tawang valley. Legend has it that a sepoy, Jaswant, fought a lone battle against the invading Chinese during the 1962 war. His spirit is still believed to protect the place. There is an off-shoot to the tale in that there is one more tale about a tribal woman who supported him during his battle with the Chinese. This woman brought him supplies and used to tend to his wounds. And she is supposed to have killed herself when he was slain, in an act of loyalty.

Stories galore and incidents at each intersection made the journey to Tawang as interesting as ever. Stories of a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, to stories of a frozen fuel pump (of the taxi’s fuel line) at an army base camp, to stories of narrowly missing a landslide,…stories galore. But the moment at Sela-pass is unique in that it is like a moment of deliverance. Imagine driving for a long time through narrow and shaky roads, road signs suggesting safe practices for a safe ride and the alpine landscape ceasing to be an effective distraction in the face of fear substituting boredom as one gets higher and higher. The mountains lose all sense of proportion as the heights are awe inspiring and the distances are merely hazy and misty. The eye lacks power to gulp in more than is humanly possible and heart is weary and hungry while the mind is apprehensive about the new surroundings. I am all but awry.

The distant mountains seem so near and wear straight scars of human intervention in the form of roads. Fresh snow has daubed the mountain-tops with familiar streaks and the mountains bears scrapes exposing the bowels of the mountain because of landslides. The sun is bright and shiny while the clouds are huddled close because of the hills standing ground. The granite formations appear steely and cold on the sunny side of the mountain with apparently no-sign of vegetation at this height. The colder side of the mountain, away from the sun has a softer tag of snow from the previous night with the same dripping wetness as and where it is exposed to the ever-moving snow. Like an oasis in a desert, the Sela-Pass opens into a depression in the landscape with a lake which is starting to freeze over. I am not able to make out if the ripples on the water are real or not. Most of the lake is frozen and I did not trust my eyes as my senses were numb. I was a bit shaky at the knees and my sense of balance had taken a good beating because of the G-forces during driving a good part of the day.

The lake was but beautiful and I was but happy. All I needed was a cup of hot tea and a good cigarette.


15 Responses

  1. I can’t agree with you more…I have also been to Tawang & I also liked sela pass very much & we experience two completed different views of sela pass. while going to tawang there was a light drizzle of snowfall going on there & while returning back it was lovely clear blue skies with a light wind blowing. We enjoyed the atmosphere very much at both the times there. I don’t know whether you know about a bit of history of Sela or not. You can read it here “”….lovely reading your post!

  2. Hi Kalyan. Thanks for stopping by. Am aware of the story behind Sela pass, but not the kind of details that you have penned down in your blog. It was absolutely beautiful, nonetheless.

  3. when is the best time to visit the place? The time when it does not snow here…

  4. I visited the place in December 2007 and it was just perfect.

  5. Thanks for your reply… I am planning to go there in last week of September… to 1st week of October… Any inputs??? Is this the time when it snows heavily there??? Plan to go on a bike there…

    Any inputs??? Directions to websites will be of great help!!!

    thanks in advance… 🙂

  6. Hey!

    We just got back from our 45 day road trip. Indo-Bhutan through Arunachal Pradesh. And for sure we had the same numbing experience 🙂

    keep me posted on your trips 🙂


  7. Planning to go early april. will it be very cold. am 58 yrs old and feel the cold acutely these days.

    • it’s realy cold there,through out the you need to take a loys of cloths with u.and one more may face a high alt breathing take ‘koka 200’,a homeo med with u.

  8. I am 67+ – but young at heart. Do regularly rowing at Kolkata, Dhakuria Lakes. Was a Sr. G.M. of a reputed company. Like outdoor life.

    Is early November very cold? I am planning a trip.


    • November will be a bit cold, but if you have good thermals and protective footwear+hand gloves, then it should not be an issue.

      Thanks, Abhilash

  9. I am very much interested to visit Sela Pass and Tawang. In which month it would be better to visit there? Actually I am planning to visit these areas in the last month of November, 2011.


  10. While sela pass get heavy snow throughout the day may snow require the pass to be shut down temporarily.

  11. Hey fans,
    am Edi 4m Tinsukia college ;,,,,,just am thinking about my pilgrimage,,,However make my trip to tawang as interesting as ever ,anybody else wanna go with me to a holy place….

  12. Hi i am ranjan. Want 2 visit tawang in late december or early january. Please suggest any input in tis regard. Thanks.

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