Do you want to see mountain slopes covered with oranges? Smell fresh mountain air infused with the fragrance of mandarins? Experience adrenaline rush and go to sleep with the buzz of electrifying music? If you do, then head over to the Orange Festival of Adventure and Music (OFAM), held in Dambuk located in Lower Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
Dambuk, one of the lesser-known places in India, is fed by Dibang River in the east and Sisar River in the west. During the summer months (April to late October), the land becomes a prisoner of nature and can only be reached on an elephant’s back, a boat or a helicopter. Otherwise, the unique land is easily accessible by roads in the winters. Having experienced Dambuk, we can safely say that it should be on the bucket list of every offbeat adventure lover in India. Reaching the location may be a bit of a challenge. However, it hosts one of the most unique festivals in India that promotes its orange cultivation through music, adventure and tribal fair.
Some Interesting Facts about Dambuk
The word Dambuk is derived from two local words, Midam (meaning generous hospitable people) and Abuk (meaning new place of habitat). Dambuk is the 10th least populated district in the Lower Dibang Valley and occupied by Adis and Idu Mishmi tribes. These tribes are majorly into cultivation of oranges. The orange cultivation in Dambuk started around 35 years back. Today, its mandarins are known nationally as well internationally. The land also produces some of the best kiwis and cardamoms in the world. Till 2015, the town had no electricity and mobile connectivity. Indeed, even till today, there is only limited signal available. Locals here are affectionate and welcoming. ‘Brime’ means ‘Sister’, so don’t get offended if some locals call you by that name.
There is only one flight every day to Dibrugarh from Delhi.
Our journey started in Dibrugarh. After reaching Dibrugarh in Assam, our excitement levels were already high. Although it was 2 pm, we knew the day will end here early. By 4:30 pm, sunset will happen. We wanted to reach our destination at the earliest.
Within no time, we boarded our cab and left for our adventure. The road was flanked by tea estates on the both sides. Life seemed slow and steady, just like a narrow gauge train running parallel to a road. Distance from airport was just 180 kilometres; but we were told that it will take around 4-5 hours to reach our destination.
As we moved ahead, roads turned narrower and more difficult. Crossing the Dhola Sadiya bridge or Dr. Bhupen Hazarika Setu over the Brahmaputra River was another adventure. It is the longest bridge in India (9.2 kilometres) that connects Dhola and Sadiya villages. It is also an entry point of Arunachal Pradesh.
Finally, we reached Bomjir around 6:30 pm, only to be greeted by the gurgling sound of the Brahmaputra River. The journey was adventure-packed but surely not a neck-breaker. The early sunrise made us rise early. We were pleased to see the splendid beauty of the place. Dibang River was flowing down the Himalayas. There were specks of snow on the mountain peaks. The sun was playing hide and seek in the clouds, birds were singing and luscious oranges were hanging from the trees.
After breakfast, we were driven to the venue, around 20 kilometres from our camp site. The venue was further a 15 minutes’ walk from the main gate. The narrow unpaved road, with its beautiful landscapes dotted with orange orchards, was a sight to behold. On the way, we saw vendors in shacks dancing to their local music.
Orange Festival of Adventure and Music
The humble and rugged temporary setup at the venue was quite adorable. There was an extravaganza of music, local dances, culture and food. Indeed, it had all the ingredients what an adventurous soul like us needed. The festival was spread over 4 days and had cultural performances and adventure activities throughout day and night.
The day performances ranged from Galo dialect to local folk, from classical music to jazz, from thoughtful music to rock and poetry. Night performances begun after the sun had set. Musicians and bands from India and abroad kept the audience entertained. We attended the 5th OFAM and can safely say that the organisers have completely transformed this remote place, from a no-electricity zone to a happening zone. However, a lot still needs has to be explored. The local tribal communities have started receiving benefits. Still it will take more time.
Highlights of Orange Dambuk Festival
The Khasi mandarin of Dambuk is highly juicy and sweet. It is available in 16 varieties, and today majority of it is exported. The first global consignment for the mandarins was signed up in 2017 and now the demand has already superseded the supply. Prices of these oranges vary from Rs.5- Rs.10 per piece. One can buy them in a beautiful handmade basket/ box in Rs.200.
Before attending the Dambuk festival, we thought that extreme adventure was in its nascent stages in India, but the festival broke our misconception completely. Indeed, the Dambuk valley is the perfect setting for adventure lovers. In 5th edition of Dambuk Orange festival, almost 50 teams from all over India participated in the JK tyre 4X4 fury championship. The competition was spread over 9 stages. Apart from this, there was also a special provision for other adventure activities like dirt cycling, ATV rides in the deep forest, parasailing, para-motoring, white river rafting zip lining, scuba diving, and jungle elephant rides.
Music, the soul of Dambuk Orange Festival, rocked the festival grounds every night around 5:30 pm. A total 28 bands (25 Indian & 3 International) made the crowds literally groove to their music. Boys, girls, travellers, media, rally drivers all were swaying and jumping with every beat. Each band had set the stage on fire with its own type of music from trance to punk, from hardcore to metal to classical. However, the Iron Maidens won our heart. We loved the enthusiasm of the lead vocalist Kristen Rosenberg, especially the way she cheer and rocked our Indian flag on the festival stage.
Other attractions of the Dambuk Orange Festival included cultural performances by the tribes, orange- eating competition, local tribal sports like archery, angling, tribal house building, orange plucking and forest walks, handicrafts, and traditional local tribal food. Some of the dishes we recommend include pork, Egg Fried Ginger, Chana Chat, Orange Pudding, farm fresh Orange juice and local Rice wine Poka.
Accommodation and transportation in Dambuk are adventurous challenges in Dambuk. There are not many accommodation options. One can either pitch his/her own tent or book a temporary place. We stayed in Bomjir camps, one of the beautiful natural camps, around 15 kilometres from the festival venue. So, be prepared to walk for miles and then hitchhike.
For visiting the state, Indian nationals need to have the Inner Line Permit for Arunachal Pradesh and International tourist must carry Protected Area Permit. Dambuk is a perfect mix of everything traditional and modern: from music and speed to thrill. Yet, it maintains the distinct rustic nature of the state. So, if you are looking for a unique adventure, then head over to the Orange Festival, Dambuk.