If the title of this post has gotten you a little confused and a little curious, be assured that you’re on the right track! When I first heard about the Orange Festival of Adventure and Music (OFAM) in Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh, I couldn’t wrap my head around how music, adventure and oranges would come together in one single event. It took me a few days of being at the festival in December 2018 to understand what’s happening and if you have any liking for either music, adventure or oranges, you should read this!
What is the Orange Festival of Adventure & Music
A 4-day long event held in the sleepy village of Dambuk in Arunachal Pradesh, the Orange Festival is everything it promises to be and more. Dambuk is known to produce some of the best Oranges in the country, giving birth to the name of the festival. 4 days of music with an eclectic mix of local, regional and international artists, coupled with adventure activities like paramotoring, river rafting, scuba diving and zip lining, here’s an adrenaline-filled event not only ready to make you rock and roll, but also take notice of our easternmost state, Arunachal Pradesh.
The Orange Festival is one of the many efforts being made by the Arunachal Pradesh government to promote tourism in this almost-untouched part of the country. The event, largely sponsored and supported by the government, is a great way for travellers to seek off-beat experiences in this beautiful Northeastern state of India. Whether you come for the pumping music, for a shot at adventure sports or just to soak in the good vibes of Dambuk, you are sure to be spoilt for choice.
The format of OFAM typically looks like this – While the mornings are reserved for indulging in adventure sports, the evenings are when the artists set the stage on fire. But that’s not all. In the afternoon, there are either fun competitions held for the visitors or tribal dances and performances for a peek into the local community’s life.
Where is Dambuk & How to get there
The first thought that must be crossing your mind is where on earth is Dambuk and how do you even get there? I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t even heard of Dambuk before. Located in the Lower Dibang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh, which is also India’s 10th-least populated districts, Dambuk is a small village inhabited primarily by the Adi tribe. Except during the dry winter months, access to Dambuk is cut off by the mighty flow of the Dibang river which makes it almost impossible to reach Dambuk without a boat or a helicopter ride. Roughly 268 Km away from the state capital Itanagar, getting to Dambuk itself, as you can imagine, is one hell of a journey!
During the winter months when the Orange Festival is held, the best way to reach Dambuk is with a combination or flights/trains and then by road. The 2 nearest cities you can take a flight or train to are Guwahati and Dibrugarh. From there, the best way to get to Dambuk is by road. You can either hire a cab or take a local bus. The drive from Dibrugarh to Dambuk takes about 4-5 hours which is the route we took during our trip. As you drive towards Dambuk, you will be passing through Assam’s hilly roads lined with endless tea gardens. The drive will be fairly bumpy but it does have a charm of its own! Once you reach the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, there is usually a check post where you will be asked to show your Inner Line Permit (ILP). If you are an Indian national, you can apply for your permit here. However, if you are an NRI or a foreign citizen, you will need to apply for the Protected Area Permit (PAP). You can find more details about it here.
Accommodation at the Orange Festival
Camping is the only form of accommodation currently available near the Orange Festival grounds. One of the most popular camping options is provided by MAD Orange Camps. The camping sites are typically located 200-500 metres from the festival grounds so reaching the festival is usually not a problem. You can also choose from different camping options available for sharing and single tents as per your requirement.
We, however, stayed a little further away from the festival venue in a town called Bomjir. Our accommodation comprised of really interesting bamboo huts at the Bomjir camp. Located bang on the banks of the Dibang river, amidst orange orchards, it was easy to forget about the commotion of the bigger cities we spend our days in.
Experiencing the Orange Festival Dambuk 2018
Every December, Dambuk gets a new lease of life. With a fresh harvest of juicy local oranges flooding the village, Dambuk also prepares itself to host the Orange Festival of Adventure and Music. December of 2018 was no different. The 4-day long event kickstarted with a warm welcome from the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. In its 5th consecutive year now, the OFAM started with a vibrant cultural performance on the 15th of December. The day also saw the flag-off of the signature event of the festival – the JK Tyres 4×4 Fury. On the first evening, the stage was taken over by some of the top artists from the North East – Trance Effect and The Royal Flush, followed by the renowned Bipul Chhetri and The Travelling Band. The first night sure left us craving for more, but we went back to our camps happy because we knew there were 3 more days to go!
The next morning started with a delicious local breakfast with a side of the beautiful, early morning view of the Dibang River peacefully flowing past our campsite, while the Lower Himalayan range in the distance provided the perfect backdrop for a scenic location. I was half convinced to stay back to enjoy the views but the activities lined up for the day were no less tempting! So we took off from our camp and headed toward the starting point of the JK Tyres 4×4 Fury rally. The venue was pumping with adrenaline and not just the participants, but the spectators too were geared up for some serious heart-thumping adventure. Later during the day, we proceeded to the festival venue where the day stage was getting ready to host some local artists like Yugo from Itanagar and
That same evening, the Orange Festival’s evening stage gave me two of my most favourite performances of the entire event – The Bluegrass Journeymen and Bombay Bassment. While the former serenaded the crowd with a fusion of American Bluegrass music and Indian folk tunes, the latter pumped up the crowd till the end of the night with their foot-tapping beats and infectious energy.
But while all this was going on, we also sneaked out a bit to take a look around the rest of the festival ground. Every evening, the venue would be lit up with dozens of stalls set up by the locals, selling a variety of food and drinks from the North East. Think, grilled pork, fish cooked inside a bamboo, local kiwi wine, orange cake and of course, fresh orange juice. So when hunger strikes amidst all the dancing and singing, you know where to head to!
The third day of the event, which also happened to be my last day at the festival, was probably the most memorable day. As usual, once we got ready in the morning and loaded up on a yummy breakfast, we were told that we will have the opportunity to participate in adventure sports and get a true taste of the rugged mountains. We were introduced to the Director of NIMAS (National Institute of Mountaineering & Allied Sports), Col. Sarfraz Singh, who would be there to guide us through it all.
The first activity lined up for the day was white water rafting on the beautiful Dirang River. But just reaching the starting point of river rafting itself was no less of an adventure. We drove several kilometres through one of the most rugged and difficult landscapes I had ever experienced – rocky roads, barren land with the Eastern Himalayas jutting out in the background. But the bumpy journey was completely overshadowed by the beauty of our surroundings! Crisp mountain air and not a soul around except the few of us heading towards the river – pure bliss!
After driving for a few hours (and taking a few photo breaks), we finally reached our destination. To say that it was one of the most beautiful and untouched locations I had seen, would be an understatement. Lush forest cover and a profound silence only interrupted by the chirping of birds and the gurgling of the Dirang river – that morning, Arunachal Pradesh revealed itself to us in all its glory.
After an exciting session of white water rafting, all we could feel was an immense sense of exhilaration and satisfaction. Before we could get over that, we were told that we could also try our hand at paramotoring. The prospect of flying across the Himalayan valley, over forests and orange orchards was definitely something to look forward to. By the end of it all, we were completely exhausted but content. There are very few things that compare to the feeling of being one with nature, isn’t it?
My last night at the Orange Festival Dambuk ended on a high note as we enjoyed music from artists hailing from all across the country, namely, Ladies Compartment from Mumbai, Fiddler’s Green from Kolkata and Sapta from Chennai. As the night came to a close, I couldn’t help but gorge on some more local delicacies at the festival ground to complete my experience of this unique festival.
The Orange Festival in Dambuk was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience and is surely going to contribute to the growing music festival scene in India. Other than being a beautiful concoction of indie music, local culture and adventure, it was an excellent opportunity to travel to an unexplored part of India. If you’ve never visited Arunachal Pradesh before, why not use this as a reason to plan that trip for the upcoming season in December 2019? Have more questions? Just leave a comment below!