Till a few years ago, the picturesque Dambuk village sprawling by the banks of the Dibang River in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower Dibang Valley would remain cut off from the rest of the country, and the world, for nearly eight months a year.
The North-Eastern state bordering Tibet receives copious amount of rain for nearly eight months a year. Consequently, the swollen rivers around Dambuk would render this small town virtually inaccessible. Dambuk, for all practical purposes, remained like an island reachable only by boats for most of the year.
Things were not easier during the dry winter months either. Absence of bridges spanning the rivers meant arduous drive through boulder and rock-strewn treacherous river beds. Driving to Dambuk from Assam meant taking one’s vehicle across the Brahmaputra on a ferry to land at Pasighat and then embarking on a gruelling drive over riverbeds, dirt tracks through hills and rickety bamboo bridges over fast-flowing streams.
The journey from Dibrugarh, the nearest airport in Assam, to Dambuk was a nearly day-long adventure.
Today, it takes barely three hours to drive down through smooth highways and a nearly six-kilometre long bridge across the Dibang river to reach Dambuk from Dibrugarh. From Pasighat, which has a functional airport now, the 60-kilometre distance can be covered in about an hour.
Connectivity to this remote part of North-East India has developed following a considerable advancement in infrastructure in recent years owing mostly to the annual Orange Festival of Adventure & Music (OFAM) at Dambuk that started way back in 2014 with support from JK Tyre. It became a festival to lookout for within a very short span of time, drawing musicians, music lovers, adventure seekers, off-roaders, revellers and large media contingents from across the country. This year witnessed bands from across the globe namely Romeo Blanco from Belgium, Swanky Tunes from Russia, Big Mountain, Flypside from USA along with national bands like Still Waters from Sikkim, Kayan from Mumbai to name a few.
OFAM’s flagship event is the JK Tyre Orange 4x4 Fury, an adrenaline-driven off-roading event that has been drawing some of the most adventurous drivers from across the country every year for a ride to cherish for life. This festival supported consistently by JK Tyre, became a key propeller of infrastructure and tourism boom in this remote village of Arunachal Pradesh. With popularity of the festival soaring high and the local economy growing, the state government invested to develop connectivity to Dambuk.
The recently-concluded eighth edition of the JK Tyre Orange 4x4 Fury saw renewed zeal and enthusiasm from more than 20 off-roaders from across India putting their skills and machines to ultimate test. Stunning everyone, it was the pair of Marnya Chiram and Mari Basar from Arunachal Pradesh, who lifted the coveted champions trophy with their stellar performance in their Maruti Gypsy.
53-year-old Marnya, who works as a Superintendent Engineer in the Public Health Engineering Department, Arunachal Pradesh, was the eldest participant in this year’s edition. Hailing from the Lepa Rada district of Arunachal Pradesh, Marnya proved to the world that age is just a number and echoed JK Tyre’s vision of promoting motorsports across age groups.
Held across three stages, the first stage on December 16 morning involved a five-kilometre run through the dry bed of the eastern bank of the mighty Dibang river. The rocks, boulders, loose sand and tall elephant grass covering the river bed posed a tough challenge to the drivers. A couple of drivers also lost their way and had to be rescued. Three vehicles that had got stuck in the river and on sand had to be pulled out by a heavy excavator that had been kept on standby.
The second stage the same afternoon was on the western bank of the Dibang. Competitors had to once again negotiate the river bed, cross a shallow stream of the river and then take the dirt tracks through dense forests.
The third stage on the bed of the Sisseri river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, was the highlight of the event. The 22-kilometre drive on the dry riverbed strewn with huge boulders the size of SUVs, rocks and sand, was the ultimate test of the competitors' skills and endurance.
The champions Marnya Chiram and Mari Basar accumulated only 136 penalty points at the end of the three stages.
Following them closely in another Maruti Gypsy was yet another Arunachali team of Nabam Katung and Rubu Tanjang with 141 penalty points. The third overall position was grabbed by Jaong Singpho and Mili Sanjay who notched up 147 penalty points.
In the above 2000 cc category, the pair of Devjyoti Borah and Sandeep Gogoi took the win in their Gurkha, while Pankaj Kar and Suranj Saha followed in the second spot in another Gurkha. Jaong Singpho and Mili Sanjay came third in this category.
In the below 2000 cc category, Marnya Chiram and Mari Basar emerged winners while the team of Nabam Katung and Rubu Tanjang were the first runner up. The third position was held by Jaong Singpho and Mili Sanjay.
On another successful edition of the JK Tyre Orange 4x4 Fury, Sanjay Sharma, Head-Motorsports, JK Tyre said, “The JK Tyre Orange 4x4 Fury has been an event that has helped us realize the vision of reaching out to the nook and corner of the country in our endeavour to promote motorsports across levels. When we started out, motorsport in the North-Eastern part of India were pretty much at a nascent stage. It had always been bursting out with endless possibilities nonetheless. We are grateful to the Government for their continuous support in establishing a robust motorsport ecosystem in this part of the world, ensuring alongside significant boom in local tourism and economy.”
“We’re grateful to all the stakeholders in successfully conducting another edition of this adrenaline-driven rally across the beautiful Dibang valley. The rally truly seeks the best of efforts from the participants in navigating and enduring a rough track. On behalf of JK Tyre, I congratulate the winners this season,” he added.
Lhakpa Tsering, President of the Motorsports Club of Arunachal, and one of the directors of OFAM, said, “Starting a festival like OFAM in such a remote village is nothing sort of a daring dream. JK Tyre has been with us from the very beginning in making that dream a reality, and also ensuring in making it big. From only one government bungalow to an overflow of accommodation, the festival has come a full circle. We’re grateful to the entire JK Tyre team for believing in us and our place and making the JK Tyre Orange 4x4 Fury a renowned event for motorsports lovers all over the world. With this event, locals from not only Arunachal Pradesh, but from the entire North-East are now taking up the sport professionally. People from all over the world now recognize the motorsport potential of the North-East through the JK Tyre Orange 4x4 Fury.”
The trophies were handed over by chief guest Ms Yishey Yongda, District Magistrate of Gyalshing District Sikkim and Mr Feroz Khan Regional Head (North East), JK Tyre. A colourful night with musicians enthralling the audience pulled the curtains of yet another edition of OFAM that saw rigorous motorsport action with the coveted JK Tyre Orange 4x4 Fury.