25th November, 5 days left before my trip to the northeast. I nagged my friends and looked up everything about Nagaland not able to curtail my excitement. This was supposed to be a backpacking trip full of surprises and I saw a major chunk of those surprises online; one of them being the Dzukuo valley.
A female spirit lives in the valley, responsible for killing males every year. The people of Nagaland did not visit Dzukuo because of this reason and the fact that the trek towards Dzukuo is not a cup of tea for many, has still kept this place uncharted. Dzukuo is situated on the border of Nagaland and Manipur at an altitude of 2452 metres above the sea level. It has 2 entry points, first, the foothills of Viswema village and the other being foothills of Jakhama village. Our camp site was close enough to the second point and we soon got to know that this is the route less travelled by, because of the toughness.
We started walking at 7:30 in the morning from our campsite at Kohima. Not aware about how far the start point was, we did not hitchhike. Soon it was 9:30 AM and we were still walking looking for the starting point. Having walked for 6-7 Kms already,my legs had already started paining and we were yet to realise how steep and long the trek was. After a brief break and a good mental small talk we started the trek with a local who was helping us find our route. We were walking with our own leisure, feeling the greens of the forest and the blues of the sky.
The typical smell of freshness greeted us as we now entered the forests, leaving behind the kind villager who helped us. Having gulped water, like we had tons of it with us, we started trekking again. I was observing the leaves around me, some being green and some greener than green. Colours are a world in it itself; they create a magic kingdom for you just by existing. There were times when certain stretches had autumn leaves spread like water dews over a park. I could see leaves in blue, red, purples. I saw silver leaves with veins in it making it look like a jewellery crafted by the finest artist. I hoped I was not hallucinating.
It was 12:30 PM already. We were walking without any signs of another humans. The water we used so leisurely was now over and the biscuits were about to end. We thought we were almost there when we finally met some travellers ready to bring us to reality.
‘it’s still 3 and a half hours up and a half an hour descend; and, if you found this trek steep, then consider the mountains were mocking you because it is way steeper ahead .’
We soon realized that the sun sets at 4:30 PM and it was already very cold inside the forests. Our water was over and there were no streams ahead, the food was limited. It was impossible to reach before the sun sets with the pace we were walking in. Without losing our nerves we started taking actions. We knew that Dzukuo valley will be very cold at night, we were not carrying any blankets and thus we had to go there and buy blankets for the 8 of us. We split ourselves into 2 groups of 4 each and decided that the 4 of us will reach fast and get the formalities done.
Things were sorted in our minds but trekking for another 4 hours without water was going to be difficult. I was still trying to locate the colourful leaves but it was not helping. The trek was surely steeper. We were now not enjoying the nature around us but the chaos within us. All of us were fighting a conflict and we had no option but to win and reach there on time. The 4 of us were surviving on each other’s motivations rather than water and food.
It was 3:30 PM and we could see the top finally. Just knowing that our destination was close, gave us more energy! Jayati reached first and started shouting out of joy, I knew that all the hard work will pay off. I closed my eyes on the final steps and reached the top to open them. I was standing on a very small piece of land and I could see the horizon even far away than usual. Between that piece of land and the horizon was an ocean of meadows; where the small hills were acting like large waves. It was as if an artist had for forever painted that ocean in green for everyone to get a different experience. I was overwhelmed. That ocean of meadows was filled with silence, it was so welcoming. I wanted to dive in it and drown.
After sinking it all in, we started walking downhill between the bamboo shoots and the meadows. It was such a great walk. Trekking in forests, mountains are surely an amazing experience but hiking around in the meadows felt like a fairytale. All the tiredness was surely gone, we were almost there.
But then came a point where we saw 2 paths. Our trip leader was in the other group; we were not able to decide which one to take. One was going right, downhill and the other left, still far away. 2 of us thought it was right and 2 that it was left. We wasted 20 minutes deciding the route and we finally took a left leaving a note for the other 4 where we went.
We reached at the dormitories at around 4:00 AM and got the formalities done. You had to pay 50 for everything – 50 for staying, for the blankets, the Maggie and the dinner. The valley was seen from the dorms. That dorm was nothing but wooden planks and a metal roof. But that seemed as a luxury. Staying at such a place was lucky in itself! The other group arrived soon and together we felt blessed for coming here.
It was 4:30 PM and the sun was almost set making the sky go wild. The stars started appearing and by 5:00 the sky was full of stars. Soon the moon started rising and as we were having our campfire we saw the moon gobble up all the stars slowly, making the whole valley its playground. Just like how the ocean water shines under the moonlight, we saw the whole valley shining and illuminated under the moon light. It was magical! After dinner all of us went sleeping. The 8 of us were huddled up together for warmth but the cold had already swept in me. I had trekked for 9 hours that day, got a cold which blocked my nose. My body was dehydrated, it was physically exhausted and I did not have proper food because of my ulcers. I remained awake that night and at around 4:00 AM I started getting anxious. We had to descent tomorrow, but how could I?
TO BE CONTINUED