Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away

Tripoto
24th Jun 2017
Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

SYNOPSIS

Eight of us from different academic backgrounds came together to plot a journey to the ‘then’ uncharted Dzukou Valley in the North-Eastern state of Nagaland. Boarding the JanShatabdi at the Guwahati Railway Station, we got off at Dimapur, the most populous city in the state of Nagaland. We then took off in an suv to the mystical city of Kohima, often criticized for its ‘supposedly’ hostile environment. Nevertheless, once we were there, Kohima’s mesmerizing charm beheld our breaths as we gradually came to terms with the ecstasy. It was almost a couple years back & we were barely 20 years old, unsure of whether to venture out in an otherwise charming city so downrated by stereotypes. The people were wonderful but we were tired souls and decided to rest awhile. But we were awestruck by the city lights at sunset and took numerous clicks from the rooftop. The stay was pleasant and early next morning, we embarked on our journey to Dzukou Valley.

Kohima at dusk.

Photo of Kohima, Nagaland, India by madnomad_

Dzukou Valley is often overshadowed or praised insincerely when compared with the cliché destinations people are usually interested in. Some find hardship in the trek as an excuse while others are wary of the ‘so-called’ hostility of the region, and among several other reasons to put aside an unfathomable experience of a lifetime. To be honest, the question often asked is regarding the difficulty of the trek. It is not entirely irrelevant a question but what needs to be asked more importantly, is what awaits at the end of the trek.

To begin with, the trek on foot starts where the motorable road ends, in the proximity of the Viswema village (the second largest village in the state). The journey from the Viswema gate to the end of the road took us upwards to the foot of the evergreen forest that surrounds the unparalleled greenery of the Dzukou Valley. Our vehicle, a Tata Sumo (whose engine in fact met its demise just a few hundred meters before reaching the commencing point for the venture on foot) did not cease our enthusiasm. A change of vehicles due to the breakdown of our Suv, barely had any effect on our ardour. Reaching another directional sign board reading ‘way to Dzukou’, we got down from the vehicle and got ready for the Dzukou trek.

The road not taken.

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

THE CLIMB

As we looked up we could feel the magical mist around, engulfing the trees and bewildering us with awe and amazement. It was as if straight out of a Harry Potter novel. The very directional sign board showing the way to Dzukou Valley had us all pumped up and none of us probably at the time even had the slightest occurrence in our minds of the indispensable matter, that is the trek itself. The tempo was going high with everyone confident about their preparedness and the running shoes we had put on for the trek. With all the zeal and passion, carrying our rucksacks, cameras and tripods, we began our trek on foot taking a last glance at the board that read the name of our destination.

On we hike!

Photo of Viswema - Dzükou Valley Road, Viswema, Nagaland, India by madnomad_

Hogwarts or Narnia?

Photo of Viswema - Dzükou Valley Road, Viswema, Nagaland, India by madnomad_

We began our ascent but hearing the facts from the guides accompanying us actually sent shivers down our spines. A two-kilometer steep climb and then a five-kilometer more or less relaxing walk, which brings up a total of seven kilometers, is something that most of us had never done before. We were after all amateurs just fantasizing ourselves as professional hikers. The hardship we encountered and had to overcome during the entirety of the tall climb was obviously the most difficult part. There were moments when one might have thought of abandoning the trek. However, the thought of giving up would disappear as soon as we would come across enthusiastic quotations and inspiring ‘never give up kind-of’ sayings all along the trek.

I had never been on a climb this steep before and was fortunate to have been carrying the weight of only a backpack (and off course that of myself). As I looked behind and down the climb I could clearly see most of us struggling with the extra weight of the tripods. We had to plead with the guides to halt at regular intervals to catch our breath as our lungs disallowed passage for air and legs refused to go on any further. While looking behind discouraged me, looking up and ahead was much promising as I watched a few of my friends making the climb at an unprecedented pace.

Into the woods

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

Not the Dolomites. Even better?

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

PASSION AND TEST OF ENDURANCE

As we continued on the steep climb, exhaustion forced us to put down our stuff every now and then. But the exhaustion could not prevent us from enjoying the beauty surrounding us. The promise ahead, that is of a glimpse of natural wonders very few have had the privilege to witness, encouraged us all not to give up but to carry on, on a path that undoubtedly many would regard as the ‘stairway to the doors of heaven’. So on we went against all odds, and despite the curses some of us loudmouths threw during the trek, I would like to believe that for all of us, this was probably the most amazing though understandably quite enduring part of the journey.

The endurance and patience paid off as when we reached the end of the steep climb, it was as if one had entered heaven. The unspoiled beauty of Dzukou had been hidden by the surrounding forest we had just trekked through. This was a much necessary halt for our lunch as we had yet to cover five more kilometers, although through a much easier terrain. I doubt most would even barely remember the lunch as every other memory was diminished by the delightful sights that had begun from there on and awaited us along the journey further ahead. The untapped greenery was unrivalled by the likes of anything we had probably seen or encountered before. Post lunch, we headed straight for what was to be sweeter than all our fantasies.

As the magic unfolds.

Photo of Dzukou Valley, India by madnomad_

2452 meters above mean sea level

Photo of Dzukou Valley, India by madnomad_

On the edge

Photo of Dzukou Valley, India by madnomad_

First glimpse of heaven!

Photo of Dzukou Valley, India by madnomad_

PARADISESQUE

So we marched across the captivating landscape. The mist whispered a dialect we weren’t familiar with. But it felt welcoming. These five kilometers were easy for beginners too, but it took us time enough to digest the fact that we weren’t in a fantasy novel but were hiking in an actual existing physical realm. It was all too much to be true, to be real. By the time we reached the campsite to halt for the night, we finally got a complete view of the perfect & flawlessly dome shaped spread-out of an impossibly green carpet that went nearly as far as the limits of the human eyesight.

We had snacks and drinks for the rest of the evening. Occasional downpours would force us to go inside the tents, each for two individuals. We had local Naga dish for dinner, we sang & danced well into the midnight. The dropping temperature then forced us to conclude the fun and thereby into our respective sleeping bags. Everything till then had dwarfed our expectations, fed our ecstasies. The kind & caring people, the weather, the concern for protecting Dzukou from irresponsible visitors, and about everything else made this a memorable trip.

They even have bathrooms! Most of the summits even in Himachal or Uttarakhand doesn't have it

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

How's the campsite?

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

Fathom the view from the tent!

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

Dreams & sunsets go together, no wonder

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

The next morning we explored further into the valley under dynamic weather conditions. It was sunny for some time and then the rain gods decided to take over. We all had raincoats of course but hiking on mud in running shoes isn’t easy. At one moment we were surrounded by the fog & mist, then at the very next, the sky would be clear blue as if painted afresh. We came across caves and streams and then an almost endless, borderless valley of flowers. Throughout or 40-45 kilometers’ hike across the valley in these two days (including the uphill climb of the previous day), we always had a disposable bag where we would collect all the plastic trash we came upon, be it tiny chocolate wrappers or packets of chips and mostly plastic bottles. The stereotypes originate from the fact that the locals are indeed rude to those uneducated & educated fools who destroy the valley by dumping plastic everywhere. But to those who are responsible & give a damn about nature & sustainability, they are in fact the kindest of human beings.

The streams we drank water from

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

The flowers just started to blossom

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

Valley of flowers!

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

Behold!

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

We returned, hopeful of having made some minuscule difference, of having made Dzukou probably a little cleaner, at least a tiny bit. The journey back to Kohima was saddening but not as much as the early morning return to Dimapur. From there on the weather changed suddenly. It was the hot & humid weather that haunted us all our lives. We missed Nagaland more than we fathomed we would. But we all knew someday we would return, preferably in winters maybe, but we would come back to Dzukou. Someday, again.

You won't a place like this even in Iceland

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

See you soon, Dzukou!

Photo of Dzukou Valley : Galaxies Away by madnomad_

"And as we marched on, the mist whispered a dialect we weren’t familiar with. But it felt welcoming, some would say bewitching!"

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