“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach….” Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Probably I am blessed with the unplanned and unexpected ones and so things happen to be more adventurous to me. I get to learn those lessons that I wish not to. Every morning as I get up I prepare myself to embrace the new learning of the day and try to see myself by the very evening as the another new person. The learning that begins with my regular morning tea differs from the one that starts from the inside of a tent pitched on a mountain top or in a jungle, or in a distance river bank.
While I am not in adventure, life is simply a book of profit and loss, expectation and desire, need and want, sorrow and happiness, laugh and cry, shout and silence…etc etc. At the end of the day I discovered myself sometimes balanced and sometimes unbalanced. But once I am out for adventure everything changes, every thought, every feeling, every wish reshapes and settles somewhere deep inside me and suddenly all get burst into the utter cheers of joy and excitement.
We drove our car on the early morning of 17th January 2016 to Nagaland, aiming Dzukou Valley. (Earlier it was scheduled to start on 20th Jan 2016). We three people, started from Guwahati, while Dipankar would join us in Dimapur and then others at Zakhama, the next day. Driving is another passion for me, not rush or speedy driving, but driving at moderate speed with the music on. And once I get good company to drive with, I can drive a long without any sign of tiredness, of course playing my choice of music of all time and all generations. And it was an awesome driving on the newly constructed AH 1 and through the beautiful jungle map of Karbi Anglong district.
We left behind Dimapur and started to drive along the spiral road of Naga Hills, the sun was on the west to settle its time on the peak of the hills, everywhere it is greenery, and the air was cool with freshness. We stopped by a road side Naga Dhaba to enjoy Naga lunch. At that time I got a sms from Neiphu, “sorry brother I didn’t get a home stay.” I was in talk with Neiphu for our accommodation facilities in Zakhama or Kisama, and I was confident enough that he would. But he could not arrange due to some genuine reasons. Now it was around 3.30PM and we were just 40 KM away from Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland. He suggested us to stay in a hotel in Kohima. Nope, we didn’t want to. Sometimes I could hear my sense, and this time too I heard my sense speaking about a nice home stay. I phoned Adole in Kigwema, and spoke to him about our problem. After thinking for a while he asked us whether we all could accommodate in a small single room without any mattress on the floor. I instantly agreed and said that we would use our sleeping bags and mats and asked him to arrange our dinner. Adole and his wife both are very gentle and honest persons, they served us so lovingly that whatever they prepared for us, we tasted with love.
Next day 18th January 2016, early morning after getting our backpack ready and having brunch, Adole dropped us at the Zakhama Dzukou point, where our guide Vidil was waiting for us. I had a few talks with some of my friends and others who had earlier done this trek. Everyone suggested us to start with Viswema point for uphill and Zokhama point for downhill. My instinct spoke the opposite. I choose the difficult one to start with. And this was the reason why we experienced the Dzukou valley more enthralled.
At about 9.30AM we started our trek from the Zakhama. It was cold and as we trekked up we experienced temperature falling down gradually. The sun was out of our sight as the trees were tall and big and covered the sky above us. After an hour trek we had to trek at not less than 70 degree inclination. Our bodies got sweat, but as we stopped to take little rest, within minutes we started to quiver.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”- Robert Frost,
My mind recited the school days poem.
For hours we were trekking up and could not even imagine of what we might get at the end of that woods. The feeling was something like fictitious as to what might be there at the end of this high mountainous deep and thick jungle, where would it end and how, would it end all of sudden or in a gradual tone.
And at last as we stepped on the top of the hill, yes something came up in front of our eyes, as if someone had suddenly opened up the door of a closed room and showed us the world we never expected, something like that of a movie sequence. What we saw was a different and total opposite world. It was unbelievable, unexpected, and difficult to accept such a natural turn around! How can it be possible!
Exactly at the point where the woods end lush green spongy looked cluster of hills begins. We stood there, lied down, sat, shouted, took photos did everything whatever we could. The eyes could not believe this second world, where only spongy wave like green hills from small, medium to big were scattered all throughout, the eye could reach, as if God had dropped every pieces of the hills like the bubbles from the heaven with his own hand. It was about 2 PM, we had the moon on the top of our head whereas the sun was shining from the distance apart on the other side of the hills. Manashi could not keep her tears roll back. Sometimes dream comes true. Nearly 20 days back she dreamt of a place like this. She told about her dream exactly the morning, next to that night, to her best friend (as explained to me by them). At that time neither I met her nor could she think of doing a trek. It was just only 5 days back when we met each other and she decided to be a part of this trek. Sometimes something happens and we cannot find out the cause and effect of the same. Just like her dream. It is said that when lovers go to Dzukou the night also turns like a day and moonlit shines as of the sun. We had lovers with us of course and the moon was there in the sky with the Sun, probably preparing for the night to shine like the Sun.
We began to walk down along the shoulder of beautiful hills towards the camp site; it was nearly 2 km away. The sun was getting ready to set. How majestic it was. The sun rays got diffracted and the whole area appeared to be an illusion with orange and red colours. At distance apart we saw the beautiful valley some crystal like spots in it. On asking our guide told us that those were the water streams in the valley with the sun rays getting reflected. As the darkness started to cover the valley, the mercury level fell sharply. The wind was blowing continuously and it became fiercer as the night deepened. After the dinner we packed ourselves with the sleeping bags inside our tents. It was too cold and the sound of the wind was heard as if a helicopter was hovering above us.
By morning we were about to pack our backpack, but the weather seemed to be gradually changing. It started to rain little slightly and lightly. Clouds were covering the whole valley and the hills from all directions and the wind became stronger. No one of us ever thought or expected of what happened next. Wow it was snow fall, initially a little bit, for few seconds, and then gradually it was all around. What a joy it was! The rain became heavier and the temperature fell down sharply. We were forced to abandon our departure plan. And we had no other option but to sit around the fire in the kitchen room and see the valley being covered with thick smoke like clouds. The morning turned to be an evening with darkness. Apart from me no one of us had carried the rain proof jackets. All they had only the heavy woollen cloths. At some point, as the weather appeared to be little bit developed, one of us Sarat insisted to move as he had to join his duty the very next day. We had woollen cloths, that would absorb all the rain water immediately once exposed and we needed to be in the exposure of that weather condition for hours if we move, there was no way that we could save ourselves from hypothermia. We zeroed at not taking any risk of our life at the cost of a job. The day was spent around the fire in the kitchen looking at the other picture of the beautiful valley. We sensed the other side of adventure – the risk of getting trapped; if next day also the weather won’t become suitable and rather gets worsened then what. I tried to explain as of then we had no option, 'we cannot take risk assuming only the worst side of tomorrow', let the sun set and darkness fall and see what happens in the absence of the sun.
Next day early morning, the weather was clear; the valley and greeny spongy looked hills were again seen as beautiful as before. After the brunch we now ready to move with all the smiles. This time we needed to traverse down the other way, towards Visewema. It was the long path all along the hills enjoying its every beauty. Walking on the body of a lush green! On the way our guide Vidil explained the different meaning of Dzukou, "Dzukou means cold, fear etc". He said to us that their forefathers tried a lot to do cultivation in the valley. But they could not grow even a single paddy there. They began to believe that some unseen and unknown power existed in the valley and so they abandoned the valley. We passed the great U turns of the valley (as per our guide's description it is pronounced as KD). Then we reach a point, a hill top from where the whole of the Visewema village was viewed through the clouds below. This is Khelkesa (spelling may be incorrect). Standing here and looking below it, was great indeed. Above us it was the blue clear sky and below us the clouds were flying all through the hills. Amazing! We bid adieu the majestic hills and started to trek down.
My heart resonated with line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning; “How do I love thee……”
After nearly an hour we reached the point where Adole was waiting for us. We left our guide Vidil and others from the locals there with a promise to keep in touch. The trek gave us everything, the hurdles, the excitement, the laugh, the comfort, the moon and the sun at the same time, the bone quivering cold, the snowfall, the darkness, the sharp and strong wind, a day-long life totally amidst the cloud, the morning soft orange colored sunrays, even an ill health, the beautiful heart of the Naga people and many more. They said that very few can have the luck to experience the snow fall Dzukou. And we were lucky. Had we been started the trek as planned earlier, i.e; 20th Jan 2016 we won’t experience these all. We decided all of sudden to pre pone the trek to 17th Jan 2016 simply without any cause. And so I say I am blessed with the unexpected and unplanned ones.