The Sun was getting ready to settle for the night when we reached our campsite. With a bowl of yummy noodles in hand, I too settled myself on a bench on the edge of the Hill to capture these magical moments. Time flew by as the evening turned into dusk but I kept sitting there, letting my mind fly across the valley.
The chilling air outside brought all of us to the kitchen, where we spend the rest of the evening sitting in the warmth of the fire. Cups of hot tea and endless stories from fellow travellers kept us glued together till it was dinner time. Brother Lumli and his friends had prepared a lavish meal for us, with rice, Dal, veggies, chicken and spicy chutney.
On my way to the tent, I sat a few more minutes on that bench overlooking the valley, which was now under the blanket of darkness. Even the full moon could not help me in stealing one last view of the valley. But I remember the promise of the Sun and felt assured that we will wake up with that pristine view just outside our tent. And it would be a morning to remember.
Here are some of the things that may help you in planning your trip to Dzukou:
Self-arranged trip vs taking a guide:
If you go with a guide, the guide will make all the arrangements from accommodation to travel and food. So you're free from taking all the headache. However, it definitely comes with a price. Travelling with a group will be a good idea if you want to have the service of a guide and still want to keep the cost low. But it is also possible to visit Dzukou without taking a guide. You can carry the necessary things like tents, sleeping bag, ration etc. yourself and still complete the trek without much difficulty. As the route is properly marked you should not have much difficulty in navigating your way to the valley. It's a choice between comfort and adventure.
One night vs. two nights:
While planning a trip to Dzukou, one of the important decisions to be made is the number of nights to spend on the valley. Spending two nights will allow you to spend more time in the valley. That way you can leisurely explore the place. However, if you are short on time you can cover it in just two days and one night, but for that, you'll have to start early from Kohima. A suggested itinerary with one night stay in Dzukou can be as follows:
Day 1: Arrive in Dimapur (Dimapur has Rai and Air connectivity)
Take a taxi from Dimapur to Kohima
Spend the night in Kohima/ Kigwema village
Day 2: Leave early for Dzukou (1-hour drive and 3-4 hours trek to the dormitory)
Take a hike to the bottom of the valley and return back to the campsite
Day 3: Return early from Dzukou (takes around 2.5 - 3 hours to trek)
Spend the night in Kohima or take a taxi to Dimapur
Physical fitness required for the trip:
From Vishwema side we took around 3 hours to reach the dormitory in Dzukou and around 2 hours 15 minutes to come back. Although that doesn't sound like long hours, however, in the first part of the trek, you need to climb stairs for almost an hour, which may be stressful for your knees. That said, although you don't need to be veteran hiker, a few days of practice of climbing stairs can come handy for this trip.
When to go:
Second part of July is obviously the best season to visit the valley as you can see the blooming wild lilies all over the valley. But excessive rainfall can spoil your plan during that time. Again during the dry months, the valley won't be as green as it gets after the spring. So it's a call between playing safe or taking the chance.
How to reach:
If you want to start from Kohima, you can hire a taxi from the BOC taxi stand. It's better to leave early from Kohima. Although the actual price depends upon your negotiation skills, it can cost from 700 to 1200 INR (approx).
Alternately, you can spend the previous night in Kigwema village (15 km away from Kohima City and can be reached by shared taxi from BOC) and take a taxi from Kigwema to the starting point of the trek in Vishwema village. You can also start your trek from Zakhama village which is a bit difficult route as compared to the Vishwema route.
Once you're in the walking trail you can follow the arrow marks which will guide you to your destination.
Dimapur to Kohima takes around 3 hours by taxi and shared taxis can be hired just outside the Dimapur railway station (ticket is RS.300-Rs.350).
Accommodation: There is a dormitory (two setups actually) in Dzukou, which is managed by some local youths. If you don't carry your own tent and sleeping bag, you can stay there and also get mattresses and blankets on rent (reasonable price). If you Carry your own tent then you can pitch it in the open area next to the dormitory or near the helipad. There is also a few toilets and tank for storage of water, but those facilities are a bare minimum.
Food: Next to the dormitory there are set up for kitchens, which can be used by the trekkers to cook. You can carry your own ration and cook. There is also a common kitchen from where you can buy meals, but you need to inform them in advance. There is a small shop where you can packet of noodles, biscuits etc. But it's better to carry drinking water for your entire period of stay.
Final thoughts: With endless green hillocks and a valley full of wildflowers, Dzukou allures travel enthusiasts from all over the globe. I too fell for those beautiful promises and I’m happy that I took that trip. But one of the things that concern me is the disposal of plastics in the trail and the valley. We brought back all the plastics we used and some extra too. And if you ever take this trip I request you to do the same.