Text & Photos by Avishek Sarkar
Glimpse of Dzukou Valley, Nagaland
A single ray from the sun peeking through the otherwise overshadowed sky lit up the valley and with it the green carpet, that strikes as a velvety floor finish. A November morning, chilly and misty, highlighted the path used by the sunrays to greet the valley. It was fifteen minutes past five in the morning, the serenity was unparalleled, everyone asleep, trekkers (visitors) and locals likewise, the cool breeze could be heard flowing through the valley and into the shawl that was trying its best to shield me from the chilly morning. A part of me wanted to wake up my friends to this mesmerizing view, while the other was afraid of moving away from the view thinking I might miss a moment of mystery unfold. The view from this platform made by the locals for the tourists summed up all that I heard about this Dzukou valley, breath-taking.
Starting from Jorhat town railway station, it took us around four hours to reach Dimapur town by train. It was already late afternoon when we reached Dimapur, so after a couple of hours for freshening up, we were out again to explore the town with our guide (friend of Naga origin who luckily is my batch mate as well). The town is quite small, much like Jorhat on that regard, but livelier and with much more people (especially at the flee market). Since we had to leave early morning the next day, we borrowed some eatables from my friend’s home, packed them with our already heavy backpacks and wrapped up the first day of our itinerary. With the strike of 5.30, all of us were fresh and ready to embark on the journey that even though we planned to have since a long time but materialized after a long series of postponements. We hopped on my friend’s personal vehicle and her father dropped us near Dimapur station.
Since we chose to travel with line vehicles to cut down the cost, we had to wait a long time before getting two Maruti-800s to take us till Kohima (Capital of Nagaland). As we started to move away from Dimapur, the climate changed and we were greeted by a heavy downpour, due to which the road was in a horrible condition. But the view on both sides of the road was enough for us to shift focus from the bumpy ride to greenery. We stopped midway for breakfast and reached Kohima at around 11.30 am. We witnessed a heavy downpour at Kohima too and we moved to Jakhama Village as planned earlier. From there the views of Kohima and the nearby villages were marvellous, with the clouds painting an even more beautiful picture. Since it was raining heavily and we were already late, we directly went to Viswema village, from where we were supposed to start our trek. By 12.30pm we were out of the vehicle and started our trek.
Trekking route to Dzukou Valley
It was still raining when we started the trek, and the winter breeze added to the already chilly rainwater. Most of us didn’t carry raincoat with us and thus had to manage with makeshift raincoats. The already heavy winter clothing was getting even heavier each passing moment with whatever rain water passed through the raincoat. The trek had a very steep climb in the early stages that drained us of energy totally. Somehow, we managed to reach the intermediate point, where we rested for 15 minutes and had some Cup-noodles. Until we reached this point, we could hardly see any of the stock images of the valley that we saw in various networking sites. But the view from this point was indicative of everything majestic beyond it. The undulating topography, of stunted bamboo covered the crests and troughs likewise. It was getting dark by the time that we were mid-way into our vantage point and we had to walk along the valley, through a nearly flat route as soon as possible. The sunlight suddenly gave way to pitch black darkness and we had to use our mobile phone flashlights for watching the steps. The route was slippery from the incessant rain and the protruding bamboo stems were adding to the misery. The light from dormitory served as our beacon, and by the time we reached the dormitory it was pitch dark. It took us around 5 hours of trekking to reach the dormitory. Soaking wet and exhausted, we changed and quickly set up our sleeping bags and blankets. Everyone was sound asleep within few minutes, but woken again by the notorious rats that were all over the place. Tucked in safe, we went back to sleep, with slight showers still underway.
We woke up to the persistent showers, had breakfast and started the trek towards the stream from which the valley derives its name, Dzukou, which in Angami translates to “Cold water”. The valley houses a number of endemic flora, one of which, the White lily (more commonly known as Dzukou Lily) blooms during monsoon, when a part of the valley changes its colour to the flower’s white. A. A. Mao and R. Gogoi have published a book entitled “Flora of Dzukou Valley”, that can serve you as a guide for knowing more about the valley. Being winter visitors, we could not witness the revered lily flowering. Halfway into the trek the rain stopped. As we approached to the stream, a different view towards the left unfolds, which is eclipsed by the hills on looking from the dormitory. The water of this stream numbed the legs (since there is no bridge and we have to walk through the stream), but the enthralling beauty beyond helped us keep moving. We clicked some pictures on a sheet rock and started our way back due to the rain that returned heavily this time. It took us a little more than two hours for the trek and back to the dormitory. We cooked the dinner ourselves that night and had a bonfire too. The next morning, I got up at 3.30 am, with the hope of watching the sun lit valley. The rain had receded, and wrapping myself up in warm clothing, I sat down at the platform waiting for the sunrise. The colour of the sky was changing, and the whole valley was slowly rising from the dark. The silence was soothing. As the light started to come through, I heard the (un)zipping chain from a tent, and a tourist named Craig, who was travelling across the North-East came out and sat next to me. Enthralled by the unfolding beauty of the valley, both of us were in loss of words. Slowly, other tourists also realized of the rain having stopped, and within minutes the place was buzzing with muffled voices and shutter click.
View of undulating topography of the valley
With a heavy heart, we started to pack our bags and after a series of goodbyes to the kind caretakers of the dormitory, we started our descent, which just like any other journey took relatively lesser time on the way back. On our way back, we visited the Kohima War Cemetery from World War II. From Dimapur, all of us took different ways, with a couple of us moving towards Guwahati, few back to Jorhat and some stayed back at Dimapur. We came back from Dzukou valley in November 2019, and life hasn’t been the same since. The month of December 2019 saw the unrest resulting from CAA protests, while March 2020 saw the normal way of life come to a halt with the COVID-19 infections. The valley thus is the last normal happy moment engraved deep into the heart. The view of the valley from the platform will always be like “waking up to a dream”. But unfortunately, January 2021 saw a part of the valley burning, with experts pointing towards rising temperatures and irregular precipitation to be the reason behind this event. We need to do our part, by living more sustainably and save the serene pockets of nature.
Kohima War Cemetery from World War II
About the Author:
Avishek Sarkar, a Research Scholar from FRI Dehradun is pursuing his PhD in Forest Ecology and Climate Change. Currently working with Aaranyak, he specializes in Wildlife Ecology and Remote Sensing-GIS.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org