Dimapur to Kohima is hardly a 3-hour journey. So we hired a yellow taxi for Rs.800 from Dimapur railway station. It was a very hot afternoon. As soon as we started our journey, we got stuck in heavy traffic. I thought this is definitely not the reason why I am here!
I was just peeping out the window and cursing traffic. There was a shared-taxi jeep standing close to us. I was trying to see inside it just out of curiosity. And I saw one person in there with big pointed ears, big eyes, broad nose, big forehead with tanned “wheatish” skin. He was wearing a jeans-jacket, trousers and a black headband, and had long hair tied tightly. I don’t know why but I felt as if I am looking at “Jake Sully” from Hollywood movie “Avataar” when he transforms into that blue tall man. He had something special as if he is from an old era. And however modern clothes he might wear, his features were undoubtedly Naga-like. But to tell you the truth, I never saw such person again in our entire Nagaland trip. I still remember his face!
As we started moving out of Dimapur, it was getting better and better, both traffic and weather. After a while we crossed an open gate, there were some sign boards beside a small shop and our driver said that was check post at border crossing and to our surprise, nobody checked our ILP (Inner Line Permit). We were so disappointed to have “donated” 300 bucks to the Deputy Commissioner’s Office. But our taxi driver consoled us by saying “they check it randomly and if you get caught without ILP, border authority sends you back to Dimapur. So to be on safer side, its better to have it”. But gone is gone. You can’t get it back. We just ignored our sad thoughts!
Our driver was from Bihar and was very informative. He was constantly giving us information about Nagaland. He said all Nagas live in solidarity. When it comes to fight with “outsiders” or “plains people”, all Nagas are united. He further added some interesting GK (General Knowledge) that we can get all kinds of meat in Nagaland markets. Even birds and reptiles! He kept on talking and talking!
Now the road was all hilly, weather was cool and green landscapes were starting to catch our attention… wow! We could feel that we are entering the “real” Nagaland! We took a halt for snacks and refreshments at a roadside hotel. All they had was boiled eggs, tea and coffee. Little was enough for such a short journey. We had some snacks and started moving towards Kohima. And after climbing a huge mountain, finally we could get a glance of Kohima, the Capital of Nagaland like sprinkles on ice cream cone.
We checked-in to one of our shortlisted hotels and had dinner in the hotel itself. It was very cold. There were no fans in any of the rooms and that’s fine, but surprisingly there was no geyser (hot water facility) either. We had to buy hot water for Rs.40 per bucket. There are various ways to earn money!
Next day we did some sightseeing in Kohima. We took a local bus and visited few place like “World War II cemetery”. The history behind this is, at the time of World war II, Japanese had entered India from Nagaland and this cemetery is in the memory of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in this war. We also visited the “State Museum” and then we wandered through local markets but there was nothing “eye catching” except roadside meat sellers. I kept staring at one of the vendors for a long time to confirm and to my surprise, first time in my life I saw dog meat and feet for sale! Harsha’s wife Shobha had pet dogs in her house. I wanted her to see that meat seller but she was so sad and disappointed that she could not dare to see that. But then Neeraj told me that this is not the only place on the earth where people eat dog’s meat. Oops! “My ignorance shows there is still a long way to knowledge”! Overall it was a nice day!
Now our next challenge was to gather information about “Mt. Saramati” trek. And the first obstacle was “how do we reach the base village”? And it followed by other things like where do we stay? How can we get sleeping bags? What about food?
There were many questions but no answers. As this trek was our Plan B, Plan A being “Trek to Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh”, we had only little information about this. But Neeraj always has a Plan B because you never know what happens in such remote places. He had a contact number of one person from Nagaland which he had obtained after a lot of research. And other information we had was we knew the name of the base village i.e “Thanamir”. Now in addition to this we had got one person’s phone number from the ILP office too, remember? His name was “Tsointhe” who lives in Kiphire.
With that in mind, we went to NST (Nagaland State Transport) bus stand and inquired about bus to Kiphire for the next day. But station master was not sure whether there was any bus going to Kiphire tomorrow. As we learned later, there was some protest in Kiphire the previous day. He asked us to come again in the afternoon to confirm, and finally in the afternoon we got confirmed tickets to Kiphire.
Now Neeraj called his contacts. He called Mr. P. Kikon. He gave contact numbers of other related people who can help us and through this chain finally we got contact number of President of Nagaland Mountaineering Association. We asked him about sleeping bags. To our surprise he offered us his sleeping bags, that too of imported quality. He didn’t even know us. We were talking to him for the first time. But he trusted us as if we are old friends. He himself came to our hotel to give 4 sleeping bags without any receipt, any contract, any cost! Just plain trust!
Meanwhile Neeraj called “Tsointhe”, who was organizing a trek to Mt. Saramati as told by the person we met in the District Commissioner’s Office (when applying for an ILP). We thought we might get information about porters, guides, food and stay at Kiphire and Thanamir, the base village and he was such a nice person that he agreed to help us. He arranged for our stay at Kiphire and agreed to help us with our onward journey to Thanmir village. Wow! He informed Thanamir villagers that we were coming there and to arrange for porters and guides. Out of no where we had a full fledged plan for our Saramati trek! I must say that I never met such incredibly helpful people before!
To be continued… Click for Part Four.