The trees stood ghost-like, silent spectators of the vastness of peppermint green mountains, the overhung clouds and a vein like river. The only thing I could see bigger than the peaks was the plum purple sky. As we reached the base camp, pearls of rain welcomed us as we stood there, soaking in the beauty of the valley in front of us.
Welcome to Dzukou Valley!
Situated 2452 m above sea level, the picturesque valley lies at the border of Manipur and Nagaland. One can trek to the base camp from both sides, there are two routes to reach the valley from Nagaland through Visema and Jakhama, and from Manipur side, one can go through Mt.Isu from Senapati. First timers prefer Visema route as it’s easy to hike, expect for the first 1 hour where you need to climb on a steep trail, rest of the trek is almost straight and takes around 2.30 hours to reach the base camp. If you are starting from Visema then I suggest take a cab till the starting point of the trek, the road is motorable for 7 km, while coming back from the trek we met almost 30-40 people who were going to Valley but didn’t know that it was an additional 7 km walk before they could start the climb. The distance of trek in another 6 km from the starting point.
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As you brave through thigh high bamboo grass, crossing streams and controlling your thumping heart, the valley opens up once you reach the base camp. There is a rest house where you can find accommodation and basic meals. You can choose to stay in a dorm for Rs.100 or take a private room for Rs. 300 with attached bathroom. Don’t expect anything fancy, everything is very basic, you can also take blankets, pillows, mats for rent, each will cost you Rs.50. The adventurous souls can go down from the rest house and take shelter in the natural hillock caves in the valley. Carry your tents, mats, sleeping bags and other camping gear if natural caves are your choice of accommodation.
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The best season to visit is June, when the famous Dzokou Lily is in its full bloom with a window period of around 45-60 days. The season is open until September and there are other seasonal flowers like rhododendrons, orchids which can be found during that time. The difficulty level of the trek is moderate with few steep inclines. If you are taking the Jakhama route during the monsoons then be aware of the leeches.
There are many legends associated with the valley, our guide Nicholas told us that deep inside the valley there are spirits who don’t let men enter and many get sick while trekking because of this. In Angami `Dzukou means `Soul-less and dull`, according to locals some ancestors of Visema tried cultivating the valley but weather conditions were so unfavourable that they could not grow anything, dejected they referred to the valley as beautiful but dull.
I took 3.30 hours to reach the base camp and found it very easy, I was initially scared that I might be the last person to reach but to my surprise, I was the third out of a group of 11 people. Yeyyiieee….it was such an ego boost 🙂 We stayed at a private room but trust me when I saw it was in bad condition. The whole place was graffitied with promises of everlasting love and old friendships. There is no electricity, the beds are just planks of wood, the blankets are really thin and yes I did see a snake outside our room. It was extremely cold at night, unbearably chilly and almost impossible to sleep. Still, we managed a few hours or so, the next morning we went further into the valley towards the natural caves where the trail was carpeted with flowers of pink, yellow and white colours.
If Gods exist, then this must be their hiding place. I can`t express in words the true beauty of the valley, you have to go yourself to witness this miracle of nature.