The scenic Dzuko Valley which is surrounded by rolling hills lie on the border of Nagaland and Manipur. It is well known for its beautiful natural environment and awesome seasonal flowers, and do host quite a handful of flora and fauna. It is situated at an altitude of 2452 meters above the sea level behind the Japfu Peak located in Nagaland.
The rare lily by the name Dzuko lily is found only in this valley. Previously there was only one trekking route which was open from Zakhama village side that teams coming from Manipur start from Mao gate to Bessemer by walk 3-4 km distance. Another new route to Dzukou Valley, 5 hours trek from Mt Isu of Senapati district, Manipur was opened by Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association (MMTA).
The area of the Dzuko Valley is 2.5 sq km, and out of this area about 1.55 sq km lies in Manipur and about 0.9 sq km lies in Nagaland.
The Angamis of Nagaland, interpreted the meaning of Dzuko as “soulless and dull” referring to when some Ancestors of Viswema who moved out to establish a new village in Dzukou, due to unfavorable weather and condition, they were unable to harvest crops which led them say “the valley is very beautiful but is dull and soulless”. And in Angami’s word which translated to cold water referring to the ice cold stream that flows through the valley, freeze during winter. So the valley views are completely different during summer and winter. The trek to Dzukou Valley is usually organized twice a year i.e. during summer, May to June and during winter time to see the drastic changes of the valley freezing completely. The route from Zakhama village is shorter 3-4 km walk, 4.5 km steep hike then 2-3 hours walk to the valley of resting camping hut, where everyone halts the night and then proceed the next day to Dzukou Valley. During the treks, we need to sit and enjoy the captivating amazing view and dense forest, we cross while climbing. We, Bijaya Yumlembam, Rita Mutum, Thangjam Valentina, Salam Shashi, Laishram Joyshree, Laishraim Monika, Yumlembam Doni and Dr. Shadhana Ningthoujam were wishing to visit the valley and waited for the moment to organize the trekking expedition to Dzukou Valley. We have been hearing so much about the Dzukou lilies. When finally our days have arrived, we accommodated ourselves and joined the trekking organized by some association.
Our journey to Dzuko Valley started from Imphal at the bus station of Nagaland, adjacent to A.O.C petrol pump, Khuyathong. We went by bus up to Mao gate, beyond it from Bessemer to Zakhama village; we walked long distance to steep hike and took 2 days to reach our dreamland of pink carpet, Dzukou Valley. We stayed one night at the camping hut on the way. The team consists of boys and girls, we, girls and ladies stayed inside the hut and all the boys of the team slept outside the hut. The next day, we started the journey, it was tough and beautiful, on the way, lots of small bamboo plants grow all over the hills, we passed dense forest, as there was no signage to guide the direction and we became uncertain to take the right direction.
It was quite dark due to the thickness of the jungle and after passing it, we missed the trail and gone in the wrong direction. If we have to catch our teams then we have to go a long way, I climbed over the side of the hills where plenty of small bamboo plants grew in order to shorten the long distance. All my friends were frightened to see me holding the small bamboo plants, they were having doubt that my body weight would pull out the bamboo plants and I would fall down from the side of the hill, I managed to cross the other side and joined the advanced team. As we were catching up, the sky was hazy, cloudy day but our glimpse of the valley was worth seeing, full of greenery beyond our expectation which helped us to forget our tiring efforts of climbing. We wear rain coat to keep away from heavy rain no doubt Dzuko’s lily blooms only during rainy season (Monsoon).
All my friends followed my route by climbing over the side of the hills holding the bamboo plants. The most beautiful one was when we walked through dense foliage but the trail was very clear and we trekked all around the sides of the hills and we had no issue in reaching the destination. It was a long walk but when we reached a spot where we behold the sight of the valley we were speechless, it was so amazing, such a vast spread out of all the green flatness and in such abundance the pink lilies were blooming, it was just like a pink carpet spread out to welcome us. We met quite a lot of teams, young boys and girls were there, a team of courtyard players’ artist group also visited there and they were clicking photo session with the festoon holding behind. We have greeted each other, we also were marching ahead, got quite a lots of photo sessions with umbrella on, we were enjoying ourselves in the rain absolutely oblivious of everything else, mesmerized by the beauty just like a beautiful unending dream, with full of angels sitting on the velvety pink carpet of Dzukou Valley.
We searched and identified a place for our camping site to spread out our tents and in no time we were cooking our meals. We came back on the same route with fond memories. When we reached Mao gate, the Tribal local folks were checking all of us as if they were the authority; they were enquiring whether we plucked flowers or not and asked for entry and exit fees from us. We got irritated as their behavior was a little bit on the rude side but we managed to keep our cool. We have started our journey and reached Senapati, from there we could not proceed further due to bandh. We went to the police station to find out the alternative arrangement in order to reach Imphal. We wore track suits, our heads were tied by a piece of cloth, with snickers on and holding sticks in our hands even the policemen were also surprised to see us both Bijaya and myself, Dr. Shadhana Ningthoujam.
They told us that they were arranging a truck to transport the passengers to Imphal. We have identified the truck and we all climbed up the truck. There were some civilian elders inside the truck, when they saw us they started enquiring about us. They asked in such a way, whether we have achieved the target or not; I told them that we had gone to Dzuko Valley and we achieved our mission. That fellow thought that we were the judo champions, he congratulated us. I was quite surprised to hear his opinion; he might be thinking that with my head tied by cloth and my dress code have created an impression of a great fighter. We were giggling inside, the people have mistaken us easily, and our message needs to be much clear otherwise everything became distorted.
The history of bandh and blockade of Manipur by any standard is very unpredictable, anything can happen any time. Highway No 39 creates history of bandhs and blockade because of the frequency of them happening on this route. So my thought at that moment was that we need a strategy to solve the problems the travellers, and transporters had been facing as they travel along this highway. All of us were wishing to reach home soon, in spite of the bandh; and luckily with the alternative arrangement made by the police we finally reached home safely. My dreams of visiting Dzuko Valley was fulfilled but the ghost of the mesmerizing pink velvety carpet that was captured in my mind kept haunting and reminding me frequently about the journey with fond memories. Just the act of recollecting the trekking expedition awakened the nostalgia along with all the fond memories which I’ll cherish till my last breath.
The writer is a medical doctor with the Manipur Health Services