Chase The Rain
Anyone who manages to spend a reasonable amount of time travelling across Nagaland, from the land of the Konyaks in Eastern Nagaland right up to the land of the Angamis in the state capital of Kohima, will find the Nagas extremely hospitable. The green hills and fuzzy clouds that give you company when you aren’t surrounded by these warm people are a bonus. For those who enjoy red meat, Naga cuisine should be right up there in the list of food to try. It features varieties of smoked and fresh meat, infused with local herbs and generous portions of bamboo shoot. While most of the state is best explored after the monsoons since the roads are not motorable during the rainy season, there’s one place that you must visit during the monsoons after braving the roads is the Dzukou Valley. Why? Because the Dzukou Lily blooms in this season. At approximately 8,000 feet you can see rivulets, unique flowers, herbs and shrubs spread across Dzukou Valley. With the scenic and quaint villages of Jakhama and Viswema serving as bases for starting the trek, your experience of being one with nature starts the moment you begin the trek. The scenic valley between the two northeastern states of Manipur and Nagaland is special because of the different flowers it cradles in every season. Dzukou lily or not, Dzukou Valley will remain enchanting.
East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya
With activities such as river canyoning, kayaking, zip-lining and swimming, this trip is meant for those with an adventurous spirit. A trek that takes you right to the heart of forest from where you move to challenge the waterfalls of a Khasi village as you cross its bare feet, and just a rope to hold onto for dear life. There will be some relaxed times like when you kayak over still waters and enjoy nature walks and camp around a bonfire. Go find a pair of swimming trunks and enjoy river canyoning, only possible during the monsoons. You can choose to rough it out while you are river canyoning or just relax by kayaking over still waters. If you aren’t someone who enjoys chilly water then just take a walk around the village, guided by the faint sound of cattle bells. If you are into photography or have been waiting to try your hand at poetry and enjoy diving into nostalgia, you might want to stay back forever. The lesser-known villages of Meghalaya are where the authentic experiences of the region are at its best. With numerous waterfalls, lakes, rivers, caves and unending meadows, these villages are for travellers looking for offbeat destinations. For those growing up in these villages of Meghalaya, there is no need for an amusement park. From serene spots in the jungle to exciting river activities, they have it all. But, you, too, can enjoy nature at its best.
West Siang District, Arunachal Pradesh
With the nearest airport almost 500 km away in a different state, Mechuka is almost spotless as far as tourist footprints are concerned, and a trek in the wilderness of such a region has to be described as trekking through unblemished nature. Camping along the way and cooking simple meals in the erstwhile Tibetan land makes you appreciate the simple things in life. The trek is moderate and a good pair of trekking shoes along with a comfortable backpack would set you up for this easy yet beautiful trail. If you fall asleep through your journey, long enough, to wake up in Mechuka, missing the road signs that give you a reality check, you may have to pinch yourself, as the valley may seem unreal.
From a complete shift in architectural pattern, with wood replacing brick and mortar and herds of stray horses interrupting your path or seen grazing at a distance, replacing the usual cow herds seen on Indian roads, you slowly tend to relate to the deep-rooted Tibetan influence that you have read online about. The trip gets better when you are received by warm homestay hosts, guided by the ChaloHoppo team.
Traditional food preparation sessions, long nature walks and exploring Memba heirlooms (the major tribe inhabiting the valley) punctuate your Mechuka experience. One of the most memorable hikes that have to be endured in the monsoons is the one to the shepherd’s home, up in the invisible hills. The trek begins early in the morning up to a shepherd’s house hidden high up in the mountains of Mechuka. The first time you trek up there, you wouldn’t believe that someone might actually live in such a remote place. To meet Thinley, the 7-year-old guide, and his grandfather, you will have to drive to Dorjeeling village, an absolutely breathtaking place in already surreal land.
A two-hour hike will take you to this incognito land. Upon finally crossing over to the other side, we saw two houses perched on two different hills and huge cows grazing the meadows. One side of this pastureland looked like the famous Dzukou valley in Nagaland. The next few hours can be spent talking to Doge Phalle, the shepherd who used to trade his wares in Tibet before 1962 when the path between Mechuka and Tibet was open. Different varieties of churpi or Tibetan cheese, ghee chai, local eggs would be served. His house seems to be preserved in time taking you back to the time when Mechuka was a part of Tibet which is as recent as 1959.
Nongkhnum Island was discovered by school children as early as 1996. It is the second-largest river island after Majuli (or not is still under speculation), but one thing that is sure is the island is magical, for the lack of a better word. Waterfalls, sandy beaches, abundant meadows, huge trees, playful cattle… you bring a checklist and will run out of ink ticking boxes! Does one need electricity when the moonlight and the million twinkling stars light up the night sky? This is the question you may ask yourself when you are warming yourself by the bonfire and the smell of the roasting food tingles your already heightened senses. Shooting stars will be only one of the things that will tease your senses at night. When the sun shines the glittering water will invite you for a dip and then a country boat ride shall lead you to a waterfall, where rainbows are a common sight.
If you find beauty in simplicity, Sangti Valley is the place for you. Nestled between the hills of the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, this tiny valley etches beautiful memories for anybody who visits it. The Sangti river meanders through the valley, the sounds of which calms the body continuously. Watch the village come alive as you visit it in the rainy months. With agriculture, the primary occupation, in full swing during these months, spend some time actually helping and interacting with the locals and learn more about them. If you would rather spend some time enjoying what nature has to offer, walk along the river (which obviously is dotted with flowers of all kinds) till you reach the narrow hidden parts in the jungle where you can set up camp and do what you love, whether it be reading a book, playing an instrument or just plucking wild berries and taking a dip in the water to beat the heat. Wake up early to spot bird species.
WAH RASHI FALLS
Syntung, East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya
Meghalaya is blessed with several spectacular waterfalls, and there is no doubt that it is challenging to choose one over the other, yet we have a favourite! Endure a back-breaking journey to reach this hidden gem. Split into teams and start exploring the actual number of waterfalls, because there are so many and when tired come and take a dip in the blue waters or sit and meditate on the huge rocks around. The cascading Wah Rashi waterfalls encircled by sacred hills on all sides and inaugurated as recently as December 2015 is unquestionably one of our most loved waterfalls.