Nagaland is a dry state, and the black marketers make an absolute killing. We were traveling on a shoestring budget and couldn’t afford those atrociously priced bottles of Rum or beer but Anuj succumbed to the Goddess of Temptation and bought one bottle (after that we ‘reluctantly’ let our friends ‘treat’ us). But for the rest of the journey, we made do with the local rice beer. Drinking the steaming rice beers in large bamboo mugs was a much better option. Excellent stuff too.
The Kohima market is an amazing place to be, and you have to rather adventurous to try out some of the dishes in the nearby restaurants. There were exotic birds, squirrels, pheasants, barking deer, dogs, crabs, unusual fishes, toads and many other animals for sale. Most things that move are perfectly edible, and maybe that’s why Nagas have such fine athletic built. I am an animal lover to an extent but when somebody gave a few pieces of a barking deer meat, I promptly ate them. Rather delicious I should say …and so were the roasted frogs and dog meat.
The Kohima War Cemetery, with it, manicured lawns and perfectly aligned graves set among tall pine trees, has an overwhelming feeling of peace and tranquil. Soldiers as young as 17 years had fallen in this battle, where the 2nd Division of the Queen’s Army finally halted the Japanese advance. A little distance from the cemetery lies an M3 Lee Grant medium battle tank, exactly where it was abandoned on the 4th of May 1944.
Next day, we set off for Khonoma that is at a distance of 20 km from Kohima. I would say most of it is an offroad trail and our Hero Honda Karizma, with their modified suspensions and semi knobby tyres performed exceptionally well in spite of the heavy luggage that we carried. Khonoma is a legendary village; famed for its fight against the British troops whose advances the villagers repulsed some times. There are a few ‘Forts’ in vantage positions from where the villagers fought the British troops. These forts look rather flimsy and easily accessible today but all those years back, with thick jungles all-around, it must have been quite tough to breach them. There is an amazing 7-foot tall muzzle-loading gun, made in the 1850s that were used against the invading British troops…and it still is in perfect firing order! It has a huge muzzle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes in a kilo of gunpowder for a single shot! It was far too heavy and long for me to aim even it anywhere…forget about firing it. I am sure it packs one hell of a recoil. It is a gun fit for Cyclops!
The Angami Naga students’ body has done an excellent job of protecting the environment. Nobody in the village is allowed to cut a tree and sell it to a dealer even when he owns the tree. The owner can only use it as firewood. In fact, it has been declared as a Green Village by the environment agency of the UN. The cobblestone path, green rooftops, terraced fields and the lush greenery makes it a lovely holiday destination – minus the 5-Star trappings of course. A trek of two and half-hours from the village took us to the famed Dzkhou Valley. It is a rather tiring trek but as we topped the ridge, the valley suddenly appeared and the sight of the green carpet like the valley with wild rhododendrons of different colours was simply awesome. In fact, I would run short of adjectives if I start describing it. Stay in the caves or the tents and it is an experience alright. Oh yes, when you visit Khonoma, do ensure that you are well stocked with cigarettes because you won’t find any in the village. We had to employ extreme austerity measures to make eight cigarettes last two days between the two of us. Will power!!