I am fascinated to travel to the tribal areas of India. There are many tribal belts in India but the belt that excites me is the most is the north-east belt. It’s not crowded by tourism, the people are lovely and it has scenic landscapes.
One such state in India is Nagaland.
Hidden under the bosom of mother nature lies this unexplored land of the Nagas which has been provoking travelers from far and wide to explore its magnificence. This land is a part of what we fondly call the Seven Sisters.
It’s on the extreme north-east of the map and extremely far from Mumbai. The distance is still fine but what I dislike is that an Indian citizen needs a permit to get into this state. Although the permit can be easily acquired, it requires a lot of planning, as the centers that issue the permit are only in 2-3 places.
I put my destination as Kiphire, a tribal village on the extreme end of the state, close to Myanmar border. I happened to meet this young man—in a spiritual retreat—who runs a school out there and he invited me to his home.
I was able to acquire a permit and finally started on a Thursday morning in 2016. I took a train to Guwahati, that is the last railway station available by direct train. From there, I had to take a train to another railway station.
I reached the main city of Dimapur after three and a half days of tiring railway journey. After reaching, I had to take a world class bus that would take around 15 hours.
The roads are pathetic but the journey is memorable. You get to meet interesting tribal people and eat some never-even seen food. There are 16 major tribes in Nagaland and their food is quite famous in India.
Finally, on the fourth day, I reached at night when the whole village was in deep sleep. Can you guess the time?
It was 10 PM.
In Nagaland, the sun usually sets around 5 PM and everyone sleeps around 7 PM or so. And by this, I was pretty late into the night. My friend—Lipichem—set me up in his room and prepared delicious vegetarian Naga food.
Vegetarian has to be emphasized as the Nagas usually prefer eating meat and vegetables are just used as a side dish. Plus, there are no restaurants in the village. So, you have to tell the host in advance about your food preferences.
Next morning was magical. I noticed that his home—made out of wood—is surrounded by huge mountains. The sky was blue and gorgeous.
We had a nice vegetarian breakfast. The vegetables are organic and fresh, unlike to what we get in Mumbai. The village has a small marketplace. I was all alone as my friend had some work at his school. so I was moving around the village and turning heads. Everyone got to know that someone had come from far away last night.
Later in the day, I went to meet my friend’s school. It was fun to interact with children. Now, Nagaland is predominantly Baptist. So, there are missionary schools that are English medium. I interacted with many students—they’re so cute. They’re bright students with financial challenges. No one has ever visited them like I did, so they were all excited to interact with me.
In the evening, we had delicious vegetarian food and I retired quite early as I was super-tired of walking so much. In the morning, I had seen a church right at the top of the surrounding mountain and had created a deep wish to visit here. I told about this to Lipichem who promised me to do something because places are not well connected in the villages of Nagaland.
The next day was a riverside visit.
After the riverside visit, I went to meet the people of another nearby village. My friend had spoken to some boys out there who took me around. I was lucky to meet the village head who was surprised and shocked to me see me there.
I was told that I was the first guest from far-far away, especially Mumbai. The homes of these tribal have skulls of wild buffaloes. The more they have, the more they’re prosperous and powerful. The village head the maximum number of skulls. It was a beautiful day and at night I had my delicious vegetarian dinner and went off to sleep early.
In the dreams, I already reached the village on top of the mountain but it actually happened the next day.
Good for me, it happened twice!
I was fortunate that my friend arranged for a small car that would take up to the top. The temperature was diving and the winds were getting ferocious. After a couple of hours of slow-and-steady driving, we reached the village.
We had to leave out car in the footsteps of the village and walk toward the peak point. My heartbeat was getting faster as I approached the peak. The scene at the top was mindblowing. I had never seen something like this before. We were surrounded by mountains on four sides.
This village named Singrep is the topmost tribal village of Nagaland and beyond the mountain range is Myanmar. The icing on the cake was a church at the peak point. I couldn’t believe that I was actually there.
The church was empty. We went inside and spent some minutes inside. No one was around as such because the villagers were busy with some social function. This church is probably the only one situated at such a height; in India.
The trip was successful. I had what I wished for. I guess, the universe put in a lot of effort to make this happen for me.
I have been all around India but the north-east part is a different experience. It’s not well connected but it’s colorful and loving. The people welcome you with both arms open and their hospitality is commendable. Langauge is no problem—Hindi and English are common languages.
The serenity of the mountains, the dense forest, the striking wildlife, the distinct culture and the alluring handicraft will absolutely leave you with a lot of startling reminiscences from this magical land.
By the time we came back, it was already dark. I had to leave the next day, so most of the time after dinner was spent in packing my bag.
After a delicious vegetarian breakfast, I shared my gratitude to the host family, mainly them other who took all the pain to prepare vegetarian food for me. I don’t eat much and this worried her a lot. I couldn’t understand her language but Lipichem told me that she was apologizing as she couldn’t offer me different varieties of food i.e. authentic Naga food that is mainly animal meat.
With a heavy heart and tears in eyes, I left in the same world-class bus that would take 15 hours to reach the main city of Nagaland.