India North East India - Nagaland
Activities in north east India: caving, trekking, rafting, wildlife and tribal culture, contact
NAGALAND, the Hornbill Festival, Treks & Naga Villages
Photos: Two of the many Naga tribal people in traditional dress, Hornbill Festival, 2002.
2002 We initially stayed in the beautifully located, traditional style Tourist Lodge of Tuophema village where tribal elders treated us to rice beer and local dancers performed putting us in the mood for the five day Naga Hornbill Festival starting the following day.
The disparate Naga tribes who previously raided each other to add to their head collections have now united as the Naga Nation, proud of their heritage. At the festival, ritual dances were performed by many of the colourful tribes such as Konyak, Rengmai, Chang Sang, Ao, Anghami and Chaka Chang, each in their own style and brightly coloured traditional dress.
Trekking in Nagaland - the Dzuku Valley accessed by a 2700m pass above dense jungle. Treks of 2 - 5 days are possible. We intended to climb the highest nearby peak, 3048 metre Mt Japfu, home of the world’s tallest rhododendron tree (20 metres high) but its summit remained obstinately cloud capped. We opted instead for the Dzuku Valley "the best trekking in the area". The young Nagas who led the way were, as local people always are, supremely fit. Climbing effortlessly they set their pace by calling the traditional Naga war cry to each other "He-haa", "Ho-haa". It echoed eerily from the jungle ahead as the omni-present gloom deepened with the rapidly setting sun. Little wonder that the chant terrified the intended victims of Naga raiding parties! We emerged from the jungle at over 2700 metres just as the sun sank across the valley. Jubilant to be up, we contoured the precipitous hillside to reach the hut and the smell of our guide’s wood smoke well after dark.
Next day, veils of mist parted beneath us to reveal a thick carpet of frost below our sun kissed eerie. What we had originally believed to be a high ‘alpine’ meadow was an expanse of dwarf bamboo turned white by the cold. On the return journey, we stopped at Kigwema village.
2003 In November 2003, we had a second visit to Nagaland, once more sponsored by Ashoka Holidays of Guwahati, this time with the cooperation of the Nagaland Tourism Department, courtesy of their secretary, Mrs Thangi Mannen. We were accompanied by Nino Zasa of Explore Nagaland and Partha Pratim Das, Manager of Extreme North East (see links above).
We had limited time, some of which was lost due to the monsoon lingering into November, making road travel difficult (sometimes iimpossible). We nevertheless managed to assess a trek in the Khonoma area, visit the lesser developed north around the traditional village of Tuensang, and do some exploratory jungle and village treks around Nagalnd's highest mountain, Saramati, on the Burma border. Sadly, due to time, weather, and our Naga guides going off to hunt bears, we missed out on the summit - another time perhaps!
In Fakim we were welcomed with a dance celebrating the first visit of foreigners to the village and becoming in their words, "the first to dance with the Yimchunger Naga".
Further north, we visited the traditional Longkhung, Mopunchukit and Tuensang village areas, often with superb Himalayan dawn vistas as well as traditional Naga houses.