When I was in Kohima during Hornbill Festival, I ‘d kept an extra 2 days for trekking to Dzuköu Valley. Me and fellow travel blogger, Jitaditya were staying at a guest house in Viswema village near the Hornbill Festival venue.
Also check : Tribes of Nagaland – Hornbill Festival
Jita had attempted to go to Dzuköu Valley on an earlier visit and had the basic information. There are 2 possible entry points for the trek to Dzuköu Valley – Viswema and Jakhama. Jita had already narrated his ordeal of spending a difficult night at the entrance of Dzuköu after he had lost his way! It made me aware that we just couldn’t wake up one day and go hiking to Dzuköu Valley, and that we might require help.
At Hornbill Festival, I bumped into my friend from Kolkata who had driven with some of his other friends (I had met him in Nongriat and Auroville earlier). They had a car and were also planning to trek to Dzuköu valley and had already decided on the services of a guide. It made the task very easy for us and we told them to just pick us up from our homestay on the morning that they were going!
So, it was decided to make Dzuköu Valley a day hike – to leave from Viswema in the morning, park the car at the Dzuköu Valley entrance, trek to Dzuköu Valley, come back by evening, and drive back to our respective homestays. My friends called me in the evening and confirmed that we would be leaving next morning at 7 am!
My friends were at our homestay by 730 and we left on time, already having had our breakfast that was included with the stay and because we had requested for it earlier. We picked up the guide from somewhere along the way and he took us via the Viswema route. The guide told us that while the Jakhama trekking route was shorter, it was steeper, more difficult and confusing and thats why everyone preferred going by Viswema route.
We parked the SUV at the parking place and Jita showed us the tin shed where he had spend the night! It was around 9 am when we started our trek. The weather was cloudy and the sun was hiding and nowhere to be seen. We started our hike through a dense jungle where the first signboard ‘Dzuköu Valley’ was marked. The trail started with stone steps and was steady and steep and we ascended non-stop through the forest.
Even though Dzuköu Valley is a very popular trek, the path wasn’t well marked at all, and after only 20 odd minutes we were confused about the right trail when the light had gotten worse in the thick foliage of the jungle. It was foggy and misty and there seemed to be trails leading in multiple directions; thank God we had the guide with us or it could well have been a case of taking a punt about the right path!
Our guide was a young chap from Kohima, around 25 years old and had been to Dzuköu Valley numerous times. He charged around 1500 Rupees for the entire day and had pre-agreed the price with my friends.
The scenery was stunning and the aroma of the jungle was pleasing, it was stunningly green for the month of December and there was moss on the stones. There were some random markings on stones (M.900) but it was unclear if we have covered 900 metre distance or if 900 metre distance is left. It is an eerie feel in the jungle with the sounds of birds and insects, dense mist and no sunlight. There seems to be hardly any daylight and proceedings are a bit stalled with no breeze blowing.
After around an hour or so, we reach a point where the jungle opens up and we come across the first sight of branchless roots, wavy valleys and unique trees that are a hallmark of Dzuköu Valley. There are undulating tiny outcrops in the mountains with waterfalls amidst lush greenery and mist emanating from the greenery. The sky is covered in clouds and there is an occasional pitter-patter of raindrops.
The trail is to our right and is muddy after the recent rain. To our left are the stunning views of the start of Dzuköu Valley. After a while the branchless trees disappear and reveal streams flowing through the valleys when the light improves. It is an incredibly stunning landscape and this is just on the way when we haven’t reached Dzuköu Valley yet.
At around 1045 am, we come across a small tent and a sitting space that is covered. Rain is in the air and we decide to light the wood that is kept there and enjoy the silence and breeze. The trail stretches ahead in the distance and we can see the path now. After some time we resume our hike and walk through spectacular scenery, through small shrubs of green growth. Dzuköu Valley appears more and more prominent as we keep going.
It continues drizzling steadily slowing down our progress and just before noon, we come across a signboard ‘Alternate Trek Route’. The guide explains that there are other trekking routes to Dzuköu Valley from Manipur as well as it is very close to Manipur State Border as well. We can spot the Rest House of Dzuköu Valley that is located on a clifftop. It is the only staying option in the entire valley and is quite prominent, even from afar.
The Rest House is spread over a sizeable area too – 2-3 buildings with one building located at a 5 minute walk away from the others. The secluded building looks like a nice, cosy cottage! We have a spring in our step now and almost skip, jump and run to reach the rest house at 1210 pm. So it has taken us roughly 3 hours to reach Dzuköu Valley even with a relaxed pace and a stop in between.
Our jackets are drenched in the rain that has been constant since 1030 am, I am feeling a bit cold since my jacket is flimsy and is not rain proof meaning a lot of water has seeped inside! We are on a vantage point and a stiff wind blows. Thankfully, I have kept a rain-proof daypack for the camera, water bottle, snacks and chocolates for emergency. It is a surreal sight as we reach the rest house; we finally have a birds’ eye view of Dzuköu Valley.
We are in an exhausted condition and are very hungry. Our guide takes the charge and orders food for all of us. The kitchen at the rest house is run by locals and they make everything fresh and charge INR 200 per person for food. The rest house guys inform us that many tourists are on their way and it is better that we get done with our lunch first so that we can explore the valley peacefully later. There is a bench in the open with a vantage view of Dzuköu Valley and everyone enjoys their time until the rain arrives.
Once it starts raining, we gather in a shelter space with a log of wood burning. Someone rolls a joint and food also arrives in that time, we eat well. The log of wood provides the much needed warmth and we relish the food that comprises of rice, vegetable curry and dall. It is around 1-130 pm and a welcome respite when the rain stops.
The Rest House is built from wood and stone in a pitiable condition, the windows seem to have been broken long ago. It is surrounded by an array of beautiful flowers though. There are various signboards on view with warnings to not pluck flowers, destruction of property and basic civic sense please.
There is a huge dormitory at the Rest House for travellers and visitors to stay. Bedding is available – Mats at 100 INR per mat and 50 INR per blanket. It is a common space and is done up with graffiti and art! Looks like a very rustic space perfect for backpackers who are looking to chill with like minded company in a pristine location! We have only planned for a day trip and don’t have to take the decision of staying here, so I choose to ignore the dirty blankets and the unkempt space.
The views from the porch of the rest house are spectacular to say the least. We are pleased when it finally stops raining. It is around 2 pm and some of us start descending on the trail to Dzuköu Valley. We are tired and ask the guide if it is actually possible for us to go to the bridge of Dzoköu Valley. He remarks that the bridge is far away and takes around 3 hours to go and come back to the rest house. He also says that is the main reason why most people stay for a night at the rest house so that they can explore Dzoköu Valley properly.
That statement takes the wind off our sails and we decide to give up the idea of going to the bridge in Dzuköu Valley and instead choose to sit at the bench and savour the otherworldly views on offer. There are other benches too to the right and all of us enjoy our solitude for a good 30 minutes before we decide to head back.
The rest house guys inform me that while it is possible for travellers to just hike up to Dzuköu Valley and stay at the rest house; sometimes the lack of space might mean there is no room if the space is not booked in advance. There is also the possibility that there is no staff at the rest house if it is off season.
We are lucky when the clouds part after lunch and the sunshine lights up the incredible landscape of Dzuköu Valley. It looks like a crater, an unreal world with the numerous rocky outcrops in a dark shade of green, ‘a land of fairies’ as is called sometimes. Our guide seems to be happy to be chilling with the rest house guys and hardly seems keen on us actually exploring Dzuköu Valley.
As we know, sunsets in the northeast happen pretty early and in December that would mean that it is close to dark by 4 pm. Our taking a chance would be stupid considering the last part of our return hike will be through the dense canopy of the jungle that had hardly any daylight even at 10 in the morning! Sanity prevails and as the clouds start sweeping in Dzuköu Valley again, we start on our return journey.
I realise that it might be totally worthwhile to come back to Dzuköu Valley in July/August when it is blooming time for the famous Dzuköu Lily. This time when I come back, I would make sure of staying at least 1 night at the rest house so that I am able to explore the valley properly. From the rest house, it takes 1 hour to go to the bridge in Dzuköu Valley and 2 hours to come back.
We enjoy our hike back and encounter many tourists on their way to the rest house. As I had thought, it is almost dark when we descend through the jungle. We are pleased to make it to the car parking spot at 4 pm. We drop the guide on the way and my friends proceed to drop us to the homestay.
We celebrate our last evening together with a bottle of the precious Angami Sticky Rice Wine (600 INR per bottle!).
If you are at the Hornbill Festival and reading this, please reach out to me. It would do a world of good if you could get 2 bottles for me (trust me it is one of the finest wines ever made!).