We walk to the share sumo stand (a tree) from where the sumo to Mon is supposed to ply. Inspite of having spoken to the sumo guy last evening, we are shocked to learn that the sumo from Sonari to Mon has left before 6 am. Thankfully, another sumo in an absolutely battered condition is stationed there and the driver appears from somewhere and tells us that he’s headed to Mon. The price per seat is confirmed at INR 300/350 and we take the front 2 and the 2 left seats of the middle row. We are delighted to know that all is not lost and that we will be able to go to Mon; there is a little matter of the sumo guy being able to find a few more passengers.
Since the sumo hasn’t started yet, we are not aware of its dilapidated condition. The engine seems to be in a perpetual state of repair and the doors feel like they can come off anytime! We wait (as if we could do any better) and are pleased to come across a Lal chai seller on the street. Sumo guy is good to go after we are joined by 2 young schoolgirls headed to their homes. There is no need to keep our bags on the carrier since there is plenty of room in the back.
We are on our way to Mon at 730 am and choose to ignore the piece of information that the first sumo has left at 530 am. It is the sumo guy’s first trip to Mon after a break of more than a month. There is also a Nagaland State Transport (NST) bus that runs from Sonari to Mon but thats supposed to be scheduled to leave at 11 am; this time means that by the time we reach Mon, the shared sumo to Longwa would already have left.
Whenever we tell or ask a local in Sonari about heading to Nagaland, they tell us to eat well in Assam itself because we wont find anything to eat in Nagaland! The sumo guy halts for a while and we are still in Assam near a tea garden town; I finally ask a local why they say that we won’t be able to eat anything in Nagaland? Pat comes the reply, ‘The Nagas in Mon eat everything that moves’, I’ve heard that before and let out a small chuckle.
The aroma of fried pooris and a dry potato vegetable being freshly made along with chapatis on a tawa is enticing and I ask the street seller to serve me a plate. It turns out to be delicious and I adhere to the golden rule of eating while its possible! We are hopeful of reaching Mon in time to sort out the permit issue and figure a way for the shared taxi to Longwa. However, the sumo guy was as laid back as one can be and kept stopping and chatting with almost every other passerby on the road. Anyhow, the tea garden town is nicer and I decide to make good use of the stop to eat!
I eat to my hearts content and am pleasantly surprised when the amount to pay is a measly 40/50 Rupees. The sumo guy is simply going around and meeting everyone and asking what the rates of corruption are! We would later come to know all about the corruption later; that the sumo guys are supposed to pay the road mafia for an entire month and only then can they ply with passengers from Sonari to Mon. Since it was just the start of the month, we were sort of caught in the wrong date and witness to a prevalent system of bribery.
His friend has also bought some stuff (maybe to be sold in Nagaland.) We start again and the landscape keeps getting greener and the civilisation is non-existent. The road continues and we enter Nagaland at Tizit gate. There’s a bridge and a big Naga symbol proclaiming ‘Welcome to Mon district, land of Ahng Nagaland’.
It already feels like a different world with rudimentary tin structures functioning as dhabas and shops selling bare essential commodities; villagers carrying guns and our frail sumo guy stopping to be checked where every vehicle is stationed. There is a police check post; I notice the truck guys running to the police check post with more cash than documents! The locals are chewing betel nut and roaming around in shorts. I am unsure what to do with no permit in hand, and one of the police guys on the road signals us to come to the check post.
The 2 local Naga girls are let off without any questions and we are asked for permits. The check post is in reality a makeshift police chowki, I tell the Konyak officer that we are coming from Arunachal and don’t have a permit. He starts making a day pass for us and asks us for everyone’s aadhar cards. The details are filled without a fuss, just as I am beginning to think he’s a very helpful police officer I notice the truck guy paying 800 Rupees for entering through the check post. I try telling him to make a 2-3 day permit for us as we intend to only stay for that duration in Mon district but he reasons that he’s only authorised to give a 1 day temporary permit.
He says it can be easily extended in Mon Police Station. I thank him, grab the permit documents and rush to the sumo before he can change his mind and ask for some money! The assistant of the police officer turns out to be a shrewd chap and quickly catches us before we start the sumo. Our lazy sumo driver doesn’t help by not being around and I end up going back to the police chowki and am asked for 200 Rupees per person as a fee. I sheepishly ask the police officer where is the 200 Rs. rule written and slip a 500 Rupee note towards him.
I had made small talk about Hornbill Festival and other parts of Nagaland like Pfutsero, Kohima, Mokokchung so maybe he was a bit kinder but still pocketed the 500 Rupees and continued chewing on the betel nut. We also asked him if the Mon Police Station guy will try to take money from us to extend our permits. He mumbles that we should tell him that the money has already been paid in Tizit. According to him, it was a routine procedure for us of extending our permits and that it won’t take much time.
We felt triumphant and sat in the sumo with a haughty air! One of the meagre establishments doubling up as a dao maker seems to be making omelettes served in dirty plates and charging a princely sum of 100 Rupees for his troubles!
I notice the time on the watch and figure that we have hardly covered 15 kilometres and inspite of already spending close to 2 hours on the road! The date is 2 October, starting of the month so the sumo guy has to pay everyone and everywhere and get a pass. Gandhi Jayanti celebrations and a cleaning campaign by the school kids feels like an alien proceeding in this far off region of Nagaland.
On the road, signs of Christianity are quite prevalent with signboards and messages. I spot the Tizit Village Baptist Church and a big signboard proclaiming ‘Christ is the head of Tizit Village’. As always, I have my eye on everything on the road and excitedly make a mental note when a road bifurcates towards the village of Shangsa.
The sumo guy has to stop every 15-20 minutes to pay a bribe to the officials. While we were earlier laughing and enjoying the game, we get bored of it in no time and ask him more details. He tells us that most of the bribe takers are the police folks and mentions that they take 300-500 Rupees. We wonder how the sumo guy makes money, and then he makes us understand that after paying all the bribes he will get a badge to be put on the vehicle that essentially means he has paid for the month and can make as many trips as he wants!
The road itself is in okay-ish shape, much better than we anticipated. There is a tar road in some places and big potholes are the norm otherwise. After a while of more paying of bribes, the sumo guy finally gets a tag of monthly pass on the windshield. I think its a total payment of INR 2500-3000 and it seems kind of ok that he won’t really have to pay anything for the entire month.
The Naga girls are quite angry with him and even called their parents to complain about the sumo guy along with the sumo number! When we finally sit back and assume that now we will straight head to Mon town, some Naga locals stop the sumo and ask the driver to come out. We are a little perturbed but it turns out to be just a friendly encounter! The Naga schoolgirls have been chit-chatting non-stop and we can’t understand head or tail of the conversation!
It was quite humid when we had started from Sonari in the morning but has now progressed to a pleasant breeze as we neared Mon. Mon town felt like it was situated on a hillock. The sumo guy tells us that there are many Rajasthani traders settled in Mon, that indeed comes as a big surprise. We tried telling him to drop us near the Police Station in Mon but he advised that we would be better off first booking our seats on the Mon to Longwa shared sumo. Our arrival in Mon was further delayed when some other sumo drivers informed our sumo guy that some sort of checking was going on and we ended up reaching Mon only by a supremely bumpy road in the jungle!
It turns out to be a good decision as there are only 4 seats left (Inr 170 per seat) on the Mon to Longwa shared sumo and the sumo counter guy tells us that the last sumo of the day will leave at 2 pm. We have reached at 1215 pm and there seems to be plenty of time to find the Police Station and extend the permit. Two of us ask the way to the Police Station in Mon and make an uphill climb to reach an open sort of area and the Police Station is right across us.
The locals line up the road near the sumo counter and are selling exotic looking fruits and vegetables. The prices are also quite cheap and if we were staying in Mon, I would definitely have picked up something. I spot a fancy looking eatery in the market. It is about a kilometre long uphill climb to the Police Station and once inside I speak to the officer in-charge for extending our permits. He demands to see all 4 of us!
We tell him that 2 people are a little older and therefore they are waiting at the Sumo Counter. We ask him for a 3 day permit extension but he doesn’t seem very keen on more than 2 days extension. In a troublesome turn of events, he asks me the name of my local guide and our place of stay. We are asked for our id’s and he notes down the details in a register. In reality, we have not booked anything and haven’t spoken to anybody either but my mind reacts quickly and I tell the Police Officer that we have contacted Longsha Wangnao from Longwa and he is our contact.
The Police officer then asks me to note down the contact of Longsha and I am able to note down his number from my research. I have my heart in my mouth when the Police officer makes a call but thankfully due to the terrible mobile network in Mon, the call doesn’t go through. He narrates a past experience of some tourists from Bangalore who accidentally ventured into Myanmar and were captured by a terrorist group. Then the Army had to get involved and ultimately all this gets the Police Guys in trouble. So, he wants to make doubly sure we don’t venture where we are not supposed to be.
In a lighter vein, the Police officer tells us that there is nothing to see in Longwa or Mon district and that we must get out of here soon. Along with another officer, they seemingly make a funny joke on us. He tries to call Longsha again and thankfully Longsha’s phone is out of network! I worry thinking what might have happened if the call had connected and Longsha saying that he had no booking with him.
Finally, the Police officer stamps the extension papers and tells us to revisit the Police station in Mon when we come back from Longwa. We grab the papers and rush to the sumo counter, whilst I kept trying to call Longsha all the time. The bad network issues persist and I am unable to connect with him even though the phone sometimes rings. The time is about 115 now and we are super hungry and a bit tense as well!
We reach the sumo counter and are relieved to know that the sumo number has been given and that we will leave in some time. There’s another sumo for Longwa stationed and all sorts of packages like chickens, potatoes and groceries are being piled up on the carrier. I am finally able to connect with Longsha and tell him to book 2 rooms for us and also tell him about the Police officer trying to call him. He confirms that he has not had any contact with any Police guy and that our rooms are booked for INR 800 per room. Longsha tells me that he is also in Mon for his daughter’s function in school and that his brother Nockao will receive us in Longwa.
We heave a collective sigh of relief and head to a nearby ramshackle eatery. I had spotted an inviting bakery in the main market but decided not to buy anything being almost certain that the stuff made will be from maida only. The tea shop opposite to the sumo counter is a safer bet since it is close-by. There’s only tea and rusks on offer and I am pleased when the tea turns out to be actually good. I thank the relatively friendly owners and step out to buy a bottle of water, where I am asked for INR 30 for a bottle of water with an MRP of INR 20 because I am an ‘Indian’.
It is fun to sit at the shared sumo counter and indulge in people watching – most locals carry guns in a sling! At the stroke of 2 pm, our shared sumo arrives and we are supremely excited to get out of Mon. I happen to chat with a Social Worker for the church who lives as a tenant in Longsha’s home. He assures me that we will be dropped exactly in front of Longsha’s house in Longwa and that we need not worry about the location.
Everyone’s bags are hauled up on the carrier of the sumo and we sit in the back even though our seat numbers are of the middle seat. We are stuffed with onions, potatoes, chickens and meat in the back beneath our feet under the seat. There is no space to even think about stretching our legs but we are happy to just get out of Mon and will bear the hardship. A passing conversation with someone confirms the fact that there are many Rajasthani businessmen settled in Mon since a long time and they pay protection money to be safe!
I come across a signboard in the market. Network Travels and Lucky Travels in Mon seem to run a few services too. Mon to Wakching 12 noon, Mon to Shiyong 12 noon, Mon to Naginimora 12 noon, Mon to Dimapur 3 pm – Night Service. We finally start our journey to Longwa at about 220 pm and are told that the 40 odd km distance will take 2 hours. The road is predictably in bad shape and almost merges with the green forest. It is broken in patches but still better than the Sonari to Mon road. The road is maintained by BRO (Border Roads Organisation) because this region shares a border with Burma (Myanmar).
After 1 hour of the journey, the sumo stops at a local dhaba where the ladies are selling farm produce. The bananas are massive in size and are priced at INR 5 per piece. The guavas are tiny and are packed in polythene bags and are sold for INR 10 per polythene (about 15-18 pieces in a polythene). Also on offer are squash, bamboo shoots, chillies, locally brewed alcohol, cassava, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, small pineapples, beans and papaya. I am ecstatic to buy the guavas and bananas to satiate my hunger. They are nice and fresh and taste super yummy as well.
We are back on the road, it is a quiet and peaceful drive. Apparently there are more than 50 villages of the headhunters in Mon district and about 15 villages where we can still come across headhunters. The sumo stops right at the entrance of Longwa and we are dropped at Longsha’s home which is located near the Helipad. It is a nice big road where 2 vehicles can easily cross.
Nockao (Longsha’s brother) welcomes us and shows us the way to our rooms. They are located in an annexe, it is a concrete building which is opposite to the main house. The rooms itself are bare bones basic, there is no water supply in the bathrooms! It is about to get dark, so we put our bags and make ourselves acquainted with the layout of the room.
Nockao takes us to the main house. It is a huge home made in the traditional style with ample use of wood, bamboo and thatched leaves. There are exquisitely carved figures of a Konyak tribal man & woman at the entrance of the house and also a log drum. The first room after we enter is like a hall with a massive ceiling. There is a carrom-board in the room and there are souvenirs for sale spread on a table. We keep walking curiously in the dimly lit interiors and come to the kitchen part. Across the house, the walls are occupied with wooden artwork in different shapes, designs and traditionally carved hangings.
Among the souvenirs are necklaces, wooden masks, smoking pipes, metal masks, statues, bone work, necklaces made from bones, paintings and rustic art on wood. Longsha’s traditional home in Longwa indeed feels like a different world. Nockao plays church gospel songs on his phone. The kitchen area is very dark and the layout feels very common in the northeast – There’s a hearth with a sizeable hanging 2 layered logs of wood and varieties of meat hanging near the fire (to smoke it over a period of time). It reminds me of an Apatani kitchen!
Nockao’s parents and a cousin is also sitting around the kitchen and we share illegible conversations as the parents don’t understand hindi or english while we don’t understand Naga. Nockao informs us that while everyone in the village is a Konyak, Wangnao is a title given to the chiefs of a clan. Longsha is the eldest brother and happens to be a local leader in this part of town. Nockao is 25 years old and we are surprised to know that his mom and dad are almost 70 years old but are very strong and well built.
We tip-toe around the house and notice skulls of bison and other wild animals with a wood painted panel depicting hunting, kitchen fire, and scenes from daily life. Through broken conversations, we come to know that Nockao’s father took part in a headhunting victory but didn’t take a head. Mom is quite chirpy and starts cooking a vegetarian dinner for us. We are served locally grown black tea in plastic mugs.
I try to fix the price for food with Nockao since the room prices have been cleared with Longsha. My prior experience with ambiguity hasn’t been so good and although he agrees to my offer of the total price of INR 1200 for 2 people including food and a guiding fee of INR 1000 for the village tour the next day, there is no proper confirmation and I know that there will be a surprise whenever we ask for the bill payment before leaving! I can blame it on the corruption in the entire region and a homestay in Nagaland is no exception.
Nockao’s dad shows us the pig stable where the pig is being kept and fed for the Christmas Feast. His food is the massive bark of the root of the banana tree; they boil it with many nutritious things and feed him. The pig is so huge that it is almost scary to look at it. Before it goes totally dark, we go for a quick walk to the outskirts of the village near the helipad. We cross a few old houses with the same pattern of thatched roof made from palm leaves, and made from bamboo. The houses look very big and sturdy though, in my mind I am comparing them to the Adi Longhouses in Along, Arunachal Pradesh.
My ever inquisitive mind finds out that a road near Longwa leads to the villages of Phumching & Nyahnyu. There are Tangnyu and Chen Town villages from Mon accessible by a road. A steady drizzle continues and the pitter patter of rain accompanies us everywhere in the lush greenery. The road itself is full of big potholes and slush. We figure that its better to use these open spaces for peeing rather than using a washroom with no water supply. The weather in Longwa is misty and foggy and we are able to see a faint outline of the evening colours amid the dense cloud cover.
We hear Church songs from one of the homes on our way back; Christian missionaries are said to have played a big part in the decline of headhunting in Longwa and everyone in the region practises Christianity now. The sky clears a little bit and we see nice landscapes with the last light of the day; there are rolling hills interspersed with fields and homes. Every farm has a small grain storage space and a small house to stay during the harvest. It is getting a bit chilly and we are glad to return to the warmth of the fire in the darkness.
The locals in Longwa are not really friendly as such; whoever comes to the kitchen meeting others doesn’t bother greeting us. I ask Nockao about Longwa’s opium addiction and he triumphantly tells us that the locals of Longwa have decided to put an end to the opium menace and that Longwa has been opium free for the last 3 months or so. He also supports this with facts that the Young Konyak’s Association (Longsha is an influential member of that) has very strict rules.
Dinner is served even before 7 pm. There is a wide variety of dishes. Eggs, locally grown white rice, fried potatoes, leaves curry, spinach, dall and a kuzhumbu chutney from Sri Krishna Sweets that a friend has carried from Chennai! Contrary to what we were warned against in Assam, the food has turned out to very tasty and we end up eating in copious quantities. The locals in Longwa grow a variety of veggies and leaves and also white rice, brown rice and red rice and they are all extremely tasty and healthy.
Since Longsha’s family is quite accustomed to having tourists they keep oil and masalas for tempering; otherwise the Konyak food (like most parts of Nagaland) is predominantly boiled with almost no masalas. We thank the family for a grand dinner while Nockao is listening to Church gospel songs. The villagers take turns to play the carrom and it looks like winners to stay and losers go out as the rules. We are served black tea post dinner and the mom explains that every household grows their own tea leaves in the rolling hills of Longwa.
We tell Nockao that we will need his services as a guide to accompany us in Longwa and say good night to everyone else. There is electricity, so we head to our rooms and chit-chat for a bit and then head off to sleep after charging our devices. We aim to head back to Mon and Sonari day after tomorrow by the 7 am shared sumo that leaves from Longwa. We try and sleep and are made aware of the not-so-clean-beds and blankets. Thankfully, all of us are pretty tired and somehow make do with the circumstances.
We wake up early after a good night’s sleep and have a chai first thing early in the morning. It is a glorious day with blue skies and clouds forming in the far distance. The hills are gentle and rolling and lush green; we can also spot some other Konyak villages as well. There are a few homes being made with tins while most of the new construction is in concrete. We set off with Nockao to walk around Longwa.
Kids are roaming about with their slings and trying to hit birds. At first, we wonder if they are actually trying to hit the birds but later when we see locals sporting hats made from monkey hair, we realise maybe the birds are a delicacy for the kids to eat! Who knows, after all the Nagas are known to eat anything and everything that moves! The kids are quite rowdy and ill-mannered and threaten to hit us when we request them not to kill the birds.
Although most locals are not keen on conversations; sometimes when we end up talking, they invariably ask ‘Are you from India?’, as if they genuinely believe that currently Nagaland is not on Indian soil. Anyway, it is well known that the village of Longwa lies both in Myanmar and India and the Angh (King’s home) straddles the boundaries of both nations.
There’s an army check point in the middle of the town; Longwa is a massive village with about 300-400 homes. The army guys get our entry done & check our permits. There seem to be different routes in the village and one can see Myanmar locals freely roam around on a peculiar sort of bike – Canda. We continue our walk to the India – Myanmar border stone from 1970-71. One side of the border is Myanmar and the other side is India. We sit for a while and enjoy the proceedings; it is stark sunshine while the other part of the valley is covered in clouds.
Except the army check post, there is no visible security at the border stone. A church can be seen from this raised platform and many houses of the spread out village of Longwa. It is nice and sunny, and a pleasant breeze is blowing too! Myanmar seems even more densely forested as we look from this vantage point. No wonder the police guy had tried to make sure we are with a local in Longwa as its easy to get lost in the jungles of Myanmar if someone loses their way.
There are flowers of different colours blooming where we stand. Only a dirt road is visible in the rudimentary infrastructure of Myanmar. Even the locals in Longwa are driving a Canda bike (maybe its made in China). There are numerous BRO signboards as we wander around town. Every kid in Longwa carries a beautiful colourful bag. I have seen these bags across the northeast and every tribe seems to have a different pattern and design. One common thing is that these are all woven on a backstrap loom.
On the walk across Longwa, we come across 2-3 other headhunters as well. They can be distinctly identified by their facial tattoos and the fact that they show signs of irrational behaviour of hiding when they spot a camera or a tourist. There are a number of shops in Longwa; paan shop, grocery shop, tailor, essentials, petrol is sold in 1 litre bottles. Apparently, the only outsider in the entire village is one guy from Shekhawati, Rajasthan! He runs a shop there but funnily enough I miss meeting him.
It would have been fascinating to converse with him and discuss why did he decide to do business in Longwa, of all places! We are fascinated to know that locals here require no permit or visa to go to Myanmar and the same goes for Myanmar locals into Nagaland. It is a novel feeling to be able to notice homes located inside the boundary of Myanmar. The Primary School in Longwa seems like a newly built structure and its fun to see kids playing football without a care in the world.
We keep walking and reach the Angh’s house in Longwa (Angh means King in the Konyak dialect). It is a unique house, with half of it located in India and half in Myanmar. Its a popular joke that the king of Longwa eats in India and sleeps in Myanmar as the kitchen is in India and his bedroom is in Myanmar! The house has a sort-of a museum status; among many interesting things the bed is antique with wood carvings. There’s a proper log drum kept in the house as well. Skulls of many different types of animals are spread throughout the house. A signboard outside the house informs visitors that the house has been refurbished and built with Government’s help.
Once we get to the other side of the Angh’s house, there are a number of souvenir sellers sitting in the verandah. On show are tribal accessories like necklaces, bracelets, statues, bone accessories, metal masks, bags and wooden mugs and masks and figurines. The prices quoted are quite exorbitant but I presume that the exclusivity of the stuff warrants them. The locally made traditional Naga jewellery seems to be reasonably priced and I end up buying quite a few of the stuff.
Among the 3-4 sellers, only 1 seems to know the prices of the products. It is super jumbling to try and buy anything as conversations don’t have a common language and they keep disagreeing after agreeing with the price! I also spot an army officer in making a bargain to buy some souvenirs. Just outside the Angh’s house, I come across a signboard for a nicely built homestay – just in time because I wanted to pee badly!
It starts drizzling as soon as we are back to continue our walk in Longwa. We still continue and reach the end of the village, where the landscape is a pretty shade of green with the clouds and red flowers. There’s an army camp close to the end of the road and we turn back from there. There’s a sizeable Morung with hanging skulls to our right and I take the chance to ask Nockao to tell us more about it, as its anyway drizzling and a chance for us to do things differently. The morung is empty right now and seems to be hardly used except a few occasions.
Since we started quite early and the rain has changed the usual course of the exploration in Longwa, we end up getting back to our homestay and are pleased to know that its lunch time! For all the talk of us going hungry in Nagaland, we are actually relishing the food. There’s an array of local dishes for lunch – red rice, leaves, potatoes, salad, squash, dall. The red rice is extremely delicious and light. We eat in copious quantities and relax for a while.
Nockao asks us if we want to visit a few headhunters in the vicinity. We go and meet 1-2 headhunters but the story has been so overdone, all of us are not really interested especially when we are told that we can click as many photographs as we want for a pre-agreed price. One thing is certain, nobody seems to be into the opium habit anymore. Nockao disappears after some time; we spot him with a bunch of Indian day-tourists who must have been staying in Mon. So much for being a guide for the whole day, I think to myself.
Aunty gives us black tea; it is about 3 pm and the Indian tourists are going clickety-clack with their cameras – A headhunter is posing with a metal necklace and traditional earrings. I am not to be left behind a click a solitary photograph since the group has already paid for this. You are expected to pay INR 200 when you meet / photograph a headhunter. We head out in the direction of the helipad now that the rain has stopped.
The sky is bathed in mellow colours. The sun is playing hide and seek and the intermittent periods of sunshine make the greenery look even more beautiful. It is easily the most surreal evening of the entire trip in Nagaland. A few local boys are also loitering around since we are near a school and for a change we are able to converse normally with them. It is an epic sunset with yellow, orange and pink hues and is unbelievably beautiful the rolling hills and as if on cue, we decide to make our way out of Longwa the next day.
We make it back to the homestay and request for an early dinner and also to book 4 seats in the earliest sumo for Mon. There is a little bit of daylight left so we rush to pack our bags so that we are prepared to leave early morning even if there is no electricity in the night. Dinner is yummy as usual and I ask Nockao to buy 1 kg of red rice. He is ecstatic that we have liked their local produce and tells me its only 20 Rs. per kilo and that I don’t have to pay for it.
He makes a huge bill for us though and even though we had discussed a flat rate of INR 1200 per room including food, the bill comes with a separate 200 INR per meal charge! We pay the required amount (no point bothering) and chat with Nockao’s mom and dad and thank them. Longsha has some work in Mon, so he doesn’t come during our stay and we are unable to meet our saviour.
We say our goodnights and go off to sleep. The shared taxi duly arrives at 7 am. We load our bags and leave after having a quick round of black tea. The seats are super comfortable since the sumo is not full and there is ample space to sit. We are repeatedly told that Aoling festival in April is the best time to be in Longwa when the Konyaks are dressed at their traditional best. We discuss that it would be fun to return someday if the bureaucracy wasn’t that difficult!
The shared sumo stops in the same place and this time I decide to let go of buying anything. We reach Mon at 10 am, delayed for some time because there was a roadblock on the way. I am hoping that the Mon to Sonari shared taxis will be available easily. Alas, that is not to be! We are left with no choice but to ask at the taxi stand for a ride to Sonari. We are quoted the most outrageous prices on the planet – a battered van asks for 10,000 INR without flinching an eyelid! I get a bit angry and tell him he should have asked for INR 20,000 since he has to come back as well. Haha.
Someone takes us for ransom and seemingly we have no choice but to pay INR 300 per seat for a shared sumo to Tizit. We reach Tizit at 1 pm. It is a breeze from Tizit to Sonari as we get a ride in an auto for a total of INR 200. As soon as we are near Assam, the prices show a semblance of normalcy.
Bye bye Longwa. Perhaps, we will return someday in our own cars to try and explore some of the far off villages.