Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Kohima - Proud Capital of Nagaland

We had actually stayed in Kohima when we first arrived in Nagaland, but due to trips elsewhere and Susanna getting sick we didn't actually see much so we went back on a day trip along with Magdalene, Elizabeth and her boyfriend Toka.

Kohima is the proud capital of Nagaland. While Dimapur down on the plains is the largest city and the most important commercial part, Kohima situated in hilly land is undoubtedly the cultural and political heart of Nagaland. It may look large on the picture above, but in fact less than 100,000 people live there. The imposing, white building on the hill top to the left is the brand new Police Headquarters.

Despite being a fairly small town Kohima has major trouble supplying it's inhabitant with basic amenities such as electricity and water, especially the latter. In fact the town has more or less given up on delivering tap water and most of Kohima's inhabitants must have water driven to their house by large road tankers. This explains that, whereas Kohima is a wonderfully charming city for the tourist, Dimapur holds a much larger appeal to the locals.

A very large, beautiful gate on the way to Kohima.

Kohima holds a very special place in world history. This is where the WWII Japanese advance into mainland Asia was finally halted by allied British-led troops. This is the British War Cemetary situated on the exact location of part the battle in 1944. It occupies a high ground with fine views to Kohima town surrounding it.

Much of the initial fighting in the Battle of Kohima was centred around the deputy commisioner's besieged Bungalow, where the war cemetery now is. A big cross has been erected on the spot where the most heavy fighting took place, but the outline of what was originally here has been preserved: A tennis court. Enlarge the picture if you don't see it.

The War Cemetery is an extraordinarily neat and well kept place, probably due to the fact that it is still under the direct financing and control of the British.

Above you see one of the countless tombstones. In these days of vilification of certain ethnicities and religions, a sober reminder that many Indians of all faiths fought and paid with their lives to defeat fascim. This particular soldier named Muhammad was 21 years old.

Elizabeth and her boyfriend Toka sharing a moment at the war cemetery.

This is the high profile Cathedral of Kohima. It was built after the war with considerable financial support from Japanese survivors of the battle of Kohima. It was meant to be a symbol of reconciliation and forgiveness.

WARNING: Once again I will show some pictures that might be unpleasant to sensitive people, especially those that feel strongly about animal rights. They are not as gory as last post's pictures so no asterisks around the warning this time.

Once again we visited a local market, and once again we saw some unusual stuff. On the banana leaves you see tomatoes, squash, scallions and then of course red worms in the plastic buckets and HUGE cream coloured worms next to them. Even better notice what is hanging on the wooden post in the right side of the picture. Yes, that's right: Rats, and living ones even.

Don't they look yummy?

Elsewhere in the market a bunch of large frogs have met with a destiny not any better. Still alive they are packed into plastic bags ready to be carried away. Not the best place for animal rights activists (or perhaps it is).

Elsewhere in town roosters fight for the safe corner in the cage to avoid being tonight's soup.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Dimapur, Nagaland's Biggest City

Susanna's family lives in Dimapur which is Nagaland's largest and most commercialised city. Unlike the rest of Nagaland it is situated not in the hills, but on the plains, and therefore has a more Indian feel to it, than for instance Kohima (which I will get back to in future posts). From a tourism viewpoint Dimapur is not all that spectacular, but we did look around a bit and found some interesting things.

This post contains some rather gory images. Sensitive people might want to skip the bottom part of the post - especially dog lovers! I will insert one more warning before the potentially offensive pictures.

Dimapur is actually a quite old city, but it has very few historical remains. Perhaps the only archaeological site of any interest is that of a series of mushroom domed pillars with obvious phallic connotations. They were created by the Kachari kingdom, which ruled here long before the Nagas came down from the hills and took over the city, but other than that their origin and purpose are largely mysterious. Here you see Susanna leaning on one of these old pillars.

Not all of the pillars are equally well maintained. Some still stand in all their glory while others have fallen to the ground or crumbled into nothing. But it is a very interesting place quite unlike anything else I have seen in India. It might not rival the fairytale castles of Rajasthan or the magic of moghul tombs such as Taj Mahal, but at least this is something you won't see anywhere else but right here.

The Kachari ruins above are set in a nice park like area, which also houses a pool filled with pink water lotus.

There is also plenty of high grass for little girls of all ages to play in.

Close to the Kachari ruins the local Wednesday market was on, providing a very interesting insight into Naga life. Here fresh spices are on display.

And here you see a stall selling local wicker (kurve-) products.

You can also buy animal troughs made from old tires. Nice to see some recycling.

Or you can go to the "Beauty Polour".

Or you can buy this colourful food - probably some type of corn.

If you are very sensitive, especially when it comes to animal welfare and such, then this is a good place to stop reading.

But it is not all charming, but familiar products such as spices, corn and wicker products. Next to vegetables you frequently see huge worms being sold for human consumption. In fact they are considered a delicacy.

A closer look at this unusual type of food. As the hundreds of worms lie there spread out on a blanket most of them are still alive (so people know they are fresh). The picture cannot show it but they are all wriggling about.

Freshly caught deer is also on display. Don't know if the head is sold seperate.

And here more meat is on display. This is a type of meat you certainly won't see in Western supermarkets....

...yes you guessed it - it is DOG meat. Nagaland is in many way culturally closer to South East Asia than to India proper, and this is also seen in the food culture. It is not uncommon to eat dog, although I have promised Susanna to stress the point that this is not something that ALL nagas do or condone. In fact Susanna herself has great difficulty even just looking at something like this without feeling sick, and I know that many of her friends feel the same way. Never the less, however people might feel about it, it is still something which takes place even in the largest and most Indianised of Nagaland's cities.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

The Rest of the Family

In the preceding posts I introduced Susanna's brother Kini and one of her nieces, Alovi. Time to introduce the rest of the family from oldest to youngest.

Susanna with her dear, old grandmother. Her physical health is not tip-top, but mentally she is as healthy as ever.

Her son and Susanna's father.

Susanna's mother.

Susanna's sister Magdalene.

Susanna's other sister Elizabeth.

Rachel, Susanna's little cousin, who stays with the family.

Susanna's other nice and Magdalene's daughter, Inali.

The cat, named Cat. It has one green and one blue eye.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Dzukou: Skating in the Valley

In my last post I showed a picture of an ice covered bridge in Dzukou Valley. Here a bit more about that particular area of the valley.

Of course being a Dane growing up in the Danish Lake District I have had plenty of experience with frozen lakes and streams. However for both Susanna and Kinito this was the first time ever they walked on frozen ice. It was very cool to see them trying to figure this thing out - and it did to an extent lead my thoughts back to good ol' Bambi on the ice.

It all seems to be a struggle between the plants and the ice. One small part of the green vegetation to the right managed to stay on top of the ice, but mostly the ice seems to be winning that fight.

Here I am standing on a small stream leading down to the larger creek you see above.

A picture taken from the upper edge of the valley shows where the two hills on the right of the picture (especially the one furthest aback) lending shade to a small part of the valley. That is where we were playing around.

Kinito having a feel of the ice.

On the surface of the ice we found this wonder of nature: An almost perfect leaf imprint in the ice. A good reminder that incredible natural beauty lies not just in grand valleys and mountain tops but certainly also in the smallest of details in nature.

More interesting creations by nature. A very strange pattern in the ice making it look a little like it was patterned frosted glass created by a glass blower. I don't know how this was formed, but it was certainly not by a human.

Susanna doing the split on the ice.

Me and Kinito (okay especially me) laughing hysterically.

Kinito using a strangely shaped piece of ice to take on the appearance of an ice demon.

Finally we had to leave the Winter Wonderland and return back to civilization. However on the way back my three companions took the opportunity to once again hunt for suitable Christmas decorations as you see in this picture. But what a backdrop.

A picture of our very last glimpse of Dzukou, seen through a spooky forest of charred trees, which burned in a forest fire last year. Dzukou is a place of extraordinary beauty and I very much hope to come back, possibly next time for a 4-day trek taking you through the entire valley rather than just the small portion we visited here.

Dzukou: Walking in the Valley

It took quite a bit of persuasion to get the Dzukou Valley trek organised. First for me to convince Susanna for the need to spend a whole day walking in the hills, and then for Susanna to convince her brother to join us. Nagas are not travelers by nature, and they have no culture or history of great exploration. However I think we all three agreed that it was definitely worth it when we reached the valley.

This was our first sight down into the distant valley. On all sides it is surrounded by trees, but in the valley only wild bamboo grows - no trees. I can only imagine how beautiful it must have all been a few months earlier when the valley was in bloom.

On the descent into the valley, Susanna gives a royal wave standing amongst the bamboo and other low shrubbery.

But it doesn't stay low everywhere. Here it is getting higher and thicker...

...and here higher and thicker still.

Another picture of the valley. Notice the tiny black dot at the bottom of the valley in the extreme right of the picture. That is Kinito working to catch up with us (click to enlarge). Gives you a sense of scale.

Nature can produce some strange things. I spotted this deep green gooey slime and got intrigued. I have no idea what it is or how it was produced, but it is a natural phenomenon and strangely repulsive and fascinating at the same time.

Everywhere in the valley you'll see wild strawberries like these.

Kini and our guide walking through the valley.

After all that walking a little rest was well deserved.

I conclude this post with this surprising sight. A small bridge covered in a white layer of icy snow. This is a wonderful feature of Dzukou valley - certain parts are in months of permanent shade in the winter due to the surrounding hills blocking out the sun's rays. This means that you get snow and especially ice here. Much more about that in my next post...