Saturday, October 3, 2009
The Beihrual service seemed to drag on and on. It wasn’t so much the fact that everyone had a thing to say about our topic but that none of them seemed to be able to get on without several repetitions, uncaring of how much time they were stealing from me. I say stealing because on the night of September 24, I had things to do. It was the last night of the ‘Beihrual at homes’ phase and we finally called it a night around 9:15, had tea, got home close to 10pm. The reason I was in such a hurry was because there was a trip that was supposed to leave by around 6 the following morning, destination Vantawng Khawhthla and Hmuifang Tlang.
Still drowsy after about 3 hours of sleep, made my way to college after 6am on the morning of September 25. My haste must have been obvious by the steps I was taking- for the very first time in my six years of walking to college, I was offered a lift!!!! A welcome move such as this is extremely rare and accepted eagerly. Bless the kind man who was on his way back from dropping his daughter off for her tuition.
Signed myself in and met some students before leaving in an hour. It was already after 7 when the gypsy finally picked me up at ‘Pi Pangi Kawn’ and we still had to do a detour through Khatla to get some stuff for our excursion. It was getting difficult to sit still by then because the kids going with us were already waiting for me at home, getting restless. Got dropped at home where I changed very quickly and was ready to leave in ten minutes. But things rarely ever go according to plan- it was good half hour before everyone was ready- there were exactly 29 of us.
This was a trip planned and sponsored by 3Dimension, a company that was getting ready to launch Package Tours in Adventure Tourism. The plan was to head out to Thenzawl and make our way to Vantawng Khawhthla- the tallest waterfall in Mizoram, and move on up to the Hmuifang Tourist resort for the night. There were two main players from 3 Dimension and their driver; two singer-guests, the cameraman, 9 guys from two adventure clubs and 11 of my young friends and the drivers of the two pick-up trucks. By the time we stopped to get fuel at Kulikawn, it was already 8 and I knew we were running late, so much so that we had to make an unplanned stop to have tea on the way cos we, mostly I, got so hungry it was getting close to a heartburn.
Brunch was done at Chamring where a man I used to know had built a nice restaurant, pretty impressive for the very basic, clean amenities. Everyone was hungry by then- it was close to 11 and it’s amazing to see how much some of us can eat at times!!!:))
From there, Thenzawl was a short drive and then on to the waterfalls. The small road leading to the viewing gallery was about 2.5 kms from the main road and rather tough. The gypsy made it fine with no major hick—ups but it was a little tougher for the trucks, and one of the guys made sure he was safe by jumping off at least thrice on the way in. A viewing gallery had been built at a strategic hillside by the Tourism department from where the falls could be seen in all its majesty. The building itself had seen better days though, the white walls both inside and out were lined with graffiti- not the arty kind, just names scrawled with charcoal obviously left by visitors over the years.
Inside we geared up to take the trek down to the falls- odomos and salt were liberally applied to ward off insects that do not care if they suck your blood and leave nasty scars on their wake. Some of the guys from the Adventure club went down as an advance party to make sure there was a road leading down to the crevice in the falls and the rest of us followed. The terrain downhill was steep, small, slippery and overgrown with wild bushes- not something any of us had experienced very often. And as we continued to move, sometimes slipping and screaming with surprise and anguish, we couldn’t help but feel at times that we were not exactly on the right route because we seemed to walk away from the falls, not going to it. And we were right- although we didn’t know it at the time. It seems the route normally taken by trekkers leading to the crevice that could be seen from the gallery was dangerous at the time because the monsoon had been a little heavy. And the advance party had taken the trouble to make way down a lesser travelled route going down to a lower end of the falls. It took us about an hour’s walk through a steep hillside of heavy vegetation but it was worth it
The Vantawng falls is best seen in the monsoon because the water cascading down was heavy, forceful and dangerously powerful. At the crevice where we landed up, the water flowed fast and furious and those of us who couldn’t swim made a beeline for the small inflatable boat two guys had managed to bring down. The water wasn’t particularly deep at the ends and there were rocks that we could step on to make our way around the sides of the water. The only problem was that they were mighty slippery- I was advised to wear socks for a better grip. Some of the guys began angling and fishing, but there wasn’t too much live taking bait- the only fish caught were those that were grabbed by hand!! A small tent was put up and a fire started- we warmed ourselves up but couldn’t really do too much as time was running with us behind.
The thought of making it up back to the gallery was scary. Going downhill was one thing- one could even slip down some stretches, but going back up was going to take every ounce of strength, and with slippery shoes like mine, just the thought itself was scary enough. I didn’t think I could do it- but there were absolutely no options- walk up or be stranded.
The trek itself turned out to be easier and shorter than I had anticipated but far more tiring. I was in a party of five, the guy in front had a stick I pulled myself up with many times, and the one behind had the unenviable task of pushing me forward at some points. We had to stop some six time because I was quickly running out of breath. One time, I thought I’d died, falling flat on my bosom at an uphill stretch of a very small clearing. If it wasn’t for the two guys who pulled me back to my feet, I might have slept there for some traveller to find my bones many years later)
Hmuifang Tourist resort and a good night’s sleep was definitely more appealing than any of the more expensive energy-requiring acts I could think of then. Dinner happened at the same place and it was dark by the time we left for Hmuifang. That was definitely not the way I had planned. We wanted to be at the resort by sundown, set up tents and a campfire with music and some entertainment. Sadly, that was not to be. The electricity was at minimum power and the lawns were pitch dark, no campfire because no wood was available (how could they not have thought of this before??) and no tents, therefore no sleeping under the stars because it was just too dark outside to see anything!!! What a major disappointment.
But the VIP room, which I was sharing with three of my young girlfrens was abuzz with activity. The boys had nowhere else to go, nothing else to do- we were drawing them like bees were drawn to nectar…hahahaha!!! Our bed was turned into a massage parlour of sorts, the sofas were full, some decided sitting on the floor was fun too Light down was after midnight. Not to miss- 3 of us girls bathed together in the huge bathtub in our room!!
The morning of September 26 turned out to be beautiful and sunny, and not a cloud covered the horizon. The tents came up at campsite, umbrellas and chairs set up atop a small mount making a picturesque sight. The gypsy then made it up to Hmuifang tlang, one of the most beautiful hill sites in Mizoram.
The hilltop was worth the tricky but beautiful approach route that scared me at times. On the way up, there were spots that would have inspired beautiful lines from people more creative than the seven who made it up. Hmuifang tlang is special for the sight it offers- you can see the hills of Bangladesh and Burma and it is located right about the middle of Mizoram making it possible to sight Aizawl on the north and Lunglei on the south as well. The hill looks as though it has been covered with a stretch of artificial grass- beautiful beyond my vocabulary. The surprise for me was the growth of pine trees- something I haven’t seen anywhere else in the state, though I certainly am no authority on the matter. I wanted to sit there forever…
The trip back home is another story all by itself again. We were going to take the rough track over what is called ‘Midum Kham’, a very steep terrain, tall, rocky and entirely risky. The road was rough and the rains had made it more uneven and dangerously slippery. And I had decided to travel on the back of the pick-up truck- call me crazy! There were at least a dozen times when I thought our truck was gonna slip, slide and fall on its sides- I so wanted to jump down. But the guys around me made sure I sat still though they had to bear my ear-piercing screams. Through that rough path we made our way through the villages of Sumsuih, Thiak and Lungsai finally reaching the highway at Aibawk where we stopped to eat.
Adventure trips like this are an eye-opener. Mizoram has so much to offer that I am yet to explore. To be born here, to live most of my life here and to die never having seen at least some of these sights, to never have experienced fear from the hills I love, to never have seen the other lives I share this space with- that would have been a tragedy!