The tea and the jungle together, beautiful mix.
Alternating they populate this mountainous district of the Mon, the first to receive us in Nagaland.
Never before I saw one mixture like this, I’m so amazed that even I don’t feel the hardness of the steep slopes, rocks or potholes in the road, nothing matters when you are between so much beauty.
The suffering involved in cycling those roads is the fee we have to pay to enter these lands, and seeing what surrounds us… still giving my 200% I would think it is a bargain!.
Beautiful faces, beautiful races and tribes.
Beauty and the most special, in the elderly, grandparents, grandmothers, those who lived in the times of the «head hunting» (heads hunters times) Yes, as you have read, heads, and yes human heads.
When we find in internet the information regarding that in these lands the people used to hunt heads, our eyes started sparkling:
-What? and that is true? Yessssssssss? – we could not believe what we read about on a state with about 16 different tribes being rivals until the 1970s, they have practiced this ‘art’ and among them, the Konyak (the tribe that populates the Mon State) appeared to be the largest and most courageous warriors.
In their customs was tattooing in relationship to the hunted heads: If the tattoo is in the chest, means that he has been trained in the art of hunting heads, if the tattoo is on the face, means that he has hunted some, and if he is a great hunter, tattoo will also cover the neck.
The queen and only her was the one who tatooated. They believed that along with the head was captured the spirit of the warrior and certain magical powers…
Everything we read sounded to us so unique, so incredible!!!
we seemed to be reading a book of fantastic stories rather than a reality. Of course, both decided the same:
-Let’s forget our plans and let’s go right now there!!!!. For something like this, everything can wait.
A huge curiosity and great interest emanated from within ourselves with this change, a mode of energy insuflate us, happiness making us smile of gratitude, not only because we are going to live another adventure but, by being free to change plans as well, from one moment to other.
Not having set a goal, allowed and allows us to turn the rudder without explanations and change course to our will and that, makes us feel millionaires in fortune, light and free, although our bicycles weigh is like a pair of large trucks.
So it was that, instead of heading towards the border with Myanmar (which already we had so close) we turned 400kms northward to enter in this state of Nagalad from the top to cross it from side to side, again a state of pure mountain.
Mountains, mountains, mountains is all we had in this state: about 800kms of ups and downs constantly, summits to valleys, and rivers, and back to the summit and the valley and river.
We have been cycling through tiny and lost roads close to the Burma border all the time, those kind of ways that we most like:
roads that the locals hardly take and no one knows neither if they are in good conditions or are totally destroyed, due to they have became so secondary, remote, forgotten… mmmm… so appetizing.
In these lands, and above all in the district of «Mon», the ancient generation who still is alive are the most special and unique that we saw in many years, perhaps from the Himba in Namibia we had not seen something so impactating.
Men and women of tattooed faces, colourful costumes, bags and hats with pieces of horns, hair wound in carved wood, necklaces of carved skulls, smiles and friendly eyes of those who were warriors and now, live in peace.
All men, from the oldest to the youngest carry a kind of short machete which is hanging from a kind of sheath made of wood, always on his back (of course, all done using the most traditional and artisan way).
-This is not a tool – Aitor commented the first time he had one in his hand – this is a weapon tool, this is for fighting Do you know why I know it? Because of the weight, is so balanced between the two extremes, not like an axe that the weight always is in one of the extremes… Look, you can move and rotate very fast – he explained while turned it slightly, with grace and style.
Sorry friends, we have to tell you that the photos we took of these people, of this generation are all mental. We don’t have a single to share in the net, but for sure if you want you can find images that others travelers have managed to shoot. And it is that we saw so clearly that they did not want to be photographed.
It was not a moment of doubt, moreover, they often escaped (always very subtly) from our eyes even, and looking such action, of course, that we remove or cover our camera in their presence.
Every day, each day, we slept in villages and with people.
To the constant warning that the insurgency groups that are fighting for the independence of Nagaland are hidden in the forests, and that they wouldn’t be very friendly with a couple of strangers, we decided to listen and instead of camping and retire at night, to go to the villages and to get to know, to see, to tell and to listen, listen… every night next to a fire.
As in Meghalaya, the constant has been that: evenings by the fire, sitting around, on small chairs of wood that does not rise more than an inch form the floor.
Closeness and warmth on cold nights.
The fact that in all the villages, there was someone who spoke English has made things easier, and also has made communication deeper allowing us to learn with them, things like that they are descendants of the Mongols and their villages, if they are always at the top of the hills, is due to continued attacks that were previously constant between tribes, even between neighbouring villages.
Each village was considered a kingdom and the “Angh” (figure that exists today) is the king or administrator though, when making decisions affecting the village, still today the elder people gather in assemblies which, due to their experience of life are more able to decide wisely for the good of all.
Elders voice is taken as wise and advisor, always.
Impressive, villages made of wooden houses and straw with skulls of buffalo hanging from the walls to the outside in the front (we counted up to ten in a house).
In the home of a young English teacher living with his parents, his wife and her young daughter, we stayed in the room where the shields and traditional clothes were stored… we got amazed!!. Bones, small skulls, animal skin and stones… something which they already left behind but still breath, although it is almost extinct.
As this young teacher told us, the young generation now have TV and they can watch what there is in the outside world and wish it… they do not want to work in the field more or staying in villages, they want cities, phones, cars, clothes, money and live as in those novels that they see.
Until a few years ago they were happy here, because they had not seen anything and therefore there was not a… «better» and if there is not a better there is not a “worse”. Now they are unhappy, now has come the dissatisfaction with the virus of the “occidentalitation”, that looks like it has not vaccination.
Recalling encounters, now appears the «Angh» of a village called «Aboi» that led us to sleep at his brother’s house. Sweet and quiet man with who we would have been talking for days, for weeks.
He told us that the problem of the “Naga” (Naga are the group of all tribes that populate Nagaland) is that on their land the president of two countries had placed a border, therefore their people have been divided into two different countries, with all that this implies.
– Also – he was telling us as we crossed the market walking towards the house of his brother – you have to be aware, that was only in 1970 that the tribes in this state we learned that there was a world outside. Nagaland – he had told us already with a tea in hand sat on the porch of the house – was not conquered by India but by the English, and was when England gave the independence to India, when this state became part of it. They gave us to the Indians and we signed a treaty with them, rather than agreement was a hoax, because it was never respected or followed.
The rest of the districts we have crossed have been milder in terms of time pedaling them, something more modern and with less austerity and toughness than Mon where the rain, the mud, the stress of such slopes, the ledges, the cold, the absence of people and the extreme austerity have made us to taste a general, continuous hardness without break.
That has made us stronger.
Legs hard as marble pillars, after days here we feel ourselves wilde.
Cycling we are strong, we feel like two wild pigs going throught the bush; right now is the same to climb up or to go down.
We move forward with strength, with passion.
We feel our minds also strong.
When you accept mentally that you have to climb up and down, and so it is going to be for days and, that the road is, and is going to be bad and finish, then… yes, you suffer, but it is a different suffering, because you don’t expect anything, no improvement and therefore no longer matters the hardness. So it is, and then you can enjoy it, everything goes together: enjoyment and suffering, like an “apple pie” the dough and the filling, and in every bite, a little bit of each.
The greeting for excellence in all Nagaland varies between:
-“All the best!” and “Enjoy your trip!»
The smiles and good wishes when they see us passing are daily, continuous, almost in every encounter.
One guy commented us that he realized that we were coming from far away to his village and he must help us in everything he can, if not at least, send us good wishes.
I can promise you that never before, in any other place (we already passed through many places and countries) I have never been pushed so many times helping me to climb a hill, and mostly they have been kids but also men and women:
-“Let me help you!» and they begin to push really hard, tripling the speed that I had, and they laugh, and I laugh more and they laugh even more, and we climb the hill tired but almost died of laughter.
Yes, Nagaland has been beautiful, a complete success when we made the decision to change our way, to cross these lands with it’s tribes without rushing.
We could still tell more amazing and incredible stories but those ones are no ideal to post on the web, we reserve them for meetings around one table. Stories which made us grow, learn, and as I said before, be stronger.