Friday, 21 December 2012

Ziro valley - headquarters of Apatani tribe

Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

Accommodation in Aalo was scanty due to a conference when we returned from Menchukha. Following the intuition we got tickets in a Sumo which leaves at 5pm from Aalo to Itanagar (Rs.600, 10hrs) via Basar, Lilabari, Silapathar. The road from Aalo to Silapathar is winding with heavy traffic during night, frequented by trucks and buses. Ghostly fog reflected the headlights but the expert driver tackled the mountain roads and the police check posts with ease. Fortunately Biju at Hotel Kerala Bhawan was kind enough to open the doors, though we reached at the wee hours shivering in the unprecedentedly chilly Itanagar. Planned 48hrs bandh was cancelled and we were plodding through the worst roads in Arunachal to Apatani tribes' Ziro valley via Potin, Yazali (Rs.300, 5hrs).

Hotel Valley View near DC office (9402031058/9856210112, dbl Rs.500-800) with scuffed paint and faulty plumbing is not the best option, but it is centrally located. There is a bukhari in the restaurant, but mostly surrounded by drinking men in the evenings. Locals advise not to roam around in the town after dark, we didn't bother to check if it is safe in person. Christian missionaries have been active in Ziro valley, still many continue to practise Donyi Polo (sun and moon) worship. The whole point of coming to Ziro valley is to see old Apatani (Abotani) women with facial tattoos and peculiar nose plugs - imposed to make them look ugly to avoid kidnapping by Nishi tribesmen. Watch carefully, you may see them in the market at Hapoli itself. They may NOT be keen to be photographed, be very sensitive. If you want some pictures of Ziro, check the link below.

Vikraman, who works with APST in Old Ziro gave us a ride to APST bus station adjacent to a  WWII airport and a former army camp, at Suliya. There are frequent Tata magic to Old Ziro, Dutta and Hong villages are at walkable distance. Later we tagged along with Kaushik (HV Kumar's reference) to visit Hong Apatani village where terraced paddy fields bordering pine forest. In front of the traditional houses tall babo poles with crosspieces are raised during Nyakom festival which is celebrated in a three year cycle in each village, Hong will be the host in 2013 March. Locals are proud of Lapang platforms, made from ancient timber and used for community gatherings.  Stroll around the village and the fields where a unique system of poly culture and water management of the Apatanis is practised enjoying the fall colours of fertile Ziro valley.

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