It was one of those trips! First time visit! Exploratory and loads of learning!
Journey to Aizwal …
When I heard for the first time that the flight was shortly landing at “Lengpui” instead of “Aizwal”, I wondered if I was on the correct flight! Lengpui is the nearest airport to Aizwal! It is about 45 kms from Aizwal town, the capital of Mizoram. As we were landing, from my window I could see green hills, hills and more hills!
At the airport those who are not residents of Mizoram have to get a “Inner Line Permit” valid for a 15 days stay in Mizoram. Go to the desk in the arrival section, state your purpose of visit, fill a simple form, pay Rs. 170/- and you are done! Easy! ( I did have a fine letter of support from the Chief Wildlife Warden though…)
I waited for about 2 hrs at the quite airport for Prathap Singh (IFS), who was joining me from Dehradun. He arrived at about 2 pm. It took us a long time to reach our hotel in Aizwal. There was a landslide and the usual road was blocked. Everyone took the detour and there was chaos!
At Aizwal we were warmly welcomed by Mr. Liandawla, Chief Wildlife Warden, Mizoram as we checked into a neat hotel. Thank you for all the help sir!
We were hardly able to get a glimpse of Aizwal as the sun sets at about 5 pm! Dinner time is between 4pm and 5pm. All business in Mizoram closes early and remains closed on Sunday!
Onward to Champhai …
So, Sunday morning after a quick breakfast and carrying packed lunch we set out to “Murlen National Park” via Champhai! Reuben was driving us in a Mahindra Bolero and Ruata was coming along as he was a local and was able to speak some English. The learning begins…
We left Aizwal at 8 am and reached Champhai at about 3 pm, 8 hours of easy drive along the 200 kms of winding hill roads!
We spent the night at Champhai. Our rest house at Champhai was very comfortable, it was located at a high point with a wonderful view down below!
On arrival we met up with Mr. Joseph P Liana the Range Forest Officer, Murlen National Park and his team. Mr. Liana and his team were with us for the rest of our trip! Thank you very much Mr. Liana for all the help!
|Prathap Singh and Joseph Liana|
Birding at Murlen …
Next morning (3rd November) it was almost 9am as we left Champhai and headed out to Murlen National Park. I was expecting a lot of birding as we reached a small village called Murlen, about 80kms from Champai, at Noon. Recent rains had made the narrow, mud roads in the hills almost impossible to drive on! However we did manage to reach Murlen …
I spent the next four days in the Murlen area and slept in one of the local houses. The entire village consisted of about fifty+ houses and was surrounded by thick forest. The experience was unique!
Starting 3rd November afternoon we made several
walks on various trials around the village until the 6th Morning. The forest was thick and green. Very soon I realized that the birds, even the very small ones were extremely
shy! Though we did manage to see a few rare birds, getting a decent view for an
ID itself was a challenge, let alone make a good photograph!
|Murlen National Park|
I was however able to photograph some birds I had never seen before! I was able to get images off Banded Bay Cuckoo, Black-creasted Bulbul, Chin Hills Wren Babbler, Crested Finchbill, Greater Yellownape, Green-billed Malkoha, Little Pied Flycatcher, Red-billed Liocichla and Streaked Spiderhunter...all uploaded on www.indiabirds.com
|Chin Hills Wren Babbler|
What I learnt about Murlen…
Murlen is a small remote village with thick forest all around. The 500+ villagers mostly live off the land. The entire household leave their homes at sunrise after a hearty meal (lunch) and return after a hard days work in the field (slope!). Dinner time is just as they return before dusk at about 4pm! Only two meals a day. All meals consist off boiled food! Everything they eat from meat to locally grown vegetables are simply boiled in water with salt and eaten. All houses have a fire burning in the middle of their living area all the time!
Anyone who can smoke will smoke! Homemade filter less
cigarettes cost Re. 1 in the shop. Homemade wine that they call “grape juice”
is available at Rs. 100 per one litre bottle. Football is a favourite pastime
among youth. Playing guitar and going to Church is common. Dog meat is on the
|Simply boil with salt and eat!|
Entire popolution of Murlen are Christians and most of them talk broken English. The Mizo language they talk is impossible to understand. There are two large churches and a decent school in the village. Almost anyone who can, has a baby! The village has good electricity and there is good harmony among villagers.
Back to Champai and crossing the border…
Before sunset on the 6th November we were back at our rest house at Champai. Next morning after a late start we reached the nearby Burma border at noon. We crossed over after obtaining a day pass and spent a couple of “touristy” hours across the border!
On the 8th November, we explored the Champhai
area a bit for birding without much luck. The birds simply refused to be seen …
and that is why they survive I guess!
|Pass to enter Burma...|
9th November we set back to Aizwal. The drive was easy and we reached Aizwal by 4pm. This time we stayed in a government guest house for two nights.
On the 10th we went over to the Office of the Chief Wildlife Warden, Government of Mizoram and met with Mr. Liandawla the Chief Wildlife Warden. We also met Mr. Lalrinmawia, IFS among others. After thanking all of them for their help and support we finally set out to explore Aizwal!
Aizwal the capital of Mizoram is crowded. People are friendly. The traffic is terrible in Aizwal as the roads are narrow and sloping with too many cars and bikes all the time! Mizoram (Land of the hill people) has a population of about 10 lakhs (2nd least populated state in India). Most of them are now Christians. The origin of the Mizos, like those of many other tribes in the North Eastern India is shrouded in mystery. Mizoram population is of diverse tribal origins who settled in the state, mostly from southeast Asia. The tribes converted to Christianity over the first half of 20th century. Mizoram is one of three states of India with a Christian majority (87%). Mizoram shares borders with Bangladesh and Burma.
On the 11th I took the 14.20hrs Air India flight to Kolkata and 18.10 hrs Air India flight from Kolkata to Bengaluru and was home for dinner!
Thanks PS, I always enjoy travelling with you!