“Best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray” there is no better way than this to explain our trip to Mizoram last month (9th to 15th August 2012). It is not called as Mysterious Mizoram for nothing! These lands of Blue Mountains welcomed and wrapped us (a bunch of 10 people) in her folds while we watched the blue skies smiling at us. Now wait it was monsoon , all of us were dressed top to toe in rain gear but a bright, sweltering sun sucked up our energies and hopes as soon as we set our foots in Aizwal. We were all dazed and exchanged helpless glances at each other.
But Mr.H.T.Lalremsanga, professor, Department of Zoology, Mizoram University, held the key to bring smiles back on our faces. He showed his long list of rescued snakes and got us all excited:
• Short nosed vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina),
• Monocled Cobra (Naja kaouthia),
• Pope’s Pit Viper (Trimeresurus popeiorum popeiorum),
• Checkered Keelback (Xenochrophis piscator),
• Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus),
• Green Cat Snake (Boiga cyanea)
• Spot-tailed Pit Viper (Trimeresurus erythrurus),
• Stoliczka’s Stripe-necked Snake (Liopeltis stoliczkae), a snake recently rediscovered in the north-east and
• 3 juvenile king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) from this year’s hatching
Seeing juvenile king cobras from Mizoram was a first timer for me and they looked very similar to their counterparts in the Western Ghats.
The next day we were in for more excitement at Mr.Hrima’s place. Hrima is among very few people up here who rescue and relocate snakes and is now working on bringing snake rescuers across Mizoram under one banner to ensure better reach. His set of rescued snakes comprised of:
• Cherrapunji Keelback (Amphiesma xenura),
• Mountain Pit Viper (Ovophis monticola),
• Painted Bronzeback Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis pictus),
• Green Trinket Snake (Elaphe prasina),
• Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus),
• Copper-headed Trinket Snake (Coelognathus radiatus) and
• A juvenile King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)
On the third day when the rains still remained behind black clouds we decided it was time to go up the mountains with minimal gear. We trekked up the Reiek Mountain, home for fascinating variety of hill birds. No sooner did we take our baby steps the clouds broke loose and we stood in dismay. Now this was what rains looked like in Mizoram. Trekking steep slippery slopes was a challenge and by the end of it, all of us had slipped and most fell but everyone had laughed their guts out. It was fun!
Mizoram had a knack of throwing surprises at us and probably enjoyed looking at our faces every time. Our plans to visit the Dampa Tiger reserve, Murlen National Park and the Champhai town all came crashing down with a landslide on those routes. So our next destination was a place totally unheard of, the Tamdil Lake. But this time we were glad and thanked Mizoram for her plans.
For the next two days we explored new paths into the forest and discovered amazing life. Apart from myriads of birds, butterflies, beetles, spiders, crickets and fungi, our primary focus on snakes yielded us sightings of a Juvenile Cherrapunji Keelback (Amphiesma xenura),Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus), and a Checkered keelback (Xenochrophis piscator).The highlight was witnessing a Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) hunt a frog and swallow it.
Travelling these picturesque hills is a pleasure but seeing road kills is not. Road kills included an Indo-chinese Rat Snake (Ptyas korros), Black Krait (Bungarus niger) and a White-barred Kukri Snake (Oligodon albocinctus).
Back in Aizwal we got to see a female Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) at a friend’s place and a Yellow-speckled Wolf Snake (Lycodon jara) at Hrima’s place.
On our way back to the airport we witnessed an accident where a motorcycle dashed into a jeep. Believe it or not none of the drivers raised their voice or bad mouthed the other and there was no commotion whatsoever. All they did was clearly marked the accident spot, each one called their bosses and settled things peacefully. This is an attitude that everybody all over India need to learn and emulate. Women here seemed to be far more enterprising and managed most business centers. I personally felt that Mizoram seemed to have a fairly advanced society compared to other states in our country.
I want to specially thank H.T.Lalremsanga, Siama, Hrima, Lindaji (a multitalented celebrity and extremely kind lady who is a model, rescues snakes and a great singer), for their help and support, Saipari Sailo who took us shopping in Bara Bazaar and all my friends who rolled up their sleeves for all our unplanned adventures.
We bid good bye to amazing Mizoram towns and watched life go by with guys on roads, their T shirts folded up till their chest washing their super cool bikes, stylish carefree ladies walking along, and kids playing on road sides.
A very different life style, very lovely and hospitable people, interesting cuisines, extremely rich wildlife and wonderful landscapes, all this made our trip to Mizoram one of the most memorable one…once again.
Authors: Sharmila & Gowri Shankar
Acknowledgement: Ashwini VM