Shirui valley travelogue

Aditya Andiappan *

Climbing the Shirui Hills at  Shirui Village,  Ukhrul on 25 April 2018
Climbing the Shirui Hills at Shirui Village, Ukhrul on 25 April 2018 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

My father being in the army, I always get different opportunities to visit different parts of the country, whether it be the majestic Himalayas in the north to the sunny shores of Kanyakumari in the south or the sandy deserts of Rajasthan in the west to the richly cultured states of the northeast…one of which was our trip to the Shirui valley in Ukhrul district in the state of Manipur.

So, on ninth of May, my family along with our guests from Hyderabad decided to go and experience the beautiful and serene nature of the Lily valley… before revealing my whole experience there, let me first tell you about the rare flower found there.

Lilium Mackliniae or Shirui Lilly is a rare Indian species of plant found only in the upper reaches of the Shirui hill ranges in the Ukhrul district of Manipur, India, which is grown at an elevation of 5700 ft- 8500 ft above sea level.

This flower blooms in spring specifically between May fifteenth to June fifth. It has a pale blue-pink petal, but when observed through a microscope it has seven colors. It is grown only in the Shirui hill ranges due to its specific climatic conditions and soil pattern. It is also the state flower of Manipur.

We reached Ukhrul from the capital city Imphal a day prior and stayed overnight at Ukhrul. Next morning, we got ready at around 8 am and found that the day was cloudy and had high chances of having a thunderstorm. However, we decided to go on as per our plan no matter what. So, we and our guests along with some of my father's colleague from Tengnoupal district and a family from Ukhrul also joined us.

At around 9 am, we reached Shirui village thirteen kilometers away from Ukhrul town. Myself, my sister and son of our guest (Viraj) traveled in an open TATA Xenon and our parents were following us in another vehicle.

We also hired a local Naga guide from the village. The track was covered with rocks, wild fruits, dense thorny shrubs, tall mystique trees covered with wild orchids and with a touch of wildlife.

My family being avid dog lovers, the most interesting part of our trekking was that, we were joined by a small puppy from the village, I and my sister named him Shirui after the abode of the Lily. After crossing the bumpy rocky track, we came across a plateau with lush green grass covered with mist. It also had few natural ponds and the atmosphere was cloudy and biting cold. It felt like paradise.

After crossing the plateau we entered a thick forest covered with bamboos, orchids and mossy logs. The forest had no civilization. we the kids were quite faster than our parents, so we were all by ourselves in the forest. Just to entertain and divert other's mind from difficult track ahead of us, I decided to crack some jokes and also started singing (though I am not a good singer).

My sister being little scared of snakes, me and Viraj decided to take the topic of snakes just for the fun of it, until… I saw a fallen log covered with moss and wild fruits. I started poking the wild fruits but suddenly I realized a snake was curled up and it started to move. I shouted and we ran away from the spot as fast as we could.

It was still a half an hour journey to reach the hilltop. The path in the forest was not so easy as it had many steep climbs and undulated path. We continued our journey, we were able to spot different types of flora and fauna. Our legs were shivering and were quivering due to the difficulties in the track but we kept moving up.

We were wondering when we would reach our destination and experience the rare flower. After trekking around fifteen kilometers(3 hours) with such difficulties, we came out of the forest. We could now see an open ground on top of the hill with cloudy sky (we were at around 7800 ft above sea level).

The whole atmosphere was filled with happiness and joy on reaching our destination. I was surprised to see little Shirui came all along the way with us. It indeed made the saying true about dogs being loyal to humans.

We were contented after seeing the flower in reality, it was thriving in beauty and had qualities that delight and pleases the senses. It took some time for our parents to reach. After everyone enjoyed the beauty of the flower, we decided to have some rest and have our packed lunch. We also fed little Shirui. Within few minutes of our rest, we saw the thick dark cloud coming towards us and started drizzling with strong wind. Some of our umbrellas while defending the strong wind got overturned.

Now it was time for us to move down. It did drizzle little at the beginning of our journey back but we didn't realize it would get worse than what we thought. Again we entered the forest but it did change little after the shower which made the track muddy and slippery. While on the way we did slip but did not get hurt. I always love the smell of petrichor. I was also able to smell the wildlife.

Yet again we three were quite a bit fast and we were all by ourselves and the rain kept on gradually increasing. We now came out of the forest and were thrilled to see the sky completely murky with zero visibility.

We lost our track to move further down and the intensity of the rain increased as if the heaven have opened up. So, we all three decided to stop walking down further to avoid getting lost and we were waiting for our parents who were way behind us.

Once our parents reach-ed us, we started moving further. suddenly thunderstorm with strong wind made havoc among us and our umbrellas and caps were flown away and we could see some of them flying in the air. Some of our umbrellas also got broken and everyone got dren-ched. The best scene we could see at that point of time was the clearing of clouds over the village. It was really a mesmerizing moment, it felt like as if God Zephyrus was gently moving his clouds towards the heaven from the village.

After some time the rain gradually decreased and we decided to move down. But the real problem came when we were not able to find our track due to the changes caused by the hea-vy rain. At this point of time, we asked the guide to lead the way to the Shirui village. Even the guide encountered many difficulties to find the track because of the heavy rain.

However, due to certain markings and points he knew before, he was able to take us to the village. At around 3.30 pm we reached the vehicle parking area safely. To conclude my travel experience, the trekking was not easy going. This experience taught us to ensure that one must be physically tough and mentally robust.

Shirui valley is indeed the abode of the majestic Shirui Lily. After knowing that this beautiful species of the God is getting extinct due to the va- garies of the mankind, we must do our best to protect it.

Now, one must mark Shirui valley in their bucket lists of traveling.

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart":- Confucius

* Aditya Andiappan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on May 29, 2018.

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