Deborah Azzopardi and Daryl Cauchi are a biker couple from Malta, who are on a round-the-world motorcycle trip. Riding a Suzuki V-Strom 650, the couple have toured India extensively over the past few months and are now on the way towards South East Asia. Currently, the couple are exploring the North East of India before they head out to South East Asian countries. They faced an unpleasant experience in Nagaland, when angry villagers prevented them from camping. Later, there were a few kind villagers who allowed them to set camp, enquired about their welfare and made sure they were comfortable.
Here is a first person account of the incident from Deborah Azzopardi,
Welcome? NO, not really.
It was Sunday. As soon as we reached Khonoma, we saw a big group of people coming down from the church. We waited for them to pass.
A guy with a bible in his hand immediately came up to us and with a steady, not so friendly tone said “Where are you going? What do you want? There’s only the church there. Turn around!”
“We came to see Khonoma”
The way to the village was under construction and it was closed.
“Park the bike here and walk. Ask for a hotel up there”
We never leave the bike ‘parked’ when it’s fully loaded, so we made our way to Dzuleke, another village close by.
Bought some snacks, and pitched our tent in a peaceful spot early afternoon.
On Monday, we decided to stay there for another day. No locals bothered us, only friendly smiles.
It was very peaceful and were in no rush. We were quiet, simply enjoying some time in nature, with no connection and not much to do. There were some locals close by, and we spent more than an hour talking to one of them, and it was interesting to learn some new things about Nagaland. I thanked him for letting us stay on their land and he left.
At around 4pm (it gets dark at 5pm), I was in the tent and I heard a guy talk to Daryl. He was telling him to go ask for permission to camp from the office (around 15kms of bad roads, mud and gravel), or else pack and leave.
To cut a long story short, apparently, we were still in Khonoma, just 1km away from Dzuleke Village and it was clear that the permission wasn’t really the issue – these guys just wanted us out. I heard someone slam his hand on the top box, voices suddenly raised and as soon as I went out of the tent, I saw two guys raising their fist towards Daryl.
In seconds, 5 guys got all angry and violent “This is our village!! Go!! Leave”
A rush of panic took over me and I immediately started shouting “don’t touch him!!!!”, and the guy who was doing the main talking pushed me as well. This was the same guy who had just come out of the church with the Bible in his hand the previous day. He also mentioned he was the Youth Council President.
I was shocked. I couldn’t do what I wanted to because the scenario would have taken a VERY bad turn. I started crying with frustration and told them that this was the first encounter of the kind we had in one year of travelling. Asked them to let us pack in peace, and we were gone in about half an hour.
We pitched our tent again in Dzuleke, 2kms away, where we thought we were in the first place. And again…some locals approached us when we were already sleeping, but this time, their concern was kind. They confirmed that we’re fine, not lost and wished us a good night’s sleep.
We looked for them the following day, still frustrated with what had happened. We were hoping to get more information on these people, but we didn’t. Dear people of Nagaland, if you see this, spread the word, so that people like these, do not continue to shed a bad light on the Nagas.
Lessons learned –
1. There is no use arguing with certain people and its not worth fighting, even if you wish to do otherwise.
2. You meet a lot of awesome people whilst travelling, but you find idiots in every corner of the world.
3. This didn’t change our opinion on the people of Nagaland. Everywhere else we’ve been, most people were friendly and one event does not reflect a whole state.
4. And finally, going to church/temple/mosque or carrying a ‘holy’ book in your hand doesn’t make you a good person. YOUR ACTIONS DO.