Shilloi Lake is spectacularly shaped natural lake is located at Phek District of Nagaland. On the Indo-Myanmar border, surrounded by beautiful mountains dotted with Naga villages. Shilloi Lake has the shape of a human footprint – a giant foot.
A group of friends and I recently went on a road trip along the eastern border. There we also got to visit this Shilloi Lake. We took the Zunheboto – Kiphere/Meluri road to Shilloi. A scenic mountain drive crossing different villages, towns and rivers. Although all Nagas, it turned out to be an eye-opening journey for most of us visiting this region for the first time.
Some of us had already been to this area and it was easy to find our way. We stopped by at Kiphere Town to do some of our ration shopping for Shilloi stay.
Not surprisingly, everything we bought was from shops ran by non-Nagas. They are everywhere in Nagaland, operate the entire essential commodity market. This made an interesting case study for us about the ingenious supply-chain link of the easy in-flow of “outside” goods even to the last. Remotest village linked by vehicular road whereas the outflow of any local product still seems to be an impossible task.
(had to capture this wide-spread phenomenon in Nagaland. Even if I had to use my low-quality mob cam at Kiphere Vegetable Market).
So, in all probability, we bought onions imported from Nasik. Apples from New Zealand. Tomatoes from Assam and brinjals have grown somewhere between Assam-Nagaland border. Beans from god-knows-where and of course, imported dal, eggs, noodles, tin fish etc. at Kiphere! Sorry, didn’t see any local vendors or any sight of locals selling anything. We’d have loved to taste at least one locally-grown item of this area, whatever the season.
Also found this row of pigeon coops and the forest-cleared area in the background. Winter had ended but it was still mid-dry season. When we visited and the vegetation seemed really sparse in some parts. The hills surrounding Kiphere looked baldish. Initially, it was rather disappointing to see stretches of barren hills almost brown and treeless.
It was also the forest-clearing season for Jhum and vast chunks of forest cover had been cut down, burned and tilled. Of course, by rainy season the whole area would be greened all over with thick vegetation again and the fields filled with rice, kholar, soy, yam and other local crops. But it seemed more vacant than other parts of Nagaland during this season.
It was a steep climb down the mountains in our vehicles and as we approached the destination, more and more pine trees greeted us. At first, we thought it was not indigenous but some large-scale plantation by locals since we see an increased number of introduced pine plantation around Nagaland in recent years. However, this was a natural one.
We reached Shilloi by nightfall and were welcomed by the villager’s people — the VDB secretary came to have a short chat with us, and the caretaker had already kept the rooms clean and open and the kitchen ready.
Villagers brought fresh fish for us (for which we paid them some money though they did not ask… we think it’s good to be grateful for the gesture and also pay for the service, and be friendly with the villagers).
A row of tourist cabins stands by the Shilloi Lake, which can be booked in advance. Five guest houses and a common kitchen – but you need to get your own ration and cook for yourself.
No gas stove, only firewood and a traditional fireplace. Nice but hard work cooking, especially tea-making and all the smoke. The rooms were clean and well-kept, and clean bathrooms with enough water- very important!
The place is maintained by Latium village, situated just above the Shilloi Lake, and the Department of Tourism, Nagaland.
In the morning we could see the lake bright and sparkling right outside our guest house with strong, thick, green reeds growing along the banks and mountains enveloping the entire area – it felt like we were looking up from the bottom of a bowl.
Calm and still, and like a looking glass the lake reflected the surrounding mountains – quite a picturesque treat. It was blissfully quiet – no noise pollution, no honking, no buses and cars, no cacophony of civilization. Just Shilloi Lake, the mountains and a small village nearby.
The weather was warm, almost humid and definitely not cold like in villages and towns at higher altitudes of Nagaland. We decided to spend a full day exploring the area, making a conscious effort to forget work, obligations, phone calls and technology. Our mobile phones had no connectivity.
So, good for us, a much-needed detox near Shilloi Lake without a choice, we were in a technology-free zone, and only the serene natural surroundings to keep us company.
Village boys on bamboo raft fishing and having fun.
The owners allowed us to ride their raft on the shallow side of the Shilloi Lake, and we also took a chance jumping into the water for a quick swim.
We left the next day, taking the same route back to another destination but our evening before was well-spent chatting with some of the villagers over a huge bonfire by the Shilloi Lake. What made the trip enriching was not only for the peaceful experience of natural beauty around
But also for the stories we got to hear from the villagers.
One interesting legend about the origin of the lake, according to the villagers’ narration ( we liked this version better because it fired up our imagination), was that a long time ago a very heavy blackness fell over Earth and this village — complete darkness like blindness never been experienced before.
Villagers could not even see their own feet, their houses, mountains or pigs and chicken or faces of neighbours. The Sun, Moon, Stars and all light disappeared for three days and three nights.
On the fourth day, however, the lights returned and to their surprise, the villagers found this beautiful Shilloi Lake formed right below their village! And not just any lake but it had the exact shape of a giant footprint!
So, we imagine that it was during those ancient times when giants and aliens roamed the Earth, one extra-large giantess probably stepped her foot on the village front yard creating this lake while taking three days to place her other foot somewhere in Egypt or the North Pole, thus blocking off the Sun.
We don’t know, but we could try finding out where the other foot landed for our next mission!
And that’s our extra masala bit to the story.
Have fun visiting Shilloi Lake! A must-do.
Do’s & Don’t’s for visitors
1. Do – take some Naga friends/guides along who can speak Nagamese well, if you’ve never visited Nagaland, and hire a vehicle from your start point (no public transportation).
2. Do prepare to cook your own food, take enough ration; also carry torches & emergency lamps.
3. Do be friendly with locals, they’re nice and hospitable.
4. Don’t shoot wildlife (or die!).
5. Don’t litter the lake and surroundings with ‘civilization’s rubbish’ – beer cans and plastics brought from your posh towns (for Nagas).