The bus was due to depart Nagaland State Transportation Station at 3pm, we left half an hour late and sat in standstill traffic for almost an hour. The journey after that was quick and pleasant. There were more Peking ducks on the bus than people. Every time we sped round a corner, a duck would slide along the aisle only to be picked up by its wing and passed back to it’s owner.
We arrived to Khonoma at 5pm on the dot. It was getting dark outside, and I was last off the bus. My hugely oversized backpack has been wedged inbetween the two front seats, so, eager to not cause a holdup in a very British fashion I hung back.
At first I followed the locals uphill from the bus station which is stationed in front of the Baptist Church before realising I would not find somewhere to stay just by wandering around and looking. After a moment of sheer panic and regret that I hadn’t pre-arranged a bed for the night, I referred back to the millions of screenshots I’d taken the previous day after tracking down a place to buy a local SIM card, I praised the Lord for that too as my UK number does not work here.
I called a number for Baby’s Homestay (9436071046), the guy Angulie was in Kohima at the time but text me the number of Neikedolie, the general manager at Dovipie Inn (+917085190373) who had someone come meet me at the bus station. I followed him down concrete stairways, he was friendly, spoke great English and spoke to every single person we passed. ‘We have to ask where they’ve been/where they’re going and wish them well,’ he told me. If it’s an elder male we call them Uncle, I jumped to the conclusion that female would be Aunty correspondently.
Which explains why earlier that day when I found myself watching a local football match to kill some time til the bus departed that a young guy called me ‘sister’ to get my attention. I like it, I think it emits warmth, kindness and respect.
Within a minute of talking to Naiso, my shoulders relaxed (as much as they could with 18.5kg on them anyway), my guard came down and I felt totally at ease. This isn’t rural India in the middle of the night where woman should not be out in the dark, it didn’t feel nor look like India at all. I felt totally comfortable, safe and welcome here.
I checked into the ‘dorm’ – 4 single beds (not a bunk in sight) with fresh white crisp sheets, complete with towels at the end, in one sparkling clean, bright and spacious room with ensuite bathroom featuring a real toilet with auto closing lid! (800rps/night) – put in my order for dinner and took a cold but refreshing shower.
With my doubts finally subsided, I was eager to wake up and see this magical place in the light.