48 kms from Imphal is the largest fresh water lake of the region. Having learnt that, one of the key things I wanted to do when I came to Imphal, the capital of Manipur, was to visit and see the Loktak Lake.
Imphal is where the Senior Women’s National Football Championships are being held. 890 metres above sea level, this is the perfect altitude to be at if you are spending an afternoon watching football. It’s very pleasant, breezy and if you take your eyes off the football field, you see blue-green hills in the distance no matter where you look. The temperatures range between 9 and 29 degrees Celsius and even at 12 noon, if you are in the shade you are happy to have a jacket on.
Imphal Valley as it is called, is in the furthest north east corner of the country. It feels good to be here after being in the furthest west corner of the country at sea level. It’s laidback, rustic, and… military controlled. There are soldiers everywhere in a variety of uniforms. And there’s a wide choice of armed and armoured vehicles. Army trucks, armoured trucks, gun-mounted gypsies… the works.
But the people of Imphal are the most peaceful you’ve ever met. They are not wont to fight or even raise their voice. They are smiling and soft-spoken and their language sounds as sweet as the sounds of the valley. So what the military is doing here is not really obvious to the lay tourist. Loktak Lake is situated about 48 kms from Imphal. A bit of mental math tells me that would take 45 minutes.
But this is Imphal. And 48 kms is not really all ‘road’. And of course we have chosen to take an auto-rickshaw with an extra smart and a bit presumptuious driver to lead us to our sightseeing paradise.
Trundling along what is supposed to be NH 150(it takes you south to Mizoram) we pass cavalcades of army trucks, other cars, jeeps and of course auto-rickshaws, scooters and cycles. We reach Loktak lake, after a few hiccups and false stops, about an hour and a half later. It’s a non-touristy place looked after by the army. There are traces of the army everywhere.
A road winding up the hill takes us to a breathtaking view. The hill is actually in the middle of the lake and the lake stretches on all sides that the eye can see! It’s truly beautiful, serene and…. sadly, neglected.
Apparently a part of the lake has a floating national park. However most of this place is underdeveloped and difficult to reach simply because you don’t know how to get there. There’s so much natural beauty in India and sadly between politics and corruption we don’t value it. With these thoughts I came down the hillock and we proceeded back to Imphal in silence.