Have You Met Subu : My Gateway To The Apatani Culture & UpStream Trekking

After the Ziro Festival of Music and a week of wearing shorts, I finally put on my pants and headed to the Bulla Basti where the college in town lies.  While I was strolling around and waiting for exams to end,  hoping to meet some friends I made at the ZFM, three guys come on a pick-up truck and park at the end of the road. One of them, Subu, casually started conversing with me and invited to what would turn out one hell of a ride! “Where are you from? We’re going fishing in the jungle, want to join in?” Subu casually asks. I couldn’t afford to let go of such an offer.

En route, he tells me he is an engineer from Bangalore and is now chilling in his hometown in Ziro. He also taught me some go to phrases in his native Apatani dialect. You could say ‘Nii Miido’ to ask what’s up. Also, their football is a pig’s bladder, called ‘Sapu’, another unconventional perk about the Apatanis.

One of them was the Know-It-All guy, who knew his way around the forest and was an expert at fishing, so let’s call him The Fisherman.

FISHERMAN OF THE DAY
FISHERMAN OF THE DAY

They had a plan to lunch at the waterfall but then realised that they forgot to bring the salt and chillies and so they headed to the local house to get some.  The houses here have a storage in the center to dry the woods called ‘Darake’.

DARAKE IN A LOCAL HOUSE
DARAKE IN A LOCAL HOUSE

Moving on, for the first time, I saw Mithun, a little shy animal from the Bison family found in Arunachal. It has a salty tooth so we fed it some salt which the locals helped us with.

MITHUN
MITHUN

Our fisherman buddy was so good that he was trekking up stream and fishing simultaneously and still leading us. While I was busy taking pictures, we crossed beautifully changing landscapes throughout and after getting drenched once, we decided to go upstream trekking ourselves to keep away from the area full of leeches.

UPSTREAM TREKKING
UPSTREAM TREKKING

Despite that, we had a leech removing session every 10 minutes. In the midst of all this, while jumping over a fallen tree, my pants got torn half way through.

LEECH REMOVAL
LEECH REMOVAL

My fellow companions couldn’t estimate the time accurately and the day light had started fading away. We had to ditch the waterfall plan since it was getting dark. We had already trawled a good amount of fish and on our way back, we just had one thing in mind, to get out of the forest and reach the trail before it got darker.

CATCH OF THE DAY
CATCH OF THE DAY

While on the way back, I stumbled upon a dead snake and pointed it to Subu. He then takes my trekking stick, ensures it’s dead, and slides it in his pocket. Now that was a first for me.

DEAD SNAKE ON THE WAY
DEAD SNAKE ON THE WAY

After reaching home, we got rid of the leeches again.

LEECH THERAPY
LEECH THERAPY

Our fisherman buddy now turned into a Chef.

FISH COOKED IN BAMBOO
FISH COOKED IN BAMBOO

He put up one big fish on the stick and the other smaller ones in the bamboo.

FISH
FISH

He then prepared what they called ‘Sudu-ngi’ which literally translates to Bamboo Fish.

SUDU NGI
SUDU NGI

Other peculiar savouries here are Piike Piila- a pork dish, dog meat, frogs and snakes that taste much like the fish.

However, I didn’t get to taste the snake as they didn’t make it in their house. After a long, eventful day, we chilled for a while after dinner and called it a night.

To all the wonderful peeps who made this a sublime experience, Paya Aro-Pacho. That’s Thank You in Apatani.

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