Meghalaya II ( Around Shillong )

29th Dec 2019
Photo of Meghalaya II ( Around Shillong ) by Family On Wheels

Meghalaya, literally “the Abode of the Clouds” is also known as the “Scotland of the East”. Obviously therefore, we expected a trip through the clouds, beneath the cliffs, over the lakes, along the waterfalls and across the valleys. But Meghalaya revealed a few more secrets to us in the 4 days that we stayed there.

We were staying in Shillong and had just one day to soak up the rest of Meghalaya. We knew that it was next to impossible to cram everything in a day, so we left some of the places out, even some notable ones like Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram. However, even then we had our hands full. Therefore, we started out early on the day of our sojourn.

Day 1

The early morning drive through the frosty glens, sometimes in the shadow of the hills and sometimes on roads slick with sunshine, was dreamy and beautiful. The first stop was Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia. A very tidy place with wide streets and overhanging flower bushes and every single house turned into a homestay. The village looks less like a place where people actually live and more like a movie set. Not a lot of people were to be seen around, especially since it was very early on a Sunday. There was a tiny bridge and a quaint little church as well. All in all, it felt like a very beautiful painting, colourful, pretty and silent.

The pristine streets of Mawlynnong village

Photo of Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Family On Wheels
Photo of Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Family On Wheels

Just outside the village is the self-explanatory Balancing Rock, in a clearing within a bamboo wood. Rocks such as this, are not rare in the Himalayas, but the green sunlight filtering in through the tall bamboo and the breeze whooshing softly through the bamboo leaves gave it an other-worldly feel.

The next stop was the Living Root Bridge of Nohwet Village. Reached after a trek down the hills, the Living Root Bridge is truly a marvelous creation. The roots of rubber trees which had been planted around 1840, on each bank of the Thyllong River, have been trained and woven into a bridge by certain members of the Khasi Tribe possessing the know-how and who are now immortalized on a plaque at the site of the bridge. The bridges are closed for maintenance twice every year, when the mud and bamboo, that is laid between the roots for additional support, is washed away, the roots cleaned and a fresh layer of mud and bamboo is re-laid. It stands as a perfect example of Mutualism that can exist between man and nature and perhaps that is why, through the love and labour of the people who built it and now take care of it, it has withstood the tests of time, modernism and a culture of over-consumption and stands strong and tall even today.

Living Root Bridge, Nohwet Village

Photo of Meghalaya II ( Around Shillong ) by Family On Wheels

The mud and bamboo that is laid between the roots to strengthen the bridge

Photo of Meghalaya II ( Around Shillong ) by Family On Wheels

These steps take you to the Living Root Bridge

Photo of Meghalaya II ( Around Shillong ) by Family On Wheels

Then we went to Wah Umngot and the clean waters of the Dawki were as much a sight to behold as the towering mountains on either side. The climb down to the river was more treacherous than the one at the Living Root Bridge, with people slipping and sliding on loose sand. The boat ride was fun though. The fish swimming in the clean waters were as clearly visible as the water they swam through. The hot sun on your back and the cool water through your fingers, the boatmen perched on the tip of their boats and using their strong arms to steer their boats, are all pictures in my mind to last me a lifetime.

And then, there were the vendors of jujube pickle. When the boats were brought to an island and we had been sufficiently warned by the boatmen not to disembark since this was Bangladesh, along came a horde of young men, their pockets bulging, ignoring the “dada-s” and urging the “boudi-s” in the boats to try their jujube pickles and making brisk business. Even I fell into the boudi trap and bought some. Poor choice, since I don’t like jujubes, but hey, its not every day that I have a horde of “devars” urging me so sincerely to have pickles!

The banks of the river Dawki

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Family On Wheels

Perched on the tip of his boat he, as we glide through the water

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Family On Wheels

The towering hills on either sites were as beautiful as the river itself

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Family On Wheels

After the boat ride, we were back in the car and once we crossed into the Dawki Market, we began looking for somewhere to eat. While standing in front of a small restaurant called LT Hotel, we wondered aloud if we should go to the next door Das Hotel. The proprietor of LT Hotel overheard us and called us inside, insisting that we partake of his hospitality that day and leave Das Hotel for later. No sooner were we seated that he got us platefuls of steaming rice, dal, vegetables and chicken and fish, cooked in just the Bengali way. Every so often, he would return to complain about how little we ate, wondering if we did not like the food. While we would hastily assure him that his food was indeed delicious, he would serve some more.

LT Hotel, just off the Dawki Boating point offered simple but delicious meals

Photo of Meghalaya II ( Around Shillong ) by Family On Wheels

No wonder then that by the time we were done, I was so full, I would rather roll down the hills than drag myself into the car. Therefore, when we reached the Krang Shuri Falls a little later, I volunteered to stay back and guard the car. Since I realized how ridiculous that sounded and also that son and husband would never let me hear the end of it, I did not follow through on my offer and trotted off after them. Most people were on their way up and their gasping breaths sent a shiver down my spine. Nevertheless, I continued my brave descent. When I finally reached, what met my eyes was the most beautiful sight on this trip. Maybe it was the setting sun’s light or the kids shouting and swimming down there or the rich woody, mossy smell of the greenery all around or the feel of cool water in the air, whatever it was, it captivated all my senses at once. White frothy water descending into a blue pool, the pool lined by boulders and greenery overhanging from the crags above into the pool, the sight was as beautiful as terrifying.

At the Krung Shari Falls as white frothy water descends into a blue pool, the pool lined by boulders and greenery overhanging from the crags above into the pool

Photo of Krang Shuri Waterfall, Meghalaya, India by Family On Wheels

To see a mountain is to realize the greatness of nature, to see a river is to see it in motion, to see an ocean is to realize the wealth in its secrets, and to see a waterfall is to see its might and glory. It breaks boulders and moves rocks on its way, and yet as it falls, bursting forth into a million droplets, it still retains its power to break and to move as it breaks light, that which is as intangible as it is unbreakable, into tiny fragments of red and indigo and green and blue and sets them into a colourful arc right here on earth. And, with that rainbow we ended our visit to the Land of the Clouds.

The setting sun, Krang Shuri Waterfalls

Photo of Meghalaya II ( Around Shillong ) by Family On Wheels

There are a lot of things in Meghalaya that we did not have the time for and we had excluded from our travel plans. When we reached there, we found that there were a whole lot of other things that we had no idea were there and therefore had never even considered. Will I have another chance to go back there? It is too remote, so maybe not. But if I do have the chance, I don’t think I'd think twice.

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