11th Jul 2017
Photo of MEGHALAYA ON TWO WHEELS(AS 25H 1498) by Kritharth Pendyala

An Insight to the trip:

A solo trip was always on the cards with me being such an avid traveller. The love for travel has always been increasing since the time I incepted that the world is such a large place, and you need to visit each land to get a taste of what the earth actually looks like, from the inside. So, Meghalaya just whizzed past my mind and I wanted to visit it simply because it is in the north-east and it is the perfect place to backpack to. Alone. Choosing a two-wheeler as the perfect company, I embarked on the journey to know myself, Better.

About Meghalaya:

Meghalaya is a state filled with the beauty of the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia hills, some enthralling views, inconceivably beautiful valleys, some breathtaking spots, And more...

Day 1

(Mumbai to Guwahati to Shillong):

I took a morning flight to Calcutta and then from there to Guwahati in the afternoon. I landed in Guwahati at about 4pm and left to Neeraj's place to hop onto my companion. The Royal Enfield Classic 350. Neeraj is the owner of Life On Wheels, the place I rented my bike from. On completion of certain formalities and paperwork, I left for Shillong. Shillong is a good 105km from Guwahati. The ride to Shillong was in itself a sort of an adventure. An experience. 50km into the ride, the bike started to behave differently, the rear brake ceased to work and the front one was throwing a jerky motion by locking itself randomly. One could say that it was about 40% fit at that instance. And then the daylight started to dim down owing to the quickly approaching evening. There began the challenge. I somehow managed to manoeuvre till Shillong with the same condition of the bike. Engine braking and riding slowly were the key here. Some skiddy moments and close calls made me even more road-ready. I reached Shillong at 9pm. My body was in all sorts of pain one could imagine, because of the ride that I had just completed. I had a quick shower and dinner and in the meanwhile I spoke to Neeraj regarding the condition of the bike. Crashed off to sleep immediately after that!!!

Day 2

(Shillong-Scotland of the East):

Neeraj was quick to respond and an arrangement for the bike to be picked up and repaired was made by him through the local Royal Enfield Service Centre. After handing over the bike, I left to explore Shillong. I was put up in a nice hotel in the main area of Shillong called Police Bazaar. I took a local cab, since my bike was getting ready for the road ahead. The day trip in Shillong consisted of certain places of importance. The first place I went to was the Shillong Peak also known as the Shillong Viewpoint. It is just a normal spot from where the entire capital city of Shillong is visible, In one glance. The peculiarity of this place is that it is located inside the Army Cantonment area, so there is thorough frisking of the travellers before entering. Also ensure that you have a photo identification proof ready for perusal. Next was the Elephant falls which is the shining star of Shillong. Divided into 3 separate areas of water flow, one has to descend a flight of around 50 steps for each area. It was just mesmerising. Some photographs and a steady climb up from the base area of the waterfall took me to the parking area. Then I set off to visit a lovely lake called the Ward's lake. This lake has it all. A big waterbody, clean grass all around, some beautiful flowers and above it all, a stunning silence. A silence in which you could hear yourself. Perks of travelling alone, ain't it? Moving on we halted at a zoo-park called the Lady Hydari park. Some unhappy Black Himalayan Bears and chirpy Geese was all that I could see. They were inside unclean enclosures. I hope that the entry fee that we pay, eventually is used for the actual development of these areas. The visit to the Cathedral Church followed. The silence and the serenity of the holy place was enough to freshen up and setup some really good vibes. It was now time to visit the Shillong Golf Links. This is a large area of lush green natural turf, where apparently golf is played on weekends by the locals. On seeing this place I was reminded of Khajjiar in Dalhousie and how Khajjiar is known as the Mini Switzerland of India. The Golf Course in Shillong was so much more clean than Khajjiar, which has now become a purely commercial place with lots of crap around. It clearly struck to me that Shillong is such an underrated hill station. It has a beautiful waterfall, a very calm lake, some lush green outfields, and a viewpoint just like any other hill station. Definitely Shillong doesn't receive the attention of a tourist like any other mainstream hill station in the north. I returned back to my room after having a light meal. Lots of good cafés around the Police Bazaar area, if you want to have an experience of the local culture. After walking down to another market area called the Barra Bazaar, I came back to my room and ensured that I get a good night's sleep before the drive next day to Mawlynnong-Asia's cleanest village.

Elephant Falls in full flow at Shillong

Photo of Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala
Day 3

(Mawlynnong-Asia's Cleanest Village):

The bike reached me at 10am in the morning and it was about 80% fit for the journey. And then this beauty never gave in to any of the tough circumstances or roads that it faced throughout the entire trip. Mawlynnong is 40 km further ahead of a place called Pynursla. The total distance to Mawlynnong from Shillong is 90km. Enjoying the ride and soaking in the atmosphere took me 3hrs to reach Mawlynnong, a beautiful village nestled in the Khasi hills of Meghalaya. Some heavy fog enroute ensured that I could become a seasoned rider for life!!! I checked into the room in a homestay that I had booked through Airbnb. This was a house belonging to Ms. Nangroi. Meghalaya is a female empowered state and hence it is the ladies who run the house and look after everything. This place was the most basic house. Just like a typical village house made of bamboo logs entirely, even the wash area and the washrooms. The outlets were merely gaps through the bamboo logs stitched together. It was a divine experience staying at her homestay. I left to visit the nearby places which are very less explored by the tourists that come here. Living root bridges are exclusive only to Meghalaya and they are a wonder of all sorts. Riwai living root bridge was in the adjoining village of Riwai. The roots of a peculiar rubber tree are wound and made to grow in such a manner by the village locals here that they interlock with each other over a period of time and then stones are laid over to create a path to cross the underlying stream or river. They are mainly created to have access to villages on the other side of the river, which otherwise would not have been easily accessible owing to the river currents. This living root bridge is said to be the widest and the age is said to be a hundred and fifty years, atleast. This is one of the most commercial one in Meghalaya owing to its easy access. The other ones demand a consuming trek of atleast 2 hours. Then I visited the Nohwat point in the Nohwat village. This spot is completely untouched. The view is of a valley with a river flowing underneath the windings of the mountains and the surrounding hills have atleast 15 waterfalls visible to the naked eye. It took me around a minute, just to believe that this place was indeed real. Then I left for a trek to the Shilling Jhashar root bridge. The base point is close to Mawlynnong village. An interesting trek along the forests for an hour and a half took me to the Shilling Jhashar living root bridge. The base of the bridge here is made of bamboo sticks but the support cables are again the roots of a different type of rubber tree. The water below was crystal blue and so clear that everything underneath was visible. I got back to the base village and walked down to Mawlynnong. I went to the room and freshened up. The locals here keep sipping on red tea like water. Ms. Nangroi made the tea in the evening and I was wanting to spend time with the family. I sat there in the common area of the house which also has a cooking area. Chatting and conversing with my hosts gave me immense pleasure. The couple had three small kids with whom I was reminded of my childhood days. I had a simple and a humble meal at one of the local eateries and went off to sleep.

The Living Root Bridge in Riwai near Mawlynnong

Photo of Mawlynnong Nongrai Homestay, Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

View from Nohwat View Point

Photo of Mawlynnong Nongrai Homestay, Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

A beautiful house with soulful people, I felt lucky to have stayed here!!!

Photo of Mawlynnong Nongrai Homestay, Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

The root bridge at Shilling Jhashar

Photo of Mawlynnong Nongrai Homestay, Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

My only companion with A majestic waterfall in the backdrop

Photo of Mawlynnong Nongrai Homestay, Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala
Day 4

(Dawki/Shnongpdeng-India Bangladesh open border across the river):

Some early morning rain and clouds inside the entire village of Mawlynnong said Good Morning. The clouds soon receded and by 9am, I was off to the Border area of Dawki village. The entire route is full of BSF JAWANS patrolling the area. A tough 1 hour and 15 minute ride along a rocky road brought me to Dawki. There started my hunt for a fuel station as the petrol level was pretty low. I was lucky enough to find a fuel pitstop just round the corner, with the help of some locals. There is a bridge that you cross to get to the other side of the mountain. Down below is the crystal clear water of the Umngot river. Can the sight get any better? I'll let the pictures answer this question. I parked my bike at the boating station and took a canoe ride in the river Umngot. The boatman mentioned that I was very lucky to have got an opportunity to go boating in the river, because the river was closed for all activities for the previous 8 days due to high levels of water and strong river currents. A 45 min boat ride with absolute silence was probably the best anyone could ever ask for!!! Shnongpdeng is the other side of Dawki and is equally beautiful. On the way back from Dawki to Mawlynnong there are several waterfalls and the route is treacherous both ways. One of the waterfall is a huge one that falls on a portion of the road and you will be partially drenched if you pass that route on a two-wheeler. This is an unnamed waterfall and the Border Security Force personnel were kind enough to grant the permission to halt the bike a few steps away and stand under the falls. Surreal experience. I followed back the same route and I was in Mawlynnong by sunset. The routine of sitting and spending time with the host family continued. I met a couple from Delhi who had just checked into the adjacent room and they were pretty much leisure travellers. The usual practice of having dinner alone on this trip just took a short break, for I had dinner with this couple. We shared all experiences and spoke about various minute things that give immense pleasure in life. I went back to my room and retired for the night.

Boating in River Umngot, Dawki-Shnongpdeng

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

River Umngot showing off its beauty to the clouds

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

An unnamed Waterfall on the way to Dawki

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

The other side to the unnamed falls

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

All that You see is Bangladesh!!!

Photo of Dawki, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala
Day 5

(Cherrapunji-The Wettest place on Earth):

Cherrapunji is known as Sohra by the local Khasi people here. Known to have the highest annual rainfall and also pronounced the wettest place on earth, Sohra welcomed me with glistening roads and open skies that were the bluest of blue!!! The road to Sohra from Mawlynnong is 100km long and takes 3hrs usually. A leisurely wakeup and an even more well paced drive from Mawlynnong got me here. After I checked into the homestay at Scarlet's, I immediately left to see the places that were around. Nongthymmai eco-park is the place where the Seven Sisters falls originates. It is a rocky plain where a small stream of water turns into a majestic waterfalls. Such a beautiful landscape to conceive isn't it? Mawsmai Cave is where I went next. It is a constant stalagtite and stalagmite formation which has a tiny entrance and you have to crawl your way into the actual cave formations which consist of anthropod fossils etc. Mawkdok viewpoint shows you the entire valley on the top of which Cherrapunji is nestled upon. I simply cannot putforth the beauty of this place in words. Then we were off to see the 2 most proclaimed waterfalls: The Seven Sisters falls(from its view point) and Nohkalikai falls. Legend has it that Nohkalikai got its name from a girl named Likai who jumped along the falls to death from remorse and grief that she had eaten her daughter who was killed by her husband. Hence the name Nohkalikai falls meaning "The Leap Of Likai". When we reached the place, there were clouds that completely engulfed the valley ensuring that the Nohkalikai falls couldn't be seen. With the hope of seeing it the next day. We went to Arwah caves, the route of which is a hike of 1.5km along a rocky path which has been laid down. Some fossils and stalagtite formations were discovered as recently as 2 years back from now. So it was a different experience as compared to Mawsmai cave which has been in existence since long. When I came back to the room, there was a guy from Mumbai who was also backpacking on a solo trip. He had just come back from a tiring trek to Nongriat. We would go on to share my room for that night. Dinner was at a local restaurant that serves really good Chinese Food. A good sleep followed.

Such views are very common in Meghalaya

Photo of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

Challenging weather conditions on the road to the wettest place on Earth!

Photo of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

Sunlight peeping through the pitch dark Mawsmai caves

Photo of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

Clouds playing In between Me and the Seven Sister falls

Photo of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

My Stay @ Sohra

Photo of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

Beautiful Landscapes

Photo of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala
Day 6

(Trek to Nongriat and Rainbow falls):

There was early morning sun and no rain at all in the wettest place on earth in the rainy season. This came as a bit of a surprise. I drove down to Tyrna village which is the base of Nongriat Trek. Nongriat is basically known for its double decker living root bridge with 2 layers one on top of the other. And another 1.5 hours of walking takes you to the lesser known Rainbow Falls where you can actually touch the rainbow. I began walking down the well defined concrete steps and some 3500 steps later I reached the Nongriat village. Walked across both layers of the double decker living root bridge and immediately set off for the Rainbow falls. Again a tiresome hike and then I reached the Rainbow falls. Where else in the world can you touch a Rainbow in its full bloom across a waterfall? Such was the beauty of this place. Photographs may be a memory but the emotion of seeing such things in realtime demands yourself to be pinched to ensure that it's not a dream!!! Shivering calf muscles and tired knees, but it was worth it!!! A three hour climb listening to the cacophony of the forest where various bugs seem to be singing continuously in tandem was just enthralling. A crossword of colours with the butterflies fluttering all around was a sight to behold. Once I was up at Tyrna, I was reminded of the fact that, Nohkalikai falls was yet to be seen. I wanted to leave no stone unturned in trying to visit the falls. Considering the trek I had just done, it wasn't easy. But the determination to go and see both the waterfalls was not dying. I first went to the Seven Sister falls and then to the Nohkalikai falls. Guess what, the clouds were gracious enough and I could catch an excellent undisturbed view of both the waterfalls. Back from the trek, there was energy left only to have supper and push off to sleep.

Nohkalikai Falls in all its glory

Photo of Nongriat, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala
Day 7

(Umden Village-Silkworm Eri Rearing):

This was the longest drive in my entire roadtrip. 130km in 4hrs was what I had covered. Umden is on the Shillong-Guwahati route with a detour of around 25km from Nongpoh. At first I had certain doubts about visiting Umden and whether it would gel in as the perfect end to a more than perfect trip. It did and I was more than happy not to have skipped it. The drive was scenic like all the other routes in Meghalaya were and I had to take a couple of halts for refreshments and fuel. On reaching Umden I met my host to guide me to the bamboo hut for my stay. The road upto the remote village Umden was pretty good. As I was being taken towards my place of stay, the road started to turn from good to bad to no road at all. The final patch of 1 km was having no road at all. It was just grass and some stones to cover wet mud, I must say that a Bullet is the perfect bike in such conditions, not once did it topple. When I reached the room, which was in the middle of a dense forest on a small cliff some 3km away from Umden Village, I found out that this was the closest one could get with nature. After having freshened up, I went to the nearby Silkworm rearing centre. I decided to walk down so that I could have a true experience. After a tiring walk, I reached the local handloom factory where silk is taken out from the silkworm and weaved. The peculiarity of this place is that the villagers still practice the tradition of extracting raw silk from the silkworm without killing it. Umden is one of the very few silk producing areas that still practices this methodology. Most other silk producing areas do not practice this form of silk production because it is time consuming and hence not viable for commercial purposes. Umden has this amazing speciality. I returned back to the room and then prepared to get in touch with reality of the hustle and bustle in Mumbai!


Photo of Umden, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

The worm being taken out

Photo of Umden, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala

Bamboo logs serving as curtains to the entry of My Cottage in the midst of Umden forest area

Photo of Umden, Meghalaya, India by Kritharth Pendyala
Day 8

(Guwahati to Mumbai):

It was difficult to say goodbye to this beautiful state with the most helpful and happy people, but then it had to be. I left for Guwahati on the bike and reached there in about 2hrs, with a pitstop for breakfast. Once I reached Guwahati, Life On Wheels(Neeraj's Company) was about a 20min drive. I handed over the keys, the bungee and all other riding gear I was provided with. Meghalaya offered everything that a perfect vacation would, sometimes a lot more than the widely known tourist destinations. The only thing that bothers me is that, it doesn't get enough credit it deserves. Any person would jump with happiness if they were to go on an all paid trip to Himachal Pradesh, but would the same person react in the same way if the destination was Meghalaya? I seriously doubt. Taking nothing away from such a beautiful state like Himachal which has always been dear to me, the question still remains unanswered! A person who is happily agreeing for a holiday in Himachal or any other state for that matter, will not express similar views towards the North-Eastern and less explored states. I feel that some effort should be put in to promote this breathtaking abode of clouds, MEGHALAYA. A trip that has changed me so much was in its final stages, on the verge of coming to an end. With some unanswered questions and some memories that will stay with me forever, I boarded the flight back to Kolkata and eventually to Mumbai!!!

The Last Day with someone very close!!!

Photo of Guwahati Airport, Guwahati, Assam, India by Kritharth Pendyala

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