Meghalaya was the very first state of my hitch-hiking trip to North East India. Since it was my first time in North East India, I was excited but also nervous. The only thing I was confident about was safety. A few of my friends who had visited the Seven Sisters said that all the states are safe for Solo/duo/group Women. So I was really looking forward to being on the roads where I can feel completely safe. I hitch-hiked to most places and stayed in homes of strangers rather than in Hotels or Guesthouses. Read the details of my journey here -
My initial plan was to spend 30 days in Meghalaya. But because it was too expensive for a traveler like me, I decided to go to Nagaland on my 20th day! My itinerary for 20 days in Meghalaya was as the following -
Delhi - Bagdogra - Guwahati
On the first day, I struggled really hard to get to the Delhi Airport and further to Guwahati. My home in Delhi is about 40kms from the Airport and instead of taking a cab (what we usually do), I thought of going to the Airport in Public Transport. It was no doubt hectic but also money-saving (cab charges INR 700 & I reached in INR 200) and time-saving (traffic in Delhi is such a pain).
After an hour of flight, I reached Bagdogra Airport (Sikkim). Well, my plan was to explore Sikkim before heading to Meghalaya but that couldn't happen because of rains, so I moved to Meghalaya.*uncertain, always*
Just after landing at the Bagdogra Airport, I took a local bus to New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (20kms). I bought a Second Sitting seat on the next train to Guwahati. And it was delayed for 5 hrs from the actual time - 5 PM. I was in the waiting room for 5 hrs as it didn't feel safe enough to take a stroll. *not safe past 5 PM*
I boarded the train at 10.30 PM and it literally was a nightmare. At first, I didn't even feel like boarding it but a guy helped me get in and ensured that I stay safe. The SS compartment was jam-packed with tons of men and not a single woman. It looked more of a general compartment than a reserved one. But as they say, ' where there is will, there is a way ' and apart from such scenario I reached Guwahati safely.
*Ironically, a man helped me and ensured my safety from other men*
Guwahati (Assam) - Shillong (Meghalaya)
I reached Guwahati around 8 AM and exited towards Paltan Bazaar to catch a shared cab or bus to Shillong (Meghalaya). I immediately booked a seat in a shared cab (without bothering about my breakfast) and headed to Shillong. It took almost 3.5 hours. On the way, I asked the driver to stop at Umiam Lake (Bara Pani) for a while. Umiam Lake is a huge and beautiful reservoir close to the highway just before 15km from Shillong.
Upon reaching Shillong, I inquired in a few hotels about the stay.Most were super-priced and a few didn't appear to be safe (offering a special discount of 50% to me, God knows why! Had to say No to them). After struggling for 3 hrs here and there with around 15kgs on my back and 4kgs in front, I broke down. I literally felt out of place for the first time in my life, in the middle of the Police Bazaar, as I saw the sun going down at 4 PM.
I finally took off my bags in an overly-priced Guest House (a bed Dormitory for INR 700). Just so you know, my days are not always happening and sometimes I can't even have a sound sleep during my travel. I was in a Dorm with 4 young boys. I wasn't really afraid of sleeping in the room but the owner was just not sure of it. He asked me to either go somewhere else or sleep in the security room. Well, I had to choose the latter one and read a book the entire night because the room had no door. *I don't care much, but just mentioning*
Rest Day in Shillong
I went out with my backpack early morning in search of a cheap stay option. (Most people in Shillong are not helpful unless you pay them *truth*, request you to do the ground research before you head for a backpacking trip to Meghalaya)
Language plays a major role as people in Shillong know neither English nor Hindi, they just know Khasi. After struggling for almost 3 hours, searching lanes and corners of Shillong, I bumped into a girl who offered me to stay at her place. I was quite surprised, happy and thankful - all at once!She doesn't want me to share her details, other than the fact that she was from Assam. (A huge shoutout to all the Assamese for helping me throughout my 20 days in Meghalaya)
I had a wonderful time chatting with her the entire day. I was supposed to go to the Elephant Falls and Shillong Peak, but I ditched the plan over conversations with my new friend.
Don Bosco Museum, Shillong
I woke up super energized today and took a shared taxi (INR 20) to Don Bosco Museum. (Apologies I can't list the name of shared taxi stops here as I don't remember them anymore) *really tough*
Don Bosco Museum, Shillong is a unique fusion of all the sister states under one roof. I was quite surprised to see the art, culture, traditions, and history of all the states with in-depth detail and superb presentation. It took me almost 3 hrs to sink in all the knowledge this Museum had to offer. They also have a sky-walk on the last floor which gives an aerial view of the entire Shillong.
I didn't click any picture inside the Museum because they were charging INR 150 more for it. ???? *budget problems*
After having an awesome day, I went back to the room (new Assamese friend) by walking down 4 km as there was no shared taxi going towards Police Bazaar.
Smit - Laitlum, Shillong
Unlike other days, today was a little planned. I went out with my backpack & camera bag. I had to find another place to stay before I head to Smit-Laitlum. And again, I ditched the plan and moved to Smit with the bags.
I took a shared taxi to Smit. Then I had to wait to get a ride to Laitlum as no shared taxi goes beyond Smit. I waited for an hour to get a ride! Indeed, hitchhiking is a game of patience.
The ride was heavenly. I couldn't blink my eyes for a second. And as I reached Laitlum, I just couldn't believe that the view was real! It was really like a paradise on earth; pure and untouched.
After spending almost 3 hours; reading a book, clicking photos and listening to music, I started walking back in hope to get a ride to Smit. But guess what? I got a truck ride straight to Shillong!
By the evening I was in Shillong, and again, couldn't find a cheap stay option. Had to stay in an overpriced guesthouse which I won't recommend to anyone.
Shillong - Sohra, Cherrapunji
I was super excited today as I was going to Sohra, Cherrapunji - the wettest place on Earth. Finally, I'll see the place I always read about in my books during the school days. I had no idea about anything in Cherrapunji except the Double Decker Root Bridge. Also, I was worried about my stay in Cherrapunji after the struggle in Shillong.
I boarded the bus from Bara Bazaar, Shillong to Sohra (Ticket for INR 80). In the bus, I asked a few people if they knew any cheap stays in Sohra, but nobody knew anything. So it became obvious that I will have to face a hard time in finding a good stay option.
The hunt began as I reached Sohra and it was as tough as I had predicted. Some stays were too costly, the others were shady. After struggling for 2 hours in heavy rains, I dropped my bags in an expensive homestay! Had no other option.
Rest day in Sohra
How do I tell you about this day! It was a pure waste of money and time. Can't say anymore! I was supposed to go to the Double Decker Bridge and because I overexerted a day before in rain, I got a high fever. I had to stay in the bed all day long in that highly priced homestay!
Sohra - Tyrna (starting point) - Double Decker Root Bridge - Rainbow Falls - Nongriat
Around 6 AM, I woke up and saw it was raining outside. Can't tell you how hopeless I felt in that moment! I was in no mood to pay a hefty sum for another day in Sohra. So I decided to leave. In just 15 mins, I packed my bags and went to keep it at the reception as it was too heavy for me to carry. But the receptionist said, "No, I can't keep your bag." I was shocked to hear that!
I couldn't sink in the fact that I will have to carry my bag 3500 steps down to Double Decker Bridge and then back up till Tyrna Village. I gave it a thought and then reminded myself that nothing in this world can break my determination. Yes, it was going to be a tough task but I knew I could do it.
After taking a shared taxi to Sohra market from my the homestay, I hitchhiked all the way to Tyrna Village (starting point). From there began the 3500 steps. I had to gather the courage to finally start taking the steps down. That moment, a solo French Traveller came and asked if I need any help. I smiled and said no. He said, "You are so strong to even think about doing this." And it gave me all the strength and energy I needed! ????
That traveller and I got along until halfway. I was too tired to continue and wanted some rest. I asked him to keep going and that I'll catch up soon. He left, and I was all alone in the jungle. All alone.
Then about 15 minutes later, I started again and didn't stop till Nongriat. I kept telling myself, yes I can do it. And I did it.
I reached Serene Homestay, Nongriat (a village 1 km before the Double Decker Root Bridge), dropped my bag and went to the Double Decker Root Bridge. It was a relief to finally see the living root bridge, though it wasn't as fascinating as the other living root bridges on the way. But after the struggle I had to go through, it felt so damn good. I dipped my feet into the natural pool and had a great time.
Around 1 PM, I decided to trek to Rainbow Falls. It was mildly raining and the sun was playing peek-a-boo, so chances of seeing a rainbow at the Rainbow Falls were high. After an hour-long trek, I reached Rainbow Falls with a bunch of other people. It was breathtakingly beautiful! This waterfall was a sight to behold even without a rainbow. But the day proved to be lucky and just in 10 mins, I could spot a Rainbow (which went off in no time).
It felt so divine and rejuvenating after a day full of pain!
Then on my way back to Nongriat, I saw nobody around. I thought of taking a dip in the natural pool for a few minutes. I was a little too late and it is not advised to be out in the jungle alone after dark. But I thought a few minutes won't hurt, so I went in. And I can't tell you how refreshing it was to be in that natural pool with the wilderness around.
Just as I came out of the pool, I felt as powerful as a bullet train and reached back to Nongriat minutes after sunset.
Nongriat - Rest Day
I had overexerted my body the previous day and got a high fever, again. So I decided to rest in Nongriat for a day and just relax. This was probably the best decision I had made in my 22 days in Meghalaya.
I took bath in a natural water pool just near the homestay. Then a sunbath near to a water stream, followed by book reading with sounds of birds, waterfalls and storm clouds. It was a day full of beautiful things one after the other.
I went back to the homestay post-sunset and slept early as tomorrow was going to be hectic.
Nongriat to Tyrna - Sohra
I woke up at 5 AM and asked my owner if he can arrange for somebody to carry my bag (because I had a fever) until Tyrna. He said he can arrange one which would cost INR 1000. I was like, What? Really?
I requested him to find a cheaper alternative, but he wasn't interested in helping me.
With a heavy heart and high body temperature, I decided to leave with all my bags. Mental strength had to come to the rescue because I had no physical strength.
Two things broke me on my journey back to Tyrna; a) Realization that humanity is on the verge of its death and, b) how people are running after money in Meghalaya (not generalizing but this is what I experienced).
It was a fight between my mind and my body, but I managed to reach Tyrna after climbing 3500 stairs. Then getting a ride till Sohra was easy. The guy who gave me lift was really helpful and dropped me at a hostel, cheaper and better than the last I stayed in.
I just crashed on the bed without medicine and food like I was dead!
Mawsmai Caves, Seven Sister Falls, Nohkalikai Falls and back to Shillong
As I couldn't plan for anything the last day, it took me a while to start off my journey. Owner of the Hostel I stayed in advised me to visit Mawsmai Caves, so I took a shared cab immediately. The cave is not in its natural state completely. Lights have been installed and there are stairs inside it, but it is a good experience altogether.
From there, I got a ride back to Sohra after waiting for about 15 mins. On my way, I saw a waterfall from distance and asked the driver about its name. He said it was Seven Sister Falls and I immediately got off the car and asked him to continue his journey. I really wanted to spend some time here, at this fall, without bothering about how I will go back to Sohra.
I spent almost an hour clicking photos, making time-lapse and adoring its mesmerizing beauty, though the waterfall wasn't in its best form.
Then I waited for half an hour to get a ride but I couldn't manage one. Thankfully a guy approached me and asked where I wanted to go. I said Sohra and he said he can take me along but they will go to the Eco Park first. I agreed and went with him (I lost my Gorilla Pod in this process). The car had 3 tourists from Telangana and they were equally happy to help me out. We went to Mawsmai Caves, Eco Park and were supposed to go to Nohkalikai Falls, but they changed their mind. It wasn't in my initial plan to visit Nohkalikai Falls because there are no shared taxis to it (hire taxis cost INR 400 for 4 km), but I wished to make it happen.
So, I got off at Sohra and waited in hope to get a ride to Nokhalikai Falls. The possibilities were negligible, despite that, I thought of giving it a try. In the end, I got a ride till Nohkalikai Falls and back to Sohra. What a lucky soul I am! ????
I kept thanking Rofello (the guy who gave me lift to the waterfall) for being so kind and generous throughout. When we were about to reach the waterfall, Rofello asked me to leave my bag in the car. Sure, I looked too exhausted and weak! I was a little skeptical, but left my bag in the car and noted the car number. He said he will pick me up from the entry gate in 30mins.
Time spent at the tallest plunge waterfall in India was simply amazing and I got some spectacular shots too.
After 40 mins, I came back to the entry gate and waited for 10 min. There wasn't any sign of Rofello. I started walking towards Sohra because it was the only way. If he comes to the waterfall, I could meet him on the way. The dense fog was a problem but I kept walking. Almost 10 cars passed by me, none was that number. I started getting vague thoughts like, What if Rofello in some sort of trouble? What if my bag is stolen? Should I go to the police? Will they help me?
Fortunately, I came across some Assamese. I explained them my situation and they said they'll help me find my bag. I hopped into their car and we had merely crossed 2 km when I spotted Rofello's car. He was having his lunch. I walked up to him, told him I was worried as he didn't come to the falls at the given time. Then he revealed his side of the story. He had lost the track of time and was about to come after finishing his lunch.
I was thankfully relieved of the trauma of losing my bag!
After bidding adieu to the Assamese group, Rofello told me there is some change in his plan and that he was now going to Shillong instead of Sohra and... I could accompany him!
In the meantime, I posted on my Instagram if anybody in Shillong could help me find a cheap stay or can host me for a day (because I had doubts if I could find a cheap stay in Shillong). Thankfully, Arunav from Assam contacted me and gave me his friend Gaurav's number who was studying in NEHU, Shillong. I was to ask Gaurav if he could help me. Gaurav contacted a few of his female friends and one of them was ready to host me for a day.
As we reached Shillong, I thanked Rofello for helping me throughout the day. Then I met Gaurav and he took me to his friend's place just near the Police Bazaar. I can't thank all of them enough for being so kind and generous.
Tulika (Gaurav's friend) made super delicious vegetarian food for me (I was having dinner after 5 days), it was such an overwhelming feeling. Thank you Arunav, Gaurav & Tulika ????
Shillong - Mawlynnong (Asia's Cleanest Village)- Dawki - Bangladesh Border - Shillong
I got a call from Nevinin - the tourist from Telangana who gave me lift from Seven Sister Falls yesterday - asking if I was interested in going to Dawki with them. Well, I said yes because I had a strong feeling that they were nice people. We met at a mutually agreed location and we started our journey to Mawlynnong - Asia's Cleanest Village (though it wasn't in my plan). It surely is worth a visit but no stay option for a budgeted traveller, as it's way too expensive.
From there we moved towards Dawki, closely driving on the road next to Bangladesh. What an experience! And after 35 km, we reached Dawki, famous for its crystal clear water and floating boats. Indeed, everything was so perfect except people littering in the river and around the river. *I request all my readers to never litter and never let anybody litter*
People who gave me lift offered me a free boat ride on Umngot River, and I couldn't say no like always ???? The entire boat ride was sheer beauty and I couldn't blink my eyes for a second. I was drooling over its beauty like anything.
Then we went to India-Bangladesh Border. It gave such friendly vibes as if it's just a state border.
We reached back to Shillong past sunset and I thanked all 3 of them for helping me and taking me around. They asked me to visit Telangana soon and now exploring South India is on my mind. ????
Then I went to Tulika's place to pick my bags as her roommate didn't agree with her in letting me stay for another day. So thanked Tulika for all the help and left. ????
Gaurav, on the other hand, was such a helping hand that he booked a room in NEHU'S Guest House for me as it was cheaper than other guest houses in Shillong. Assamese are just too sweet! Thank you so much, Gaurav for being such a great help!
Shillong - Jowai with the amazing Donny Sir
I called up my really good friend, Yogesh, who recently visited Jowai, and asked if he could arrange a stay for me there. And, he did! He gave me Donny Sir's number and asked me to give him a call.
Donny Sir told me that he is going from Shillong to Jowai today, so I could tag along with him. We met at a mutually agreed location and proceeded towards Jowai (I lost my phone while getting into his car). The journey to Jowai was incredibly beautiful and so was Donny Sir's personality. He took me to Circuit House, showed me the room I was supposed to stay in and took me to his office. He is an Addl. Deputy Commissioner of West Jaintia Hills, yet a very down to earth person.
He took me and a few of his friends out for dinner and we had a great time.
Nartiang Monoliths, Devi Temple, Tyrshi Falls
Donny Sir asked me to get ready early morning and we had breakfast together; followed by meeting Nini, Prianca and some other colleagues. After that, Donny Sir told his driver to take us all to Nartiang Monoliths, then to an old Devi Temple, and then doppelganger of Scotland - Tyrshi Falls. We all had a great time together, knowing each other and visiting all these places.
We then went to Sir's office and had a little chat about how wonderful the day was, before we went to the Circuit House.
Also, I told Sir about my plan for the next day - to visit Krang Suri. He wasn't really sure if he can let me go there alone but he eventually agreed to it.
Krang Suri Falls, Sunset at Amlarem, Jowai
As planned, I started my day to Krang Suri Falls by taking a share taxi from Lad War to Amlarem (INR 50), further hitchhiking to the starting point of the trek to Krang Suri Falls.
The trek to Krang Suri Falls is merely 2 km downhill, crossing a few water streams and stone bridges. As I reached the fall after a 30min trek, I was completely mesmerized by the view of it. I spent more than two hours sitting by the waterfall - clicking, meditating and reading a book.
I reached back to the starting point and received a message from Donny sir that somebody will come and pick me up from here as we were going to watch Sunset at Amlarem. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have witnessed in my whole life. And the credit goes to Donny Sir for taking me there!
Ialong Park, Syntu Ksiar, Dirang and late night drive back to Shillong
Next day, Donny Sir told me to go to Ialong Park with his driver and then to Syntu Ksiar. Driver bhaiya dropped me at Ialong Park and went back to the office (telling me to explore the park in two hours, after which he'll pick me up). I went in and it was such an enriching experience, being alone in the wild. The view from the park and the view of the park were exceptionally enchanting.
Then, I got a call from the driver asking me to come to the entry gate (exactly after two hours). A slow traveller like me may take at least 5 hours to completely explore the Park, but then, I wouldn't have been able to see other places suggested by Sir.
So we quickly moved to Syntu Ksiar. It is an ideal picnic and angling spot! Later, I also visited Syntu Ksiar Resort by crossing the hanging bridge.
A little before lunch we all met in Sir's office and left for a day-out to Dirang where Sir was supposed to attend a meeting. Nini & Sandra especially made vegetarian food for me, I was super happy!
We had lunch at the Umngot riverside and had a great time discussing how we could promote responsible travelling and preservation of the environment. Post lunch, we went to meet Sir to know about the plans further, but he was busy at the meeting. We waited for him at Dirang and post-sunset we all left for the Circuit House.
On our way back, Sir stopped at the Jarain Pitcher Plant viewpoint to capture the last light and Sandra asked me to teach her how the light trail is captured. She learned very quickly and clicked some super amazing light trail.
Back to the circuit house, Sir asked me to get ready soon as we were to leave for Shillong by 9 PM. He lost the track of time and came to the Circuit House at 11.30 PM. I was half asleep by that time and was expecting the plan to get canceled. That didn't happen. We left Jowai at 12 midnight and I stayed at Prianca's place after reaching Shillong.
Shillong - Nongstoin
Prianca and her Mom were very generous and kind-hearted. They made me feel like I was home. Aunty even dropped me at the taxi stand from where I had to go to Nongstoin.
I said my farewell to her and left for Nongstoin in a shared taxi which charged me (INR 300). My stay was already booked in Nongstoin Circuit House by Donny Sir and I can't thank him enough for helping me through all my days of struggle.
I reached Nongstoin in 4 hours and spent my day exploring the local market and resting at the circuit house.
Nongkhnum Island - Nongstoin
I left for the market around 10 AM to take a shared taxi to Nongkhnum Island. But there are no shared taxis to the Island, you can only book it for INR 1200 is what I was told. So, I started walking towards the road that leads to the island in hope to get a ride. Nobody bothered to stop. After almost an hour, I realized I won't get a ride. I went back to the taxi stand and somehow convinced a taxi driver to take me to Nongkhnum in INR 500 for two hours. Knowing it might not be a great idea to camp solo on the island is the only reason I agreed for two hours.
We reached there in an hour. The road is in a really bad state and I didn't spot any other vehicle on our way.
The driver was from a village near the island and showed me around quickly as two hours were just not enough. I wish I had some company (for the first time) so I could pitch a tent on the island. Never mind, I may go there again soon and then spend more than a week!
We also went to a waterfall but I don't remember its name. Neither do I have any photo of it. But it is a hidden treasure that one must visit.
Then we got back to Nongstoin before sunset and he dropped me at the Nongstoin Circuit House.
Nongstoin - Shillong - overnight Bus to Kohima
I woke up at 7 AM as I was supposed to catch the bus to Shillong. It took 4 hours but the weather and view were enthralling and I kept wondering, am I really living this?
I reached Shillong at 11.30 AM and straight went to a Vodafone store to buy a new SIM and book my tickets to Kohima, Nagaland.
I booked it with Deep Travels as they had a direct bus to Kohima from Shillong. My bus was at 3 PM and I had almost 3 hours to kill, so I went to KFC, then Subway and back to KFC to pack a few veg things and boarded the bus from the Bus Stand.
I was quite not sure if I would be able to survive in Nagaland as I was told back and forth about the precautions to take and do not hitchhike. But my experience was entirely different than what everybody said.
Stay tuned for My 14-Day Solo Journey in Nagaland.
HOW MUCH DID I SPEND FOR THIS TRIP?
Flight from Delhi to Bagdogra - INR 2500
Train to Guwahati - INR 150
Share Taxi from Guwahati to Shillong - INR 400
Stay in Shillong (Dorm in Brahmhome Guest House) - INR 700
Taxi to Don Bosco Museum - INR 50
Don Bosco Museum Entry Ticket - INR 100
Shillong to Smit Share Taxi - INR 50
Stay in Shillong (waste of money) - INR 900
Bus Ticket to Sohra - INR 80
Sohra Stay (Lyn Homestay) - INR 400 + 300
Sohra Stay (Dorm in By The Way Guest House) - INR 250
Stay in Nongriat (Dorm in Serene Guest House) - INR 250 + 250
Sohra to Mawsmai Cave Share Taxi - INR 50
Entry Ticket of Mawsmai Cave - INR 50
NEHU Guest House (one room one day) - INR 500
Jowai Circuit House (for 4 days one room) - INR 500
Shillong to Nongstoin Share Cab - INR 300
Nongstoing Circuit House (for 2 days one room) - INR 500
Taxi to Nongkhnum island - INR 500
Bus to Shillong from Nongstoin - INR 100
Meals for all 20 days - INR 1800 (Not easy for a vegetarian to find good food)
This post was originally published on It Is In The Name.