Meghalaya - Shillong tour
RAINIEST PLACE IN THE WORLD.....
The three and half hours drive from the plains of Guwahati to the mountainous Meghalaya was sedate. On the way to Shillong, also called 'Scotland of East', we noticed women in traditional Jaisen and blouses ,carrying a traditional basket with anything from firewood to insanely heavy building material,strapped to their heads or a baby strapped to their shoulders,chewing betel.Most of them turned hostile at the sight of a camera!
Our first few days in Shillong were spent visiting places closer to the capital city -Shillong peak,Umiam lake,royal abode of the Khyrum Syiemship-Smit and finally Don Bosco museum of indigenous cultures. This is a very efficiently maintained, seven storeyed, computerised museum that gives an overview of entire North-east India .
We visited Meghlaya's best kept secret , Mawlynnong,known to be Asia's cleanest village. As we sped past the grassy meadows,Khullok ,our driver ,told us that it is broom grass and that Mawlynnong is also known for it's broom-making.Each home in this village had a hand woven basket and everyone including very young children made sure that they left trash in these baskets.Many homes had huge monolithic stones in front of them in honor of their ancestors. The village also offers amazing view of Bangladesh plains as it is in the vicinity of the Indo-Bangla border.
Our next destination ,Jing Kieng Jri,which we reached from Riwai village after a three kilometer trek reminded us of "tree of souls" from the movie Avatar! This place is home to living root bridges created by the locals by twirling gnarled roots of Ficus Elastica,to cross over a rivulet . These centuries old root bridges are still the only means to cross the rivulets in many villages!! The real eager beavers here are the villagers who regularly twirl new tendrils around the old ones, thus nurturing the bridges.We were captivated by the raw beauty of this place.
We visited the Mawsmai caves famous for it's stalagmites and stalactites. Crouching,stooping and crawling through the 150m long,wet Mawsmai cave was an unexpected adventure for us!!
Our next destination was Cherappunji(Sohra) and Mawsynram which clinched the title of wettest place on earth from Sohra. Double-decker living root bridges of Cherappunji are a sight to behold and are declared UNESCO World Heritage site. The trek to these bridges requires lots of stamina but is totally worth it. Both the sacred groves of Mawphlong famous for it's amazing life form of plants,trees,orchids and butterflies and Nokalika waterfalls that reminded us of the Grand canyon are equally alluring.
We visited the Indo-Bangla border at Dawki and befriended the Indian and Bangla BSF men. We were touched by the warmth with which they received us and explained how things work there. We were thrilled to be at the last milestone on the Indian side. On the way back to Shillong from Dawki,on the insistence of Khullok,we took a small detour to visit 'Laitlum Canyons'. Khullok kept on asking for directions throughout as not many know of this place,not even locals. When we finally reached there,all we could see was 200 odd huts hardly visible,way down in the valley,completely covered in fog. As the clouds and fog started clearing up,a magical view was revealed!! What amazed us more than the eerie silence and mystical charm of this place was the fact that for the residents of the village War-rasong,down in the valley,the only way to reach other villages or the nearest market place is a flight of 3000 steps!!!So if they are going to the market and returning home,they are taking a staggering 6000 steps!!!! There is a rope way however,to carry goods up and down the valley.
After all the superlatives comes the embittered reality . Once a state with surplus power,Meghalaya now faces challenges for electricity and people living in the vicinity of the wettest place on the earth 'buy' drinking water due to lack of rain water storage facilities. All the rain water flows down to Bangladesh flooding the country!
Apart from it's boundless natural beauty and cleanliness what stands out prominently throughout Meghalaya is the eco-friendly and very hard working life style of the people. Respect towards nature and it's resources is reminiscent in their day-to-day activities. Gender equality and women empowerment is conspicuous in Meghalaya's matriarchal society.
"HEADS FIRMLY IN CLOUDS, FEET FIRMLY ON GROUND" EXPLAINS MEGHALAYA AND IT'S PEOPLE VERY WELL.