sWe had encountered seven to eight such shops along our way. Each shop had some local wares to sell like key rings, wooden panels made out of bamboo, small jute baskets and boxes. They had also put freshly cut cucumbers and pineapples inside small plastic bags for sale for people trekking up and down Nongriat. One can never forget the taste of those mouth watering pineapples. They tasted as sweet as sugar and had a tinge of sourness, making them a divine nectar of sorts. My mouth still waters thinking about the juice oozing out of those pineapples. We bought some handicrafts made from bamboo and jute as souvenirs for our friends, adding to our luggage that we were carrying on our backs. We also tried their locally made fresh honey. They excitedly showed us how they bred the bees and took out fresh honey and put them in old whiskey bottles without any adulteration and sold them to travelers like us. They were extremely honest and kind people who entertained us with some great stories about the local area. We would have missed out on a lot had we not stopped to talk to them and listened to their stories about the forest, which had its fair share of ghosts and spirits. Some of the stories they told us were about the sacred forest that we would cross on the way to Nongriat. They had recounted incidents that how people had met with grave misfortunes if they had misbehaved in any way in the entire land area marked as sacred. I was shocked to hear how a couple had met with an accident on their return from the forest to the airport in Assam. This couple had disrespected the deities as they stopped and carved their names on the trunk of a tree. This was completely not allowed, along with throwing garbage, plucking flowers or taking back with you anything from the forest that did not belong to you. This defiling of the tree had infuriated the deities and the couple was punished for it. They met with a small accident as their car skidded and hit a tree on their way back to Assam. There were no injuries and casualties reported but the message was delivered. We recounted these stories as we continued our trek through the sacred grove and walked with extra care to not bear the wrath of the gods.
I was taken in by the sheer beauty of nature and the sensibilities of local people with which they cared and protected their forests. They guarded them against any encroachment from plastic bags, empty liquor or soft drink bottles and ensured that even a small sweet wrapper should not find its way into any other place but the hand-crafted jute dustbins that were mounted at every nook and corner possible. This was in stark contrast to how dirty similar places are up north India. We never cease to smear the beauty of the hills and Himalayas that make for a beautiful landscape in northern parts of the country. It would take humongous effort and time to clean these areas and make them as clean as north east India. What is also required is developing this awareness that automatically stops people from littering the surroundings, leaving the grandeur of the place intact.
The beauty of the trek intensified as we kept seeing extremely uncommon and striking sights which we had only read about. The first such sight was that of the single living root bridge.