Literally translating into ‘abode of clouds’, Meghalaya boasts of its scenic charm and serenity. Not only misty hills, valleys, sparkling lakes and rivers, this heavenly state of India is also endowed with numerous gorgeous waterfalls. From creating sacred forests to building bridges out of living roots, beliefs in forest spirits and stone monoliths, and some of the cleanest villages to be found in Asia, the people of Meghalaya share a fascinating close relationship with the natural environment.
Born and brought up in Shillong, I was always fascinated with the beauty of Shillong and Cherrapunji. I just loved the hills, clean and bountiful rivers, lakes, virgin forests (known as Sacred Groves here) and waterfalls, few of which could be seen even from our small home. I happily packed for a trip to Shillong when my husband gave me the offer to accompany him for a business trip. The promise was to take him around to some unexplored places of Shillong and Cherrapunji.
We took an early morning flight from Delhi and landed in Guwahati after two hours around 9:30. From Guwahati airport, we proceeded to Shillong by car. This 100 km journey was not going to be completed in due hours as I stopped at many scenic places on the way. Our first stop was a view point from where we could see the Barapani or Umiam Lake nested among pine trees. My camera was on the job from here.
At Shillong, we stayed at hotel Pinewood, a 100 year old heritage property perched on the top of a hillock called Pinewood Hill. Our first destination in Shillong was Wards Lake situated at the foot of Pinewood hill. The highlight of the lake is the hundreds of fish below its iconic wooden bridge. We threw popcorn and innumerable fish came to gobble the treat. Next morning, after an early breakfast, we started our journey to Cherrapunji known as Sohra by the locals. The journey itself through the hills covered with pine trees was a pleasure. We stopped at the Shillong peak and enjoyed a panoramic view of the city below. The whispering pines, the drizzle and the clouds sailing across the sky remind us that we are indeed in the ‘abode of the clouds’.
From the Shillong peak, we headed straight to Cherrapunji. On the way, after a diversion, we reached a secluded spot in a dense forest where our guide Gregory Warjari informed that we were heading for a three tier fall recently discovered by locals. The reach to the falls was really tough. There were spots where one had to go down at a 90 degree angle. Makeshift bamboo ladders are used to tackle the arduous trek. It was really a challenge reaching to the bottom of fall. But all the efforts were forgotten once we were confronted by the majestic three tier Weisawdeng falls. Nestled in the middle of thick green vegetation were the amazing falls with three pools of emerald coloured water collected at the bottom.
After lunch in a nearby resort and much needed break, we drove to Mawsamai caves, wonderful lime caves with mesmerising stalactites and stalagmite formation. We decided to dedicate our next day to Dawki, a three-hour destination towards the Indo-Bangladesh border. The vegetation has by now changed from pine to the more tropical kind as we were heading towards the warmer and plainer area of Meghalaya.
We decided to go a little further from Dawki to Shnongpdeng. The water of the river Umngot is so crystal clear at this point that the bedrocks are clearly visible along with the fishes swimming in and out of the rocks. A rare natural sight! We spent quite a few hours boating.
Meghalaya being Meghalaya, once again, the bright sunny day quickly became cloudy. It rained cats and dogs. But the rain receded by the time we reached the famous Living Root bridge. It was again quite a track to reach the root bridge. But it was worth every bit. What an amazing example of co-existence of man and nature! Truly a marvel of nature!
Our final stop was Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia. This small hamlet located in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya with beautiful green surroundings is referred to as ‘God’s own garden’. The whole village looks like a garden. There are flowers everywhere and of the most exotic varieties. Every nook and corner has a traditional dustbin made from bamboo hanging from a tree or a post.
For us Delhlites, this trip was very refreshing. It was a visit to a place so different in culture, language, food and attire. Yet we did not feel as if we were in another world. That’s the beauty of unity in diversity of India.