I don’t know what I was more excited about? Meeting my dear friend after two long years or seeing magical Meghalaya I had dreamt of for a long time. A bit of both I guess. I had 5 days and as per Cheane’s plan for me, I was going to see mostly the Khasi part.
Click this for more information about my travel schedule and expenses : 5 day Itinerary for Meghalaya
The drive from Guwahati Airport to Shillong reminded me of Coorg back home in Karnataka. Beware of the taxi drivers here. They do cheat and overcharge a lot!! I spent my first afternoon alone in Shillong, walking around the beautiful Wards Lake. I was put up at a guest room in the working women’s hostel where my friend Cheane lived. Her friends ( a wonderful bunch of people) were so keen to take me around. Thanks to them I got to palate some Naga cuisine and visit Laitlum.
The second day began with a drive up to Laitlum( 45 minutes from Shillong) and then to Cherrapunjee. It felt like the song Paradise by Coldplay was written and sung just for this place. I knew that these beautiful hills, blue skies, the fog, the waterfall and the sunsets were going to haunt my dreams for quite some time. One thing I noticed about the local people we met in most places was that they all asked Cheane(knowing she belonged to the state from her looks) if she was Garo or Khasi. This was new to a south Indian me and I found it amusing :D. By the way Garos,Khasis and Jainitas are supposed to be the people of Garo,Khasi and Jaintia Hills. These hills constitute the western ,central and eastern part of Meghalaya. They differ in the way they look, their language and even in their culture to some extent.
Landscapic views in Cherrapunji
On the way
Our initial plan was to return to Shillong on the same day. But we decided to stay back at Cherranpunjee and head to Nongriat the next day. It was a bright sunny day . We did not carry any raincoat or umbrella with us. How naive of us!! We did not even have waterproof shoes or an extra pair of socks. We were welcomed by showers of rain the next morning. Cherrapunjee is one of the wettest places on earth and boy the rain had no plans to stop soon!! But we had to trek to Nongriat. We bought umbrellas in a shop and guess what? Yes we trekked to the double decker root bridge in rain with Umbrellas!!. A couple of rest stops and piping hot maggis on the way, we made it to the double decker root bridge. We stayed in a little homestay called “Serene Homestay” in Nongriat village run by a sweet family. We spent most of the afternoon around the double decker bridge. Post 3 pm, the double decker bridge was all ours as people who had come in the morning had left by then. Cheane and I spent a peaceful evening bathing in the waterfall next to the bridge, getting natural pedicure from the tickly little fishes in the river. After a quiet dinner, we hit the bed.
We woke up to more rain in the morning. It was over 24 hours then since the rain had started. But we had made up our minds to trek to rainbow falls from there. Cheane was my guide. She had done this trek before. The trek to rainbow falls was a little tough as there were no well defined steps. Only until we were halfway through did we realise that it was just the two of us. There wasn’t a soul around. Only earthworms and some insects for company. Earthworms are Cheane’s nightmares like cockroaches are mine!!!! She jumped every time she saw one while I guffawed at her. She hoped and wished to cross paths with cockroaches on the way as a sweet revenge for all the laughing I did. But the gods kept them away. Phew !!
Hanging bridge and single root bridge
We hadn’t any breakfast and the continuous climbing /trekking since the day before was killing our legs. We were a little spooked by the fact that it was just two girls in the woods. Despite being tired, we waded our way as fast as possible so that we could get back safe and sound . The trek to rainbow falls was the most thrilling experience I have ever had. With no human around , the pitter pattering of the rain, and little waterfalls along the way I felt like I was out in the wild just like my ancestors were. We had to cross a few hanging bridges. This was my favourite part of the trek. With umbrella in one hand and the rope of the bridge in the other, holding on to dear life. I stepped my wet feet carefully over the bridge which wobbled every time I moved. The huge rocks over which the river flowed underneath the bridge made it even more exciting.
We did not get to see the rainbow on the rainbow falls thanks to the rain. Sigh! It was beautiful nevertheless. The waterfall was gushing with water. I felt magic flow through my veins as I stood there gorging in the sight of this gorgeous waterfall. Again, this felt even more special as it was just the two of us there.
Only when we returned to Cherrapunjee from Nongriat did we realise how cold the weather was. We could see nothing in Cherrapunjee. Clouds everywhere, we were completely wet and our legs were freezing. We got into a shared van. But there was no one in the van apart from us. The driver was waiting for 8 other people to fill in the van. We had no patience or the stamina to bear the cold until the vehicle was filled. We decided to pay him the entire amount to reach Shillong as soon as possible. It had rained for more than 36 hours. The drive to Shillong was crazy. The stubborn rain hit hard on the glass windows of the vehicle. I have no idea how the driver drove with the blinding fog. I did miss seeing the crystal clear rivers and waterfalls due to continuous rain. But if not for the rain I wouldn’t have got to relish the little heavenly waterfalls with my eyes throughout the way. That memory brings a smile on my face even now.
After a night’s rest, inspite of having lost hope of seeing crystal clear Dawki river due to rain in the last two days, we still took the call to visit Dawki. Though I had enjoyed the rain, it was a relief to finally see a clear sky and step out without an umbrella. The drive was a charming one. Watching waterfalls on the way somehow made me feel very happy and excited. The best part of Meghalaya was this sense of jubilation and optimism I felt every time I saw or stopped at a waterfall. I believe the saying by T.S Eliot “It is the journey that matters , not the destination” is very true.
We stopped over at Mawlynnong(cleanest village in Asia) on the way. A typical touristy place, hyped for some reason. I wouldn’t recommend this to people who are not fond of going to touristy and crowded places. Cheane suggested we stop over at Schonpodeng instead of the usual Dawki stop. There wasn’t a soul there due to all the rain of the past few days. To my surprise, the water at the banks at Shnongpdeng was quite clear. I was overjoyed that I was at least blessed with that. Dawki is beautiful even at its not-so-good-condition-muddy state.
On the way back to Shillong from Dawki, I had already started to get my “going back to work blues”. I was to leave the next day. On the way to Guwahati airport I stopped at Umiam lake aka Bora Pani. This is a-must-stop place if you are travelling to/from the airport. I am definitely visiting Meghalaya again to explore the Garo side of the state.