Friday, June 15, 2018

MEGHALAYA - The land of Green Hills, Blue Lagoons and Gushing Waterfalls

When I close my eyes and think of my time in Meghalaya, I see myself sitting on a huge boulder looking at the sprawling hills covered in velvety green sheet; I see a milky white waterfall pouring down and disappearing somewhere in the gorgeous greens; I hear the sound gushing water stream while I sit and watch fireflies dance at night and I feel the soft kiss of the cool breeze flowing over me.

In this post I am not going to tell you about must-dos in Meghalayathat everyone talks about but will take you through the collection of unique experiences that I had on my incredible trip to Meghalaya.

Trekking down to Nongriat through amazing flora...

Trek to Nongriat
Walking down the concrete steps, that I was almost sure I will not be able to due to my back problem, all I could do was appreciate the beauty of nature. Variety of wild flowers and pines on the way made the walk incredibly beautiful. It was fun crossing the suspension bridge and a living root bridge on the way.
The trek starts at a small village Lumsohphie near Tyrna. You will get a shared taxi in Rs 40 from Cherrapunji to Tyrna. There are approximately 3500+ steps that you need to climb down to reach Nongriat. My suggestion is to start the trek in the morning and walk down at your own leisurely pace enjoying the surroundings. Stay overnight at a homestay in Nongriat.

Also read: Assam - The Land of Unique Culture

Experiencing the life around Living Root Bridges, Lagoons and Waterfalls...

Walk around the Living Root Bridge, Nongriat
Down there at Nongriat, life is magical. The moment I crossed the living root bridge I knew I have made the right decision to stay overnight here. I had booked a community run homestay nearest to the double-decker root bridge. Most of my time here was spent sitting on the boulders by the side of the stream dipping my feet in the water. This was like my living room.
Some of my most memorable moments include the quiet night walk in the woods while hearing the silence of the jungle; playing with fireflies at a small field that is probably used by the local kids as a cricket ground in the day; taking a dip in the natural pools of River Umshiang; walking enthusiastically from one end to the other and from one deck to the other on the Double Decker Root Bridge; early morning walk to the rainbow falls; and talking to the locals in the morning.

Stay 2 nights here to soak in the nature. The day here can be spent going for short trails around including the one till the rainbow fall.

Also read: Hidden Beauty of Himachal - Kinnaur

Water sports and Boat Ride on clear waters of Umngot River at Village Shnongpdeng...

Boating on Umangot at Shnongpdeng
Driving through the beautiful landscapes, we reached Dawki by evening. and it was night by the time we reached Shnongpdeng. We chose to stay in the camps here. Enjoyed chatting with other travelers at dinner by the banks of river. Morning boat ride on Umangot was the highlight. Sailing on the clear waters through out-of-world landscape was surreal. The only voice to be heard was that of our Chappu.
Shnongpdeng is a small village by the banks of river Umngot around 10kms farther form Dawki. If you like little adventure go for river side camping and indulge in sports like scuba diving, boating, kayaking, cliff jumping etc. Not just water sports you can also enjoy  angling, rock climbing and trekking. There are many big and small camps that have mushroomed recently, make sure you book a professional one with all facilities and a good location. If you want to experience village life there are a few homestays as well.

Also read: The Calm in the Chaos - VARANASI

Staying in a Bamboo hut at Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia...

Bamboo Hut, Mawlynnong
The impression I had of the village Mawlynnong, supposedly the cleanest village in Asia, was that it will be full of tourists and will be very commercial with many shops around. I was there on a Sunday so as expected there was a lots of tourist crowd, but what amazed me was the efficiency with which the crowd was being handled. The parking was outside the village, there were public toilets just in the beginning that were very well maintained and there was a single community restaurant that was catering to all the inflow of hungry visitors. After having a delicious sumptuous meal served by enthusiastic local boys and girls I went out to explore the village. It was more like I was roaming around in a garden which was neatly lined with well constructed houses and there was a church in the heart of the village. Staying in a traditional bamboo hut here was an experience in itself. Warm host in our homestay here made our visit even more memorable.

Also read: Common Myths About Homestays

A memorable walk in the lanes of Saitsohpen, Lower Cherrapunji...

Cute Kids of Cherrapuniji
Another fond memory from the trip is the evening walk around the residential area of lower Cherrapunji. Small kids were playing around and ladies gossiping in the varandah while the round ball of fire bade us goodbye. The cleanliness was worth appreciating. There were dusbins all around the locality and I could not see even a single Though we didn't have a common language to interact, I felt connected to each one of them. The eye contact along with a warm smile did not make me realize I am on a land where no one understand my language.

Also read:Following the Old Silk Route, Sikkim

Picking tea leaves at tea-gardens in Shillong...

Tea leaf plucking at Shillong
During all the research I did before going to Meghalaya, not even once did I read about tea gardens in Shillong. While driving back from Shillong peak and going towards the elephant falls I saw a very well maintained tea gardens. Ladies were picking up the tea and there was a stall as well where we could buy local juices, pickles and tea. A small break there turned out be one of the best experiences of the trip. Initially the ladies picking tea were very shy and were not willing to get clicked, but after a while and a small conversation we had great time chatting and clicking with them.

Also read: In the shadow of Dhauladhars

A Visit to the local Bazar...

Bara Bazar, Shillong
The real feel of being in Meghalaya came when I was running around the bara bazar in Shillong with my local friend, who calls himself a 'morning star' as he is born very early in the morning. The narrow lanes decked beautifully with fruits and vegetables, spices, local snacks, fish and meat; lively people selling and buying stuff; the smiles and the gossips being shared - all of this was worth the effort.  Most interesting for me were the variety of fruits and green vegetables, some of them I have never even heard about. I was also amazed to see the variety of dried fish on the display.

Local Market, Cherrapunji
 Also read: Pushkar Holi - Festival of Colors in True Sense

Riding a local Taxi

Ride in local cab from Sohra to Tyrna
Riding jam packed small cars while chatting with locals, mostly moms and kids, is something I will always remember about Shillong and Cherrapunji. The best way to travel in budget in Meghalaya are these small black Maruti 800 cars that play locally. They usually cost between Rs 10 to 50 per person depending on the distance. You might find them overcrowded but believe me you must experience this. Its amazing to see how comfortably and big-heartedly more than 8 people fit in this small car and without any resistance. You can use them while doing local site seeing in Shillong and Cherrapunji. For long routes also like Shillong to Cherrapunji or Shillong to Dawki you get shared cabs.

Have you ever been to Meghalaya? How was your experience?

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