It was a rainy weekend when I decided to hop on my scooter and take a trip to Laitlum in Meghalaya. It wasn’t planned, it was just a spur-of-the-moment decision that struck me the moment I got out of bed that morning. So, by 8 am, I filled up my tank with enough gas, picked up a friend (because it gets boring talking to oneself) and we were on our way.
Since it had rained, we were spattered with mud by the time we reached Nongpoh. It took us about an hour. We washed our hands and faces to get rid of it before sitting down to enjoy our first meal of the day. We decided to eat at Jiva’s, a popular destination among travellers. It is located right next to the highway and offers great vegetarian food at affordable rates. We devoured a couple of sandwiches and gulped down generous amounts of coffee to get us through the remainder of our journey.
After the meal, we were back on the road. Very soon, as we entered further into Meghalaya, we left the grime behind and were rewarded with a cool, fresh breeze and mesmerizing landscapes that reminded us why Meghalaya is often referred to as the ‘abode of clouds’.
We reached Shillong at 11:30 am. By then, we were in desperate need of a cup of tea. So, we found a roadside store that brews a flavoursome cuppa to refresh our minds. We talked about a variety of topics as we sipped our tea and the clouds floated by above our heads. Riding across Shillong is a delight for the senses as it is home to bending lanes, going up and down, humungous pine trees and roadside stalls selling everything from meat to kwai, and colourful buildings with vintage architectural styles on both sides of the street. It is indeed a city with a beautiful history and beautiful people. If you have time on your hands, you should make a point to stay one night, do some window shopping in Police Bazaar, indulge in pork/beef chow, feed the fishes on the Wards Lake and enjoy a live gig at Cloud 9 or MellowMood Cafe.
We wanted to experience everything the city had to offer but we knew that we didn’t have much time on our hands so we took off to Laitlum. As we had never been there before, we didn’t know the way but Google Navigation came to our rescue. As we came closer to our destination, we were surrounded by spectacular hillocks that didn’t seem real, they looked like giant-sized paintings. It was straight out of a dream. Just as we entered Laitlum, it started drizzling and that just made it more magical.
Laitlum, in the local language, means ‘end of the hills’ and it really does feel like that. The vast green lush forests with rocky pathways and a 180 degree deep gorge with a river flowing through it, makes Laitlum one of the best unexplored spots in the State. The moment I reached, I felt like I could literally just lay there all day long. My friend and I just took in the breathtaking gorges and slopes painted in different hues. Most of the time, the canyon stays enveloped in a fog which gets thicker as the day progresses but when the sun comes out, you can witness some breathtaking views.
After lazing around for some time, we took a walk down the stairway to the village below, known as Rasong. The route takes you through green bamboo plantations, beautiful meadows, and wild exotic orchids. If you love taking pictures, then you should not miss out on taking your camera because you will be able to take some great pictures of the panoramic view of the village. Apart from the stairway, villagers also use a ropeway for transporting food and other essentials.
There are no proper eateries in the area but you will find friendly locals selling delicious steamed momos and sealed food products which will come to your rescue whenever you get hungry. You can also pack your own food, which is what most travellers do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven.’ A place like Latium is home to many and heaven for travellers. Next time you plan a trip to Meghalaya, make sure you drop by this must-visit destination.
How To Get There
You can rent a cab directly from Guwahati. If you are looking to take a journey with breaks, then you can take a shared cab to Shillong, visit Police Bazaar and grab some lunch before taking a local taxi to Laitlum.
Things to Keep in Mind
>There is a minimum charge that all vehicles need to pay to enter the Laitlum Canyon
>Be cautious of the slippery grass on the edge of the hill at Laitlum, especially in the rainy season or during an unexpected drizzle. Also, check the wind flow before approaching the edge because, at times, the speed of wind increases drastically.
By Saif Khan
Photos: Saif Khan
This travel piece was first published on Eclectic NorthEast July 2017 issue