Two friends discover beautiful landscapes and meet friendly locals while travelling across Meghalaya
Last September, my friend Ushna and I made plans to explore the Northeast. She was flying down from Pune for the first time and I wanted her to experience everything that the region has to offer. We first set out to pinpoint the destination. It was decided that we will not be travelling across Assam as the notorious yearly floods had wreaked havoc, once again. The national parks and reserve sanctuaries are also typically closed around this time. My dad was slightly annoyed with me because I had invited her in the month of September. ‘She will not be able to witness the beauty of Assam.’ I also felt that it was probably not the best call on my part but since her tickets were already booked, there was no looking back. We finally decided on Meghalaya as the ideal destination for this trip.
The Shillong Tour
Ushna landed in Guwahati early morning. We chatted and relaxed at home for some time. After polishing off a delicious home-made lunch prepared by my mother, we left for Shillong. We chose to book a private cab instead of taking a shared one. It takes a little over two hours to get to Shillong.
After we reached, we headed straight to the Aesthetics Home Stay in Lachumiere where we stayed for the night. This space with lovely and quaint old-world décor is run by Nurara Hazarika. A baker and an entrepreneur, and above all, an adorable woman, she was warm and hospitable and even served us mouth-watering cookies which she had baked the night before. In the evening, we visited the beautiful Ward’s Lake, an artificial water body encircled by a lush garden, where we sauntered around for about an hour.
For dinner, we headed up to the Tripura Heritage Castle. Located in Cleve Colony, it boasts of open courtyards, wide spaces, and a great view of the entire town. The food was average and we felt that the drinks were a bit overpriced. The best part about the dinner was actually the staff who were helpful and friendly.
By the time we returned to the home-stay, it had started to drizzle. Since we had a long day, we quickly tucked ourselves in and dozed off.
Up in the Hills
The next day, after a relaxing shower and a hearty breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Aunty Nurara. Our plan was to reach Cherrapunji and halt there for the night. As soon as we reached Police Bazaar, the commercial hub of Shillong, we looked for a taxi that would take us to Cherrapunji.
For the uninitiated, at Police Bazaar, you will find tons of local and private taxis that will give you a tour of Meghalaya. We decided to take a local taxi as it was a cheaper option. We found a man by the name of Kamal Thapa, a Nepalese man who has been driving in Shillong and erstwhile areas for years. We told him to drop us off at Sa-I-Mika Resort, a popular stay in Cherrapunji.
Kamal ji advised us that instead of going directly to the resort, we should see all the sightseeing spots and then halt at the Eco Park. Ushna and I decided to go with Kamal ji’s plan. We began our adventurous day with the regular spots such as Elephant Falls, Wakaba Falls, the legendary Mawsmai Cave and the famous Nohkalikai Falls. Our taxi drove amidst heavy fog and spectacular backdrops.
Around dusk, it started to get really cold. We finally reached Eco Park, and booked a room. It’s a basic lodge with minimal amenities but surrounded by breathtaking views. The staff spoke in broken Hindi but was rather friendly and gave us all the essentials for the night. However, if you’re looking for a more luxurious stay, Eco Park is not the place for you.
Reconnect With Nature
Next morning, we made our way to the famous Living Root Bridge (not to be mistaken with the Double Decker Living Root Bridge) and later to the Mawlynnong village in the East Khasi Hills district.
The Living Root Bridge feels like it is straight out of J K Rowling’s imagination. Handmade from the aerial roots of rubber fig trees tied by the local people of Meghalaya, the roots make a pathway across a stream. We strolled around, took pictures and then made our way to the Mawlynnong village. It is a small village which had won the status of being the Cleanest Village (2003), not just in India, but in Asia. Since it is a major tourist spot, it is usually quite crowded.
Kamal ji insisted that we get lunch first. We ate at a typical bamboo hut which had been turned into a restaurant. There were many huts like that, and I believe, they are mostly run by families from the village. After lunch, we were surprisingly not sleepy at all and instead we felt rejuvenated.
We took a tour of the village which was indeed quite spotless. There were bamboo baskets outside each house encouraging everyone to keep the village clean and green. We left the village and headed off to Dawki, a very small town in the West Jaintia Hills. It is located on the border between India and Bangladesh. We sailed on a boat on the river Umngot and went up to an island, which was mostly deserted, apart from a few locals.
Our last spot for the day was Tamabil, a border crossing between India and Bangladesh where we saw many trucks waiting to cross the border. It was dark by the time we drove to a small village near Dawki called Shnongpdeng where we would be spending the night.
By the River
The Umngot River passes by Shnongpdeng village. Here, the water is crystal clear, even more so than Dawki. There is even a suspension bridge over the river. Next morning, after we had cleaned up, Ushna walked over to the other side. As I have a major case of vertigo, I couldn’t follow her, much to my disappointment.
We had a quick breakfast; I slurped on some hot noodle soup. We then bid our goodbyes to the endearing people who ensured our stay was comfortable.
The Last Leg
Finally, we were on our way to our last destination, the Krang Suri waterfall. We drove through the exquisite West Jaintia Hills. The roads had lush green meadows on both sides. We were compelled to stop the car and stare at the meadows. I had seen Scotland in pictures and looking at a similar sight in front of me, I was suddenly hit by the realization why Shillong is known as the ‘Scotland of the East’.
We reached the Krang Suri waterfall, which is located in Jowai, in the West Jaintia Hills. A gravelled path leads you to the waterfalls; the hike up is about 20 minutes. The waterfall is beautiful and pristine. We sat and relaxed on the banks of an artificial dam, near the waterfall, for what seemed like a long time. Later, we walked back, enjoyed an authentic meal and drove back to Shillong. It was time to say goodbye to Kamal ji, an impeccable driver but also an amazing and trustworthy human being who helped make the trip even more memorable. He dropped us at Police Bazaar and we decided to halt once again at Aunty Nurara’s for the night. We did feel a bit sad but then we started feeling happy again when we started planning our next trip which we think will be to Mizoram.
I have had many memorable trips across the country but this trip was perhaps my favourite. It was special because we ventured out on our own (just the two of us) and encountered stunning locations and friendly people that made us awfully happy. When we returned, the glee was well etched on our faces.
Written by Sanskrita Bharadwaj
Photos: Ushna Mohan Iyer
The story appeared in the December, 2017, Issue of Eclectic Northeast.