It is true that when you are traveller at heart, your bucket list is always expanding but it is not always easy to pack your bags and set out to explore lesser-known lands, mostly because we have so much pressure to excel at work while also balancing family life and everything else. And, although the destination you may have in mind may just be a couple of hours away, you may not get to scratch it off your list for years. For me, Krang Shuri waterfalls was one name on my list that I had been yearning to travel to but it took me close to 7 years to make it happen. After becoming bewitched by a picture of the falls at a photography exhibition held in Rabindra Bhavan back in 2011, I knew that I had to see it for myself one day. A colleague of mine had recently driven down to the falls with her family and that pushed me to take a little road trip of my own to the falls located near Jowai, West Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya.
The plan was to make use of the Diwali holidays. I called my friend, Anwar Hussain Majumder and we decided to go together in our respective cars. We were a big group, Anwar, his wife and two daughters, in addition to my wife and I. Anwar’s colleague and his wife also decided to join. We planned to meet at the end of the Shillong bypass towards Jowai. However, the day before we were meant to travel, my wife suffered from a sudden bout of fever. I had to cancel the trip but on the day of the trip, we woke up to a bright winter morning that made us change our minds. I informed Anwar of the change and we left Guwahati at 9 am, later than what we had planned originally.
The Road is Calling
It was a beautiful drive for the most part, except a passage through Jowai town and a 5 km stretch after that. The four lane from Jorabhat to Barapani felt comfortably familiar as I had travelled via that route many times. The scenery, the greenery, the curves, the twists and the turns, the ups and downs and the world rolling by as I comfortably cruised by was like meeting an old friend. At Barapani, we took a right turn to take the Shillong bypass. Then we entered a gorgeous stretch; it felt as if I was driving through a scenery in a watercolour painting. The wind on the skin, the soft sunlight lighting the way and the world, the weeds beside the road blooming bright and the tall pines, all added to the enchanting experience. Habitation was sparse and so was traffic.
We caught up with Anwar’s group at Highway Dhaba in Mawryngkneng. It was 30 minutes past noon by then. After the initial exchange of greetings, we hurried to our destination as we were running late. Jowai town with its labyrinth of serpentine roads looked confusing. Anwar drove fast as he was more acquainted with the terrain and crossed Jowai in a jiffy. I lost my way and approached a policeman at a crossroad to ask for directions. The policeman booked me for not following his enigmatic hand signal. He took my license. I asked him why he booked me instead of helping me. He remarked that I didn’t follow his signal. I explained that I was from out of the State and I had lost my way which is why I needed some human help, but he preferred not to listen. He directed me to go to the police station. The officers there were understanding but I still had to pay INR 200 and sign a receipt wherein I was referred to as an offender. It was frustrating because I was simply asking for directions. It made me realize that a character makeup is the need of the hour, at least for some individuals in the police force. But I wasn’t going to let this incident ruin my getaway so I proceeded towards the falls.
The Unforgettable Sight
After a while, we entered a very narrow hill road with craters and broken patches. It was quite the climb. It was a single lane and traffic was slow. I was beginning to regret my decision to embark on the trip in the first place. But it is rightly said that darkest is the hour before dawn, for then we entered a beautiful countryside that cannot be described in words. One must experience it in person, to know its beauty and charm, to be lost in that cradle of Gaia at her best – all dressed up with flowers and displaying the curve and flow of her seductive hills and hillocks, mounts and mountains.
Anwar entered the falls by taking a detour through a country road. I took a longer route following the map. His parking was free, and whereas I had to pay INR 50 for mine, which was the official entrance. After parking the cars, we began to climb down a narrow pavement made of concrete blocks hugging the mountain like a snake. We walked for about 5 minutes and then arrived at a viewing point. The falls was visible a few hundred feet below through a break in the dense canopy. It looked beautiful. The tiredness of the long drive simply vanished and we were all excited to meet it at the base of the mountain. The climb down was comfortable, and the slope was gradual. We arrived at the stage to get front row seats of the mesmerizing magic show. The clear blue pool, the water rolling down in a relentless flow, the gigantic rocks lying in abandon, the azure sky, the dense hue of all shades of green all added up to create magic. Construction work was going on in the area to make it more accessible.
For as little as INR 20, you can swim in the natural pool. The water is cold, and it would require considerable madness to swim in it. All the same, some tourists were indulging in a dip and it presented the indomitable human spirit that never shies from trying something new. The best thing about the falls is that you can walk right below it.
Lunch at the Bridge
The hours spent at the falls resulted in breathtaking clicks. The water felt good when we dipped our feet. We could not go boating as time was running out and we wanted to leave before dark. We spent around two hours there, but it was not enough. We needed a few more hours to fully immerse ourselves in the intoxicating vibe and so we decided to come visit again.
Before returning home, we indulged in a small picnic near an ancient bridge made of stone blocks. By the time we finished eating, it was dusk, and the evening sun brought our eventful day to a beautiful close. The night drive was in some ways better than the day drive, for the headlamps made vehicles visible long before they announced their physical presence and that was an immense help while dealing with blind curves. The outside temperature was between 12°C to 14°C and the ride was comfortable.
We arrived home at 11 pm and our minds and hearts were full of memories of the day. Flipping through the pictures we have taken, I could tell that the beauty of the place can never truly be captured by camera but has to be witnessed in person, which gives me the perfect reason to go back soon.
By Saptarshi Majumder
This feature was first published in Eclectic NorthEast December 2018 issue