Among one of the most beautiful destinations of North East India, Meghalaya often referred to as the Abode of the Clouds is a land of lush green mountains, magnificent waterfalls, unexplored natural caves, the man made wonders of the living root bridges and home to the simple people like the Khasis, Garos and Jaintias. Separating the State of Assam from the plains of Bangladesh, Meghalaya is a cool, pine fresh State set on the horseshoes of rocky cliffs. Forming a part of Assam earlier, Meghalaya became a full fledged State on January 21, 1972 and is bounded in the North and East by Assam and on the South and West by the country of Bangladesh. Meghalaya has a total area of 22,429 sq. km. covering the districts of East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, Ri Bhoi, East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and the South Garo Hills. The total population of the State is around 23,18,822 covering across 5629 villages and towns. Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya and is often referred to as the Scotland of the East.
The State of Meghalaya is a land of pristine waterfalls, virgin forests, crystal clear rivers, lush green cover of mountains, pleasant sunshine, the living root bridges, charming people, the wettest places on planet Earth and unending bounties of Mother nature! Meghalaya Tours and Travels welcomes you to the State of Meghalaya ~ the ‘Abode of the Clouds’! A land where the clouds fill the clear skies and pleasant rains make you fall in love with life all over again!
With an approximate area cover of around 22,430 sq km, Meghalaya has around 70% of this land under forest cover. The forests of Meghalaya have unexplored virgin wilderness giving shelter to a wide biodiversity of mammals, birds and reptiles. The Nokrek National Park in the west garo hills of Meghalaya is home to the highly endangered Red Panda species. Only a few left in the World! And as an important part of their contribution to nature, the Tribes of Meghalaya have marked some of the forest regions as sacred groves which have been preserved from times immemorial and have deep religious and cultural significance to an extent where no tree is allowed to be cut from these sacred groves.
Meghalaya is home to many Legendary tribes of India with the primary dwellers being the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes. Each of these tribes have their own distinct culture and traditions but the primary similarity binding these communities is the matrilineal system in which the family’s lineage is taken from the Mother’s side. The Mother is considered as the head of the family here and this can be noticed across Meghalaya where you see many women folks running the daily business activities in the local markets. It is notable that in Meghalaya, the youngest daughter inherits the property and takes care of her parents and siblings. At times, a daughter in law can also be chosen as the heir to the family inheritance. The State of Meghalaya has one of the World’s largest surviving matrilineal tradition. The people of Meghalaya practice Christianity as their faith and English is the official and widely spoken language of the State of Meghalaya.
The State of Meghalaya (Sanskrit: Meaning abode of the clouds) has never failed to thrill its visitor’s. From pleasant weather, beautiful landscapes, majestic waterfalls and breathtaking scenery, a visit to Meghalaya will surely fill your heart with solace. Shillong aka ‘the Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ is the capital of state of Meghalaya where you see a blend of the cultural past and modern civilization. Shillong is also the District Headquarters of East Khasi Hills District and is situated at an altitude of 1,496 metres above sea level. The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the seat of Government since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India more than a century ago.
The State of Meghalaya is one of the most favored destination of visitors to North East India. Meghalaya is a land of never ending mountain cover, seamless cover of clouds covering these mountains, pristine unadulterated landscapes, clear water rivers, pleasant climate with rainfall, the Bio Engineering marvels of the Living Root Bridges and unending bounties of Mother Nature. Meghalaya is a place where you get to see a blend of ancient traditions and modern life. The sanskrit meaning of the word ‘Meghalaya’ is ‘Abode of the Clouds’ and very true to this description once you are at Meghalaya you will experience that the cloud cover ceases to clear the skies.
Meghalaya is located at the proximity of the city of Guwahati in Assam with the capital of Meghalaya – Shillong having a distance of approximately 80 km from Guwahati. Shillong city is often referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ as every third household in Shillong has a talented musician. Meghalaya is bounded to the south and west by the country of Bangladesh and to the north and east by the State of Assam.
Meghalaya is the wettest region of India, recording an average of 12,000 mm of rain in a year. Mawsynram in Meghalaya is the wettest place on Planet Earth. Alos, around 70% of the State of Meghalaya is under forest cover.
Inhabited by three principal tribes of North East India i.e. the Khasis, the Garos and the Jaintias, one unique culture of the tribes of Meghalaya is the Matrilineal system wherein the family’s lineage is taken from the Mother’s side and the youngest daughter inherits the ancestral property and takes care of her aged parents and unmarried siblings.
Meghalaya is a place where you get to see a blend of ancient traditions and modern life. The sanskrit meaning of the word ‘Meghalaya’ is ‘Abode of the Clouds’ and very true to this description once you are at Meghalaya you will experience that the cloud cover ceases to clear the skies. Meghalaya is located at the proximity of the city of Guwahati in Assam with the capital of Meghalaya – Shillong having a distance of approximately 80 km from Guwahati. Shillong city is often referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ as every third household in Shillong has a talented musician. Meghalaya is bounded to the south and west by the country of Bangladesh and to the north and east by the State of Assam.
The State of Meghalaya is also home to the ‘Wettest place on Planet Earth – Mawsynram’. Mawsynram records the maximum rainfall anywhere in the world. Very close to this is the record held by the town of Cherrapunji. Cherrapunji’s breathtaking landscapes is sure to leave any visitor here awestruck! The Majestic ‘Nohkalikai’ waterfall at Cherrapunji is the tallest plunge waterfall in India.
Geography of Meghalaya ~
As mentioned earlier, around 70% of Meghalaya is under forest cover. Meghalaya is mountainous with stretches of valley and highland. The State of rich in mineral deposits like coal, limestone, uranium, etc.
Meghalaya also has many rivers like Umiam, Umngot, Simsang, etc.
The highest point of the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya is the Shillong Peak at an altitude of 1961 m and in the Garo Hills it’s the Nokrek Peak at an elevation of 1515 m.
Climate of Meghalaya ~
Being home to the wettest and second wettest places on Planet Earth at Mawsynram and Cherrapunji it can be easy understood that in Meghalaya, the clouds cease to clear the skies. With an average annual rainfall of 12,000 mm, Meghalaya is the wettest place on Earth! Meghalaya’s climate follows a trend as the rest of North East India wherein the summer months range from May to September classified with a mix of hot and humid and cool rainy days. Winters are mostly dry with cold nights.
Flora and Fauna of Meghalaya ~
With around 70% of land under forest cover, Meghalaya boasts of a wide variety of Flora, Fauna and Avifauna species. Two of the most important tree varieties found in Meghalaya are Sal and Teak. In addition, Meghalaya is home to a large variety of fruits, vegetable, spices and medicinal plants. It would be important to state that Meghalaya supplies vegetables across the entire North Eastern region of the Country. The mammal species found in Meghalaya are Elephants, Bears, Red Pandas, Gaurs, Deer, Wild Boars, etc. The Hoolock Gibbon species is found in all the districts of Meghalaya. As per the tradition of the tribes of Meghalaya, certain small pockets of ancient forests have been preserved by these tribal communities for hundreds of years due to religious and cultural beliefs. These forests remain protected from exploitation and are called as Sacred Groves. These Sacred Groves of Meghalaya harbor many rare plants, animal species and a wide variety of Orchids.
Economy of Meghalaya ~
The State of Meghalaya is predominantly an agrarian economy and nearly 80% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Nearly 10% of the area of Meghalaya is under cultivation. Handicraft is also an occupation prevalent among the tribes of Meghalaya. Weaving in an ancient craft done both on cloth and cane. Cane mats, stools and baskets of Meghalaya are famous across the World. Other items include mouth organs, flute, tobacco pipes, tribal weapons, etc. Tourism as an economy is gradually catching up in Meghalaya with many people depending on it for their livelihood. The Tourism Department Govt. of Meghalaya has come up with many unique initiatives to attract more visitors to the State and Meghalaya Tourism is dedicated on developing infrastructure and public facilities at tourist spots across Meghalaya.
Considered to be among the wettest places on Earth, Meghalaya is home to Mawsynram and Cherrapunji, the two most rainiest places on the planet. Meghalaya itself records an average annual rainfall of 1200 cm. Meghalaya enjoys a favorable climate around the year generalized as temperate. The climate of Meghalaya is influenced by the South-West monsoons and the North-East winter winds. The four seasons of Meghalaya are Spring – March and April, Summer (Monsoon) – May to September, Autumn – October and November and Winter – December to February.
Known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly, the people of Meghalaya belong mainly to three principal ethnic communities viz. the Khasis, the Garos and the Jaintias. Majority of these people practice Christianity as their faith which is evident from the many number of Churches to be seen here in Meghalaya. The most common trait binding these communities of Meghalaya is the matrilineal system wherein the family heritage is taken from the mother’s side.
The principal languages of Meghalaya are Khasi, Pnar and Garo. However, English is spoken by a majority of the people of the State. The Khasi language of Meghalaya is believed to be on the few surviving dialects of the Mon-Khmer family of languages in India today.
Meghalaya is home to varied flora and fauna. Rich in rare species of flora like the pitcher plant, wild citrus and pygmy lily. Meghalaya is a paradise for botanists with over 300 world’s species to be found here. Meghalaya’s forests are rich with the Rhododendron and pine trees. In addition, various species of fruit trees like plums, peaches, oranges as well as spices like ginger, pepper, turmeric, bay leaf, etc. are found across Meghalaya. The Mawphlang Sacred Groves at Mawphlang is a huge protected area forest and is home to over 200 species of orchids. Flora and Fauna are widely spread across the National Parks and Wildlife Reserves of Meghalaya. The Nokrek National Park near Tura is home to various species of fauna like Wild Elephants, Hoolock Gibbons, rare varieties of birds and orchids, etc. The Balpakram National Park near Tura is home to the highly endangered species of Red Panda. Additional fauna to be sighted here are tigers, bisons, black bear, leopards, sambar deer, etc. The Siju Bird Sanctuary is home to many rare and endangered species of Avi Fauna. The Siberian ducks are spotted here during winters and also the Grey Hornbill and Peacock Pheasant.
Meghalaya is a state of never ending festivals. From modern rock concerts to traditional agrarian based festivals, the ethnic community of Meghalaya viz. the Khasis, Garos and Jaintias celebrate several festivals that are characterized in the form of dance, feast and worship. Some of the prominent festivals celebrated across Meghalaya are Shad Suk Mynsiem Dance, Nongkrem Dance Festival, Behdienkhlam Festival, Laho Dance, Chad Sukra, Wangala Festival, Autumn Festival, Strawberry Festival, Ranikor Festival, etc.
Meghalaya is the wettest region of India, recording an average of 12,000 mm of rain in a year. Mawsynram in Meghalaya is the wettest place on Planet Earth. Alos, around 70% of the State of Meghalaya is under forest cover.
Meghalaya’s main ethnic communities, each having its own distinctive customs and cultural traditions are the Khasis (of Mon-Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and the Jaintias said to be from South East Asia. The common trait binding all three communities is its Matrilineal system in which the family linage is taken from the mother’s side. The people of Meghalaya are known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly.
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Destinations of Meghalaya and places of Interest~
1| Shillong, Meghalaya ~
Shillong aka ‘the Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ is the capital of State of Meghalaya where you see a blend of the cultural past and modern civilization. Shillong is also the District Headquarters of East Khasi Hills District and is situated at an altitude of 1,496 metres above sea level. The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the seat of Government since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India more than a century ago.
Places of Interest ~
Wards Lake, Don Bosco Museum, Madina Masjid, Shillong Polo Grounds, Elephant Falls, Indian Air Force Museum, Shillong Peak, Cathedrals of Shillong, Bara Bazaar, Police Bazaar and the numerous Cafes of Shillong.
2| Cherrapunji, Meghalaya ~
The Land of Majestic Waterfalls, Breathtaking Landscape, Unexplored Caves, the Living Root Bridges and the Second Highest Rainfall anywhere in the World. The original name for this town was Sohra, which was pronounced “Churra” by the British. This name eventually evolved into the current name, Cherrapunji. The name “cherrapunji” which means ‘land of oranges’ was first used by tourists from other parts of India.
Places of Interest ~
Nohkalikai Falls, Seven Sister Falls, Dainthlen Falls, Mawsmai Caves, Double Decker Living Root Bridge, Single Decker Living Root Bridge, Beautiful Landscapes and the Rains of Cherrapunji.
3| Mawlynnong, Meghalaya ~
Declared as the Cleanest Village in Asia, at Mawlynnong there are about 95 households. A striking feature of this small village is that the literacy rate is 100%. Agriculture is the chief occupation of the local population, with betel nut being the main crop. The people residing in the community are mostly Khasi people.
Places of Interest ~
Living Root Bridge at Mawlynnong, Bangladesh Border view Sky-walk, Balancing Rocks at Mawlynnong, Asia’s Cleanest Village, Village Walks, Ecotourism Homestay with the Khasi Tribes, Mawlynnong Cathedral, Khasi Cuisine, etc.
4| Dawki, Meghalaya ~
Dawki aka Tamabil, is a place at the border of India and Bangladesh near Meghalaya. Dawki is renowned for the Umngot River which has water so clear that you can see the river bed clearly with a naked eye. Visitors are allowed to take a boat ride on the River and one can literally see the boat floating in air as the water is so clear. At Dawki you can cross the border of India and reach the pillar 1273 that marks the border of Bangladesh and India. The suspension bridge at Dawki is also a tourist attraction which was constructed in 1932 by the British.
5| Pynursla, Meghalaya ~
Pynursla is small town in the East Khasi Hills located between the journey from Cherrapunji to Mawlynnong. Covered with a thick rain forests Pynursla is a place of breathtaking beauty. The place remains under a cover of clouds most of the time around. Pynursla is also home to the Longest Living Root Bridge in the World!
6| Mawphlang, Meghalaya ~
The site of the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves, Mawphlang is located at 25 kilometers from the capital city of Shillong. The word maw means “stone”, maw phlang means “grassy stone,” and is one of many settlements in the Khasi hills named after monoliths. The Khasi heritage village is considered to be the hub of Khasi culture and plays host the Monolith Festival of Meghalaya every year in the month of March-April.
Mawphlang is also the starting point of one of the most pristine trekking routes across Meghalaya viz. the ‘David Scott Trail Trek’ which begins at Mawphlang and extends upto Lad Mawphlang covering a total distance of 16 km across the vast virgin wilderness of the East Khasi Hills and the flowing Umiam river.
7| Tura, Meghalaya ~
Tura is a hilly town in the West Garo Hills district in the state of Meghalaya. One of the largest towns in Meghalaya, Tura is a valley located at the foothills of the Tura Hills and right below the Tura Peak. The climate in Tura is moderate throughout the year and has a large number of interesting and unexplored areas. The native God ‘Durama’ was believed to reside in the hills.
The Nokrek National Park near Tura is a hotspot of biodiversity in Meghalaya. Nokrek is an important habitat of the Asian elephants. The park had eight species of cats, ranging from Tiger to Marbled cat. But Nokrek is better known to have a remnant population of the Red panda that has generated curiosity across the World.
Places of Interest ~
Tura Peak, Nokrek Biosphere, Pelga Falls, Rongbang Dare, Sasatgre Village, Williamnagar, Sisobibra, Resubelpara, Baghmara Reserve Forest, Nengkong, Imilchang Dare, Simsang River
Important Festival of Meghalaya ~
The three major tribes of Meghalaya viz. the Khasis, Garos and Jaintias celebrate various festivals across the year to mark their agricultural good faith festivities. These festivals of the people of Meghalaya are interconnected with their traditional practices, culture and religion. The people of Meghalaya express their way of happiness in these festivals in the form of worship, feasting, songs and dances. Some of the important festivals of Meghalaya are ~
1| Nongkrem Dance Festival ~ Khasi Hills ~ Meghalaya
The Nongkrem Dance Festival is one of the most important festivals of the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya who inhabit the East Khasi Hills & West Khasi Hills districts of Meghalaya. Celebrated every year during the month of November, this festival promotes the message of peace and prosperity and is a way of saying thanks to the Lord Almighty by the Khasi people of Meghalaya. The Nongkrem Dance Festival is held at a place called Smit near Shillong which is also the capital of the Khyrim Syiemship Society. Smit is located around 15 kilometers from Shillong and is the hub of the Khasi heritage and culture. The Nongkrem dance of this festival is generally held at the King’s courtyard – viz. the Syiem of Hima Khyriem (Chief of Khyriem). In the Nongkrem Dance Festival, the festivities begin by offering the sacrifice of a goat in order to appease the God of Shillong Peak – Lei Shyllong. Later on the festivities and dance rituals begin where in the unmarried Khasi girls start the dance on barefoot and the boys accompany them in the dance holding traditional swords and white yak hair and both dance to the sound of the beating drums. The festival is celebrated with great pomp and vigor across the Khasi people of Meghalaya and people from across the world gather in Meghalaya to be a part of the festivities. The head of the Khasi State – Syiem presides over the rituals of the Nongkrem Dance Festival and the boys and girls dance to the tunes by paying their respects to them.
2| Shad Suk Mynsiem Dance Festival ~ Khasi Hills ~ Meghalaya
Another important festival of the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya is the Shad Suk Mynsiem Dance Festival. This is an annual spring dance festival of Meghalaya celebrated every year in the month of April by the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya. This is an annual thanksgiving festival for the successful harvest of a season and is celebrated on the Weiling grounds in Shillong city and also across other parts of the State of Meghalaya. This festival involves various families, clans and villages an it reflects the various characteristics of the matrilineal society of the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya. The men carry swords and symbolize as the protectors of the womanhood of the society.
3| Behdienkhlam Festival ~ Jaintia Hills ~ Meghalaya
The Jaintia people of Meghalaya inhabit the area around Jowai in the West Jaintia hills and they celebrate one of the most colorful festivals of Meghalaya that is hosted for three days called the Behdienkhlam Festival. The ‘Behdienkhlam’ means driving away of evil spirits by beating with sticks.
During this festival, the Jaintia people of Meghalaya take out a procession on the streets of Jowai accompanied by beating of drums and playing of flutes and pipes. A decorative structure in the form of a tower called as the Rath follows them and this Rath is carried to a lake for immersion. Men mostly take part in this procession while women stay back at home preparing for the sacrificial rituals. The festival culminates when a sacred tree is brought in the center of the locality of the village. A major sport soccer played with a wooden ball is organized between two teams f the Upper and the lower valleys of the Myntdu river. The team that wins will bring good fortune to that particular valley.
4| Laho Dance ~ Jaintia Hills ~ Meghalaya
Another popular festival of the Jaintia people of Meghalaya is the Laho Dance festival. In this festival both men and women participate. Both boys and girls are dressed in their finest attire and they dance together holding each others hands. Instead o the normal drums and pipes a cheerleader recites certain traditional chants for the audience.
5| Chad Sukra ~ Pnar Hills ~ Meghalaya
Celebrated every year in April, the Pnar people of Meghalaya make preparations for hosting the Chad Sukra which is their annual sowing festival. Similar to the likes of the many harvest festivals across North East India, the Pnar people too believe that it is the best time to sow seeds after this festival. This festival is celebrated to appease the God and seed his blessings to protect the crops from any calamities during the year.
6| Wangala Festival ~ Garo Hills ~ Meghalaya
The Wangala Festival is an important festival of the Garo people of Meghalaya who inhabit the East Garo and West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. The Wangala Festival is a post-harvest festival of the Garo tribes that marks the end of the years agricultural season and a time to thank God for a beautiful harvest – the God of Misi-A-Gipla-Saljong-Galapo. Held usually in the month of November, the festival is symbolized with eating, drinking and merrymaking across the festival days in order to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The men and women dress in their best possible attires and come out to the local celebration grounds where 300 dancers and 100 drums gather to highlight the grandeur of the Wangala Festival. To the tunes of the drums the men and women dance gracefully along with the tunes of buffalo horn trumpets and bamboo flutes.
7| Ka Shad Mastieh
Ka Shad Mastieh is a unique dance form of the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya that is performed by the young men and women of the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya and in this dance form, the performers clad themselves in colourful traditional attires. The silver or golden crown worn by the ladies illustrate the glory and dignity of the Khasi people of Meghalaya. In the Ka Shad Mastieh dance form the men dance with a sword in their hand that symbolizes and honours the memory of their forefathers who laid down their lives to protect the honour and dignity of the women of the community and protect their land from the enemies.
8| Modern Festival ~ Shillong ~ Meghalaya
The Autumn festival of Meghalaya is held every year in October in Shillong which i organized by the Dept. of Tourism to promote tourism across Meghalaya. Various activities like fashion shows, beauty pageants, food and wine festivals, flower shows, music and rock festivals, etc. are organized as a part of the festivities.
The Strawberry festival of Meghalaya is another important festival that is emerging as a tourist attraction of Meghalaya. Organized every year on Valentine’s day, the festival draws huge crowds from across the World that provides various details of the strawberry cultivation across the State.
The Rainikor Festival of Meghalaya is celebrated every year in February which is a sort of a modern sports festival that has a blend of traditional practices of the Khasis, Garos and Hajongs of Meghalaya. Various sports like trekking, beach volleyball, soccer, swimming, traditional archery, boat riding, etc. are held followed by performance of live bands and ethnic cuisines.
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Boats on the clear waters of the Umngot River at Dawki ~ Dawki ~ Meghalaya ~ India
Sample Itinerary Detail for your visit to Meghalaya – North East India
Day 1 ~ Guwahati and Cherrapunji
Arrive at Guwahati Airport and transfer to Cherrapunji. On the way sight the Umiam Lake which is the largest artificial water reservoir of NE India. The crystal clear waters to leave you spellbound. Arrive at Cherrapunji for night halt.
Night Stay: Sohra Plaza Homestay at Cherrapunji
Meals Included: NA
Day 2 ~ Cherrapunji ~ Double Decker Living Root Bridge (Trek Duration ~ 5 – 6 HRS)
Today after breakfast, we kick start the Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek at Nongriat Village near Cherrapunji. Duration of trek is 5 – 6 hours. We will also spot the Single Decker Living Root Bridge at Cherrapunji.
Highlights of the Trek:
- These Living Root Bridges (Single and Double Decker) are one of the most unique bridges in the world. They are grown by the ancient tribes of the Khasi hills
- Cross Hanging Bridge
After the trek we’ll have lunch at the Local Market at Cherrapunji and savor Ethnic Khasi Delicacies and Cuisine. Later visit the Nohkalikai Falls, Seven Sister Falls and Mawsmai Caves and wrap up for the day.
Night Stay: Sohra Plaza Homestay at Cherrapunji
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3 ~ Dawki and Mawlynnong
After Breakfast, visit the Dainthlen Falls and Wah Kaba Falls at Cherrapunji. Later travel to Dawki. The International Border of India and Bangladesh click your pictures at no man’s land at pillar 1275. Later visit the Umngot River at Dawki. Take a boat ride on the Umngot River ~ the crystal clear waters to leave you spellbound. Later arrive at Asia’s Cleanest Village of Mawlynnong. At Mawlynnong, visit the Balancing Rocks, the Living Root Bridge and take a walk along Asia’s Cleanest Village.
Night Stay: Comfortable Homestay at Mawlynnong
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4 ~ Mawlynnong and Kaziranga National Park
After Breakfast, enroute to Kaziranga National Park. Enroute visit Shillong – the Scotland of the East and capital city of the State of Meghalaya. At Shillong we visit the Elephant falls and the Don Bosco Museum. Begin on your drive to Kaziranga National Park. Evening we will visit the Kaziranga Orchid and Biodiversity Park – the Largest Orchid park in India and witness the closing ceremony of the day here.
Night Stay: Bonroja Motel/Namdang Guest House at Kaziranga National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5 ~ Kaziranga National Park and Guwahati
Early morning go for a thrilling Elephant Safari into the interiors of the Kaziranga National Park aboard the ride of the Kings an Elephant Safari to spot the pride of Assam ~ the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga. After Breakfast, go for a thrilling Jeep Safari ride into the interiors of Kaziranga National Park at the Burapahar Safari range. After the Jeep Safari ride continue on your drive back to Guwahati city. Evening free to explore the GS Road in Guwahati.
Night Stay: Hotel Sai Kripa Inn at Guwahati
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6 ~ Kamakhya Temple and Depart from LGBI Airport
After Breakfast, visit the Holy Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati. The Oldest and most revered among the 51 Shakti Peethas across the World, Kamakhya plays host to the Eastern Mahakumbh ~ the Ambubachi Mela Festival and holds special interest for the Tantric cult. Later we will drop you the Guwahati Airport for your onward destination. Tour Ends. Bid Adieu!
Meals Included: Breakfast
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When I started my small travel company, travelling across Meghalaya was one of my wonderful experiences. Instead of only sticking to the normal touristy circuit myself along with my friends used to travel on the offbeat path exploring places that were not known to many. From travelling via Rani in Assam to Mairang in Meghalaya exploring the Kyllang rock (largest rock in India) to exploring the biodiversity rich Nokrek National Park, from visiting the Second largest river island in Asia at Nongkhnum. From visiting the Nartiang Monoliths in Jowai to visiting the Longest Living Root Bridge at Pynursla. From camping by the riverbanks of the Umngot river at Shnongpdeng to attending the Wangala festival of the Garo festival at Tura, from exploring the caves of Mawsynram to enjoying in the natural hot water pools of Mawlyngbna across our journey we discovered that Meghalaya has so much to offer to any traveller apart from the well known destinations of Shillong, Cherrapunji, Mawlynnong and Dawki. There are so many other unexplored destinations across Meghalaya that we are yet to explore and I will post the details in this article once I am able to discover these places.
I will sum up my journey where we will start our journey from Guwahati and travel to West Jaintia hills at Jowai crossing the East Khasi hills. Then we continue to explore the West Jaintia hills to come back to East Khasi Hills and then end our journey at the West Garo Hills crossing the West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.
On our journey across Meghalaya we have often travelled with our own vehicle and did not use much of public transport but there are many options of public transport and shared taxis across Meghalaya and even if you are planning on a backpacking journey across Meghalaya you will not find it much of a difficulty to find local modes of transport to explore the natural beauty of Meghalaya. Though the taxis are not very frequent (apart from the busy route viz. Guwahati to Shillong) but there will be transport at regular intervals.
We started on our journey to Meghalaya from Guwahati in Assam. Since I am clubbing my entire experiences together I will have two other friends on this journey (we were a different group of people each time but to avoid confusion I am considering 3 of us on this journey). We started early from Guwahati to head to Jowai and I would cover this experience in the following way:
Guwahati to Jowai
Jowai to Shnongpdeng
Shnongpdeng to Mawlynnong via Dawki
Mawlynnong to Cherrapunji via Pynursla
Cherrapunji to Nongriat to Cherrapunji
Cherrapunji to Lad Mawphlang to Mawphlang
Mawphlang to Mawlyngbna via Mawsynram
Mawlyngbna to Shillong
Shillong to Mairang to Mawphanlur
Mawphanlur to Nongkhnum Island via Nongstoin
Nongkhnum Island to Tura via William Nagar
Tura to Nokrek National Park to Tura
Tura to Guwahati
We crossed Jorabat that is the border of Assam and Meghalaya and continued on our drive to Meghalaya to enter at Byrnihat. Byrnihat is the first entry point in Meghalaya and is known for the various cement factories. Byrnihat market is a well known local market in the border of Assam and Meghalaya and various local traders come here to set up shops that sell their organic produce of vegetables, fruits, groceries, meat, fish, etc. It was a market day today at Byrnihat in Meghalaya and the place was filled with people from Assam and Meghalaya even at 8 AM in the morning. We took sometime to cross the place and were then off on our drive further. After driving for about 35 min we reached the Nongpoh toll gate. The National highway across Meghalaya is in excellent condition all thanks to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and for the upkeep of the roads they charge a small amount as maintenance charges towards these roads from all vehicles passing through this toll gate.
We paid our toll charges of INR 65 and continued to drive to Nongpoh where we were scheduled to have our breakfast. Nongpoh is the favorite destination for travellers to Meghalaya who stop here to take a break from the long drive from Guwahati airport or from Shillong to grab a bite to eat. There are various dhabas and restaurants here in Nongpoh that serve various cuisine like North Indian, Chinese, South Indian, Local Khasi as well. My favorite place to grab a bite to eat is at a small eatery at the Nongpoh bus stand that serves some lip smacking Khasi food. This place is run by an elderly Khasi lady who serves Jadoh, pork and beef to her customers along with a special spinach curry, potato and carrot sabji along with tomato chutney and a fermented fish pickle. The three of us our seats at this eatery and the aunty served us our plates of steaming hot Jadoh and other items. The food tasted awesome and is experiencing Khasi cuisine at its best. We finished our breakfast and started on our drive further to Jowai in Meghalaya.
We crossed Umshing and reached the Umiam lake in Meghalaya shortly. We had planned to cover the natural beauty of this lake this time as we would not be returning the same way on our drive back to Guwahati so we took a right diversion towards Shillong route to sight the beautiful waters of the Umiam lake. The Umiam lake at Barapani in Meghalaya is the largest man made artificial water reservoir in North East India. It was primarily created as a source of hydel power for power generation and the huge dam on your way to reach Umiam and Shillong speaks of this. Today the waters of the this lake have become a place of prime tourist interest in Meghalaya. There is a sports complex here that has a restaurant and allows visitors to enjoy boating. There is also a resort here where you can spend a night by the waters of the Umiam lake in calm.
We reached the Umiam water sports complex and paid our entrance fees of INR 50 to go to the complex. Here we had our experience of boating on the Umiam lake and we stopped over at the restaurant to have a cup of coffee as well. After sometime we continued on our drive to Jowai in West Jaintia hills. The roads are good but after Barapani it is no longer a four way highway and the roads are a two way lane instead. This road connects Meghalaya with Silchar in Assam and further to Aizawl in Mizoram and Agartala in Tripura. We continued driving admiring the beautiful valleys of Meghalaya that we got to see on our way. It feels like driving in a foreign country with good roads and very less vehicles on the way. There are heavy trucks plying on this route as they transport goods to various other states like Mizoram and Tripura across this route via Meghalaya. We halted for breaks and to enjoy the clear and pure air of the West Jaintia hills of Meghalaya.
In sometime we reached the spot that has a huge entrance gate that welcomes you to West Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. We crossed the gate and continued to drive further. We reached the festival grounds of the Bacardi Weekender festival that is hosted every year in Jowai in the month of October – November and sees music bands from across India and abroad participate here. Various renowned artists of Bollywood also come over here to perform as well. One of my friends hosts a campsite here during the festival days and so he was well accustomed with the place around. He took us to a small food place around that serves some delicious Jaintia cuisine. The Jaintia cuisine is similar to the Khasi cuisine and includes most of meat. The dish served to us had white rice, dal, pork intestines, pork liver, sabji, tomato chutney, spicy chutney, green chillies, etc. It was one of the most delicious food ever tasted in Meghalaya and we thanked our friend for bringing us to this place.
We finished our lunch and finally reached Jowai in Meghalaya around afternoon. Our stay was booked at the Heaven’s Cove Resort in Jowai and it was a little drive away from Jowai town. We decided to visit the Nartiang monoliths of Jowai and checking out the Jowai market before reaching our place of halt. We drove to the place of the Nartiang Monoliths at Jowai in Meghalaya. The Nartiang Monoliths in Jowai are said to be the tallest monoliths in the World. These monoliths are sacred stones and the Nartiang monoliths here at Jowai in Meghalaya it seems were erected here to mark the reign of the Jaintia kings of the area. These monoliths of Jowai are basically stone pillars that are carved from a single stone. It is said that the tallest monolith here at the Nartiang monoliths is 8 m in height and is known as the Moo Iong Syiem that was erected by U mar Phalynghi to commemorate his victory in a battle. These monoliths of Nartiang in Meghalaya were erected during the period from 1500 to 1835 AD all during the reign of the brave Jaintia kings of Meghalaya. We took our time admiring the monoliths of Nartiang and took a walk around the area. There are a few local shops nearby selling snacks and tea and we stopped to have a cup of black tea before we bid goodbye to the Nartiang monoliths in Jowai and headed on our drive to the Jowai market before proceeding to check into our place of stay for the night.
The Jowai market is located in the heart of Jowai town in Meghalaya and is a blend of traditional and a modern market. On one side of the market you can find modern shops that sell goods that are found in the modern world of today like electronics, household goods, bathroom fittings, etc. while on the left side of the road is a traditional market selling goods that have a delectable Jaintia touch to it. Various traditional clothing of the Jaintia people can be found here along with their traditional food items. One thing that would catch the attention of your senses is the various fermented fish chutneys that are sold in this market. They have a very strong fishy smell and you cannot pass by without taking a glance at these items. Also interesting to see all shops being run by women folks from fish stalls to chicken/pork/beef stalls to the vegetable market of Jowai here all the shops are run by women. We explored the market area for a while and bought some toiletries that we would be needing across our trip.
We started our drive again and took a left from the DC office at Jowai to go to the Heaven’s Cove Resort at Jowai. It is about a 20 min drive from the Jowai market to this place and the drive is across the verdant hills of Jowai. We reached the place in sometime and Mr. Bari the owner of the place was there at the entrance to greet us. We had to park our car at a house nearby and take a short hike crossing a bridge and paddy fields to reach the place. Our luggage was carried by the caretakers of the resort and we started on our 10 min hike to the Heaven’s Cove Resort. This was a newly built place and is a lovely getaway here in Jowai. We reached the place and it was a beautiful building painted in yellow and white and has two rooms one on the ground floor and one on top with a dining area on the ground floor. The room on top is bigger and there is a living room area as well. The campus is powered with solar power with a backup genset available. There is a pool table, swimming pool, ATBs, cycles, dance floor, bonfire area and a fish pool that has Koi fish varieties here. The place is secluded and is a perfect getaway from a busy city life. Hep the caretaker cum cook assisted us to check in and take a walk around the campus of the Heaven’s Cove Resort here at Jowai in Meghalaya.
We took our turns riding the ATBs across the big lawn area here and in the evening Hep lit us a bonfire to beat the chilly winter weather in Jowai. For dinner we had rice, dal, salad, mixed vegetables fried, pork with sesame seeds and the food was equally delightful as the place as well. We retired to our rooms after a long day and the next morning we would be exploring the forest area behind the resort and do some other local sightseeings in Jowai as well.
We got up by 6 AM the next morning and explored the place again and we for a clear view of the beautiful colors of the Koi fishes here. Hep prepared us tea and we set out to explore the forest area behind as well as a waterfall that is located here and is the source of water supply to the resort as well as the nearby local villages. We started off our hike and it took us about 30 minutes to reach the hill top and another 15 min hike to reach the waterfall. The view of the resort from the hilltop was amazing and the cleat winter sky made the walk all the more exciting. We crossed small rocks to finally reach the waterfall area and after playing in the waters here we continued on our trek back to the resort. We had our breakfast of puri sabji, boiled eggs and tea and headed out to visit the Tyrshi falls at Jowai. This is about a 45 minute drive from the resort and a cascading waterfall here in the West Jaintia hills in Meghalaya. We had to cross a vast expanse of paddy fields to reach the Tyrshi falls in Jowai after crossing a small wooden bridge we reached the place. We trekked to the bottom here as well to admire the beauty of the Tyrshi falls and got a breathtaking view of the Pynthor Nein as well. We winded up our visit at the Tyrshi falls at Jowai in Meghalaya and next up we headed to explore the Umlawan caves near Jowai.
The Umlawan caves near Jowai is said to be the deepest and longest cave in the Indian Subcontinent with a length of 21.6 km. It is located at Lumshang village near Jowai. The roads are not well maintained so we had a little tough time driving to reach the Umlawan caves. There were few tourists around here and we hired the services of a local guide to take us inside the cave. In the interest of time we did not go very deep into the cave and visitors are allowed to explore only a small part of the cave. It was interesting to explore this cave in Meghalaya that has over 3,500 caves in total and we could see the various formations of stalactites and stalagmites here. The guide told us about the Umlawan caves and in sometime we came out as it was already afternoon. We started on our drive and had traditional Jaintia lunch at a small eatery and started on our drive back to Jowai in Meghalaya. On our way back to Jowai we stopped at the Syntu Ksiar. This place is a popular picnic spot and angling destination in Jowai by the banks of the Myntdu river. The place encircles 2/3rd of Jowai township. A beautiful monument has been made here in the memoir of a Jaintia patriot named U Kiang Nongbah and the name literally means Golden Flower.
We explored the place and headed back to the Heaven’s Cove Resort. Hep had prepared some evening snacks for us and we celebrated by the bonfire over a bottle of rum to mark our last evening here in Jowai before we headed out tomorrow to Shnongpdeng in Meghalaya. Dinner was simple and had egg fried rice, garlic chicken, salad, chilly potatoes, papad, pickle, etc. We planned to leave the next morning at 8 AM to head to the Krang Suri falls near Jojwai before heading to Shnongpdeng.
The next day morning after our breakfast on our way out of the Heaven’s Cove Resort, Mr. Bari joined us and he wanted to take us to this beautiful waterfall a little ahead of Jowai before reaching the Krang Shuri falls and as we had time in our hands we agreed to visit the place. Just about 30 min drive from Jowai takes you to this beauty of a place. We had to park the car along the road and from here hike down across natural ladders and a small bamboo bridge to reach this waterfall. Not many people know about this waterfall and hence it is limited to local visitors only and so there was particular name of this waterfall as well. We reached the bottom of this waterfall and it was a spectacular sight to behold. The water was crystal clear and the natural colors around filled our soul in peace. Meghalaya is indeed a land of pristine waterfalls and this one is a very good example of what we were about to experience on our visit across Meghalaya. We thanked Bari for bringing us here and we bid goodbye to him and Jowai to continue to Shnongpdeng.
On the way we reached the Jarain Pitcher plant lake. This man made lake is having a lot of the carnivorous pitcher plant species and as I never had an experience of sighting pitcher plants earlier we decided to make a stop here. This is a beautiful lake having a fountain in the center and also offers boating facilities to its visitors. The lake occupies an area of almost 50,000 sq. m. and is filled with the pitcher plant varieties. We admired the plants and later started on our drive to the Krang Suri falls. From the main road we had to take to left diversion to go to the Krang Suri falls and from here it is another 2 km drive to reach the parking spot of the Krang Suri falls in Meghalaya. We parked our car and started to hike towards the area of the Krang Suri falls. There is a well built pathway that takes you down to the steps of the Krang Suri falls near Jowai. We bought our entrance tickets from the counter and in some time reached the Krang Suri falls. The beauty of this waterfall is indeed a sight to behold. We took our places at the viewpoint and admired the beauty of this waterfall. My friends went down to swim in the waters as well. There are caretakers around and they guide you where to go and not to go. I took a walk around the natural cave like area here near the waterfall.
There are camping grounds in the area as well where you can spend the night here as well. My friends came back and we went on top to see the source river of the waterfall and it was a delight to see this as well. There are a few refreshment stalls here and we enjoyed our biscuits and black tea. There was a boatman here who offered us a ride on the waters of this river source for a small fee and we agreed to pay him the amount and we enjoyed a boating experience here at the Krang Suri falls as well. in about another hours time we left the Krang Suri fall and headed on our way to drive to Shnongpdeng. On the way we stopped for lunch at a roadside stall and the food was again an authentic Jaintia cuisine as well were still in the West Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. We arrived at Shnongpdeng in the late afternoon and went to check into our homestay here. The places to stay here at Shnongpdeng are basic and there are also camping sites available for stay as well. These work well during the winters when there is no rainfall and staying in tents is an option.
As it was late we did not plan on anything for the day and just sat by the banks of the river Umngot here at Shnongpdeng admiring the clear waters of the Umngot river. The boats were plying on the waters here and it seemed as though they were floating on the air and not moving on the water. There were some locals fishing here and the owner took us to the spot where his friends were fishing. They offered us their fishing rods and my friend joined them in their fishing expedition. The group had a good time fishing and the catch was good a total of 20 fishes both small and big. At the end the catch was divided among the group and my friend and the homestay owner got 5 fishes. With 5 fishes in our kitty we headed back to our homestay and the owner gave the fishes to his wife to be cooked for dinner. The meal would also have pork as it is a staple in the diet of the Jaintia people. We walked around the village admiring the natural surroundings and we could see the plains of Bangladesh from a slight elevation point in the village as Shnongpdeng is located close to Dawki (Tamabil) which is the border of India and Bangladesh.
We would be visiting Dawki tomorrow and cross the border to continue to Mawlynnong – the Cleanest village of Asia here in Meghalaya. This would mean that we would be leaving the West Jaintia hills ato enter the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. We came back to the homestay and the owner invited us over the kitchen to see how his family was preparing dinner for us. All this because my friend knew him from earlier and had organized several camping expeditions at Shnongpdeng with him. He even hosted a TV series starring Kalki Koechlin here. Normally the Jaintia people are conservative and do not get too friendly with the tourists. Just because he knew my friend we were allowed to have these authentic traditional experiences of Meghalaya.
It was an interesting kitchen and the best part about the homes here in Meghalaya is that the people keep their kitchen very neat and tidy even though it might be small in size. The owner offered us some local liquor made with rice and it had a bitter taste to it and a strong flavour. We enjoyed our glasses and our dinner was served and it was an elaborate meal that had white rice, a dal cooked with a certain herb, fish curry with herbs, pork with sesame seeds, salad and a spicy tomato chutney. It was again one of the most flavorful meal we had ever had and all thanks to the homestay people for having it all arranged for us. We thanked each and every member of the family for their kindness and gratitude and having taken all trouble to arrange this wonderful stay for us tonight. We retired to our rooms and thereby ending another eventful day in Meghalaya.
The next morning was our day of adventure here at Shnongpdeng in Meghalaya. Pioneer adventures have their adventure site here and they organize various activities like snorkelling, diving, rock climbing, rappelling, etc. We would be enjoying an hour of Kayaking on the waters of the Umngot river here at Shnongpdeng in Meghalaya before heading out to Dawki and further to Mawlynnong village in Meghalaya. We enjoyed our hour long session and then started on our drive to Dawki bidding farewell to the owners of the Homestay here at Shnongpdeng. Dawki is a short drive away but we were warned that we would encounter traffic as heavy trucks keep plying across the International border carrying stones and other items.
And it turned out to be true indeed as we were greeted by hundreds of trucks starting from a little ahead of Shnongpdeng continuing up to the International border. However, these trucks were parked alongside the road and the only time we faced a problem was when there was another vehicle coming from the other side of the road. We managed to cross this traffic and reach the immigration checkpoint of Tamabil (Dawki) where we had to park our car and then walk to the International Border of India and Bangladesh. The bSF soldiers were here to greet us and they keep a 24/7 vigil on these border areas to detect and prevent illegal immigration and trade as well. we seeked their permission before crossing the Indian side of the border here at Dawki and then walking into no man’s land at pillar 1275. These were other soldiers standing here who were on a constant watch preventing tourists from crossing this area. On the other side we could see the territory of Bangladesh. we explored the no man’s land for a while clicking our pictures and then returned to the parking area to start on our drive to the Dawki clear water boating point.
This is the most premier tourist attraction of Dawki and every day during the peak season hundreds of tourists come here to enjoy the experience of clear water boating on the waters of the Umngot river here. We missed on this experience at Shnongpdeng in Meghalaya so we took the opportunity of enjoying our boating experience here in Dawki. We paid INR 700 towards boat hire charges and the boatman guided us to his boat. He took us into the waters here and it was a wonderful experience watching the crystal clear waters here. The other boats seemed as if they were floating in the air with the clear waters. The river has a stony bed and all these stones were clearly visible to our naked eyes. The boatman took us to a rocky island where we went to a local shop. The shop owner was frying fresh fishes that had just been caught from this river and he offered us some. There was beer available with him as well and we took our seats to have a beer can each and some fried fishes. The fish was very delicious and we ordered another plate full of it. we finished our beer and fish and then headed back to our boat. The boatman dropped us back to the shore and we thanked him to go back on our drive to Mawlynnong village in Meghalaya.
There are two roads to Mawlynnong – one via the BSF outpost and one through the highway and Poinisuk village. We took the inner way from the BSF outpost as there are 2 beautiful waterfalls to be sighted along this way. The roads are not very good on this route but still it was manageable and at first we reached the Borhill falls. Though it was winter season, the waterfall still had a good source of water supply across it and it look beautiful. We stopped for a while here and then continued on our drive to Mawlynnong in Meghalaya. We came across the other waterfall but it was dried out so we did not make a halt here and instead headed straight to Mawlynnong. We were yet to have our lunch today and it was late afternoon. We reached Mawlynnong to be greeted by one of our friends here Mr. Sukher. Sukher is a local guide here and he was a friend of Kaushik who was travelling with us. He also owns a homestay and restaurant here in Mawlynnong where we ordered our lunch. As it was late, the food was almost over yet Sukher managed to arrange for rice, dal, potato sabji and some chicken curry for us. We were quite hungry so the meal tasted delicious to us. Sukher also got us some tomato chutney to accompany our meal.
After our lunch we went to visit the balancing rocks here at Mawlynnong village. These balancing rocks are situated just outside the cleanest village of Mawlynnong in Meghalaya and are an interesting phenomenon to witness. A huge stone boulder resting atop a smaller boulder and this is how these stones have been standing here at Mawlynnong across many years. Even major earthquakes were not able to demolish this site. The earlier Khasi people of Mawlynnong considered these stones to be sacred and performed religious rites around these stones to protect their village from famine and bad luck. Today however this place has become an important tourist destination and every day hundreds of visitors come here to witness this phenomenon of balancing rocks at Mawlynnong in Meghalaya.
Sukher had planned the next day for us where we would go caving, sighting nearby waterfalls, take a short hike from Nohwet to visit the Riwai Single Decker Living Root Bridge near Mawlynnong. So we decided to take rest for the evening and simply explore the Cleanest village of Asia of Mawlynnong in Meghalaya. Sukher took us around the village explaining to us as to how the local people here go about their daily chores in keeping the village premises clean that has earned them this prestigious and coveted tag. Since it was awarded this tile tourism has become very popular in this remote village and people from across India and abroad come to Mawlynnong in Meghalaya to take a glimpse into the people’s lives here. We walked around the village admiring the natural beauty around and also visiting the local shops here that sell a variety of souvenirs. sukher guided us to our homestay that is located above his restaurant and we took our rooms. Evening we watched his family cook our dinner and after our dinner we retired to our rooms early as this is a village environment and people retire to bed early as 9 PM.
The next morning we were awakened by the chirping of the birds and the local roosters of Mawlynnong. It was around 6 AM and the sun was up. We took a walk around the place and Sukher joined us in sometime at his restaurant where he offered us some black tea and biscuits. Today was our day to explore the nearby places of Mawlynnong village. We would start our day by visiting the Old Khasi hut at Nohwet village. We took our car and Sukher joined us to show his ancestral home here. The oldest Khasi hut at Nohwet village in Meghalaya had belonged to Sukher’s great grandfather and today it is preserved to show the ancient heritage of the Khasi people of Meghalaya. It is a small hut built of bamboo and thatch roof and has only a single room where the family used to stay. We took a walk around the hut admiring the ancient architecture of this place. Next up we went ahead to visit the Nohwet sky view point. This is basically a huge bamboo structure that you need to climb on top and from here you get an amazing view of the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya and the plains of Bangladesh as well. The ticket for a person costs INR 30 as it is a private property and we paid for our tickets and climbed this structure to get an amazing view of the mountains and valleys of Meghalaya.
Next up Sukher took me and my friend to walk across from Nohwet to Riwai where we would come out of the Riwai Single Decker Living Root Bridge while Kaushik as he had already explored these places would bring the car to the parking spot at the Riwai village. The trek was across the local villages and the beautiful forests of Meghalaya and we admired the tall canopy of trees around us. The trek took about 45 minutes and we finally came out at Riwai Single Decker Living Root bridge in Meghalaya. This is one of the most visited tourist spots in Mawlynnong and sees up to thousand visitors a day during the peak season. The Living Root Bridges are grown with the roots of rubber tree and the roots are guided to grow with hollowed out areca tree trunks that helps the roots to grow in one particular direction. In about 15-20 years one root bridge is completely grown and would last for about 500 years. These living root bridges are indigenous only to Meghalaya and the Khasi and Jaintia people are adept in growing them connecting the remote villages across perennial streams. Kaushik had joined us here and we explored the living root bridge of Riwai in Meghalaya.
We came back on top at the parking spot to go back to Mawlynnong village where we would have our lunch and then set out to explore a cave near Mawlynnong village. It is a not very frequently explored cave and only sees a few tourists here. We had to carry torches to go inside here and Sukher guided us. Not a very deep cave though still it was exciting to enjoy the view inside this cave. By the time we finished exploring this cave it was 4 PM and we came back to Mawlynnong village in Meghalaya. We had our dinner early and this marked our final day exploring Mawlynnong – the Cleanest Village in Asia here in Meghalaya.
Today morning after breakfast we thanked Sukher and his family for hosting us here in Mawlynnong and we bid goodbye to the cleanest village in Asia to head to Pynursla in Meghalaya to witness the longest Living Root Bridge in the world before continuing our journey to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. We took the main road this time and started on our drive to Pynursla. This road is narrow but in a good condition but one has to drive carefully because it is a small road with sharp bends and also an uphill drive. Adequate use of the car horn is needed to warn the other drivers of your approach especially along the road bends. I drove carefully to avoid any traffic snarls and then finally we came out to a broader highway. The highway is much broader and is in excellent condition to drive from on this highway and we reached Pynursla in about 25 min time. Before reaching Pynursla town there is a left diversion from a 3 way road crossing from where you need to take a left to go to the village where the longest living root bridge is located. It is another 15 min drive from the highway to reach this small village at Pynursla in Meghalaya. We finally reached the village and parked our car here.
We were greeted by an old lady who owned a small shop at the village entrance. She did not know any other language apart from Khasi and thankfully we found another small shop owner who understood a bit of Assamese. He called out to a person from the village and instructed him to take us to the longest living root bridge. He was an old man as well and he too only knew Khasi language. We decided to use hand signs to communicate and then we started trekking across the flight of stairs to go to the longest living root bridge. There are several hundred stairs across the well built stairway that takes visitors down to the place where where the longest living root bridge is located. The person took us along and in about 30 minutes time we reached down and sighted the longest living root bridge in the World here at Pynursla in Meghalaya. A beautiful man grown structure, this was a feast to our eyes to witness this bioengineering marvel in person. This longest root bridge is over 50 m in length and connects this village to various other small villages nearby. There is also another root bridge situated parallely to this and people were using this bridge to cross across.
The longest living root bridge is narrower and only one person can cross it at a time. We took our turns to walk across this bridge and to come back from across the other living root bridge. After spending some time admiring the natural surroundings and both these living root bridges we started on our hike across the stairs back to the village. We reached in about 45 minutes and the person took us for a walk around his village. An interesting thing about the villages of Meghalaya is that they are very clean. You will find no litter across the villages and the village members contribute in keeping their village clean and neat. We took a short hike around the village and later bid goodbye to the people at the village after paying a small amount as a token of our gratitude to the person for showing us around.
We started on our drive to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya from Pynursla. The beautiful valleys of Meghalaya started to greet us along the way and it was a very nice drive experience. In sometime we reached a crossing where a right diversion takes to Shillong and a left diversion to Cherrapunji. We took the left diversion to Cherrapunji to arrive at the Mawkdok viewpoint in Meghalaya. From here we get a beautiful view of the beautiful green mountains of Meghalaya and the Mawkdok valley as well. This is a stop over point for refreshments for the various tourists as there are a few refreshment stalls around here. The Pioneer adventures the ones we met at Shnongpdeng have a zipline facility here as well. There are two lines here one a shorter line and the other a longer line and visitors can take this opportunity to do ziplining here in Meghalaya. We had a late lunch here at one the restaurants of chicken noodles and chicken manchurian and after admiring the beauty of the valleys of Meghalaya we started on our drive to Cherrapunji from here.
We reached Cherrapunji at around 3.30 PM and we went ahead to check into our place of stay at the Sohra Plaza Homestay. This is a good stay option in Cherrapunji at budget cost and Eva the manager lady welcomed us and allocated us our rooms here. We took a big room that would accommodate the 3 of us together and the owner of the place came to greet us in sometime. Sunset in Meghalaya and North East India is an early phenomenon especially during the winter season. So as it was already 4 PM we couldn’t do much more of sightseeing as it would be dark by 5.15 PM so we went ahead to travel behind the Sohra Plaza homestay to head to the Wei Sawdong waterfall nearby around 10 min drive. We planned to reach early back to our homestay so we had to wrap up our visit quickly. We reached the place and set out to explore the Wei Sawdong falls at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. This is a beautiful 3 step cascading waterfall with crystal clear waters that look perfectly blue. One can go down trekking to the base of this waterfall but in the interest of time we did not attempt this instead we sighted the waterfall from the viewpoint on top. It was starting to get dark and we decided to call it a day and skip visiting the Dainthlen falls. This is another popular waterfall in Meghalaya having a legendary folklore attached to it.
We decided to buy a bottle of rum for tonight and so we headed to the Cherrapunji market. Here we went to meet one of our friends at the market who runs a nice restaurant and a small guest house as well near the Hotel Crescent in Cherrapunji. Ple as we call him welcomed us to his restaurant and offered us coffee and biscuits. He was speaking of his business as to how it was faring and wanted to discuss some ideas of opening a heritage Khasi site here in Cherrapunji near the Nohkalikai falls. Kaushik and him got together discussing while we explored the market area in Cherrapunji. It was dark and we brought a bottle of rum and headed back to the Sohra Plaza homestay at Cherrapunji. Eva had prepared some evening snacks for us and we went to our rooms to freshen up after a long day. There were no guests today here as it was a weekday and that too a monday and the tourist season in Meghalaya had not yet started. We asked Eve to light us a bonfire and we took our seats next to it. We started discussing on our plans for the next day of exploring Cherrapunji and Eva brought us the snacks to go along with the rum. We ordered our early dinner as she had to go back home. Dinner was served at 7.30 PM and it had rice, dal, pork traditional recipe, mixed vegetables, etc. We had out dinner and after spending some more time around the bonfire we retired to our rooms for preparing for the next day.
Today we were all set to explore Cherrapunji and then head to Nongriat village for our trek to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. After a quick breakfast we checked out from the place and at first went to explore the Arwah caves in Cherrapunji. It is about a 10 min drive from the Homestay to the Arwah caves. We reached the parking lot and from here we had to walk for about 500 m to reach the cave entrance. The Arwah cave is a popular tourist attraction in Cherrapunji and it is a very broad cave that has a stream flowing inside of it as well here in Meghalaya. We took a guide to show us around the Arwah caves and he explained to us about the significance of the Arwah caves that is a prehistoric cave in Meghalaya. The Arwah cave is well lit inside but to observe the various fossils on the walls of the cave you have to take a torch or a headlamp. We could see the various stalactites and stalagmites as well. The cave is lit up to one point to about 800 m inside and then there is a narrow passage that takes you further deep inside the arwah cave in Meghalaya. We did not go further inside as we had a lot of other things to cover today as well. We came out of the Arwah cave in Meghalaya to head to India’s tallest plunge waterfall – the Nohkalikai falls in Cherrapunji.
The drive to Nohkalikai falls is across the beautiful valleys of Meghalaya and it gets a feel of Scotland. We reached the spot of the Nohkalikai falls and we hear the gushing sound of the waters here. We went out of our car to sight the pride of Meghalaya – the Nohkalikai falls in Cherrapunji. The waters were crystal clear blue and as it came down from the cliff it turned into a green color into a waterpool. The Nohkalikai falls in Cherrapunji is a plunge waterfall meaning that various perennial streams flow into a plateau on top of this waterfall and then the water gets collected here and then plunges down together from a height of 340 making it the third tallest waterfall in India as well here in Meghalaya. A sense of peace and tranquil fills your mind when you see the Nohkalikai falls in Cherrapunji. A unique folklore stating how this waterfall in Meghalaya came to be known as the Nohkalikai falls is listed on a huge display board that is written here as well. We explored the area of the Nohkalikai falls in Meghalaya and then headed to explore the Seven Sister Falls at Cherrapunji.
The Seven Sister Falls in another popular waterfall in Cherrapunji and is said to be the fourth tallest waterfall in India with the waters plunging from a height of 315 m. There are seven distinct falls here and hence the name Seven Sister falls. We took our places at the viewpoint of area here and there was a local person here who offered us a binocular on rent and we took our chances to view the Seven Sister Falls and along with it the plains of Bangladesh that were visible from here along with the lush green valleys of Meghalaya. We took our time exploring the Seven Sister Falls and also viewed the most expensive and luxurious stay options in Cherrapunji the Hotel Polo Towers and Jiva’s Resort. The beautiful campus of the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Meghalaya here in Cherrapunji as well. After this we went to explore the Mawsmai caves in Cherrapunji another very popular cave in Meghalaya. We were running short of time so we decided to skip the Mawsmai Caves and instead have our lunch at the Sohra market area and then continue on our drive to Tyrna village where our local guide Jerry would take us to the Nongriat village.
We stopped at the Sohra market area and walked into a nice cozy restaurant here to have our lunch. We ordered for pork momos, chicken fried rice, pork chilly fry and the food arrived shortly. The food was very delicious and as we had to walk a long distance we decided against eating too much. At around 2 PM we started on our drive to Tyrna village in Meghalaya from Cherrapunji. It would take us around 30 minutes to reach the place and the drive was across the beautiful tropical forests of Meghalaya. The beautiful trees and bushes along the roads made us feel more close to nature and we even sighted another waterfall along the way. Then we reached a sharp bend on the road and we took a right turn here to go to Tyrna village. We reached Tyrna shortly and Jerry our local guide who now accompanies most of our tour groups to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat was waiting for us. We were to leave our vehicle at the parking spot and Jerry assured us there was nothing to worry as no one dares to commit any nuisance here at Tyrna village. Keeping his words we started on our hike to Nongriat from Tyrna in Meghalaya. A small beautiful village, Tyrna has a few households and once again the cleanliness of the village will leave you spellbound. Meghalaya should be named as the land of clean people and clean villages and not only confined to having the cleanest village in Asia. Beautiful flower gardens and trees greeted us along the way.
Gradually the flight of stairs started to approach and we could see as to why some of our other friends warned that this would be a challenging task to accomplish. The thought that we do not have to climb back the same fleet today itself was a consolation and we kept on walking to Nongriat. In sometime we approached a small shop from where the stairs get steeper. before we started hiking again we made a quick stop here to hydrate ourselves. The view of the valleys from this point was fabulous and there was a waterfall at Nongriat that could be viewed from here. We gradually started on our downhill hike again and in some time we reached the next village that is located on a level ground. From this village the way to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge is on the left and on the right it heads to a different village that has a set of Single Double Decker Living Root Bridges of Tyrna in Meghalaya along with a cave. We were interested to visit these root bridges as well so we asked Jerry how long would it take to cover this and he told us around 30 minutes. We decided to give it a try and so we walked towards these root bridges. We arrived shortly to the location and Jerry guided us to the place of these bridges. An amazing sight to behold these root bridges of Meghalaya are located parallel to each other. While one is located a little ahead the other is located a little behind. If you stand at a particular point the sight of both these bridges look amazing. We clicked our pictures and then started on our trek to Nongriat again.
This time we took a separate route to go to Nongriat village. We reached a small church area and we halted for a while to hydrate ourselves. Next up it was time to cross a sacred grove that was located under the path we were crossing up to the point where we reached a hanging bridge. The bridge was built with tension wire ropes and metal plates and we had to cross it slowly and carefully not to sway the bridge too much. We crossed the bridge one by one yet it swayed a little but the walk across it was exciting. The stream that passes underneath the bridge had crystal clear blue waters. Next it was an uphill climb until we reached another suspension bridge. This one is better built and crossing it doesn’t give you much of a scare in your mind unlike the previous one.
Finally we arrived at Nongriat village and we could catch a glimpse of the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge here. On approach to Nongriat there is a smaller Living Root Bridge as well. We walked across this bridge to finally arrive at Nongriat village. Jerry had booked our accommodations at a homestay here and he wanted to take us there first but we wanted to catch a glimpse of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge first so we headed there. Surprisingly the place was filled with foreign tourists and it seemed we were in Goa with lesser Indian than foreign tourists. We paid our entrance fees and got to behold a sight that is one its kind in the World here in Meghalaya. This is one a kind root bridge and the Double Decker Living Root Bridge is to be found nowhere else on planet Earth. A beautifully grown structure speaks a lot of how man and nature can work in tandem and live in harmony and peace. A beautiful stream was flowing across and the place was filled with butterflies. As it was getting dark we decided to check into our homestay at Nongriat in Meghalaya and explore the Double Decker Living Root Bridge the next day. Jerry guided us to the homestay and it was a nice place. The homestay was newly built and do it didn’t have a name to it so we decided to call it the Nongriat Homestay. The owner welcomed us in and it had only two rooms and both were allocated to us. The other homestays at Nongriat village were completely occupied mostly with visitors from Israel, Germany, Canada, etc.
Most of the travellers were backpackers and they were staying here in Nongriat since a few days admiring the beautiful surroundings and obviously the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. We unpacked in our rooms and Jerry went out to meet his friends here. As the rooms were all double occupancy I asked Jerry to stay with me in the room allocated to me while my friends took the other room. It was dark and there is nothing much to do in the evenings here. We came out of the homestay and found some of the travellers sitting around a small fire area so we walked to join them. They welcomed us and we spoke of their various experiences backpacking across South East Asia and India. As a few of them would be heading to Majuli Island in Assam, I shared the details of my Eco Camp with them and offered them a place to stay at discounted prices. They thanked me and we continued our discussion.
Jerry came back shortly and he asked to come to our rooms and he had brought along with him 2 bottles of specially prepared rice wine. We were overjoyed with this gesture of his and thanked him. We got four glasses and shared the bottles of rice wine before our dinner was ready to be served at 7.30 PM. The rice wine tasted good unlike the one we had in Shnongpdeng. Jerry also brought some locally prepared pork fry to go along with the wine. Dinner was served shortly and it was a simple preparation that had rice, dal, mixed vegetables, chicken and salad. The meal was plain cooked but was very delicious because of the natural ingredients used in cooking the meal. We enjoyed the meal and then after speaking for sometime we retired to bed.
The next morning we were up early and we headed to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge to spend our time admiring the beautiful structure of this man grown wonder and the stream waters that flows below it. We took our opportunity to swim in the waters here even though it was quite cold but the freshness of bathing in these waters made us very excited. We wrapped up our visit at the Double Decker Living Root Bridge as we had to visit the rainbow falls as well. Jerry led us across the stairs further to head to the rainbow falls after crossing the Mawsaw bridge here and we were to return to Nongriat again. We kept walking across the beautiful forest cover of Meghalaya and in about an hours time we reached the rainbow falls. This is a hidden gem of a waterfall here in Meghalaya. The pristine blue waters of the rainbow falls in Meghalaya is a sheer treat to a visitor’s eyes and surely to leave any visitor here enthralled. It was a delight to see the rainbow falls in Meghalaya and we took our places here admiring the beauty of the rainbow falls. My friends and Jerry took the opportunity to swim here as well.
Jerry had packed along lunch for us and we sat down to eat our lunch overlooking the beautiful rainbow falls before we continued on to trek to Nongriat to our homestay. After lunch we started on our trak back to Nongriat village form the rainbow falls. We reached back at Nongriat at about 3 PM and Jerry took us to explore the local village around and also to his friends place. We did not go back to Cherrapunji today as we had a take rest as we had another long trek the David Scot trek ahead of us and also we had to hike back the fleet of 3500 stairs from Nongriat to Tyrna the next day. We explored Nongriat for a while and returned to our homestay for the evening. Dinner was early at 7.30 PM and we returned to our rooms.
The next day we started on our trek back to Cherrapunji after our breakfast. This time the trek would be a challenge as we had to hike up the stairway. We started the climb from Tyrna village and took adequate breaks along the way to gain energy and hydrate ourselves. We made good progress and finally arrived on top at the Tyrna thereby successfully completing our trek to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat. Our car was there and after paying the parking fees and Jerry’s guide fees we thanked him for all his help and support and started on our drive to Cherrapunji. We had our lunch at the Orange Root restaurant which is one of the most popular restaurants in Cherrapunji. After lunch we checked into a different homestay behind the Sohra Plaza Homestay as this place was completely booked and we didn’t make a prior reservation. This place belonged to an old man who worked as a security guard at the Saimika Resort in Cherrapunji. Kaushik knew him from earlier and he alloted us our rooms. Blang as we called him made special dinner arrangements for us in the evening along with a bonfire and to accompany the bottle of rum a special pork dish as well. Before dinner we headed out to explore the Dainthlen falls nearby and also paid a visit to our friend at the Saimika resort who worked as a manager here. We returned back to our homestay early evening. Dinner had Jadoh, traditional pork recipe, banana flower chicken, salad, etc. After dinner we sat by the bonfire preparing our plan for the David Scott trek that we were scheduled to go on for the next day. Our guide would join us a Lad Mawphlang and we would trek across the beautiful terrains of Meghalaya to come out at Mawphlang.
Today morning we started on our drive to Lad Mawphlang from Cherrapunji. We bid goodbye to Blang and his family members and thanked them for a wonderful evening last night and the special dinner as well. The drive from Cherrapunji to Lad Mawphlang takes about 30 minutes and I had asked our local guide Ban Lyngdoh to join us here at Lad Mawphlang. Usually people attempt the David Scott Trek from Mawphlang and come out at Lad Mawphlang but as we were coming from Cherrapunji and not from Shillong side we attempted this trek route from Lad Mawphlang. We continued on our drive and in sometime we approached the beautiful valleys of Meghalaya again then at the Mawkdok viewpoint. This is where the trek entry point to the David Scott trek begins. Now we had a challenge as the three of us couldn’t go on this trek together as one person had to drive the car all the way to Mawphlang at the trek end point and pick us up to our place of stay in Mawphlang. Kaushik agreed to not go on this trek as he had earlier covered half of the David Scott trek in Meghalaya where they had camped at a village along the trek and come out back at Lad Mawphlang so we decided to go forward on our David Scott trek with our local guide while Kaushik drove the car to Mawphlang.
The David Scott trek is a 16 km long trek route across the virgin forests and beautiful mountains and valleys of Meghalaya. We started on the downhill climb to the next village that is along the trek. Gradually the climb became an uphill climb as we were about an overhead bridge. From here the trek is across a flat surface with a beautiful crystal clear stream crossing by. We kept walking across the verdant landscapes of Meghalaya until we came across a clear water pool. We halted here to touch and feel the waters that is in the purest form of nature in this natural pool. We clicked our pictures and then trekked further to the Laithsohma village in Meghalaya. This is a local Khasi village in Meghalaya and serves as a halt point for refreshments on the David Scott trek especially when you are attempting this trek from Mawphlang in Meghalaya. We stopped to admire this beautiful village and to hydrate ourselves.
Ban took us to a small shop where he wanted to eat something as he had a very early breakfast and was feeling hungry already. The lady in the shop had cooked food for her family but she agreed to provide it to bam whom she knew from earlier. In the kindest of gesture as it is clear across North East India, the lady even offered us the food. even though we refused, she insisted that we try it. She even spoke to Ban in Khasi telling us that she would feel disappointed if we did not accept her offer. At the end we accepted her offer delightfully and she brought us Jadoh along with some chicken curry and some chutney. Even though we had our breakfast, the walking along with the aroma of this delicious home cooked food made us feel quite hungry and we had the food delightfully. We thanked the lady and offered her some money as a token of our gratitude that she refused to accept but we persuaded here to take it and finally she accepted it. After our meal we explored this clean and beautiful village and then we started on our hike again to Mawphlang.
From now on it is a downhill climb across a thick forest cover but there is a proper pathway across the place so hiking is not an issue. And again this being a downhill climb, the trek is easy. There is a small waterfall somewhere inside the forest and so the waters from this waterfall seeps onto the pathway at certain places. One has to be a little careful while stepping as the stairs on the pathway get slippery and along with it the roads get muddy as well at certain places. We finally climbed down and reached a stream crossing that we had to cross. As it was during winters, the water level in the stream was less and we could cross it our shoes on as well. We crossed the stream and continued on our trek on a level ground until we reached a suspension bridge. This is a newly built suspension bridge as the former one was washed away by the powerful currents of the Umiam river during a severe flood. This bridge is a unique one that marks the completion of 3/4th of the David Scott trek.
From here on it is an uphill climb to Mawphlang in Meghalaya. We gradually kept on trekking while the river Umiam flowed below us. We finally arrived at the trek end point at mawphlang village at around 2.30 PM and we took 5 hours to complete the trek. Kaushik was waiting for us at the end point of the trek and from here we drove to the homestay near Ban’s house and we got to have our lunch here. Ban’s family had prepared the lunch for us as he had informed them of our arrival here. It was a sumptuous lunch that had rice, dal, pork with herbs, salad, brinjal chutney, etc. After lunch we checked into our homestay that belonged to Ban’s family. A little later we went out to explore the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves at Mawphlang in Meghalaya.
The Khasi hills sacred groves at Mawphlang is an important tourist site and is a rich biodiversity forest. Ban accompanied us to the sacred groves and we went inside to explore this site in Meghalaya. These sacred groves are ancient worship sites across Meghalaya where the Khasi people used to offer prayers to their ancestors and Gods and prayed for a good year of harvest. There are sacred monoliths inside the sacred groves of Meghalaya where the people offered their prayers. After the end of the prayer God would appear in the form of a tiger to signify a good year ahead or a snake symbolizing a year of drought and famine. These practices have now stopped yet people believe in these practices. Today these sacred grove sites of Meghalaya are a popular tourist destination with visitors from across the World coming to visit the place. The Khasi people of Meghalaya consider these sacred groves very sacred and no act of nuisance is allowed to be committed in these forest pockets like cutting of trees, plucking of flowers, drinking, gambling, etc. It is believed that if you commit an act of nuisance here you will be surely punished until you undo the act at these sacred groves. These sacred groves of Meghalaya are a blooming ground of various orchid species and around 150 species of orchids of Meghalaya and North East India are found here at the Mawphlang sacred groves.
We explored the place and then came out to visit the Khasi Heritage Village near the sacred groves site in Meghalaya. The Khasi heritage village is the traditional model of how a Khasi village looks like and this was supposed to be the festival grounds of the Monolith festival of Meghalaya. The monolith festival of Meghalaya was earlier held in the Khasi heritage village of Mawphlang and it showcased the rich and vibrant culture of the indigenous people of Meghalaya viz the Khasis, Jaintias and Garos. But since the past few years it is not being celebrated and only the site with a few traditional Khasi huts remain for tourists to get a glimpse into the Khasi people’s lives. We took a stroll around this place and later returned to our homestay at Mawphlang village. Ban introduced us to his extended family in the evening and we had our dinner at 8 PM thereby ending our eventful day completing the David Scott trek and Mawphlang in Meghalaya.
Today we bid farewell to Mawphlang to head to Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya after a visit to the ‘Wettest place on planet Earth’ at Mawsynram. We thanked Ban and his family for their hospitality and checked out of Mawphlang. From Mawphlang we headed on the Mawphlang – Shillong highway took a left diversion to head to Mawsynram. The roads are narrow from here so the drive is slower. In sometime we approached the Maple pine farm homestay near Mawphlang that is one of the most popular stay option in this area. The Maple pine farm homestay was built by a Canadian who came to Meghalaya and fell in love worth the place so he decided to stay back over and later he married a Khasi lady and built this unique place amidst nature here at Mawphlang in Meghalaya. The Maple pine farm homestay is built on sustainable ideas and uses solar and wind power to cater to its energy needs. A beautiful stream flows alongside the place and the beautiful valleys of Meghalaya surround the area as well. The blue colored campus is sure to grab your attention on your drive to Mawsynram.
We did not halt here as there was less time and we had to travel a long way to Mawlyngbna after exploring Mawsynram in Meghalaya. We kept driving and soon arrives at a small township and we made a halt here for breakfast. This is Kaushik’s favorite place for food when he travels across this area and its known for it pork recipes. It is a small shop and has a few other stalls nearby as well. The old lady at the shop seemed to recognize Kaushik and the best part is how they were communicating. The lady spoke in Khasi and Kaushik I was sure didn’t understand even a single word of it but they both looked at each other and kept laughing out loud. We took our seats here and the lady got us our food. Jadoh with pork liver and a spicy dry fish chutney. The food was super delicious and we kept eating it. We ordered black tea as well and the tea had a smoky flavor to it as it was cooked over wood fire. We thanked the lady for the food and then continued on our drive further to Mawsynram in Meghalaya. The beautiful valleys of Meghalaya came to our sight and continued along the journey. These parts of Meghalaya are sparsely populated and only thing to see around are the green mountains, blue rivers and the sky and the rice and vegetable cultivations.
We arrived at a road diversion and from here we had to take a right to go to Mawsynram while straight would take us to Mawlyngbna. We headed right and continued to Mawsynram. There is a fuel bunk along the road and we halted here top refuel the car. Along the journey to Mawsynram there is a waterfall whose waters fall from top across the road to down below. During the monsoon the water level in the waterfall gains momentum and the traffic often halts as the water flows on the roads and people need to wait for the rains to subside here at Mawsynram in Meghalaya. Mawsynram doesn’t see much of tourists as like the other destinations of East Khasi hills in Meghalaya so when we were there we could see most of the local Khasi people around of Meghalaya. At first we headed to a kind of a fort that has certain monoliths here. We hiked around but couldn’t see much of a thing and there was no one to guide us around as well.
Next up we proceeded to visit the Jakrem hot springs at Mawsynram in Meghalaya. It is s a little away from the town area of Mawsynram and we continued on our drive. This was the only place in Meghalaya that left us quite disappointed. After driving so long across the dreaded roads we came to a place where there was no sight of any hot springs. Instead there were only small rooms where the local people were waiting their turns to take bath. We looked around to see if there was any hot spring around and we were told that hot water spring is in someplace far away and the waters are brought here in pipes and people have to take bath with this water in the small bathrooms that are believed to have certain healing powers to body ailments. It was an utter surprise to us and we somehow decided against having going inside the place. So we returned back to our car and proceeded to our next destination in Mawsynram the Mawjymbuin caves.
The Mawjymbuin caves is a popular cave in Meghalaya and is considered sacred among the hindu people because of a Shivling that is present inside the cave here at Mawsynram in Meghalaya. The Mawjymbuin cave is located near Mawsynram township and is made of calcareous sandstones and is about 209 m long. Over the several hundred years the deposits of calcium carbonate has given rise to carious stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave premises which are of interest to tourists and geologists as well. The Mawjymbuin cave entrance is spectacular and is about 4 m in height and 50 m in width. Every year during the festival of Shivaratri, thousands of devotees from far and near come here to offer their worship here at the Mawjymbuin cave at Mawsynram in Meghalaya. On our day of visit there were not many tourists around so we had the cave for ourselves to explore. We walked inside the cave admiring this prehistoric structure and the various fossils along the cave walls here in Meghalaya. We finally reached inside the cave and then saw the Shivling here. It is a beautiful stone structure resembling the other Shivlings across the World and there were a few pilgrims offering their prayers here. We too offered our prayers here and then came out of this cave at Mawsynram in Meghalaya. Next up we wanted to explore the Krem Puri caves near Mawsynram as well which is the longest sandstone cave in the World but in the interest of time we decided against it and started on our drive to Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya. We had our lunch at the Mawsynram market area and it was again a simple traditional Khasi meal that had rice, dal, fried potatoes, carrot bhaji, salad, papad and some other vegetables as well. It was a simple yet delicious meal to be had at the Wettest Place on earth. We reached the road diversion and this time we took a right to travel to Mawlyngbna.
We reached Mawlyngbna at around 4.30 PM and went to check into our place of stay here at a homestay of one of Kaushik’s friend. The homestay had three rooms in total and it is located at a very picturesque location at Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya. However, the most popular homestay option at Mawlyngbna is still the Traveller’s Nest Homestay. We chose the other one as this was newly built and also the owner was a friend of Kaushik as well. We checked into the homestay and the rooms were quite spacious and had basic furnishings nothing very fancy though. The owner showed us around the place and the view of the valleys of Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya looked amazing. It was getting dark and so we didn’t have much to do for the day. At around 7 PM the owner of the homestay came to our room and invited us outside. To our surprise he had arranged for a bonfire at the lawn area of his place and a few of his friends had come over for a celebration. It turned out to be his birthday and he was hosting a small treat and he asked us to join his group. It was a really nice gesture of him to invite us over as we were getting bored sitting inside our rooms with erratic mobile and data connection.
The barbecue had pork and chicken and the friend sgot busy with all the preparations for the dinner arrangements at his home at Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya. The friends had arranged for some traditional rice wine and some rum as well. So by the bonfire we started our session of wine and meat. The pork was slowly being roasted over the fire while the chicken was put on skewers and allowed to slow cook near the fire. Inside the kitchen preparations were on for dinner that would again have two pork recipes, Jadoh, some vegetables, salad, chutneys, etc. As we were to have a day of fun filled out the next day we ensured not to get sloshed and instead allowed the others to enjoy more of the drinks and snacks. One of the person in the group had brought along his guitar and he was a talented musician as he played along the tunes of classic rock like Bryan adams, Michael learns to rock, Bon jovi, etc. Everyone seemed to be having a gala time here at Mawlyngbna. Dinner was served at around 8.30 PM and the meal looked very inviting. The speciality was the pork intestines that was cooked in a traditional Khasi recipe after a rigorous process of cleaning and boiling it. The end result turned out to be very delicious and it was the first time we had tried the pork intestines in our visit to Meghalaya. The pork curry with sesame seeds is always a delight and so were all the other dishes accompanying them. We enjoyed our meal and after spending a little more time around the bonfire we returned to our rooms.
The next morning we were up by 6 AM and ready to explore the natural beauty of this tinsel village of Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya located at the border of India and Bangladesh. We walked around the place and saw the beautiful valleys of each countries merging together at a distance. The owner cam along and we thanked him again for the previous night and he offered us black tea to start the day. To begin with he would take us to the nearby waterfall called ‘Av Phalat’ that had various species of fishes in the waterpool that collects below the waterfall. We began our hike to this waterfall from our homestay at Mawlyngbna. This is beautiful sight to behold in Meghalaya as the waters are very pure and clear and it seems to be falling directly from the sky if you see it from down. We hiked around the area admiring the place and them came back to the homestay where we had our breakfast. After breakfast we went to the forest area here to sight various species of flora and birds here at Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya. The interesting ones in this forest being the pitcher plants. From here we headed to the site of the river where we would be doing river canoeing and having bath in the natural hot spring pools here at Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya.
We were fortunate that we did not go inside to visit the Jakrem hot springs bathrooms at Mawsynram and instead we found a better experience here at Mawlyngbna. These pools are on huge rocks that has hollowed out places where the waters accumulate and this is where the spring waters collect. You can lie down on one such cavity on the rocks and enjoy the hot waters here. We stepped down into the canoe with life jackets to enjoy river canoeing at Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya. The river waters are calm and so the experience is that of calm and leisure. By the time we finished our activities it was around 12.30 PM and we headed to our homestay. The owner’s family had prepared lunch for us as well and after a sumptuous lunch we checked out and started on our drive from Mawlyngbna to Shillong in Meghalaya. The beautiful road view and the valleys of Meghalaya greeted us again and by the time we approached Upper Shillong it was around 4 PM. Since we still had time in hands before sundown so we decided to visit the Elephant falls in Shillong before proceeding into the city of Shillong in Meghalaya.
We took a left diversion from the highway to head to the Elephant falls in Shillong. We parked our car and paid the entrance fees at the gate before walking inside the premises of the area of the Elephant falls. One of the very popular tourist destinations of Shillong in Meghalaya – the Elephant falls is a 3 step cascading waterfall that is smaller on top and gradually extends in size as we go down. This waterfall in Shillong is called as the Elephant falls as during the time of the British Raj there was a huge rock in the premises here that resembled an Elephant. This rock was however destroyed in the great earthquake of 1897. Since then this place came to be known as the Elephant falls. We clicked our pictures at the first fall and then walked down to the bottom to view the second and the third falls. In the middle there is a bridge crossover from where the second waterfall of the Elephant falls can be viewed. We walked further down to view the third falls as well. There was an army of tourists here as today was a friday and people from nearby places in Shillong like Guwahati had come over for their weekend to Shillong and some travelling to Cherrapunji as well. We finished exploring the Elephant falls and came back on top to drive to Shillong city.
The traffic scenario in shillong is always a scare and we reached at a time when the offices were being closed and people were returning home after their office hours. Our first destination in Shillong was to head to Police Bazar area which is the main market area and also home to various government and private offices here at Shillong in Meghalaya. The Meghalaya Secretariat building is also present here and the traffic snarl gave us a scare. On top of this we were pulled over by traffic cops at the Rhino point as our vehicle was bearing an Assam registration plate and it is a common occurrence for vehicles from Assam to be pulled over by Meghalaya police to be checked for valid documents. We were aware of this situation and as we had all our vehicle documents in place it didn’t prove much of a hassle and the cop left us after verifying our documents were valid. We continued driving to the Police Bazar in Shillong and finally reached the place at around 6 PM. The sun had gone down as the lights came out. We parked our car at the parking area in Police Bazar and went out to meet our friends here who own an Electronics store in the heart of Police bazar in Shillong. They welcomed us to their store and offered us tea and snacks. As they would be closing their shop at 7.30 PM and they stay close to our guest house that is located at the Laban area in Shillong we decided to wait for them and in that time explore the Police Bazar in Shillong.
Police Bazar is a beautiful market and gives you a rustic view of Shillong city that is basically a blend of the traditional and modern worlds. On one side there are high rise malls and modern shop while on the other side of the street you see the Khasi ladies selling fresh organic fruits and vegetables and traditional Khasi handicrafts and handlooms. We took a stroll along the narrow lanes of Police bazar in Shillong that were filled with people and got a glimpse of the various traditional stalls. One such is that of the small stalls that is called as ‘Shillong Teer’ that is the most popular ancient betting game in Shillong and Meghalaya as well. In this game the local people bet on a game of bow and arrow that is conducted every day at the Polo grounds in Shillong. The people bet on certain numbers and the final number of the day that the winning arrows strike is declared as the winning number and the people investing their money on that particular number gets an amount equal to almost 80 times his investment. This is a gambling game and is legal in Shillong and everywhere across the city you will find small stalls where people come and place their bets. Shillong Teer was a very interesting game and we got tempted to place our bets but as it was the close of the day the counter didn’t accept any new bets and asked us to come the next day.
We walked across Police Bazar in Shillong and came to a place where the locals were selling roasted meat cooked over fire and the food looked tempting to us. We decided to give it a try and bought a plate of pork roast that came along with a spicy chutney only for INR 50 per plate. The meat was delicious and we packed some of it to be had with dinner. Our friends came out and we started on our drive to Laban in Shillong. Our stay was booked at the Nalgare’s guest house in Shillong and this is a budget accomodation in Laban area and also we knew the manager from earlier. He welcomed us in and allocated us our rooms. We ordered dinner in our rooms and as our friends had joined us and we were meeting them after a long time it called for a small celebration and we shared a bottle of rum among the five of us discussing business and sightseeing options in Shillong. Shillong is at a higher elevation point in the East Khasi hills and the cold here is more than the other parts of Meghalaya. We finished the pork roast that we had brought along so we ordered egg curry for dinner. After dinner our friends went home and we retired for the night in the big deluxe rooms of the Nalgare’s guest house in Shillong.
The next day was our day of exploring Shillong in Meghalaya – the Scotland of the East. We started our day by visiting the Cathedral of Mary’s Help of Christians Cathedral in Shillong. This beautiful Cathedral building is located close to Laban and we reached the place shortly. As today was a saturday there weren’t many people at this cathedral and we took our time admiring this beautiful place. The entire cathedral building is blue in color and is located in a sprawling campus here at Shillong in Meghalaya. The altar of this cathedral is a sight to behold with the statue of Lord Jesus in the middle and the shiny wooden prayer tables surrounding the place. The lawn surrounding the campus is lush green and makes you feel a sense of peace and calm while you are here. We headed to the Bara bazar area in Shillong after this.
The Bara bazar is the largest and one of the oldest market areas in North East India located in the heart of Shillong city. A bustling market area you got to see a true Khasi traditional market at the Bara Bazar in Shillong. The matrilineal society of Meghalaya can be witnessed here in Bara Bazar where the entire almost 80% of the business establishments are handled by the women folks speaking of their dominance in the Khasi culture of Meghalaya. In the matrilineal system, the family lineage is taken from the Mother’s side and the lady is the head of the house. She is the head who makes the important decisions in the family and the family property is inherited by the youngest daughter of the family who is entrusted to take care of her family. Also after marriage, the the Khasi community of Meghalaya, the groom goes to settle down in the bride’s house. This is one of the most interesting facts to witness in the matrilineal society if Meghalaya.
Coming back to the Bara Bazar market, it is a very well organized market where the stalls are all categorized in a proper order. On one side there are the vegetable vendors who sell organic produce and on one side there is a fish market and behind the area are the meat shops. All the other shops are along the entrance of the Bara Bazar market. The traffic is a chaos here so we parked our car at the rhino point and walked to this market here at Shillong in Meghalaya. We came back to the Bara Bazar mostly to explore a food joint that was recommended to us by our friends in Shillong. This is an authentic small shop selling arguably the best traditional Khasi cuisine from breakfast to late lunch time. We reached the place and it was bustling with people who come here for the special Jadoh preparations. It is a small shop but had several people working while some attending to customers who are busy eating in the shop while some attending to the people who come here for take aways to be distributed across Shillong city in Meghalaya. We waited in the queue for our turn to savor this amazing food. Our turn came shortly and we took our seats to have our breakfast. We had Jadoh, pork liver, fish chutney, tomato chutney, another tangy and spicy chutney and the Jadoh was indeed awesome no wonder why people from far and near in Meghalaya come to this food outlet in Shillong to get a chance to savour this wonderful Khasi cuisine of Meghalaya.
After finishing our breakfast we went to our car to drive to the Ward’s Lake in Shillong. We met up with our friends who had just opened their shop at 9 MAand we parked our car at the premises of their electronics gallery and went to visit the Ward’s Lake in Shillong. Located conveniently close to the Police Bazar area, the Ward’s lake is a prime tourist attraction in Shillong drawing hundreds of visitors everyday here. The Ward’s lake ion Shillong is an artificial lake that was dug out suting the time of the then commissioner of Assam General Ward. An interesting story accompanies this lake that General Ward during his time saw the prisoners of the central jail in Shillong getting fat due to lack of physical activity. He wanted them to engage in physical activity for them to stay fit but the prisoners were still lazy and did not follow their routine. So the General ordered the prisoners of Shillong Central Jail to dig out this lake. As the work was commissioned under General Ward the lake was henceforth named as the Ward’s lake. Today a prime tourist attraction in Shillong, we explored the area around the Ward’s lake. An arch bridge that is white color brightens up the place and from here you can feed the fishes that are present in the lake waters. There are boating facilities as well on paddled boats here in Ward’s lake. We did not go for boating but after taking a walk around the lake we headed to our next destination in Shillong – the Shillong Polo grounds.
The Shillong Polo grounds is one of the earliest polo grounds in India and today it is the sports complex area where the athletes practice but most importantly we went here to witness the archery betting game of Shillong – the ‘Shillong Teer’. Unfortunately during the time we reached the Shillong polo grounds, the game was already over and the archers had left to come back only in the evening. Anyways we took a tour of the Shillong polo grounds in Meghalaya and we proceeded to visit our next destination the Shillong golf course. The Shillong Golf course is located a little ahead of the Polo grounds in Shillong and is a very beautiful golf course in India. Shillong golf course in Meghalaya is also the highest golf course in India. The lush green cover of grasses makes this 18 hole golf course by far the most beautiful golf courses in India. The rainfall of Meghalaya makes this golf course to be filled with dew the year around and this makes this golf course a challenging one as well. We passed by the Shillong golf course to reach the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong.
This one of a kind museum is located at Mawlai area in Shillong and is one of the finest museums in India that illustrates the rich culture and heritage of the indigenous people of North East India providing a deep insight to all visitors about the glory and traditions of North East India. I had never visited the Don Bosco museum earlier and it would be very exciting to get a glimpse of this museum as well. It was around 2 PM and we realized that during all our sightseeings moments today at Shillong in Meghalaya we forgot to have our lunch itself. We looked around the place and there was a nice restaurant opposite to the museum premises and so we walked there. On stepping out of the gate of the museum we found a small shop and there were people waiting outside it. It seemed the place also served some good Jadoh in Shillong and we took our opportunity to savor the prized Jadoh of Meghalaya again. The Jadoh was accompanied with chicken curry, potato and carrot sabji and a spicy tomato chutney and all this for only IN R50 per plate. The best part about eating in these small shops of Meghalaya is the price of the food. And as mentioned earlier, the Khasi people are obsessed with the cleanliness of their kitchen so you can be rest assured that the food is cooked in a hygienic environment as well. Normally in a standard restaurant a meal for 3 members would cost at least INR 1000 and that too you get to eat food that is prepared with a lot of spices so here we saved INR 850 flat and this amount would suffice to cover all our entrance and parking fees for sightseeing across Shillong. And the food too was delicious and not high on spices and oil.
We enjoyed our meal and then by the time we started exploring the Don Bosco musuem it was around 3 PM. This museum building at Shillong in Meghalaya is spread across seven floors with the top being that of a skywalk. A guide explained us the details of how to start exploring the museum and if we had to click pictures inside the museum we had to pay INR 100 per camera. There are souvenir shops on the ground floor and visitors to the Don Bosco museum in Shillong can carry various memoirs of their visit to Meghalaya from here including a special tea made in Meghalaya branded as the Meg tea. We had to start exploring the museum from the level -1 and here we were greeted with various models of the different indigenous tribes of North East India like the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia from Meghalaya, Karbi, Bodo and Mishing from Assam, Nyshi, Apatani and Monpa from Arunachal Pradesh, Angami, Konyak and Ao from Nagaland, Meitei from Manipur, etc. All the models were clad in their traditional costumes and ornaments and the models looked very lively to us as well. The various descriptions of the people and their way fo life is also mentioned along the models. Across the museum building there are displays that keep playing videos of the lives of the indigenous people and you can listen to the audio of these videos as well. We took our time exploring the Don Bosco museum in Shillong and learning about the lives of the people of North East India.
By the time we finished exploring it was around 4.30 PM and also about the closing time of this museum for the day. We started our car and began on our drive to Police Bazar in Shillong. As today was a 4th Saturday the Govt. offices were closed and so there was literally very less traffic across the roads of Shillong. It was peaceful and we arrived at Police Bazar at around 5 PM. Our friends were still in their shop and waiting for us. They too close their shop early on Saturdays and they had planned an evening for us where we would go exploring the area of Mawlai is Shillong and then explore the Laimukhra area in Shillong as well. Laimukhra is a posh area in Shillong that has several cafes and live bands perform here in the evenings. Shillong is often referred to as the Rock Capital of India mostly because of the music scene here. People are very much into music especially cult rock and it is said that in every fourth household in Shillong there is a person who is a talented musician and plays some kind of a musical instrument mostly the guitar. Also any international music band coming to India try to come over to North East India and perform in Shillong on their time availability. Lou Majao a famous musician and guitarist from Shillong has put the music scene from the Khasi hills on the picture map of India and he keeps performing gigs at certain places in Shillong as well. He is also one of the brains behind the Ziro Festival of Music in Aruanchal Pradesh which is India’s largest outdoor music festival. We couldn’t wait to explore our evening in Shillong and by 5.30 PM we started on our drive to Laban to freshen up at the guest house and then go to Malki and later to Laimukhra in Shillong.
We started from Laban to malki and reach the area shortly and we went to a nice church here. Mt friends had some Khasi friends who were offering their evening prayers here today and we too went inside to view the ceremony. Many people had gathered to witness the evening mass and we took our places for prayers. We stayed here for about an hour and then went to Laimukhra. Our friends took us to this beautiful place called as Deja Vu at Laimukhra in Shillong. This Bar cum Restaurant is a part of one of the leading hospitality chains of Meghalaya who operate several restaurants and hotels across the East Khasi Hills. The Deja Vu is a newly opened place with luxurious interiors and the food here is one of the best across Shillong. The chinese items on the menu are quite good and we went inside. As it was a saturday there was a live band performing here tonight as well. We took our seats at the bar and our friends ordered 100 pipers for all of us. They wanted to show us across Shillong since long as whenever they visit Guwahati they stay over at my place and today evening was their way of showing gratitude for hosting them at Guwahati. The started tasted good and went down well with the scotch. The tunes played by the band that performed retro rock songs were soothing to the ears as well. After another refill of our drinks we went to have dinner at the restaurant. We ordered Chinese course that had fried rice, prawns, chicken and vegetables. The food was very delicious and after this we returned back to Laban as Shillong closes early and there is not much to do in the evenings here. The next day we were to leave Shillong to head to Mawphanlur but our friends suggested that we visit the area of Laitlum canyons in Shillong and the Smit village here as well. We returned to our Guest House in Shillong and bid our friends goodbye to spend our last evening at Shillong in Meghalaya.
The next day we got up at 6 AM and started on our drive to Laitlum canyons at 7 AM from Shillong. Our friends had joined us and we crossed Malki, Dhankheti to head to Laitlum. We reached Laitlum canyons at around 8 AM and the entire valley down was covered in dense fog. At first, we were disappointed as to after a long drive we didn’t come here just to see the fog as we found that in abundance along our drive but our friends told us it often happens here and the fog would gradually clear out. And after about 15 minutes when the sun came up over the horizon properly the fog cover gradually started to clear. We observed the beautiful gorges and the lush valleys underneath us here at Laitlum in Meghalaya. There is a nice clear water stream as well and the water source of this stream are four gorgeous waterfalls that can be viewed here at Laitlum in Meghalaya. There are traditional Khasi wooden huts located atop the hills as well. We walked around the place and the entire area of Laitlum is a trekker’s paradise. The sprawling meadows here overlook the silent and peaceful valley of Laitlum. Close to Laitlum in Meghalaya is the village of Smit that has a 100 year old traditional home of the king of Khyrim. There is a small tea stall here at the laitlum canyon area that serves maggi noodles and tea. we savored this as our breakfast and then boarded our car to drive back to shillong and head to Mawphanlur in Meghalaya.
We reached Shillong and dropped our friends and bid them goodbye before heading on our drive to Upper Shillong to go to Mawphanlur. As we missed on visiting the Shillong peak the last time we went to cover this as we had time in our hands. The drive to Shillong Peak is across a narrow road that takes you uphill at the highest point in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. The beautiful views of the mountains of Meghalaya draws your attention on the drive to Shillong peak. A place here also leads you across the Rhododendron trek that is a nice trek route in Shillong passing across a dense cover of Rhododendron trees and flowering orchids as well. We reached the entrance gate and it is an Indian air Force checkpoint gate as the entry to the shillong Peak is across the area of the cantonment of the Indian Air Force (Eastern Air Command). We had to get down here and make our entry and show valid ID cards before proceeding inside. Our formalities were cleared and we left to the Shillong Peak in Meghalaya. From the road there is a left diversion that will take you finally to Shillong peak in Meghalaya. We parked our car and then went inside to get an aerial view of Shillong city from the Shillong peak – the Highest point in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.
The view of Shillong city along with the backdrop of the valleys and mountains along with sublime plains of Bangladesh is one of the most important attractions of the Shillong Peak in Meghalaya. There are pavilions built around the place from where you can sit down, relax and admire the view as well. Long range binoculars are available for hire so you can get a chance to view the aerial view of the city more upclose. We explored the place for a while and then came out to drive on our way to Mawphanlur. We reached Upper Shillong and continued the drive further on Shillong-Mawphlang highway to finally arrive at a right diversion that will take you to Nongstoin along the highway to Tura. We continued driving and we had heard of a Kyllang rock near Mairang in Meghalaya that is supposed to be the largest rock in India. We decided to pay a visit to this place as it was on our way to Mawphanlur in Meghalaya. We reached the Mairang market shortly and took our diversion to the right to go to the point of the Kyllang rock. This drive is another beautiful view in the West Khasi hills district of Meghalaya and the roads are along a countryside where you can get to see a lot of potato cultivation along the way. From the main road it is about another 20 minutes drive to reach the Kyllang rock. Once we were about to reach the site of the Kyllang rock we could see this giant rock standing tall. We parked our car and headed to see this rock from a close distance. This is another popular unknown trekking destinations in Meghalaya where you can hike from down and climb up to the Kyllang rock top. The Kyllang rock is considered sacred among the Khasi people of Meghalaya and it is said that the rock surface possesses magnetic properties so anything doesn’t fall down from the surface easily. We admired the natural beauty of the Rhododendrons trees surrounding the Kyllang rock in Meghalaya and in some time proceeded on our drive to Mawphanlur.
We reached the Mairang market area and here we stopped for a late lunch at 3 PM. We had rice, dal, herbs, potatoes sabji and chicken curry and started on our hour long drive to Mawphanlur. The roads are newly built and is is in excellent driving conditions. We finally arrived at Mawphanlur at 4.30 PM and checked into our place of stay at Mawphanlur in Meghalaya – the Traveller’s Nest. Mawphanlur in Meghalaya is every nature lovers paradise. The sweet sight of the verdant mountains, crystal clear streams, hovering clouds make you feel in mother nature’s lap here at Mawphanlur in Meghalaya. Located in the West Khasi hills of Meghalaya, about an hour and a half’s drive from Shillong takes you to a beautiful countryside of Meghalaya where the locals greet you with open arms and a smile on their faces. Francis, the manager of the Traveller’s Nest at Mawphanlur welcomes us to the homestay and as it was a weekday we had the place to ourselves here at Mawphanlur in Meghalaya. We checked into the homestay and spent the evening enjoying the beautiful weather of Mawphanlur and enjoying our dinner by the bonfire that was prepared for us at the homestay itself.
The next day morning we went out to view the lush landscapes of mawphanlur admiring the green mountains and the valley view here. We walked around the place sighting the various ponds that are around here with crystal clear waters here at Mawphanlur. As we already enjoyed our quota of water sports at Dawki and mawlyngbna we didn’t go for the river sports here and instead spent the morning at leisure hiking around the place. After breakfast and finishing exploring Mawphanlur we headed further into the West Jaintia hills to go to Nongstoin and later to Nongkhnum island. We caught the highway and started driving across the wonderful roads of Meghalaya. We came to a beautiful valley view point and there was a nice cozy restaurant here. Outside the restaurant there was another small shop where a lady was selling fresh honey, locally bottled fruit juices, pickles, etc. I brought a bottle of juice from here and then went inside to have our early lunch. From the restaurant we could get a beautiful view of the majestic mountains of Meghalaya and the entire landscape looked so green, calm and peaceful. Our lunch arrived shortly and it had rice, dal, carrot and bean sabji, pork fry, tomato chutney, papad, etc. We were quite hungry and had to order a second serving as well. After our lunch we started on our drive again to head to Nongstoin in Meghalaya. After reaching a signage that marked directions and distances to Tura we had to take a left diversion to go to Nongstoin. From here the road is not very broad and so the drive gets slower. It was in the afternoon and we thought to explore the Nongkhnum island near Nongstoin in Meghalaya before checking into our lodge at the Sumo stand in Nongstoin.
From Nongstoin town we had to take a left diversion to go to Nongkhnum Island – the second largest river island in Asia after Majuli island in Assam. The roads are horrible and we somehow managed to steer the car wheels to avoid landing on the potholes. The stretch of around 10 km was a horror and we finally reached good roads after we took a right diversion towards Nongkhnum Island in Meghalaya. From here it is around 20 min drive to Nongkhnum and the roads are good and very picturesque. We stopped on the way to click pictures of the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya and finally arrived at Nongkhnum island. A very picturesque view greets us here at Nongkhnum but to our bad luck there was no one around the place at our time of visit. So we left to explore Nongkhnum Island in Meghalaya on our own. There is an iron bridge here that connects the island to the mainland and after crossing this bridge there is a nice resort like place to be found here. Nicely built cottages are available here for stay at the Nongkhnum Island in meghalaya as well. We went to a view point and sat there admiring the natural beauty of the place and the second largest river island in Asia – the Nongkhnum Island.
We started on our drive back to Nongstoin after visiting Nongkhnum Island in Meghalaya. We wanted to hire the services of a boat to help us explore around the Island but as there was no one around we had to drop this idea. There were a few small local homes around the place but then again we couldn’t reach out to anyone. I guess the best time to visit the Nongkhnum island would be during the weekends when people would come over here to spend their weekend time and also during the Nongkhnum river festival that is celebrated here every year. We reached on the horrible road again and crossed it slowly to finally arrive at Nongstoin in Meghalaya. It was around evening and we checked into our lodge – Yo Yee Inn Guest house. There are not many stay options around Nongstoin in Meghalaya apart from the Govt. Circuit houses and IBs as tourism has not yet gained much of a prominence in this circuit of Meghalaya. West Khasi hills didn’t have much good infrastructure earlier and with the development of roadways the tourism scenario is about to get a boost in this part of Meghalaya as well.
The place where we were staying is a basic guest house with small rooms that can accommodate two people in one room. The overall impression is good and not much in awe like the hotels in Shillong and Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. We made ourselves comfortable in one room allowed the evening to bestow upon us. Nearby there is a local market of Nongstoin and we went out to explore the place. We were warned not to venture out far from our place of stay in the West Khasi Hills and the Garo Hills as well during the evening and so we ensured to stay closeby to the guest house. We picked up our requirements for the evening including dinner as early as 6 PM so that we didn’t have to come out of the guest house later looking out for anything. Our car was parked safely inside the premises of the lodge and we got our rum and dinner of Chicken fried rice, chicken noodles and pork fry to be had later. We came back to our guest house and spoke to the manager who told us about the beautiful waterfalls around Nongstoin in Meghalaya. He also spoke about a certain diocese that was constructed in 2006 under orders of Pope Benedict XVI and is said to have been the Roman Catholic diocese of West Khasi hills. Also there was a mention of a certain embroidery stone that is a natural stone formation that has embroidered design around it here at Nongstoin in Meghalaya.
The major traditional festival of the people of Nongstoin is the Shad Suk Mynsiem and it is a festival celebrating harvest as most of the people of Nongstoin in Meghalaya are engaged in some kind of agricultural activities. We noted down the names of the places in detail and as we only had the first half of the day to explore around Nongstoin we decided to visit two waterfalls and another place before we headed on our way to Williamnagar in Meghalaya. We go into our rooms and sat down discussing our experiences across the West Jaintia, East Khasi and West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. It was indeed a rewarding experience for us exploring all of Meghalaya and now we were equipped with all the requisite information to guide visitors across Meghalaya. Kaushik has been arranging tours for tourists across Meghalaya since the past 5 years and it was only across West Khasi hills that he had not ventured yet and along with it the Garo hills of Meghalaya which we would be covering across the next two days of our visit across Meghalaya. We had our dinner and later retired for the evening.
The next morning we were up early and got ready to leave Nongstoin before exploring the Langshiang falls and the Kshaid thum waterfall. We started on our drive after checking out of the guest house and the Langshiang waterfall is around 25 km from Nongstoin town. We drove across the nice valley view roads to reach this waterfall and a beautiful site greeted us once we arrived here. As per the information we saw on wikipedia some claim that the height of this waterfall is around 337m which is more than that of the Nohkalikai falls in Cherrapunji that would make this as India’s third tallest waterfall but then again this fact has not yet been verified. On viewing the waterfall we couldn’t confirm this as we visited during the drier season and the waters were not flowing down in full potential here at the Langshiang falls in Meghalaya. The village of Mawphor is located nearby and the waterfall viewpoint offers panoramic views of this village and the lush green mountains of Meghalaya as well. The Langshiang falls is the end result of the river Krynski flowing down into a deep gorge. The wonderful landscapes here fill any visitors find in peace and after admiring the place we left on our drive to visit the Mawthadraishan peak.
Along our drive to the place we stopped for breakfast at small shop and again like the Khasi people we had little rice, dal, potato and bean sabji, tomato chutney and two chunks of pork meat. It would be noteworthy to mention that rice is the main diet of the people in Meghalaya and it is spread across breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Khasi, Jaintia and garo people of Meghalaya are very hard working people and they start their day quite early in the morning engaging in either farming, construction, weaving, etc. So they spread their meals across the day. The food served in all these small roadside shops have little rice and the other accompanies and so people after some hours of hard work come and eat and then go to work again. This phenomenon can be observed across Meghalaya and so we joined the people of the State in exploring their places and eating like them as well. After eating our food we continued on our drive to the northern part of Nongstoin is the West Khasi hills of Meghalaya. The Mawthadraishan peak is located near the villages of Mawroh, Markasa and Nongshillong. The place is located conveniently near the main road and we reached a little above the area of the hill. From hee we got a nice view of the mountains of the Khasi and Garo hills. On top of the hill there are about 7 to 8 ponds that have a variety of fishes. We did not go up further and decided to leave from Nongstoin to Williamnagar the West Garo hills of Meghalaya.
On our way out of Nongstoin we checked out the oldest saw mill of Meghalaya that is now in an abandoned state. From the Nongstoin road we had to take a left diversion to go towards the West Garo hills and it was about a 3 hour drive to Williamnagar from Nongstoin in Meghalaya. We continued driving along admiring the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya. Along the way numerous small shops selling local goods can be found. After driving for about 2 hours we halted for lunch and to give the car some rest from the long drive. We had Garo cuisine here again similar to the Jaintia and Khasi cuisine of Meghalaya to be included with rice. By the time we arrived at Williamnagar it was around 3 PM and we checked into the Orchid Guest House here at the Williamnagar market area. We had time in our hands about an hour before sunset and we had to follow the protocol of returning back to our hotel by sundown as these places in Meghalaya were earlier known for insurgency and crimes were reported regularly. Over the past few years the situation had come under control but we were not so confident to roam about freely during the late evening time at the West Garo Hills in Meghalaya.
We had heard of the natural beauty of the Simsang river here at Williamnagar in Meghalaya so we went to the banks of the Simsang river nearby to our guest house and admired the course of the river along the river banks in the West garo hills in Meghalaya. It can be said that the entire area of Williamnagar in based on the large plains of the Simsang river in Meghalaya. Earlier Williamnagar was called Simsanggre named after river Simsang itself. Later the place was named as Williamnagar after Captian William A Sangma – the first Chief Minister of Meghalaya. Today Williamnagar holds a place in the tourist map of Meghalaya as a unique place filled with abundance of natural beauty that is surrounded by mountain cover and has rich composition of flora and fauna.
We also visited the Mik Wari, that is a place near the Simsang river renowned for its unique stone formations here in Meghalaya. The rocks here some of them are in the form of a baby Elephant and its mother which according to a certain folklore, the elephants had turned into stones after drinking water from the Simsang river during the daybreak. These stone formations are unique in meghalaya and is a must visit during your tour of Williamnagar in the West Garo Hills. After exploring these two places we called it a day and returned back to our guesthouse. The guesthouse had provisions for dinner and we ordered our food at the restaurant of this guesthouse. Dinner was served earl and we retired early to bed as we had a long day ahead of us to visit Tura after paying a visit to the Nokrek national Park in Meghalaya.
The morning had some sad news in store for us. When we went to check out of the guesthouse the manager asked us where we were planning to go to next and we informed that we would like to visit he Nokrek National Park and then head to Tura. He took a glance at our vehicle and with a smile on his face informed us that it would be impossible to drive our car (Hyundai Eon) across the roads to reach Nokrek National Park. He had visited the Nokrek National Park and Biosphere Reserve a few times earlier and he advised us strictly against taking this car to the village Daribok as there are literally no well defined roadways and we would be stuck if something happens to our vehicle as there are no signs of workshops to be found around. From the entrance, trekking is the only option to reach the Nokrek National Park in Meghalaya and so we wouldn’t be able to cover the entire journey in a single day as well. he advised us to go directly to Tura and check out the sightseeing place here before travelling back to Guwahati in Assam from Meghalaya.
We had to take his words first because he was a local who would be knowing much about the place than what google would tell us and also google didn’t have much information about the drive to Nokrek National Park literally even it couldn’t show us the route map from williamnagar to Nokrek in Meghalaya. Knowing that we would have to skip our visit to the Nokrek National Park in Meghalaya came to us as a huge disappointment because this park is the site of the last of the few surviving highly endangered Red panda species. We wanted our chances of being able to spot one of them clinging to the tall canopy of trees at the Nokrek National park but as luck would not favor us we had to drop the idea of visiting this park in Meghalaya. The two of the National Parks in the State of Meghalaya are located in the West Garo Hills district and the other one being that of the Balphakram National Park. Both these Nokrek and Balphakram National Parks comprise to be a biodiversity hotspot in the State of Meghalaya. In addition to being home to the endangered red panda species, Nokrek National Park is also home to the Asiatic Wild Elephants, Eight species of cats and seven species of primates including the rare stump tailed macaque and the pig tailed macaque as well. In addition, Nokrek National Park in Meghalaya in an Important Bird Area (IBA) as well.
We decided to make a change of plan and instead visit the Siju caves near the area of Nokrek and then continue our drive to Tura in Meghalaya. We hit the road and started driving to the Siju caves and the distance to drive from Williamnagar to Siju caves is about an hour. To finally go to Tura we had to come back to Williamnagar and then drive for another 2 hours. So we planned to return to Williamnagar by noon and after lunch drive to Tura in Meghalaya. We reached the premises of the Siju cave in Meghalaya after about an hours drive. A beautiful green cover of trees greet you once you reach the place and from the parking area one has to hike for about 20 minutes to reach the Siju cave entrance. The grand cave entrance will grab the attention of any visitor to the siju cave and the limestone formations are a wonder here as well. The Siju caves is located by the banks of the Simsang river that flows across the West garo hills is recognized as the third largest cave in the Indian Subcontinent after the ones in Mawsynram and West Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. The first time anyone ventured into and explored the Siju caves was in the year 1920 by the British geological survey team and since then still a larger number of internal chambers and labyrinths are yet to be explored.
We walked a little distance into the Siju caves in Meghalaya exploring the striking stalactites and stalagmites and soon came out of the place as we had to manage time. The Siju Bird Sanctuary that is one of the very popular birding destinations of Meghalaya and North East India is situated close to the Siju caves. We did not explore this place and instead continued on our drive to Williamnagar to continue to Tura in Meghalaya. we made a halt at the Williamnagar market for lunch. We looked out for a nice place to have our lunch and we found one located on the other end of the street. It was a nice place that served traditional Garo cuisine. Normally around the West Garo hills, the local restaurants served beef as a part of their cuisine. Though I was open to eating in such places the other two didn’t want to go as per our traditional customs so we had to find places where beef was not served as a a part of the meal. So we went to this place to have our lunch. We ordered rice thali and along with it some traditional garo food items like gominda wak (pork cooked with pumpkin), Ta’s walgran (yam with smoked pork, chilli and soda) and We’tepa (fish cooked win wrapped banana leaf). The food had a really nice flavor to it and all the natural ingredients added to the food dishes imparted a fresh flavor and aroma to the food as well.
We had our sumptuous lunch and then started on our drive to Tura. The drive from Williamnagar to Tura takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes and we had nothing planned for the evening so we drove at leisure. The roads are not as good as in the East khasi hills of Meghalaya but are manageable. The beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya greeted us along the way and we admired the pollution free drive and environment. We finally reached Tura at 4 PM. We were booked at the Hotel Rajmahal in Tura which is a budget accomodation near the Tura market area. The rooms are nice and spacious and the view of the garo hills of Meghalaya as a backdrop adds a nice environment as well. We spoke to the manager as to what we could explore around in the hours time we had in our hands at Tura in Meghalaya. The manager informed us that the best way to manage our time would be to explore the market area nearby and check out the various beautiful bamboo handicrafts and Garo handlooms that are on display here. We asked him for food options and he told us that we could have food at the inhouse restaurant in the Hotel or else if we wanted to try out local Garo cuisine there was a restaurant in the market that served Garo dishes and if we wanted we could pack the food from here and get it to our rooms to eat.
We took the information and headed out to explore the Tura market. The market was a short 5 min walk from the Hotel and it is mostly a traditional market with local vendors selling their produce of vegetables, fruits, groceries, meat, fish, handicraft and handloom, etc. It looked similar to the Bara Bazar area in Shillong though much smaller in size. The Garo people of Tura in Meghalaya love their food and so various eatables were to be found across the small food stalls in the Tura market. We moved to the handicrafts and handloom section of the market and found various Garo souvenirs like bamboo crafts, wood crafts and handwoven cloth that are to be worn around the waist. We admired the skilled craftsmanship of the weavers of West Garo hills of Meghalaya and I bought a handwoven shawl for my mother that would wade of the chill of the winter season ahead and it was a work of skilled craftsmanship and so I had to pay a good amount of money to get in in my hands. We explored the market are for sometime and later returned to our Hotel by 6.30 PM.
At the Hotel we placed our order for dinner at the inhouse restaurant and as we had Garo cuisine for lunch we decided to stick to the Chinese food in the menu itself for the evening. We freshened up and later took our seats at the bar area of the Hotel we were staying at where we ordered our quota of rum and along with it some pork starters and a vegetable stir fry and discussed our plan for the next day. We were to reach Guwahati by evening so we didn’t plan on much sightseeing in Tura and instead leave the place by noon to drive to Guwahati. We narrowed down on visiting the Tura Peak and the Palge waterfalls at Tura and some other places along the highway from Tura to Guwahati along the Assam and Meghalaya border. We ordered our dinner of fried rice, garlic chicken and prawns manchurian and after dinner we returned to our rooms to end our day at the West Garo Hills in Meghalaya.
The next morning we checked out of the Hotel and then headed on our drive to the Tura peak at Tura in Meghalaya. There is a driveway across the mountain and this takes you to the a certain point a little below the summit of the Tura peak and from here we could view the entire town of Tura and the Garo hills of Meghalaya. The Tura peak has an elevation of 872 m above MSL and the entire area of the range of the Tura peak has been declared as a reserve forest and the locals believe that this place is the abode of their Gods. We could see the plains of Bangladesh from the viewpoint here and there is a trek path that takes you to the top of the Tura peak in Meghalaya but we didn’t attempt to go on the trek in the interest of time. Next up we came back again to the Tura market to have our breakfast. As it was our last day exploring Meghalaya we decided to have our final traditional Garo meal for breakfast itself. We stopped again at a small shop where they served food without beef in the menu and we ordered the usual rice, dal, sabji, pork fry, salad, tomato chutney, etc. After our breakfast we drove to the Pelga falls near Tura that is around 7 km from the market area in Tura. The Pelga falls is a famous picnic spot in the West Garo hills district and is known to attract thousands of visitors every year who come to admire the vast natural beauty of the surroundings of this falls and also to bathe in the waters of this falls. We parked our car at a spot near the falls and then explored the surroundings.
The water was not in full flow as this was the dry season yet the view was magnificent. The entire mountains and valley view from here looked lush and we took our time admiring the natural beauty of the Pelga falls in Meghalaya. In about an hours time we began on our drive towards the border of Assam and Meghalaya where we would so some additional sightseeing and then head further to enter Assam at Baghmara and then further to Dudhnoi to finally enter Guwahati. Along the drive one thing that is noteworthy to mention is the presence of orange trees on the roads from Tura to the Assam – Meghalaya border. The roadside is filled with these orange trees and the mix of green and orange colored trees give a kaleidoscope of different colors here at the West Garo hills in Meghalaya. We came across a local Garo village along the Assam – Meghalaya border that was surrounded by hundreds of healthy and dark dark green orange bushes. We stopped here to have our lunch and also to pick up oranges for our home back in Guwahati. We had a simple meals of rice, dal, vegetables and chicken curry and then started on our drive back to Guwahati in Assam. We reached the border and drove towards Guwahati city to arrive by 6 PM in the evening thereby ending our eventful tour of Meghalaya.
In this blog post we share our experience of organizing an outdoor educational learning and educational tour with one of the very prominent International Schools of India across the State of Meghalaya. The tour was a blend of adventure, trekking, nature walks, cave explorations, sightseeing and witnessing the culture of the Khasi people of Meghalaya. India’s prominent outdoor learning company ‘Utsaah Explore’ was leading this educational tour and we at Jungleideas were their preferred local partner from North East India and we provided Utsaah Explore with logistics and ground support to successfully organize this tour across the State of Meghalaya. The tour was scheduled from the 22nd September 2018 to 28th of September 2018 for a period of 7 days. Our Meghalaya Itinerary looked like below:
Day 1 – Guwahati Airport to Shillong with visits at Umiam Lake, Police Bazaar, Ward’s Lake, Botanical Garden. Night halt at Shillong.
Day 2 – Shillong to Mawphlang with visit at the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves and the Khasi Heritage Village at Mawphlang and then embarking on the David Scott Trail Trek from Mawphlang to Lad Mawphlang. Night halt at Cherrapunji.
Day 3 – Cherrapunji local sightseeing with visit at Nohkalikai Falls, Mawsmai Caves, Seven Sister Falls and the Arwah Caves at Cherrapunji. Night halt at Cherrapunji.
Day 4 – The Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek at Nongriat Village from Cherrapunji. Night halt at Cherrapunji.
Day 5 – Cherrapunji to Mawlynnong Village with a trek schedule to visit the Longest Living Root Bridge at Pynursla Village. Arrive at Mawlynnong Village and visit the the oldest Khasi Heritage Hut at Nohwet Village. Take a walk around the Cleanest Village in Asia at Mawlynnong. Night halt at Mawlynnong.
Day 6 – Mawlynnong to Dawki and return to Shillong after visiting the border of India and Bangladesh at Dawki and enjoying boating on the clear waters of the Umngot River at Dawki. Night halt at Shillong.
Day 7 – Visit the Don Bosco Museum at Shillong and drop at Guwahati Airport for journey back home.
Mr. Raj Sharma one of the Managing Directors of Utsaah Explore who had arranged for this outdoor educational tour of Meghalaya had also flown over to Guwahati on 21st September nad he would be joining our team in conducting this tour. I picked up Mr. Raj from the airport on the afternoon of September 21st and after discussing the tour plan and various minute details on how to conduct the tour smoothly we called it a day and I went back to my home after dropping Mr. Raj at his hotel to prepare for the next day.
Day 1 ~ Guwahati Airport – Umiam Lake – Shillong
The flight of the students travelling to Meghalaya with us was scheduled to arrive at the Guwahati Airport at 8AM on 22nd September. We started from Guwahati to the airport at 7.20AM and after picking Mr. Raj on the way from Hotel Vrinda Residency at Garchuk area in Guwahati. We just took a short halt at the Service Station at Pamohi to fill the tank of the 26 Seater Tempo Traveller we had hired on this tour to accommodate a total of 16 travellers and one driver along with the luggage. We reached the Guwahati Airport at 8.05AM and the students along with two of their teachers were already waiting at the arrival gate of the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Guwahati. We quickly parked our vehicle and Raj and I headed to welcome them. After greeting each other and introducing us we loaded the luggage of all the students on the back of the Tempo Traveller and started on out journey to the capital city of Meghalaya at Shillong as we were scheduled for our night halt at Shillong. The students and teachers had got up very early at around 2 AM in the morning as their flight to Guwahati was scheduled at 5 AM from their local airport. They had to at first assemble at their school premises where they were briefed about the various details they had to keep in mind before the tour of Meghalaya started and so when we saw them at first at Guwahati I immediately realized that they had not slept well the previous night and so we ha to take every step to make their journey comfortable. Once everybody boarded the Tempo Traveller, we served them a 500 ml bottle of mineral water along with a pack of chips, bananas and some chocolates as we had to drive for about a little more than an hour to reach Nongpoh from the airport where we were scheduled to have our breakfast.
We crossed the city of Guwahati and reached Khanapara. This place is the border of Assam and Meghalaya where the road divider separates these two States. e crossed Khanapara in sometime and we reached the right diversion that bids goodbye to Assam and we enter the State of Meghalaya at Burnihat. On reaching Byrnihat we saw the various local people gathering to set up the local market that is held everyday and traders bring in various produce like vegetables, fruits, meat, etc. to sell here. We took quick glance at the market and continued on our journey to Nongpoh. We reached Nongpoh at around 9.45AM and we halted at the Excelencia Restaurant after crossing Nongpoh town in Meghalaya. This is a new restaurant that has opened up in the Nongpoh area in addition to the popular Jiva’s veg and Woodland Dhaba restaurant. I had placed the order for breakfast before leaving the airport at Guwahati so that things would have been prepared and ready by the time we arrived here. I ordered for 14 veg sandwiches as there were 11 students, 2 teachers and Mr. Raj from Utsaah along with 14 double egg omelettes as the students were hungry and needed adequate protein to help them remain active for the tour. The breakfast was served in a short time after our arrival here and the students also got time to refresh themselves here. The order for tea and coffee was placed on our arrival here and the students along with the teachers sat down for their breakfast. Myself, my colleague Kaushik and the driver ordered puri sabji and it turned out to be complementary for us from the restaurant. We enjoyed our breakfast and at around 10.30 AM we started on journey to from Nongpoh to Shillong in Meghalaya.
Our next halt was scheduled at the Umiam Lake near Barapani in Meghalaya. We reached the Umiam Lake at around 12 PM and we were lucky as there were not many tourists around and the place was available to us for sightseeing. Umiam lake in Meghalaya is the largest artificial water reservoir in North East India. Originally dug out to act as a water reservoir to generate hydro power the place also has a huge dam that feeds the power generators with hydropower to produce electricity. Today Umiam lake has become a popular tourist attraction in Meghalaya and draws visitors from all around the world. Near the lake there is a also a tourist complex that provides visitors options of boating on the clear waters of the Lake. We did not have time to go boating here so we decided to make a quick halt here and after clicking our pictures we continued on our journey to Shillong.
As we were approaching Shillong we could see various signages welcoming us to ‘Shillong – the Scotland of the East’. During the British regime the Seven sister states of North East India were all one and Shillong was the administrative capital. The city had a landscape very similar to the one in Scotland with valleys and mountains and hence the Britishers named Shillong as the ‘Scotland of the East’. Shillong today is the most important city of Meghalaya as well as North East India an acts a gateway to the States of Mizoram and Agartala by roadways and also connects the town of Silchar in Assam. Modernization has touched Shillong and this is evident from the amount of traffic on the roads of Shillong. The narrow roads add to the traffic woes of the commuters. Our destination at Shillong was the Nalgare’s guest house at Laban area in Shillong.
A major bottleneck area of Shillong traffic is the left turn at the NEHU circle that takes a lot of time to pass through. The next area is near the Bara Bazaar traffic junction point as many local taxis cross this area and they also have a vehicle parking here. We managed to cross both these areas in around 45 minutes and finally saw the signage that welcomes you to at the Shillong Cantonment area which tells us that we have almost arrived at the main city of Shillong. We took a left from the Rhino point and continued the drive to the Civil Hospital area of Shillong from where we had to take another right to reach Laban area. At around 1 PM we reached the Nalgare’s Guest House in Shillong. Mr. Porimal, the manager of the Nalgare’s Guest House was awaiting our arrival and he greeted us on our arrival and went forward to show us the rooms. We had to offload the luggage from the Tempo Traveller and in about another 10 minutes all students and teachers were allocated their rooms here. Lunch was scheduled to be served at 2 PM in the common area in the ground floor here and the manager had arranged for a table and chairs for the lunch to be served here. At around 1.45 PM lunch was served and the menu had rotis, rice, dal fry, mixed vegetables sabzi, chicken curry, salad, papad and pickles. The students and teachers along with Mr. Raj came down from their rooms at sharp 2 PM and they started to have their lunch. Everyone enjoyed their lunch and they sat down to have a short discussion about their tour plan and a round of personal introduction and the key expectations from their outdoor learning program. After their discussion was over they retired to their rooms to rest for a while and gather back again at 3.45 PM to got out to explore Shillong city at Police Bazar, Ward’s Lake and the Botanical gardens at Shillong.
At 3.45 PM everyone came down from their rooms and after a quick headcount we boarded the Tempo Traveller and headed to the Police Bazar area in Shillong city. The traffic was less in the area today as it was a 4th Saturday and as major offices in Shillong are present in this area had a holiday. We reached Police Bazar at around 4 PM and alighted down from the vehicle and took a short walk to the Police Bazar area. The market was bustling with people all tourists and locals who were selling a variety of goods in the market area. We all gathered at the entrance of the Police Bazaar at Shillong and the teachers briefed the students to break into three smaller groups and explore the market and come back to the start point by 5 PM. The Police Bazar area in Shillong has various shops selling local as well as imported goods. There are local vendors selling various local products like bamboo handicrafts, ethnic Khasi handlooms, fresh fruits, local food as well as the Hottest Pepper – the Bhut Jolokia. But the most interesting shops are the ones that bet on an archery game. A traditional sport of Meghalaya – the archery game is held at the Polo grounds in Shillong once in the morning and once in the afternoon and people bet on certain numbers in the game. If the number the person bets on is the lucky number then the winner takes an amount 80 times of his invested amount. This is a very popular gambling game here across the East Khasi hills of Meghalaya and shops from Khanapara to Cherrapunji are there where people place their bets. Police Bazar area in Shillong has the highest concentration of such shops. Kaushik and I examined these shops for a while and the many people coming to these shops to place their bets here.
I had to visit a nearby ATM to withdraw cash and after this we both headed to buy a football from a nearby shop as it was required for a group activity at Cherrapunji. We bought the football and went to meet our friends at Spectrum Shillong – a popular computer and accessories shop in Police Bazar. After spending a little time here we continued back to the starting point where the students had already come back and we started to take a hike from here to the Ward’s lake area in Shillong. The hike took around 20 minutes and it was across the beautiful lanes of Shillong city. We crossed the Shillong club and the beautiful pine trees of Shillong along the way. The traffic was less and so there was less noise making the hike much more enjoyable. We reached Ward’s lake at around 5.15 PM and I bought the entry tickets at the counter. All of us got inside and the teachers directed the Students to gather back at 6 M to continue back to the Hotel. The Ward’s lake is a beautiful man made lake in Shillong city and is the most popular tourist destination in Shillong. The lake was commissioned by the then Commissioner of Assam General Ward who saw the various prisoners lying in the jail cells not engaging in much of physical activities. He directed the inmates to start digging out this lake and hence the place is called as the Ward’s lake.
The students enjoyed paddle boating on the waters of the Ward’s lake in Shillong and at 6 PM we all assembled at the entrance of the Ward’s Lake and boarded our traveller to travel back to our hotel in Shillong. We arrived at the Hotel at 6.20 PM and tea was served along with biscuits. During the tea session we could hear someone playing a guitar and the teachers and I stepped out to see from where the music sound was coming. To our surprise, just next to our guest house a few local youths had gathered to sing songs as it was a saturday evening. They had a small set up with guitars, amplifiers and loudspeakers and very soon they started playing and singing some popular vintage english numbers. To add to the local touch they had mixed Khasi vocals and it sounded really good. Everyone enjoyed this performance that lasted for about an hour. The students had retired to their rooms and they had to come down at 8 PM for dinner. Dinner was served at 7.45 PM and we had Chinese menu for dinner. There was veg fried rice, veg noodles. veg manchurian and chilli chicken. The students liked the dinner along with their teachers. After dinner they had a short interactive session with reflections on the day and the students returned to their respective rooms. Kaushik, myself and Mr. Raj had our rooms booked at a nearby place – the Ashiyana Guest House at Shillong. It is a short 2 minute walk away from the Nalgare’s guest house. We checked into our rooms at around 89.30 PM and after having dinner we retired to bed to prepare for the next day.
Day 2 ~ Shillong – Mawphlang – David Scott Trail Trek – Cherrapunji
Today we were scheduled to depart from Shillong and proceed to Mawphlang area in Meghalaya. At mawphlang we were to visit the site of the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves and then continue on one of the most pristine treks across Meghalaya – the David Scott Trail Trek and wind up before evening ad head to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. I got up at 6 AM and quickly got ready to reach Nalgare’s Guest House in Shillong by 6.30 AM. The breakfast time scheduled was 8 AM so I had to ensure everything would be ready by 7.45 AM. The cook and the helper at Nagalre’s Guest House in Shillong were up by the time I reached. These young boys put in a lot of effort for a good show and to be on time so i tipped them an INR 500 note as a token of my appreciation. The breakfast menu had Bread toast with Butter and Jam, Puri Sabji, Soya Sabji, Cornflakes, Boiled Eggs, Banana and Coffee. Today the David Scott Trail Trek was scheduled and it is a 16 km long trek. There is only one shop along the route that serves maggi and so we had decided to give the students a heavy breakfast so that their stomach would stay full. Breakfast was served on time and everyone started their breakfast and the vehicle was near the Guest House so that the luggage could be loaded and we started off the Mawphlang at around 8.50 AM after bidding goodbye to the staff at Nalgare’s Guest House in Shillong.
We reached the Rhino Point at Shillong and headed straight to go to upper Shillong on the route to Cherrapunji, Mawlynnong, Dawki and Mawsynram on our way to Mawphlang. The journey across the narrow roads is a beautiful one as the entire side of the roads are covered by the beautiful pine trees of Meghalaya. After driving for about 20 minutes we reached the Shillong Peak area diversion from the main road. The Shillong Peak is the highest point in the East Khasi Hills at a height of 1965 m above the mean sea level. From the Shillong peak visitors get a bird’s eye view of the city of Shillong, the beautiful mountains, the valleys and the view of the plains of Bangladesh. the city of Shillong derives its name from this peak. It is said that the Khasi deity ‘Leishyllong’ resides in the hills of the Shillong peak area and protects the area. Every year a ceremonial ritual is organized to please the deity of the Shillong peak.
We didn’t have time to visit the Shillong peak and so we continued on our journey to Mawphlang. A little ahead we reached the headquarters of the Indian Air Force East Wing – the Eastern Air Command. Spread across a huge campus area, the Eastern Air Command protects the Indian Skies from any invasion along the eastern front. The place also houses an Air Force Museum that has on display various models of aircrafts of the Indian Air Force along with various equipments used by the airforce men. We crossed the Eastern Air Command area and headed straight towards Mawphlang. On the right diversion there is the Elephant Falls of Shillong. The Elephant Falls at Shillong is a three step cascading waterfall and is one of the most popular tourist attractions near Shillong. Earlier there was a rock like structure in the shape of an Elephant here and hence the Britishers named it as the Elephant Falls. However, the rock was destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1897.
We continued straight to head to Mawphlang area. The beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya greeted us along the way and in sometime we reached Mawphlang. By the time we arrived at the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves area it was around 9.45 AM. Our local guide Mr. Ban Lyngdoh who was supposed to take us on a tour of the Sacred Groves and guide us along the David Scott Trail Trek was awaiting our arrival and he immediately came to greet us. Everyone alighted down from the Traveller and I rushed to pay the entrance fees at the information Kiosk at the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves at Mawphlang. After I came back everyone had gathered to click a group photograph and after this we went to explore the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves of Meghalaya. Our guide Ban Lyngdoh was very knowledgeable about the area and he explained to us the details of the significance of these Khasi Sacred Groves of Meghalaya. Inside these groves there are many monoliths and in the older times villagers and local people used to offer prayers and animal sacrifices to please the Lord who would appear in the form of some animal that would tell the people as to how the next year would go about for them. If the God came in the form of a tiger it signified a good year with a bountiful harvest. If the God came in the form of a snake it would signify a famine. Thee sacred groves are considered very sacred and no act of nuisance is to be committed inside here like speaking ill words or cutting trees here. Any person indulging in such acts would bring about harm to oneself. There are over 150 species of orchids inside the forest area of the Khasi Sacred Groves of Mawphlang along with varied species of trees including one whose barks can be used to treat cancer. We spent around 45 minutes inside the sacred groves and then headed out to explore the Khasi Heritage Village adjacent to the sacred groves that gives an insight into the Khasi tribe way of living and has model traditional homes of the Khasi people here.
We finally finished exploring the Khasi Heritage Village at Mawphlang and it was around 10.45 AM. We were getting late and so we quickly got everyone inside the traveller and we headed to the start point of the David Scott Trail Trek at Mawphlang. The guide quickly rushed to have his lunch before we started the trek. We were supposed to have packed lunch along our way so I handed over a pack of instant noodles, muffins, boiled eggs, banana and chips to the each of the students and the teachers. Everyone took their packed lunch and carried it in their backpacks. When we were about to start the David Scott Trek one of the students informed us about a pain in her ankles and so we had to attend to it and Mr. Raj tied medical tapes around her legs and we started on the trek. The driver was supposed to pick us up at the trek end point at Lad Mawphlang. The skies showed signs of rain and so we had to keep our rain gear handy.
The David Scott Trek in Meghalaya has the following milestones:
1. Km 0 – The Trailhead – The trailhead of the David Scott Trek is located at Mawphlang village. The elevation of the entry point from the mean sea level is at 1845 m. The trailhead has a small shop owned by Ben Lyngdoh and family that takes note of the guests embarking on the David Scott Trek and also sells water and snacks that serve handy during the trek.
2. Km 0.5 – Ka KorShonmai – This is the first resting place named after the daughter of Dorshing Lyngdoh (1st Lyngdoh with the British Sanad). From this point one has to walk down the David Scott Trail through a gentle slope for another kilometer and a half.
3. Km 2 – Mawshep – At this spot, there is a tomb erected in memory of a child buried here. The inscription on the tomb at this phase of the David Scott Trail trek reads “To a child fondly called Camilla ‘soft silken primrose fading timelessly’, 1843.” Before reaching Mawshep along the David Scott Trail one can spot the Simpanghang falls and a part of Mawphlang Dam from a place called Hapmaram. The trail continues its winding spree to wind down to Lynkienwar and the Umiam River.
4. Km 5 – Suspension Bridge – This bridge at Weidung, was washed away by a flash flood in September 2007 and was reconstructed by PWD, Meghalaya Tourism Agency and PHE Department.
5. Km 6 – Wahtham Valley – After crossing the hanging bridge one has to walk along the David Scott trail through a low land to reach Wahtham valley that is at an elevation of 1525 m.
6. Km 9 – Laithsohma Village – After climbing the winding trail of 3 km up from the Wahtham valley one reaches the Laithosoma Village. This is where Khmah Nonsai resided before coming back to Mawphlang Village. If you turn back before you continue you will see Mawphlang Dam and Mawphlang Sacred Grove.
7. Km 12 – Arch Bridge – From Laitsohma one has to follow a plateau to reach some beautiful scenery including Phud Um Ja-Ut, Mawnguid-Briew, an Arch Bridge, Elephant Hill, Crocodile Sitting on a Rock and the Mansion on a rock.
8. Km 14 – Kor-Parkti – After walking the 2 km trek from the Arch bridge you will reach a stone resting bench to take a short break if needed. Then the trail descends 2 more kilometers to reach the Wah-Umiong river upto the Shillong-Cherrapunji main road.
9. Km 16 – Shillong-Cherrapunji road at Lad Mawphlang – You have reached the final destination of the David Scott Trail. There is resting place here that is typical for the outskirts of every village. Elevation for the exit point is 1785 m. It is here you get to see the majestic scenery of the East Khasi Hills.
All of us reached the beautiful valley of Mawphlang where we gathered to have a short briefing about the trek from our local guide. The guide briefed us about the David Scott Trail Trek, its history and as to why this trail is called as the David Scott Trail Trek. To quote him “The David Scott Trail Trek is an old trekking route and one of the most popular trekking routes in Meghalaya, named after David Scott, a British officer. David Scott discovered this route in the first half of 1800s in the form of a mule track for travelling from Assam to Bangladesh. This route spread in over 100 km and takes around 5 days to get covered, on-foot. David Scott was a British Administrator who was instrumental in building the David Scott Trail of Meghalaya in 1829. The David Scott Trail previously was a part of a network of foot and horse path used by the indigenous Khasi people of Meghalaya criss-crossing the hills as well as more established trade routes between Guwahati, Shillong, Cherrapunji and Sylhet in Bangladesh. After it was completely developed, the entire David Scott trail from Assam to Bangladesh covered around 130 miles. This stretch of the David Scott trail from Mawphlang to Lad-Mawphlang is roughly around 16 kilometers long. This trail route is separated into smaller trekking routes and the trail between Mawphlang and Lad Mawphlang is the most famous one. The David Scott Trail Trek covers the lovely terrain of Eastern Khasi Hills and traverses across the low granite and sandstone cliffs scattered amid rolling hills. A clear stream runs parallel to the trail. The valley widens out that looks like it has been covered with green felt.”
In sometime we all embarked on the David Scott trek. At first it is a downhill climb where where we head down overlooking the lush green mountains cover of Meghalaya along with the beautiful river Umima flowing alongside us. The path is well defined along the David Scott Trek with a stone foundation on the start of the trek. After walking for 2 kilometers we reach the first milestone of the David Scott Trek in Meghalaya- the grave of Camila where there is a tomb erected in memory of a child buried here. The inscription on the tomb at this phase of the David Scott Trail trek reads “To a child fondly called Camilla ‘soft silken primrose fading timelessly’, 1843.”
We halted there for awhile and our guide explained the relevance of the grave here. We started again on our trek. We went walking ahead following our guide for another kilometer only to find out that only half the team was ahead while the other half was lagging behind. We decided to wait until everyone gets back together. After waiting for about 10 minutes we could see Mr. Raj coming towards us and we had to inform something to us. One of the girls who had hurt her ankle was feeling severe pain in her legs and it looked impossible for her to continue on the trek. So we decided that Kaushik, the girl and the female teacher would not go further on the David Scott Trek and instead head back to the trek start point where they would board the vehicle and head to Cherrapunji from Mawphlang while the rest of the group along with Mr. Raj, myself and the local guide would continue on the trek. In about 20 minutes we embarked on the trek again. The rain clouds suddenly filled the sky and it started pouring for sometime. We continued on the trek. The surroundings became even more greener and more forest cover started to greet us. There were two small streams along our way which we had to cross. Next up we reached the suspension bridge after the 5 km milestone. This bridge was washed away in 2007 and was reconstructed by the PWD department of Meghalaya. The bridge hangs over river Umiam and the student group halted here to click pictures. After taking a short break for about 15 minutes we continued back on our trek again.
Next up we had to walk along a straight path to reach the Watham valley. It is here that we had to cross a stream. Not very wide and deep this stream however has the presence of leeches so we applied mustard oil on our legs and headed to cross the stream. Luckily no leeches caught anyone of us and we sat down to have our packed lunch as it was already around 2 PM. While preparing the noodles we ran out of hot water so the noodles didn’t turn out to be sufficient for all. We decided to have maggi in the village ahead. The walk now is an uphill climb and because of the rains the pathway got a little clippery and so we had to walk carefully. The village was another 3 km away so we walked gradually admiring the beautiful greenery along the course. By the time we reached the village it was 3.15 PM and we halted for a while to gather our breath. We ordered for maggi at the shop here and all of us had a little of it. It is a small and beautiful local village inhabited by the Khasi people of Meghalaya with only a few families staying here. After sometime we continued on our trek. We reached Laitsohma where we had to follow a plateau to reach some beautiful scenery including Phud Um Ja-Ut, Mawnguid-Briew, an Arch Bridge, Elephant Hill, Crocodile Sitting on a Rock and the Mansion on a rock. After a while we reached a stone bench area where we halted for sometime.
At around 5.15 PM we reached the trek end point at Lad Mawphlang. We could see Kaushik and our Tempo Traveller driver Sumit awaiting our arrival here. It was a pleasant sight to see the end of the road after this long trek coming to an end. We started on our drive back to Cherrapunji at 5.30 PM to reach Cherrapunji at 6 PM. Our stay at Cherrapunji was booked at the Sohra Plaza Homestay here which is a beautiful property located just on the arrival of Cherrapunji on the right hand side before the Orange Rot Restaurant at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. There were a total of 5 rooms allocated for the students and teachers here. By the time we arrived coffee and snacks (veg pagoda)was kept ready for everyone and the students had their evening snacks and headed to their rooms to have their bath. They were to assemble back at 8 PM to have their dinner at the dining room of the Sohra Plaza Homestay at Cherrapunji. I got busy directing the kitchen staff with the dinner preparations. We had ordered rice, dal, vegetable sabji, paneer matar, chicken curry, papad, pickles and salad for the group. Dinner was served at 7.45 PM and everyone came on time for their dinner.
After dinner everyone gathered at the open area of the Homestay where they had the reflections for the day. By the time they had finished it was around 9.30 PM. Kaushi, myself and Mr. Raj had our stay booked at another homestay closeby and Sumit dropped us there. We refreshed ourselves and had our dinner and went to bed to prepare for the next day at Cherrapunji.
Day 3 ~ Exploring Cherrapunji – Nohkalikai Falls, Mawsmai Caves, Seven Sister Falls and the Arwah Caves
Our day today was set to explore the various tourist destinations of the beautiful town of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. At first we were set to visit the Nohkalikai Falls – India’s Tallest Plunge Waterfall, then the Mawsmai Caves – he most popular cave in Meghalaya, the Seven Sister Falls – India’s fourth Tallest Waterfall and the end with exploring the Arwah Cave – one of the most beautiful caves in Meghalaya. I got up at 6 AM in the morning and after quickly getting ready I took a 10 minute hike to the Sohra Plaza Homestay from the place I was staying at. The kitchen staff were ready preparing for breakfast. Today we had Aloo Parathas, Bread Toast, Corn Flakes, Bananas, Egg Omlettes for breakfast. The students were getting ready and I ordered for black tea for myself before the breakfast got ready. Breakfast was served at 7.45 AM and by 8 AM everyone had come to the dining hall to have their breakfast. The order for tea and coffee was taken on spot and was served by the time the students were having their breakfast.
At 8.45 AM we all boarded the traveller and we headed on to our first tourist spot – the Nohkalikai Falls at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. The drive to the Nohkalikai Falls is an amazing experience viewing the pristine landscapes of Cherrapunji that pretty much resembles the one in Scotland with the hills and valleys. Our earlier plan was to hike to the Nohkalikai Falls from Cherrapunji but as the students had already walked for 16 km the previous day on the David Scott Trek we decided to give them a break and instead we choose to travel by the vehicle itself. By the time we reached the Nohkalikai Falls i was around 9.20 AM. I paid the entrance fees and we headed to visit the Nohkalikai Falls. Today we were lucky as there were no other tourist here. Generally this place is among the most popular tourist spots in Meghalaya and everyday hundreds of visitors come here to admire the beauty of the Nohkalikai Falls. We had the entire area to ourself. Once we reached there was a thick cover of clouds – a natural sight at Cherrapunji and I go wondering whether or not we will be able to view the falls. But our luck favored us an by the time everyone got down from the traveller, the clouds cleared up and the Nohkalikai Falls was prominently visible. Once everyone got to see the falls one word was heard in common from everyone “WOW”! The crystal clear waters of the Nohkalikai falls is sure to leave any visitor here spellbound. I explained to everyone a brief of the Nohkalikai Falls at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. The Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India and the water falls from a height of 1115 feet (340 m) and this makes it the third tallest waterfall in India. It is a plunge waterfall because the water from the perennial streams collect on the plateau on top and it falls in one leap from the summit.
There is a local folklore attached to it as to why it is called as the ‘Nohkalikai Falls’. There was once a Khasi Lady name ‘Likai’. ‘Ka’ in Khasi language means female. She had lost her first husband and they both had a daughter. Likai had to work for a livelihood and hence she remarried so that her new husband could take care of her daughter while she was out for work. But the new husband didn’t like the daughter. It so happened one day when Likai was out for work, the husband killed the daughter and cooked her flesh for dinner. After Likai was back from work the husband served her diner and Likai gladly had the meal. While eating her food she saw the fingers of the daughter wrapped up in betel leaf and kept in a corner of the kitchen. This filled her with bitter grief and out of anger knowing what not to do she came to the edge of the cliff of the waterfall and jumped down from here. Since then this waterfall has been named as the Nohkalikai Falls – meaning the Leap of Ka Likai.
After everyone admired the beauty of the waterfall and clicked their pictures we proceeded to take a look at the local shops that are set up by the Khasi ladies selling various local goods. Some of the items put up for sale are local Cinnamon, local Bay Leafs, local Pepper, locally prepared pickles, local Honey, locally made Handicrafts, etc. Some of the students purchased stuff like Bhut Jolokia Pickle, Cinnamon and Honey. After this we took a short hike on the open area near the Nohkalikai Falls. There was a Khasi lady selling freshly cut pineapples and we all decided to have pineapples. The fruit was indeed very sweet and flavorful and after this we headed to the board the traveller and proceed our next destination – the Mawsmai Caves.
The State of Meghalaya is every adventure lovers paradise especially the ones interested in caving. Across Meghalaya there are a total of around 3000 caves in the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills. Out of these caves a total of around 1500 caves have been completely or partially explored. The longest cave is located in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya and is called as the Krem Liat Prah which has a total distance of over 30 kilometers. The longest sandstone cave in the World is that of Krem Puri located near Mawsynram in Meghalaya. The Mawsmai caves at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya is the most visited cave in Cherrapunji because of the ease of its accessibility. There are also numerous food joints in this area serving bengali cuisine and hence this is a popular spot among the tourists from West Bengal who constitute around 70% of the visitors to Cherrapunji and Meghalaya at present. Once we reached the Mawsmai Caves it started raining heavily and we had to wait inside the traveller until the rains subsided. There were not many visitors here today but there was a Tamil movie shooting going on so there were many crew who were around. Kaushik accompanied the students inside the Mawsmai Caves of Meghalaya and in about 30 minutes everybody explored the cave and came out. After this we continued to move ahead to the Seven Sister Falls which is a short 5 minute drive away from the Mawsmai caves.
At around 12 PM we reached the view point at the Seven Sister Falls at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. The beautiful landscape of the Seven Sister Falls made my mind fill with peace and calm. Everyone got down from the traveller and admired the beauty of the Seven Sister Falls. The Seven Sister Falls is the Fourth tallest waterfall in India at a height of 315 meters (1033 feet). This is a segmented type of waterfall unlike the Nohkalikai Falls at Cherrapunji and there are seven distinct waterfalls that are visible. From the view point one can see the beautiful valley of Cherrapunji along with the plains of Bangladesh from the area of the Seven Sister Falls. The Seven Sister Falls is also called as the Nohsngithiang Falls or the Mawsmai Falls. I explained to the student group the details about the Seven Sister Falls and by the time we were finished exploring it was 12.30 PM.
Next up we headed for lunch at the Orange Roots Restaurant near our Homestay. The Orange Root restaurant is the best restaurant in the Cherrapunji area operated by the owners of the Cherrapunji Holiday Resort – the pioneers in promoting hospitality and tourism at Cherrapunji and the person who made the Living Root Bridge of Meghalaya known to the entire world. This is purely a vegetarian restaurant and serves South Indian and Chinese delicacies. We wanted to treat the student group with Dosas today so we had ordered Butter Masala Dosa and Lassi for everyone. The food was served within 15 minutes and everyone loved the meal. After waiting for sometime we headed back to Sohra Plaza Homestay for sometime to order for tea/coffee and planned to come out by 3.30 PM to explore the Arwah Caves nearby. At 3.30 PM everybody was out and we headed to explore the Arwah Cave area near our homestay at Cherrapunji. It took us 10 minutes to drive to the entrance of the Arwah Caves. Everyone got down from the bus and we started to take a hike of around 2 km to the cave entrance. The Arwah caves is among the recently discovered caves of Meghalaya and is gradually becoming a popular tourist destination in Meghalaya. The Arwah caves or the Arwah-Lumshynna Cave, is an important tourist attraction at Cherrapunji in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. This cave is a huge natural cavity formed underneath the Earth’s surface by solution activity within the limestone rock, geologically classified as “Shella formation of Jaintia Group”. The natural acidic groundwater (Carbonic acid) with dissolved carbon dioxide that comes directly from the atmosphere or decaying organic matter in soil seeps through crevices and joints of limestones. This slowly dissolves the carbonate rock forming cavities which join up to form large cave networks over millions of years. The same water again deposits solid calcium carbonate in the underground cavities by loosing carbon dioxide through degassing and it forms various fascinating variety of cave deposits or speleothems which include Stalactites (hanging from the ceiling of the cave) and Stalagmites (built up above the floor of the cave), etc.
In addition to the stalactites and stalagmites, the most interesting aspect of the Arwah Caves is the presence of well preserved fossils (remains of pre-historic organisms) in great abundance along its walls and roof. Most of the fossils here belong to Class Gastropoda under Phylum Mollusca. Further the limestone is also rich in micro fossils (mostly Forammifera, single celled marine Protozoa) in addition to the Mollusca. This fossiliferous limestone of Shella formation was deposited in a shallow marine shelf environment existed during Palaeocene (5.6 – 6.6 Crore years ago) time and it mainly represents episodes of marine transgression along the southern margin of the Meghalaya plateau.
Day 4 ~ The Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek to Nongriat Village
Today our day was scheduled to visit one of the most amazing man made Bio-engineering marvels of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat Village in Meghalaya. This is one of the most popular trek routes across Meghalaya where visitors need to climb down a flight of 3500 stairs and trek further to reach Nongriat village from Tyrna village in Cherrapunji. From Nongriat visitors can choose to either halt for a night at the village after admiring the grandeur of the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge or trek back to the top at Tyrna village and come back to Cherrapunji. We had planned to go for the trek to Nongriat and return the same day in the interest of time. Today we were scheduled to leave early by 8 AM from the homestay so that we could start the trek early and take adequate breaks so that it doesn’t get too hectic for the students. Breakfast was to be served by 7.30 AM at Sohra Plaza and I reached the place at 6.45 AM to ensure that things were going on as per schedule. Breakfast was served sharp at 7.25 AM and by 7.30 everyone was there at the dining hall to eat their breakfast. It was decided that the girl who had injured her ankle wouldn’t go on the trek as we didn’t want to complicate her injury further. The female teacher and Kaushik would stay back with her and they would go on a local sight seeing tour at the Dainthlen Falls and a nearby village. Our breakfast was up by 8 AM and we headed to board the traveller to go to Tyrna village from Cherrapunji. I had already informed our local guide about our arrival time at Tyrna and he was also supposed to prepare lunch for us and carry it all the way to Nongriat with the help of another local porter. The roads to Tyrna village from Cherrapunji in Meghalaya is an amazing drive experience with beautiful landscapes and waterfalls along the way. The soulful sound of the forest is simply breathtaking. We reached Tyrna village at around 9 AM and Jerry our local guide was waiting for us in front of his brother’s restaurant. We picked up the food and Jerry and went to the parking spot from where we were supposed to start the trek to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat village.
Everyone got down from the bus and we started to embark on our trek to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat. At first there is a village that marks the beginning of the trek. The stairs here are broad and well laid so the difficulty level is moderate. After a while the stairs begin to get narrower and steeper and this is when the challenge begins. The trek to to Nongriat is a downward hike on the stairs and we were not having much of a difficulty climbing down. After a while we stopped after about 800 m at a small shop where everyone had water and then we proceeded again. The beautiful virgin forest is very soothing to the eyes. After we finished climbing down the stairs, we came across another village from where it is a straight hike to the first hanging bridge we encounter. This is as all hanging bridge suspended over a stream but well tried and strong enough to hold 10 people at a time. We walked across the bridge in group of 5 and then we had to climb a few stairs to reach another bridge. This bridge is much stronger and could accommodate everyone at one time. After crossing this bridge we were almost near Nongriat village. We reached a small shop before Nongriat village and Jerry our guide unloaded the food containers here. This was the place where we would have our lunch. We trekked further to approach Nongriat village. Nongriat is a small Khasi village famous for the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge and further the Mawsaw Bridge and the Rainbow falls. There are a few basic homestays here that offer lodging and fooding facilities to the visitors. Mostly used by back packers Nongriat village sees visitors from across the World who come to Meghalaya to admire the grandeur of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge.
Upon our arrival here we could see a few foreigners already sitting in the homestays spending their time at leisure reading a book and sipping coffee. We moved a little ahead and then we saw the entrance gate to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat. I paid the entrance fees for us and we headed to admire the grandeur of the Double Decker Root Bridge. The students were amazed by the grandeur of it and they started clicking pictures. I took some time to explain to them as to how these Living Root Bridges are grown and thankfully the locals were in the process of growing another bridge over the Double Decker Root Bridge which made it easier for me to explain with visuals. Once fully grown the Double Decker Living Root Bridge would become a Triple Decker Living Root Bridge. At present this is the only Double Decker Living Root Bridge in the World and in a few years it would also become the only Triple Decker Living Root Bridge in the World!
Some of the students decided to take a swim on the clear waters of the stream that flows underneath the Double Decker Living Root Bridge and I went ahead to have tea in a small local shop nearby. At around 12 PM we decided to head back to Tyrna village after having our lunch. In sometime we reached the shop where Jerry had arranged to serve the lunch he had bought along from Tyrna. The meal had rice, dal, one veg sabji, chicken curry, tomato chutney and salad. It was one of the most delicious meal I had since a long time. Very less on spices but yet very tasty. Everyone appreciated the lunch and by the 1 PM we headed on our trek back to Tyrna village. This trek is a daunting task now as we had to climb the 3500 stairs on our way back. We took adequate breaks and at around 3.30 PM everyone had climbed and reached back to Tyrna village. At around 3.45 PM we boarded the bus and reached Cherrapunji at 4.30 PM. Snacks and Coffee was kept ready at the homestay and it was served at 5 PM. Everyone went to their room for a bath and were to gather for dinner at 8 PM.
Day 5 ~ Cherrapunji – Pynursla (Longest Living Root Bridge) – Mawlynnong
Our days at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya was set to get over today as we would be leaving here to go deeper into the East Khasi Hills towards the border of India and Bangladesh at Mawlynnong – the Cleanest Village in Asia after a short hike at Pynursla – to hike and sight the Longest Living Root Bridge in the World. We were scheduled to leave Cherrapunji at 8.45 AM meaning breakfast was to be served by 8.30 AM. I got up slightly late today as the pain of the Double Decker Root Bridge trek was starting to feel in my upper thighs and I was having a little trouble walking. However, I got ready by 7.15 AM and reached Sohra Plaza by 7.30 AM. One of the students had requested to have Aloo Paratha for breakfast so we had decided to include Aloo Paratha in the menu for everyone including bread toast, peanut butter, jam, scrambled eggs, cornflakes, bananas and coffee. The kitchen staff at Sohra Plaza had helped us a lot so I tipped them an INR 1000 as a token of my appreciation and gratitude. In turn they thanked me too and as a way of their appreciation they kept the breakfast ready by 8.15 AM.
Everyone was there at the dining hall by 8.25 AM and started their breakfast. We too had our breakfast and in sometime everyone was out with their luggage to be loaded onto the bus. By 9 AM we bid goodbye to the staff at Sohra Plaza Homestay in Cherrapunji and headed on to our next destination – the last town along the East Khasi hills at Pynursla. Pynursla is the last small township area in the East Khasi Hills on the way to Mawlynnong and Dawki in Meghalaya. This is the place that has a petrol bunk and an ATM so that visitors can refuel and withdraw the needed cash at the last moment to spend at Mawlynnong and Dawki. Our intent at Pynursla was different – it was to explore the very less known Living Root Bridge at a small village here. We reached Pynursla at around 10.30 AM crossing the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya. The roads were filled with fog and the journey was like crossing heaven. This also slowed down our vehicle and we had to drive slowly to arrive at Pynursla. From Pynursla we had to take a right and drive for another 10 minutes to reach a small village area. This village is called the Mowdak village and this is the place from where the trek to the longest living root bridge starts. By 10.45 AM everyone was out of the bus and I rushed down to speak to my guide who would take us to the Longest Living Root Bridge. The guide’s name was Eristone and I met him and immediately we went up to gather everyone at the village and embark on our trek to the Longest Living Root Bridge.
Earlier the pathway to the Longest Living Root Bridge was not well laid and it was across the virgin forests on crooked pathways. This was about a year ago when I had last visited the place but now the government has built a well connected pathway of stairs to the Longest Root Bridge. The forest area hasn’t been disturbed at all however. The forest that we crossed is one of the most pristine trekkable forest areas in the whole of Meghalaya. There is no human habitation at all and the only sounds you hear are that of birds and crickets. These sounds amaze you about the wonders of mother nature has to offer. The path to the Longest Root Bridge has now become much shorter after the stairs have been constructed and we reached the area of the Longest Root Bridge in about 30 minutes time only. These stairs are broader and less steeper that the ones on the Nongriat trek and the students did not have much difficulty climbing down the stairway. After reaching the spot of the Longest Living Root Bridge everyone was amazed by the grandeur of its beauty. The Longest Living Root Bridge in Meghalaya spans well over a distance of 50 meters and is a unique sight to behold. This bridge is not known to many people and we were among a handful of the people who have visited this man made marvel. Few of the students walked on top of this bridge. There is another living root bridge adjacent to the Longest Root Bridge and everyone climbed on this one. After admiring the beauty of the the Longest Root Bridge we started hiking back to the village. We all reached back by 12.20 PM and by 12.30 PM we started on our drive to the Cleanest Village in Asia – Mawlynnong Village.
We arrived at Mawlynnong village at around 1.30 PM. Our guide Sukher was awaiting our arrival at Mawlynnong and he immediately came to greet us once our vehicle parked in the village premises. Everyone got down from the bus and Sukher guided us the Hala Rympei Homestay where lunch was arranged for us. We took everyone to the place where lunch was to be served and Sukher and Kaushik rushed to check the rooms that were allotted to the students and teachers. The lunch was served shortly and it had rice, dal, chicken curry, mashed potatoes, ladies finger sabji, cabbage sabji, tomato chutney, salad and pickle. The food was cooked in authentic Khasi style and it was indeed very tasty. Everyone enjoyed their lunch and after lunch we went ahead and allocated the rooms to the students and teachers. Everyone was to gather at the village at 3.30 PM and we would go out to nearby Nohwet Village where Sukher would help us explore the Nohwet View Point which was a bamboo structure built here at Nohwet village and also pay a visit to his ancestral hut that is the oldest Khasi hut in Meghalaya. Sukher explained to everyone the relevance of this very old hut that has been preserved for over 5 generations from now and today has become an important historical site in all of Meghalaya. We all admired the hut and came back to board our bus to go back to Mawlynnong Village.
The bus arrived at the parking area in Mawlynnong and everyone set out to explore the Asia’s Cleanest Village with Sukher. Kaushik and I went to meet our friends at Mawlynnong. At 5.30 PM everyone gathered at a small restaurant here where we ordered for tea and biscuits. After tea, we all went to the local kitchen where the locals were preparing our dinner and this provided everyone a chance to see how the people prepare food in their traditional kitchen. After watching this the students retired to their rooms and we went on our preparations for bonfire in front of the homestay where the boys were staying. Bonfire was to be started after dinner. Dinner was served at 8 PM and it was a truly authentic Khasi cuisine of roti, rice, dal, chicken with sesame seeds, local herbs, banana flowers sabji, soya bean with potato curry, tomato chutney, salad and papad. The food was served on banana leaves and everyone loved the presentation as well as the taste of the dinner. After dinner, the bonfire was lit and the students had their reflection session after dinner. Kaushik and I checked into our rooms to prepare for the next day.
Day 6 ~ Mawlynnong – Dawki – Shillong
Today after an early morning session of exploring Mawlynnong Village we were to continue on our journey to the border of India and Bangladesh at Dawki after sighting a waterfall on the way and from Dawki head back to Shillong. Everyone was ready by 7 AM and I went to greet everyone. Sukher was there to guide everyone across the village and later they would go for breakfast. I headed to the local kitchen where breakfast was being prepared and Sukher took the group around the village for a walk and to see how people keep the village clean. At 8 AM everyone gathered for breakfast. The breakfast had bread toast, peanut butter, jam, maggi, cornflakes, boiled eggs, apples, etc. After breakfast, we proceeded to load the luggage into the bus. The group decided to take a last stroll around the cleanest village of Asia at Mawlynnong in Meghalaya and by the time they finished it was around 9.30 AM. Everyone quickly boarded the bus and we headed to Dawki from an inside route from Mawlynnong village. Sukher was travelling with us to Shillong and he was telling us about the various trees that are available in the forest around. Most of the area now has been converted to farmlands where people grow betel nut trees. These betel nuts are in great demand across North East India, Bangladesh and other parts of India and is proving to be an important source of income for the local people of Meghalaya. The roads were not very good and narrow too so we had to drive slowly with care. Gradually we started approaching the various outposts of the Border Security Force (BSF) as we were approaching the border of India and Bangladesh.
After crossing the first outpost we could see Bangladesh just next to us on the other side of the road. Sukher informed us that the area of Bangladesh was only 300 meters away from the road. There are no fixed fences demarcating the border and hence there is continuous monitoring by the BSF forces so that there is no illegal infiltration occurring across the borders. After about an hour of driving we reached our first sight seeing destination for today – the Bophill falls on the Mawlynnong-Dawki road. It is a beautiful waterfall in Meghalaya and everyone got down from the bus to admire its beauty. The student group decided to click a group picture here and after about 15 minutes we headed on our drive to Dawki. We reached Dawki at around 11 AM and we headed to the border area. There was a long line of trucks waiting ahead of us as these trucks were carrying boulders an they ply across the border of India and Bangladesh at Dawki. Our plan was to first visit the border at Dawki an then come to Shnongpdeng village where we would enjoy boating on the clear waters of the Umngot river near Dawki in Meghalaya. Our lunch too was scheduled at the Shnongpdeng village in Meghalaya. But due to the huge line up of trucks in the area we were advised by the locals to turn back as there was no signs of the area clearing soon so that we could move to see the border at Dawki. This came as a disappointment to all