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 of us as we wanted to visit the border at Dawki in Meghalaya. But as we couldn’t do anything we decided to head back to the boating area of Dawki instead of Shnongpdeng village.
We reached the boating spot of Dawki in sometime. Since it had rained heavily the previous night and today morning the waters of the Umngot river at Dawki had turned muddy and didn’t look like it does in pictures with crystal clear waters. The muddy water didn’t look appealing for boating here and hence everyone decided not to boat and so we decided to continue on our journey back to Shillong. We decided to have lunch on the way back at Pongtung at the Peit Them Resort here. We reached Pongtung at around 12 PM at the Peit Them Resort which was a nice and clean place and we decided to have lunch here. We ordered for lunch and the staff said that it would take around 30 minutes for the food to get ready so Sukher took everybody to a place nearby the restaurant where there is a beautiful waterfall til the time the lunch was ready and also to compensate for not being able to take everyone to the border at Dawki. Everyone came back by 12.30 PM and sat down in the restaurant and the food was served to everyone. The meal had rotis, paneer butter masala, chicken masala, dal fry, rice and salad. Everyone had their lunch and we ordered for coffee and tea. At around 1.30 we started on our journey back to Shillong. The driver refueled on the way and by the time we arrived at Shillong it was 3.30 PM. Sukher got down on the way and we reached the Nalgare’s Guest House at Shillong at 3.45 PM. Everyone got down from the bus went to check into their rooms and relax. At 5.30 PM snacks and coffee was served. We had french fries and the students loved it. They gathered at the common area and planned to have some leisure activities for the evening. We informed the kitchen staff about the plan for dinner. Since today was the last evening in Shillong as well as Meghalaya we planned to have Chinese menu and there was veg noodles, veg fried rice, veg Manchurian, chilly chicken boneless, chicken dry fry boneless and papad. Dinner was served at 8 PM and by 9 AM everyone returned to their rooms. Kaushik and I headed to the Ashiana Guest House to rest and prepare for the final day.
Day 7 ~ Shillong – Don Bosco Museum – Guwahati Airport
Today was our final day of the tour and we were scheduled to leave Shillong to go to Guwahati airport after visiting the Don Bosco Museum at Shillong. I went to the Nalgare’s Guest House in Shillong at 6.30 AM and breakfast was being prepared. There was brown bread toast, scrambled eggs, cornflakes, puri sabji and bananas for breakfast today. Breakfast was served at 7.45 AM and everybody was down by 8 AM to start their breakfast. At around 9 AM we loaded our luggage in the bus and headed to explore the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong. We reached at 9.30 AM and I purchased the entrance tickets for everyone to get into the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong.
The Don Bosco Museum in Shillong is an attractive hexagonal edifice with seven storeys, 56,000 sq ft of floor space and 15,154 ft of display wall space. It is situated at Mawlai in Shillong and is the largest cultural museum in North East India. The Don Bosco Museum building in Shillong rises to form a flame to convey cultural communion for the better society. There are several galleries in the Don Bosco Museum like the Alcoves gallery, Mini museum, Photo gallery, Mission and Culture gallery, Introductory and pre-history gallery, Land and people gallery, Fishing – hunting and gathering gallery, Agricultural gallery, Traditional and technological gallery, Basketry gallery, Musical instruments gallery, Religion and culture gallery, Weapons gallery, Costumes and Ornamental gallery, etc. There is also a sky-walk inside the museum that provides the best view of the city of Shillong.
Everyone was done exploring the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong by 10.40 AM and some of the students bought souvenirs to carry back home. By 11 AM we were out and boarded our bus to continue on our journey to Guwahati airport. There was only one last halt planned at Nongpoh where we would get down at the Jivas Veg Restaurant for lunch. We arrived at Nongpoh at 12 PM and went inside the Jivas restaurant. We ordered for Masala Dosas for everyone for lunch. We were finished by 12.45 PM and at 1.00 PM we headed to Guwahati. We arrived at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport in Guwahati at 2.15 PM. Everyone got down from the traveller and we unloaded their luggage. We thanked everyone for their visit to North East India at Meghalaya and hoped to welcome them again soon. We bid goodbye to all and we returned back to our homes in Guwahati.
Mesmerizing Meghalaya ~ Tour 2
Day 1 ~ Guwahati – Nongpoh – Shillong
In the month of March 2019, we conducted our 2nd outdoor learning experience at Mesmerizing Meghalaya with another prominent International School from New Delhi. Utsaah Explore was leading the tour and we were the preferred local partners who assisted them to execute this learning experience across Meghalaya. The tour was scheduled for 6 days from March 10th 2019 to March 15th 2019. We would be covering the destinations of Shillong, Mawphlang, Cherrapunji and Mawlynnong on this tour with a blend of sight seeing, trekking, cultural and heritage experiences. On the 10th of March we arrived at the airport in Guwahati to pick the group whose flight arrival schedule was at 10 AM at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport in Guwahati. We had 6 nos Toyota Innova vehicles for the group to travel along with my backup vehicle that would be leading this vehicle convoy driven by my colleague Mr. Kaushik. The group finally arrived at the airport at 10 Am and by the time they were out at the arrival lounge by 10.20 AM. We went ahead to board our vehicles and at around 10.45 AM we started on our drive to Nongpoh in Meghalaya crossing Pamohi, Deepor Beel, Garchuk, Khanapara, etc. We got stuck in traffic near the Nalapara area in Guwahati and somehow managed to get out of it to continue to Nongpoh.
We arrived at Nongpoh at around 12.45 PM where we were scheduled to have our lunch at the Excellencia Dhaba here. The food was served in a buffet style and the menu had veg soup, veg fried rice, green salad, veg noodles, paneer sweet and sour and chicken manchurian boneless. The student group enjoyed their lunch and at around 1.30 PM we continued on our drive to Shillong – the State capital of Meghalaya. As it was a sunday, the traffic was less than usual and we crossed Barapani area to finally arrive at Shillong at around 2.30 PM. We headed to the Laban area in Shillong where our group’s stay was booked at the Nalgare’s Guest House and the Sunrise Guest House here. The girls checked into the Nalgare’s Guest House along with a female chaperone, a male chaperone and a member of the Utsaah staff while the boys checked into the Sunrise Guest House along with a male chaperone. We allowed them to rest for sometime before we went out to explore the Ward’s lake area in Shillong at 4 PM. We boarded our vehicles again at 4 PM and drove to the Ward’s lake in Police Bazar area in Shillong. We reached at around 4.30 PM and the student group started to explore the area for about 45 minutes. The Ward’s lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Shillong and was dug out during the erstwhile British Raj under the able watch of the then Commissioner of Assam Province General Ward. Today it is a popular tourist attraction drawing visitors from across the World here in Shillong. After finishing exploring the lake we took a short hike around the Botanical gardens to reach the point where our vehicles were parked. We left ward’s lake area to continue to drive back to our guesthouse admiring the beautiful landscapes of Shillong – the Scotland of the East.
We reached back to our guest houses at 5.45 PM and tea/coffee and vegetable pakoras were served to the group. After this they took a little time for reflection on their expectations from this outdoor learning experience before dinner. The group students were all excited on their maiden visit to Meghalaya – the Abode of the clouds and they wanted to visit the Living Root Bridges, go for the David Scott Trek, visit the tallest plunge waterfalls, explore the mysterious caves, interact with the Khasi tribes and visit the Cleanest village in Asia and many more activities. At 7.30 PM dinner was served. The menu had white rice, dal fry, matar paneer, chicken dry fry, salad, papad and pickle. After dinner thr group was left to have some me time for themselves. I dropped the girls to their guest house and later checked into my room at the Ashiyana guest house nearby to prepare for the next day’s plan. we had a long trek schedule planned ahead of us and so we took our last minute preparations to make it successful.
Day 2 ~ Shillong – Mawphlang – Lad Mawphlang – Cherrapunji
The next day morning we were scheduled to leave from Shillong to go to Mawphlang where we would at first visit the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves here and later embark on the 16 km long David Scott trek trail to come out at Lad Mawphlang before continuing our drive to Cherrapunji. We had an early breakfast at 7.15 AM where we had cornflakes, bread toast, boiled eggs, bananas, apples, tea/coffee and at sharp 7.50 AM we started on our drive to Mawphlang after loading our luggage in the cars. We continued to drive to Upper Shillong to finally arrive at Mawphlang at 8.45 AM. Our guide Mr. Ban was waiting for us at the parking spot of the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves and he led the group to start to explore the Sacred forest here. The sacred groves forest are the holy site of worship for the Khasi people of Meghalaya. The Khasi ancestors used to offer worship in these forest pockets to seek blessings for a prosperous year. If the year ahead would be good then God would appear in the form of a leopard or else God would appear in the form of a snake sighting drought and famine. Today these sacred groves are a wonderful forest reserve as no trees are allowed to be cut here harboring a wide species of flora, fauna and avifauna. The sacred groves at Mawphlang is home to over 200 species of orchids and also trees that have medicinal properties including the one whose bark can be used to cure cancer as well.
Across the World there are around 275 sacred groves of which 215 are in Meghalaya itself. Ban took us on a tour of the sacred grove forest explaining in details about the varied species found here. We took around 45 minutes to complete our trek inside the sacred groves forest and then we explored the Khasi heritage village at Mawphlang for sometime and at around 9.45 AM we started on our drive to the trek start point of the David Scott trek. We made a quick toilet break here and then I distributed the packed lunch to everybody in the group before we started on the trek. The packed lunch had Cup noodles, muffins, tetra pack juice, boiled eggs, bananas, biscuits, etc. A porter BJ joined us and carried along the bananas and eggs and a vessel to boil water as well for the cup noodles. Ban led the group along the David Scott trek that we started at 10.15 AM from Mawphlang in Meghalaya. The vehicles left us at the trek start point and we started on our long 16 km trek. The first phase of the David Scott trek is a down hill hike so we have to walk carefully on the stone pathway that was built during the early 1800s by the British General David Scott. The David Scott trail is an ancient trade route that was used to transport goods via Assam to Sylhet in Bangladesh. Horses and mules used to pull trade carts along this route across the virgin forests of Meghalaya. The beautiful forest reserves struck everyone with awe and the group was excited to complete their trek.
The river Umiam flows alongside us along the David Scott trek and the crystal clear waters also surprised everyone who I could remember saying that they were lucky to spot such a clear river in India. We gradually walked across the stone path with the local guide answering most of the questions put to them by the group. In sometime we completed around 1.5 km stretch of the David Scott trek to arrive at the grave of Camillia. Ban explained to everyone about the significance of this grave here and we started again on our hike. In sometime we reached the bridge crossing over the Umiam river. After this the hike is on a flat path for about 15 minutes until we reached another stream crossing. We arrived at the stream crossing and it was around 12.15 PM. It was here that we had planned on having our packed lunch. Ban and Bj got busy lighting the fire while the group settled themselves on the huge stone boulders across the stream while we got the water boiling for the cup noodles. I went around distributing the bananas and boiled eggs to the group who took their time to hydrate after completing 2 hours into the trek.
At around 1 PM we started again on our hike to the trek end point. Now the trek is an uphill climb so we could see the fatigue gradually in the faces of the students. But their effort was commendable and they walked along without complaining but taking adequate breaks. We finally arrived at the local village approaching towards the end of the trek with about an hour to go. We halted for a while at the village as the students were tired after the uphill climb. Also Bj and myself emptied the trash in the dustbin here which we had carried along with us. I bought additional water bottles here for the group members as well. From here it is a flat terrain and so the group pumped in the adrenaline and we started back on the trek. We finally arrived at the trek end point at around 3.30 PM. It was a commendable task for the group to have completed the trek in a time close to 5 hours only. Our vehicles were waiting for us at the trek end point. We boarded our cars and started on our drive to Cherrapunji. We reached Cherrapunji at 4.15 PM and we drove to the Sohra Plaza homestay here. The boys were to stay over at the Sohra Plaza homestay while the stay for the girls was arranged at the Saimika resort which is about 3 minutes drive from here. We stopped at Sohra plaza to have snacks and tea/coffee. French fries was served as snacks and the children loved it. Shortly we went to the Saimika resort to check in the girls along with the chaperones while the boys stayed back at the Sohra Plaza homestay. At 7 PM we all gathered at the Sohra Plaza homestay to enjoy our evening of bonfire. At 7.30 PM dinner was served and the menu had vegetable pulao, chilly chicken boneless, paneer manchurian, vegetable stir fry, papad and pickle. The group waited for little time around the bonfire and engaged in some group activities and at 9.15 PM the girls went back to the Saimika resort while the boys returned to their rooms at Sohra plaza. Kaushik and I returned to our homestay midway between both the places.
Day 3 ~ Cherrapunji
The next day morning I got up by 6 AM and headed to the Sohra plaza homestay to see the preparations for breakfast. The group arrived at the Sohra Plaza Homestay at 7.15 AM and Utsaah staff had arranged for a group activity before breakfast for the entire group. Breakfast was served at 7.30 AM and it had cornflakes, aloo parathas, bread toast, butter, scrambled eggs. After breakfast we started on our hike to the Nohkalikai falls from Sohra plaza homestay. Two local guides had joined us and they led us along the trek. This is about an hours trek that takes you across the valleys of Cherrapunji. We crossed streams and passed through narrows passages over a waterfall to finally arrive at the road that leads to the Nohkalikai falls in Cherrapunji. From here it is another 1.5 km hike to reach the falls. We finally arrived at the Nohkalikai falls at around 10.30 AM. As it was winters and the dry season there was less water in the falls but still it was amazing to admire the beauty of the tallest plunge waterfall in India. The students walked around the area of the Nohkalikai falls admiring the beautiful landscapes and also visiting the various local shops here that sell cinnamon, pepper, turmeric, fruits, souvenirs, etc.
After exploring the Nohkalikai falls we headed on our drive to the Mawsmai caves in Cherrapunji. A prehistoric cave, the Mawsmai cave is another popular tourist attraction here in Cherrapunji. Although it is quite a long cave only a part of the cave is open for tourists to explore. I purchased the entry tickets to the cave and I led the group to the inside of the cave. We saw the stalactites and stalagmites and passed across the narrow stone passage of the caves to finally come out of the place. Next we visited the seven sister falls near the mawsmai cave area in Cherrapunji. Again it being dry season the waters were not much here at the falls but then again we got to see the plains of the border of India and bangladesh from here. We finished exploring these places and headed to drive back to Sohra plaza for lunch. The lunch menu had Veg soup, white rice, chicken curry boneless, matar paneer, rotis, mixed veg sabji, pickles.
After lunch we took little time to relax and at 2.30 PM we boarded our cars to go to the Arwah caves in Cherrapunji. We reached the parking area of the Arwah caves at around 3 PM. I purchased the entry tickets and our guide joined us to help us explore the Arwah caves. It is a short 500m walk to the cave entrance. Gradually we entered the Arwah cave premises and started exploring the Arwah caves. This is a much wider and taller cave as compared to the Mawsmai caves with a narrow stream flowing across the cave pathway as well. The students were all excited to explore the area of the cave. We slowly walked across the cave interiors and the guide showed us the various fossils. stalactites and stalagmites. We could spot fossils of fishes and seashells of the cave walls. We kept exploring the cave until we reached an end point upto where the cave is lit up. The group gathered here and we took a call as to how many would continue further into the narrow passage of the cave without lights that is about another 150 meters to explore. Some 10 members wanted to continue further so the rest of the group along with myself and a chaperone awaited with them while the guide led the other group inside. In sometime we finished exploring the Arwah cave and returned back to go to the Saimika resort. Evening snacks of Veg cutlet and Tea/coffee was served to the group. The boys went out to play basketball for a little while while the girls retired to their rooms. At 7 PM we all gathered at the Sohra plaza to enjoy our time by the bonfire. Dinner was served at 7.30 PM and the menu had rice, dal, paneer bhurji, aloo gobi, chicken manchurian dry fry, papad. After dinner the group spent some time around the bonfire and then returned to their rooms.
Day 4 ~ Cherrapunji – Pynursla – Mawlynnong
The next day morning we were scheduled to depart from Cherrapunji to go to Pynursla and then continue on our drive to Mawlynnong. Breakfast was served at 8 AM and it had puri sabji, brown bread toast, boiled eggs, cornflakes, bananas, tea/coffee. We left Cherrapunji at 8.45 AM to continue to drive to Pynursla to visit the Longest Living Root Bridge in the World. Along our drive we took a short break to refuel our vehicles at Pynursla town and and then took a right diversion to go to a local village from where we would begin our trek to the Longest Living Root Bridge. We started on our trek at 11 AM and a local guide had joined us to go down to the bridge. We started going down the fleet of stairs down to the Living Root Bridge. The pathway is across a dense tropical forest and we could hear sounds of birds and insects along our way. Varied species of insects and trees we sighted along our way. We finally reached the area of the Living Root Bridge at 11.30 AM. The students loved the sight of this man made bioengineering marvel. Although the pathway across the longest root bridge was closed there is another living root bridge across this one and the students went ahead to cross this other bridge and click the pictures of the longest root bridge from this one. I explained to the group about the process of growing of these root bridges across Meghalaya. We started to trek back to the village and finally arrived back on top at 12.30 PM.
From here we went to Mawlynnong – the Cleanest village in Asia. Kaushik had already reached Mawlynnong long ahead to check the allocation of rooms and to arrange for our lunch at a newly opened restaurant here. We arrived at Mawlynnong at 1.45 PM and everybody was led to the restaurant. The lunch menu had traditional Khasi meal of rice, dal, potato with capsicum fry, mashed potatoes, tomato chutney, papaya sabji, chicken curry with sesame seeds and green salad. At first the students did not seem to like the lunch but after tasting the food they wanted more and we even had to ask for more chicken from the staff who had kept aside some for them. The food was very healthy and tasty and the students kept appreciating the taste. It was satisfying to us as well to help put a smile on their faces after days of long trekking.
After lunch the students were allocated their rooms and at sharp 4 PM we gathered to go to the Balancing rocks at Mawlynnong village. It is a short 3 minute drive from the main village but as the students were tired we did not want them to walk to it and instead we took our vehicles. The Balancing rocks are a unique phenomenon here in Mawlynnong where one huge rock boulder rests comfortably atop another small rock. No one has been able to explain this phenomenon as yet and the students were thrilled to see it. After spending some time here we went back to the restaurant for tea and snacks. After this the students went to the nearby playground where there was a football match going on. The students enjoyed the game of football and also played with one of the local teams for a short while. We left them to have some time for themselves to gather back again at 7 PM for dinner classes. After everyone came I explained to the group about the culture of the people of Mawlynnong and the practice of the food habits across North East India and how our food is cooked with minimal oil and spices and the use of fresh herbs and ingredients like ginger, garlic, bhoot jolokia, etc. Sukher our local guide joined me and explained in details about the Khasi heritage and culture here.
After this we wanted to show the students how food is cooked in the local kitchen traditionally over wood fire and the students were all excited to witness this. They admired the way the kitchen was kept clean and how food was being cooked over wood fire. Dinner was served at 8 PM and it had rice, dal, chicken curry traditional, potato fry with peas, roasted brinjal mashed, papad, salad and a local herb curry. The group loved the dinner as well and after dinner everyone gathered around the bonfire where they roasted marshmallows and had it sandwiched with biscuits and chocolates. It was an eventful evening and at 9 PM everyone retired to their rooms.
Day 5 ~ Mawlynnong – Shillong
The next day morning I was up at 5.30 AM and I took note of all the arrangements for breakfast. The students gathered at the village at 8 AM and Sukher took us on a tour of Mawlynnong – the Cleanest village in Asia. He explained to everyone how people engage in cleaning activities to keep the village clean and dispose of garbage. We took a walk around the village admiring the natural beauty and gathered at the restaurant at 8.30 AM for breakfast. The menu had maggi noodles, bananas, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, bread toast, apples, tea. At 9.15 AM we started on our drive to visit the Living root bridge at Mawlynnong. The Riwai living root bridge is a very popular tourist attraction in Meghalaya and sees hundreds of visitors everyday during the peak tourist season. The popularity of this living root bridge is that this one is the most easily accessible compared to the other living root bridges and does not need much of an effort to reach here. It is a short 10 minute walk from the top car parking area and so visitors find it easier to witness this man made wonder. As it was in the early hours of the morning, there was no tourists around and we had the place to ourselves. The students walked across the root bridge to reach the stream below and they clicked pictures.
Next up Sukher led the group to Nohwet village where we viewed the oldest Khasi hut in Meghalaya and also took a view of the plains of Bangladesh from the bamboo sky walk at Nohwet. At around 10.30 AM we started on our drive to Shillong from Mawlynnong. As today was the group’s last day of tour we planned on treating them to an elegant lunch followed by an elegant dinner as well. Lunch was planned at the ML05 Cafe in Upper Shillong which is one of the most popular cafes in Shillong area. Kaushik arrived here early and places the order for lunch that had veg noodles, veg manchurian, chicken manchurian, chicken momos and veg momos. The students arrived at 1.30 PM and were all excited to view the interiors of the ML05 cafe. Lunch was served and they enjoyed it a lot and places a few orders separately as well for beverages. We finished our lunch and headed to the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong. The Don Bosco Museum is one of the finest museums in India and it illustrates the rich culture and heritage of the indigenous people of North East India. The don bosco museum is a huge area sprawling across 7 floors with each floor depicting a different aspect of the life of the people of North East India. The top floor has a skywalk that provides a bird’s eye view of Shillong city as well. We finished exploring the museum by 4.30 PM and continued on our drive to our guest houses at Laban area in Shillong.
At first we went to the Sunrise Guest house for snacks of french fries and tea/coffee. The girls checked into their rooms here while the boys checked into the Nalgare’s guest house. Everyone gathered back at 6.30 PM for final reflection of the tour and to celebrate the birthday of two of the boys in the group. I had bought two cakes from police Bazar area and we celebrated their birthday. Dinner was served at 7.30 PM and it had rice, dal, chicken curry, potato and cauliflower, paneer matar, pickle, mixed veg and pickle. After dinner the group called it a day and they thanked the drivers and the ground team separately for having hosted them in Meghalaya. We finished and returned to our rooms at 9 PM as we had to get up early next morning to travel to Guwahati. I got together to pack a tiffin box for the students as we wouldn’t have time next morning for breakfast.
Day 6 ~ Shillong – Guwahati
The next day morning we were up at 5 AM and at 5.30 AM everybody was out with their bags to be loaded into the cars and I handed over the packed tiffin boxes along with a pack of biscuits and tetra pack juice to everyone. We started on our drive to Guwahati from Shillong at 5.45 AM. We reached the Guwahati airport at 8.30 AM for the group’s onward flight to Delhi at 11 AM. I thanked everyone for coming and invited them over again to Meghalaya. I bid goodbye to the group and the drivers and came back home after the successful completion of our second outdoor learning experience with Utsaah Explore.
Tags – Meghalaya Outdoor learning, North East India Outdoor learning, School Excursion Meghalaya, School Excursion North East India, International School Tour Meghalaya, International School Tour North East India, Group Tours Meghalaya, Group Tours North East India