When my colleague, Priya and I my self Roshni, decided to travel to the North East to explore Meghalaya, little did we know that it would end up being the best trip of our lives!
Known as ‘the abode of clouds’, this mountain state in the North East is home to some of the most picturesque spots in the country. Boasting of places like Cherrapunji (wettest place on Earth) and Mawlynnong (cleanest village in Asia), there’s much to be explored in Meghalaya.
The only way to reach Meghalaya is through Guwahati, since the state has no rail lines. While Meghalaya has bus services that coordinate with the train timings at Guwahati, we hopped on our bike and rode the 100-odd km to Shillong. Passing by stunning views of clear skies and breathtaking landscapes, we sped on our way to Cherrapunji (roughly four hours from Shillong).
Look out for Umiam Lake, while en route Cherrapunji. Taking a short break, we spent some time here, looking out at the calm waters. A manmade lake created by damming the Umiam river in 1960s, the spot is a popular destination. You’ll often find locals, perched on the edge, busy fishing, or tourists indulging in adventure activities like kayaking.
Both of us being adventure enthusiasts, we jumped at the opportunity to try ziplining at Cherrapunji. Dangling over a dizzying height of almost 1,200 feet, we sped across the stretch, crossing from one mountain to another. While the experience was exhilarating and slightly unnerving, the view of the valley spread out below us was simply stunning!
Coming from Bangalore’s cacophony, it took us some time to get used to the calming silence of the place. But once you do, it feels heavenly, and easy enough to slip off into a train of thoughts every now and then
Try as we may, we could never cease to be amazed at the sights all around. In spite of the numerous waterfalls throughout the place, we’d still stop by each one to click photos or gaze in awe at the mighty cascade. Since Meghalaya separates the valleys of Assam from the plains of Bangladesh, there are a few lookout points from where you can actually get a glimpse of the neighbouring country! We spent quite a while at a scenic spot in Cherrapunji, awed at the sight that lay in front of us – misty mountains separating the land of two countries.
Waking up afresh the next day, we were all set to head to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge (Jingkieng Nongriat) in Nongriat. Covering 3,500 roughly-hewn stone steps, we trekked through the wild to reach the famed root bridge.
Handmade by the Khasi and Jaintia people, these are essentially the aerial roots of the rubber fig trees of the region. The double-decker bridge has two layers of bridges, one for the summer and the other for when rains flood the area and cover the lower bridge.
Another interesting sight we came across, while on the way to Nongriat from Cherrapunji, was a small park where locals were crowded along a stream and fishing. After some asking around, we got to know that it was a fishing competition and that whoever caught most fish stood to win Rs. 20,000 along with their catch!
Having heard so much about Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village, we were excited about visiting the place, the next day. Even as we reached the village, we could feel the air clearing up. Breathing in the pure, fresh air, we walked around, talking to the locals and exploring the place. With bamboo dustbins and ever-cooperative villagers, we could really see why the place was known for its cleanliness.
Next on our itinerary was the Umngot river near Dawki. The meeting point of three different rivers (don’t be surprised if you see muddy rainwater blending in with clear water), this spot makes for a splendid view.
Once we were done gaping at the beauty of it all, there were adventure activities to try out! Apart from the regular boating experience, there are more exciting options on offer like cliff jumping and kayaking. Camping facilities are also provided for those who are interested.
Next day, we set off to Mawlyngbna, for which we had to go all the way back to Shillong and take a different route. Another round of thrilling activities awaited us there. We tried canyoning, going waist-deep and wading into the cool water. Next, we had ziplining and a dose of caving, where we explored the interesting split rock cave with its narrow space and limestone deposits.
Quite fortunately, our trip was right in time for the Khasi Festival, a popular harvest festival in the state. With the people all adorning native costumes, the festival involved a dance with unmarried women (virgins) forming an inner circle and men making up the outer circle, signifying how they protect their womenfolk.
By the end of our week in Meghalaya, we had amassed a treasure trove of sights, experiences and, most importantly, memories that we’d always cherish!