Meghalaya – An Adventure in the Lap of Clouds
Northeast holidays bring an image of vast, untouched greenery, drizzles and winter chills, cloudy hills and the warmest people. What if I said that you could also go caving in one of the most exciting locations, experience the trek of a lifetime and zip line across gorges! Meghalaya is all this and more.
As a couple, we are enthralled by mountains. Everything about mountains gets us going. The peace, the tranquillity, the enormity of it, opportunities to trek and at other times to laze around, enjoying magnificent views of the sun rising & setting. This time around we set off to explore the hill ranges of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo. Entering Meghalaya from the Guwahati-Shillong highway, our first stop was an exclusive sunset on the banks of Umiam Lake. Populated with a handful of youngsters strumming away on their guitars and a few locals scattered along the banks, we found our perfect spot and slowly soaked in the first feels of this beautiful state.
We made our way to Shillong and enjoyed a quick break at the quaintest cafe ever! The city center welcomed us with a hustle-bustle of street shops, food joints and hotels. But we found our musical sojourn in the melodious evening at Cafe Shillong.
The next day we were off to Cherrapunji or Sohra as it is locally called. Every kid in India has read about it in their textbooks as being the wettest place in the country. But the weather Gods were nice to us and gave us only a few drizzles here and there while keeping it pleasant all through.
Having witnessed some breathtaking waterfalls, we basked in the glory of the deep gorges as we drove the lengths of Sohra. For the adventure-seeker, zip-lining across the deep gorges on a foggy day will more than fulfil the adrenaline rush. As you breathe in the clean air and feel the winds, you cannot help but wonder if this is what life should feel like.
But "Adventure" for us was just starting off!
We were up and eager to experience caving for the first time. The formations at Mawsmai Caves will put your imagination to work as you see mushrooms or brain-like shapes, stalactites and stalagmites. In the rainy season, there's enough water to put you out of your comfort zone. And if all this wasn't enough, you have to pass through (read crawl) some narrow passages! Come out on the right instead of where the exit is and you will see a dense over growth like in an Indiana Jones movie.
Coming to most exciting part of our trip. The Double-Decker Living Root Bridge trek is a phenomenon to be experienced at least once. It will test your endurance and treat you to the most unique encounters ever! We had a rushed start to the day as we woke up early and found the hotel staff still reeling after their party the previous night. And so, my hubby was into the kitchen whipping up some omelets as the "chef" cooked up some bhature to wrap it up in. After that and some chai, we reached the start of our trek.
3500 steps, sacred forests scattered with the most colourful butterflies, crossing mountains, hamlets, and a narrow, swinging bridge over the most magnificently blue coloured pond, we made it to our destination in a few hours. As we sat there, taking in the place, we were amazed at how we as travellers feel exhilarated at making it to a certain "elusive" location. While for those who reside in such remote areas it is just another day. The pools under the Living Root Bridge are theirs to soak up in, the forests are theirs to wander and the clean air with sights so beautiful are theirs to cherish, whenever they want. No wonder they never want to leave!
But adventures like these are just a part of the journey in Meghalaya. We were yet to witness the magic of Dawki, along the Bangladesh border and Mawlynnong (Asia's cleanest village).
A scenic drive from Sohra to Mawlynnong brought us to a dreamy village holding some secrets of its own - a single living root bridge, waterfalls and a treetop view of the forests of Bangladesh. I won't share it all, but this should be enough to get any one going!
To be honest, Dawki was not in our original plan and I had never seen a picture of the place. I was so glad I hadn't because when we reached there, we were welcomed by a view worth the travel. In the backdrop of tall mountains, and a bridge crossing over to the border, stood clear waters with a view of the river bed. The trick is to find a spot away from the crowds who typically gather at the border side of the river bank. Of course, you could take a boat across and soak in the warmth of our neighboring country. Or drive up to the official check post and click a picture with the milestone. It's okay to be touristy at times.
There is still a lot more on my wish-list of Meghalaya for our second trip, exploring more of the other hills, visiting Mawphlang and more testing treks to be done. Until then though, here's me signing off from adventure valley!
Written by: Mridula Iyengar
A lawyer by profession and traveller by passion. She keeps her jar of experiences full by traversing this beautiful country-India and exploring other countries of the world.
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