Musings of the Mystical Land : Meghalaya
Travelling for the first time in the Northeastern region of India, Meghalaya was a unique experience for us. It is a place which can be visited any part of the year. Unique culture mesmerising landscape dotted with waterfalls, river, Caves and array of adventure activities.
Hey all! I had heard a lot about the Seven Sisters and its sheer natural beauty and remoteness. This was my first trip to North-East India, to the Land of Clouds; Meghalaya. Before I get in detail about my experience, in short, the places we visited were Shillong which is the capital city of Meghalaya, Cherrapunjee - Mawsynram which has the world’s highest rainfall, and Dawki the Indo-Bangladesh border area. These three places are the most visited places by most of the tourists. Nonetheless, there are many places untouched but didn’t have any reference to get us there and discovering those places ourselves we thought it would be time-consuming since we had taken on seven days off from our daily office work.
We arrived at Shillong from flight via Kolkata, for a moment we felt we will land inside a forest. Lush greenery everywhere. It took two hours to drive to our homestay which was located 5 km away from the main city. Due to jet lag, we decided to take one day's rest. In the evening, we rented a scooter to Police Bazaar which is the city center. Since it was Christmas eve there were carols and a lot of decorations around the place. Didn’t mention before it was very cold at that time so we bought two sweaters one for me another for my wife. The quality of the sweaters is too good and we got them and a good price there. It’s really a good market and loads of shops were there, we had dinner at Madras Café and concluded the day at leisure.
The next day we took a long drive to Mawlynnong which is tagged as the cleanest village in Asia. On the way, we passed through the mountain ranges with beautiful landscapes. At a viewpoint, we took some snaps, had tea &maggi, and left for the cleanest village. Since we had left early morning, we had breakfast on the way, there was a restaurant called Ka Bri War where we had delicious Chole Bature. The restaurant had a beautiful viewpoint facing the hills and the ambiance was good. After visiting the cleanest village, we went to Riwai village where a single root living bridge is there. Indeed, this place was also crowded with tourists. This place had traditional bamboo dustbins placed at every point and every tourist respected the place didn’t litter anything. There were many fruit shops selling local fruits from the area which tasted great.
After spending around half an hour at Riwai we left for visiting the Indo-Bangladesh border at Dawki. First, we visited the official entry gate to Bangladesh which was just a km away named Tamabila. Then we visited the Umgot river bank which is an open border of India-Bangladesh. Later in the evening, we left back to Shillong and the day was concluded.
Next day we drove to Elephant falls which were one the most visited waterfall which comes on the way to Cherrapunjee route near Shillong Peak. As it was a tourist place it was crowded, cleanliness was well maintained by the local authorities. After Elephant falls, we visited Mawphlang Sacred Groves which was really beautiful and had various sacred trees. The forest is home is Himalayan flower species Rhododendron formosum, R. arboreum, and Himalayan Pear Pyruspashia, about 70 species of birds, butterflies.It is also home for little or Tibetan tubular nosed bat and Orange or Round-eared Tube-nosed Bat which are endangered. There was a Rudraksh tree with original Rudraksha but unfortunately, we were not allowed to take it, respecting the local tradition there it can be taken after some rituals which the local villagers perform. Therefore, we decided not to involve in all these rituals and took nothing from the forest but only memories. The guide explained the whole story
about this place and reason for giving the name sacred forest, in short, there were more than a hundred sacred trees and in ancient times sacred rituals were performed here, hence this place got the title sacred. Then the rest of the day we visited the Shillong peak where we could see the whole city of Shillong from the peak, we visited wards lake and return back to our room and our trip was concluded. Unfortunately, we could not visit important places like Lady Hydary park, Don Bosco Museum, and botanical garden due to paucity of time, also we were little exhausted traveling. Probably if we had started early morning around 5 am then we could have not missed any places which were planned. Anyways, we have no regrets and really enjoyed the day.
Caving at Krem Mawmluh:
The next day onwards adventure trip starts. After checking out from our room we headed towards Mawmluh cave near Sohra a.k.a Cherrapunjee. This day was for caving activity to discover the rich minerals and structures of the cave. We dressed up with the caving suits and started our four and a half our caving journey. After reaching the start point which was deep inside a forest, we were little scared if don’t lose out oxygen to breathe, and also if there are any poisonous animals like spiders, insects, snakes, etc. This was clarified by our caving guide; a brief instruction of Dos and Don’ts was told out before we started. We then started the caving; inside the caves, a lot of colorful stones and different shapes were there. Deep inside the cave, it became more adventurous where we had to cross through water bodies as high as waist.
As we kept going, we came across the ocean of moon milk everywhere. What is Moonmilk? Moonmilk is a speleothem consisting primarily of calcite, but may also contain hydrotalcite, hydromagnesite or huntite. Typically, it looks like other dripstones, but it is soft and spongy, sometimes even vicious or liquid. The deposits are generally of a pure white and look cloudy, which explains the association with milk. The association with the Moon is based on the Medieval belief, that the rays of celestial bodies may condense on Earth. There were actual speculations that the pure white mineral is petrified moonlight.
Moonmilk forms crusts on walls and floors, sometimes stalactites and stalagmites. It is formed by the deposition of calcite and other minerals from the dripping water, but unlike the crystals of sinter, those crystals are loosely connected rods of 1 x 8 micrometers. Many kinds of moon milk can be connected with the work of microorganisms, mostly Macromonasbipunctata, actinomycetes, and algae.
Later in the middle of the cave deep 4 km inside the mountain, we discovered a forest full of stalagmite and stalactite hanging. The guide gave this place a name hanging garden. We explored every part carefully as they were sharp and can cause injury. After departing from the hanging garden, the tough adventure starts. We had to crawl to reach another place for around twenty minutes, we had injured our knees a little bit, but the pain went away soon. The crawling space was thin we could not lift our head high, so patiently we crawled through the uneven rocks and reached the other part safely.
After almost five hours of caving, we were exhausted and we saw abeam of light coming from up, this was the end of the cave covering almost 7 Kms long. For people who look out for adventure in Meghalaya caving at Krem Mawmluh is a must-do activity to discover a natural cave from ages. The sad part is there is mining activity going on near the cave, so in the near future, this cave will vanish for minerals harvested. Already a cave named Krem Liat Prah which is the largest cave in India with a length of 30 kms has stopped due to mining activity. Therefore, we were the fortunate ones to cave Krem Mawmluh before it disappears.
After we completed the caving, we had lunch at Jiva resort, which is the 5-star hotel in Cherrapunjee. Later, we headed towards Ibankor Jungle Resort. This place was literally in between the thick forest and we feared for a moment that we lost the route. The roads are badly maintained, that was the sad part as to improve tourism there has to be good infrastructure, can’t help it anyway. The view from the resort was we could clearly see the Bangladesh plains.
Camping at Nongriate, trekking to Double Root Living Bridge and Rainbow Falls:
The next day we met Mr. Jason from Pioneer Adventure Tours who picked us up from the resort and we headed towards Nongraite village. Then we started trekking towards the camping site and stayed in tents. The way to the campsite was a steep descend towards the campsite. After reaching our tents we unpacked our bags, had breakfast, and took our cameras to trek towards Rainbow Falls on he way to Double Root Living Bridge. It took two hours approximately to reach Double Root Living Bridge. On the way, we passed through two suspension bridges, below is a river flowing through which was so clean that we could see the river bed through our naked eyes.
After reaching Double Root Living Bridge, we spent time there near the waterfalls, as a tourist area this place was crowded a lot. Many family members were there and having a dip inside the clean water. Everyone who is nature lovers will really enjoy this place. The man-made bridge from the rubber tree shows what kind of architecture do the local people staying in the village have.
After spending few hours here we started our next expedition to Rainbow falls. It was around three hours to trek at a slow pace. We had determined that we have to arrive at the spot before sun crosses over the hills in order to see the rainbow over the waterfalls. When we arrived the waterfalls look magnificent and the rainbow was visible luckily. We took rest for some time enjoying the waterfall view, the trek was a little challenging as the way was steep up to the hill. However, we made it and celebrated.
After our return, on the way, we spent time relaxing in the lagoon. The water was cool and it is crystal clear waters. Then we returned back to our campsite before it became dark. At Meghalaya, around 5pm the sun sets, we reached our campsite around 4:15pm and then had lunch along with a lime concentrate to re-hydrate ourselves. Later at night, we had a bonfire and a glass of wine to celebrate our successful trek to rainbow falls. The best part was Mr. Jason our tour operator gave us a great companion and was very jolly. He was telling the history of the village and peoples’ life-style here. The villages here have food with natural resources like raw honey and black pepper which are unique in Meghalaya.
The next day we after having breakfast, we started our journey to Dawki. Meghalaya Tea a.k.a Red Tea and coffee are unique here and they differ from our regular hot drinks. If anyone would to take coffee from Meghalaya there is a company named Smoky Falls Tribe Coffee. So, we started our steep hike up to depart which was a little tiring but we made it easier.
On the way, we went for a zipline which was set up by Jason’s company Pioneer Adventure Tours. There were two options to take a short zipline which was between two walls of the same cliff and another one was the big one between two steep cliffs. I did both and had a great thrilling experience. After the zipline we headed towards Dawki, we had to cross the river to get to the campsite. Since we had taken the package Jason arranged bigger Bamboo tents which were recently built. Before camping, we had to take a boat to another side besides the river bank of Umgot river a.k.a Dawki river. The camping site was owned by Jason and none other than his customers can camp here, in other words it was his private camping site. Nonetheless, there were many campsites there which were open to anyone.
Upon relaxing in our tents, we had lunch at around 5pm as we reached late. Post lunch we had a bonfire and a barbeque fish. However, we didn’t eat it as we are vegetarian. Later did star gazing by lying down on the river bank. The day was then concluded with a complimentary visit to Indo-Bangladesh open border again.
The next day, our plan was to have various river adventures: Diving, Kayaking, Snorkeling, and Scuba diving. All these were included in the package. We did all of them and spent more time at Snorkeling and Diving.
A lot of river fishes of various colors and sizes could be seen in the emerald green water. I could see the formation of ripples on the surface of the water to form small waves.I was transformed to a different world and unmindful of the passage of time, I kept looking at the pretty patterns of nature. When we went diving, I was bit feared to see boulders under the river thinking that I may hit it. But I was wrong when I jumped the boulder was way deeper than it looked from above the waters. How true it is said appearances are deceptive!
Many people who came for diving didn’t attempt at a level-2 height which I was explaining before. The rest of the day we did a lot of photography and videography of the river. Then we had lunch and departed back to Shillong.
Finally, our Meghalaya adventure journey comes to an end. The next day we boarded the morning flight, sitting next to the window, the rising clouds passing by, kindled our weeklong memories in the Mystical land, and will remain fresh forever!
How to get there
Reach Guwahati railway station and take a cab to Shillong. The drive time from Guwahati will be around 2 hours.
Option-1: There are no direct flights from other metro cities other than Kolkata. So, take a flight to Kolkata and then route to Shillong directly.
Option-2: Take a flight to Guwahati. Then hire a cab and drive for 2 hours approximately to Shillong.
The gateway to enter north-east states is from Guwahati. Drive and reach Guwahati and divert the route towards Shillong.
Best season to visit Meghalaya
The place can be visited throughout the year but Dawki adventures will be shut during monsoon. In order to visit Dawki for camping and river adventure activities, between October to May months are ideal.
1. Shillong Sightseeing: Contact Clara Tours +916009153963
2. Adventure Package: Mr. Jason from Pioneer Adventure Tours