SHILLONG – SCOTLAND OF THE EAST

Shillong - Scotland of the east

Meghalaya, the abode of clouds as described in Sanskrit, is certainly the most accurate name for this state (read along, you will know the reason). Located in North-Eastern India, Meghalaya covers 22,429 sq km of land area, ranking 22nd among other states of India. We got to visit a few places in the time that we had. This was a fully paid trip from my office, where I had to make no extra efforts, but to pack my stuff up.

I left my home in the wee hours of the morning to catch my flight. It took us less than three hours to reach Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati. The level of my excitement was at its peak. I was about to experience the lush green valleys of the north-east, an area I always dreamt about traveling as a teenager.

Meghalaya, the abode of clouds as described in Sanskrit, is certainly the most accurate name for this state (read along, you will know the reason). Located in North-Eastern India, Meghalaya covers 22,429 sq km of land area, ranking 22nd among other states of India. We got to visit a few places in the time that we had. This was a fully paid trip from my office, where I had to make no extra efforts, but to pack my stuff up.

We were welcomed wholeheartedly, by the travel agency, with an Assamese “gamcha” outside the airport. Their tempo travelers were our only means of transport for the next three days. After filling our growling tummies, all of us set out for Shillong. As soon as we left the heart of the city, we were in the midst of mountains, driving on narrow roads with views that made me awestruck. The open spaces in the valleys, the sound of the wind flowing through my hair, the calmness the place brought with it, I could feel it all.

Everything was in place, until we had to make an unexpected stop.

The second tempo traveler, carrying the rest of my team, broke down. While we waited for them, I used this opportunity, to step out of the vehicle and soak in the lush surroundings. We had stopped in the middle of nowhere, which offered us not much to look at. Just the passing traffic and a half-dried patch of land. Some of my colleagues and I went on to find a nursery, with unique varieties of plants. While the other half of the team joined us, we spent our time learning about the plants and their qualities from the chief gardener.

Once at the Orchid Lake Resort, we sat to unwind and have lunch. The most fascinating thing about this resort was the view of the great man-made Umiam Lake, surrounded by the coniferous forest. This is the best place to observe nature and sit in silence. One can go for a boat ride or try kayaking and water skiing. The tall trees by the side of the lake gave a beautiful pictographic view. The places here are very far from each other, so one can cover only a few in a day. The day ended at our hotel in Shillong which was about 2 hours away from Umiam Lake.

Next day, we started early, as we had to reach the base camp for the trek in Cherrapunji. It was a 54kms long and arduous journey, through the mountains, which took us about an hour and a half. The beautiful land of Cherrapunji didn’t let us down; we were welcomed with a heavy rain shower just before beginning our trek. The hot and piping Maggie from the nearby food stall came to our rescue.

The Double Decker Root Bridge trek is a downwards trek of 2500 feet one side, which is approximately 10 km each, down and back. The highlights of this trek are the live root bridges, the water stream that flows along the rocky track, and the natural swimming pool at the end of the trek.

The trek starts with wide stone steps that slowly turns small and steep. Since it was raining, the narrow path was slippery. There was a huge mountain rock on one side and a valley on the other. The guide suggested us to sit and relax, because if our feet trembled, then one wrong step could cost us our lives. Amidst all this, the jungle remained as silent as a grave. Moving forward, you spot a large Atlantis-Blue waterfall pounding the rocks, surging and plunging down the mountain. You get busy climbing down rocks, without realizing that your mind has shifted its complete focus to the present moment. You are not thinking about the past or the future; all you are concerned about is soaking in the beauty of the forest and are excited to experience the cold water of the natural swimming pool, after all the effort you have put in.

Just as the rocky path ends, you find a narrow iron bridge hanging above a water stream, dangling from one end to the other. I had never seen such a bridge before. Crossing this bridge brings you to some steps leading you to the first live root bridge. It is huge and beautiful, covered with shade from the trees. It is said that the villagers have made these bridges to commute within the jungle; and it is now a place of tourist attraction. These bridges have helped the local economy of the connecting villages. After walking for another 15 minutes, you reach the most beautiful site of the whole trek, the second live root bridge. The magnificent Double Decker Live Root Bridge has an unparalleled view, with lush green trees and a waterfall in its vicinity.

We spent our afternoon there, clicking pictures and watching the water flow. We found a tea stall nearby and gorged on the delicacies served there for an early lunch. After this, you can either march back to the base camp or quickly have a dip in nature’s very own pool. It is a sight to see!

 

The adventure didn’t end here; a few meters from the base camp, we saw a thick layer of white cotton clouds, just below our line of sight. No wonder why the place is called the abode of clouds.

There’s more to this story, but I will put that in another part. Till then, tell me in the comments if you have been or wish to go to North-Eastern India; it’s a dream come true, really!

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