For those readers who just need capsule information about itinerary, attractions, homestay and cab, please refer "Summary" section at the bottom of this page.
As Cherrapunjee had many scintillating attractions, it was going to be a long day. I left the bed as I heard a soft knock at the door. Must be 07.00 hrs and the breakfast must be ready, I thought. We were late, yet again. After a quick gorging at breakfast and a quicker shower, we left Russet’s at 08.00 hrs. Our first stop was Mawkdok Dympep Valley View Point, which was hardly an hour away. This point was almost on the main highway, hardly 20 steps down and away. At first, I had thought that we were wasting our time, but trust me, this was the greenest patch of hills I had seen in last so many years. Not only it was green, there was not even one dwelling constructed on the entire hilly canvas. Spectacular scenery. I was glad Ali stopped here and suggested we carried our DSLR to click pics. The best part was that we couldn’t click one bad pic here. Nature had bestowed its choicest blessings to Meghalaya, and specially this belt of Cherrapunjee side. We had thought that this would be a quick stopover, but we spent good 30 mins there. Time read around 09.30 hrs when we left this spot.
As we reached Cherrapunjee, it had started drizzling. Dainthlen Falls was out first stoppage. We had to park our tiny Maruti 800 about 200 m before the falls owing to broken roads and muddy swamp. Remaining distance had to be covered on foot amidst the drizzle. We wore our raincoats, opened umbrellas but it was difficult to hold them upright as it was too windy. After some effort, we gave up. Cherrapunjee welcomed us with Nimbus clouds and we had to embrace it ruefully. We were all drenched within minutes but we cautiously walked towards the falls avoiding slipping. Teasing us, clouds covered the falls and interrupted our view. Damn. There was no point waiting for them to clear as it was still raining heavily. The clouds were dark but I was angrier. We couldn’t even click a few decent pics of the falls. First, Umiam lake and now Dainthlen Falls.
As we started our car, rains stopped miraculously. Ali asked us if we wanted to go back to the falls. So irritated I was that I asked Ali bhai to take us to next point. Our next stoppage was Nohkalikai falls. A serpentine road of around 10 km took us to the entry of Nohkalikai falls. It seemed clouds were following us. As we drove on that narrow stretch of road, they gathered again. It was almost noon but I wonder why it became so dark and foggy. Nothing was visible. We waited for clouds to clear. Nothing happened. They were not in a hurry like us. They had no schedule like ours. They were floating from one peak to the other, literally laughing at us. I was furious. It seemed we had wasted half our day without actually ‘seeing’ any attraction.
For a moment or two, clouds cleared and I was lucky to take a few pics of this majestic Nohkalikai waterfalls. Despite there being a tragic tale associated with this waterfalls, I could sense that it had its own charms. Magically, I too, felt happier. I smiled. God laughed. Clouds covered nature’s splendor again as if telling us that the show is over and we may leave. By the way, we had tea at a stall next to Nohkalikai falls. Amazing weather, drenched clothes, cloudy day and rains. And now add to it a hot cup of tea. Absolute Bliss.
Our next stop was Seven Sister falls. Here, history repeated itself as clouds covered the falls. We just got a window of 10 secs within which I had to click a decent photo of the falls. Fortunately, I got one. Meghalaya is more about timing, I felt. Time read 14.00 hrs.
We had our lunch at Orange Roots, which was a hygienic restaurant that served hot meals. The view of curvaceous roads were equally good. We spent around one hour there and it was sunny throughout. Not even one rebellious cloud loitered. After around 50 pics and 3 coffee later, we left for Laitmawsiang & The Garden of caves. Time read 15.00 hrs.
After driving for around 40 mins, we reached Laitmawsiang & The Garden of the caves. Surprisingly, this place had few tourists, though it offered beautiful waterfalls, with one falling inside a cave. The entire garden was squeaky clean. It had around nine waterfalls at walking distance along bamboo trails. Since place had staircases at a few places, believe elderly and differently abled people might face some difficulty in approaching waterfalls. However, the fun part was that one could go actually behind the waterfall curtain and witness the gushing water through rocks and pebbles. Mesmerizing experience it was.
By the time we left Garden of Caves, it was around 17.00 hrs. On the way, we made a quick bite stop at ML05, a cafe on Mawsynram-Shillong highway. It was a themed cafe focusing on road trips and automobiles. A wow place to click pics of excellent graffiti and soak in the ambiance of a roadie. Food was strictly average and the service was slow. Still, with so much creativity around, one couldn’t get bored. It took us more than 2 hrs to start from the cafe and by the time we reached Russet cottage, we were exhausted.
It was our last day of outing in Meghalaya. Dreaded thought of being back to office soon, haunted me. Perhaps that’s what woke me up even before North East sun surfaced. I was awake but didn’t leave my bed. My thoughts wandered and I began to think about the simple yet enchanting lives of Meghalaya people. This life was miles away from the ‘brake-accelerate’ lives of us urban people. I wish one day, I’d settle in the peace and tranquility of hills. Amid these thoughts, I slept again. Religiously, a soft knock at 07.00 hrs by Anne roused me from my slumber. After a mundane routine of getting ready and hogging onto breakfast, we left for our final circuit, the Nongkhnum Island Beach – Mawphlang Sacred Grove. The weather looked pretty with sun trying to sneak out from the floating clouds. It was a quiet drive till Nongstoin village. Roads were good and views were excellent.
After Nongstoin, fresh tarmac accompanied us for sometime. Ali told us that this road was freshly made as per pradhan mantri gram sadak yojana (http://omms.nic.in/). As he said that, abruptly, the tar roads gave way to broken road, which soon turned into loosely packed gravel and later into plume of dust laden with pebbles. Driving here would test one’s skills, I thought. Soon, this dusty road left us in an open field, where we had to park our car. There was not a soul around but a beautiful view of river, which gently curved through the island. River splashed water as it moved through trees and roots. The sweet aroma of the forest filled my nostrils and energized me with its pleasant waft. There was a hanging bridge which took us to the island. We went up the hillock which offered us a majestic view of the surroundings. We could see a few people rowing boats downstream of the river. I tested my skills as a photographer and almost filled entire 2 GB memory card I had saved for this day. Ali too tried his hands at photography. Envious clouds watched us enjoying and soon returned with deep rooted grudge to spoil our day. In a minute, they poured heavily drenching and leaving us with only set of clothes we had for the day. Ruefully, we wobbled back to our car. Time read 11.30 hrs.
After patting ourselves dry, we headed to our next attraction, the Mawphlang Sacred Grove. We thought we’d have lunch on the way somewhere. Astonishingly, there were no restaurants en route. We munched on the cranberries we carried along. It took us around three long hours before we reached Mawphlang Sacred Grove. As we parked our car, we saw a tiny dingy shack serving tea and noodles. Having no choice, we ordered. Noodles were soupy and bland yet we relished it. Tea was a savior though. We engaged a guide who would take us along inside the Sacred Grove and help us navigate through the forest. And oh my ! as we entered the forest, it felt we had traveled across time, and entered an era when mankind just awakened to life. It was raw. Untouched by clamors of the world. I was mesmerized by the sound of silence with occasional chirping of birds which interrupted the quietness of the place. It is this tranquility which we urban dwellers miss so much. Around me, I saw shoots and barks of trees spread across the forest untidily. The forest was old and antiquated. It felt as if trees were observing me like silent watchmen. It was such a beautiful organized chaos. I was literally left spellbinded. Words failed me as a blogger. The guide asked me if I was interested to do a mowgli swing on one of the Banyan tree shoots. Don’t know what got me, but I took that swing and trust me, it was like revisiting my childhood. This was the best decision I had made today, I thought. My euphony of thoughts were interrupted by the guide when we asked me if there is anything else we wished to see around. We had spent two hours already in this dense forest. The tour duration was over. Reluctantly, we moved back towards car parking.
It started to drizzle indicating that our last leg of journey was over and it was time to move back to our base. It was almost 17.30 hrs when we started for Shillong. Nimbus clouds accompanied us throughout our journey. It was almost 19.30 hrs when we reached Russets. Meghalaya truly stood to its name and fame. It drizzled, rained, poured and drenched us several times. I loathe rains. I believe rains are enemy number one on vacations. Rains are the most destructive arrow in nature’s quiver which can ruin ones vacations. Somehow, despite rains we explored and enjoyed Meghalaya. My Meghalaya vacations were over, I thought. Tomorrow I’d limp back to my mundane urban life, and again unsuccessfully try to strike a balance between my desires and my duties. With this turmoil of thoughts, I slept.
We had a flight back home from Guwahati but before boarding it, we had two plans. One, to spend some time at Umiam lake, which we missed due to rains while coming to Shillong. Second, to have another round of cheese naan at Jiva veg at Nongpoh. We planned, God laughed. As we started from Shillong around 09.00 hrs, it started drizzling again. The sky turned darker and vengeful. By the time we reached Umiam Lake, it poured again. Damn ! Not again, I cried within. All our clothes were already packed and we had to save ourselves from the rains. Grudgingly, we just captured the awesomeness of the lake with our naked eyes through the car window glass. The rain was incessant. It seemed the flood gates were opened up in the sky and there was no one left to close them back.
As we drove along the highway, with the car, rains too, sped up. It was difficult to drive, as visibility was less. We reached Jiva Veg, Nongpoh by 11 am. The taste of delicious Cheese naan still lingered in my mouth. Getting out of the car was an ordeal in itself, but I adjusted my umbrella, braved the wind & rains, and sprinted to reach the porch of Jiva veg (https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g2282386-d10172847-r553874146-Jiva_Veg-Nongpoh_Ri_Bhoi_District_Meghalaya.html). After a delicious meal, we started for Guwahati by 12.30. Rest of the drive was uneventful. Rains too, left us at Meghalaya border, while in Assam sun received us with warmth. The cab dropped us at Guwahati airport by 14.30 hrs. The flight took off by 17.00 hrs.
I knew the memories we created in Meghalaya would be tomorrow’s nostalgia. Perhaps, thats the reason why I wrote this blog after 3 years of my return from Shillong. All I am left now is a gamut of pics and videos and a plethora of beautiful memories. Perhaps, again one day I’d witness the quietness of Sacred forest and again swing like a Mowgli on those Banyan tree shoots.
Day 1: Delhi-Guwahati flight, followed by a four hours drive to Shillong with a stopover at Umiam Lake – Stay at Shillong
Day 2: Shillong – Krang Suri falls – Dawki & Shnongpden – Dawki – Mawlynnong – single root bridge at mawlynnong- Shillong – Stay at Shillong
Day 3: Shillong – Mawkdok Dympep Valley View Point – Cherrapunjee (dainthlen falls, nohkalikai falls, Seven Sister falls) – Laitmawsiang – Garden of caves – Shillong- Stay at Shillong
Day 4: Shillong – Nongkhnum River Island Beach – Mawphlang Sacred Grove – Khasi Monoliths – Shillong- Stay at Shillong
Day 5: Shillong local (Elephant Falls, Golf course etc.) – Drive to Guwahati – Flight to Delhi