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Lost and Found in Meghalaya

Madhumay Mallik

Meghalaya – a place where the rains make a constant rumble, where you can open your doors to the clouds, where the air is as pure as it can ever be. One of the Seven Sister States, it’s a country of the mountains and clouds. If you have been looking for the healing touch in your life, this is a trip you need to embark upon. For me, Meghalaya had long been on my list of destinations, but little did I realize that it would be one of the travel chapters that I would always look back on fondly.

How did I made it across? It’s hilly and out of the world, but yet you will find some of the best infrastructure in the country, at least when it comes to their roads. Meghalaya offers one of the best opportunities for road trips across India. If you are a rider of any sort, there is no other way you should be looking to travel. We had hired a Royal Enfield and a Honda Activa from Guwahati and despite the bad conditions of the vehicles, it was a smooth experience. I especially loved the road that connected Cherapunji and Dawki – it’s a ride through heaven! The visibility was low even in June when it is supposed to be summer!

Meghalaya road trip Itinerary - Day 1 – We started from Guwahati and took the NH 27 to Jorabat. After that, we continued on the NH6 to reach Shillong. The picturesque Umiam Lake which is also a popular tourist destination for water sports, adventure facilities such as kayaking, water cycling, scooting and boating was on the way and if you had started early in the morning, you would be there by late noon.

Day 2 – Shillong to Sohra via NH106 and then through NH206, just after crossing the Elephant Falls which is referred to as Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew (or "Three Steps Waterfalls") since the falls actually consisted of three sections in succession. Of the three waterfalls (all of which can be easily reached by the same short path), the bottom level was the most impressive. After the Elephant Falls you will have to make another important turn at Umlympung to take the NH5 to reach Cherrapunjee.

Day 3 – Once, you reach Cherrapunjee, the itinerary can be pretty straightforward, depending on the places you would want to cover and the number of days you wish to stay. Our third day into the trip took us to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat. If you have faster feet and aren’t looking to stop too much for photos, make sure you put in some extra energy to reach the Rainbow Fall, another 10 kilometers from the Double Decker Root Bridge. The trek is completely through steep and narrow stairs and through an amazing wilderness. Make sure you aren’t carrying too much luggage. Small shacks along the way will always offer you Tea and Maggi!

After this, the first place we went to was the Thangkharang Park, 10 kilometers from Sohra. This is the worst road condition we came across. You will have to drive for several kilometers over shifting rubble. However, the view from the Thangkharang Park is enchanting. You get to see the plains of Bangladesh from the top of the hills. We skipped the Mawsmai Caves but took some time along the Seven Sister Falls. The next stop was the Garden of Caves at Laitmawsiang. To reach the Garden of Caves from Sohra, don’t rely on Google Maps. Look for road directions while you are just leaving the town. It’s not too far but is something you shouldn’t miss.

We were done with Cherrapunjee by noon and took the road towards Dawki. It will be a long drive but also one of the most amazing ones. Driving through these menacing Ghats is an experience all riders should have. We reached Dawki and took a home stay at Shnonpdeng.

Day 4 – It will be mostly trekking around the Umgot River. There’s a lot to see for someone curious. The waters of River Umgot are crystal clear and you would feel like everything is floating mid-air! For the best experience of the Umgot River, the recommended season is winter. A half day trip along Shnonpdeng and Mawlinglong (Asia’s cleanest Village certified by UNESCO), we headed towards Jowai. Do stop at Amlarem and ask for directions to the Krang Shuri Waterfalls. This is something you will not want to miss. The water is completely clear and blue here and not something you would be able to see anywhere else in India, other than the Leh-Ladakh lakes.

Day 5 –From Jorhat to Guwahati.

5 days in Meghalaya will seem to be insufficient. I would certainly be back for a longer trip – probably a 2-week trip. Anyway, it will again be road trip like this time!

Accommodation

We didn’t have time to book for accommodations prior to our trip which worked in our favor. There are several home stays in both Sohra and Shnonpdeng that offer a good experience for a very low price. For a room in Sohra, we were charged Rs. 1000 per night for three people. This also included a complimentary breakfast!

Food in Meghalaya

Drink a lot of soups because you will need it! Road trips will make you shiver and look for warmth! Across Meghalaya, they make amazing soups and with a wide range of ingredients. Take your pick!

Travel Tips:

  • Don’t go without rain coats!
  • Travel light will as little luggage as possible. You won’t need a lot of clothes as long as you can keep a couple of sets dry!
  • If you are hiring a vehicle, do check its condition.
  • Be ready to trek a lot. Pain relieving balms would be helpful add-ons in your backpack.
  • Be open to new foods and experiences.
  • Rely more on locals for directions!
  • People understand and speak English over here.
To read more from Madhumay Mallik please go to: http://madhumaymallik.com/