Among the lush greens of Meghalaya stands one of the greatest awe-inspiring spectacles of pristine nature. No matter whether you are a fan of the waterfalls, hiking in the woods, finding your way out of treacherous caves, or exploring underwater, Meghalaya has something for every avid traveller out there. Apart from holding records in being the rainiest of places, it also harbours one of the longest series of natural caves. It’s truly a place of wonders, ideal for curious and excited explorers who like to get away from the monotonous tried-and-tested paths of resort-breakfast-guide-back home. So, to put it succinctly, it’s not for the weak-hearted.
You can have most amazing times exploring the wilds the way you want to; instead of setting out on the usual well-trodden paths, you can carve out your own. And collect the thousands of untold and unheard-of stories that thrive on those foothills that inspire you to achieve that goal you were putting off. It’s true- the spirit of the hills that conquers you is something that won’t leave by your side in the toughest of times.
I have been on a mission trekking the entire North-East on foot- without GPS, or any guide-maps, solely through whims and fancies. Although most parts of my journeys consist interacting with the locals and picking up their stories to relish for the next part of my journey, I’ll give you a brief outline of the major landmarks you will find around those magical places so that you can go and explore them on your own.
Although Meghalaya is a huge place to complete even in a fortnight (you can spend hours just looking at those majestic falls falling down from hills), you can complete certain famous spots in bits. The best thing to do would be to own a bike, and just follow the highways along the hills (those areas are surprisingly well-maintained). But if you are time-bound, you can try covering them up in parts in weekends. Today, I’ll take you through two such awesome places- Mawnlynnong village and border-town Dawki.
Mawnlynnong has been credited as being one of the cleanest villages in Asia, which roughly implies that there are inhabitants with common sense in them, unlike the rest of our country. As is the tradition in North-East, the people are friendly and would be your guide to the local sight-seeing. You can’t miss their warm hospitality and awesomely delicious traditional food. They go out of their way to make you feel like home. After sometime, you even forget about the language divide.
The most striking feature that you will find there is how close to nature they love, and still are so progressive. Most of them have thatched huts and the ways leading up to them are made up of bamboos. The speciality of this region is the many natural root-bridges that form a picturesque view there. Mawlynnong, located in the east Khasi hills about 90 km from Shillong, can be reached by road by taking a cab from the Bara Bazaar market.
Just take a walk around, follow the locals and see what it is to live in perfect tranquillity without the glaring city noises. Have campfires, taste the local wine, and try mountain climbing on the way to Dawki River.
Continuing on with our journey, the next stop is the amazing border town of Dawki. It’s so small that you can see the entire village against the backdrop of serene Bangladesh plains from a tree top that has bamboo stairs. But the main attraction of Dawki is the scuba-diving offered in the Dawki river, which includes other fun activities like Cliff-jumping and Rappelling on the surrounding mountains. Also, along the way, you can see pretty fluttering butterfly showers which are really a sight.
After all the adrenaline action, you can relax in the town, which is hardly 2 km away from Bangladesh border. You can take a stroll in another country if you want. Dawki is in East Khasi Hills. Dawki is a major commercial hub because lots of inter-country coal transport takes place through the town. You can hitchhike with them if you don’t mind the coal fumes.
A major attraction is the Umngot River, the venue of the annual boat race held during March – April at Umsyiem. This is the natural boundary between Ri Pnar (Jaintia Hills) and Hima Khyrim (Khasi Hills), over which a single suspension bridge was constructed in 1932 by the British and serves a strategic interest in Indo-Bangla trade relations. Also, along the way, you can see pretty fluttering butterfly showers which are really a pretty and colorful sight.
Getting to stay in Tree houses is the best part of the trip, for adults who always dream of getting their own in childhood but couldn’t. The local cuisine adds a memorable flavour to the whole exhilarating experience. Transportation and accommodation is very safe and even, magical, given the view from them. It’s an amazing and economical place where you can stay as long as you want to without worrying for expenses. We will explore more of this aptly named “Abode of Clouds” further.