Courting clouds at Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya - The distant Northeast
Waiting for the summer rains, Vinita Lal recalls her tryst with monsoon clouds at Cherrapunjee in Meghalaya. Mawsynram, 16 km from Cherrapunjee is now officially the wettest place on Earth with 11,873mm of annual rain.
Driving 56 km from Shillong the smart capital of Meghalaya, to Cherrapunjee, we understood why Meghalaya the Abode of Clouds is named so. Clouds practically made up the sky and walls of this pristine haven where no one on the road is without an umbrella not knowing when it might rain or how much! As I am a geography lover it was an added delight to be here.
The clean fresh air at Cherrapunjee - washed repeatedly by rain, makes this place the ultimate in no-pollution zone.
Cherrapunjee or Sohra as it is locally called, bowled us completely with its untouched charm. The mountains, green from head to toe, are spangled with silver waterfalls, gushing streams and enveloped by clouds that have a life of their own. In fact, Switzerland in comparison is more beautiful only because of the hi-tech infrastructure and facilities. Cherrapunjee charmed us mountain lovers as we are, with its open, untouched demeanor.
Monsoon's flower power
Little Khasi huts with floral-print curtains on windows, and window-sills and balconies enlivened with potted winter seasonals were a style statement of the area. The mild wet climate being good for Chrysanthemum, Phlox, Calendula, Pansy, Poppy and the rest; they toss their merry heads in June also! The clean fresh air at Cherrapunjee - washed repeatedly by rain, makes this place the ultimate in no-pollution zone. Picnic spots dot the landscape here. They have been developed by the state government, and offer quiet retreat with comfort.
Nohkalikai Falls near Ramkrishna Mission and Nohsyngthiang Falls a little way off almost competed for glory. The seven sisters or seven waterfalls seen across the Bangladesh border emerged from a veil of low-hanging clouds almost submerging the valley. Streams and rivulets lace the green mountainside. Clouds and rain were no deterrent for weather-worn sheep, grazing blissfully on the oh so green slopes!
Mawsmai caves at the edge of a forest were formed by natural stalactites and stalagmites were a pleasant challenge. Negotiating the half mile run of caves, one didn’t know whether to expect a depression as foothold or climb up a stalagmite hillock at the very next step. It was a challenge that we won with some trepidation. But won alright!
The bigger challenge was to survive on veggetarian food. The North-East is hardly home to vegetarian cuisine. It was tough finding vegetarian food, and even that tasted very different from regular North Indian food. Even baked vegetables like carrot and cauliflower tasted queer. We figured out that it was because of goat milk and its by-products used here as a staple in vegetarian fare.
Cherrapunjee is a blessing even when it flashes upon the inward eye. The flowers, the clouds, the waterfalls, streams and greens are a package defining bliss.
Many day tours operate from Shillong for visitors to Cherrapunji. Taxis from Shillong Bazaar's taxi stand cost about a 1000 Rs for a ride to Cherrapunjee. It takes around three hours.
Guwahati in Assam is the main railhead and airport for travellers to the Northeast. Many trains and flights connect Guwahati to New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and all other Indian cities. From Guwahati a shared taxi to Shillong costs Rs 100-50 per head. It takes about four hours.
Dain-Thlen Falls: A little before Cherrapunjee, a road that cuts right reaches Dain-Thlen Falls.
Noh-Kalikai Falls: The highest waterfall in Meghalaya.
Noh-Sngithiang Falls (Mawsmai Falls): Several waterfalls set amidst the hills cascade to the depths below - a panaromic sight.
Khoh Ramhah (Motrop): It is a natural rock formation, shaped like a giant cone.
Living Root Bridge