MISTY MEGHALAYA

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Jul 2018 11:03:47


 

By DR SHUBHANGI DESHMANE,

A trip to Meghalaya (abode of clouds) compelled me to compare it with New Zealand, the place I had visited a year earlier. The serene topography, the foggy mountains, the misty cool weather, absolutely clean water bodies and surroundings, clean washroom facilities at every tourist spot and the green backdrop of bamboo and fern trees made us feel that we were in a place similar to New Zealand. Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya can be accessed by road from Guwahati.

A three hour scenic drive on the nicely maintained highway on one side of which is the state of Assam and the other side Meghalaya took us to the Scotland of North East(NE) that is Shillong. On the way we get to see the huge Barapani Lake surrounded on all sides by the hills, where boating facilities are available. The few city gardens we visited were well kept and well manicured, with variety of flowers in full bloom. Shillong’s Don Bosco Museum gives the insight of entire NE India under one roof.

The culture, lifestyle, attire and housing are beautifully depicted in 3D form.Ahuge sloping horseshoe shaped skywalk made of steel at the top of the Museum is an architectural marvel and gives a birds eye view of the entire city.Asimilar view can be seen from Shillong Peak, another good tourist spot. All tourist spots are at a distance of about 80 to 100 km from Shillong. Keeping this city as our base, we visited the various tourist spots, saw the live root bridges and numerous waterfalls like Elephant Falls, Krang Shuri and Nohkalikai falls. Signs of global warming were evident here, as the waterfalls were not in their full exuberance due to scarce annual rainfall.

A lot of trekking has to be done climbing up and down to visualise the various waterfalls in it’s full glory and to experience the walk on single or double storied live root bridges. Since the weather is good and environment rich and green, one doesn’t feel the tiredness despite trekking for hours at a stretch. The live root bridges over the various rivers are nature’s gift. These are not built but grown here, wherein the aerial roots of rubber trees are handwoven and strengthened by the locals. We visited Asia’s Cleanest Village Mawlynnong true to it’s word. An 85 feet Bamboo hut named Sky View, greets us from where green plains of Bangladesh can be seen. Since this village received the tagline, tourists do the rounds all throughout the year to see the self-sustained cleanliness.

With plastics strewn all over by the tourists, the localities have to work hard to keep it’s tag intact. From here we proceeded to Dawki, a small town on the India Bangladesh border, famous for the Umngot river. On it’s shore, at the unmarked boundary both Indian and Bangladeshi hawkers intermingle freely to sell their products, keeping their identities separate, without crossing over.Aboat ride in Umngot river is a must, since the water is so clean that one can see the sparkling bottom of the river and numerous fish moving around.

The clear water of the river gives an impression of the boat floating midair if seen from a distance. The fishermen were so conscious of the river’s cleanliness, that any litter in the form of glass bottles or cans, thrown by the tourists were picked up immediately. One day of the week is reserved by all the fishermen for voluntary cleaning of the river, which shows cleanliness has to be ingrained in the mindset of the people, irrespective of any governance. Our next destination was to Cherrapunjee, which once ranked as the wettest place, now losing it’s tag to a nearby place Mawsynram, both the places 16 km apart in East Khasi hills. On the way to Cherrapunjee -- we visited a place called Laitlum (end of hills) to see a mini Grand Canyon. Viewing endless beauty of nature,aparadise by every definition, Laitlum canyons in the Khasi Hills offers a panoramic view of the hills and valleys.

A place that is not much explored gives an experience of a lifetime, with clouds so close almost touching us. A day was spent in Cherrapunjee -- where we saw the famous Nohkalikai falls second largest in Asia. Unfortunately the famous Seven Sister falls was all dried up and we could only see the imprints of the falls. Our next visit to Mawsmai caves in Cherrapunjee, was worth the adventure. It requires some stretching, squeezing and at times go on all fours as caves are explored in the pitch darkness, partly lit at few places. The spectacular stalagmites seen in the caves are amazing.

Exploring the naturally formed caves is a thrilling experience and when one gets the sinking feeling that we are lost, we see natural daylight at the end of the tunnel much to our relief. Those with claustrophobia should avoid this adventure. A week spent in the Nature’s lap was a wonderful experience. It’samatter of pride that Meghalaya, a small state of our country is at par with any foreign locale as far as tourism is concerned. Hats off to Meghalaya Tourism.