Showing posts with label meghalaya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label meghalaya. Show all posts

Sight Seeing Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Sohra (Cherrapunjee) Tourist Guide Map

As usual, the sun went up early as we are the Eastern part of India, so after a good breakfast and settling our bills we left towards Cherrpunjee. The sky was cloudy but not raining. The 16KM drive is a long one from the resort we stayed and the road of last 8 KM was really bad. 

Kynrem Falls
Kynrem Falls
We started with Thangkharang Park which looked farthest on the map. The road was good for the most part but again the last 4/5 KM was under heavy construction. Our legs were heavy from yesterday’s hike still we walked around the whole park. We got to see Kynrem falls from there. And Bangladesh plain was in plain sight. The water was not so heavy in Kynrem falls as we were just before the monsoon. I am sure in monsoon the sight will be completely different with roaring water rushing down the hill.  The waterfall is made of three or four stages as you can see from the picture. We could see one or two cars on the winding road and there were a few tourists we went to the base of the falls.

From the park, we headed towards Pillar Rock/Khoh Ramhah but there was no other soul out there. There was no board explaining what we really need to see. So we felt a little disappointed and just circle back from there.

On the way back to Sohra we first went to Mawsmai Cave, this is a small cave compared to our very own Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh. But as usual, the cave had its own fun. Some passages were really small and narrow. And you need to be mindful of your steps all the time as there was water. We were followed by a big Bengali group and they were very noisy which really spoiled the fun. Being a Bengali, we really feel ashamed by these large noisy tourists at times. Anyway as we came out and was looking for some biscuits and snacks from the back the car we realized we left our shoe bag at the resort.

We called the resort and they informed yes it was left just out of our door and they have kept it safe. After a quick stop at the Monoliths which are on the road itself, we headed back to resort again. We did not stop at Eco-Park and the viewpoint. The drive of 16KM back and forth with the broken and twisted road cost us an hour plus.
After picking up the shoe bag we headed towards Nohkalikai Waterfalls. The road is splendid, we stopped many times, we tried the most difficult form of photography aka landscape with little success. There were lots of spices, pickles and local handicrafts being sold at the viewpoint. 

Around Sohra
After Nohkalikai falls we headed back to the Sohra again and stopped at Ram Krishna Mission.  This is very close to the ground where my Shillong-Cherrapunji Marathon ended 2+ years back. This RK Mission played a big role in Meghalaya’s modern history. There is a museum on the first floor highlighting Meghalaya and NorthEast as a whole.

After RK mission we decided to head back to GHY post lunch. We stopped at the “Orange Roots” a vegetarian restaurant on the highway very crowded.   The food was fresh and hot and it was clean.

As we approached Shillong we thought of visiting Shillong Peak and drove all the way to the Air Force base to get the ticket when we realized we missed the cutoff. Disappointed we headed back to the highway. The road was narrow and had to manage big construction trucks on the turns and twist which was a complete waste. And top of that the weather was perfect with late afternoon sun on a clear blue sky ☹

We spoke with our hotel owner in Kaziranga and he was saying if you really want ride a little longer from GHY and next 4/5 hours you will be there. While it sounded promising we were not ready for that long drive. Alternately he suggested stopping near GHY where there are lots of new resorts. We found it was way cheaper to book via MakeMyTrip so we booked online and headed toward GHY. We were going to stay at Brahmaputra Jungle Resort. Lucky for us we did not face major traffic while getting out of Shillong it was snail pace but moving. It did take a long time to get out from one end to the other of Shillong, We could see the long queue of cars/bus/trucks getting towards Shillong.  

We did stop for few minutes at Badapani/ Umiam Lake but no great sunsets.  This time we are cautious and did not miss on “JAVA VEG” for our break. We had a good break there and almost had our early dinner and headed towards our night stop.

By the time we reached the resort we were really tired after so many tourist places and driving. After we finished taking a hot shower and all it started to rain. And it did rain like cats and dogs for a long time. We were lucky that we did not need any room service as there was no chance for those hotel guys to serve us in the rain. And this place is a resort the place we were staying and the dining area was quite far. 

Tiring yet happy day - Double Decker Root Bridge

Today we got up pretty late compared to other days. Had breakfast and left the hotel around 9 AM. There are some journeys in life which are hard to forget. Our trek to the much talked about Double Decker Root Bridge was one such journey for me. Staying at Cheerapunji holiday resort has one advantage that it is hardly 7 km away from double-decker root bridge. We went 5 KM till Tyrna village where we parked our car and then 3KMs of hiking we were told by hotel people. When we asked for a guide they said it's not required, moreover its all marked and proper cemented pathway so no chance of getting lost.

It was a 3500 step journey down the hill. After almost 40 minutes we reached a small village which we thought was the village with the bridge, but it was another 40 min from there. At this point, we saw a very small board nailed to a tree indicating the way to the longest root bridge. We were only people there still we wanted to cross that bridge but it shakes and swings and the water flowing 20-25 feet below makes the whole experience breathtaking. I took the courage first to cross but half away, came back felt like can’t cross, then Aarush said mamma, are you scared...let me go. Then his dad stopped him saying let me go, once I reach another end then you come. Aarush agreed to the same. But halfway through even Santanu came back saying does not look to be safe enough to cross. Then after few photo shoots we returned to a regular path and now the descend was further steep.

After descending few steps, we came across two hanging bridges over rivers. The bridges were made of rusty iron cables repaired and supported with bamboo with some parts held together with steel wires. The whole bridge shakes and swings and the water flowing 20-25 feet below makes the whole experience scary though adventurous. There were 2 families after us...we allowed them to cross the bridge first. While crossing the bridge all we could hear were the sounds of the squeaking cables and gurgling water flowing down the huge rocks, makes the whole experience nerve-wracking.

After a few more climbing up and down the steps, we reached the new bridge which looks to be recently done. Further few meters ahead was Nongriat village, where they sell some basic food items, juice, water. To reach the double-decker bridge, you have to take a few more steps up – and there it was …

This bridge is unique in so many ways. It has been built using the roots of a tree – that’s still alive. It took years to build this bridge – patiently waiting for the roots to be guided over and across the river until it was firm enough to carry weight. Currently, there are two levels of roots that have been guided across, stacked on top of other. These are roots from the rubber tree, which is considered to be 200 yrs old.

On reaching there, waterfall from the rocks is so soothing and cool that feel like jumping into the water which we did not but definitely soaked my feet in them. Took a few pictures, and spent some time admiring nature's beauty. From here we went towards natural swimming pool asking few villagers on the way. We went further up and down the steps but at one point we were clueless as there was no proper demarcation and that bridge ends abruptly giving no hint for a natural swimming pool. So, after that point, we had to return as there was none to guide further and thus we started our return journey.

We again now crossed the double-decker bridge and to my surprise, there was a guest house with minimum facilities for Rs.400/ per day which I came to know on asking one foreigner descending from one corner. On our return, we had some juices to hydrate ourselves while Aarush had proper basic food without any fuss.

We started our climb back to Tyrna again through the swinging bridges and those steps. But it did take much more time and effort as though looking at the steep steps. I particularly huffed and puffed to reach the top and in between, it started raining like cats and dogs for few mins. One side it rained and another side we were sweating like pig from head to toe. Felt like they should have one waterfall at the top too so that one can shower there.


TIPS-


  • carry a bottle of water and refill in taps they are all potable and drink in sips
  • carry as little as possible – There are some small shops near your destination where you can buy water and snack on some food before you return. 
  • Carry cash(no cards)
  • Carry swimming trunks if you want to take a dip in the water pool under the double-decker root bridge and perhaps a cloth to dry yourself out.
  • Change room is available there.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Wear light clothes preferable shorts but no jeans.


Day-3 Long day, Long drive- CRAZY ONE - Meghalaya

Last night could not have proper sleep as in the middle of the night there was a sudden storm, followed by rain and finally power cut off. We got up around 6 AM and moved out of the place before 7 AM so as to avoid school traffic. We headed towards Elephant caves which come on the way to Cherrapunji, before that we saw the sign for Shillong Peak. And the sun was perfect to see the entire Shillong from the peak but as we approached near the turning and asked one passer-by whether it will be open. He smiled and said not before 9 AM so we proceeded towards Elephant Caves. Before this comes one famous eatery ML-05 Cafe (ML  05 is Shillog's Vehicle Registration Code). This cafĂ© is located near the Eastern Air Command in Shillong which was highly recommended last night but unfortunately, it was closed when we were crossing it. Anyways, early birds have to face some issues too and does not gets its worm ;)

On reaching “V” junction, one road goes to Cherrapunji and Dawki while other to Mawphlang and Mawsynram. And at that junction is the Elephant Falls.

This fall is 3 layers fall accessible to all but the point is when we reached there it just opened. We were the first ones to enter there as tourists. The first of the three waterfalls are tucked between the dense trees and are very broad. The second waterfall reduces to thin strands of water while the third and the most visible waterfall is with clear water flowing like a sheet of milk on the dark rocks in the backdrop. Out of the three, the third waterfall tends the most impressive. We did our photo session and then on our return to have something for breakfast. But hardly anything was available, they were just setting up their shop. So, Aarush had his cup noodle and Santanu his tea and we took some tetra pack juice for the road.

We headed towards Mawphlang sacred grove which is around 25 KMs from here. This was not there in our to-see list but got added last night on rethe commendation. It's a small forest with meadows around. Khasi people believe it as God and anything was taken out of this forest will bring ill-luck to the person. Perhaps, with that thought, they are able to save this dense forest where one can trek for either 3 or 5 KM with a local guide. The time we reached it started to drizzle and we took one young guide who can speak fluent English.

They have been protected by communities for a variety of reasons, including religious practices, burial grounds, and sacrifices. There was no formal entry gate of the kind we usually have at sanctuaries and national parks. We just blindly followed our guide which was nothing more than a usual spacing between trees. Once you are inside its trees, trees, and trees all around- a visual treat to eyes for the people coming from the concrete jungle.

We walked on a multi-layered carpet of leaves, twigs, branches, fruits, and ferns. The older trunks had fallen gracefully after a full, long and prosperous life was providing a home to Lichens and mosses and ferns. We felt like walking through the rainforest. Seems like sun needs to seek permission to enter into their dense world. Our guide asked Aarush to try a Mowgli swing on low hanging branches.

Khasis believe that guardian spirit resides in the forest in two forms- tiger and snake who takes care of this forest. The good spirit appears in the form of a tiger and anything bad as a revengeful snake. Our guide showed us rudraksha fallen from the tree and various type of mushroom and ferns that have grown there. There was a stream flowing in one part of the forest. It's something you see every hues and shade of green there. When we were inside we hardly got any raindrop on us because of dense forests that act as a natural umbrella but as we headed out of the forest we saw it was raining pretty heavily.

We got into our car and moved out of this place as we had to go Dawki - Which means we need to come to that V junction and now take the other route. In that way, we stopped for having brunch at a small place. This road is very scenic with mountains and hills, you can see white cotton-clouds looming in between. 

Indeed, we were amazed by the quality of the roads, and the road to Dawki is the idyllic hill drive (till last 5 KMs before it starts showing wear and tear due to heavy vehicles). At first, I thought this was the result of tourism but later learned that this had more to do with the area’s economic importance of the limestone and coal mines. 

“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without self driving or getting lost.”

The cool, wet airbrushes over your face and lush greenery around refreshes and revitalizes you as it enters your body. Dawki is a small village and its main attraction is the Umngot River that marks the natural separation between the Khasi and the Jaintia Hills. The river can be crossed by a suspension bridge that connects India to Bangladesh and facilitates trade between the two nations. 

This place is very famous for the emerald green transparent river which I was excitingly waiting for but due to rains, it was very disappointing. Many people did say that but I was adamant to see through my eyes :)....my bad-luck. People take boat rides there in season. We crossed the bridge and went to see Tamabil(Indo-Bangladesh border) where road condition was extremely bad. Big trucks were waiting for their turn in 2-3 lanes leaving only one lane to allow the vehicles to pass-by from either side. We reached near the border, parked our vehicle but on our return, it was almost 1-hour wait as no vehicles were able to move.

With great difficulty, we were able to come out of that area and zoomed towards Mawlynnong- the cleanest village in Asia. This part of the drive is again very scenic with the different terrain we first went to skywalk machan at Nohwett. It was altogether different experience climbing the bamboo ladder. From there we can see 6 waterfalls.

Then came towards Mawlynnong which is also said to be gods own garden. When we reached there it was almost getting dark, we went near the stream gushing down and climbed up to their village which is very neat; avoided their living root bridge as it would turn completely dark. There we had some noodles and hit the road back to Cherrapunji.

After some hour nature starts to hide and seek game with fog and it was dense enough that we could hardly see anything in 10 meters; very poor visibility which is difficult to explain people living in plains. We tried following the tail-light of other vehicles but in vain - could not match up with their speed. Then we decided to maintain our 10-20Km speed by keeping two tires in between the white midline demarcation. 

Only when any vehicle used to come from the opposite side we use to go to side otherwise back again in the same way. At one point, it was so stressful, that I told Santanu to pull over and move the vehicle off the road; sleep inside the car only rather than taking risk of 3 lives. I really panicked and repented of my decision of going to Dawkii. But now Santanu was quite confident and continued driving at very low speed. At one point we got one cab whom we could follow for last 45 min. and was able to maintain pace with him. 

Driving car at that night was you never see beyond your headlight, but you finish your trip that way”.

From here Cherrapunji was not far, once entering the city we made a call to hotel people for their direction and requested them to keep dinner ready for 3 of us. (this part had poor connectivity with phones but somehow SMS worked). On reaching their one good thing was fog was not there and the second thing we realized that booking we made in the hotel is further 19 KMs from the city. Around 10 KMs of the road was pretty bad near the hotel. Finally, it was almost 10 PM when we reached the hotel. 

Stay:- Cherrapunji Holiday Resort. (Breakfast and dinner included within price)

Day 2 - Shillong



We started early morning with a drive to pick-up point of our rented car. This place was in such an area where proper roads were not there….it was full of potholes and filled with rainwater from previous rains. One thing is there Guwahati inner roads are not great and even city is not that clean...full of plastics. Anyways we zoomed out from that place without much wastage of time and hit the highway.

We were recommended to have breakfast on the way at Jiva resort but which we could never find nor even any hoarding-related to that. This Guwahati-Shillong road is very good because of which it hardly took 2-2.5 hrs to reach near Bada Pani (Umiam lake).

Umiam lake when we reached it was a clear sky with no sun though. Then we were looking forward to boating area so that we can go near the lake. There was a sign for Umiam lake which we followed and it took us to orchid lake resort and very close to it has a garden with boating area. We decided to have a look at it first and then have breakfast. The moment we reached there, we were followed by some gujju families too...we did some photo session there. The serene lake is surrounded by thick coniferous forests. One can take a long boat ride in the lake, and adventure lovers can enjoy boating and various water-sports. There are a few islands in the lake that can be used as pit-stops if one requires a moment of rest while boating through the lake.

We slowly proceed towards Orchid Lake Resort to have our breakfast. We were offered with buffet breakfast which was 300 INR for adults. Their dining hall has a high ceiling and at the centre, a fireplace for winters or maybe night time. Dining Hall windows face towards lakefront and their garden which is nicely maintained.

We had our breakfast which was more of brunch and then took a tour of their lake facing the garden and headed straight to Shillong road towards the city. Our Google map guided us to through numerous twists and turns of narrow lanes. On our very fast left turn we too such a narrow cut that felt almost we would topple but the traffic police smiled and signaled us to proceed ahead. it was a scary start for what time coming next as we drive thourh twisted small roads.

We were looking out for Happy-Valley which made us really unhappy at one point of time that we gave up hope but somehow managed to reach army area where we stopped to ask them about the area we were looking for. Phone signal was pretty bad at that moment of time and even when it went the person on other side was not responding so we were not sure to proceed or stop there.

For civilians all Assam Regiments look the same, so with a lot of confusion in mind, we went down the hill where it seems there is another base camp which is having the guest room we were looking for. On reaching there, we got the phone signal we were looking forward. Then on entering our next job was to find the guest house but looks like we ended up in some official area which was deserted. After a while, we could locate someone who guided us with one jawan to our room.

We were introduced to our room buddy, who was so kind.
 ”Sir, Would you like to have something for lunch”
NO (we are too full to have any)
“Sir, if you have any problem or complaint, related to anything, please first contact me”.
We were surprised to hear that but we smiled and replied: “ Don’t worry we are fine.”

We were actually taken back to see the room with slipper, comb, razor etc. with a proper kitchen where one can cook too for themselves if needed.

As the day became more & more brighter we decided to go for city tour but in meantime, our host called to know our whereabouts and our plan. As we said our plan he proposed to take his army gypsy to police bazar to avoid parking and entry through their gates which will need permission again. By the time he came personally to check if everything was fine with us or not.

In the meanwhile, his gypsy came and we left for police bazaar which was as usual crowded. The driver stopped us near the square and asked us to call once done to which we agreed upon. We strolled through the street. From young to old, the woman looks dazzling, dressed in their traditional attire (jainsem), which they pair with matching cardigans and heels. The street was busy with cozy cafes, restaurants and small umbrella shops and varieties of footwear. Side road was busy with their black Maruti 800 cab (public transport). We walked towards Ward’s Lake which is closer to Governor's house. This lake also has a cafeteria and a Botanical Garden, we paid entry fees and then crossed one wooden bridge which takes to another side of the lake. It's nice to watch people boating and feeding fish.

We took the privilege of perfect evening sunlight and did time pass photography all over the garden. This garden has a lot to offer in terms of floral bed, bamboo trees and cobbled pathway, nicely manicured plants. As we strolled around, we too started feeling hungry and as the sun was going further west we decided to move back to police bazar area for some light snacks.

We went to Grover's eatery, which was right at the corner on the first floor of the shopping complex. It has nice decor tastefully done but takes time for food to reach the table. After having some soups and momos we left from there as we had to go to our host's place for dinner.

We had a nice evening with soothing music in the background. Mrs. Nayyar pampered us with an elaborate spread of starters and main course. It was really nice of (colonel) Mr. and Mrs.Nayyar to host us. We deeply appreciate their role and thanks them from bottom of our heart to be part of our memorable journey.

Stay: At Army Basecamp

North East 2018 planning

Long prologue … someone once said
“Happiness is to plan a trip to somewhere new with your loved ones”. 

One best friend from Santanu’s engineering college got transferred from Bangalore to Shillong last year. In his send-off party, everyone committed that they would like to visit that part of the country. The friend in question is serving our country and he promised to be our host there while we visit Shillong, the Scotland of East and British summer capital of North East.

Our travel planning started way back in the month of January it was left to Santanu as he grew up in NorthEast to talk to relatives & friends, read travel blogs and come up with a rough itinerary. While initially, he wanted to travel all the way to Dibrugarh, he has fond memories of that places as he studied there between 1st and 4th standard a long long time ago.  But he dropped that idea as it would have been too much of traveling. So the first cut and final looked like this. We are really thankful to Mr. Manju Barua (Wild Grass, Kaziranga) for his valuable selfless inputs.



First Draft
What we did
Guwahati
Guwahati
Kaziranga
Shillong
Gibbon
Cherrapunji
Majuli
Kaziranga (bypassing  Guwahati)
Nameri
Gibbon & Sibsagar
Shillong
Majuli
Cherrapunji
Nameri and back to Guwahati



It is easy to start and end with Guwahati in NorthEast as it is well connected to rest of India with many flights and trains. To explore and have a relaxing trip we almost decided to have 2 nights halt in most places. The key challenge was rain as Kaziranga closes by end of April. One friend said he would be joining us for Meghalaya part so we changed the first draft and opted to visit Meghalaya first and Assam second. 

Seeing our detail itinerary many eyebrows were raised.  Few of the friends gave up saying they can not have this type of strenuous vacation. Vacation for them is getting up late...relaxing, enjoying food and not mandatorily visiting all tourist points….aargh just the opposite of our thinking style.

We never gave up on our thinking as we are what we are….For us traveling means getting up early, beat the traffic or the other tourists irrespective of breakfast time, cover as many possible, eat foods from roadside small eatery or any recommended place(traditional food) as per convenience. We are so used to all this that my 10 years old also got adjusted to the same. Without complaining, he too enjoys this kind of travel.

“Once the travel bug bites, there is no looking back we are happily infected till we can”

Exploring so many places means we need to have a car of our own to travel. We talked to few reliable drivers as suggested by friends and family, their rates were almost similar but was on the higher side for us as we had almost 2 weeks to cover. Moreover, each day we do not plan to travel a lot on the road,  so it was more economical to self-drive. There are not many options like other major Metros but ZOOMCAR is there and we made our booking with them in advance. 

Also, we are used to self-drive as it gives us privacy and the complete back seat to Aarush. He really likes it that way as it gives him liberty to take a small nap in between if needed. Santanu made most hotel booking well in advance, but he kept two buffer days without any prior hotel booking to accommodate any unplanned situation.

We also planned to visit to Siliguri to visit my mother-in-law for a day and Calcutta for 2 nights on our way back.

While we write more on this long trip,  please take few minutes off and see this wonderful official video of Assam Tourism.