Sohra or Cherrapunji was beaming with delight as the Seven Sisters Waterfalls were overflowing due to the showers since the last one week, and what a sight!
Kolkata: At 6,449 feet above sea level lies the misty Scotland Of The East, Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya and there is a reason it is so called. One of the seven sisters of North East India, Shillong is home to the Great Indian Horn Bill and a city where rock music is in the blood of every person. In fact, Shillong is also called the Rock Culture capital of India.
Since North East India is yet to be explored as much as the other parts of the country, I decided to spend my birthday in Shillong by the majestic Seven Sisters waterfall, the NokahLikai Falls (the tallest plunge in India), the Laitlum Canyons and the Wahkabah waterfalls enroute Cherrapunji. For those who do not know, Cherrapunji holds the world record for receiving the highest amount of rainfall in a single year.
Just like my other solo trips, this too was impromptu and I decided to take the pride of Assam from Howrah Station — the Saraighat Express — to reach Guwahati from Kolkata. And from there, I took a shared cab to Shillong. As soon as the car left the city and paced towards Shillong, I was welcomed by the lush green mountains of Meghalaya and my my! It was monsoon and as if the hills were a newly-wed bride who had just taken a shower, but only, everything around was green, lush green and serene. The roads in Meghalaya are one of the best in the country that I have travelled on till now.
At the entry point of Shillong, my eyes met with the gorgeous Umiam Lake or the Bara Pani as the locals call it. And as soon as I reached Shillong, I started exploring, which I usually like to do while walking unless my destination is too far.
In Shillong, one can also book a cab to reach the places of interest but I preferred to walk and while doing so, there was one thing that struck me hard about the place. The culture over here is little different, the people here are crazy about football, so much so that almost all cars are decorated with mufflers and logos of different European football clubs. One can also hear rock music floating from the households with youngsters playing guitar and belting out classics. Man, did I enjoy this!
If you are visiting Shillong, do not forget to visit the Police Bazaar, the heart of the city. And during my visit, I was lucky enough to be welcomed by some rain and decided to top it with some local street food like Dohneiiong (pork with black sesame seeds) and Sakin Gata (a traditional steamed rice item). I was already loving the chilled vibes of Shillong only to be surprised by what was in store for me the next day.
Day 2: I was up early the next day and was supposed to visit the waterfalls and around 10 am, I had reached the Nohkalikai waterfalls. The whole place was engulfed in clouds but surprisingly, the falls was clearly visible in its grandeur as if it was waiting for me to catch a glimpse of it just before disappearing to play hide and seek with the clouds.
“Subash dada let’s go to Seven Sisiters in Sohra (Cherrapunji),” I told Subash Thapa, the person who took me around in his cab (rather my brother from another mother in Shillong who has now become a part of my family), as I could not wait any longer to see what was in store next.
Sohra or Cherrapunji was beaming with delight as the Seven Sisters Waterfalls were overflowing due to the showers since the last one week, and what a sight! A clear view of the falls under the dark grey clouds was a visual travelgasm for me.
In the evening, Subash dada was kind enough to invite me to his home for dinner where I met his mother his brother and sisters and even before I realised, it was already 9:30 in the night and I was still at his place swinging my head to the soulful songs his brother was singing while aunty served us a hearty dinner of meat, rice and other dishes which reminded me of my mother back at home who too cooks such awesome meals. I guess all mothers are good cooks (chuckles). However, coming back to why I was narrating about my visit to his house is to tell my readers about the perks of mixing well with the locals of a place. It not only helps one understand the culture in a better manner but also does it open avenues to experience things that normal tourists do not have access to.
Day 3: This day was going to be tough as I was on my way to Mawlynnong – Asias’s cleanest village and a UNESCO site and around 95 kms from Shillong. Mawlynnong village is home to the living root bridge, a one-of-its-kind natural marvel, the balancing rock and the Morphils waterfalls.
A few kilometre from Mawlynnong village lies the India-Bangladesh border or the Dawki Border. It is here where the Umngot river meets the plains. The other side of the border lies Sylhet and on this side is Dawki. After spending five hours at this place, Subash dada drove me towards the Laitlum Canyons, a natural wonder that can blow one’s mind with its scenic beauty. The gorge, the valley below, is a treat for the eyes.
Day 4: This was my last day in Shillong and Subash dada took me to the highest point of the city — Shillong peak — then to the elephant waterfalls and a few other places like the Indian Air Force museum and the Ramkrishna Mission.
The next day I was to return to Kolkata and made full use of the last evening in Shillong and spent it sipping beer and enjoying music at a local café and contemplating on a line that didn’t leave me for some time even after the end of the trip — “Agar barsaat mehsoos karna hai toh Shillong aao (If you want to experience the rains, come to Shillong)”. The rains here will speak to you and one needs to feel the rhymes that it belts out with each drop touching the ground.
(Victor Das is a businessman and a passionate solo traveller, in his words peshe se baniya, dilse banjara!)