April 11, 2016

Cherrapunji- Confluence of Myriad Landscapes

Had it not been for our history textbooks, where Cherrapunji stood glorified as the wettest place on the planet, this little hill town nestled in the Khasi hills of Meghalaya might not have made its presence felt until the modern day travellers explored it. Though the neighbouring Mawsynram has taken over the crown, Cherrapunji for many still rings a bell as the wettest place on earth. There is more to Cherrapunji than the rains. The place is known for its landscape which is strewn with green hills, deep valleys, waterfalls, caves and unending vistas.

It was the last fag of winter and a hazy day, but the sun shone bright as we drove past upper Shillong. Our driver warned that most waterfalls were dry or had very little water. Despite that, with minimal hope, added a few waterfalls to the itinerary. The car made its way meandering through hills, vantage points and open grasslands which had turned a shade less green. We did stop at a couple of view points which offered spellbinding vistas of the Khasi hills. The first major break was at Mawkdok view point, a popular one where most visitors take a break. We walked down a few steps to enjoy the endless views of the green canopy covered hills which turned into different shades of blue the farther they were. The deep valleys lay sandwiched and many a time I wished there was a path that led to its depth.


Mawkdok view point

The car snaked its way past more vantage points, intermittent tiny tea shops and a few dry waterfalls which was disheartening. We did stop by one of such falls for some tea and a break. Wakaba falls despite having very little water looked beautiful with the dry rock patch between the greenery which would have been a breathtaking sight during the monsoon.



View from Wakaba falls
Wakaba falls


The road further led to Cherrapunji locally referred to as Sohra, a little town oblivious of its world popularity. The first point of interest was the ever popular Nohkalikai falls, one of the tallest plunge falls in India. Nohkalikai gets its name from a Khasi lady, Likai, who jumped off the cliff. A wide swathe of rock patch stood clear of the green carpet over the flat hill top while the Nohkalikai flung itself into the turquoise plunge pool 1115 feet below. A few tiny falls on either side of the Nohkalikai were visible as a trickle. The frame turns into a magical one during the rains when numerous falls gush their way through the canopy into the valley. How I wish I was there during the monsoon! Silence, serenity and a warm breeze is all that prevailed over the place as we stared at the gorgeous landscape in oblivion. The only visitors apart from us were a Dutch couple riding their bike all the way from Thailand to Netherlands. Inspirational!


Nohkalikai falls
From vantage points and waterfalls we headed to Mawsmai caves for some spelunking, for which Meghalaya is well known. Some of the longest caves in the world are located here. Unlike Nohkalikai, the caves had its fair share of visitors, including some unruly ones. Located a few kilometers away from Sohra, Krem Mawsmai (Krem in Khasi is cave) is more than 800 meters long and goes down up to 40 feet. Belum was my only previous experience of caves. While Belum had lots of open areas where one could walk around freely, Mawsmai was all about crawling, sneaking and wriggling through stalactites and stalagmites.  Though not pungent, the cave was damp, water droplets fell off the roof at many places and felt a bit claustrophobic making it unbelievably surreal. Though the entrance is dark, light seeps through immediately and from there on it is well lit and has many long passages and large chambers. The million year old stalactites and stalagmites have taken various forms and shapes due to water and rain . While the stalactites look chiseled and still drip water, stalagmites have smooth rounded heads as a result of exploration over years. There are many places where both these have joined to form a column. Natural formations in various shapes (godly figures, human faces, animals) stared at us as we scrambled our way through slippery rocks in search of natural sunlight. A huge hole where sunlight seeped through was where the crawling ended. Transported back from the neolithic age, took in a lung full of fresh air as we walked out.








Tiny stalactits


From caving we were back on the plains of Thakhrang ecological park to enjoy the distant hills and deep valleys. Plains of Bangladesh showed a hazy glimpse of itself from the view point. The park which is a picnic spot is laded with trees, foliage and lawns for kids to play. The next pit stop was Koh Ramhah, a short drive away which offered a better view of the expansive plains of Bangladesh. Koh Ramhah is popular for its impressive monolithic pillar rock. As I gazed at the rock and the distant plains, Bangladesh seemed so near and yet so far. Re-kindled memories of my visit to Mae Sot in Thailand, where Myanmar was just a few steps away.


Thakhrang eco park
Plains of Bangladesh
Koh Ramhah rock

The sun had begun to descend and we drove back the same winding roads through the hills. Seven sister falls, a popular water falls was completely dry and way below a watermark made its way through the lush greenery. This would been a sight to behold after the rains. A quick stop to gulp down a few momos at Mawkdok point, and we drove back to Shillong as the day light faded over the horizon with a sudden drizzle. That was a pleasant surprise. How could a visit to Cherrapunji be devoid of the rains?


The dry seven sister falls

Getting there: Taxis are available from Shillong which is 60 Kms away (1.5 hours drive)

Accommodation and Food: There are guest house/ home stays in Cherrapunji (Sohra) which are not expensive. Hotels/ restaurants are present at Mawkdok, Mawsmai caves.

41 comments:

  1. Visited it during the student days... have not been able to go that side after starting serious travelling...!

    But do visit once in the monsoon... to experience how insanely it rains here... lol...

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    1. Yeah, monsoons are a totally different experience here.

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  2. Very interesting place.. heard so much about it

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  3. Haven't been there yet!
    Mesmerizing captures, and I yearn to go there now!

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    1. Thank you. Am sure you will love the place.

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  4. Beautifully written with amazing pictures !!

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  5. beautiful landscape!!! need to visit here soon!!!

    wonderful clicks!!


    www.myunfinishedlife.com

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  6. have been to this place, nice pics

    http://www.obliqview.blogspot.in

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  7. Beautiful place, very scenic locales.

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  8. Gorgeous pictures of stalactites. Wonderful Cherapunji trip round up.

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  9. You sure did some awesomely scenic drives and those caves must have been the icing, alle? Wow! look at those stalagmites and stalactites!!
    What was that word again --spelunking! I learnt a new word. ;)Thank you.

    Thank you for the travelogue and pictures, Nomad. I'd been looking forward to this post.

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    1. Got any more posts from this trip?

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    2. Thank you, Nambiare. Undoubtedly the scenic drives and caves were the best part of the trip. Unfortunately, all the waterfalls disappointed. Sorry, probably the last post from this trip. :(

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    3. Enna... where are you going next? :D

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  10. The shots are breathtaking! I had studied about stalactites & stalagmites in school but never got a chance to witness them.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Am sure you will love the experience when you visit.

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  11. Reminded me of my visit. Rainbows haze at Nohkalikai was amazing. Need to return they in monsoon. Thanks for reminding.

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    1. Absolutely, monsoons is the best time to witness Cherrapunji at its best!

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  12. Excellent job and what amazing pictures.....

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  13. What an amazing place... Lovely pics!

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  14. Isn't it weird - the wettest place on earth is so dry and barren after the 4 months of monsoon there.
    Nice article BTW! :D

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. So true, monsoon brings in a totally different picture.

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  15. Beautiful place.... Nice snaps!!

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  16. spectacular views of enchanting Meghalaya...

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