Once upon a time, there was a town that was frequented by adventurous travelers who did not mind driving over bumpy, narrow roads for four hours. After all, it was the only way to get to the Scotland of the East. Today, this picturesque town can be reached in under three hours over a wide highway. And it has brought with it a steady flow of excited visitors, all eager to experience the adventures it promises! Ours begins in the capital of Shillong and covers a part of the East Khasi Hills district.
Meghalaya’s capital Shillong is a land of increasing contrasts with a growing cosmopolitan society and natural landscapes that seem untouched by time. The bustling town itself is peppered with swanky cafes, hotels and shops selling chic fashion items. One of the best ways to while away the evenings is to sip a tall mug of Americano and tuck into a delectable plate of Instagram-worthy carbonara. As night falls, clubs throw open their doors to welcome night owls.
Where adventure meets nature
The trendy urban scene gradually melts away as you move out of town. Patches of unspoilt hills begin to grow larger, fresh air fills the lungs and the smell of adventure is palpable. First on the list of must-visits for any first-timer is Sohra (Cherrapunjee) where waterfalls, caves and living root bridges await.
Nohkalikai Falls is a stunning display of nature’s beauty especially in the monsoon when the waters plunge dramatically to a rocky base. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in India and should not be missed. Several viewpoints are laid out so you can witness the falls at various levels.
Nohkalikai Falls stands out not just for its stunning beauty but the dark legend behind its name. The ‘leap of Likai’ was drawn from a tale of a woman named Likai whose second husband was jealous of her child. He slew the infant while Likai was away at work and prepared a meal from her flesh. As Likai returned home tired, she ate it unaware of the gruesome ingredients. It was only when she found her daughter’s severed finger in a betel nut basket that the truth dawned. Mad with grief, she threw herself over the cliff above the waterfall.
Arwah Cave – something for caving aficionados
Caving aficionados will know that Meghalaya has a large number of caves, some of which are among the longest. Sohra is home to several but Arwah Cave ranks on top. It is fairly new and this means you can explore it with fewer crowds. The highlight is the fossils that line the walls, taking you back to the past. Being in the presence of the remains of millions of years ago is an experience unlike any other! Stalactites reach down dramatically and tiny limestone streams create striking patterns below.
Living root bridges of Nongriat
3,000 steps, dense flora, hills in the distance and the promise of adventure! One of the most visited places in Sohra is the village of Nongriat, home to three glorious living root bridges that are a testament to human ingenuity and nature’s design. The double decker suspension bridge takes pride of place. Walking along these living creations gives you a whole new appreciation of our connection with the natural world.
Nongriat has several homestays that offer accommodation at nominal prices. While you can make the trip back on the same day, those 3,000 steps will certainly wear you out! Put up at a welcoming homestay instead and dine on simple, wholesome fare.
Sacred Grove and David Scott trail
Sohra lays claim to having some of the most exciting places to visit in East Khasi Hills. But, there are adventures that are closer to the capital. The village of Mawphlang is home to a Sacred Grove, a forest considered sacred and protected by the local community for centuries. It is incredibly idyllic and is perfect for nature walks and botanical explorations. A word of caution, however: it is forbidden to remove anything from the forest, whether a leaf or a stone, lest you incur the wrath of the forest’s deity.
Mawphlang has another gem to offer in the form of the David Scott hiking trail that extends to Lad Mawphlang 16 kilometers away. The trail actually stretches to Bangladesh but hikers typically make the 16-kilometer journey. Gentle slopes, a sparkling stream peppered with rocks and villagers going about their business make this one of the most popular hiking trails in this part of Meghalaya.
We have only scratched the surface of what Meghalaya has to offer. It really is an adventurer’s paradise with frequently visited hotspots and undiscovered wonders. As Meghalaya BECKONS you, make your way to this side of the country and you will come away with a burning desire to return!
Image courtesy: Pixabay and tourism-of-india.com