Sunday, January 11, 2015

North East diaries - There and back

Day 1 | Day 2(morning) | Day 2(the rest) | Day 3 | Day 4 | Last couple of days...

I was heading back to Bangalore, the next day, to make it in time to attend a friend's wedding. So the challenge ahead of me was to try and pick the right thing to do on my penultimate day of vacation.

There are so many things to do in Meghalaya, that one is spoilt for choice. However having a constraint of keeping this to a day trip, limited my options.

I met Nanu, the super wonderful taxi guy, in Shillong and the original plan was to head to Mawlyonng, which, as I have mentioned before, is renowned for being one of Asia's cleanest villages and also boasts of it's own Living Root bridge.

However, as we set off for Mawlyonng, I again asked Nanu if it was really worth the visit. Fortunately he was honest and recommended I give it a skip, for two reasons - Firstly that I had already seen the root bridges near Cheerapunji and second, that the place was slightly more touristy and a little overrated.

So I asked him to turn the car around and we headed to the sacred forest - Mawphlang.

The sacred grove in comparison to the grassland around it

The sacred groves or forests are a fantastic concept. From ancient times various tracts of forests have been designated as sacred groves and saved from deforestation, thus leading to wonderful green patches with lots of trees. It is said that if one takes away anything from the forest without permission from the Gods then punishment awaits.

It was a very pleasant walk through the forest, despite having to be accompanied by a mandatory guide. So all in all I was glad I changed plans.
Leave everything as you find it

super day!
The rest of my day I spent going around the different view points near Shillong. I had only one demand of Nanu - Take me to only those places that aren't frequented by tourists, and he did not disappoint.

Nanu mentioned that there was a view point that very few people knew about, a dam he said. to be honest I was skeptical, but since I did not have any better ideas I asked him to lead the way.
After a quick drive, we got to what seemed like a parking lot of an official looking building, we parked the car and Nanu led me through a narrow pathway to right behind the building and that opened up this view!

View of the river as it approaches Mawphlang dam

This was followed by visits to places where I was literally the only person around, such as this wonderfully named waterfall.

Sweet falls - Happy valley

and the this view point that gave me a birds eye view of Shillong, though this was crowded

Shillong city seen from Laitkor peak

With such views ended my penultimate day at Shillong, on the last day I was supposed to take the taxi back to Guwahati airport, as the helicopter service was not functional that day. This would mean that I had to bear the entire cost of the taxi all by myself.

However, to my pleasant surprise, as I was settling the bill a couple of things happened. Firstly I met this Shibani. I had had briefly met her during the arduous trek to the root bridges, where we just gave each other one of those friendly nods that fellow trekkers give each other when each is traveling alone. Co-incidentally she was staying at Aerodene too and  we exchanged notes on places to see etc. Turns out that Shibani was out doing a recce for a travel company she runs, called "Wonderful World", tagged "Women on their own trip". She figured out offbeat places and then would offer holidays for women of all ages. I think this is a fantastic concept and if you are a woman who love to travel to unique places then here is the facebook page you may be interested in!

Second, my super hosts at Aerodene asked me if I would mind a fellow traveler to share the ride and the costs to Guwahati airport. This was a french tourist who was feeling quite ill and wanted to head back. She spoke no English and the hosts thought that going with Nanu would be the safest bet.

I was more than happy to have the costs shared. The only glitch was that I had planned to spend a couple of hours at the museum in Shillong, en route to Guwahati. Turned out that this was not an issue!
The lady was kind enough to wait patiently in the taxi, while I spent a good 2.5 hours at the wonderful museum going through the various exhibits on display. The best part of the musuem is it's terrace. Though I call it a terrace it was more a slanted roof of sorts that was accessible to visitors and it afforded me some beautiful views of the city around!

With that I was done with Meghalaya. It has been a super trip to the Northeast and definitely one of many more to come. Obviously if you need help planning your trip, catch hold of me, more than happy to help! :D