Landscapes have always fascinated me!! As a nature lover and avid tree hugger nothing gives me more of a dopamine rush than standing in the middle of a humongous, glorious, lush green landscape as far as the eye can see and feeling small and insignificant in comparison to it!! As one travels and explores lands far and near, one begins to realize the extent of variety there is for such a fascination and Nature never fails to surprise!! Meghalaya is just perfect for someone seeking such indulgence!!
Driving out of the busy, bustling city of Guwahati was a relief; for a fast paced life with blinking lights has never been my kinda thing!! Within an hour we had driven out steadily gaining altitude as we watched the sun set below. By night we arrived at Shillong. That night and next morning we strolled around the city, which has much to offer on its own. Being an erstwhile colonial quarter of the British, the influence of Victorian architecture is visible in every nook and corner. Shillong is quaint, cozy and charming; narrow streets paved up and down the hill slopes, a laid back but physically fit populace considering the amount they walk all day.
The Police Bazaar has many authentic restaurants offering exotic Khasi food most of which pull down their shutters by 9:30 sharp, so better hurry to catch that dinner. For those with a belly for street food I’d recommend the stalls at the circle of Police Bazaar which are run by local families and offer a homely meal at reasonable prices. Must try out their Jadu- a local rice stewed with a variety of herbs and served with your choice of meat or vegetable curry!! Simply Delicious!!
Next morning, after a good snooze and brunch done; it was ‘over the hills and far away’! Endless green panoramas, clouds below your feet, gushing waterfalls, glistening rivulets, rainbows, butterflies the size of sunbirds, you name it and it was there!! The three hour drive from Shillong to Mawlynnong was a treat I wasn’t prepared for!! It had me going ‘Wow!!Wow!! Wow!!’ every two minutes, until I had to remind myself to behave!! It was just outright spectacular!! There are so many viewpoints along the way where one can park and just sit there!! Just sit there and do nothing, just sit there watching the clouds as they rise and float away! Be not surprised if a cloud enters your car!! For God’s sake, you are deep within the Abode of Clouds!! And did I forget to mention the rain?!
Meghalaya is attributed with two of the rainiest places on the planet- Cherrapunji and Mawsynram (which I have reserved for my next getaway!!When time permits! And hoping it does soon!!) We were headed to Mawlynnong, famed as the cleanest village of Asia. Mawlynnong and the surrounding Khasi villages are spic and span. It is hard to spot any garbage at all. The ways of these people are sustainable and in harmony with nature where they use what they grow and waste is turned into manure for their vegetable gardens. The streets pave through the fields of broom sticks literally. It is here that for the first time I saw what the brooms we use are actually made of- broomcorn!
The people of Mawlynnong mainly sustain on agriculture and cultivation of betel nut, broom corn, black pepper, pineapple, oranges and lemon and local berries and recently, ecotourism. Their houses are small and cozy with beautiful gardens blooming with roses, hibiscus and marigold. The village paths meandering with crotons and ferns neatly trimmed on either side, giving it such a neat feel. Large colorful butterflies can be spotted drinking nectar from the abundant flowers adding to this already beautiful scene. The smiling faces of the Khasi people stained with betel leaf, their charm, their clothing, their houses, how they live and survive deep in the Khasi hills in complete harmony with nature is a spectacle to see and certainly very inspiring. The Khasi tribes are also matriarchal where in the women carry the family name and major share of inheritance in the families.
The surprises don’t seem to end in Megahalya for anyone even bleakly interested in nature, culture or sustainability. After a comfortable stay in a Khasi homestay, early next morning we drove to neighboring Riwai to see the Living Root Bridge built over a gushing rivulet. It is a wonder how these bridges all over Meghalaya have been constructed and exist till date. Living root bridges are built by knotting the roots of the Ficus Elastica tree, a wild fig found in abundance in this region. It is a spectacle to see a bridge that is alive and so sustainable in a world that believes in concretization, sky scrapers and endless flyovers. It is indeed unique and inspiring that such marvels of ancient wisdom, techniques and crafts are still passed down from one generation to another.
Our last destination on this trip was the village of Dawki, which lies on the borders of Bangladesh. A highland from where one can see the enormous floodplains of Bangladesh stretching up to the horizon; clouds gathering into amazing formations until they pour down below. And rest the sky is clear again. But what is a trip to the wettest place on the planet without a dip in its clear, white, gushing waters? And so on our way back we had to make one last stop! This time at the secretive Bardaw Falls nestled deep within the hills. We parked our car and trekked through lush greenery to reach this hidden marvel. With not a person in sight we had all to ourselves our own private natural swimming pool. Refreshed and rejuvenated we made our way back to the city in hope of returning for yet another treat to amazing Megahalaya!