Cherrapunjee, the land of the Rain God

October 15, 2010 1 By Satyakam Dutta

From the moment I had stepped on the soils of Meghalaya, I was anxious to visit the land which had the unique distinction of being the wettest land in the world – Cherrapunjee. The opportunity to go there did not take too long to come by. Cherrapunjee is a hill station which lie on a plateau. The plateau is so big that you would never assume it to be one.
On a drizzling Friday, after the Office hours, we started our journey from Shillong to Cherrapunjee. We had already booked a few rooms in the Coniferous Resort, one of the nice places to stay according to a frequent visitor to that place. The distance was a little more than 60 kms and we hoped to reach Cherrapunjee in 2 hours.
A few kilometers from Shillong and we were all over the hills. At a junction we took a right, the road towards left led to Dawki/Mawlynnong. After a drive of nearly 2 hours we were at our resort and Jung Bahadur Thapa, the caretaker, was all smiles to greet and welcome us. He had already organised a bonfire for us and it was sheer delight to warm ourselves us on that cold October night.
The next morning we listed out all the places that we should visit during our stay of 2 days. The prominent places which were noted were – the caves, the eco-park, the root bridges and the waterfalls. On the first day we thought of covering the caves and the eco-park.Cherrapunjee
The Coniferous Resort is probably the best place to stay in Cherrapunjee if we consider its strategic location. Just near the town of Cherrapunjee, it is equidistant from all the notable tourist spots. Cherrapunjee during this time of the year is not wet and thus the climate is little warmer compared to the rainy monsoon days. Probably this is the best time of the year, Oct-Nov as the climate is mild and sunny.
Our first destination was the Mawsmai Caves which is almost 5 kms from the resort. We did not have a car to travel around as we had book the car till Cherrapunjee only the previous day. We decided to walk to the caves which however did not turn out to be a wrong choice to make. The sceneries around were so breathtaking that we did not feel tired all along the way. Within an hour we reached the caves. These caves have many mystical information hidden behind them only heard and murmured among the local populace. However, there is a truth that the longest of these caves lead to the plains of Bangladesh which aerially would be more than 50 kms away. There is a story of a German who went into one of those caves and never came back. When we were inside the caves we saw a cave path which was blocked. The distance which tourists are allowed to travel within the caves is only a few hundred meters but Cherrapunjeethe inside of the caves was so enthralling that we were deeply immersed in grasping the significance of the bewildering sight. On the other side of the cave when we came out we saw a range of trees which had long roots emanating from the branches. We tried to become ‘Tarzans’ using those roots but failed very miserably being novice in the act.
While coming out from the caves we saw a small stream passing nearby. We did not think twice before enter into the knee deep cold water. Playing like children we went back to our days of innocence. We caught a few fishes from the water and then left them swim again.
Our next stop was the eco-park. On our walk we found a Maruti 800 taxi with an eccentric driver who did not seem to understand Hindi, English or Assamese. God knows how he has been surviving in a tourist place with his taxi. The eco-park was surrounded by small hillocks and plains spreading across tens of miles. The eco-park had a nice mountail view, a deep waterfall and a small dam. We took snaps all around the place. Near the eco-park there were several cemeteries on top of the small hills around. We trekked to them through the grassland and traveled a lot on foot exploring everything nearby.Cherrapunjee
We returned back to resort after that. The night was so starry that we were astounded by the number of stars we saw.
The next day it was only I and Ronald who decided to go to explore the waterfalls and living root bridges around the region. We had already told our eccentric but smiling-face driver to come at 10 am to our resort to pick us and he was on time. First, we decided to go to the Nohkalikai Falls which is the 4th highest in India. The place has been very well maintained with many view points. Truly Cherrapunjeeadmirable. The majestic view of the waterfall was a sight to remember. The photos below will be a true testimony of our delight.
Our next stop was the Living root bridge. There are 2 notable living root bridges in Cherrapunjee and many nearby. One is a single-decker and the other double-decker, which means two root bridges one above the other. For each of them more than 3 hours of trek, to and fro, would be required and split between choices we decided to go for the double delight – double decker bridge, even though it was nearly 4 hours trek and a total walking distance of 6 kms. On a normal road 6 kms distance is not at an issue to be discussed but when the trek down the hill is as steep as nearly 30 degrees, the 6 kms of distance seems long and tiresome.Cherrapunjee
While going down we did not face much of a problem. We had energy in our feet and the trek down a valley with green hills surrounding you from all sides did not make us feel tired. We had a little guide from the local village, Cleven Roy, whose untiring freshness gave us energy to move. However after 2 kms of trek downhill our feet started to give in and the next kilometer was unbearably hard to travel. We faced the immense thought of climbing uphill on our trek back. We had two hanging bridges on the way and a couple of streams. We dipped our feet on one of them and the magical waters seem to energize us up. We also refilled out water bottles with the fresh mineral water of the stream.
CherrapunjeeIn little more than an hour we were in front of the most astounding living root bridge in the world – The Double Decker Living Root Bridge. It was single tree whose roots had formed the two layers of the root bridge. There was small waterfall nearby with villagers from distant places were taking rest en-route to other villages. There were no sign of any tourists and everyone present there were staring at us as we looked different even though we were from the same country. We were sweating after the long trek and dipped our heads into the water to get some respite. The water was cold and all our tiredness was washed away by the mystical waters.
The trek uphill was the most physically tiring thing I have ever done in my life. 3 kms of steep uphill trek with thick steps squeezed all my energy out. We did not have our lunch so far and it was 3 pm in the evening. We took sticks to support our climb. In nearly 2 hours we reached the top. It was one of the most adventurous travel which I had ever done.
We then went to the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort which was around 6 kms from the place where the trek to the living root bridge started. In fact the trek to the other living root bridge (single decker) starts from somewhere near the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort. This resort has awesome food to serve, probably the best in entire Cherrapunji. Within the resort you will find the data about rainfall in Cherrapunjee since the 1920s and comparisons with different places in the world. From there we can easily surmise that Cherrapunjee is the wettest place in the world. However Mwsynram, aslo in Meghalaya, claims to have dethroned Cherrapunjee. A visit to Mwsynram is also due.
From the resort we can see the plains of Bangladesh. The view from the resort in the evening is heavenly. If you need a place to rest and do not mind spending your time in solitude, this is the best place to stay.
Finally we went back to our resort tired and exhausted. Cherrapunjee is indeed one of the best places I have ever visited. Where in the world you can find waterfalls, caves, monoliths and living root bridges at one place?

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