During the early monsoons of 2015 I, along with my parents, decided to take a road-trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji, Meghalaya. Most tourists hit the road during winters when the sky in this part of the country remains clear. My parents however took the decision to visit the ‘Rainiest place on Earth’ during the season of rain itself.
A one and a half hour drive along the National Highway 40 takes you from Shillong to Cherrapunji. Both of these places are major tourist attractions of Meghalaya, also known as “Abode of the Clouds”. In local language, this part of India is often referred to as “Scotland of the East”, or “Paradise Unexplored”.
We were welcomed by heavy rainfall as soon as we reached the city of Shillong. A few locals and even the Traffic Police advised us not to hit the roads for a couple of days. It had been raining in Shillong since the previous day and it would not take much time for the roads in Shillong to get waterlogged. But Mr.Kuri our chauffeur and guide thought that it would be best to leave for Cherrapunji and ensured our safety.
We decided to stop at The Elephant Falls which had been named so because of a rock resembling an Elephant. The water there was turbid and flowed at a ferocious velocity due to the torrential downpour. I was not in a favourable condition to take any photographs. Standing beside the majestic falls and watching the sky tearing itself apart we, along with Mr. Kuri, began to doubt our decision of leaving the comforts of the hotel for Cherrapunji. But to our astonishment and good fortune the rain stopped and the sky began to clear as we followed the road that lead to Cherrapunji.
The serpent-like road was laid through dense forests and clouds. One can see patches of pasture lands, cliffs, deep forests, several local waterfalls (thanks to the monsoons) and clouds rising from the deep abysses. We stopped for lunch in a local café near the Duwan Singh Syiem Viewpoint. We were told that we would see valleys, dense forests and a meandering river, but what we saw were clouds; monsoon clouds. There were no signs of any river or valley because we were standing in the heart of misty clouds.
Our car drove through patches of clouds, which we seldom mistook to be fog. I have never experienced such a bizarre change in weather before. Clouds lay in patches in certain regions over the Khashi hills. The sky was clear. One could feel a light drizzle and sometimes rain only when one moved through the clouds. There was rain nowhere else. We stopped at Nohkalikai Falls, the tallest plunge waterfall in India and discovered that we were not the only people to visit this time of the year.
Our trip finally ended at The Seven Sisters Falls overlooking the plains of Sylhet in Bangladesh. The waterfalls are said to represent the contiguous states of Northeastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura). The falls remain alive only during the months of June and July, when there is enough water in the nearby rivers and are completely dried up during winter. We were happy to have taken the decision of hitting the road, ignoring the advice of travel websites.
The drive from Shillong to Cherrapunji was the most memorable road trip of my life. It was during this trip that I realized Hindi, English being of no avail in this region. From the concrete jungle that we live in, Meghalaya took us to the blue sky that we romanticised about in our teens or perhaps the darker clouds which used to carry our message to our loved ones.
Meghalaya is a fresh start to my life. The calm blue sky smeared with the light grey and white somewhere far, embraces the gigantic hills. On our way back we took a short break along the majestic Umiam Lake of Shillong. The clear water of the lake against the backdrop of mountains and a cloudy sky had a magical charm, and I had never before been to a hill station during the monsoons. This made the misty affair more enhancing.
The memories I made will be cherished for a long, long time.