Travel Diaries with Reccy - An excerpt from the trek to the eastern Himalayas by Pooja Mehra, Reccy's Chief Experience Officer.
Before embarking on the trails of the eastern Himalayas, we had made one thing clear, we would explore all the natural wonders and picturesque sites that Meghalaya - our destination in the North-East, presented.
But why in the North-east, many of our friends had asked before we had started preparing for the tour?
North-East India is an abode of natural wonders - with countless flora and fauna thriving in the region. The climate is superb for traveling during peak seasons, Meghalaya being the abode of clouds where you can touch them and get lost within the cloud-laden sky. It is also the land of festivals - the Hornbill festival, Ziro and Dree festivals, Saga Dawa festivals, etc.
Some other things that moved us were the unblemished, unperturbed, untouched, picture-perfect paradise that Meghalaya was. You could go exploring the famous ‘Double-decker’ bridge, pass through amazing waterfalls, hike up to the mysterious caves in the Dawki hills in the West Jaintia Caves, wade across the clearest Umngot river, and mix with the local tribesmen who have been living there for centuries.
With so much motivation and zeal, we packed our bags and embarked on our journey to Meghalaya, knowing that Reccy already had our backs and would help us in every way possible. We started our trek post-Monsoon, as the skies would be clear and would offer us picturesque views of the surroundings - something that Meghalaya has in abundance!
On the big day - October, I, along with my colleague, Tapas, embarked on this journey to the glorious Northeast.
Caving in Meghalaya
We took an early morning Indigo flight to Guwahati so that we could reach Shillong well in time to review most of the resorts there. Our flight landed at Guwahati at 9.30 am and on arrival, we were met and assisted by a remarkably interesting and insightful, Early Born. He narrated the story behind his name: since he was a premature baby, his mother named him Early Born.
The drive from Guwahati to Shillong was long and dreary due to huge traffic jams caused by road repair work on the way. We stopped in between to try out some local cuisine. We checked out a few resorts and Robin’s Nest, which was on a hilltop with a view of Umiam lake was simply breathtaking! Naturally, we parked our luggage at the resort, and wondered what nature had in store for us!
Since we were super-excited to reach the abode of clouds, we wanted to try some of the most adventurous activities there and the first thought that came to our minds was Kayaking!
Kayaking in the Umiam lake was a super experience. We reached our resort at 5 pm and it was pitch-dark as the sun sets early in the North-East. Both of us were exhausted, yet excited as the weather was just right for a scrumptious dinner under the open, star-studded sky.
The next day, early in the morning, we headed towards Cherrapunjee, a popular and most-loved holiday destination. Before Mawsynram was discovered as the only place in the world that gets maximum rainfall throughout the year, it was Cherrapunjee that acquired the top spot for decades.
The place has several mystery boxes in every nook and corner that will make you go Aww! Cherrapunjee located in Meghalaya is suitable for family trips, romantic holidays, or with a group of friends. It took us an hour and a half to reach Cherrapunjee.
The first thing you will notice as you enter, even on the drive, are the jaw-dropping views. You will see valleys filled with the greenest trees, cliffs that go on for days, open plains into the neighboring country of Bangladesh, endless waterfalls, hills, trekking trails, and more.
We headed towards Mawsmai cave situated at a half-kilometer distance from the main town. The Mawsmai cave is the fourth longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent. We enjoyed this splendid cave with rare natural traits present inside. The most spectacular feature of the cave is the pool that is formed by five different rivers.
After caving, we were famished and gorged ourselves on Khasi food. So, in Cherrapunjee, rice is the staple food and is taken along with egg, fish, meat, or vegetable. Sohra Pulao, a bowl of rice cooked with oil and vegetables without spices is a must-have for all. Popular cuisines from other countries are easily available here. There are plenty of homestays, and resorts available here. Polo Orchid Resort is recommended, and you can find this resort on the edge of the cliff of the breathtaking Cherrapunjee Valley, overlooking the splendid Nohsngithiang Waterfalls. People say this rustic-styled star resort is the best hotel in the town. It has a way of slowing down time to a tranquil tempo - something you wouldn’t want to get rid of.
There is another resort, Crescent Hotel established in an idyllic ambiance, on a hilltop, with a view of the Wahkaba falls. This hotel is situated a short drive away from the famous Nohkalikai falls, near the town. The Arwah caves are also close by.
The next morning, we headed towards the double-decker bridge trek. It was a moment to cherish as I had dreamt of stepping on this bridge since time immemorial, when I was a kid, and used to look at its pictures on wall calendars and decorative diaries.
I have to say that this place is stunning but be warned that it will be a bit of a mission (not impossible) to get here.
The walk is not easy with 3,000 steps in front of you - each way!
But it’s totally worth it to see them along with the awesome views you will come across.
Apart from the Living Root Bridges, there are Rainbow Falls and plenty of other photogenic scenic views to discover down in Nongriat. You can also get a natural fish spa at the Double Decker root bridge, where countless small fish will nibble on the dead skin cells of your feet when you keep it submerged inside the water - our own natural pedicure! You can see this phenomenon happening against the most crystal-clear water.
To our amazement, the excited locals were swimming in it after the long hike!
Our third day in Meghalaya was spent exploring the famous waterfalls - Nohkalikai Falls and Nohsngithiang Falls.
On the fourth day, we climbed the course to the Sacred Forest and David Scott trail. Officially, our journey to Meghalaya was over, but we were still feeling the intimacy with the North-Eastern Himalayas and decided to further our journey to Arunachal Pradesh. At the end of the day, we packed our belongings and waited with bated breath for the next morning.
On the fifth day, we took a train to Dibrugarh to experience Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. We stayed at Roing jungle camp. It was truly an amazing night here with a bonfire and locals singing.
The next day was one of the most exciting ones when we traveled to Miao and visited Namdapha National Park. The day ended with savory delights that have their roots in the local Arunachal cuisine.
The next day, we visited Wakro which boasts of the Golden Pagoda and Parsuram Kund - one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites as well as one that holds mythological significance.
Almost the entirety of the next day was spent staying at Sejal homestay. The locals were amazing with lots of warmth and care. They took us on a tour of their fields that had only organic vegetables and fruits. This day marked the end of our itinerary.
With a heavy heart, and a mind full of memories to be cherished for a lifetime, we packed our bags and headed back home. However, the North-East had such a splendid impact on us and me, in particular, I vowed to myself that I would come here again and again, to experience the feeling of warmth and intimacy that I received from nature and the locals.
As told to the Cross the Line correspondent - Gourab Majumder.
You too can get ready, pack your gear, and embark on some of the most remarkable adventures with Reccy.