Cascade

Meghalaya is truely an abode of the clouds and picturesque waterfalls.

Kalimpong is a hill town in West Bengal, perched on a ridge above the Teesta River. It was unfortunate to not able to explore this colonial-era hill station. I had to get ready for a long ride of 500 kilometres to reach Guwahati in Assam to keep up with my tight schedule.

The road was wet due to morning dew. Before the city awakens, I descended the winding road and continued riding along the river until Sevoke. Soon, I crossed the Coronation Bridge, which was built in 1937 to connect Darjeeling & Jalpaiguri districts on the Teesta river.

The beautiful road in West Bengal passes through amazing landscapes crossing various rivers & wildlife sanctuaries. Most of the ride was over the National Highway 27, which connects the western state of Gujrat to the Eastern State of Assam. For the last few days, I was riding on the winding roads of the mountains; now I was enjoying the speed on the smooth highway with the views of the vast expanses of farm fields. At roadside Dhaba, I tried Assamese food too.

A daylong ride brought me closer to the Guwahati – the largest metropolis in northeastern India. Soon, I crossed the old Saraighat Bridge, a 1.5-kilometre rail-cum-road bridge over the Brahmaputra River to enter the city. I had booked a hotel on the outskirts of the city along the National Highway. The climate worsened in the evening spoiling my plans to explore Guwahati at night. So I decided to take some rest for the day.

The next day, I was supposed to go to Arunachal Pradesh, but when I checked the date on the Permit, it was the day after tomorrow. My carefully laid out plan now had a deviation. Quickly, I went through my itinerary and decided to visit Meghalaya but only for one day. It was a very hectic thing to do but I was mentally prepared to take up this challenge.

On the way to Assam

Barapani

The next day, amidst rain, I was out to explore the Northeastern State of Meghalaya, the abode of the clouds. Even though I had waterproof riding gear and a rain cover for my rucksack as well, I was worried about the places and photography. It feels worthless if you are not able to take good photographs on such a long road trip.

The road was awesome with fewer vehicles. On the way to Shillong, around 15 km before, I stopped to marvel at a beautiful sight – Umiam Lake, also known as Barapani Lake. Spread over 220 square km, this lake was created in early 1960 by damming the Umiam river. This lake has become one of the tourist’s attractions in Meghalaya offering water sport & adventure activities. It was raining since morning & then it stopped for a while, giving me a chance to click some pics of this beautiful lake.

Solo ride through the North East was not only about the astonishing places, but it’s about the people. I met many amazing local people along the way, from various walks of life and experiences. Talking with them was more like reading a novel, which in turn enriches our perspectives about life. Also, I came to know many interesting facts and stories from locals which Google doesn’t know.

Google can provide the travel information, but the locals provide you the real experience.

Umiam Lake

Abode of Clouds

In the state of Meghalaya – as the name indicates, the clouds live on the shoulder of the mountains. This unique northeastern hilly state separates the Assam valley from the plains of Bangladesh. It has the wettest place on earth and its population comprises Jaintia, Garo and Khasi tribes.

After crossing Shillong, the scenic road over the Khasi hills in mountainous Meghalaya offers breathtaking views of the clouds & valleys. There were a few moments when suddenly rain stops and a view of the nubilous valley unfolds in front of you.

Meghalaya is the wettest place on earth. I was experiencing that fact because I was riding in the rain since morning. Meghalaya borders only one Indian state Assam and shares an international border with Bangladesh. The forests of Meghalaya has rich biodiversity and is known for many rare species of plants and animals.

The winding roads in mountainous Meghalaya can be counted among the scenic roads in India. There is a multilane highway from Guwahati to Barapani lake before a single road begins. The meandering route over the Khasi and Jaintia hills takes you to the most wondrous places on earth. I have been riding over all kinds of roads, so I learned to appreciate the beauty as well as negotiate the potholes with patience.

The land in Meghalaya is owned by the local tribal communities and not the government.

Above the Clouds

Living Root Bridge

A unique form of tree shaping i.e. the living root bridges are common in the northeastern state Meghalaya along the southern part of Shillong. They are handmade from the ariel roots of rubber fig trees (Ficus Elastica), by Khasi and Jaintia people.

National Highway 206 from Shillong to Dawki is a part of the Asian Highway 2, running 13107 kilometres. At Pongtung, I took a left turn on a narrow tar road towards Mawlennong. It was fun to ride on the road through the forest but the traffic of excessive tourist vehicles was annoying.

At the parking lot, I parked my bike with the rucksack tied on the back seat. I was less bothered about theft in this part of the world. Then, I went for an easy trek in the eastern Khasi hills at Mawlennong, to see this single-decker root bridge. The cemented pathway was lined by bamboo shacks of local vendors selling antiques as well as fruits and beverages. The conical dustbins were kept in order to avoid littering.

Amidst the thick forest near Riwai, there lies a famous single-decker Living Root Bridge. Khasi tribe people used to make such kinds of living bridges which grows with time. I was amazed by the untouched beauty of Meghalaya and I hope the tourists will keep it that way. Unfortunately, these remote places are getting overcrowded with many tourists day by day.

It takes a minimum of 15 years to make a living root bridge, which becomes stronger with time to hold a weight of 50 people at a time.

Living Root Bridge

Nohwet View Point

Khasi, an indigenous people of Meghalaya, is one of the largest surviving matrilineal cultures. This native tribe forms the majority 48% of the state population, among them, 85% embraced Christianity. The beautiful people worship nature and keep their villages so clean that they became the cleanest villages in Asia.

Nohwet is one of the amazing villages I had visited in Meghalaya, situated near Mawlennong. In order to reach this remote village, I crossed the living root bridge and trekked through the dense forest for a while.

The Bamboo viewpoint is constructed on the treetop, which offers an amazing view of the Jungle. There are bamboo ladders to climb the Tree House. We can see the plains of Bangladesh separated from the lush green Indian border. The bamboos were tied together firmly to build this Nohwet viewpoint along with ladders and a bench.

Everything in this remote village is built using natural materials, which takes us closer to the mother earth. There is a nominal fee we have to pay to the villagers. The viewpoint was not crowded at all, maybe because it requires a one-kilometre hike from the living root bridge.

We must find ways to stay connected with the mother nature & it’s preservations.

Tree Top

God’s Own Garden

Mawlynnong – a small village in East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya has won the status of Cleanest Village in Asia, in 2003. I was strolling on the spotlessly clean cobbled pathways lined by many handwoven dustbins and colourful houses. Situated around 100 km from Shillong, close to the Bangladesh border, this magical paradise is not just a tourist destination but a lesson for all of us to keep our own cities clean.

The ride was enjoyable over the scenic routes in the East Khasi Hills, towards this village. Because of its fame, many tourist vehicles are spoiling the untouched and unpolluted natural beauty of this village. Even though it was raining, there were many tourist vehicles on the narrow roads of this remote village.

While exploring these beautiful villages in Meghalaya, I fell in love with their simple lifestyle. Their raw houses represent their way of life & the environment into which they settled. Bamboo, Cane, and wood are used to construct houses that are supported by wooden posts. With technological advances, this traditional art of constructing handmade houses is vanishing rapidly.

I hope the title ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’ should not be a self-destructive one.

Mawlynnong

Dawki

Finally, the incessant rain stopped for a while. The next destination – Dawki – was an hour drive from the Mawlynnong. The narrow tar road had beautiful waterfalls along the way but I did not have enough time to explore them all. Bangladesh border was on my right-hand side. There was no heavy deployment of troops guarding the borders. This international border was really peaceful and beautiful.

Umngot River, one of the cleanest rivers in India flows through Dawki, a small town in the East Jaintia hills near the Bangladesh border. I went off the beaten track to discover this little-known tranquil watercourse, 95 km south of Shillong. Dawki serves as a busy trade route between India and Bangladesh where hundreds of trucks pass every day. The heavily guarded suspension bridge was constructed by the British in 1932, which is still operational.

Finally, I was standing in crystal clear waters of the Umngot River at Dawki. Boating over this crystal clear sheet of water is a unique experience in itself. But due to cloudy weather and a stringent timeline, all I did was just touch and feel the cold water. It was a super cloudy day, hence the visibility of the water was poor but still, it was amazing. Many boats were floating over this emerald stream, flowing between the two hills of Meghalaya.

The day was almost coming to an end. My bike chain sprocket was making some noise and needed some attention. Luckily, I found a local mechanic in Dawki and fixed the chain. The next journey could have been dangerous without fixing the problem. I was happy to get the required help to move forward towards Krang Suri waterfalls.

Clear emerald green water of Umngot river at Dawki looks absolutely divine.

Umngot River

Krang Suri

Wow! I was stunned by this magical waterfall hidden in the remotest part of North East India. Located in the Jaintia Hills, I struggled a lot to get here before the sunset from Dawki. Krang Suri waterfall is blessed with shimmering blue waters sparkling in the sunlight. It was exactly the same as I saw in the photographs while planning for the North East Roadtrip.

From Dawki, I started riding towards Jowai over National Highway 206. The road had long lines of stationary trucks and very few vehicles. Soon, I reached the parking lot of Krang Suri and started descending over the cobbled pathway and steps without wasting time.

The first glimpses of this magical waterfall were captivating. While walking over the properly constructed footpath, suddenly a view opens up. And then we can’t wait to go there, touch and feel and jump into the shimmering blue cold water. This offbeat waterfall is developing into a famous tourist destination, thanks to the tourist department and Youtubers.

Due to late evening, all tourists were already going back. At one point in time, there was no one around me. I took the photographs and videos from all possible vantage points. I sat on the rocks, silently watching the water cascading down over the rocks. That was a peaceful moment of the hectic day. I still had to ride for the next 6 hours in darkness to reach Guwahati.

I was fortunate enough to explore such a beautiful place without any human presence.

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