Settled so well and deeply back in to work and every-day-life in Europe, it seems like a far away dream to walk through rainforests and swim in river beds where the monsoon floods formed over time natural swimming pools, carving deep in to the rocks and stones. Twenty, thirty butterflies swirl up in a cloud when you walk along a moist path and the sounds of nature around you seem never to stop.
Where were we? A short drive south of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya where we had a great couchsurfing and a wet thunderstrom experience, lies Cherrapunji – or Sohra, as the local Khasi people call it. You won’t find public busses going there, the cheapest way are the yellow “tourist taxis”, leaving from a parking lot in Shillong and offering shared services for 6-12 people, depending on your squeezing skills and wallet.
Sohra sits on top of a hill, rolling grass planes and Lower-Sohra at its feet. The first place in India we saw, where you could build a house or grow crops and still it was actually empty! Only 15km south of Cherapunji lies Tyrna (pronounced with rolling r and the y sounding like the ue in blue). Pleased to see sky above, emptiness around us and grass under our feet, we decided to skip the cab and go for a walk to the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort, where we hoped to find a place to stay. We simply followed the road to Laitkynsew.
After the cement factory, pass the next village and turn of the path to your right. Yes, cement factory. A truly Indian landmark and a bit like Mordor in Hobbit-Land…it’s worth to look inside: feeding many people, stunning industrial site making EHS attempts in Europe look like a joke for rich people. – Once you turned of the road, you;ll find the first stairs. They will remain your friends and enemies for the time you spend in the area. as the road starts to serpentine down the high-lands and in to the gorge, the stairs are by-passing the windy parts and giving you a short cut. This is the first time, you;ll be able to catch a glimpse of the flat yellow planes of Bangladesh, only a few kilometers off and still a world away. Old smugglers paths lead down there, passing the up to 1800 meter difference in altitude. Commonly, thick clouds are hanging in the rain forest cluttered canyons opening up at your feet.
The family run Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort lies between Laitkynsew and Tyrna. They got only a few rooms, should they be booked, make sure you at least enjoy one of their amazing meals, best from the daily changed menu board. The family – a man from Goa who married a Khasi woman and their Kids, built all you’ll find there from the scratch. They’re making a great effort to make you truly feel at home and I got to say: the loveliest tourist accommodation I saw in India. Scroll down their information packed homepage to find sections of things to do: Nature Treks and Walks from beginners to pro trekkers, Swimming in warm river water in natural pools, Geocache Treasure Hunts, botanical studies, writing, painting…you name it. Should you not be lucky enough to get one of their six rooms, they got tents available so you will have certainly a place to stay even if you like us did not book in advance. Book! Inside it’s nicer. Read the Khasi legends in their tourist information folder – you’ll be surprised. And, most importantly: go and walk!
We took off to explore two Living Root Bridges. A beginners one close to home (Ummunoi) and the famous “Double Decker” living root bridges Umshiang and Jingkieng in Nongriat village. More than 3000 steps down steep stairs. And up again should you wanna go back home at some stage. Humans carrying the main crops, pepper and bay leaf, since the stairs are to steep for donkeys. Steel-rope bridges longer than in any Indiana Jones movie you have seen, rivers rushing through their beds 15-20 meters below you…that’s about 45 to 60 feet – and during monsoon the water often comes up to the bridges, which is why hundreds of years ago the Khasi developed the technique of building bridges made from living roots of Ficus trees: The roots of a Ficus close to the river are guided through a hollow trunk of a beetle-nut-tree. Once crossed the water, the Ficus is allowed to root in the soil of the opposite river bank. Over the pass of 10-20 years, a stable construction develops, strong enough to withstand the monsoon floods and ready to carry daily load.
It does fell a bit like walking through Pandora in Avatar… huge rocks higher than a house, all those butterflies around you, smiling kids, a Polish photographer living there with the natives speaking their language, crisp, clear waters… soon enough somebody will have the idea to build a lift. And then, the tourists will flood in. Go there before. Get your glimpse of paradise before it’s gone.
Book accommodation in Sohra at the Cherrapunjee Tourist Resort via their contacts form, email or phone.Landline: 03637 -244218, -244219, -244220 Mobile : 91-94361-15925, 91-96153-38500 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay in Nongriat at the lovely small local tourist lodge. Four simple, but clean and comfortable rooms, mosquito nets provided. I failed to write down their number, just ask in the village, if you don’t wear the traditional Khasi outfit it will be obvious what you want.
This was the last in a long row of India travel memoires. You can find some additional images in the archive of my stills portfolio: hatephotoshop. Here a list linking to all articles about India so far and: no, I’ll not go back there 10 times…I use Trains when travelling in India Happy Holi – Spring in India Running from Holi we took Rescue in Haridwar Half Indian Doors and Memories in little red Note Books India Trip: finally Home again Guwahati, Assam, North-East India. Assamese Cuisine, German Spätzle And What’s Slime Got To Do With It Tea Gardens And Kaziranga Lovely People and Empty Ministries: Kohima Twice a Day a Bus at the End of the Known World: Khonoma Last Stop Paradise: Meghalaya, India Thanks for coming with me on this journey.