How I Travelled Majestic Land of Meghalaya without Digging a Hole in Pocket

Every land holds a unique beauty, and journey to these distinct places certainly enlightens the inner self. Travelling boosts knowledge and gifts us some inimitable memories. My recent visit to the magical side of India, the North East, has also changed my perspective about this beautiful part of the country.

I recently travelled to Meghalaya and what I’ve realized visiting this piece of North East is that people are closely associated with nature and Mother Nature equally loves back the people. As if the Mother Nature saying “You nurture me well and I will love you back.” Living Root Bridge is one such explicit example of commendable bonding between man and nature.

Beauty is a bounty in the state of Meghalaya and this God’s gift is well taken care by the inhabitants. The words that are closely associated with Meghalaya are ‘Green’ and ‘Clean’. Dustbins made of bamboo are placed at every nook and corner. Turn to any of your side and you will find a dustbin placed for your convenience to throw the garbage. And, there’s hell lot to tell about this paradise on Earth.

It’s a little expensive to cover the tourist spots in Meghalaya because one destination is at a little distance from another. You need to travel at least 100-150 kms a day in a taxi. However, to my surprise, we got a better and cheaper way to travel most of the places in Meghalaya. Here is my day to day itinerary including mode of transportation, places covered and time taken.

Day 1: Delhi to Shillong via Guwahati

We boarded Indigo flight from Indira Gandi Airport, Delhi for Lokpriya Gopinath Airport, Guwahati. The flight 5:30 am flight was rescheduled to 05:05 am and the airlines well managed to inform all the passengers via mails, messages and calls until we didn’t confirm the receipt of the information. We reached Guwahati Airport at 7.50 am. We took a shared taxi from the airport for Police Bazar, Shillong. It costs Rs.500 per person. We also made a good friend on the way, who was sharing the taxi with us. Taking a break midway, we finally reached Shillong around 12 pm.

On reaching Shillong, we went to our pre-booked hotel – Hotel Island Park Residency. I am highly impressed with the services of the hotel as they cooperated with us in every possible manner. The services provided by the hotel are outstanding and the location is also good. It is at a walking distance from Police Bazar and Meghalaya Tourism office.

Meghalaya Government is committed in uplifting tourism in the state. Daily bus service runs from Police Bazar at a nominal price. You need to book the bus one day in advance from the Meghalaya Tourism office. They have designed different packages which cover almost all tourist destinations except double decker bridge. So, keep a day or two spare if you want to visit double decker bridge.

Day 2: Shillong to Mawlynong Village

The first day, we booked the bus for Mawlynong. It costs Rs.350 per person. The bus departs at 8 am and returns around 8 pm. This was my best day in Meghalaya. Firstly, we visited Dawki Umngot River and we were given 45 minutes to enjoy boating and the beauty of the river. Dawki is the name of the village and Unmgot is the river. Earlier, we thought that there are two different rivers, Dawki and Umngot but there is actually one.

Dawki River

Umngot river is special because of its crystal clear water and also because it shares border with Bangladesh. And, the exciting part is that there is no fencing. People from Bangladesh sell berry pickle and chaat on the Dawki border. Bangladeshi photographers will click your beautiful picture while you are boating and sell a printout of the same for Rs.50 to Rs.200. We actually fell short of time at Unmgot River and wanted to be there for some more time.

The only problem of travelling by bus is that you are bound to be back on time. There is a strict schedule to cover the destinations. If you are late, you will have to skip the other tourist spots. But considering the amount of money & time you are saving, this is the cheap and best mode of travelling.

Moving ahead, we visited Riwai Living Root Bridge, which is also known as ‘Single Root Bridge’. Located in Riwai village in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, the bridge is made from the roots of the Ficus elastica tree. There is an easy & short trek of 10 minutes to reach to the living root bridge, where you will be crossing many small shops on the way – selling fruits, snacks and products made from bamboo.

Living Root Bridges are nature’s pure blessing to man and all the nature lovers surely going to embrace the beauty of this place. There is a double decker root bridge too, which was not included in the package.

We visited the awe-inspiring Mawlynong village after Riwai Root Bridge. It is actually God’s own garden, surrounded by lush greenery. The flora and fauna of the place took my heart away within seconds and I still regret not spending a night in the village.

I could see the villagers welcoming tourists, selling them goods and serving them food. It appeared that the major portion of revenue is generated from tourism. The village is quite similar to the ones we see in the fantasy movies. It’s beautiful & magical.

Shops in Mawlynong village

After the whimsical tour, we returned Police Bazar, Shillong around 8 pm. The MTDC office was open and we booked bus for the next day for Shillong tour. After having dal tadka and mix veg with rice for dinner in the hotel, we slept on time to wake up early the next morning.

Day 3: Shillong City Tour

The bus was scheduled to leave at 8.30 am and we reached the boarding point on time. Our first destination of the day was Ward’s Lake which is a beautiful lake surrounded by garden.

Ward’s Lake

Next on the list was Lady Hydary Park which is a Japanese style garden having a mini zoo comprising Himalayan black bear, deers, kite, Porcupines, mynahs and many others. I don’t support caging animals. The Himalayan bear in cage looked completely frustrated.

Lady Hydary Park
Frustrated Himalayan Bear in cage

Other places of visit are Cathedral church, state museum, golf course, Elephant Falls, Shillong peak View Point and Umiam lake. Shillong peak view point offers a grand panoramic view of Shillong city and a telescope is also placed to give you a bird’s eye view.

Cathedral Church
Cathedral Church

 

Shillong Peak View

 

Elephant Falls

 

Umian Lake

Plan in advance to enjoy the view of the serene Umiam Lake from a beautiful boat house. Yes, there is a boat house at Umiam Lake which can be booked online through airbnb. We didn’t get the pleasure to have a night stay in the boat house as it was not available for our dates, but if you plan prior, you can grab the opportunity.

Shillong city tour ended around 3 pm. On returning, we had lunch in Madras café, police bazaar. We treated our taste buds with dosa & filter coffee, which was good enough to refresh us. In the evening, we toured the local market in Police Bazaar which was flooded with clothes, accessories, bamboo products, oranges etc. Bamboo products attracted me the most, especially the bamboo cups & mugs, which I also bought for my friends.

For non-vegetarians, Shillong may be a paradise to please their appetite but vegetarians find it really difficult to search for a pure vegetarian restaurant. Not just the restaurants, but the market is also crowded with food vans and local vendors serving non-vegetarian snacks.

Before returning the hotel, we booked bus for Cherrapunjee for the next day from the MTDC office.

MTDC Office, Police Bazaar

It became a routine to wake up early morning and getting ready to board the bus. We started enjoying it. We had a lot of expectations from the Cherrapunjee tour as we were going to witness some exotic waterfalls.

Day 4: Shillong to Cherrapunjee

The tour started with Mawkdok Valley viewpoint, which can be called as a ‘Green Paradise’. The valley view was pleasing to the eyes and soothing for the mind.

Mawkdok Valley

The second destination of the day was Nohkalikai waterfalls. It falls freely from a height of 1115 feet to a rocky base and makes an astounding blue pool. One needs to trek down to reach to the bottom of the falls to take a dip in the fresh water. Nohkalikai is the best waterfall in Cherrapunjee having good amount of flowing water even in non-monsoon seasons.

Nohkalikai Falls

Next, we went to the Mawsmai cave after standing in ticket queue for 10 mins. The cave was jam-packed with school kids and they were rushing here and there, making it difficult to walk the trail. The cave is long and dark with tricky ups and downs. Claustrophobic may avoid this place if it’s overcrowded.

Mawsmai Cave

 

School kids going inside the cave

 

Sparkling stones in the cave

Ramakrishnan Mission Ashram was next on the list which is known for its beautiful crafts and antiques. The ashram has school, museum, temple, library and much more. You can even shop from the showroom in the ashram. The place has overall a nice aura.

The most awaited part of the trip for me, apart from Dawki River & Living Root Bridge, was Seven Sisters Falls, also known as Nohsngithiang. Once a beautiful waterfall is mere a disappointed now. We did not see even a single drop of water falling from the height. Locals told that it remains dry throughout the year, except for the monsoon. But it was still a pleasure to visit this place after seeing the pictures of the waterfall on the internet.

Seven Sisters Falls, Cherrapunjee

The last spot for the day was Eco Park, located near the Seven Sisters Falls, on the edge of a cliff. It gives a beautiful view of the Bangladesh plains.

View of Bangladesh Plains from the Eco Park, Cherrapunji

Visiting all the beautiful spots and a few more, we came back to our hotel in the night and packed our bags for Guwahati.

Day 5: Shillong to Guwahati

We took a taxi around 11 am from Police Bazaar and reached Guwahati at 2 pm. We booked a hotel in advance as we had a plan to stay a night at Hotel Prag Continental in Pan Bazaar Guwahati. After settling down in the hotel, we hired a cab for the very famous Kamakhya Temple.  We did darshan from outside and spent a fairly good amount of time in the temple and the vicinity. We had yummy kachories and tea outside the temple. The Kamakhya temple timings are: 08:00 am to 01:00 pm and then 02:30 pm to 5.30 pm.

Kamakhya Temple
Hours Long queue for darshan

While coming to the hotel, we shopped for Assam tea. It is available in different flavours and for different rates. We bought tea for our family as well. Being a tea lover, I loved the shop and the variety available.

Back to the hotel, it was the last night of our trip and in a way, the most special night, for which we actually planned this whole trip. It was our 3rd anniversary. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary in river cruise at Brahmaputra River but as we got late, the last cruise already left at 7 pm.

Nevertheless, our whole trip was a celebration in itself, so there was no regret. We planned a nice dinner at the hotel where we were staying. Staff cooperated really well in making the celebration extra special.

The next morning, we took a walk near the Brahmaputra river and left for Delhi.

Brahmaputra River

To sum up my experience, I would say it was a wonderful journey to this majestic land. And, I hope to come back soon for a laid back trip, spending more days in Mawlynong village and exploring more land in Cherrapunjee, camping near Dawki, trekking down to the double decker living root bridge and staying a night in the boat house. I will plan for a more adventurous long trip next time and fulfill all my wishes. I have noted down everything in the ‘To Do’ list of my memory.

Day 6: Guwahati to Delhi

Bidding goodbye to Guwahati, we boarded flight at 1.30 pm from Lokpriya Gopinath Airport and reached Delhi around 4 pm.

All in all, I loved the place and the people! Before going there, I had some doubts in mind but Meghalaya is certainly a heaven on Earth and the people are very genuine and nice. One must visit all these places for an enchanting experience.

Do drop a comment if you have any query about the place.

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Top 5 Reasons to Visit Naukuchiatal

Naukuchiatal Lake

Naukuchiatal is an absolutely perfect holiday destination to breathe in the crisp, fresh air amid mountains and a sparkling lake which exhibits the brilliance of green gemstones. It is a paradise for nature lovers to spend days in the lap of nature while also enjoying a number of adventure activities in Naukuchiatal.

Popular hill stations have become overcrowded because of their popularity and the locals face the consequences. We blandly plan to visit the much-hyped places, sidetracking the less explored ones. It’s time to ditch the famous hill stations and travel the unexplored lands.

Naukuchiatal is one such place with mystifying beauty, away from the hustle-bustle of city. There are a number of places to visit in Naukuchiatal and fun activities to do, which makes it a perfect holiday hideout.

Here is a list of top 5 things to do in Naukuchiatal  

Paragliding 

Paragliding in Naukuchiatal will give you an experience of flying high like a bird around the mountains. You need to have guts to kick start the ride as you are required to run for a few seconds and then jump from the edge of the hill to begin flying. But once you are in the air, you leave behind your fears and feel on the top of the world. There is no better achievement than fighting your own fears.

Price for Naukuchiatal Paragliding ranges from Rs.1500 to Rs.5000 depending upon the duration. They also provide your flying pictures and videos at an additional cost. Do not forget to bargain for group bookings.

Paragliding in Naukuchiatal

Boating 

Boating in Naukuchiatal lake will trigger your romantic side and you might start singing ‘Oh Manjhi Re’. The lake is cleaner and deeper than the Naini lake and it is encircled by lush green hills. You will spot only a few boats in Naukuchiatal, that too in peak season. There are a variety of boats in Naukuchiatal like Shikara boats, paddle boats, rowing boats and canoe boats. Besides boating, you can also enjoy zorbing in the lake.

The price of boating for a half round is Rs.160 and for a full round Rs.210.

Trekking 

Trekking is a stress buster, where you can take utmost pleasure of the beauty of the nature. You can go for an 8-km trek to Jugliagaon and Jandhidhar. Enjoy the flora and fauna and the chirping of the birds and take back home a fresh mind.

Start early in the morning for the trek and return back by the evening. Do not forget to carry sufficient water and energy bars.

Adventure Activities 

Adventure never ends in Naukuchiatal. Besides paragliding and boating, there are a lot of other adventure activities to keep you entertained. You can contact the agents for a package of rock climbing, river crossing, rappelling, hiking etc.

The price depends on the activity you choose to do. The complete package can be available for Rs.1000-Rs.2500.

Sightseeing 

Naukuchiatal is surrounded by beautiful destinations.

While staying in Naukuchiatal, you can visit Sattal,  Bhimeshwar temple in Bhimtal, Naina Devi temple, Naini Lake, Eco Cave Garden and high altitude  zoo  in Nainital. If you don’t like to go empty handed back home, you can buy gifts for your loved ones. Nainital mall road is a must visit place for shopping. The place is in its liveliest form on Saturday evenings. Candles, lanterns and incense sticks are the specialty of Nainital. They are available in unique shapes and designs. You can buy candles at a price as low as Rs.30 and the range goes up depending upon the size and type.

Best Time to Visit Naukuchiatal  

Weather in Naukuchiatal remains pleasant in summer and chilly in winters. To get rid of the scorching heat of the summer, you can visit Naukuchiatal in March till June and to witnesses snowfall, you can plan a trip in December-February. And of course, hilly areas should be avoided in monsoon. So, it’s not a great idea to visit Naukuchiatal in July & August.

Kheerganga Trek – A Rejuvenating Walk through Dense Forests, Waterfalls & a Landslide

 

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Unplanned trips often give memories to be etched forever in the mind because unexpected adventures thrill us more than the expected escapades. We went through the same series of adventures on our Kheerganga trek.

We, a group of 5 friends, planned a trip to Rishikesh but one friend turned down and the trip got cancelled. My husband and I have a problem. We can never cancel a trip. Transforming the impossibilities into possibilities, we always end up saying to each other ‘yes, we are going’ (no matter what).

After the cancellation of the trip, we had no backup plan. I was considering destinations after destinations, but finally settled on Kheerganga Trek. Why? Because my school friend, Narendra Singh Rawat, runs a travel agency ‘Travel Syrup’, and he was already there with a group of 10-15 people. So, I knew there would be no problem of accommodation.

The only task was to reach Kasol in the morning as Kheerganga trekking begins from Barshaini which is 16 kilometers from Kasol. It was already 4 PM when we decided to trek to Kheerganga and the bus options were few. The only bus that matched our timing was HRTC ordinary bus, which was scheduled to leave Delhi at 6.15 PM to reach Bhuntar at 4 AM.

We could have reached Kasol on bike, but we had a friend-cum-bro, Nihal, to accompany us on the trip and he was more excited than us for Kheerganga. He has the same level of our craziness, so we could not say ‘No’ to him.

Without wasting time, we packed our bags and booked a cab for ISBT Kashmiri Gate. Nihal met us at the bus stop. Ordinary bus and Volvo bus were standing next to each other. Unaware of the fact that we are going by an ordinary bus, Nihal started moving towards the Volvo bus as he was all the way dreaming of traveling by a Volvo. He is from Orissa and he has no experience of traveling by bus.

Mr. Gupta stopped him from making a further movement towards Volvo. With a devilish smile, he shattered his dreams by pointing a finger towards HPTDC Ordinary Bus and told him that this is our bus. He looked shocked for a moment and then burst out laughing. We settled ourselves in the bus and realized that the crowd is better than what we expected.

Only one lady troubled us in the bus and that lady was sitting on the seat behind me. She vomited all through the journey making horrible sounds, strong enough to make anyone nauseous. Luckily, Mr. Gupta & I are mentally strong enough to not get affected by such sounds. But to add more entertainment to our bus journey, barfing sound works as an emetic for Nihal as he feels like puking. After deboarding the bus at Bhuntar and taking another bus for Kasol, it was Nihal who took the charge of vomiting.

We reached Kasol at around 11am. Narendra arranged a room for our refreshment in Hotel Tashila and the tempo traveller was waiting outside to take us to the starting point of the trek – Barshaini. It takes around 30-40 mins to reach Barshaini from Kasol.

In the tempo traveller, we were accompanied by a group. They were from the different parts of Rajasthan and most of them were colleagues-cum-friend. Accommodating ourselves in the tempo traveller, we reached Barshaini to begin our on-foot journey.

There are two routes to reach Kheerganga top. We chose the Rudra Nag – Nakthan route to climb up and Kalga route to descend. Nakthan village is the last spot to get mobile networks on the way to Kheerganga. So, it’s advisable to inform your loved ones before starting the trek and losing yourself in the beauty of nature.

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This wonderful 12-km trek encompasses natural bounties of the region. We were greeted by River Parvati on starting the trek. People offer sticks for rent at the cost of Rs.10 which you need to give back on the completion of the trek. You can take one as they prove supportive while trekking.

Kheerganga trek via Rudra Nag has an easy pathway in the beginning with almost straight walking passage till the midway & a few climbs and slopes. You will get some dhabas on the way, offering maggi, soft drinks and tea. But it is recommended not to eat too much during or before the trek. Having light snacks, chocolates, energy bars and drinks are a good way to stay energized.

We crossed several streams on foot, enjoyed the sight of mighty waterfalls and apple loaded trees.

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Water Streams on the way!

 

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Apple Trees…

 

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Singing and rejoicing, we walked halfway in no time. Moving towards a bridge, we started hearing the thunderous sound of the water and witnessed the river Parvati flowing vigorously. It was quite scary. I couldn’t watch the constant and powerful flow of the river for a long time and I crossed the bridge speedily.

Kheerganga3

The terrain changed after the bridge. The flat, paved track turned into the narrow rocky pathway with tiring ups and downs. It started raining as we were acclimatizing to the high altitude, which added more challenges to finish the trek. We wanted to be the first one of our group to complete it, so we were walking without taking many breaks. Also, we wanted to make it to the campsite before the sunset.

The most challenging part was when we saw a landslide on the way. There was a long queue to cross the landslide affected area and people were moving one by one. After standing for more than half an hour, it was our turn to pass through the 100-meter landslide. With bated breath, I went ahead, stepping on the debris that moved down the slope, crossing the mudflow occurred due to heavy rain, taking giant steps up & down on the masses of rock to cross the landslide area.

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Landslide on the trek…

 

When I was about to finish this terrifying task, I heard someone calling my name. I looked up and it was Narendra, stretching out his hand to help me take the final step of coming out of the landslide. He helped everyone as the last step to cross the slush required a big leap and it wasn’t possible without anyone’s help. Overall, it was an adrenaline pumping experience with a mix of fear and excitement.

There was a sense of achievement & relief that we are out of danger, but the task did not end here. The last few minutes’ walk was exhausting, almost uphill. Our competitive spirit kept us going until we reached the crowded top with a number of tents, eateries & lots of trekkers. It wasn’t a pleasant sight after a really long trek. We were a little disappointed to see a packed place as we had in our imagination a beautiful, isolated & peaceful hilltop. Nevertheless, we create happiness wherever we go.

We started searching for our camps and to our relief, they were at some distance from that crowded fish-market looking area. There were numerous tents to accommodate groups of different sizes. We got a small one as we were 3. Keeping our bags inside the tent, we straight-away headed to the cafeteria as we were hungry. We ordered tea and maggi. It started raining again in full form. We were relaxed as we reached our destination before sunset, but a little worried too as our group mates did not make it to the campsite.

After half an hour, they all came one after one and that moment made me realise that the bunch of strangers turned our friend now. And, then we started the PARTY! It’s always thrilling to party in the lap of nature (Note: without harming the natural environment & disturbing the wildlife).

There was a group of people taking joint in the cafeteria. After some time, they were high and transited to a different world and we even forgot they ever existed. They all sat still and numb throughout the night under the influence of joint while we enjoyed music, danced crazily and shared the saga of our common passion – travelling.

Travelling connects people & their lives. It brings out the commonness among strangers and boosts the feeling of oneness. It makes us realise that there are so many like us who wander to quench their thirst for travelling to different places. Some travel to get their questions answered, some travel to explore different terrains while some travel to challenge their own limits. We all travel for some purposes. This time, we travelled to gain a new experience of trekking.

It was a beautiful night on the meadow of Kheerganga, when the dark sky was our blanket and the lush green grass was our bedsheet. We were exposed to the nature from every nook and corner. And, to add more charm to the night, it rained the whole night. I could hear the drops of rain falling on the tent, which made me feel wrapped in the arms of Mother Nature. It was among the rarest of the rare nights when I enjoyed the rain. I usually don’t.

We woke up around 8am when the sunlight entered the tent and it became too hot to sleep peacefully. All our group mates were ready to take a dip in the sacred hot water spring of Kheerganga which is said to have medicinal properties. We took paranthas & tea for breakfast and then got ready to enjoy the natural hot water spring. But before that, it was the time to bid goodbye to our trek mates. We also clicked a pic with the group to keep the beautiful memories intact.

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After taking bath in the hot water spring, we also started our journey back to reach Bhuntar. We took the Kalga route to descend and found it trickier than the previous one. However, this route is claimed to be a shorter one.

A beautiful waterfall passes by after crossing halfway with a café offering maggi and tea.

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Trekking down was more exhausting than climbing up, maybe because we knew the adventurous journey is going to end. But the excitement of our trip did not end here as more fun was waiting for us.

We took a taxi to reach Kasol, but we couldn’t find a single bus in Kasol for Delhi. We contacted the taxi union, but they also refused to drop us to Bhuntar as there was a heavy traffic jam in Kasol. We started asking for lifts from the passers-by and we got different reactions from different people.

After a struggle of more than half an hour, a local offered us lift in Mahendra Bolero till Bhuntar as he was going to Chandigarh. I can say that it was the scariest ride of my life. He was driving crazily, overtaking each and every one coming on his way. I was calming myself down by remembering the fact that he is a local driver and he knows well how to drive.

It was not just me who was scared, I found ‘tongue in cheek’ expressions on the face of Mr. Gupta as well as Nihal. I, naturally, calm down when I see other people worried more than me. I left our fate in the hands of God and closed my eyes to open them in Bhuntar.

We were blessed enough to reach Bhuntar safely by 9 pm and we saw a bus ready to depart for Delhi. We were super-excited to ask the driver about the availability of seats and to our delight, he confirmed the availability of three seats at the back. It was a Scania bus, better than Volvo. A huge smile appeared on Nihal’s face after entering Scania. On settling down in the bus, we slept in every damn possible position on the back seat as it was solely our territory. There was no one else on the back seat. The bus was like a treat after all the hustle bustle. I can say that ‘All’s well that ends well’.

The bus dropped us at Kashmiri Gate, Delhi, around 7 am, putting an end to our wonderful journey.

Points to Remember :

  • Book a hotel in Kasol to keep your luggage and carry only the essentials on trekking.
  • Do not forget to keep a water bottle, light snacks and energy bars on the trek.
  • A guide is not required for Kheerganga trek, but if find difficulty in carrying your luggage, then you can hire one.
  • It takes approx. 4-5 hours to reach the Kheerganga top from Barshaini. So, it is advisable to start the trek before 12pm to enjoy the evening at Kheerganga.
  • Best time to visit Kheerganga is April-June and September-November. Avoid monsoon and winter season.
  • Do not pollute the Himalayas by disposing of the leftovers, water bottles and other hazardous material. Love, respect & save the Mother Nature so that our next generation can enjoy the same clean & green environment.

For any other queries related to Kheerganga trek, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks!