CTC-Emperors, Dream Destination Backpacking - III

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Till 2015 many know CTC as Chennai Trekking Club was restricted to trekking in and around Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra and Kerala. But few passionate individuals have extended the boundaries by introducing backpacking trips to Dream Destinations. The backpacking trips were to Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman – two teams started on the same day simultaneously – I was part of the Andaman team. That’s early April 2016. October 2016 – the third backpacking trip was organized to Meghalaya.

Meghalaya - Abode of Beautiful Clouds, Deep Enchanting Forests, Gorgeous, Haven of Innocent, Jolly, Kind, Lovable, Matriarchy of Native People,Quisquous Rainfall, Spectacular Terrain of Unfathomable Valleys, Waterfalls – overall Xenodochial Youthful and Zappy

I am recounting my experience after 5 full months of returning from the trip – there are a few things that are still fresh in my head and few have withered off like ripe leaf in the fall season – leaving their mark.  For this backpacking trip was extra special for couple of many reasons

1) This was the first backpacking trip with my wife
2) We both celebrated our birthday on the-second day of the trip (yeah same day)
3) She entered 40 and I just crossed, we wanted out 40th birthday to special and not the usual family get together
4) This the first birthday we celebrated in some form.
The team consisted of the usual CTC insiders or the regulars lead by Vinoth and Arun, 15 of us in total. 8 guys and 7 girls, 6 of them came as couple.

Day 1: Day
Me and Madhavi (my wife) were like usual days were the first few to reach the airport and were waiting on others to join, like typical CTC – some pushed the boundaries on time, by the time every one finished their check-in formality and security – they were announcing our names to board the flight. For some it was their first flight – including my wife J.  Take-off was good – but landing was more exciting – we were desperately trying to catch a glimpse of the terrain that is awaiting us – but clouds, clouds and more clouds – welcome to Meghalaya – abode of clouds.

When the flight touched down it was clear – it rained pretty solid the previous night, we were hoping that the weather would be suitable and kind to us. We stepped of the airport – coordinating with Arun, Karthik and Nisha. We hired a van for the full trip for local commute – we boarded the van and the first destination was ‘a decent place for breakfast’.
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Nisha, Arun and Harish joined at the same breakfast hotel @ Jalukbari and off we went towards our first point – Umiam Lake. Umiam is beautiful lake – turquoise (blue – green) water, huge and breathtaking views. We went into the official entry for the lake and were greeted with a board – “NO SWIMMING” and few other instructions. On the way we saw a spot where few people were swimming – we decided to go back to the spot and enjoy like the locals – without restrictions.

Umiam was much more beautiful – than what we saw in the pictures (the framing restricts pictures that makes them more beautiful sometimes than the actual place and some-times it cannot convey the real beauty). By the time we reached the shore – it started raining heavily – but that didn’t dampen the spirits, were going to get wet anyways. Except for a few - most of us got into the water and forgot the world outside. Then we took some pictures and left the place after spending 2 – 3 hours. 
We had lunch mid-way and started our journey towards our night camp location – Laitlum canyons. The Laitlum canyons are literally translated as ‘End of Hills’, or ‘Edge of the World’. Laitlum is surrounded by vast rocky hills and valleys. Situated under the Mawkynrew block in East Khasi Hills, at a distance of about 45 minutes’ drive from state capital – Shillong via Smit. This unique gorgeous place is nothing but surreal

Day 1: Campsite

The access to Laitlum is thru a small village, very small – there are no places to stay, only two shops – one for tea and snacks and another for food. A family serves cooked food if you inform them ahead of time. There is also a board – which lists out rules and regulations – one that caught our attention was tourists should vacate the place before 9 PM. Arun negotiated with a local guy and the small hotel guy to allow us to stay there. It was a 2 hour long wait before things were sorted out.
Mean-while Vinoth and couple of us scouted the place for campsite. I forgot to describe the situation – it was a cold evening and the whole place was engulfed in clouds / mist, visibility was 2 – 3 meters at best. With help of torches – we setup all tents – it was pretty sure to rain that night – al forecasts predicted rain.
We quickly teamed up and settled into our tents, we could barely sleep and there was a very familiar sound, sound of rain hitting against our flimsy tents – we had tarps under the tents to protect and had rain covers – so we confidently slept. After some time Arun started yelling and asked us to come out – everyone stepped out of their tents in the rain – by the time I stepped out there was a cake with candle.  Madhavi and I cut out first cake in decades - it was cold and raining outside – but the warm fuzzy feeling the group gave us was priceless

Two tents I carried gave up – they were not rain proof – so 4 of ran back to the van and slept in the van, after trying few futile attempts to find some shelter place near-by, none of them had a covered verandah – the place is really small.

Day 2:
We woke up to a beautiful foggy, misty cold morning, guys who woke up early finished their morning nature calls, and the shop owners were kind enough to offer the user of their toilets for girls in the group. After drinking black tea – many insisted that we will drink only in cups – that made the process a little longer – not enough cups out there. The organizers spoke with the shop owner made arrangements for lunch – dhal rice and nice local fish. Then off we went to Rasong village

Rasong village – is situated in the Laitlum valley, under 100 homes and 400 people in total, the only access to the village is through steps made – first few hundred were paved – rest we stones arranged like steps. I forgot the count of steps – should be in the order of 3000 – 4000 steps.

We started the descent around 8 AM, the Laitlum valley was not visible – all we could see was a thick blanket of mist 5 meters ahead of us, welcome to Meghalaya – abode of clouds – we thought. Within an hour of we started we saw many localites – nicely dressed up – darting from one step to step to the other, while we were carefully choosing our next step. We had conversations with them on the way and found that there was a special annual prayer in the local church. There is a cluster of 5 villages - every year there is special prayer – they host the other 4 villages for prayer and feast. A village gets its turn once in 5 years – today it was Rasong village’s turn – we choose a very special day.
For the first few I told we were tourists, but later I changed the story, I was a priest from Chennai santhome church with a special message for their local church. I must have told this to more than 100 people and they were definitely amused and looked happy to know. It took us more than 3 hours to get to the village and were looking desperately for food – no shops due to the special prayer day and no one would offer food till the prayer is over.

Arun, Pallavi, Vijay and Ruthra managed to make friends with a beautiful local girl and apparently had the best pork in their life. Others were not so lucky – we ate bread we carried with us and drank water off the tap. We were tired – no energy left to go further 60 mins down to the stream. After taking few pics of the prayer – we started our return journey.

We could see what our campsite was – a beautiful meadow on the hill, many more tourists came and few attempted the climb down to Rasong.
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We decided to take bath – after the sweating so much, it was much needed. But there was no water – yes, there was no water, that’s a strange reality. The nearest source of water was a stream, me and Madhavi went there and had bath – in freezing cold water, and this was first of the many stream baths to come in the coming days.
Team had their lunch. we finally started towards our next camp site.

Day 2: Campsite

With two tents giving up totally, 4 of us had seek shelter elsewhere, Me, Madhavi, Sudha and Kalai – booked a room in a hotel and rest of the buggers went to the Tyrshi waterfalls. Our room ended up being the charging hub. It was a pretty good place – it was more helpful in the morning.

There was a dhaba next to the hotel and we had super dinner and also breakfast the next morning. Morning sun came out once in a while and had just enough warmth to dry our tents. The van was decorated with clothes on all sides. We met to Malayali families – who were heading to dawki, we chatted for some time and parted ways.

Day 3:

We went to krang shuri waterfall first, The approach to the waterfall were steps - very slippery – we had all the time so we want nice and slow.
The waterfall was decently tall and very wide – wider than IMAX screen, again team split up. Me, Madhavi, Kalai, Prasanna and Karthik went behind the wall of the waterfall. You have to see the picture to visualize, from behind the water fall – we could see many baby rainbows as water was splashing off the rocks.

Every one enjoyed the water massage, rest and more massage and more rest. After doing this loop for a dozens of time, we went to the other side – where other tourists were. Meanwhile folks were swimming in the pool, crossing from side to side, enjoying the stream washing their feet, some slept on warm rocks – some, not our group

Me and Prasanna – inflated our tubes and enjoyed swimming, we went against the stream, went directly under the largest block of water, Madhavi and kalai too had loads of fun. I had a ball with the floater tubes and Harish clicked some interesting pics J. Pallavi, Ruth – were busy swimming and Uday and Sudha – busy with under water pics. Prasanna – turned eye candy to two beautiful girls.

Like I said – this too was one of the many to come. Per the original plan – this was supposed to be the camp site – but with so many people around –we changed the plan.
The van – became the make shift – change room, with tarps tied around. While girls busy, we had lot of time with towels around our neck – everyone became superman.  Arun gave Vijay flying lessons and Ruthra too learned flying. I did a mild mess up while landing – landed on broken glass, it’s not only nagala – drunk idiots break bottles in Meghalaya too – I guess that stupidity connects the drunk idiots across the nation.

Day 3: campsite

The drive to dawki was very slow, rain and heavy vehicles carrying limestone parked on the already narrow road - made it lot difficult. After few hours of driving, we reached the dead end dawki village, the hunt for campsite started. Quickly two localites informed that camping is prohibited and only option is the stay they offer us – 3000 or so per room and 250 per person for tent accommodation.  Neither of it was OK for us – we wanted to stay in our tents and avoid all avoidable expenses. After failed negotiations we returned to the nearest town.

It was raining heavily, we scouted places to stay, one lady in a hotel wanted to offer us place – but the man of the house did not agree, the lady felt very bad for us, we could see the pain of saying no in her face. We had dinner there – to escape from rain and hunger. Meanwhile Arun – as usual very resourceful made friends with local fisherman who offered us his sheds for us to stay. We met three foreigners – backpackers – just chilling out in north east 

Depending on how you see it – it’s either great place or lousy, for us it was great place, 3 covered sheds – in a betel nut farm – close to the Dawki River. Tents opened up, few slept in their bags without a tent
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it started raining pretty heavily in no time and water splashed inside and shed started leaking. Harish and I jumped into action and tied tarps like shelter and we were safe for the night.

Day 4:

The day broke, it was a beautiful location, we were on the border of India – Bangladesh, no kidding, and there was a BSF post. They gracefully allowed us to cross the virtual line and enjoy the Dawki River in flow, the usually clear water was muddy brown due to fresh flow, it was scary to say the least.

Arun arranged for special lunch – fish egg omlette, we went to the other side of dawki, back to the place where we came from. Boating, cable bridge and breathtaking view of mountains and beautiful stream – that’s was what waiting for us.

There is a beautiful cable bridge – worth the time and effort, we all dressed up in t-shirt specially printed for the trip and went to the bridge. Up up in the sky hanging precariously between two hillocks, localites were walking as if they were walking on the road – for us it was tricky. Selfies, groupies, group pics, couples pics, panoramas - just watching things in awe – everything was going on- so much action.

We were enjoying every second there, we build a 7 stone house, setup a shiv linga for others to offer prayerJ. Slowly one by one rest of the team came. Some took more time than others to get into the water and take bath. Arun and Pallavi too built a 7 stone pile stone house. As time passed by there was no one on the bank – everyone was in the stream.

Due to the strong current, there was no boating, so had to do without boating, we were not complaining, there was not enough time to relish the nature around us – who has time for boating. Were in the stream for hours and around lunch time we returned back to the camp site.

Day 4:  campsite

The fourth day was Mawlynnong, so it’s our camp site for the 4th day. We planned to reach there by 5 PM – before it’s too dark. We left just in time and to reach the village and we did pretty well to be there on time. It’s about 2 hours’ drive from Dawki. As soon as we reached there Arun and vinoth arranged for dinner at a small hotel, the guy in the hotel – 2o year old lad – showed us site we where we setup camp.

Near our campsite, there was bamboo stair – which goes to the top of a very tall tree, you get a glimpse of Bangladesh and valley as well. Under the moonlight the site was breathtaking. The son of the owner was a young kid – he studies in Cheerapunji, he was very excited to meet us and gave us a free view – otherwise it costs 20 RS per person.

There were enough bamboo sticks, which we used to setup tent using the tarps and setup the tents under them. Yes – there was rain prediction the evening and it was drizzling already.

What is campsite – without grilling chicken, Vinoth was KEEN and insisted that we should setup grill and make something – to give the team a holistic experience – this is of course over and above the dinner order placed at the hotel. Arun was not initially interested and said he will stay out and let us all deal with it. Potatoes for vegetarians and chicken for the rest was the plan – team picked up the special chilli power used by the localities for marinating the chicken. Every one jumped into action – setting up fire was a big task – there was not enough fire wood, no vessels – absolutely nothing in hand. There was a small hotel near by – the owner was very kind – he gave us knife, vessels and dry wood – to start.

Every one jumped into action – equipped with torches and two small knives, looking at our struggle – Arun jumped in to help – he cannot resist when there is a grill, with Arun joining the team, we were on our way to some awesome experience. We grilled more than 2.5 KG chicken and it all vanished without a trace – going up the bamboo stair – eating hot chicken looking at distant lights in Bangladesh - was worth the effort.

After cleaning up the fire and making place for the tents, we had dinner – same dhal and chicken, for non-vegetarians – who look beyond chicken and lamb / goat – there are some amazing treats in Meghalaya, more on that in upcoming pages. But the pineapple we had post dinner was bloody super – we ate 3 pineapples after dinner – that was after eating grilled chicken.

We had a late evening stroll in the village after dinner, its small and tidy little village. I am still surprised how they earned the cleanest village title – who were the other worthy contenders, without comparing with any other village – this village was pretty clean. No trash on the road – whatever the tourists dropped / whatever flew out of the bins – was cleaned by the villagers periodically.  People were generally helpful – like every other place in Meghalaya – someone helped us refill our 20 liter water can.

We snuck into our tents and hoped it doesn’t rain as heavily, but I am sure you would have guessed it right – it rained like crazy, the tent I was in – though it was water proof in conventional terms – let water in and I ran out first and found a place in the verandah of a nearby guest house which was empty.

Day 5:
Luckily there were enough toilets – so morning was pretty relaxed, some of us – Madhavi, Harish and our in-van doctor Abi got up a little early and went into the central part of the village.

Every house beautiful in a certain way, one house that pitcher plants attracted our attention. Abi was too curious and peeped into a pitcher flower. What she saw scared the hell out of her. Apparently there was some gooey substance in the pitcher and every-one started their CID work, her conclusion she came to was it’s a half digested frog – but there was no way a frog could jump in land in a pitcher which is at 3 ft high from ground. On closer scrutiny we realized they put small stones to make the pitchers hang in balance and in perfect shape J.

Vinoth meanwhile was no-where to be seen – he was lost with his camera and two lenses. He is yet to share the pics (today is Apr, 2017 – pics were taken Oct 2016)
Folks did some essential shopping and roaming around. Vinoth said there was a stream few 100 meters away - Vijay, Ruth, Madhavi and I went there with Abi. We all had bath – like always, some people just too much time to decide to jump in. This was the 4th consecutive day me and my wife took bath in a stream.

We went back to the camp site and washed all our tents and tarps, packed out bags and got ready to move to the next destination. It’s a small, beautiful and clean village – so beautiful that Vinoth was lost again. Not sure how many pics were clicked – yet to see them, but can say many many were clicked. We were in two minds on whether to stop for the root bridge attraction which we passed on the way, but decided to skip it – we had plans for the double root bridge, double the fun. Our next destination – Nokhalikai falls.

Day 5: campsite

We started from the village – after a lazy breakfast and packing and preparation. Since we dropped the root bridge – we were not in hurry. Nokhalikai is few KMs away from Cherrapunji town, roughly 4 – 5 hours drive from the place we were in. It was a long drive and it started raining by the time we left – it started as a drizzle. By the time we reached the half way point it was raining like heaven, we had to run from the van into a small hotel on the highway. The place is a major tourist attraction – forgot the name, there is a zipliner connecting one end of the hill to the other across the valley.

It was still raining, there is no sign of stopping, with the little protection of our rain coats, we stepped out and bought the local produce – fruits and snacks. A fresh corn is always special in rain – couple of went for that, black berries, pine apples and so forth. We couldn’t make out where we were heading – the visibility was very poor – no valleys, no mountain peaks, no falls – absolutely nothing was visible.

We reached Nokhalikai falls at around 4:30 PM or so, it was dark, heavy rain made it impossible to see anything. Visibility was down to 10 meters or even less, from where our van was parked we could make out that there are two hotels one in the front one on the right – the sound of rain was so loud, we didn’t realize the falls was just behind us.  We paid the entry fee – only for the people and said we will take the tickets for camera in the morning.

We waited for some time and Arun lost patience and hopped out to find a place to stay, I too jumped out and want in the other direction. I reached the “Didhi” hotel, got in and was requesting the owner – a lady that we are tourists and we don’t have a place to stay, even before I finished – Arun too came to the same place. The first hotel he went to directed him here – and guess what “Didhi” instantly agreed to allow us to stay in her hotel. By the way – it’s not a hotel with lodging facility – it’s only a restaurant.

Describing the situation, we were in, the scenario and weather is not going to be easy. Our situation was – there is no place to camp, the scenario – there are no hotels with lodging facility there and weather – it was raining HEAVILY. As soon as the hotel guys opened the shutter to let us in – white clouds filled in the hotel, it was windy – water splashing off the floor and getting blown into the room. There entire surface was wet.

“Didhi” ordered her team the clean up the place, with in few minutes’ card boards were placed neatly on the floor to make path for us to walk in. Tables were moved to make place for our team to sleep and big coal stove was put for warmth. Whenever there was an opportunity folks form van started coming in to the hotel. It took us almost an hour by the time every one was in the hotel.

The hotel staff filled coal thrice that evening, we dried our cloths happily. We had excellent dinner, and when one of us stepped out for the toilet – we didn’t realize our backyard of the hotel was Nokhalikai falls. What a spot – we could only hear the roar of the water beating down – saw nothing. We played cards for hours, chatted and enjoyed every second that evening. Compared to the previous days – we had lot of comforts that evening

Day 6:

We woke up at 6:30 AM or so and moved all or stuff to the van, arranged the tables ready for customers. We woke up to a very bright and sunny day and what we saw thrilled us, yes our backyard was the tallest waterfall in India. It was bright but still cloudy, as the cloud cover was vanishing the valley was emerging in front of our eyes, every second the valley was changing. It’s difficult to describe – just one example to help you visualize. I saw rainbow in the valley, hundreds of feet below – mid way at the waterfall, it was not a bow – it was a full circle.     

When we stepped closer to the guard rail – our shadow fell on the circular rainbow. I could see my shadow and took a picture. Guess what – every one saw their own shadows – it was kick ass. First time in my life – I saw such a sight, we may not have seen this if we had planned our trip a day before a day later.

Having hot tea with your feet hanging in the valley, cool breeze kissing your ears, warm sunlight warming your body, wife or girlfriend hugging you softly – its kickass. These are priceless – you could experience that in Nagala and other treks, but the tallest fall – it’s special.

Like responsible backpackers, we took advantage of the sunlight, dried our cloths, tents and tarps. We occupied the entire parking lot. We also made friends with the local people – ELI and his friends – they collect entry and parking fee. Looks like were among the rare people who stay overnight, they kind of liked us.

Arun insisted we should head for the double root bridge, but we unanimously requested to do it next day, we didn’t want to risk walking down while it rains. More over the prediction for next way was much better. Arun agreed and we changed the plan do visit local attractions that day.

We finished breakfast and spent time at Nokhalikai, at all view points, Arun, Vinoth, Manoj, Prasanna, Vijay, Nisha and Pallavi – went down further, we returned half was as the way was unexplored.  They went to almost the base of the waterfall – I believe it was really tough trek – the bruises said it all.

After two hours or so Arun and team returned, we then went to another nearby waterfall and when we came back for lunch – our Nokhalikai friends refused to take entry fee from us. They said you are not tourists – you are our guests J. More about the fall later – we spend one full day later. Post lunch we went to a nearby cave – it was tourist attraction – small cave – 150 M length. Our van driver / cum guide did not agree to take us to the real cave – the longest on Meghalaya – he said it’s not safe.

The place was crowded, CROWDED like crazy, with a heavy heart we purchased the entry tickets and went in. Just after the first 20 meters – the cave narrowed down – many couldn’t / didn’t want to go thru – the typical tourists – at least half of them returned back. Most of the aunties and uncles – gave up. We went along – some of us went into the dark section – with no lights, and came out last. Arun was not impressed – he didn’t like the unruly crowd, few along with Arun walked out swiftly and waited outside. Actually so far – we were enjoying each location in privacy – this is the place is crowded like T Nagar

We returned back to “Didhi’s” hotel, again no entry ticket. We ordered noodles and soup, took our noodles and soup to the view point. Morning we had tea and evening its soup and noodles. The whole place was for us to enjoy, no others J. There was music, dance and trance music and trance dance. Arun got OC bike – he and Pallavi went into the town for a nice ride. We were enjoying our noodles, soup in the moonlight. Vinoth took 100s of pics in moonlight. After enjoying for a many hours – we went back, again coal stove, again nice dinner, again card games and again an excellent evening. Arun, Pallavi, Vinoth, Nisha and Harish camped outside – others were not so adventurous.

Day 7:

We woke up at around 7, packed out stuff. We had a long journey – a long walk down the valley to the double decker root bridge. We picked up candy, water and other essentials and started our walk. We took the long route from Nohkalikai side, this was the difficult route, our plan was to descend from this side and ascend back next day from another approach – which is slightly shorter.

The route was much like the climb down to Rasong, steps made of stones, but this was different in another sense. It’s fully covered – place was still moist from rain two evenings back. There were many places where we crossed small falls and streams – so issue with water. The whole place was infested with spiders, huge ones – scary and hairy ones J.

As always Arun and Pallavi were first to reach. They reached the first root bridge, there is a stream of crystal clear turquoise water.  They were joined by Prasanna and Manoj. We were the only people on the route and its route with no deviations – everyone was going at their own comfortable pace. Madhavi and I reached next – we didn’t get into the water – but took lot of pictures and waited for others.

We crossed one single root bridge and one Cable Bridge. Another 1 KM from there was the guest house and the double decker root bridge. We negotiated hard with the guest house guy – for stay, dinner and breakfast deal. Put our stuff in the rooms and went to the double root bridge. It’s really awesome – a simple idea by the fore fathers – solved their problem and also created livelihood to a village in a valley – which can be accessed by walk. A long walk, 6000 steps or more and of course it’s not for everyone – you need some basic level of fitness and willpower.

The location is very poetic – full moon, two story Root Bridge and a water fall. We all took bath, had garam chai at the tiny tea stall. We took some pics in moon light – it was super-duper – another day of taking bath in stream.  We met one more CTC guy – he came by bike and through the approach. He helped us with the group pictures, he gave some useful info on hiring vehicles – which came in handy for my extended Arunachal trip with Arun.

Dinner was dhal and rice J, and an awful pickle. We realized what it was part realization after two days and full realization after one week in my Arunachal trip. Its bamboo shoot pickle made using mustard oil – both flavors were too tough for any of us – we were not used to the flavor and threw it out. It was a quiet evening – no card games or no chats beyond dinner – everyone was tired – Arun, Pallavi, Nisha and I went to the terrace and slept in open and rest retired into their rooms.

Day 8:  We woke up at around 6:30, We went to the double root bridge took bath and changed to our special getup for pics, Vinoth again was gone and returned after clicking a million pics (yet to see them). We took pictures in different combinations, ladies on first level guys on second level. Couples on first level and so on.

About an hour long walk from the guest house, there is a beautiful and BIG waterfall called Rainbow falls. A huge wall of water fall hits a big boulder and the splash, with the sunlight reflecting you can see two rainbows if you are lucky. Unfortunately, it’s always wet and the place does not lend itself to climb down and go any closer, more over its very huge and we cannot withstand the force.

After taking some pictures, we returned back to the guest house. Packed our bags and started our return journey. We took an alternate route, the whole route had paved steps. The steps were steep and we didn’t like it – we liked the long router better. There were many small villages on the way, we saw one more fully functional single route bridge and one Root Bridge in the works – supported by cables. We saw some tourists coming down and few returning, one couple returned mid-way too. It’s not easy for everyone, but if you ever trekked with CTC – it’s easyJ.

The van was waiting for us, for a change Madhavi and I were among the first 5 to reach. The waiting time was put to good use – I proposed to her once again, took some nice romantic pics and lot of chatting. Recalling the close call we had with nature involving Ruthra – don’t scroll up, you will not find any further details.
We went back to cherrapunji market, we ate whatever was available we decided to cook again that evening, we hired vessels, purchased food material and wood.

Day 8 Campsite:

The camp site is the Dainthlen waterfall, it’s the same waterfall where we went on first half of day 6. There were two shops, one of them is tea shop – it had rocks suitable to setup stove. Setting up fire is never easy - that to when it rained few day back and wood is moist. Most of energy went in setting fire to cook Rice and Rasam.  Since we did not get tamarind – yeah – no one knew what on earth tamarind was – we made rasam without tamarind.

Every one joined the party – helping in breaking the wood into small chunks, cutting vegetables, washing rice, helping setup fire. It was like a big family – doing community cooking, fantastic experience. Me and Prasanna changed the plan and decided to mix rice and rasam and serve rasam sadam directly, to make it easy for everyone. Driver and his friends also joined the party.

We setup tents and quickly dozed off. All of us slept in our tents, since the weather was pretty nice and dry – we could use all tents - another perfect evening.

Day 9:

when we woke up – we realized this is the last day and last opportunity to take a dip in the stream. ME and Madhavi went into the water first and took bath and got ready. Others too joined – but big task today was to pack our bags – properly for return journey. All these days we had everything scattered in the van, spread across smaller carry-on bags. Arun and I had extra job of packing for our extended Arunahcal trip – another 7 days for us.

Back to the stream – one by one others started joining us for the bath, Udhay took lot of underwater pictures, I guess no one wanted to step out of the water. I am sure we were in the water for more than 60 minutes, others had extended 2 hours session. When we emerged – everyone was tired and hungry. Prasanna took the lead – cut onions and made almost porridge consistency pazhaiya sadam. Some even filled up their bottles and drank it.

Some were busy eating, some were packing and some were enjoying massage. It was like a small thiruvizha. Actually by then the shop owners setup their shop – so we had chips as side dish to make our breakfast yummy. After a solid traditional breakfast we got up, cleaned up the place, vessels and started our return journey back to Guwahati.
Only on our return journey from shillong – we realized the kind narrow windings we crossed to get to Cherrapunji. While coming it was cloudy, and heavy rains didn’t give us a chance to see anything. Our driver was absolutely fantastic – we could appreciate his skill all the more – now that we could see things.

Beef and Pork: Beef and pork are more common non vegetarian dishes than chicken or lamb in Meghalaya. I have seen so many different preparations in beef and pork – which I haven’t heard of in the past. Every time the van stopped for lunch or dinner or snack – invariably Arun, Pallavi and Harish would find some authentic preparation – which is YUMMY, LESS EXPENSIVE, BEST PART of PORK and BEEF. They were singing praises of the quality of the meat and the taste – if Arun says its yummy – you guys in CTC can be bloody sure that its yummy. If you eat beef and or pork – don’t miss it Meghalaya, just go to any shop and dig into a serving. Most hotels are family run and food has that homely taste and texture.

Cell phone vs SLR: When you are out on a trip and you see one friend carrying a good cellphone – the so called flagship models – Samsung S6, Iphone 7 or high end stuff, plus another friend carrying a super duper SLR. Here is my suggestion from experience – always ask the friend with the high end phone to take your pics – you have 99% chance of getting the pic by Bluetooth transfer. I am still waiting for my SLR pics from two last trips – Andaman and Meghalaya

Music: Imagine hearing Aaluma doluma or bahubali songs in van in Meghalaya, our van drivers played some amazing songs for us all the 9 days. They had the best song collection – I have ever seen with any individual. Cutting across Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English – they had the latest and greatest songs. To the extent our friends asked them to share some of them. To top it all – they can sing along for some of the peppy English numbers. The slept in the van all days – late evening after dinner – when I went to pick up something form van – I heard them singing along many many times, they were too good.

Food Jockey: I don’t know if there is such a word called Food Jockey, if not then I am coming it for Abi today. Without exception – in every place, Abi would make list of orders all orders, she would personally ensure that everyone gets their order. She carefully collected the money and settled with the hotel – every single time. She served tea with so much love every morning to us – thank you Abi – you are wonderful person to be around with.

Didhis are the Dadas: Every single small hotel we stopped by on the way, DawkiMawlynnong on the way to Cherapunji,  Cherapunji, Market, Nokhalikai – you name, its run by the didi – the lady of the house.  We must have uttered the word didi – every day hundreds of times during our tour.  I can safely say DIDIs are the real DADAs in Meghalaya.

Me and Madhavi had our best 9 days after very long time, away from family – with a new family, way from noise – with new type of sound. We took bath in exotic waters, exotic falls, barring the cave – we enjoyed every location with our friends, private pool, private stream, private fall, private root bridge and private nature. Met some amazing and content people and friendly people. Special thanks to Vinoth for arranging, Arun for accommodating me and Madhavi and making our birthday special. Abi – the food jockey, Harish for the pics, Uday for the under-water pics and everyone else for the amazing company.

Thanks, Vinoth
"Materialistic achievements are not success"



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