|route map of meghalaya|
|on the way to shillong peak|
|view from shillong peak|
a bird's eye view of shillong from shillong peak which at 1961 m is the highest i have been so far (if not the chilliest), amazing isn't it?
we went around seeing shillong in a mahindra scorpio and shillong peak was to be our first stop. it was amazingly beautiful. the whole city looked so puny but stunning, it was the first bird's eye view for me. the weather was cold and intense. there was an indian air-force base around. the place was clean and a few shops sold souvenirs, pineapples and pakoras. there was an observation tower from where we also experienced minor earthquake tremors. it was an amazing feeling. we took a few snaps and left for the nearby elephant falls (am a game for falls but they have to be big and amazing to appease me, the likes of victoria, iguacu and niagara).
|observation deck at the peak|
elephant falls was good for being the first fall of my life but i wanted to see more. the rest i saw in shillong was ordinary. the shillong cathedral was huge, but the one in kolkata, st paul's cathedral in pristine white, is by far more appealing and rich in architecture (gothic). this one was beautiful too, no doubt but blue somewhat puts me off. parks and lakes in cities don't amuse me even a bit and moreover it was getting dark. we retired for the hotel and were ready to start the next day for cherrapunji (sohra). the same night i did a round of shillong streets and it was great.
early next morning the same car took us for the mawsmai falls (also called the nohsngithiang and the seven sisters) and the mawsmai caves in the village of mawsmai. nohkalikai falls was certainly in our itinerary but the driver wasn't pretty upbeat about it. he had also mentioned of an unnamed fall at wakhaba viewpoint of which i was sure to research after reaching kolkata. to reach cherrapunji we took a turn for state highway 5 from a place some miles before the town of laitlyngkot on NH 40. first came the duwan sing syiem viewpoint from where we could go down a deep gorge (on staircases that is, till a point and no further) and take stunning pictures and then follow our road to cherrapunji and mawsmai.
|duwan sing syiem gorge|
looking above from the viewpoint the road that we had been following looked small, insignificant and lost in the hills. but believe me you don't feel even once that your car would skid while pacing on the narrow highway, its all the magic of beauty, beauty at its best. the locals drive so fine, you feel amazed at their finesse.
|state highway 5|
first came cherrapunji, my heart gave a beat (i was actually in cherrapunji, it meant a lot to me) and i read a road sign that arrowed to nohkalikai and another that proclaimed cherrapunji being the wettest place on earth followed by lots of blah blah blah, but we took straight for the village of mawsmai famed for the falls and the caves. the place and its terrain was beautiful, i can't describe how much. the narrow roads, the deep gorges off it and the vast expanse of clear blue sky, unending golden-brown plains and the few shops and fewer people. god, meghalaya was taking my breath away. it was making me fall in love, a deep unsaid love.
mawsmai village is the location of a cave and a fall of the same name
the mawsmai falls are called by a few more names including the seven sisters falls (for the seven trails of water that go down during monsoon) and the nohsngithiang falls (hard to pronounce) and are the 6th tallest in india (of the ones known and widely publicized though not entirely true). it was dry when we saw it but the path of water plunging 315 m deep in the gorge below was nevertheless fascinating, i could imagine water flowing down it and became william wordsworth for a split second. i was becoming a lover.
|mawsmai fall - dry|
the mawsmai caves were beautiful too but i was expecting bats inside, i found none, not even a spider or a cockroach. it was not very deep but only fit people will be able to cross it and i did (phew!!). my dad said he had done on an earlier visit but i was finding it hard to believe until he gave me a am-your-dad-and-you-ought-to-believe-me look.
we returned back from mawsmai and headed towards nohkalikai, allegedly the tallest waterfall in india. it had to be sheer beauty i knew. the driver told me it could only be seen from far away, and that it was worth seeing only during the monsoon and it wasn't exactly what one would call a' beauty'. i wasn't paying attention though. i just looked outside the window and wondered what the fall would look like and why god made meghalaya so thick with beauty and amazement.
finally our car halted and we booked our tickets (yes, most of the sights in maghalaya come at a modest price of around 20 bucks per person plus 50 bucks more if you happen to carry a camera, and of course i had a camera, no prizes for having guessed that right).
the first scene of the mighty nokhalikai left me speechless. my heart was beating so fast i can't describe. it was love at first sight. i had never seen such an amazing thing in my life ever before. it was sheer beauty and nonsense are those who think otherwise. i didn't mind the distance, i didn't mind the low trail of water plunging down. jets of thundering and misty water falling down smoothly and from such great height, i could even hear the sound from so far away. the blue pool of clear water beneath was amazing. i can't describe it man. let the picture say it all.
|mom n dad|
dad and mom posing in front of the board by SBI falsely claiming nohkalikai to be the 4th tallest in the world when it's only allegedly the tallest in india
i just felt like staying there forever and not coming back but my parents were in hurry. my dad had commitments back home and we were getting late but i still climbed down many staircases to go further deep in the gorge and took more pics and finally returned to the viewpoint. the cloud was lovely here.
|the clear sky|
we decided to leave, but i was satisfied having witnessed heaven from so close. all the while returning i kept thinking of nohkalikai (it has a tragic story behind its name which you need to discover for yourself). then came the wakaba viewpoint from where i saw yet another fall whose name was nowhere written. i was sure of one thing though. it appeared taller than nohkalikai and mawsmai falls (we were looking at it from close and that made it appear taller maybe). it could either be langshiang falls (337 m) or maybe the kynrem fall (305 m). the view wasn't particularly amazing from there.
the unknown waterfall from wakaba viewpoint. notice the trail of water at the bottom left. the viewpoint was wrongly constructed (or maybe i was at the wrong end) and you just got to have a tiny look at the otherwise amazing fall
another pic of the unknown fall. thankfully you can see more of it here
we reached our hotel and left for morigaon in a car the same day. the driver was a bengali and that made me feel good (kolkata connection you see). he talked little, said he had ambitions of becoming a model. he was a good driver and dropped us right in front of our apartment. it was already dark and he had to go back all the way to shillong tired and driving.
i visited the holy shaktipeeth of kamakhya in guwahati a day later and then headed for kolkata and the moment i reached my city i told the world about how amazing the state of assam (for the true souls) and meghalaya (for just about anybody) was.
|kamakhya temple, guwahati|
hotels in shillong are a bit expensive but they are comfortable no doubt, they range anywhere upward of 1500 bucks per night on a twin sharing basis but other than that it's pretty cheap. the food, the artifacts, the traditional clothes, the bamboo handicrafts, the pineapples and the pickles are good buys. bargaining is rampant and widespread.
P.S: the unknown fall i had seen at wakaba viewpoint was the iapkhne falls (also called the canyon or wakaba falls) about which nothing is mentioned on the internet though my guess says it would be anywhere between 200 m to 250 m tall and a few months later a friend i had made there sent me the pic of mawsmai falls in full glory, here it is..