Meghalaya is blessed with a perpetual cover of cottony clouds, emerald green hills and sparsely populated hamlets. The state embodies nature’s best in a million large and small waterfalls, tropical trees loaded with fruits and acres full of spices. It had been on my bucket list for ages, and I finally got a chance to visit at the end of last year.
In December 2017, ‘Wheels of Wander’ by Maruti Suzuki Alto and Outlook Traveller, took the Delhi based band, The Cosmic Truth and I, to Meghalaya. It’s then that I realised how words fail you when you set eyes on something so gorgeous. Nestled in the middle of Assam and Bangladesh, Meghalaya offers the panoramic landscapes of fog-veiled hills, cascading waterfalls, serpentine rivers and terraced slopes. It is, in fact, one of the best outdoor playgrounds of India.
We often plough so much energy into the big picture that we forget the pixels. The same goes for me. Despite enjoying caving around the world, I was oblivious to the fact that Meghalaya has the largest number of caves in my home country and is one of the most sought after destinations in the world. More than 1,200 caves with over 460 km of cave passages, the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya have some of the longest and deepest limestone and sandstone cave systems in in the world. As per our local guide, Shashanka, caving expeditions have been conducted in Meghalaya for the past 20 years. Young exploratory travelers that are excited to experiment have pushed its popularity to great heights.
Caving is venturing into the unknown - entering a space where the terrain is hard to predict. One can be navigating through waist-deep water, wading through crystal-clear underground streams or dodging the steeple-like stalagmites and stalactites created by thousands of years of dripping water. Each cave is different from the other. The eerie silence and only the light from your torch guiding you through the pitch-dark path makes it chilling in more ways than one. It is an experience worth putting on your bucket list and any person with moderate fitness can do it.
There are zip lines and then there is a zip line that glides across the verdant valleys of Cherrapunji, popularly known as Sohra. It’s a soulful experience to swoosh through the stunning Mawkdok-Dympep Valley carpeted with lush green foliage. But make no mistake. This zip line is not for the faint-hearted as it stretches to a total length of 2600 feet at a dizzying height of 1200 feet. However, you need not worry about the safety as experts supervise the activity and the highest industry standards are followed when it comes to safety gear. One tip – try zip line at sunset. The golden light fills up the valley making it look ethereal.
Imagine camping under a sky full of billion stars while your fingers strum the strings of a guitar and the gentle waves add background score. This ambience shared with friends, coupled with a bonfire and barbecue makes for a memorable evening.
Reserve this for a night at Schnongpdeng, a camping site on the edge of Umngot River near Dawki. If the night is so magical, the day is no less. You start your day by kayaking in the crystal-clear waters of the Umngot River, which is the cleanest river in India.
Although I was on a road trip and there was no hike planned for the trip, I realised after talking to several locals that Meghalaya is a trekking haven. One encounters lush rainforests, emerald green rivers and magnificent living root bridges on many of the treks. The best time to trek in Meghalaya is during dry months - November to February. However, if you want to see swelled up waterfalls rushing down hillsides, then the monsoons are ideal.
Meghalaya might be small in size but it packs a punch when it comes to adventure. So, just tank up your Maruti Suzuki Alto and satiate your adrenaline rush in the mesmerising Meghalaya.