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Published: March 12th 2017
It's late at night and I'm having a bit of bump trying to put into words what was one of the most amazing experiences of my life till now. I will give it a try..
College had just ended and heart breaking goodbyes had already weighed down my heart deep enough to absorb any pleasant experience. The realisation that I was not gonna see some of my favorite people for quite sometime, had wiped out all the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming trip that the eight of us had planned after college. What was originally a 14 member party, seemed to lose flavor when people started backing out. So when me and another friend started for Kolkata on 23rd morning, saying goodbye to our beloved juniors, energy levels were plummeting like the stock prices of an Indonesian automobile company. We reached Guwahati on 24th where we met four other friends and booked ourselves a ride to Shillong on the same day. Finding a hotel room to crash was no less than a Pokemon Go experience although I was in Scotland of India for the hundredth time. We finally settled for HOTEL PEGASUS CROWN, at the city centre.
ABODE OF THE CLOUDS
We started the Meghalaya experience with Ward's lake, Shillong. A bright sun and fresh air made boating on the lake a pleasant affair. After an hour of Brownian motion on it, we hired a cab to the Shillong peak where the beautiful city unfolds in the form of a fascinating scenery. A panoramic view of the hill station, across pine tree slopes, from the tower top made me forget about college and the pain of leaving it, at least for the moment. We stood there staring at the picturesque conurbation until our eyes felt satisfied and then took the same cab to Elephant falls, a beautifully designed and maintained tourist attraction. After long camera moments at the mouth of the waterfall we headed back towards the city. The cab dropped us at Edmund's college from where we walked to Cafe Shillong, a lively cafe with amazing steak and ribs. The walls were adorned with instruments attested by musicians like the Scorpions and MLTR who had once played at the rock capital of India post millennium. We spent the evening with my local friends when one of them gave us his home
grown herbs that made the rest of our trip a lot happier.
Another friend joined us the next day after his Sikkim trip. He brought the Tata Sumo (that we had booked for the entire trip) to our hotel and we all jumped in quickly loading the vehicle with our luggage and started for Sohra(Cherrapunji). Although famous for its incessant rainfall, Sohra greeted us with a warm sun at the Nokhlakhai falls. A lush green valley with wild grasses growing all over the place, Sohra had an atmosphere that was not very common even in the North East. We caught a glimpse of the waterfall which is the highest in the continent. We walked down the valley and reached a cliff where we had our candid moments captured against the bright sun. Soon after, we checked into a beautiful home stay in the village and unloaded our bags. We went out for evening walk in groups of two and made sure we didn't disturb the serenity of the small village. The village people, soaked in their daily chores, and the sound of gospel jam from a nearby church indicated that the people of the village were driven by a
sense of purpose, the purpose of the Lord. We came back to our stay and had some amazing food prepared in Khasi style before sleeping.
We started early for the famous 'double decker root bridge' trek the next morning. A popular tourist attraction, the place had beautiful natural bridges made of living tree roots and the size of an average viaduct. We had to climb down 3500 steps to reach the spot. A beautiful stream of crystal clear water flowed below the bridge where we let our feet tickled by the fish in the water. Orgasmic faces made by one of us and the ticklish fish pricks made us laugh out loud like we used to when we were partying in the college hostel. We had whatever food we could find in that small store near the root and started our 3500-step climb, back to the top. After months of letting our health go to the dogs, it took us more than 150 minutes and after countless pitstops, we reached the top. We reached Dawki at night and entered our camp in Pdengshnong by the river. The calm breeze and the sound of water splashing against the rocks made
the campfire experience even better. The fire lasted long and we moved to our tents one after the other while the fire burned the forest wood. We woke up next morning to play whatever water sports we had arranged for ourselves. The guys had fun trying to figure out how to row in still water and watching their pathetic attempts made me want to teach them high school physics all over again. (I guess they felt the same when I was rowing :p)
We visited the beautiful Mawlynlong village on our way back. The cleanest village in Asia, the place was a drop of heaven right amidst the mountains. If you have seen movies where they show clean Scandinavian suburbs that make you want to leave the country as soon as possible, you will understand when I tell you that this place is twice as clean as the picture you have in your mind. Quiet home stays and tree houses were commonplace in the village and I challenged one of my friends to spot litter in the village which he obviously could not. Although we wanted to stay longer in the village, we had to leave soon for Assam
owing to the tight schedule we prepared. We kept kissing the air and felt the Meghalaya feel as long as it lasted before falling asleep inside the vehicle.
INTO THE WILD
They say it is customary to visit the Kaziranga National Park(a world heritage site) if you are an outsider visiting the North East for the first time. Home of the endangered species, the one horned rhino (found nowhere else on earth), Kaziranga is a jungle full of wildlife and flora. We reached Kohora post midnight and checked into a decent lodge. The Jeep Safari that was pre booked , came to pick us up after breakfast and thus we entered the largest wild park of the region. We spotted our first rhino three kilometers inside the jungle but had to use our binoculars to scan the animal as it was far away. Wild buffaloes, elephants and deer were among the other species that we saw in the next few hours. We came across more rhinos inside the jungle, getting closer sightings as we moved in. The Safari ended before dusk and we returned to our lodge before dinner. We treated ourselves with local
Assamese cuisine at the Pelican Dhaba for dinner.
The elephant safari that was scheduled for 6:15 am, the very next morning started 30 mins late. Two huge elephants carried the six of us(two of them preferred sleep over the elephant safari!!!) and our driver friend along with one guide on each of them. This time we got much closer to the rhino, so close as to be able to touch its body! The guide kept telling stories about the rhino- it's behavior, food habits and rhino fights. We even witnessed a rhino brawl from a distance. The safari lasted an eventful 90 mins after which we had our breakfasts before starting our journey to Arunachal Pradesh.
OH! THE SNOW!!
Enter the last part of the trip! Arunachal Pradesh literally means home of the dawn-lit mountains. We got our tourist permits for Arunachal Pradesh in Tezpur and started for Dirang, our first pit stop before reaching Tawang. Bumpy roads and static traffic ruined our dream of reaching Dirang in daylight. The roads were not in the best of conditions and we once chose to walk our way up to the nearest village for food
when our vehicle got stuck in the traffic. We checked into a beautiful resort called Pemaling late at night but couldn't spend time there as we had to check out early in the morning.
After a hectic half day travel, filled with bumps and jolts, we reached the famous Sela Pass in the afternoon. The green mountains turned white in no time and the temperature fell as if gravity doubled on the mercury. A strong cold mountain wind made sure we stayed within our limits while we got down to take pictures of the beautiful Sela Pass. A local legend says during the China War, a girl named Sela committed suicide in that place after hearing the news of death of her beloved one and hence the name. We played with the snow wherever we could get down and resorted to our favorite pass time activity (cards) whenever we couldn't. A long line of cars with tyres stuck in snow made our journey to Tawang longer. Thanks to some outstanding driving by Krishna Da, our car never got stuck in snow. We reached Tawang after dusk and our dream of reaching before sunset stayed unfulfilled yet again. We checked
into Dolma Khalsar, a beautiful hotel with ambient rooms and enough space. It was the time of the Lossar festival and houses and shops were designed with Buddhist scriptures and lights.
We woke up early in the morning to pay a visit to the Tawang Monastery. A calm and peaceful place away from the rat race, one could hear water drops that fell from the tree leaves. We moved the prayer wheels in the monastery praying for the departed souls. A monk explained the scriptures and the paraphernalia of the religion as much as he could to me and I pretended to understand every word. I also learned a bit about the local folklore before returning to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast we started for PTSO lake situated at a height of 14000 feet. Once again we witnessed mountains changing color as we moved up. When we reached the lake, we witnessed a mesmerizing snowfall that I cannot describe in words. Snowflakes drizzled near a half frozen lake where we played with the snow. We met the Snow dog that defeated By-Tor( for Rush fans only) and gave him 8 samosas to eat. On our way down we
halted near army bunkers where the landscape was too beautiful to escape our attention. We spent some camera time there before reaching the Buddha garden where an enormous statue of Lord Buddha watched over the city. We went on to have lunch after which we visited the war memorial built to honour the sacrifices made by the Indian Army during the Indo-China war. The guys stayed back for a war documentary but I didn't get permission from within to stay and so I returned to rest at the hotel room.
We started our return journey early next morning. We stopped at more waterfalls and a war memorial on our way and finally reached Bomdila. Yet again, our wish of reaching before daylight wasn't fulfilled. We checked into the monastery guest house and I immediately went out with one of my friends to visit the monastery where preparations of the upcoming festivals were on. The rest of the evening was spent playing cards after which we had dinner before sleeping. We reached Bhalukpong next day in the evening and checked into the Tourist lodge. The last night party was well organized and we took our time to recall the wonderful
two years we had together while drinking the same brand of whiskey we drank in hostel. Life seemed so fast like a bullet train, and even though I wanted to turn time around to look back and revisit those moments, I had to accept the fact that I couldn't. Bhalukpong was the last stop , the last night of the trip and I stayed up for as long as I could before crashing into bed. We started for Guwahati early next morning and reached my place in the afternoon. It's kind of funny looking at the light of the dawn outside as I don't remember staying up writing all night ever before. I will save you the pain of reading a couple of unnecessary last lines with the hope that you have the same experience by visiting these places.
Like the Khasis say- K-H-U-B-L-E-I
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