Chasing Monsoons in Meghalaya

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I have always found magic in the monsoon. But that magic cannot be discovered in the grimy lanes and stone-walled horizon of the cities. For that, one needs to go where the rain clouds kiss the mountains and pour liquid sunshine. It was in August a few years ago, when I decided to chase the monsoon all the way to Meghalaya. What better place than the ‘Abode of Clouds’ itself?

I booked a reliable and licensed Guwahati taxi and started my trip from Shillong. It was more like a base to explore other areas. Although the city has managed to hold onto part of its old charm, it is evolving to be like most other urban communities around the country; something I have been trying to escape on a vacation. After a day of unwinding, I headed to the only place that has pulled me here all the way from the opposite side of the country – Cherrapunji. If you are traveling to Meghalaya, a trip to Cherrapunjee is a must, more so if you are there during the monsoon.

Since I had the cab with me, it became easier to manage my travel. The Guwahati to Shillong taxi fare was reasonable enough to keep it with me throughout my trip.

The real treasure of Meghalaya lies in its countryside which I could only experience when I took the road from Shillong through the East Khasi Hills. The route was arguably the most scenic one that I had ever seen.  It was only a two-hour drive, but every moment felt significant and full of surprises.

After all, it’s not every day that you can find yourself drenched in mist, without so much as a drop of rain.

A path laden with mist…

Soon after I crossed Shillong and its suburbs, I found myself driving through straight wide roads, with nothing but wispy clouds on green hills, flanked by thick evergreen forests on either side. I experienced the first layers of clouds up close, right after the car touched the Khasi Hills. On the way, I made a stop at the Mawkdok Valley. With rolling hills and verdant valleys, all under a fine veil of fog, it was one of the best viewing points in the district. As the roads turned, the landscape made an arch-like appearance and the hills crested with clouds looked like a crescent moon. I simply couldn’t take my eye off the sight.

I figured that Meghalaya’s landscape and the weather were quite unpredictable, albeit in a good way. At every turn, I was presented with something new, something I hadn’t seen before. As soon as the car crossed the Mawkdok Bridge, I saw something spectacular.

All this while, the horizon seemed clear, and suddenly, there was a thick layer of clouds mixed with fog, right ahead. Thick enough to reduce visibility. It was like being in a tale of fantasy, where I would find another world on the other side of the fog. I rolled down the windows to let the mist flow in and brush my face, only to disappear in seconds. There was not a drop of rain, but it was misty enough to get the wet feeling.

On a practical note, this road called for experienced driving and a reliable car. I was glad to have hired a cab and not go adventurous with my own driving. The car was almost crawling slowly through the fog, to get the bearings and slowly reach the other side.

The abode of clouds…

As I said, I was hoping to find another world on the other side of the mist, and as if my wishes were answered, the car stopped at a spot with clear views of the famous Seven Sisters Falls. It was a true welcome to Cherrapunji.

Locally called the Nohkalikai Falls, this series of seven waterfalls is the tallest in the country and the fourth-highest in the world! I drove up closer to the falls to get a better view. The roaring cascades dropped from over 1000 feet down the rugged hills and dense forests of the East Khasi Hills. The torrents created a misty surface around, like a sheer drape, complemented by the heavy clouds floating overhead.

There was a viewing area with guardrails and kept walking along the edges to get as close I could. Thankfully, it was not a busy day and there were hardly any people around. I reached a point from where I could reach out and feel the mist of the waterfall on my palms. I stood there, watching the clouds were shifting and changing shapes. It was as if everything was still, except the clouds. I just couldn’t get enough of the sight, and all that came my mind, were Tagore’s famous lines, “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain, or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

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