Thursday 31 January 2019

Treking 7000 stairs: The mysterious Living Root Double Bridge of Cherrapunji

The Treking of “The mysterious Living Root Double Bridge of Cherrapunji” was an exciting and thrilling experience for me.It was not just a tour, Just 65 kilometers from Shillong and about 12 kilometers from Cherrapunji, hidden from the bumbling travelers is a marvel of nature.

People like me, who love adventure in travelling and love to stay close to nature, breathing virgin air.This is to mention that old name of Cherrapunji is Sohra.

This trekking involves roughly around 7000 (Down + up) stairs and 2 suspension bridges on the way before reaching Nongriat’s Living Root Double Bridge. 

The path to the double-decker root bridge is 3:00 kilometers long (according to the local folks), has around 3,500 stairs, and descends 2,400 feet. It feels like you are traveling just beneath the clouds. 

Starting point at Village Tyrna
What is Living Root Double Bridge of Cherrapunji

So the day had come to see the most awaited wonder of Nature for which I had come all the way to shillong.Yes it was the day to visit the Double Decker Living Roots Bridge in Nongriat Village of cherrapunji.The mysterious Double Decker Living Roots Bridge lies amidst the dense forests. 

Wake up early in morning, hired a taxi from Police Bazar taxi stand.Finally reached Tyrana Village by around 11:00 pm, the starting point for Double Decker Living Roots bridge trek.The journey was a really picturesque one. The green landscapes, the pine trees and the water bodies were a treat to my camera. 

After reaching Tyrna Village we re-energised us with breakfast and warmed up with cup of hot tea at nearby food stall.Few boys were selling bamboo canes to be used as trekking poles, and a few locals were offering services as guides.

I bought a pole, ignored the guides and started the trek.The starting stairs were descending down amods deep and thick woods.

The trail of steps plunged further and further down. I couldn't see where I was going, apart from deeper into the forest. As I looked around, it seemed like paradise. 

I was not alone on this trail of stairs, dozen stairs ahead and behind were other adventure lover trekkers too from Japan, Holland, Malaysia and and a group of young Indian boys and girls. After a short walk up on another flight of stairs, we arrived at Nongriat village.
Nongriat Village
At Nongriat Village and Living Root Double Bridge
The double-decker bridge in the middle of a thick jungle, set right across a rumbling waterfall and over a gentle water stream, was a sight to behold. The double-decker root bridge Aaah! Like something from a fairytale.

The first view mesmerised me. It felt as though I had arrived in paradise, with chirping birds. The water was so clear, cool and fresh and it was enticing me for relaxing dip.

The root bridge was undoubtedly remarkable, its surroundings felt like a place where magic happens. There were waterfalls and natural swimming pools, clusters of huge brightly colored butterflies, mysterious sounds of the forest.

A small butterfly  landed on my hand,and stayed there for a couple of minutes to relax. I was part of that miraculous alchemy of intoxication in  lap of mother nature.

A small tea shop right next to the bridge was just perfect to have a cup of hot tea and steaming Maggi before I reluctantly winded my way up. Ahh, I so didn’t want to go back. 

It is quite natural to feel like this in the middle of nature, completely off the grid, where one can unburden the stresses of daily life and try to find a rhythm between self & nature.

I remained mesmerized the whole way.When I reached the top, it was just 4:30 p.m. I felt oddly alive, cleansed and purified. 

Written and posted by Engr Maqbool Akram, with help of net and photos are from sources with thanks

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Travelogue:Chasing Abode of Clouds from Shillong to Cherapunji

As a student all of us has read that Cherrapunji, located at an altitude level of 1484 meters (4869ft) is the wettest place in the world.Since then Cherrapunji was alive in my dreams.Travelling of Shillong is considered to be incomplete without a visit of mystique Cherrapunji.There are plenty of places to visit in between shillong and Cherrapunji, rich with fall off the mountains in thunderous waterfalls, abundant with forests, natural caves, and a thriving flora and fauna.
Cherrapunji-Abode in Clouds
Truly Cherrapunji is abode on clouds, paradise on earth and the home of indigenous tribes and exotic cultures.It was our third day in Shillong and Cherrapunji was still to explore. I was very excited, keen to find Cherrapunji of my dreams: hills, fern, orchid and low cloud. The sights and match my imagination.
On way from Shillong to Cherrapunji
We hired innova taxi for sightseeing tour on this route. This journey from Shillong to Cherrapunji was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. We crossed the deep mist of clouds, sunny clear sky and many more. Roads were quite good and wide. We enjoyed full panroming view points and spots throughout the travel.
The flat lands dramatically start becoming different as we get closer to Cherrapunjee. Initially you get to see hills where rocks and stones are being mined and that landscape gives way to thickly forested hills.
1. Mawkdok valley (Lush green valley)
First stop during Shillong-Cherrapunji mid way a lush green valley.Waterfall and river can be enjoyed by going down 500+downstairs. Mawkdok Valley left me speechless with its beauty! This valley is charming and the serenity surrounding this place will completely blow your mind.
Mawkdok Valley-Zip Lining
Extremely green with the dense plantation that stretches across the entire highway. When I reached here, the entire valley was covered with clouds, making it heavenly to look at.
Mawkdok valley is famous for Zip-Lining. It is one of the finest places to Zip-line in India. One can Zipline at a height of 500 Feet and enjoy the Bird’s eye view of the valley.
2. Wah kaba falls
This fall was our second stop.Wah- The waterfall drops from a steep rocky side and plunges hundreds of meters down to a gorge. The water flowing through the falls is crystal clear.Situated right on the road side; it is easily accessible and needs a short hike to reach the waterfall viewpoint. Visitors can even go to the edge of the waterfall where one can see some safety barriers in place to prevent accidents
Wah Kaba Fall
One should be careful standing on top of the waterfall as well, it's very windy everywhere. There is also a smaller waterfall on the way to the much bigger Wah-kaba.The waterfall drops from a steep rocky side and plunges hundreds of meters down to a gorge. This tiered fall is close to 170-190 m in height. You will have a steep climb down the hill across uneven steps to reach the waterfall.
Situated right on the road side, it is easily accessible and needs a short hike to reach the waterfall viewpoint. Visitors can even go to the edge of the waterfall where one can see some safety barriers in place to prevent accidents. 
A legendary story about Wah kaba falls
This waterfall has a legendary story. In the past there lived two fairies in this Waterfall- one black and one white. Sometimes on a market day, one will see these fairies at Sohra Market shopping like ordinary people carrying basket to keep their belongings. 

Most of the people in the market cannot recognize them but for those who can differentiate, they can easily recognize them because they have no shadow of their own. 

These fairies used to hypnotize the people coming in contact with them. In the past most of the young men disappeared from home and returned after two to three month and it was believed that they were married. A lot of people still believe the legend.
3- Arwah lumshynnora Caves : These caves left usyou spellbound. The cave has a narrow entry and boasts of magical scenery inside, surrounded by the thick forest, an absolute treat for adventure.The cave itself is significantly large, but only a small part of it has been opened for tourists.
 It is about 300 meters which takes 20 minutes to explore. It is very dark and creepy inside especially when crawling through the narrow tunnels. There are many chambers and narrow passages in the cave. There is also a stream flows inside the cave.
There are two paths to reach the cave from the parking area, one is rugged trail and other is pleasant walk. It takes around 15-20 minutes to reach the cave entrance.It is advisable to carry a pocket torch as the lighting inside the cave is not sufficient.

The continuous water dripping ambience gives the tourist a certain sense of fear in the pitch dark recesses of the caves.
If artificial lights are not in Caves, it is pitch dark and can be very scary, even during the day. Even with lights on, it is a scary experience for each and every Visitor.
 4. Nohkalikai falls
Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India.Its height is 1115 Feet. This fall is about 55 km away from Shillong towards Cherrapunji.The falls fed by rainwater is tremendously powerful as much majestic.
There is no proper road to the bottom of the falls, but at least you get to see the waterfall a bit closer. The water gushes fiercely to the bottom creating a roar that is heard much before reaching the fall. We were mesmerised by the far off villages that appeared like hamlets from a fairy tale. The colour of the water flowing from the fall was something unique. It was bluish green,the view of this falls is absolutely breathtaking, it is definitely one of the most photogenic falls in India.
Nohkalikai Fall
A legendary story of Nohkalikai Fall
The story goes something like this--–Nohkalikai literally means ‘jump of Likai’. Once upon a time, there was a woman named Likai who lived in a village called Rangjyrteh. Upon the death of her husband, she had to ferry goods to Sylhet to support her young daughter. The village people suggested her to remarry as the child needed a father and so she did. But the stepfather turned out to be so jealous of all the attention that his wife gave to her daughter that one day, when Likai was out working, he chopped the daughter into pieces and cooked her meat.
When Likai came back, she didn’t find her daughter and assumed that she must be out with her father or neighbours. Likai was hungry and could smell the aroma of freshly cooked meat coming from the kitchen. She ate a good meal not knowing what it was.

The truth dawned upon her when she discovered severed remains of a child’s fingers in her house. She was overwhelmed by anguish and couldn’t accept that she had feasted on her own daughter. She ran out of the house and jumped into the falls. Nohkalikai literally means ‘jump of Likai’.
5. Seven sister falls
Seven sisters falls, has seven segments. This is the fourth highest waterfall in India, plunging down a height of 315 metres (1,033 ft) over the top of limestone cliffs of the East Khasi Hills in Cherrapunji.The falls are made up of many different falls and form a curtain of water falling down steeply from a cliff.
Seven streams fall from a hill into the gorge offering grace to the scented wild surrounding it. The sight and sound were captivating. The falls is poem-like-fantasy and along with the silent hills that kiss the seemingly low cloud offer an impacting picture. On way to this all there are small tea stalls where you can also get boiled eggs,Maggie,pav bhaji, pineapple, some snacks tea and mineral water.
Eco Park
6. Eco park
A large "Eco Park" established by the Meghalaya government in the plateau, at a distance of 3 km from Cherrapunji Bus Stand which hosts several hybrid and indigenous orchids in the Green House donated by Shillong Agri-Horticultural Society.The Eco Park offers breathtaking view of distant Sylhet Plains of neighbouring Bangladesh. The natural beauty from the edge of the Eco Park is truly startling.
This park has parking, entry and camera charges. It is moderate size park and also offers swing for adults.Situated near Seven Sister Waterfalls, it is one of the popular and must visit places in Cherrapunji. It has a small canteen,where tourists can get food stuffs (Thali food),tea snacks bottled water,but most of times it remains crowdy.
Eco Park facing Planes of Bangladesh
We watched the Sun go down in the hill, the signal to return back.Thus ended one of our best trip’s while we headed for Shillong. By the time we reached our hotel, we were exhausted yet energized; we had breathed the untouched undiluted, glimpsed the elegance and felt the frenzy of raw nature all together. Overall it was a really thrilling and mystique trip. This trip was a “Chasing Abode of Clouds from Shillong to Cherrapunjee”.
Written, photographed and posted by Engr Maqbool Akram

Friday 18 January 2019

Traveloguge of Shillong:Scotland of East,Heaven in Clouds

We started our journey to shillong by online booked tickets of ASTC.Bus left at 8.00 Am from Bus stand in Palton Bazar of Guwahati.Fare from Guwahati to Shillong was fairly reasonable at Rs 145.00 each. The roadway from Guwahati to Shillong is very beautiful as the road passes by various hill tops, the most amazing part of this journey.
Adventurous Shillong
The entire journey from Guwahati to Shillong was an exciting experience. No sooner the City border of Guwahati was crossed; nature suddenly seems to put its best face. All along the road, a sequence of scenery continues to unfold in its true captivatingsplendour, and viewing points are hoisted to vintage heights.

On the way to Shillong, we enjoyed a breakfast at a Dhaba, consisting of the chhole bhature, Aloo paratha and lip locking hot coffee. Shillong is only 100 km away from Guwahati.Bus reached at 11.30AM and stopped at bus stand.
There are many similarities between shilling and Scotland.Shillong’s rolling landscape, sky soaring hills laden with clouds and mist, lush green hill slopes meadows, high roaring waterfalls.On a cloudy day the mist-laden pastures look nothing less than a paradise. 
Breathtaking view from Guwahati to Shillong
In Shillong we find us between the hills, where dresses, scenes of nature, climate, style of buildings, eating habits. Life style, road side views and language all change so much. Which gives a feeling of newness. 
First Day in Shillong
Police Bazar-Shillong
As per our itinerary with excitement to experience some of the grandest waterfalls and Lakes of the region. We stayed in Hotel Heritage in Police Bazaar, at a distance of 250 meter from bus stop.After refreshing and lunch, we moved to Ward’s lake on a shared taxi, which charged Rs 10.00 each. We realized that Maruti 800, Alto, Tata Indica, and Hyundai i10/20 are a common mode of transport 
Ward’s Lake
Ward’s lake a man made, at a distance of 1.6 Km from Police Bazar.Ward’s Lake is a refreshing pool surrounded by beautiful gardens in the heart of the city.
Ward's Lake
 The lake was named after a British officer, Sir William Ward, who was then the Chief Commissioner of Assam.He was the one with the initial plan.Colonel Hopkins who oversaw the Lake completed in 1894.
Ward,s Lake
The serene lake and the cool shades of trees around,makes it a nice spot for sightseeing and boating.lake surrounded by patch of land with some exotic trees.A stylish white wooden bridge suspended in the middle of the lake is the most recognizable feature of Ward’s Lake.
Boating facilities are available in the lake. It has a wooden bridge at the middle. A cafeteria is there to provide refreshment.A fountain dancing to the tunes of song is also there. 
Ward's Lake

We stayed there for about one hour.walked around this lake on the cobble-stone path and admired the colorful floral beds in the garden, relaxed with a cup of hot coffee with Potato chips from cafeteria in side lake complex and back to hotel on foot for rest. It is special to mention that whenever one plans a trip to North East; one must keep in mind that the sun sets here around two hours before the rest of the country.
Police Bazaar of Shillong
First day in Shillong ended with a stroll in police bazar and dinner in Madras Café.Food was not good, but ambience OK.They needs to improve food quality.
 The same area converts into a non veg grilled and smoked food items like kebabs, special chicken,fish and mutton Den by evening. Mouth watering, smoked and grilled chicken on road side stalls were tempting.We could’t kill the urge to feast our tongue. There were lots of fruits available including oranges, bananas, strawberries and pineapples
Police Bazar-Shillong
 Police Bazar of Shillong is a famous shopping haunt. The market is considered ideal for leisure seekers, shopping enthusiasts and food lovers. It is a modern market that has a number of hotels, shops and eating joints, catering to varied needs of every visitor.
Police Bazar- Road side Food Lovers
It is a shopping heaven for girls as they can find indigenous ornaments and apparel here, and experiment with different products of fashion. Police Bazar provides an excellent opportunity for photography.
Police  Bazar-Road Side Food Lovers -Paradise
 Police Bazar is always crowded but one could find the real market with its most vivid products and food items during the winter season.Many streets performances are thus scheduled, the number of food stalks increase during the winters. Always crowded, one can spend hours at Police Bazar.

Second Day in Shillong
The next day as per itinerary with excitement to experience our road trip to tourist attractions near around Shillong.From police bazar we hired two Alto taxi for an adventurous trip @Rs 13oo/= per taxi.This was cheaper than innova and scorpio.

 Air Force Museum Shillong
The Air Force Museum, located in 7th mile, upper Shillong.The museum is a part of the Indian Air Force Eastern Command in Shillong. It displays the technologies used by the IAF Eastern Command, their missiles and aircraft, portraits of air chiefs, and defence photographs of the Indo-Pakistan and Indo-China war. Helicopters that were used in the ‘60s by the Indian Air Force for the bombing of Eastern Pakistan are displayed outside the museum.

Air Force Museum-Shillong
 A section of the museum also displays the uniforms and badges of army personnel. Information related to the posts of the IAF personnel, along with awards, ranks and medals are also displayed in the galleries of the museum.The museum is an excellent insight into the culture and history of the seven sisters’.
Air Force Museum-Shillong
Elephant Falls:
From Air Force Museum, we drove to Elephanta Falls at a distance of 3.00KM through clean, green cantonment area.On way we saw tea plantation gardens.This fall is very near to city, this caused it always over crowded. The taxi stopped at a parking lot surrounded by souvenir shops and small tea hotels.
These stalls were selling tea/coffee, buttered corn, momos boiled eggs/omelette and souvenirs. Photographers were there to print out instant pictures of tourists with options of wearing Khasi dresses and then posing for pictures. 
Notice board--description of this Elephanta Fall name history
 The Elephant Falls was very picturesque.As I reached the first fall,I found a notice board that narrated: The original Khasi name of the falls was ‘Ka kshaid lai pateng khohsiew’ (three steps water falls). Because of the fact that the water falls in three steps.
A beautiful view of Elephanta Fall
 The British renamed the falls because there was a rock resembling an elephant near the left side of the main falls.However, that rock was destroyed in an earthquake back in 1897.
 The bottom tier was the most impressive. In silence, I was hearing the sloshing sound of the waterfall.The walking path gently descended from the entrance. You have to ride down quite a steep flight of steps.It’s a top down descent and climbing down 150 rather slippery steps is not an easy task. The last and the third waterfall is the tallest. Elephant Falls is characterized by clear water flowing over dark jutting rocks with no particular forms.
The Final view of Elephant Waterfall at bottom-below about 175 feet from top
Shillong Top
Located at a distance of 10 km from city we reached here after a 20 minutes drive from Elephant Falls. Shillong Peak/Top is the highest point of Shillong and offers panoramic views of the city, the waterfalls, the Himalayas, the lush green surroundings as well as the Bangladesh plains.
A view from Shillong Top
It is situated inside air force base and features a radar station.Due to security reasons, heavy checking is done at the gates.ID cards are must for entery.Photography is not allowed till reach the point.Entry fee for tourist is Rs. 30 per head.It is a treat to visitor’s eye and camera.
 The peak is at height of 1962 m, above the sea level.To reach here; we passed through deep and dark wood and zig-zag road.We were inhaling fresh and virgin air in our lungs.
A Panoramic  View from Shillong Top

We climbed a flight of stairs to have a view of a wooded valley, cloud and mist.The wide horizon offered a panorama of crowning glory.Shillong was visible amidst Pine Oak, orchid and rocks.It was an incredible experience. I wish I could stand there for ages to witness the colour of nature’s wonder.

Lady Hydari Park
In return journey from Shillong Top we stopped at Lady Hydari Park at a short distance of 2.5 km from Police Bazar. Lady Hydari Park is a lush green belt that stretches up to a kilometre in the heart of Shillong. It was quite clear that “The Lady Hydari Park”is maintained with great passion.This garden is an ideal place to spend some peaceful time to relax in between nature.
Lady Hydari Park-Shillong
Named after the first lady of the province, Lady Hydari, wife of the Governor of Assam.Meghalaya forest department is the administrative authority of this park and looks after its maintenance. The Park is best known for beautiful bed of roses that blossom here in various colours. 
A Mini Zoo in Lady Hydari Park-Shillong
The park has a a special play area for kids that offer swings like sea-saws,slips and other small rides for children.Besides all this the park has a wide variety of local flowering plants and orchids, and is landscaped in Japanese style.It has a small zoo and white pelicans playfully floating in water ponds were treat to visitors eye. 
Lady Hydari Park-Shillong

Pelicans playing and floating in pond in Lady Hydari Park-Shillong 
By the time we reached our hotel, we were exhausted yet energized; we had breathed the untouched undiluted, glimpsed the elegance and felt the frenzy of raw nature all together.

Second day itinerary of shillong ended with a high dinner in Eden Restaurant in Police bazar.Here we feasted us with Chilli Garlic Fish, Chicken in Hot Garlic Sauce, Butter Tandoori Roti.The value of money was very good and it was not expensive.
Eden Restaurant in Shillong

Loved the taste and the dishes quantity.It was a memorable dinner in Shillong, as here we got foods of North Indian recipe.After dinner, we walked on roads and to get more energy we consumed sweets from Delhi Misthan Bhandar.

Posted and photographed by Engr Maqbool Akram, with help of some materials and photos from other sources available on net, with thanks.