Tag Archives: meghalaya

Caves of Meghalaya

The one most interesting part of India is the North East India. Gorgeous waterfalls, one of its kind world famous One-horned Rhinos, the mighty Brahmaputra with the worlds largest river island called ‘Majuli’.

I found myself in Meghalaya recently on my trip to North East. It is home to Scotland of the East, the mighty Elephant Falls, the highest rainfall receiving place of the planet and a network of caves. Caves have always intrigued me. Mysterious and complicated as they are. Cherrapunji which is also the highest rainfall receiving place on earth houses many exotic caves. Mausmai caves being the oldest and the most mesmerizing caves and the newly opened Arwah Caves. These 2 are the most tourist frequented caves in Cherrapunjee.

I started my journey from Shillong. A taxi to the Cherrapunji caves is easily available from the police bazaar taxi stand in Shillong. A full small car as taxi should cost one around Rs 2000 for round trip. Personally I preferred to go in the monsoon season so that I could enjoy the beauty of the place on Earth receiving the highest rainfall, and Boy! was it raining?! Its was an unforgettable experience, it was raining so hard that rain had the effect of fog like haze out as we looked out of the car window screen. It had been raining non stop for 3 days already. We left early at 6:30 am for our trip to the caves with enough buffer time considering the excessive rain and low visibility. The visibility was as low as 1 feet. It took us a good 3 hours to reach the first cave on our list, the Arwah caves.

Arwah Caves

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The fish which doubles as the tiny source of water falls as well


 

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Basking in the sun on a swing in the middle of the nature walk
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Valley view from the walkway

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The make shift huts have mannequin type villagers stationed to give a human touch to the place. As we entered the cave, cave entry being wide enough, you get the mysterious feeling already. Then a flight of steel staircase took us beyond, which we had to climb down which took us further into the cave. They had water flowing at the floor, and since we went at the monsoon season it was not just water but a strong force of water sweeping our feet, clean and cold. The guide informed us that the water from the caves was drinking water and could be used for the same purpose. The first section is wide and high, it has lights fitted as well, also there is something like an upper deck of caves network as well that can be climbed from this section using staircase installed there. We did climb up into one of those smaller caves, gives you quite an attic like feeling and makes for an adventurous one as well. Once we climbed down the guide helped us further into the caves.


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Monkeying around in the caves

Further was a very narrow and high passage into the caves where there are no lights and only torch light was the source, with water sweeping our feet we reached this large hall like opening. The guide told us the water flowing inside the cave was pure and fit enough for drinking. The guide also showed us fossil print embedded into the walls of the caves. Further inside, the guide pointed towards fresh stalactite formations with shape edges and shiny surface. Its was a thrilling experience. A must visit I must say.

The next one on our list is the Mausmai caves and is one of the oldest caves that was discovered and has been a tourist attraction for a really long time. We reached the location when it was raining tremendously.

The entrance to the cave was only a few flight of stairs and which us inside the cave. The maturity of the caves is prominent as the stalactites & stalagmites have huge formations and some have a glittering effect as well. Although the opening as we entered was not too big.

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Trying hard to not slip!

Then comes the interesting part, where the caves form a very narrow tunnel like passage that took us further. It is highly advised that obese and aged people avoid getting through the passage, as the way into and out of the narrow passage to the other side of the cave is slippery and also needs good balance of feet. One could easily get hurt if not careful. The narrow passage took us further into the cave where there was a pretty big opening but a very small area and then we walked out of the cave. The way out is spooky, the exit took us out to a walking track with dense trees around, and as we made our way out it got dark got pretty creepy as well. It seemed like a scene out of some spooky Hollywood movie I must say 😉 Over all a pretty adventurous place and a again not a place one should miss if visiting Cherapunjee.

The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya

Last year during one of my trips to Meghalaya, I happened to learn about the Living Root Bridges from one of our taxi drivers, not only did the name find my interest, but the way the taxi driver described it was equally interesting and fascinating.

So once I got back I googled and read a lot about it. The more I read the more I wanted to go visit this mysterious place. So finally after a little bit of planning I took off to this majestic place.

Meghalaya’s double-decker and single-decker root bridges are unique in the world and one of its kind. The bridges are a brilliant examples of bio-engineering. The secondary roots of the Ficus Elastica trees are entangled in such a way, done so by the Khasi people ages ago, that after many years they grow across streams or tiny rivers to form what we now see as the Living Root Bridges. These root take around 15-20 years to grow into bridges strong enough to hold many people together.

Reaching this place:

Well, to begin with this place is not the easiest to reach. Reaching Guwahati is easy, Guwahati is one of the most prominent cities in the  North-East of India, it is well connected by air, rail and bus to all major cities and also some international locations. Once you reach Guwahati, you have the option of either going to Shillong or Cherrapunji directly, we chose to go to Shillong as it is my obvious favorite place to stay. Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya, the state where the Living Root Bridges are located. From Guwahati airport there are several options of transport. My suggestion, if you are alone or 2-3 people, take the Winger service, its basically a big traveller van, spacious and comfortable for a 3 hour journey. They charge Rs 400 per person for an air conditioned winger service. If you are a larger group, hire a car for Rs 2000. We stopped at Nongpo for tea and snacks, Nongpo again is famous for its various pickles available for sale there, we saw an abundance of pickles of various types, my favorite one was the fish & bamboo pickle. I found the rates at the restaurants not very cheap and the food not very yummy, but it works fine as a stop over. On your way we passed the Bora Pani lake, one of the largest lakes and very beautifully maintained, it is kept really clean as well. It took us a good 3-3.5 hours to reach Police Bazaar in Shillong. After a quick check in into our hotel in Police Bazaar, we took to the streets of Shillong in the evening. Police Bazaar is the main hub in Shillong and one can find several taxis and drivers standing there in the taxi stands. As soon as we approached one of the drivers we had a crowd of drivers ready to bargain. We fixed one taxi at Rs 1500 to take us to and fro from the Living Root Bridges. It was a good bargain since it was monsoon season and off season at this time of the year. Usually one can expect the hired taxis for 4 people to cost Rs 2000 – 2500.

Next day we started our journey to the Living Root Bridges at 8:00 am after breakfast. Since we were travelling in the month of August, we were greeted pleasantly by heavy rainfall and why not so, Meghalaya is after all the land of the rains. The roads were not as bad as we had assumed them to be. Apart from a few landslides on the way which caused no harm to the roads, we also came across several tiny waterfalls formed due to heavy rainfall, after which we reached Sohra. Post Sohra the road gets a little bumpy as we took a right turn which headed towards Tura village. It is not even a proper road, it is basically washed out due to heavy rainfall. In total it took us 3 hours to reach Tura, the village from where the trek to the bridges start.

At the Living Root Bridges:

When we reached, the rains had subsided, you we found a couple of shops at the beginning of the stairs going downwards, selling biscuits, chips and one could also hire a local guide if required for around Rs 500, which might be bargained to Rs 400 for a to and fro trip to the Living Root Bridges and back.

We started our trek with the local guide, who unfortunately only spoke his local language and broken English. The first few flight of stairs are properly cemented, wide stairs. As you further walked ahead the stairs start getting narrower until we reached a flight of twisted stairs taking a plunge downwards providing majestic views of the hills around with multiple natural waterfalls found during monsoon season.

Double Decker Root Bridge
On the way
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On my way downhill
Way to the Bridge

We found the local guide helpful since he voluntarily helped us carry one of our bag packs. And since it was raining non-stop there were no locals around to ask for directions, so we definitely would have got lost since the direction markings were not very proper and lets not even talk about GPS guidance.  After a certain stretch of stairs we reached a rocking hanging wire bridge, with water gushing below it, it was and absolute thrill crossing it I must say.

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Our local guide holding on to one of our backpacks 🙂
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Thats me!
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and a few more..

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Steel Hanging bridges
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Braving the hanging bridges

In total there are 2 hanging steel bridges we had to cross and a series of unpaved natural stairs to reach the magnificent Living Root Bridges. It took was 1.5 hours to reach to the bottom inclusive of considerable time we spent clicking pictures in the hanging bridges and around. We spent a good 2-3 hours there soaking in the surroundings and admiring the intelligence of these ancient people who had mastered the art of using natural resources of engineering.

On our way up we stopped by a local shop selling tea and omelette.  Although funny thing the lady did not know how to make an omelette, so we helped her make one. It took us 2 hours to climb back up the 3000 stairway.

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Small tea shop run by local people
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The local woman making the omelette finally after we taught her how to make it. YAY!

I felt this beautiful piece of bio-engineering was way under hyped and not known to a lot of people even in my own county India. I hope more people take a journey to this beautiful bridges, it is once in a life time experience for sure.

Some more snaps from my trip:

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Serene and quiet amidst nature!
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Our umbrellas taking some rest as the rain stopped
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The Root Bridges from the upper deck
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Never ending stairs
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Tiny Pineapple tree
A local place ‘Serene Homestay’, could be booked for a few nights if one intends to stay here instead of moving back to the city. This place is the only one home stay here and a pretty popular place for tourists to stay as well. Details and phone no. of the place available in the picture

 

 

 

I would recommend staying @ Review: Eee Cee Hotel