Meghalaya .... off route

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#1 Jun 17th, 2014, 01:49
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  • iamsomnath is online now
#1
My memories to be shared with all the friends here.
Participants : Sukanya (queen), Shouryya & Shritama ( double trouble ) & me (slave)
I am pathetic with proper nouns so feel free to suggest corrections there. I will post all necessary contacts & cost related information in the end hence please ....
01.06.2014.
The sun was oozing fire even at 7.30 am when we get out of our home to catch the flight. The Spicejet
flight was rescheduled from 8-15 to 9-30 in the morning, much to our chagrin, as such rescheduling cut
our holiday short by 1 hours and 15 minutes. Not a small time, especially when you are trying to escape
the red fiery heat of Kolkata.
This was going to be my 4th and my family’s 2nd time. We simply refuse to get bored by Shillong and
Sohra but this time we thought about some lesser known places. My friend “Karikor” here in Indiamike
and My friend of Meghalaya, “Pradipda” were instrumental in giving shape to the ideas. I cannot thank
them enough. Karikor needs no introduction here in this forum, he is the “single window solution” for
everything regarding the state, his knowledge-base can only be compared to his willingness to share it.
Thanks my friend, this time I couldn’t meet with you due to paucity of time but I am sure that we will
meet and catch up somewhere later.
“Pradipda” ( PRADIP MODAK ) is by profession , a driver. But his real identity only starts from there. His
early childhood was spent in Jaintia hills and he grew up in Shillong. He knows the state, the languages
and customs like the back of his palm. I have travelled a bit here and there but seldom I have come
across a person more suitable for travelling. He is willing to travel along with you as long as you would
like, with utter disregard to things like hours spent, fuel consumed, kilometers travelled etc. He will coax
you to go to less visited places, will smilingly carry your burdens, will share anecdotes and guide you like
a brother. I am in awe about him since the days when he used to drive a “Maruti 800”. This time his
vehicle was a “Chevy Sail” and in that car we started our journey from sizzling hot Guwahati at 10.45
AM.
Our first stop was at “Nongpoh” as always, as usually from here onwards the fair wind starts blowing. At
“Green Land Dhaba” we helped ourselves with some egg noodles and black tea. Just after our “lunch”
was over it started raining. It was blazing sunshine while we entered the eatery and in 45 minutes the
sky was absolutely overcast and a sweet little drizzle started pouring. It is exactly at that point we “felt”
that we are again in Meghalaya. We didn’t wait for the rain to cease and ran to the car.
Our next stoppage was at “UMDEN”. Initially we decided to stay there but Pradipda warned that the
place was quite hot and more importantly doesn’t offer much. So we simply settled for a day excursion.
The road to Umden is picturesque, rolling hillocks, wide expanse of cultivated fields, green foliage
freshened up by rains and red earth, it was a very charming journey. We knew that at Umden they are
working upon Sericulture. But even after we reached Umden proper( after about one and half hours
from Nongpoh, via a steep left turn just after Nongpoh off the road to Shillong), no one could really tell
about the sericulture farm. The village on that Sunday afternoon wore a very forlorn look, only a few
young boys horsing around here & there, a car or two whooshing past us going to some other unknown
destination. Anyway we started to come back and just after we left the main village, on the way back,
we saw a cemetery. It was just beside the road amidst high trees and at a slightly elevated position. We
ventured there and like most cemeteries the air was thick with untold stories of grief and loss. I relate to
such atmosphere in a strange way like many people. We four simply sat there observing the basic graves
and crosses and imagining things. The kids flagged off the journey again and after only a few minute’s
drive on left hand side we saw a signboard for the “sericulture farm”.
The Sericulture farm was a couple of one storied buildings surrounded by a smallish garden in the front
and some more trees on the other sides, all nicely surrounded by a razor-wire fence. It was a warm day
by Meghalaya standard (By Kolkata standard the day was suitable for a nice little stroll outside, precisely
what we were doing, har har de har har) and a Government issue standard babu and his subordinate
was idling upon the verandah of the front building, may be they were spinning yearns or perhaps they
were deliberating about the process to make finer silks, who knows? We parked on the road outside and
our presence had a most bizarre effect on those two souls. They jumped with a start as if a UFO had
landed and some aliens from Mars were venturing upon their little cozy corner. The Babu ran towards us
with a wide plastic smile as well as a look of grave uncertainty in his eyes and the subordinate started
dusting off the verandah, with frantic zeal, with the help of a long handled broom. Anyway on closer
inspection they understood that we are from planet earth and both of them visibly relaxed and showed
us around. I have this dirty habit of cracking a joke at the expense of others but yes the situation was a
quite hilarious. The two men were in fact quite eager show us how the small silk worms change into silk
yearns. They showed us silk worm eggs, cocoons and all and it was quite a fine experience.
We again returned by that spectacular path and we felt quite hungry by the time we reached Shillong,
after having brief stopovers at the UMIAM lake at just the right time for a spectacular sunset.
Pradipda took us to a nondescript shack of a fast food stall (Joy Mata Di Fast food, 17th Jhalupara
Cantonment, Anju Lama : 09774003820/09862010568). Boy they cooked up a fabulous dish of vegetable
momo with complimentary chicken soup all for a princely sum of Rs.20/= per plate!!! Thus replenished
we stepped out of the shop to be enamored by chilly soothing wind. It was an unbelievably comfortable
feeling and I felt sleepy even standing on my legs. But we had to resume our journey.
Another hour of journey through some indifferent roads brought us to the picturesque village of
“LYNGKIEN”. Here a Canadian named James Perry is operating a bread and breakfast named “MAPLE
PINE FARM” along with his wife, kids, cats, dogs and ponies. The property is situated in between two
flowing streams and we had to cross one such stream with the car to get there. It uses solar & wind
generated electricity & are not connected to any grid. Our cottage was a simple wooden affair with bunk
beds for kids and an attached commode & sink. The Bathing house is a bit far with two shower stalls &
hot water. The kitchen & dining room is also a few paces away from the cottage. The dining room has a
separate small living zone which has library, dart board, board of chess etc. My kids instantly took on the
dart board and library. By the way, that cat is a viciously territorial one, she protects one couch &
anyone who dares to sit on it is greeted with punches & nudges. Yes she does punch, she has adopted
the art of striking with paw without extracting her nails & believe me they hurt mighty.
Pradipda went back to his home at Shillong for the night as for next some 5/6 days he would be with us
, away from his family. After an early dinner of Vegetable fried rice, pork fried and chilly chicken ( tasty )
we hit the bed.
02.06.2014.
I woke up & my watch told me that it is 12.07 in the night!!! Actually someone in me was getting loco
about going out and to enjoy the outdoors. My city-weary heart was palpably beating in the anticipation
of a colorful dawn to break. Finally, after playing hide & seek with sleep I left the bed at 3.45 AM. Being
situated in so much to the eastern side of the country, the dark sky was already starting to get light. I
strolled outside and Sukanya followed me, as it has been a ritual of so many places over so many years.
We never fail to share the morning tea (she always makes it a point to carry an electric kettle & some
good Darjeeling with her, bless the lady) & the morning sunrise, whenever we go travelling.
The morning was turning yellow, orange & golden. The whole farm was drenched with overnight drizzle
& dew. Our shoes were getting soaked by this nectar of heaven. We did some photography & then in full
sunlight a very very fine drizzle, almost a mist by it’s gossamer quality, started falling. Sukanya went
inside but that was a brilliant time for me for some more photographs & by 7 we were through that
beautiful period.
We had a very sumptuous breakfast of bread, omlette, pan cakes & quite good black tea. By 8.30 we
were all ready to start but the rain also started. It was a deluge. The two rivulets on two opposite
perimeters of the property became swollen like angry snakes. It was unbelievable that only a couple of
hours back I was standing there, bang inside one of them, with my tripod & all & the water was barely
touching my knees. But now they were just furious & it was evident that Pradipda’s sedan stood no
chance to cross.
James started his jeep & we crossed the river along with our luggage. Pradipda was waiting on the
tarmac road & we started towards “MAWLYNGBA”.
The road to Mawlyngba was full of potholes & the day was grey & rainy. Our car negotiated the road
with caution & on road we visited the cave of “MAWJYMBUIN”. It was situated after a steep descent of
stairs & had some curious rock formations & the “shiva linga” was generous in size & girth, commanding
instant respect unless you are not a kaffir like me. As are the norm throughout India, that place was
associated with a lot of tales & fables. One of them was about two brothers, who in their infinite folly
chose a place for their restaurant, which was directly overhead of the cave, albeit at a much higher point
of the hill. After opening of the small eatery one night, all their cutlery was reported to be flying and
hitting against the walls during the night, causing complete devastation of their utensils & instant flight
of staffs & cooks, thereby ruining the endeavor prematurely. Whether you would like to believe that is
up to you but I am an ardent believer of paranormals & an X-files fan, so the hair on my hand stood up
when I heard the story over steamy cups of “chai” from Pradipda wink wink.
Now after stopping here & there for photography & refreshment we finally reached Mawlyngba at 2
PM. The “Traveller’s nest (TN) “ was situated amidst thick vegetation . In spite of being there on a hilltop
, the atmosphere was quite hot & humid. As soon as we reached there we were greeted with great
enthusiasm by scores of mosquitoes & various other bugs. To top it all the TNs were under lock & key &
no one was there. The mobile phones were not working ( during most of the tour our postpaid mobiles
were out of bounds, BSNL & Aircel are the two to be most reliable it seems) & after having a helpless
wait we caught a couple of village boys. Pradipda, proficient as he is in all languages & dialects, passed
the necessary information & the boys went to notify someone about our reaching there.
In about half an hour two lithe boys with ever so smiling face materialized. Their presence was such that
we instantly forgot about the “hassle” of waiting. One was named Franklin & another Michael. In matter
of minutes they opened the one TN (basic with beds, clean western attached bathroom with an
inconsistent hot water geyser), prepared some tea & some noodle soup. The entire fare was served on
the top of the hill common area & we were ready to take on the little excursion that we were planning
to take.
Mawlyngba has a waterfall ( UMDIENGKEIN) , some fossils & animal footprints. The general route is to
first take on the fossils & then go to waterfalls & then to animal footprints. But Franklin & Michael
insisted that we start with the waterfall & then have to climb a little bit to go to the other two.
Accordingly we started our journey to the waterfalls but after about 20 minutes of descent a huge
downpour started. We had to take shelter under our umbrellas & once the rain subsided we resumed
our journey through very slippery, mossy & rocky road. Once we reached the waterfall it was evident
that due to that rain we could not cross it as the water had submerged the rocks underneath & it was
too late to make a detour by car & resume the walk via the general route. Anyway we decided to enjoy
the waterfall in it’s great glory & had to sportingly accept that the fossils & animal footprints will be
missed. We came back through that ascending trail & we must say that the kids brought us out of our
gloomy mood by the antics that only they know how to.
The dusk was approaching & we started our car to “UMKHAKOI”. It is a natural lake with curious rock
formations. The afternoon light was brilliant & we stayed there for a long time chatting with Pradipda
about our lives & times. The lake is remarkable for the rock formations, as the huge black rocks
surrounding the lake are pockmarked with holes which resemble the shape & size of giant’s bowls.
These numerous bowls were filled to the brim with rainwater & many frogs were resting in those waters
with their little ones. Our little ones immediately started catching frogs in spite of my warnings & with
the aid of Franklin they could catch one particularly old and haggard individual. The old frog was benign
as a dog & had an air of resignation about him. Finally after very close inspection that old fella was
again released to his watering hole, presumably unhurt.
When the sunset was imminent we hurried back to the TN wherefrom we rushed through uneven,
slippery road to the “view point”. It is a wooden tower from where you may enjoy brilliant view of the
setting sun and the villages downhill (4 as I was told). The villages collectively do resemble a small town
and my kids were asking Franklin & Michael to point out their houses & they obliged so smilingly. These
two boys, like most others in Meghalaya are gem of persons. We city dwellers seem to purge & purify
ourselves in their company.
On our way back to the TN we saw that the boys of the villages were in the process of parking a lot of
mountain bikes. They smilingly offered us to have a ride for free and we had a small roundup of the flat
hilltop & then it was too dark to enjoy the outdoors anymore.
The inside of the rooms was a bit hot because in fear of insects & mosquitoes we couldn’t keep the
doors open. But we felt very comfortable once we took cold baths. Some mosquito repellant coils were
alight & the place became serene & cozy.
The dinner was “dry chicken curry” spiced with a typical aroma which comes only with cooking on wood
fire & rice. It was heavenly, especially after a couple of scotch. In a matter of minutes afterwards we
dozed off. Throughout the night incessant rain drummed our tinned roof like a sweet piece of music.
to be continued ....
#2 Jun 17th, 2014, 01:57
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#2
road to Umden


golden eveing at Umiam


Crossing the river to Maple Pine farm


The stay


early morning


I Like the pan cake


Ms. Attitude


Emery ... my friend
#3 Jun 17th, 2014, 02:05
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#3
Travel Nest Mawylyngba


Pit stop


serne


pristine


Umkhakoi 1


Umkhakoi 2 ( the chained boat)


Pradipda & sonny, two great pals


the guardian


a cramy sunset
#4 Jun 17th, 2014, 02:12
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#4
These are sheer poetry written through lenses. Yet to read through the narration.
#5 Jun 17th, 2014, 02:28
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#5
Thanks Ashisda. would like to know about the narration from you dada.

regards

Somnath
#6 Jun 17th, 2014, 07:25
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#6
Somnath you have done it again. Great write up to go with fantastic pics.
#7 Jun 17th, 2014, 10:26
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#7

Re: Meghalaya .... off route

Humbled GP. Only two out of seven days down. I will keep on posting as and when they get ready.
Regards.
Somnath
#8 Jun 17th, 2014, 10:53
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#8
Wow....beautiful pictures as always somnathda.... ...
nature mother at its best...
#9 Jun 17th, 2014, 11:11
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#9
Outstanding photography..............
#10 Jun 17th, 2014, 11:42
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#10

Re: Meghalaya .... off route

Thanks Deb and Arpan. My intention is to compel you people to go there . By the time my report is finished I bet that lot of you will be busy making your schedule there.
Cheers
Somnath
#11 Jun 17th, 2014, 14:35
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#11
Dada,

Pictures are class apart. I am at loss of words. You Meghalaya captures will surely compel any one (even a lazy soul) to go there. Hooked onto your log.
Simply in love with your art.
Would love to know your weapon to capture these splendid captures.
Cheers...

Showing : Quest Of Snow
#12 Jun 17th, 2014, 15:18
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#12
Somnathda, stunning pictures are this. Write up also is excellent. You should write for a travel magazine, but not for a Bengali magazine since I will not be able to read it.

In Feb-March 2010 Me & wife went to North East for one month long tour. We deliberately excluded Meghalaya from that tour since we wanted to do full justice to Meghalaya by going for a dedicated trip of 10 - 15 days. Sadly that has not happened till date. Got to go there soon. Till that time your words & photos will make us transport to this wonderful state.

Waiting for the next set of pictures & write-up.

Ronak.
#13 Jun 17th, 2014, 17:45
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#13
@Ronak . Thanks for the kind words. Yes Meghalaya is paradise and demands your footfall. Please follow the TR in a few more days I hope to finish the whole story.

On another issue , yes I contribute to some magazines but off late I am observing sharp fall in the human quality of the people in the media. So I just do enough to level my costs these days. Sad times we live in.

regards

Somnath
#14 Jun 17th, 2014, 17:48
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#14
@DebarshiRoy .... Thanks bro for the kind words. I have PMed you the gear used.

Keep following this TR, I am in process of finishing it in matter of days.

regards
Somnath
Last edited by iamsomnath; Jun 17th, 2014 at 17:51.. Reason: typo rectified
#15 Jun 17th, 2014, 19:21
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Somanthda, will surely follow your Meghalaya TR.

Ronak.
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