Mawphanlur-Mawphlang-Mawlyngbna-Sohra-Mawlynnong-Shnongpdeng-Shillong: April 2016

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#16 May 12th, 2016, 17:26
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#16
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Originally Posted by Ratan24 View Post Great and helpful post,Keshava Kishore.
Some questions
1) I have planned for a 3 day stay in Shillong and then I have 4 more days. I suppose I should make it a trip Shillong-Sohra-Mawlynnong-shillong circuit.

That is 7 days. If you ask the experts, they would suggest an itinerary much like they suggested us (and we followed). Karikor's might be the sharpest advise here. However, in 4 days, I think it can be like this:
Mawlyngbna (1 day and overnight stay)
Sohra (1 day and overnight stay)
Mawlynnong + Shnongpdeng (1 day and overnight stay at Shnongpdeng)
Then return on 4th day to Guwahati (or wherever your train/flight is from).


We are only 2 adults and one child. So, a small car would do for us. How much do you think it might cost?

A small car would be fine and there are many. Cost, I'm not very sure about.

2) How much would a homestay in Mawlynnong cost?

Mawlynnong homestays are all in the range of Rs. 1500 per night per 2 persons. In Shnongpdeng, we spent Rs. 800 for a large, separate homestay (with a large balcony/sitout with a view of the river) that had 2 large double beds and accommodated the 5 of us comfortably! You will be wasting good money in Mawlynnong, and there isn't a need to "stay" in Mawlynnong anyway.
Hope this helps.
#17 May 12th, 2016, 17:31
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#17
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Originally Posted by Suparna Acharya View Post BTW, Can you please pass on the number of Mr. Wan?

Also any idea how to book Traveller's Nest in Mawphanlur?
Thank you. Like I said before, all contacts were courtesy Karikor, and he would happily pass on to you the contacts once you have a tour plan in place. I, not having collected any numbers myself, am not in a position to give them to you. I hope you understand.
#18 May 12th, 2016, 17:46
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#18
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Originally Posted by Keshava Kishore View Post Thank you. Like I said before, all contacts were courtesy Karikor, and he would happily pass on to you the contacts once you have a tour plan in place. I, not having collected any numbers myself, am not in a position to give them to you. I hope you understand.
Well, I don't think Karikor would mind, if you pass on the contact details given that you are already respecting him for helping you out by saying the same.

I don't know, but I never get reply from him due to unknown reasons. And to say the truth, Karikor being the only POC for any help in Meghalaya forum and he being not replying, I found myself lost collecting the numbers.

Either way, you are giving back to the community and helping others to make a successful trip like yours.

I don't think Karikor himself being a avid helper, would mind if someone else shared the contacts, who in preliminary stage collected the same from him.

So it's finally up to you I'd be really glad if you can really pass on the contacts. As I'm having a hard time contact him
#19 May 12th, 2016, 19:37
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#19

MaplePines Farm, James and his family

James built these cabins with his own hand, with very little help (at best his wife or a helper or both at any given time). And if he is proud of his handiwork, he deserves to be! One must set foot inside the cabins, on the ladder and attic to see why. Everything fits perfectly, and believe me, throughout our stay there, nothing ever creaked! It could easily pass for a concrete building as far as strength goes. It is also a great lesson in space management. Not an inch is wasted, yet you will never bump into a door or wall or furniture or into each other. Plenty of planning has gone into this, and is quite a piece of art.

James and his Khasi wife (Valerina, if I remember correctly) are very busy throughout the day, as they handle the whole operation themselves, with 1 or 2 helpers to wash clothes in a washing machine and clean the dishes (there are quite a lot of them). Helping their children with their homework and getting them ready for school (they take shared jeep to a KV nearby), cooking, looking after the guests, housekeeping (wherever necessary), farming too (I guess, for they own 2 acres of potato fields across the brook in addition to the 1 acre on which their own house and the cabins sit), and of course fortifying and adding on to the wooden structures already present (albeit at a slow rate). So if you get quick, one-syllable answers, don't be annoyed... they don't mean to be curt, they just don't want to delay your dinner! Two large shower rooms (each can hold 2 people at a time) with state-of-the art locking doors, washbasins, large mirrors, clothes hangers, lighting, and hot water from a solar heater occupy one corner of the property. Toilets with washbasins are available in each cabin. The entire property is off the grid, so all the energy that is being used is either solar or wind (I'm not sure about this but saw two towers with vanes attached at the top) stored in batteries and utilized for lighting, pumping water, and other purposes. The entire property has a green carpet of grass and is maintained tidily. The dining room has a small book shelf, a mini-bar with barstools, sofa and table for relaxation/reading, about 3 tables for dining, and a counter adjoining James' kitchen door.

We had dinner both nights here. It is simple (rice, dal, 1 subji, papad - Rs. 200 per head) but tasty and cooked in a health-conscious way. Breakfast is complimentary and we had chapati with subji and tea both days. Quantity of food is modest but usually sufficient. Gluttony is not encouraged, apparently! Murray knocks on the cabin door and announces "Your breakfast/dinner is ready" and James usually checks once in between to see if anything is needed. Once dinner is served, the family apparently goes upstairs and knocking on the kitchen door may not always be met with a response. James apparently has his breakfast at 5-5:30 and gets ready for another busy day.

Gunner doesn't enter the dining area and a black cat (I don't know her/his name) doesn't leave it. Once when we were having dinner, my wife (who is quite scared of anything that moves, especially as clandestinely as a cat) bent forward to check if the cat was under the table and the cat jumped onto her chair and settled between her back and the backrest! When she returned to her usual position, found she was about to sit on something soft and it was not Anu's hand, she jumped with a screech and we were lucky the dining table with all the food didn't topple!

To the right of the property, there is another brook, potato fields, an old bridge, and a series of small hills (from where a man filled a large basked with leaves). For those who have grown up in villages (like my mother, wife, and even father), the sight of the brook means more than anything else. Without invitation, they went about enjoying the water, even washing some handkerchiefs, and steadying the loose stones that had been placed to cross the brook.

The cabins cost Rs. 1360 each per night (so Rs. 5440 in total), food and coffee came up to about Rs. 1700, and the 3 loads of clothes we had left with them to be washed in the washing machine another Rs. 225 (Rs. 75 per load, and a great service - we had 1 week's worth of dirty clothes, and by evening we had a large basket overflowing with clean clothes) in the entrance to our cabins.

On the day when were were leaving Mawphlang, James' wife dropped us off to the football field in their van and stood there for a long time discussing this and that. She showed us the small plant whose leaves are used to make subji. She told us how Meghalaya has a matrilineal (mother's + lineage) culture, not a matriarchal one. What she meant was, the woman was not the owner of the household... it was still the father and the uncles, and they got due respect from the ladies in the house. It was just that the girls took their mother's family name with them when they married. For example, she would be (if I get her first and last names correctly) Valerina Perry Syiemlieh. Perry is James' last name, but Syiemlieh is Valerina's mother's family name. She told us it literally translated to "white king," because her great great grand uncle had fought the Britishers. So when we quipped she was from a royal family, she said she might be but here, in Mawphlang, though they owned property, they weren't rich and actually lived a modest life.

And on the topic of living in Mawphlang, she said that was an exception in itself. In Meghalaya, the youngest daughter (like her) must stay with her parents and the husband has to move to their house (so that they together can look after the girl's parents in their old age). All the property went to the youngest daughter too (son's and other daughters got nothing)! Since they owned MaplePines, she said they had had to ignore this age-old custom.

1: An under-construction portion abutting the dining room - we saw James working on the them early in the morning.
2: Dining table.
3: The walls of the cabin were modestly decorated.
4: Potato fields owned by the family.
5: The English cycling couple.
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#20 May 12th, 2016, 21:15
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#20

Mawlyngbna - (Umkakhoi, Waterfalls, Iew Luri Lura Animal Footprints, Fossils)

Next morning, after a long walk all around MaplePines, a bath in the brook, and breakfast, we headed towards Mawlyngbna. The village itself has nothing to offer. It is 3 km past the village that paradise is ... the Umkhakoi. Inside and outside the park, the ground is covered with large slabs of dark green stone that look as though large ice-cream scoops had been cleaved off them. We had never seen a more eye-catching rock formation.

Just outside the park, about 100 meters beyond the gate, there is one set of what look like animal footprints (and we found these footprints larger and clearer than the ones at Iew Luri Lura later). One can imagine all sorts of animals having laid their heavy feet on what might have been molten lava from a volcano, which eventually cooled down into hardened rock but retained those shapes. These are to be seen to be believed!

Once inside the park, there is a small hut to welcome guests, then on the right is the small water cascade which feeds the beautiful lake, then the lake itself which looks more like a river because of the flow and its length, and then on further up the road a check-dam which bleeds the extra water from the lake resulting in a gushing waterfall. At this point are the kayaks, waiting for tourists. Each kayak apparently costs Rs. 50000, is made of some composite material that doesn't break on impact with the rocky walls of the lake, and are very easy to maneuver. Life-jackets are fitted and off you go, either in a single-person kayak or double, holding 1 paddle per person. Michael, who helped us into the kayaks even showed us how to "row" the kayaks, and it is unbelievable easy! Sitting in a kayak is different from a boat in the sense that you keep your legs straight ahead in front of you and your weight keeps the kayak almost at water level, so you feel like Mowgli, floating on a plank of flat wood. This was a great experience, and for just Rs. 50 per person for 20 minutes. Believe me, if it is even slightly hot and humid, like it was that day, in the life jacket, 20 minutes is what you can really enjoy... more than that would seem like more effort and less fun. We went into dead ends, between rocks which had formed islands in the lake, near the bridge... its fun and its safe. Daddy and mummy took one kayak and had Anu sandwiched between them. Only one other tourist arrived, when we were leaving.

After the kayaking, we took some photos while Anu played on the swings. Then we headed to Mih-Um-Spring, Lawbah. This, Mr. Wan, said was the source of a river of sweet water (we were reminded of Talacauvery in Coorg, Karnataka). Not much to see there, except just a few feet below, the village people were in different stages of undress, enjoying a nice shower under the cascade, and washing clothes.

Since Monday was apparently a holiday at the Travellers Nest here, the contact person there asked us to have lunch somewhere in Lawbah while he looked for a guide to show us the rest of the attractions. Lunch was had at a shop which in addition to tea sold a variety of items including what looked like cake, dosa (pancakes - these were small and made of red rice, and bland), and the usual non-veg items. We ate and shopped for bananas and beetlenut-leaves (I think they call it "tambul," just like we do in Kannada), and waited. Here, we met a young lady from Chennai who had just finished her MBBS and a trip to Arunachal, was doing Meghalaya solo, and was also waiting for somebody to guide her to the footprints and fossils. She had come in a taxi from Shillong, driver by a friendly man called Finance. When we reached the point from where the short trek begins, Batista, our guide, was waiting for us.

We all headed into the forest, then down slippery steps to the waterfall. Then up steps again and onto a large flat area interspersed with gushing water that had carved mini-ravines in the ice-cream-scoops stone. What was noticed was there was a lot of sand here, and Batista told us this place must have been under the sea ages ago.

Then he guided us to the Iew Luri Lura (or so he said), the animal footprints. These were small and denser compared to the ones we had seen earlier. We spent some time matching the footprints with potential animals, existing and imaginary, and had a good laugh at some funny suggestions.

Then we headed tangentially towards the fossils. All along the way, we found fossils here and there that had been destroyed by the sun or human intervention. Once we reached the unassuming rock, I had apprehensions about what fossils this small structure might hold. Batista soon started removing small pieces of rock placed at certain places, poured water on the spots, and the fossils shone to life. He told me these were always covered to ensure they didn't crack from the sun or inadvertently damaged.

In the last three hours, we had seen so more historical items (created maybe thousands, even millions of years ago) in their places of origin that we had in our entire life! The sculpted rocks, the animal footprints, the fossils... all competing for our attention, and all hidden so close to each other.

The ever-smiling Batista said he was a BA Finance final year student and hoped to get a job, and I urged him to retain his passion even after he had permanent employment in his chosen field. The entire trek, stoppages included, took about 2 hours, and Batista said it would be drier, less slippery, and easier after October. The early rains, he said, had "spiced" things up a little bit and the rocks were "acting up."

Once we were back from the trek and Batista was about to leave (having collected Rs. 300 as guide charges, which I felt was extremely reasonable for his services - he even hand-held some of us while negotiating slippery rocks and steps, all with a smile), I asked him about the pitcher plant. And there they were, in all their pomp and glory and in large numbers, right in front of us, just off the road, at a height. Batista explained that one must not drink from pitchers which had their lid open, because they would contain rain water and could be contaminated. So the largest ones (over a foot long) were out of the question. The small ones, with their cute little lids sewed tightly to their lips, were plucked, opened, and consumed... there was just a drop or two of clear tasteless water in each. Now that all our thirsts, both visual and lingual, had been quenched, we headed back to Mawphlang.

On the way, Mr. Wan showed the deviation which 20 km hence would lead us to Symper Rock or a viewpoint from where it would be clearly visible. A few km up the road, he said another attraction around here (though not very close to where we were) was the natural springs in Mawsynram (the new kid on the wettest-place-on-earth block, having edged neighboring old Cherrapunjee). We said, "maybe next time," as darkness was just an hour or so away.

Gunner greeted us on arrival and we were soon readying ourselves for the light-and-sound show that the Mawphlang skies put up almost every night, of thunder and lightning!

1: On the way to Mawlyngbna, clouds ready to devour the narrow road.
2: A cave on the way, but was closed.
3: A bridge, bolstered with wooden planks.
4: After about 40 km, we found this.
5: Off we go, to the footprints!
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#21 May 12th, 2016, 22:13
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#21

Umkhakoi Park

1: Hut at the entrance to the park.
2: The water feeding into the lake.
3, 4: The lake itself, narrow and long.
5: The kayak heap, ready to enter water.
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#22 May 12th, 2016, 22:27
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#22
1,2: Kayaking.
3: With Michael.
4: Footprints all around.
5: Elephant ???
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#23 May 12th, 2016, 22:42
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1: Among the footprints.
2, 3: The source of the river, or so we were told.
4, 5: Two neighboring shopkeepers, at different ends of the age spectrum, in Lawbah Village.
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#24 May 12th, 2016, 22:57
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1: The falls is visible 5 mins into the trek.
2: The falls.
3: The archaic steps.
4: The rock containing the fossils, with Batista on top.
5: One of the fossils (a sea urchin, I presume).
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#25 May 12th, 2016, 23:27
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#25
1: At Iew Luri Lura.
2: Dangerous sport!
3: Mr. Finance and Dr. Sindhu treading softly.
4: The Pitcher plant - botanical name "Nepenthes khasiana"
5: Comparison.
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#26 May 12th, 2016, 23:35
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#26

Pitcher Plant-Meghalaya Connection

It's called a "pitcher" plant because it's shaped like a pitcher. Here's what the internet says about "this" variety.

"Nepenthes khasiana is India’s only pitcher plant, and is named after the Khasi Hills region of Meghalaya State in Northeastern India, where this species endemically occurs."

"Pitcher plants are several different carnivorous plants which have modified leaves known as pitfall traps—a prey-trapping mechanism featuring a deep cavity filled with digestive fluid."

So, in essence, we had for the first time in our lives seen a "live" carnivorous plant, and we could have seen it only here! And what was drank was not water but a mild acid, similar to the human bile! I will leave you on that note and come back tomorrow with more. Hope you are enjoying the read.
#27 May 13th, 2016, 00:00
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#27
I'm really enjoying the trip. Thank you for awesome travelogue

On a side note, you have returned to Mawphlang on this day after doing Mawlyngbna right? So if someone wants they can stay at Mawsynram after doing Mawlyngbna without returning back to Mawphlang?
#28 May 13th, 2016, 01:42
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#28
Oh you met Sindu also , aka Drpseudomonas here in Indiamike. She landed up at my door all alone with no plans and 4 days in hand. We met 2-3 times when she was here. She finally landed up staying for 8 days, if im not mistaken. Kept extending one day after the other.
Very brave IMer. Travelled everywhere all by herself.
#29 May 13th, 2016, 07:31
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#29

Mawsynram instead of Mawphlang?

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Originally Posted by Suparna Acharya View Post On a side note, you have returned to Mawphlang on this day after doing Mawlyngbna right? So if someone wants they can stay at Mawsynram after doing Mawlyngbna without returning back to Mawphlang?

Absolutely, if there are stay options available in Mawsynram (which I'm not aware of). Just checked maps, Mawsynram is on the road from Lawbah (which is the village nearest to Mawlyngbna on the map) to Mawphlang and 16 km from Lawbah... so about half an hour away, I would suppose. That way, even if you reached after daylight hours, you could see a bit of Mawynram in the morning before proceeding to, say, Mawlynnong. But that means you must have finished Sacred Forest (5 minutes from MaplePines) the day you leave for Mawlyngbna and you will in all probability miss the David Scott trek (which starts almost where the Sacred Forest "ends"). So please check what is there to see in Mawsynram before planning this way.
Hope this helps.
#30 May 13th, 2016, 07:47
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Originally Posted by karikor View Post Oh you met Sindu also , aka Drpseudomonas here in Indiamike. She landed up at my door all alone with no plans and 4 days in hand. We met 2-3 times when she was here. She finally landed up staying for 8 days, if im not mistaken. Kept extending one day after the other.
Very brave IMer. Travelled everywhere all by herself.
Yes. We had the pleasure of meeting her. Brave indeed. We met her at the eatery in Lawbah, recommended the "dosa" and supplied tomato ketchup to spice up the blandness. She said she had done kayaking after we had left. She talked enthusiastically about how she went to Tawang and other parts of Arunachal with friends and different groups, including a greenhorn organization arranging a tour in Arunachal for the first time. She also raved about her unplanned trip to Lahaul-Spiti.

At her request, I asked Mr. Wan to call James and get her put up in a tent, to which James obliged. I urged her to write about her travel experiences on Indiamike, as she was clearly in a minority (being a solo woman traveller) and could inspire hundreds of women without knowing it! She said she had never done it before but would try.

In fact, we had lunch and breakfast together, she took share jeep to reach Sacred Forest ahead of us and did the David Scott trail. The last we saw of her was standing in the market area in Sohra next morning as our car whizzed past her and we were quite far down the road before we recognized her, so didn't return... not that we could have helped her in any way as we were already occupying every inch of the car! Never heard from her after that, though we had left our number with her.
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