Continued from Day 1
Day 2 was slightly kinder as we got up at 7.30 and had plans to start off for Cherrapunjee by about 8.30. Breakfast was paratha and omelette, served at 8. We were slightly delayed though, but set out just before 9. The journey took us through some extremely picturesque landscapes and we stifled the urge to tell Ajmal to stop the car so we could take snaps. We were secretly afraid that he might continue without us. We stopped at Duwan Sing Syiem on the way to Sohra, and then at Nohsngithiang falls before continuing to Cherrapunjee. Soon, it was easy to understand why Meghalaya is called the Scotland of the East. It has to be those endless meadows.
It was immediately after that, soon as we passed the Mawsmai caves, that Ajmal got it into his head that we had to see the Indo-Bangladesh border. Of course he had no idea where it was. So he just vaguely drove around for a few hours, despite several suggestions from us that we turn back. I have a feeling that his ancestors must have come from Bangladesh, that is the only plausible explanation for his extra bout of madness. It passed at about 11.45 and we got back to the caves. That was another bizarre experience as we splashed into the cave with another large set of tourists. Slippery as hell, the only way out was to just keep plodding ahead, amidst shrieks from kids and their parents alike. Ignoring Ajmal’s suggestions to eat at a restaurant there, we decided to proceed to our hotel, following spirited little yellow signboards along the twisty, curvy way that had some amazing views.
The Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort, about 15 kms away from the main road, is an establishment that’s totally unique. We reached just in time for for a late lunch – Pork Chilly, Chicken Neiiong and Butter Tawa Rotis. There is something very homely about the place – the people, the large hall with the computer, common television, and photographs and handicraft items on the wall. We rested for a while in our clean and functional room. A musty smell was mostly solved by the freshener that the staff sprayed just before we got in. There are costlier Executive rooms too, but we had an awesome view from our room. D went out to take snaps while I napped. Around tea time, we were given a little file on local legends, and the treks we could go for. THE thing we wanted to see was the famous double decker root bridge, unique to this part of the world. But that was for the next day.
Sipping tea, watching the sunset and a view that’s one of the best I’ve ever seen, we chatted about the resort itself. The main building had a bungalow feel to it and we wondered if it was government owned. I had become a fan of the place – the little yellow signs on the approach road, the way the staff interacted with us, the copious documentation available on various aspects about Cherrapunjee, their efforts on sustainable and inclusive tourism etc- and told D that I sensed a smart and creative mind behind this. As we strolled, an oldish gentleman stopped to chat with us. We gathered that he was in charge, and wondered if he was probably a government employee, a very amiable one at that! Probably an IAS officer who had chosen to skip the bureaucratic rat race? It was only a few hours later that Google pointed me to the amazing love story of Denis P Rayen, who owns the place. The love in this case for not just his Khasi wife, but for Cherrapunjee itself. Suddenly, everything we were seeing around us, had an explanation. I kicked myself for not recognising him from the photo in the little office room and having a longer chat, which would undoubtedly have been an interesting one! Several times on this blog, I have written about the purpose of life, I think this guy has at least gotten close to nailing it.
Meanwhile, the view progressed further on a scale of awesomeness, and even the two noisy couples (and their noisier children) couldn’t take away from our experience. It wasn’t just the view – mountains and plains and the tiny town on the hill nearby, or the lights far away slowly flickering on as the sun set, it was the entire ambiance, the spells of silence…. It was magical, and by far the best part of our trip.
Dinner consisted of Pork Dohkhleh (highly recommended) and a Jadoh Stem Chicken, which seemed like a regional variation of the Biryani. We also made elaborate plans for the trek the next day – a guide, packed lunch – and were guided perfectly by the staff. Sometime during the night, I was awakened by a loud noise. It was a thunderclap, Cherrapunjee had just said hello. But that’s a story for the next day.