Cherrapunjee had decided to show us why it deserved the ‘wettest place on earth’ tag. Being from Kerala, we were not really wet behind our ears when it came to heavy rains. But this was something else! Many times we saw the sky clear up, but it was like two government departments. The skies never communicated to the rains, and the latter just kept falling unabated. We wondered what we could do since the checkout time was 12. After breakfast, we cancelled the guide and the packed lunch plans, and went back to staring at the rains.
By 10.30, it had reduced to an irritating “won’t go away and won’t let you go anywhere either” level, but we decided to get out anyway. That was when Angela completely lived up to her name. Our plan was to drop the Double Decker Bridge trek plan and see the Single version, but Angela said that the path to the latter was made of stone steps, and thus more slippery, so we should attempt the former, and the longest Root Bridge and a Single Root living bridge were anyway on the way. She gave us a detailed map for us – till the point the car could go, and the longer stretch beyond. To top it, a little gift from them, and a Perk each. (we were as delighted as kids!) Then followed another example of thoughtfulness and concern when she said that we should carry plastic bags to cover our heads, and promptly gave us a few. She also advised Ajmal – no easy task – on the car route. And thus we bid adieu to the wonderful Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort.
Despite Ajmal’s best efforts, we reached the starting point of the trek. Telling him to wait there, and have a quick lunch (and come back soon) if absolutely necessary, we started out. 2500 steps, the signboard warned. Yes, we knew that when we signed up. The first 1.5 kms, Angela had told us, were the toughest, and boy, it was! Steps after steps, and steep ones at that. I gave up counting after 15. It was either my balance or the balance number I could focus on, since the steps were slippery thanks to the rain. Handrails exist for a tiny stretch much later, but at several points, you get a clear idea of how deep your final fall would be! Walking down, I remarked, was tougher, since the chances of slipping were higher. So I led the way. Staring at the map Angela had given surprisingly did not reduce the length of the trek! I wish they had some ‘you are here’ mechanism in terms of the number of steps. We finally reached the village where the right turn would take us to the longest root bridge and the left, to a single root bridge, steel rope bridge, the double decker root bridge and the end point, with natural springs. Even typing it seems exhausting! We went right and reached the longest root bridge fast enough. The mandatory photo op done, we retraced our steps, and then continued on the ‘left’ path. The cement steps feature was no longer available, and after the smooth stones threatened me a couple of times, I took my slippers in my hand and continued.
The steps continued to be steep, and the rain became nastier, so after several “we’ll go till the next corner and then decide” we finally decided to go back. Though I’d decided not to look up, I did, when I reached the village, and massively shuddered. Since I wanted to catch D in case she slipped, I erm, bravely let her take the lead. I began strongly, humming ‘how many steps must a man take before he can reach a car’, but soon had to spend more time trying to figure out when and where my next breath would come from! At one point, I even contemplated settling down in the village below, and waiting for the day a car could make its way there. D dealt with it much better. An old woman coming down said something when I smiled at her. We both understood the need for minimal communication. We successfully lost our way in the last 100m, and came upon a sight that I had come close to seeing several times in the 2.5 hours we had been trekking- God, in the form of a church. We retraced our steps and found that the great man had gone for lunch! Thankfully he deemed it fit to return soon and we asked him to take us back to the hotel. He wondered if we were talking about the Cherrapunjee one!
This was also the day that we were supposed to see the cleanest village in Asia - Mawlynnong, but thanks to our tour operator’s excellent planning skills, it was not possible, since it was too far away! On the way back to Shillong, we also realised that the word ‘resort’ was used loosely here, and these places could actually be considered only as a last resort! Angela’s Perk was lunch! Shillong’s traffic jams reminded me of Bangalore’s worst, and we finally reached White Orchid at 5ish.
We asked Ajmal to come by around 6.30 since we wanted to explore Police Bazaar. That sortie turned out to be a futile one, as neither the Police Bazaar, nor its adjacent roads – GS Road, Jail Road, actually led to anything interesting.
We decided to go back to Laitumkhrah for dinner, and since the search for Sesame again proved futile, and Munchies was full, had to visit Café Shillong again. Shillong Chicken cutlets, Khao Suey and Shillong Noodles with Chilly Chicken followed. Unsurprisingly, the cutlets came after the Khao Suey (they gave us dried shrimp with it and D identified it before I killed myself again) The noodles and chilly chicken was a spicy combination, I quite liked it. We asked the restaurant manager for the directions to Sesame, and he did try to help us, with ‘look down for the signage’ and ‘near the Police Station’ being the best tips.
We finally returned to the hotel, knowing fully well that the next morning would be full of aches!