Ajmal managed to be late citing tire problems as an excuse. My legs were tired too, but D seemed to be even worse off, stooping like an old woman when she walked. I laughed, but my back hurt when I did that! Breakfast was standard – paratha and omelette. The night before, Ajmal had claimed complete ignorance of where Laitlum – one of our destinations for the day – was. Though Chintu also professed no knowledge, he was kind enough to find out and draw a map for us. Google Maps helped too.
We decided to go straight to Smit, and from thereon to Laitlum. Despite the map, it was difficult to find. It was really an ‘edge of the world’ place, and though there was heavy mist, it was quite an awesome view. Unfortunately the damn mist wouldn’t allow the canyon view to pose for photos! It takes just over an hour from Shillong, so it’s really worth a trip, for the silence and awe. Ajmal, as usual, had no idea on where the 100 year old house in Smit was, so we had to skip that!
The next stop was Shillong Peak, and it had begun raining heavily again! But it cleared for a few minutes just as we reached the peak, and so we were able to catch the splendid view, though there were clouds and mist. D also got to wear the traditional Khasi costume for Rs.50. While climbing the little watchtower, D suddenly realised that she had developed a fear of steps.
Elephant Falls was next. Appearances and sounds were deceiving, and when D realised the number of steps that it would take to reach the third level of falls, she immediately balked. The first level was easy, and I went till about the second level, but from my vantage point, didn’t see a lot of sense in going to the third. I also realised that the place seemed to be a favourite rendezvous for the young Shillong crowd, and didn’t want to disturb their, erm, best practices.
We got back to Laitumkhra after spending close to an hour in Shillong traffic! This time we were adamant about finding Sesame, and finally did! It was in a little building called Shoppers Cove near the Municipal Parking Lot in Laitumkhra! We entered the dimly lit, tiny outlet and discovered that they really didn’t serve local dishes as various stories had informed us! So Pork Chilly Mushroom and a Chicken Chopsuey it was! We then went back to the hotel, totally tired.
We were too lazy to even go out for dinner, so the plan of visiting Cloud 9 in Police Bazaar was dropped. Instead we ate waffle cone ice creams at the Baskin Robbins outlet nearby. A sweet last night in Shillong.
Day 5: On the return trip, Ajmal was supposed to stop at Barahpani, but didn’t deem it worthy enough. Instead we got to see several man made waterfalls on the road, with truckers being the major contributors. Ajmal seemed to be focused on sending us heavenwards even before the flight, and had a curious habit of accelerating on hairpin curves and places where there were boards that stated speed limits of 20-30 kmph. Have to mention here, that we found a Kerala restaurant at 9th Mile! Seemed closed though. The Guwahati airport does have a couple of options for snacks. At Kolkata we sat at our regular CCD hangout just outside the main building and killed a few hours. Indigo proved to be as 6E as it always is in terms of sticking to time.
The trip cost us around Rs.60000 inclusive of everything – tickets, hotels, meals, taxi. We went through Traveloearth, but really wouldn’t recommend them mostly courtesy Ajmal. Both White Orchid and Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort are functional and clean. The trip was worth it thanks to the day spent at Cherrapunjee, a couple of really nice people we met – Chintu and Angela, and for visiting a place that a favourite author set her first book in – also her birthplace. I am a huge fan of Anjum Hasan‘s writing, but on Day 1, I became skeptical of her description of Shillong. However, by the end of the journey, I could completely relate to the place in “Lunatic in my head” though it is set in the 1990s. It would seem that Shillong has grown since then, but hasn’t really moved.