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A Walk in the Clouds

About Gargi Baruah

​Gargi Baruah is a student at Alliance Francaise Delhi, pursuing French language skills along with being a mother of a​ 2-year-old daughter and an aspiring ESL trainer and a blogger. With a corporate experience of more than 10 years, along with a degree in Business administration, she​ wishes​ to impart the knowledge and experience gained in all these years, to young learners and students in need. Other than that, she dream​s​ of being an avid traveller and go around the world with a backpack and be footloose. Music, chatting and watching movies ​have been a few of her​ top favourites throughout.

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I recall saying, “I don’t want to miss it….!” with a frown on my face. A gesture, a stereotype, by a woman for her husband when she has a plethora of confusion in her mind, expected to be resolved by him, of course.

 

The ‘Gods of rains’ were to be held responsible, since they wouldn’t stop even for a moment, pouring down like a bevy of thorns from the sky. It was the month of March, when we were in one of the Northeastern parts of India, in the city of Shillong. It was day 3 of our five days stay when we had planned a full day trip to the Umiam lake, commonly known as Barapani lake, a popular destination for water sports among many other attractions.

 

With our little bags packed for the excursion, along with our daughter and my parents, we kept on peeping out of the window of our hotel suite, waiting for the maddening rains to have mercy, for us to step out in the open. Our driver followed suit. In despair he even tried to convince my husband to call off the day’s trip, which was one of the primary cause of my facial gimmicks.

 

Nevertheless, just about noon, we convinced him to drive us out of the city, for around 15 km through the mountains, to reach the beautiful reservoir.

A man made creation by damming the Umiam lake, it’s principal catchment area and dam is spread over 220 sq km. It didn’t make any difference that it was past noon, because the dark clouds kept on jamming together making it appear as if the sun was yet to rise for the day.

 

We rushed into the spacious restaurant overlooking the Umiam lake, surrounded by a spectacular view of the flora, depicting true wilderness of the hilly region. Hoping that with the passage of time the rains would stop, we ordered ourselves a generous supply of food. Whilst the luncheon, we didn’t miss out on the opportunity of posing ourselves for an array of photographs to be clicked against the wonderful backdrop.

As hoped, post an hour or so, the weather had begun to change. The rains got slower and we could see the sun popping it’s head out, smiling dearly at us. Quite a huge relief that was!

Well! as they say, radical minds can bring about a radical change.

Walking out into the open towards the lake, we were welcomed by vast areas covered with pine trees, standing tall. One could hear the wind whistling through the trees, such was the serenity of the place. Evidently, collecting pine cones became a must. As we reached the shore, we spotted a line-up of boats waiting in anticipation of passengers.

Considering the weather conditions, it required a lot of convincing of the boat man of a prettier looking boat, for us to step into it. I must say, I am thankful to him because that ride was definitely one of the best rides I have ever had, not forgetting the new dialect of Hindi that we were introduced to, the colloquial, ‘Khasi Hindi’.

As we sailed by, I could feel the chilly wind of the mountains in my hair making me smile with a shiver. The low lurking clouds, cutting through the hill tops appeared like dollops of cream about to drop on our heads. An unforgettable sight!

Once we were ashore, we walked by the beautiful wooden cottages of the locals, giving us more opportunities to click pictures.

Our excursion to the Umiam lake came to an end with a drive back to the city, swirling through the mountain paths and passing through a canopy of rain bearing clouds.

Truly it was a day to remember when I had ‘a walk through the clouds’!

But all of it was worth the pain, when we reached down and the beautiful bridge came into our sight. Built by enormous roots of two trees winding together to make a wide path, this beautiful roots’ bridge stood sturdily across the hilly river. Standing on it, we couldn’t get enough of the wild terrain, trying to absorb it’s beauty and create memories.

The climb back to the top was harder than we had imagined. Huffing and puffing, we walked back to our car amidst the village. We couldn’t stop noticing the cleanliness of it’s surroundings. The roads, though rugged, had a dearth of filth and litter, the toilets so clean and maintained, made us awestruck. How could a place in such interiors be this charmingly clean?!

It was then, while bidding goodbye, we got to know that it’s the Mawlynnong village of Meghalaya, known for being one of the cleanest in the country.

I wish our nation has more of such Mawlynnong’s!….

I recall saying, “I don’t want to miss it….!” with a frown on my face. A gesture, a stereotype, by a woman for her husband when she has a plethora of confusion in her mind, expected to be resolved by him, of course.

The ‘Gods of rains’ were to be held responsible, since they wouldn’t stop even for a moment, pouring down like a bevy of thorns from the sky. It was the month of March, when we were in one of the Northeastern parts of India, in the city of Shillong. It was day 3 of our five days stay when we had planned a full day trip to the Umiam lake, commonly known as Barapani lake, a popular destination for water sports among many other attractions.

With our little bags packed for the excursion, along with our daughter and my parents, we kept on peeping out of the window of our hotel suite, waiting for the maddening rains to have mercy, for us to step out in the open. Our driver followed suit. In despair he even tried to convince my husband to call off the day’s trip, which was one of the primary cause of my facial gimmicks.

Nevertheless, just about noon, we convinced him to drive us out of the city, for around 15 km through the mountains, to reach the beautiful reservoir.

A man made creation by damming the Umiam lake, it’s principal catchment area and dam is spread over 220 sq km. It didn’t make any difference that it was past noon, because the dark clouds kept on jamming together making it appear as if the sun was yet to rise for the day.

We rushed into the spacious restaurant overlooking the Umiam lake, surrounded by a spectacular view of the flora, depicting true wilderness of the hilly region. Hoping that with the passage of time the rains would stop, we ordered ourselves a generous supply of food. Whilst the luncheon, we didn’t miss out on the opportunity of posing ourselves for an array of photographs to be clicked against the wonderful backdrop.

As hoped, post an hour or so, the weather had begun to change. The rains got slower and we could see the sun popping it’s head out, smiling dearly at us. Quite a huge relief that was!

Well! as they say, radical minds can bring about a radical change.

Walking out into the open towards the lake, we were welcomed by vast areas covered with pine trees, standing tall. One could hear the wind whistling through the trees, such was the serenity of the place. Evidently, collecting pine cones became a must. As we reached the shore, we spotted a line-up of boats waiting in anticipation of passengers.

Considering the weather conditions, it required a lot of convincing of the boat man of a prettier looking boat, for us to step into it. I must say, I am thankful to him because that ride was definitely one of the best rides I have ever had, not forgetting the new dialect of Hindi that we were introduced to, the colloquial, ‘Khasi Hindi’.

As we sailed by, I could feel the chilly wind of the mountains in my hair making me smile with a shiver. The low lurking clouds, cutting through the hill tops appeared like dollops of cream about to drop on our heads. An unforgettable sight!

Once we were ashore, we walked by the beautiful wooden cottages of the locals, giving us more opportunities to click pictures.

Our excursion to the Umiam lake came to an end with a drive back to the city, swirling through the mountain paths and passing through a canopy of rain bearing clouds.

Truly it was a day to remember when I had ‘a walk through the clouds’!

The walk through the clouds happened for the second time in Dawki.

The clouds continued to rage and pour not just ‘cats & dogs’, but a lot many more. It was day 4, when we embarked on our trip to Dawki river from the city of Shillong. A drive of around 82 km was one of the most memorable one, because while leaving the city, we could hardly envisage the spectacles to be witnessed. Located on the border of India and Bangladesh, we traversed the Jaintia hills of Meghalaya to reach the town of Dawki. While on the previous day at Umiam we were under a canopy of clouds, today they had engulfed us making the path barely visible. The usual time of a two hour’s drive doubled, because of extremely poor visibility. What started off as a thrill, slowly had begun to turn into a scare! It was quite a feat to ride those meandering paths by making way through the clouds. I guess the driver, who was an absolute expert of the hills was hawk- eyed, for he could perceive the perils of what seemed to be a ‘Galaxy of Milky Way’ for the dim-witted rest!

After a little over two hours we started going down-hill, when we reached a small village encapsulated in  luscious green surroundings. Plainly those bamboo huts coupled with the ongoing rains made for the perfect setting for a tea stop over. While sipping the hot tea and devouring those chicken momos served to us in a thatched roof shop, we could spot the locals renting out umbrellas to the tourists visiting them. That’s when we got to know that the village was in the vicinity of one of the oldest living roots-bridge of North East, surely a hot spot for the tourists and a must-see for us too !

Carrying the rented umbrellas, after walking for a few minutes, we could hear the murmur of the river flowing through the approaching forest. As we walked into the dense forest, the tall trees with their thick trunks and long creepers reminded us of the flora from the film ‘Avatar’, an ‘other worldly’ feeling.

The descending path of around 400 metres to reach the river below was paved with uneven stones. A triumph it was to climb down those, without slipping and falling down into the river. The big umbrellas that were trying to protect us from the crazy downpour made it all the more difficult for us to balance on the steep.

But all of it was worth the pain, when we reached down and the beautiful bridge came into our sight. Built by enormous roots of two trees winding together to make a wide path, this beautiful roots’ bridge stood sturdily across the hilly river. Standing on it, we couldn’t get enough of the wild terrain, trying to absorb it’s beauty and create memories.

The climb back to the top was harder than we had imagined. Huffing and puffing, we walked back to our car amidst the village. We couldn’t stop noticing the cleanliness of it’s surroundings. The roads, though rugged, had a dearth of filth and litter, the toilets so clean and maintained, made us awestruck. How could a place in such interiors be this charmingly clean?!

It was then, while bidding goodbye, we got to know that it’s the Mawlynnong village of Meghalaya, known for being one of the cleanest in the country.

I wish our nation has more of such Mawlynnong’s!….

 

Continued in Part 2…

The onward journey to Dawki town was for another two hours , passing through countless alleys, lined up with many plantations of broom trees, the ‘Jhau gach’, as referred locally. It felt like we’ve been transferred into some place unknown to civilisation but left with only these broom bushes looming out, waving at us for miles and miles to go.While we were at the living roots bridge, the rains had slowed down a bit, but now it attacked with full rage.

However, our ride was brought to a halt by a reverberating rustling sound of water gushing from the adjacent hills. Proceeding towards the sound, we were approached by an iron bridge running across one of the many streams flowing down the hills. Once on the bridge, we were marveled by the sight of one of the most wild and gigantic waterfalls I might have had seen in a long time. It was plunging down the mountains and tumbling on the steep rocks, forming an enormous froth at it’s base and then finally spurting down the river below. We were inundated by it’s mist. The heavy downpour clubbed with the vaporizing effect of the waterfalls made us shudder, but at the same time we were overtly amused.

Unknown to many, this one kept on cascading into the river like a lone yet a mighty survivor in the Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. The unnamed was thus named, ‘Monster of the Mountains’ by us!

Dawki being the last town in Meghalaya on the border of Bangladesh, the road we were on, was parallel to the Indo-Bangladesh border with paddy fields and river streams flowing through.

To enter the town we had to cross the Dawki bridge, a suspension built in 1932, over the Umngot river or the famous Dawki river. The sign post at it’s entry read something like ‘at your own risk’, thus adding a bit of thrill while crossing the bridge.

Looking down the ravine one could see the Dawki river, like a flowing lava of chocolate. The usual crystal clear blue coloured water was now dark brown due to the relentless rains causing landslides into it’s water. But that didn’t stop us from stepping out of our car and getting into one of the boats lined up on the banks of the river. The boat man couldn’t hide his amusement seeing us, the only group of passengers venturing into the ferocious river for a boat ride amidst torrential rains. As soon as the boat unhitched itself, we could feel the undercurrent below us with the roaring waters around.

Though there was this fear of being capsized, we were enthralled by the raw scenic beauty of the ravines with thick forest perched atop them. It made us thank ourselves for being such daring ones to have experienced this adventure of a ride on those deep whirling waters. After around 20 minutes, we were brought ashore, when we profusely thanked that boat man and our fate too, for not being swept away into some place elsewhere!

Later on, a visit to the Tamabil checkpost was a must. Tamabil is the post in Bangladesh used mainly for coal transportation to and fro. The small road to the post was however very dusty due to the non-stop passage of trucks transporting coal. Around 500 trucks cross the border every day.

The return journey in the evening to Shillong was again another feat. The diminishing sun light along with the incessant rains would make anyone jitter with the thought of passing by those crooked ways of the mountains.

However, this time I calmly dozed off in the car seat, putting my fate in the hands of our seasoned driver who we knew, had the eyes of a hawk!

Picture Courtesy: Ankit Thakkar

Picture Courtesy: Jharna Priyadarshi

The End

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2 Response Comments

  • Anuk18/07/2018 at 4:11 PM

    An interesting read. And well written, Gargi. Reading these travel stories about Shillong makes me want to explore and travel through the natural beauty of our country’s north-eastern states. I’ve never been there, hoping to achieve this dream soon. Until then, keep us enthralled, Ms. Baruah… I’ll live vicariously through your travelogues!

  • Jharna18/07/2018 at 5:09 PM

    Gargi you are a fantastic writer…. U described it so beautifully dat at some place we imagine as all dese things are really a part of our life… Nyways thanks for giving my name in dis beautiful story

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