Cherrapunjee: Waterfalls, valleys and spectacular views
Cherrapunjee is perpetually veiled by grey clouds. It truly embodies nature’s best, with countless waterfalls and acres of lush foliage
Having heard profound superlatives about the architectural wonders that are the living root bridges and seen magical pictures of the cottony clouds of Cherrapunjee, I decided that even if I had only a long weekend, a flavour of the destination, at least, was conceivable.
Guwahati, the air node to Cherrapunjee, is only 148km away. Depending on time, one can make a stop at Shillong (100km from Guwahati) or travel the stretch at one go. I decided to do the latter.
Intensely green, especially during the monsoons, Cherrapunjee (Sohra to locals) is perpetually veiled by grey clouds. It truly embodies nature’s best, with countless waterfalls and acres of lush foliage. Across the profusion of green hills in Cherrapunjee are the plains of Bangladesh with tan-coloured rivers cutting across a patchwork of fields. No matter which way you look, Cherrapunjee offers an evocative expression of nature.
I chose the lesser-feted Arwah-Lumshynna caves over Mawsmai, for a teaser to what I would witness during the rest of my stay. Even the parking lot was a veritable viewpoint offering sweeping views of Cherrapunjee town and a deep valley beside it. A paved trail guided one to the caves bedecked with stalagmites and stalactites.
Cherrapunjee isn’t a sprawling town. This gave me the opportunity to make quick stops at multiple places. The famous Nohkalikai Falls, plummeting 340m into an emerald blue pool, was incredible. But it was the Dainthelen Waterfall that truly took my breath away. Low on tourist buzz, it offered an ideal ambience as it stuttered over a stony bed, corroded over centuries, before plunging down as a violent white sheet of water.
I raced against time and relatively short days to get to a viewpoint to spot the imposing single rock-mound called Motrop and Kynrem Falls close by. I even managed to see the British cemetery and David Scott Memorial, which commemorates the officer who carved out a trail from Assam to Bangladesh. But as I went to bed that night, happy but fatigued, I dreamt of the one thing I hadn’t seen that day—the root bridges.
Next morning I drove to Tyrna village, the springboard of the trek to the Double Decker Root Bridge. From here, 2,500 small paved steps descend 2000ft into the valley. At the base is the first tryst with a living root bridge, simply called the Long Root Bridge. From here, another 1,500 steps on an incline take you to Nongriat. It is recommended to stop here for the night in local homestays.
A short distance from here, the Double Decker Bridge hangs over the Umsiang river. The bridge is a work of art, made over 40 years by plaiting aerial roots of mostly rubber trees through bamboo and knotting them up. Villagers take turns to create them, and chances are some may not even use them in their lifetime.
But my Cherrapunjee sojourn wasn’t done just yet. I carried on 3km further from here to the marvellous Rainbow Waterfall. The perpetual band of colours foregrounding the waterfall give it its name. Though the whimsical weather made me leave the place soon, it was the ideal spot to calibrate the mind with nature’s rhythms.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.
Supriya Sehgal tweets from @supsonthemove
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