A trip to Nagaland in Northeast India was what I’d dreamed about for quite a long time, and it happened last December. But the pleasant addition to my trip was Meghalaya, “the abode of rains and clouds.”
Oh, how I enjoyed this wonderful land! There isn’t a bit of exaggeration when I say that many places in Meghalaya churned in me the desire to lose myself in its charms, to be a wanderer romancing nature.
Dawki is a name that I’d heard casually mentioned in travel circles. The only thing I knew about the place was what I could see in a picture of a boat floating in a glasslike river. When I heard that it was close to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, I couldn’t resist planning a visit.
The Government of Meghalaya conducted day tours to Dawki, but only if a sufficient number of people were there to fill up the mini-bus. My friends and I managed to find a few more travellers, and off we went.
Deep Dark Valley
We started from Shillong quite early in the morning. First, let me tell you something about Shillong. Just like any other capital, Shillong is a bustling city with lots of traffic, but there were very few two-wheelers on the roads. With the roads being narrow, it isn’t easy to manoeuvre big vehicles there.
After a while, the scenery began to change dramatically. And before my eyes appeared our first stop, Deep Dark Valley, which is also known as Rngain Canyon.
When I got out of the vehicle to view the valley, I noticed that every person had an awestruck look on their face. It was a spectacular place! Countless hills and valleys surrounded us, all green and serene!
Turning to any side there, I was greeted by the same splendid view. The guide told us that the place remains covered by mist for most of the year, so by coming in winter, I had luck on my side. I longed to go down into the deep valleys, but because I was part of a group, this wasn’t possible.
Though I’d heard that Mawlynnong was the cleanest village in Asia, I was hardly prepared for what I experienced there: a beautiful village that impresses you with its cleanliness, simplicity, warmth and—most of all—delicious food.
Here, each person is a cleanliness volunteer. If a villager sees garbage on the road, they’ll just pick it up and put it in the dustbin, as simple as that! I couldn’t help thinking, when is my part of the country going to be like this?
Being a self-confessed foodie, the sumptuous vegetarian meal in Mawlynnong filled my tummy as well as my heart. It consisted of simple food, devoid of an overdose of spices and retaining the original taste of vegetables. I’d never tasted such a delicious lunch, except at home.
I could barely move an inch after the meal. There were also plenty of places to relax nearby, in the company of flowers and shrubs.
Living Root Bridge of Riwai
The day was full of more pleasant surprises, like the Living Root Bridge. When the guide told us that it was just a 10-minute walk away, I heaved a sigh of relief. After the lunch, I wasn’t in the mood for a long trek. In the beginning, a gentle slope with stone steps was all I could see. There were trees on both sides, so it was a pleasant walk.
The bridge was surely a lesson in eco-friendliness. It’s built of interlocking strong roots of wild rubber trees. Walking over it, I felt a sense of pride upon realizing that my countrymen and women are such skilled people!
As it was winter, the stream under the bridge had very little water. I vowed to come again during the monsoon season, just to see the vastness of water under the bridge.
Umngot River in Dawki
Finally, we reached Dawki, the place that I’d been waiting for the whole day to see. To tell you the truth, I’d thought that there must’ve been an element of exaggeration in what I’d heard about the crystal-clear waters of the Umngot River. But no, it was absolutely true!
When seen from afar, boats in the river appeared to be floating above the surface!
The water in the river looked so clear and transparent. When seen from afar, boats in the river appeared to be floating above the surface! I got into a boat and enjoyed the wonderful ride. But, as evening was approaching, we missed the underwater views that can be seen in bright sunlight.
There were lots of villagers around, most with fishing bait. Some were canoeing and some were even swimming in the ice-cold water. Had it been summer, I would’ve jumped in with them. But we saw a slice of the local life, and also had a spellbinding sunset view when the sun disappeared behind the horizon, throwing a myriad of colours onto the water.
A heart full of gratitude
All images by the author