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March 14, 2020

Flying high and laying low in Meghalaya

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The Meghalayan Age festival was held in March this year, is a praiseworthy initiative in promoting the immersive and adventurous pursuits the state can offer to the followers of slow travel and small carbon footprints. It’s a paradigm shift from the usual rigmarole of holidays packed with activities that keep one on their toes till they start to hurt!

The festival gave us an opportunity to float among the puffy clouds overlooking pristine green valleys and hills that Meghalaya boasts of. The ride involved stepping into voluminous rainbow-colored balloons which were controlled by the efficient and well trained pilots. We stepped into wicker baskets with butterflies in our stomach and geared up for the experience of a lifetime. The roar of the gas burner and you are afloat in minutes with the orange-tinted horizon kissed by the early morning sun rays looming ahead of us. Breathtakingly beautiful skyscapes and will tempt you to capture its raw beauty with your cameras. One increasingly became aware that the heat of the burner kept one warm enough against the morning chill and if you do not want to subject your scalp to the heat overhead do bring along a scarf! With a gentle bump, you will make a safe landing under the skillful hands of the pilot and the ensuing loud cheer is sure to follow, to mark the end of a momentous journey in the skies.  As your landing site is at the whims of the wind that carries you, don’t be surprised if you are welcomed by a group of curious local kids who will give you a heroes’ welcome on landing. You will feel like a star as you click selfies with your newly acquired fans!

Soon you will be brought down to earth the following day as you will be plunging deep into to the bottom of the earth for some Caving. Armed well in your miner’s hats and tracksuits with sturdy boots you will plod along with your guide discovering the rock formations in the bowels of the earth. Hidden In the deep recesses of the Jaintia and Khasi hills are some of the world’s longest cave systems containing some stunning formations of stalactites and stalagmites. Explore the underworld in the beautiful caves – Krem Rupasor, Krem Synrang & Krem Krung-Krang-Muhabon.  Wading through riverbeds and close calls with bats pausing to admire the formations glistening in the sunlight filtering through the openings above will leave you open-mouthed in wonder… but be aware there are wandering bats who might just decide to answer nature’s call. You wouldn’t want to change that!

Cascades and Riverscapes: All those rain-bearing clouds lend themselves to the formation of crystal clear virgin lakes and pools. A boat ride gently gliding along the Umngot river in Darrong is perfect to unwind, relax and ponder. Colorful wooden boats lined up along the banks surrounded by emerald green forested hills and the rhythmic movement of the oars swishing through the transparent waters will leave you mesmerized.  The well-rounded beauty of pebbles and shingles strewn across the river bed are delightful to look but not to take back home with you for your aquarium! Just chant the sustainability mantra in your head three times to overcome this frivolous need and feel gratitude, be mindful about its beauty. 

Krang Shuri Waterfalls: Nothing can well match the tugging of the heartstrings than the sight of a glorious waterfall, cascading into a pool of crystal clear azure blue waters. . A short trek uphill and in the clearing is the magnificent cascade that greets your eye. All the iconic waterfall scenes flash before one’s eyes and make one wish the others disappear in a flash, to enjoy this tranquil scene all to oneself. You will be tempted to dive into these blues like the Liril lady... but please don’t whip out your soap bar, these are pristine natural habitats and we owe it to ourselves to leave it untouched from unsustainable harsh chemicals!!

The Living Roots Bridges of Meghalaya: A Bioengineering marvel- They live to tell the tale about how community effort goes a long way in bolstering goodwill in the community. Fashioned by hand, the farmers of the Jaintia and Khasi tribes built these to access their fields and orchards. The gnarled, tangled roots of the ‘Ficus Indica’ tree suspended over the river are perfect photo op’s and it won’t be long before you will be tempted to queue up for your turn on the bridge.

The sun retreats and gives way to dusk and It’s time to party and dance a jig to the tunes of the local Jazz, pop bands. The local talent abounds with their well-modulated voices honed by years of choir singing in praise of the lord. 

As the day draws to a close it’s time to retire to the warm confines of your tents, your adrenaline pumped bodies ready to hit the bed and float away into dreamland.

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