Solo Travel in Meghalaya- A gift from the gods!

Solo travelling had always been on my mind, but little did I know, that I’d be sitting in a homestay after trekking 3500 steps to the Living Root Bridges in Nongriat, Meghalaya and will be writing this article. 

I never planned to be here at the first place, amidst the best of nature? Ah! Never.

It all began with a conversation I had with a fellow traveler I met in Arunachal Pradesh, during my first leg of the solo trip. He was from Meghalaya, and trust me if he were selling me dust in the name of Meghalaya I would’ve bought that too. After our long conversations about Meghalaya and how it is a home to green, I knew I had to be here.

Meghalaya is well-connected as far as the roads are concerned but the places are scattered around, if you’re travelling with a budget, get ready to spend some time in travelling to those places. I was on a budget.

Guwahati is the main junction from where you can go to any place in the north-east, private and sharing vehicles are available almost every day.

Two private vehicle-rides from Guwahati to Shillong that cost me 400 bucks, one hitchhiked ride from Shillong to Shaura that cost me endless conversations, and one local taxi ride that cost me 550 bucks to my reach first destination, the Nongriat.

Nongriat is a village in Cherapunji, Meghalaya that is a home to the single and double root bridges. To reach these bridges you have to trek down 3500 steps surrounded with forests. As soon as you start your trip you’ll be welcomed with ‘2 sisters 4 brothers’ café. A nice plate of maggi with the view of the mountains is the best way to begin the trek. 

Avoid hiring guides, they’ll talk you into taking them along, but what’s the fun if you can’t explore at your own pace. Also, 600 bucks straight up for guiding you the way down is not worth at all. What makes the trek comfortable are the steps that have been constructed by the locals.

All along the trek you’ll find shops serving quick-bites and refreshing drinks. Stock up a couple of Litchi juice for the trek and you’ll feel fresh as ever whenever you feel like giving up on the way. 

Lush green forests, massive mountains and waterfalls make a great company while you trek, surrounding Nongriat. It took me around 2 hours to complete the trek down to the living Root Bridges. 

The first thing I did?

Let got rid of my backpack and jumped right off in the waterfall flowing just next to the bridges. The bridges are naturally made and have been there for over 150 years. There are a lot of single root bridges in the vicinity, but the double decker bridge is just at Nongriat.

Just a few minutes away, there are a couple of homestays, the rates are cheap and the hospitality is unforgettable. I accommodated myself at Charlie’s Homestay.

While I completed the first portion of the article, Charlie, the homestay owner knocked on my door with a warm smile, holding an adhesive that the got for me from a market which is an hour and 3500 steps trek away from here, for my broken slippers. He announced that the lunch was ready. 

I had to go, not for the food, but to ask him that how and why does he do all of this.

Walked back to my room wearing my fixed slippers, blared the music high, and here I am staring out the window, wondering what all it took me to reach here.

I knew I had to be here; I contacted colleagues, friends, agents and whomsoever I came across with a little help to make this solo journey possible. And it did. 

During my stay of two days and two nights at Charlie’s homestay, I got the opportunity of interacting with a lot of travelers who accommodated themselves at the homestay. Conversations with the locals made me understand a whole lot about the place and things happening around.

Make sure you book yourself into one of the homestays a day before you begin the trek, I was lucky enough to get myself a room, who would want to leave a room amidst the forests and waterfalls anyway?

Unlike the days in cities, the days there begin early; my mornings were welcomed with the growing chatter of tourists visiting the double decker bridge, the afternoons brought all of the travelers together as we together munched lunch at one table followed by endless conversations till the sun set for the day. Nights were all about sinking into the sound of crickets and the waterfall splashing on the rocks acting as a perfect lullaby.

Nongriat also has the popular Rainbow forest. An hour-long trek through the forests and old bridges and you are surrounded with the sparkling visuals of rainbow against the jumping waterfalls.

I had not decided my next destination, but after long conversations with the locals I knew where I wanted to be next, Shnonpdeng.

Dawki is one of the most known locations to visit in Meghalaya. Just a few minutes away lies one unexplored spot by the Umngot river itself.

Shnopdeng

After trekking back 3500 steps to the top and a 2-hour ride I reached shnopdeng. 

First thing I did here?

Sitting on the rocks with a cup of tea, the sparkling river flowed as the sun set. There are tent and room services available at Shnopdeng. 

Jemms, the provider of everything at Shnopdeng hooked me up with a tent just next to the river at a reasonable rate. 

As my mind time lapsed the setting of the tent, my heart already knew that this night was going to be beautiful. 

The mornings in northeast are earlier than the cities and the sun is already down by 5:00 pm. What does a city boy do then?

Fire ups the campfire, hits some music high, and becomes one of the stars in the sky.  

I met a few people travelling from Mumbai, Chennai and Jodhpur and I made friends for life without least expecting it. We had our dinner together munching on some delicious local food, sunk into my 8-year old playlist, talked till the sun was almost up in the morning and woke up to start talking again.

The tent-stay at Shnopdeng was cheaper than hotel and experience was unmatched.

From Shnopdeng, we travelled to Mawlynnong. Mawlynnong is a village in Meghalaya which is tagged as the cleanest village in India. It was the cleanest and also the most beautiful village I ever laid my eyes on. The local food of rice and curry was way better than I had had in the cities.

The weeklong solo trip turned out to be a good decision after all. From the forests to the lake side camping, from the local food to the beautiful roads, Meghalaya is truly, the gift from god! 

Author bio:

Ali Balsania is an ardent follower of movies and music. Professionally working as a film-maker, when it comes to ardent following, he likes to keep travelling on top of his lists. 

Born and brought up in Mumbai, he is always clinged to stories. 

"What better ways to look for stories other than travelling?" He says.

Also, a travel blogger, Ali believes in exploring and experiencing the unseen whenever he packs his backpack. Maybe he is packing one now.

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