Meghamalai and Meghalaya – My walk into the surreal

I entered the New Year on a travel high spirit. In the last quarter of 2019, I visited some truly beautiful places and it was only fitting that the first post in this year be a travel blog which I have mentally titled as “The Miracle of Life”. Though I am not documenting the itineraries or sightseeing from my travels, I rightfully feel the need to capture the essence of Meghamalai and Meghalaya through my limited means.

Meghamalai, is a remote, pristine and unadulterated forest canopy in the southern part of the Western Ghats. I had the good fortune of spending three days in the middle of it with friends and family, in a friend’s non-commercial home-stay. While staying there, I for the first time understood the element of William Henry Davies’ poetry, “Leisure” and I might just brag that I literally lived each verse of it. How good is life, when you wake up, step out with groggy eyes and see the mist being lifted up by clouds, the dew being cradled in the arms of leaves, and the not so distant stream beguiling you with its music. In a long time, I felt what it meant to listen and to look at life.

Nature Coming Alive

In those moments when nature was revealing itself, I was watching it enchantingly, the dexterity of a Signature spider catching its prey in the web and wrapping it up in its silk for an evening snack, the snail peeping out through its shell and then curling back inside, the slimy slug crawling a vast distance from one end of the dining table since breakfast to the other end until supper, the striking red and black caterpillar ambling upon the white gravel, the iridescent Crimson-backed Sunbird darting across the blooming shrubs, and dozens of dazzling butterflies flitting over the flower strewn meadows mostly left me at a loss for words. When you learn to observe things around you, you feel enriched by the diminished weight of your ignorance.

Morning dew upon leaves, Photo Credit: Vartika Kankani

Some Adventure Time

Later as we hiked through the wet forest floors, the leeches found our warm blood and it was really icky to see them clung and suck like a parasite. Bit it is amazing how they surreptitiously find their way through shoes, socks and pants, swell over your blood and then roll off fat and full. After the leech attack we went on another excursion, scrambling through thickets and mangled bushes, to reach a hidden treasure. It took me back in time to the vivid adventures of The Famous Five.

It was a precarious walk over slippery rocks, and a narrow thorny pathway, but my eyes couldn’t miss the finery of fresh lichen and wild mushrooms over boulders, barks and logs. You absolutely got to stop and admire them.  After some distance, the faint symphony of flowing waters grew closer and louder and a splendid waterfall with its ensuing stream and lagoon appeared. An air of feral and virgin charm hung around the entire surrounding with the dense woods on the other side. The water was icy; I didn’t dare to dip more than my feet though the more spirited ones did take a plunge over the natural rock slides and pools.

The boisterousness of those cascades still had a calming contour; as did the rawness of the forest have its cloak of serenity. This duality of nature serenades you with its unfathomable glory. And whether you are an atheist, agnostic, skeptic, conformist or scientist, you simply marvel at the spectacle of creation and that nothing at all is random in its magnificent scheme.

The striking caterpillar, Photo Credit: Rajeshwaran Subbiah
The eye-catching flora, Photo Credit: Rajeshwaran Subbiah

Wafting Aromas

A guided walk through our friend’s plantations awakened my olfactory senses to another level. As we snipped the fresh bark of cinnamon, crushed the bay leaves, cracked the nutmeg, pestled the clove leaf, admired the transition of a coffee bean, plucked and chewed the curry leaves, got us keenly excited especially the kids, and my culinary self was supremely inspired. What was equally commendable was the heart-warming and unpretentious hospitality of the home stay’s staff. 

I am lucky to have a partner as I have, who amongst other things convinces me to tag along to such distilled locations. I have been to quite a few more but this was unprocessed in a different way, where I saw “squirrels hiding their nuts in the grass”.

The hidden waterfalls, Photo Credit: Abhishek Mimani

Meghalaya – Entering the Abode of Clouds

Coming to the next part under the same title, I am choosing to continue the Meghalaya trip here instead of a separate post mainly for two reasons. I might be slightly lazy, and genuinely time crunched off late. And secondly, I rather write it now while the memories are fresh and vibrant instead of procrastinating for the want of another article.

I’ll begin from the moment that enthralled me literally.  We were a huge bunch of clamorous people, on our way to the Dawki River.  When there was relative calm in the vehicle I looked outside and the sights through the window panes took my breath away. The majestic grandeur of the Khasi Hills and its valleys inspired me enough to compose the opening paragraph straight away. Looking at the sun stroked canvas, feeling awakened in its glory, I typed on the phone which I am reproducing here.

Moment of Epiphany

“No matter how hard I might try, no matter how hard the camera might try, how do you capture the miracle of life…of creation…of nature? You don’t and you can’t. Yet there is an innate desire to relive those moments time and again through memories. So, this unrelenting attempt to preserve it in words and visuals in any possible way.”  As I heralded the sun kissing down on the mighty mountains, and absorbed it sensorily, I felt like becoming one with them. This is not a play of words, emotions or imagination, or a pseudo intellect attempt to appear cool. It’s a moment you feel grateful to have lived. And such an opportune coincidence that I am currently reading Stephen Alter’s “Becoming a Mountain”, and wholly grasp the sentiment of his title.

Having been to these chaste and rustic places in quick succession, it seems there is a perpetual song in nature even without music. It functions in an orchestrated rhythm, the golden grass against the evergreen forests, the deep gorges below the mountains, the calm pools under the raging waterfalls, the gentle streams that coalesce into mighty rivers, the caves below the craters. It’s overwhelming and humbling.  Meghalaya was all about these and more. The trek to the Double Root Bridge in Nongriat village does test your body with its terribly steep climb up and down but the setting up there totally charms your soul. The ingenuity of braiding the bulky aerial roots of the rubber fig trees into a bridge is truly amazing, and these bridges found only in Meghalaya and Nagaland are the only living root bridges in the entire world.

The Double Root Bridge, Photo Credit: Amit Goidani
Our maggi stall on the way to the Root bridge, Photo Credit: Abhishek Mimani

Panoramas Personified

The Laitlum Canyons were again unexaggeratedly savage in their beauty. The vast uninterrupted grasslands cantilevered over extremely deep valleys were one of the most picturesque sights. Frolicking crowd, cheering kids, music, hot maggi and momos add that lovely demureness to its wild wonder. Coming back to one of the cleanest rivers, Dawki, its crystal clear waters are indeed astounding and unexpected. The small boats dock you at the pebbled banks after a short ride and the splendour of reflective waters, rocky canyon, lush jungle and white pebbles coming together is almost meditative.

The Dawki river near Bangladesh Border, Photo Credit: Abhishek Mimani

Looking at the sights and sounds of this magical and mysterious creation is everyone’s pleasure but realizing and internalizing its majesty is a privilege.  Every time I have witnessed the miracles of life at different places in different ways, my recurring thought has been how miniscule a particle am I of this stupefying creation, and yet I am a part of its grandness. I exist because I matter. And if I matter, let me be worthy of it.

The panoramic Laitlum Canyons, Photo Credit: Abhishek Mimani

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