Postcards From Cherrapunji, The Wet And Gorgeous Land

 

‘Cherrapunji is the wettest place on earth. It gets the highest amount of rainfall in the world,‘ I remember reading time and time again in my geography textbooks at school. Like many, that was my first introduction to Cherrapunji, via school books.

Well, the mantle of ‘wettest place on earth’ has now been passed to the neighbouring village of Mawsynram. Still, I am so thrilled to have had a chance to actually visit Cherrapunji aka Sohra, this place straight out of my school books, on our holiday to North-East India! And, guess what? We happened to visit Cherrapunji right in the midst of the monsoon, when it was at its wettest, wild, gorgeous best!

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A winding highway, in the midst of mountains, in Cherrapunji

Cherrapunjee from my eyes

We didn’t have any preconceived notions about Cherrapunji when we visited, and went with an open mind. The place charmed the socks right off us. We were thrilled to meet the sleepy, laid-back, small town that Cherrapunjee is, literally in the midst of the clouds. This land of many waterfalls and lush, lush greenery is still off-the-beaten track for many tourists.

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A quaint structure we came across in Cherrapunjee

Most tourists who do come here stay for just a day or so. They opt only to visit the Double-Decker Living Root Bridge and, at the most, a couple of tourist destinations. Cherrapunjee, however, is the sort of place you explore at a leisurely place. It is the kind of place where you stay put and do nothing, just sitting in the porch of your hotel with a cup of tea warming your hands, soaking in the prettiness around you. It is the kind of place where you take long walks on the winding streets, on misty mornings. You watch whole mountains being swallowed up by the clouds and mist. You let the clouds and mist envelop you, too, and you disappear into a private, magical space all of your own. Here, you begin to understand why Meghalaya (‘the abode of the clouds’ is called so), and why Rabindranath Tagore was moved to poetry here. You even write some poetry of your own, here. There is a lot to see and do and feel and explore in Cherrapunjee, if you take the time to do it.

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We stopped here to watch this breath-taking landscape, en route to Cherrapunji from Shillong. Later, we learnt that the landscape is like this, wherever you go, in Cherrapunji!

Exploring Cherrapunji

We stayed in Cherrapunji for 3 days, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We skipped the famous Double-Decker Root Bridge, as we were told it wasn’t a wise thing to attempt with a toddler in tow. We checked out many other spots here, and yet, I have this feeling that we have just barely scratched the surface.

When we visited, it would rain heavily in the early mornings, and everywhere would be filled with mist. At times like these, we would go for a leisurely stroll, just to get ourselves acquainted with the place, gawping at the pretty pastel-coloured houses, the local Ja-Sha (tea & rice) shops, and the many remnants of British culture. We would head for a relaxed breakfast then, the weather beginning to turn very pleasant. A day of exploration would follow. By 5.30 PM or so, it would start getting dark, and we would return to our hotel to rest and recoup. I grew so very fond of these do-nothing sort of days in Cherrapunjee – I would do it all over again in a flash!

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We missed lunch, the day we drove from Shillong to Cherrapunji. Our cabbie took us to this little shop in Cherrapunji, which made the best-ever vegetable Maggi we’ve ever had! There’s something extraordinarily charming about Maggi in the hills, right?

Relics from the times of the British Raj

Our cab driver told us fascinating stories of how the British were charmed by Cherrapunjee. ‘The Britishers wanted to make this place their capital,’ he said, adding, ‘but they found life here extremely tough. It was difficult to maintain any sort of records – the rain would wash away the ink on all their official papers. Finally, they gave up, and made Shillong their capital.’

I’m not sure how far this is true, but Cherrapunji does still possess some relics from the time the Britishers spent here. There are some very beautiful ancient churches here, and a few schools that the British set up. Apparently, during the British rule in Meghalaya, many of the local Khasi tribespeople converted to Christianity, which is still the most-favoured religion in the state, Cherrapunjee included.

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A pretty, pretty church that we came across in the course of our explorations in Cherrapunji

Wahkaba Falls

Neither the husband nor me are enamoured with waterfalls. I mean, we do love the sound of the gushing water – it never fails to soothe and relax us – but apart from that, we aren’t particularly fascinated by them. The waterfalls of Cherrapunji, however, made us fall in love with them! Wahkaba is one such beautiful waterfall we visited here, and absolutely adored. Abundant, powerful, pretty, we stared and stared at this waterfall for a long, long time. Then, the sun came out and made a rainbow in the Wahkaba, magic right before our eyes!

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The Wahkaba Falls in Cherrapunji

Arwah Caves

There are quite a few caves and caverns in Cherrapunji, many of them boasting of exotic rock formations and fossils. Mawsmai and Arwah are two of the best-known caves in the area. We decided not to do Mawsmai, as our tour guide suggested against it – it would be a difficult trek with a baby. We went to Arwah instead, and it turned out to be a fascinating experience.

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The gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous climb up to Arwah Caves in Cherrapunji

The climb up to Arwah Caves itself is magical. You get to see some amazing, amazing vistas, as you ascend.

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Mist-engulfed, during the ascent to Arwah Caves

You can choose to sit and rest at any of the stops during the climb, and take in the beauty around you. We did the climb real slow, soaking in every moment of it.

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A jaw-dropping vista, captured during the ascent to Arwah Caves

Good we did that, too, because when we got to the caves, we found we couldn’t get in too deep while carrying the kid – parts of it are real narrow and you need to double over to enter.

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The entrance to the Arwah Caves

We were so drunk on nature by then that we didn’t mind this one bit. Not exploring the cave meant more time for us to lounge around and breathe in more of that gorgeous, fresh air.

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Another absolutely amazing vista spotted during the climb up to Arwah Caves. Can you tell how crazy we went taking pictures here? πŸ™‚

Nohkalikai Falls

Nohkalikai is another amazingly beautiful waterfall in Cherrapunji. When we visited, the water was abundant and gushing. At this spot, we fell in love with waterfalls all over again.

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The very beautiful Nohkalikai Falls in Cherrapunji

This brilliant waterfall has a rather gruesome story behind it, associated with a young local lady called Ka Likai (‘Ka‘ is a prefix given to women in general in Khasi). After Ka Likai’s husband died, she remarried, as is customary in this part of the world. Ka Likai had a baby daughter by her first husband, and would spend a lot of time with the little one after she got back home from work. Local legend says this made her new husband so jealous and furious that he killed the baby, and used the meat to cook a meal for his wife. That evening, the wife, hungry after her work, ate the meal. It was only later, when Ka Likai discovered a little finger lying in the house that she realised what had happened. Overcome with grief, she ran off the edge of a nearby cliff and died. Since then, the waterfall emanating from this particular place began to be called the Nohkalikai Falls, after her.

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Fresh cinnamon and bay leaves being sold at Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunji. I had never seen cinnamon sticks this huge before!

Sad as the story behind Nohkalikai Falls is, the place is quite the tourist attraction now. The atmosphere at the site resembles a small village fair, with everything from local handicrafts, woollen garments and toys to forest honey, a variety of pickles, fresh cinnamon bark and bay leaves on sale. I loved this part – I walked around the fair to my heart’s content, took pictures and shopped till we almost dropped!

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A variety of pickles and forest-fresh honey on sale, at Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunji

Ramkrishna Mission

The Ramakrishna Mission, set up in Cherrapunji in 1924 by Swami Vivekananda, is a big-time tourist attraction here. We found it just like the Mission in other places, nothing extraordinary. I loved the museum within the Mission premises, though, which is full of information and models depicting life in the North-East Indian states and their history.

Photography is not permitted here, and so, I don’t have any pictures of this place to show.

Eco Park

A large park maintained by the government, Eco Park is something of a tourist attraction in Cherrapunji. It isn’t much, to be honest, sort of poorly maintained, but it does offer some amazing views. We enjoyed walking around the park, photographing the breath-taking Missing Falls (named so because the source of the waterfall is untraceable). The kiddo had a grand time having a go at the swings in the children’s play area here!

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The spell-binding Missing Falls, as visible from Eco Park, Cherrapunji

Seven Sisters Falls

The Nohsngithiang Falls in Cherrapunji is popularly called the Seven Sisters Falls, because it is segmented into seven parts, naturally. Considered one of India’s tallest falls, this is supposed to be quite a beautiful spot. When we visited, however, we found only very thin streams of water cascading into the valley below, a kind of disappointment after the gorgeous falls we had been witness to in Cherrapunji earlier.

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So, that’s about all that we managed to do in Cherrapunji. Like I said before, I believe we have only just scratched the surface of all that the place has to offer. Well, next time..

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Getting there:

The best way to visit Cherrapunji is to reach Guwahati, either by air or train. Cherrapunji, about 180km from Guwahati, can be reached via state transport buses or private cabs. Alternatively, you could travel to Shillong from Guwahati (via bus or cab), and then travel ahead to Cherrapunji.

Getting around:

Private cabs are the best way to cover all the major tourist destinations in Cherrapunji. It is a great place to walk leisurely around in, but you really need a cab to sight-see. Our entire North-East trip was planned and managed by North East Explorers.

Stay:

There are a handful of good homestays, guest houses, hotels and resorts in Cherrapunji. Polo Orchid Resort, Cherrapunjee Holiday Resorts, Sohra Plaza, D Cloud Guesthouse are some stay options available here.

Eat:

Orange Roots, Halari, 7 Sisters Falls View Inn, Cafe Cherrapunjee & Inn and Rain Cafe are some of the popular eateries here.

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I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and found it useful! Please do tell me in your comments!

 

 

46 thoughts on “Postcards From Cherrapunji, The Wet And Gorgeous Land

  1. Fantastic write-up Priya. This couldn’t have been written in a better way and we at North East Explorers are delighted to know that even after almost a year of your trip, you still feel this way πŸ™‚

    Cheers,
    Rajiv
    North East Explorers

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  2. Brings back happy memories of my trip there. I was one of those tourists who spent just a night in Cherrapunjee. Reading your posts reminds me of all that I missed.

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  3. Wow wow wow! Those waterfalls look incredible! I couldn’t decide which I would like to visit more! My boyfriend loves waterfalls so I will have to take him one day

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  4. This is why Inida is my favorite country, there is something new around every corner that is different you just got to take the plunge. I loved your photo’s… those Waterfalls. Going to be in India in Aug/Sep I would love to try incorporate Cherrapunji on my route if I can.

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  5. Having recently returned from India, but not making it to the North EAst, I couldn’t help but think this looked amazing!!! I thought the south and the north were so different, but wow this is different again. I would love to go here in the monsoon season as it offers such a difference experience to other parts of India. Just beautiful.

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  6. Enjoyed the post! I remember Cherrapunji from my geography texts as well! Your waterfall photos are beautiful, and the whole area looks gorgeous in the mist!

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  7. How wonderful that you got to explore Cherrapunji in so much detail. Most people just see the two main waterfalls and return. I felt that the journey to Cherrapunji was the best part. The walk to Arwah Caves is fabulous!

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  8. Wow, I’ve never heard of Cherrapunji but this post makes it seem like an absolute must! I have to admit, when you said it was the wettest place on earth I was pretty turned off (I’m a vitamin D addict) but those pictures really changed my mind. The lush green views from the caves and the gushing falls look incredible. And with a tasty bowl of vegetable Maggi I suppose I could deal with the dampness πŸ˜‰

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    1. @Erica

      I’m a Vitamin D lover myself – I’ll take bright and sunny any day over damp and dull. That said, I loved Cherrapunji. It’s an absolute delight to be in. And, oh, that vegetable Maggi was spectacular! πŸ™‚

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  9. We just returned from a trip to Nagaland and Manipur and our friends there told us that we need to return for Meghalaya. They also said that Cherrapunji is a must and you definitely convinced me so πŸ™‚ It’s funny how the rain chased away the Brits :p

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  10. Oh my gosh – your photos are beautiful, but your descriptions are so vibrant, too! This place looks amazing – and I’d love to do just what you suggest, sit with a comforting cup of tea and watch the landscape. Gorgeous!

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  11. After reading your account of Cherrapunji, I am all the more excited for my upcoming trip here. Clouds and lush greenery are two things dear to my heart and it seems this place is abundant in both. Hope I will have a time as good as yours

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  12. Absolutely amazing natural landscapes you have managed to witness and admire there! I especially loved the shot of the waterfalls which I would love to check out for myself. Looks like you had quite the adventure!

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  13. I spent three days in Cherrapunji, and could have easily spent more than a week there happily, doing absolutely nothing, but enjoying the Khasi food and the landscape. Cherrapunji is certainly one of the most undersold destinations in India which deserves much more attention than it currently does.

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  14. Yes, can still recollect the Geography lessons and the fact of Cherapunju being the wettest place on earth being drilled. Of course, as you mention the textbooks must have changed now. But seriously the North East has some of the most pristine gems of India in its fold. Loved reading your narrative, felt I was there.

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