A journey to the abode of the colouds
There is an air of expectancy in the journey. You begin your trip and soon hit the hills as the road follows a serpentine path, giving you the first impression of a peculiar quaintness.
The small road-side tea shops, the glistening pots and pans scrubbed to a silvery sheen, the smiling Khasi ladies serving at the tea stalls, an innovative water supply system of bamboos dug out to serve as pipes, all giving a feeling of neatness, a feeling of living with nature.
The road winds its way through tropical forests and with each bend of the road you get a glimpse of the variety of the flora and fauna that abound the state of Meghalaya. A flock of parrots may whoosh past your car, a lone orchid would hang in silent resplendence on a giant tree, the turtle doves would scamper to safety to give way to your car and the most charming and exhilarating part of it - a drive through the rain with the sun still shining and then your car suddenly disappearing into the mist to transport you to another heavenly experience.
After a short journey from Guwahati one reaches Byrnihat, a famous trading place since yore and now a bustling township. One can take a detour and visit the picnic spot of Umtru. Most of the villages on the way have a name beginning with 'um' meaning water in the Khasi language. The road winds ahead and an interesting part of the journey is the stretch beyond Umling where one can reach uphill and look down to see the road traversed to reach the high point. All through the journey babbling streams run along the road and you are served with chilled mineral water at any point. For the more enterprising traveller there are many rapids and the river flowing along, touching the road at several points gives him the the chances to take a quick dip or to guzzle a frothy beer.
Nongpoh is the mid-point of the journey. In the good old days when a backpack ride or ponies were the only means of reaching Shillong, this was the overnight rest spot. From here it was 60 km of the journey past and 60 km of the journey ahead. The road side market of Nongpoh has a flavour of its own. The fruit stalls are a major draw, with luscious fruit at throw away prices. For the everyday traveller there is a variety of vegetables, both from the plains and the hills. The Nongpoh market was once famous for its venision, parrots and mynas pet stalls, but for them to be available today one needs a fair share of luck also, you can buy orchids at unbelievably low prices, if you are lucky. A captivating up-hill drive through idyllic country scenario and you enter 'pineland'. As the winds whisper through them, the sonorous chirping of the birds is broken by the roar of water hurtling down and believe it, you can feel the spray, sitting down in your car a waterfall cascading down in silver and froth, to lap up the boulders and rocks below.
You may have not got over the excitement of the vista, the emerald groves, when a few moments ahead, nestled in the hills, one comes across a majestic placid lake amidst the sylvan heights. The green of the surroundings, the azure blue of the skies have a hypnotising effect. The placid setting is truly idyllic. Water sports and angling are the prime attractions in the Orchid Lake Resort here.
The enchanted Shangrilla, The Scotland of the East is not very far ahead and as the car strains itself up the final climb, you are soon in Shillong - the town to be there, to get away from the humdrum of city life. Shillong is the town of the famed Wards Lake, Lady Hydari Park, Golf Links, The Shillong peak (1965 mtrs), the Spread Eagle, Crinoline and Bishop, Beadon Falls, the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians; all spots with a charm of their own. Shillong is the base point to go to the wettest spot on the earth,, the caves near Mausmai, Nature trekking in the hills is also an exilarating experience where one can embrace the plethora of the three hundred varieties of orchids that abound in Meghalaya like the Blue Vanda, the Lady's Slipper, and that botanical wonder, the carnivorous Pitcher Plant.
A warm and hospitable welcome awaits you, so next holiday make it to nowhere else but to Shillong, an experience you will cherish lifetime!
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