After visiting some interesting places in Shillong, we traveled to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. I planned a short trip of one day for Cherrapunji sightseeing. Cherrapunji is that place, which I knew by name from my school days because we were taught that it is the wettest place in the world. It was the wettest place on earth for many decades but now it’s the neighboring town Mawsynram is the wettest place. Cherrapunji is now the second wettest place on earth.
Shillong to Cherrapunji is 55 Km and it takes about one & half hour by cab. We started from Shillong after breakfast and stopped on the way to see some of the viewpoints.
The road from Shillong to Cherrapunji was mostly in good condition except for the last few km. It’s was a nice drive with mountains, valleys, and forest on both sides of the road though it was trees were getting pale as we traveled in winter. I am sure in monsoon months it must be more beautiful.
A brief description of Cherrapunji
The native name of Cherrapunji is “Sohra”. During British rule in India, they had a problem pronouncing “Sohra” and they started calling it “Churra”, hence it becomes Cherrapunji. The literal meaning of Cherrapunji is ‘land of oranges’.
Despite plentiful rainfall, Cherrapunji faces acute shortage of water because of encroachment into the forest area. There are several falls in the area but most of them dry after the monsoon season.
The Khasi hills are the main reason behind heavy rainfall in this area. The moisture-laden monsoon clouds fly from the Bay of Bengal, over the plains of Bangladesh. As they reach Meghalaya Khasi hills abruptly rise and they hit these hills.
Many hills in this region have a height up to 1370 meter above sea level. These hills are with many deep valley channels and they encompass the low-flying moisture-laden cloud, which results in heavy rainfall. The clouds can be seen floating on the road and valleys in this area during monsoon season. Infect in winter months during my travel I saw scattered clouds along the road as we reached neared Cherrapunji. The name Meghalaya also came from this. Clouds (Megh) and home (Halaya), means “home of clouds”.
Mining in Meghalaya
On the way, I saw heaps of coal on side of the road. My cab driver told that it is from the mining inside the hills in this area. Trucks come every other day to collect the coal.
I came to know that most of the mining operations are illegal and strongman from the area control the mines. As mining is done without following rules and permits so it is harmful. This is affecting the environment of the region and rainfall is reducing in this area every year. A major coal mine tragedy occurred in Megahala and all minor died as there was no escape route.
Khasi culture of Cherrapunji
The local tribe living around Cherrapunji is known as Khasi. Khasi’s society follows a matrilineal culture. The girl visits the house of the groom to marry him and then the groom leaves his house to live with her in her village.
The youngest girl of the house owns the family property and other siblings get a small share out of it. The children in Khasi society take the surname of their mother.
This is one reason why in Shillong and other surrounding areas you will see so many women running the business. Some people say that because of this system some Khasi men become very lazy and drink liquor to time pass. Though things are changing with time.
How to travel from Shillong to Cherrapunji
You can travel only by road from Shillong to Cherrapunji.
* There are buses from MTC bus stand and Police Bazaar from 06.30 AM onwards. These buses drop in Cherrapunji market.
* Meghalaya tourism board runs conductive tours but you have to check and book with them in advance.
* There are shared cabs and Sumos available from Shillong’s Police Bazaar to Cherrapunji. They normally charge 150 to 200 INR.
* Hiring a cab is a most comfortable option though a bit expensive. If you are more than 2 people and doing only a day trip or staying for one night then rent a cab. It will cost approximately 2000 to 3000 INR depending upon if you want to stay overnight or not. Bargain to get a good price.
My Cherrapunji Sightseeing in one day
Seven Sisters Waterfalls
The name Seven Sister came from the seven steams of water falling from the hills in a row. I visited in winter months so there was no water in the falls. I have come to know that the water remains in these falls only in monsoon months. Visit during monsoon time to see them in full glory.
This is a sort of botanical garden with fountains, park for kids and a greenhouse. There are two foot over bridges in the park, which gives an interesting look to this park.
There is big rock next to the park, which is locally known as Khoh Ramhah rock or Shiva’s rock as it is in shape of “Lingam”. Some people say it is the inverted basket of the devil, who died because of the curse.
Thangkharang park is at the edge of the cliff and gives a 180-degree view of the area. In monsoon months the waterfalls can be seen gushing down in the valley from viewpoint but during my visit, it was mostly dry.
This is one of the best limestone caves in India. People with no formal training of caving can explore these caves. There is a narrow part at the beginning of cave which requires bending, sliding, and crawling on knees. The lime formations inside the cave are very interesting.
In most part, it is well lit but some patches are a bit dark. The cave is well managed by instructors.
I just entered the mouth of the cave and didn’t go inside as I feel claustrophobic in close space like this. Moreover, I have seen a limestone cave in Andaman and experienced the beauty of limestones formation.
Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort
We stayed here for one night during the Cherrapunji trip. The resort is made at the end of the road on elevation and gives the view of the surrounding area.
The rooms are basic but nice and clean. There is open space and they have benches for sitting. We spent some time sitting here and enjoyed the view.
The dining area is quite spacious and the staff is efficient. I had traditional Khasi style pork dishes, stir fry leaf vegetables and rice. The food was non-spicy but very flavorful.
They also organize caving trips and trek in nearby areas. We had taken a trip to nearby Living root bridge through them.
My driver informed that Cherrapunjee holiday resort is owned by a Khasi woman, who is interestingly married to a man from south India. Together they run the resort and organize the excursions to nearby places. I did meet the woman who owns this resort, she was very friendly and arrange two young Khasi girls guides to take us to living root bridge.
Living Root Bridge
Our guides were two young girls in their late teens and we came to know they work together as a pair. We have come to know that whenever only women go for living root bridge tour, they work as a guide for them. These girls were studying in the school and the money helps them with their school fees.
Living root bridges are made of living roots of the trees. These bridges are handmade with roots of rubber trees across the streams. Stones and sticks are added to stabilize them. It takes about 10 to 15 years to make a living root bridge. These bridges last for few hundred years as local villagers keep on weaving new branches into them every year.
Most of the living root bridges are in the state of Meghalaya near Cheerapunjee, some of these root bridges are double-decker. These bridges are unique and only found here. Credit – Wiki Common
Living root bridges are in forest areas over the streams and can be reached by trekking in the forest.
After spending a day in Cherrapunji we returned to Shillong.