Tumbled Into A Cave Kingdom..

How would one ever react when you’re someplace far off and someone says “Welcome Home..🏡” Yeah.. that happened too.. Someone asked me where have I come from and what’s my name.. I said Bangalore, Meghana.. and her instant response was – A big smile and  “You’re in Meghalaya ma’m, home of the clouds, welcome home.. 😊 ” It was one of those blank moments where you know that’s what you heard but still doubt if that’s what they said and hesitate to react for a split second..😶 But of course, that’s exactly what she had said.. 🤗🥰 that followed by a warm hug too.. Couldn’t have asked for a warmer gesture upon reaching Meghalaya! In case you were wondering, she had said that because Meghana means ‘clouds’ 🌦

Had left Māwsynrām by around 11:00 AM, was on my way to Cherrapunji, and obviously had to fidget around with the maps trying to look for alternate routes.. Had to catch a train at 08:00 PM in Guwahati.

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Credit : Google 🗺  – 2020, 11th July, 1:57 AM

So when I looked at the map.. Māwsynrām to Cherrapunji was almost like one straight line like you can see.. And I go “Yaar bhaiya, yeh toh ek seedha rasta hai.. hum is taraf se, ghuma phirake kyon jaa rahe hai..😵 ” my taxi driver bhaiya, Raj looks at me in the mirror and says “Madam ji, gaadi pahaad pe nahin chad sakta na.. 😁 ek hi rasta hai ji” ….  “lol! ji… 😄🤐chaliye phir.. chalte hai..” I really didn’t want to start off with the ‘Map says something else’ conversation. It doesn’t really work in the mountains most of the times and definitely not during the monsoons.. It was time to let the experts do their job. In my head though, “Why does everything have to be so tangled all the time.. it could have been just one straight road.. but nope! 😐” Also me in my head, trying to make peace with voices inside.. “Meghana… what’s up with you today? isn’t taking longer routes your thing? please can you stop it and soak up on some of these beautiful roads and the weather that you love.. 💚 and yes, you can put your hand out of the window.. 🥰 don’t worry we’ll make sure we reach Guwahati before 08:00 PM and get on that train to Tinsukia.. alright?” (Not kidding about the voices, that’s exactly how it works..)

One thing I’ve learnt is that no amount of reading books or watching travel documentaries will ever be able to match up to the precious aesthetics that we get to understand and learn from the people who live there.. who have seen all the seasons pass by, staying there.. my taxi bhaiya was very kind enough to share so many stories with me and that’s my favourite part of hitting the roads.. authentic local trivia 🤍         It’s a real blessing to have a good taxi driver, especially if you’re travelling alone.. 🙏

Please don’t go by the travel time that you see in the image above. It’s an ideal situation obviously.. But when you are there on these roads, especially during peak monsoons we have to stop looking at the watch.. guess should be thankful that there is a road to begin with.. I’m not even talking about the condition of the roads and universe forbade there is a traffic jam because of a landslide or a cloudburst.. well, turn up that music, roll up the window and chill..🤞 Hope you have some extra water bottles and food.. The terrains are such.. beyond anyone’s control.. on the flip side, that’s what makes places like these so magnificent I guess.. 🤍

The Arwah Lumshynna Cave – that’s where I was headed on the 23rd of June, 2017.  This was more like a pit stop though.. the final stop was somewhere else.. had read a little about it and hidden the pictures, hadn’t seen them on purpose.. didn’t want to go there with any preconceived notion.

 

This was it.. had reached the entrance of the cave.. at least that’s what I thought.. but not yet said the Shynna mountains.. 😎 This was just the beginning of a beautiful walk that led to the caves.. one look at the trail and I was like what is this place..😍 the trail seems so much like it’s headed towards a castle or something.. ✨

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If I would do this again.. this lovely trail would be one of the big reasons I’d go back here…. So very authentic and raw, right through the dense Shynna mountains.. the endless valley and walking through the clouds..  but just one problem though.. my only fear in the forests – snakes.. 😶 was a little scared wondering what would I do if a snake crossed my path or fell down from the trees above.. 🤦‍♀️ I did ask the person at the ticket counter if there were snakes around, he gave me a look which answered my question…

Trail                                                                  As I walked ahead.. happened to see this sign board.. and obviously jumped off the pavement and took a left to head on the rugged trail.. had barely taken 10 steps and I hear people screaming and about 5 or 6 of them came running back towards the pavement.. they didn’t really say anything.. and as I stood confused wondering what was going on.. heard one of them say that they saw a big snake that just passed by and they couldn’t see which direction it went.. yikes!!! THAT’S IT!! hands and feet instantly cold and I remember screaming aloud and runnimg back to the pavement.. and started walking a little scared to turn around and look back though.. phew! after that every twig on the way looked a little spooky..                                                 Lol.. now that I’m thinking about it and it’s like.. “Meghana, you didn’t even see that snake, why did you scream like that.. 😆”

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Have to tell you,  that walk was one of a kind! loved it!!  ❤ It wasn’t even a kilometer I guess, wasn’t done admiring the dense forest, the whole vibe and there we go!! Had reached the entrance of the Arwah Lumshynna Cave and my first thought was like woah, look at that stairway! Starways and I have a certain history, some other time maybe.. 🙃 This stairway surely went down to the unknown.. the walls at the entrance of the cavern were shimmering.. ✨my nail paint was sort of blending in..✨ I don’t know why I do that.. but tend to stick my cheek to the walls to see how warm or cold they are.. It’s like having a little conversation too, just telling the walls how beautiful they are and asking for how long have they been around.. I don’t even know if it’s a thing in some corner of the world, do tell me if you hear of any culture where people do this.. I’d want to understand their reasons.. 💛

The first sight was woah.. but a couple of sights later it was wooaahhh..!! 😨  what in the world is this place!!! Did you see that iron staircase? one step and felt like it could crumble down anytime.. it was pretty steep, damp and was shaking too.. but surprisingly not rusted.. the best part was a big stream running right underneath it.. I mean.. I handn’t expected a stream there.. 🌊 the entire place was very faintly lit.. and with the sounds of the water flowing all around was like someone blinking, saying “switch” and everything changed at a snap of a finger –  disconnecting from that dense forest and connecting to this underground mystery.. I really couldn’t take my eyes off the walls and the streams, running all around the place like they were on a mission.. wonder what could it possibly be.. 🧐

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I kept walking by the stream.. could hear nothing but the water.. and some very faint echos.. At one place where it was relatively well lit stopped by for a bit, sat down by the stream and just watched it pass by.. sigh.. beautiful view it was.. the water wasn’t all that cold though but looked all shimmery for sure! like pixie dust stream rather.. ✨ The place was not crowded.. I was there during the monsoon, not sure if the streams would be the same in the summers. In the beginning, it was a huge walkway with high ceilings but narrowed or chocked up as I went further ahead.. there were some chamber like places where barely one person could fit in also had to crawl in to get through.. The entire place was damp and water kept dripping from the ceiling of the caves… 💧 This was one place where I was happy about being short though.. lol! some perks of being short.. 🥳 It was comparatively easier to go from short to compact and squeeze through and fit into the narrow spaces.. felt like a ninja for a while.. ⚡

There were enough lights but not enough really.. some parts were pitch dark and some patches looked like quicksand.. I’d highly recommend you to carry a torchlight if you happen to go here.. please don’t rely on your phone light.. It’s extremely slippery as it is and damp to add on to it.. there’s no way you’ll be able to find your phone if you drop it down anywhere here.. there was absolutely no mobile network so nobody would be able to give you a ring too.. so yeah.. please don’t forget that good old torch.. a torch mounted hat would be perfect though! 👷‍♀️ and hey… very important.. do watch your steps and keep that voice low.. 🔇 you might wake up the dragon sleeping inside the caves since a million years.. 😛 you never know.. 🐲🙃🐉 and.. imagine if the dragon spews fire! this cave is mostly made up of limestone.. just saying.. 😛 .. OR it could be a just a fluffy friendly dragon.. 🥰

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A whole new world this was.. 🪐An entire kingdom of beautiful limestone wilderness, I did see some fossils of fish bones and sea shells which are believed to be millions of years old.. ⏳ Which means, this place was submerged underwater at some point!! 🌊The wettest place on earth, submerged underwater, interesting..🕵️‍♀️For some reason, I visualized my dive mask with a torchlight and cave diving here.. 🤿 Scary and so much fun at the same time! And of course, being a cavern there were lots of stalagmites and stalactites and in case you were wondering, stalagmites are formations that grow from the ground towards the ceiling and stalactites are formations that grow or hang from the ceiling towards the ground.. they say it takes thousands of years for these beauties to grow even 10 cms.. must also depend on what mineral composition the caves are made up of I guess and the pH levels of the water of course..

The cave is about 3 km but barely 1/4 has been given access so far. This cave was discovered and was made accessible for visitors only since October 2014.. It’s better to take a guide along.. there wasn’t anyone around when I was looking for one so had to walk around and explore by myself.. the place could get tricky as the trails branch out too, chances are you could get lost.. do stick to your team.. and if you’re here alone, be extra careful.. nobody will be able to hear you even if you slip and fall down.. Also, it could get claustrophobic if you aren’t used to such terrains.. 🕳It would need about 2 hours to explore this cave.. but if you know me by now it would take much longer than that for me.. need that extra time to just look at everything a little longer, a little more closely and to pace things down a little for my camera..❤  But since the time I’ve picked up my camera and taken it seriously, my pace of walk has reduced so much when I’m walking around with it.. and takes a lot of effort to walk faster if I really have to.. but I kind of find it beautiful.. like spending one more moment extra and living in that moment longer and soaking up that vibe wherever I go.. because you never know if you could go back to the same place again and even if you could and you would, what are the chances that things would be the same.. 📷 Was looking up the caves to see if they have made any changes to the timings and it says that it’s temporarily closed.. not sure if it’s because of the pandemic or something else..

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So after all the upstream, the downstream and going in circles, was back at the entrance.. the light hitting my face hadn’t looked so blinding in a long time! natural light is so very precious and in love with the light all over again.. It sure takes darkness to appreciate the light and all the blessings a lot more.. 💛

On that note, here we come to an end of another experience of walking around the beautiful voids.. The ‘krems’ of Cherrapunji.. This caving journey was more than a mere jigsaw puzzle.. 🌦🙌🌦

Apparently, there are over 1,000 caves in Meghanalaya alone. Indiana Jones, you sure did miss something here in India.. 😎

I did reach Guwahati just before 08:00 PM to get on that train, but that Rajdhani express departed from Guwahati to Tinsukia only around 02:00 AM.. what happened after that, in another write up maybe.. 😊

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😊.. Some of the sweet faces that I could capture.. people here are very warm and friendly in nature and they keep chewing up on a lot of beetle nut, they say it keeps thier body warm.. Also, the expressions are priceless the moment you tell them that you are a vegeterain..😄 I could very well manage in Assam and Meghalaya but it was a little difficult to find vegetarian food in Arunachal Pradesh.. but what the hell, sometimes you get good food and sometimes you have to hit the local markets for some local fruits.. you learn to survive such situations over time when you’re out there constantly on the roads.. priorities do get aligned for sure..  ☯

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I was visiting Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.. They call the 7 states as northeast or 7 sisters collectively..  but each of those 3 states were SO VERY different from one another.. Apart from the dense tropical rain forest, valleys rivers and caves, they have a lot of hot water springs too.. Of what I’ve seen, if northeast was a song then these states are different notes of the violin, the piano and.. the acoustic guitar.. all coming together for a beautiful symphony… 🎶🎻🎹🎸🎼 .. The undiscovered lush green, rains, rainbows, mist and the roads are pure magic..💚🌈⛈🌫✨  With magic comes destruction too I suppose.. have been seeing the news about the floods in Assam, one of the main reasons they say why Assam floods up so much every year is because it’s at the center, surrounded by all the northeastern states.. and I remember seeing the banks of Bramhaputra, it’s insanely vast! and comparatively low-lying.. please do keep these states in your prayers along with everyone and anything else..

As far as caves are concerned, there are many new caves that are being discovered, the cave pictures that you saw just before the ‘Road Closed’ signboard was a new one that they were exploring.. Those pictures were taken in transit, if those caves are open when you get to visit, whenever that is, please do tell me all about it.. the cavers of the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) and similliar associations are constantly on the look out for new caves.. 👷‍♂️👷‍♀️ I’m wondering how do these people manage to do that in between the land slides and cloudburts and everything else…

2020 has put barricades all over our travel plans for now.. but it surely has turned tables to pause and reflect for sure.. but when travel is more of a lifestyle.. a feeling which grows with you.. be it outdoors or indoors we’re still learning.. I do miss the wind by the ocean and the open highways.. but over the years, feels like I carry that feeling with me anywhere I am.. like it’s all connected and just because you don’t see it for a while, the feeling doesn’t seem to have changed because you love it so very much.. So I guess it’s perfectly alright to just pause for some time and do what’s expected of us during a pandemic.. Hope we get to pack our bags and get out there soon.. 🎒 I’m surely looking forward to picking up my camera and going out there.. apart from that thought, there is SO much to do right where we are.. we can get the party started anywhere and wherever we are.. right..? 💫

2020 – I’m counting you in in-spite of most of this year seems like a blank space.. quite a storm you’ve raged where only uncertainties are certain.. but you know what, I’m waiting to see all the good things that are being churned out of this pandemic.. We are better than this.. 💪

For now, just like everyone, I’m thankful to be staying home – spending time with family, working, being the artist, the occasional chef, writing, and posting more throwback pictures and stories.. 💙🧡🤍

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One of the pictures that I really liked.. It was a monk, taking pictures of the fossils.. somehow resonates a lot of things but do you see the glitters on the boulders though?🧡

And that’s how people pronounced my name in their regional dialect there.. It was kinda cute though.. 🙃

Until next time.. until the mountains decide to call us next..  ✨🎒

Cheers,                                                                                                                                                    Meghana

P.S : The bunch of pictures in the black boxes might take some time to display..

 

 

 

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