7th March 2016, Monday…Day (17) Shillong Sightseeing 103 km
After not so good sleep inside the car parked at a filling station in Shilling, drove straight away to Shillong Peak, 10 kilometers from the city situated at a height of 6500 feet ASL, the highest point in Meghalaya and offering panoramic view of Shillong city and the surroundings.
Shillong Peak or Shillong View Point lies inside the Air Force Station. As I drove and reached at the gates of the air force station I came to know that the gates for tourist are opened only after 10am.
The road leading to Shillong Peak was abuzz with activity even at 7am morning. I was told there was some festival and lot of crowd is expected at the temple nearby as the day progresses.
Since the entry gate of the Air Force Station was to open at 10am, I drove to nearby villages and countryside. It was so good everywhere and despite the green was gone and was giving way to burning summers, the landscape around looked so beautiful. The hills looked rolling on it slopes and it was because of this the European settlers called it ‘The Scotland of the East’.
Situated at an average altitude of around 5000 ft ASL, Shillong is a hill station and capital of Meghalaya. It is the headquarters of eastern air command and is a major tourist destination.
The people of Meghalaya believe that the sacred groves are an abode of deities, who bestow welfare on the people, cattle & the land. Those who do not obey the traditional norms face the wrath of the deity. They believe if trees are cut and the twigs, flowers, fruits, etc. are plucked, the deity will get offended.
One such grove lies at Mawphlang about 30 kilometers from Shillong and since I had some time, I decided to drive to the grove. The road and the surroundings were stunningly clean, very unlike our area back home.
Mawphlang was a large burnt grassy pasture and a narrow road ran through its middle. It had a dense forest to its left and Khasi heritage village on its right. The pasture was a large open ground and at that moment of time no one was around. It felt as if I was the only visitor at that moment.
Parked the car on a side and walked inside the Khasi heritage village. The village looked nicely laid and one gets the real feel of the village life of the native people. Again, there were no other visitors and the only people seen inside the village were the workers, who were kind of bewildered to see me walking alone.
Then I drove through the road inside the pasture and took a little stroll near the grove. The grove was dense and had a mystry of its own, especially one feels when one is forbidden to enter it. I felt tempted to go inside but refrained from doing so. No one was around to take permission to as well.
From Mawphlang I drove back some 15 kilometers to Elephant Falls. For a change there was huge crowd at the entrance of the falls. Lot many tourists were hurrying through their activities to be at the falls as soon as possible.
After a disappointing breakfast of ‘aloo poori’ and buying an entry ticket of Rs.30- and paying parking fee of Rs.20-, I started descending down on well paved and well marked steps to the water falls.
Elephant Falls is a waterfall consisting of a series of three waterfalls falling on three different platforms. The walking path gently descends down from the entrance till the bottom or the last fall. There are proper and sufficient platforms to view and click photographs of the falls.
Although the falls were not very spectacular yet they had their own charm. They are easily accessible and I was able to see them closely. The best time to visit the waterfalls in Meghalaya are the monsoons though.
From Elephant falls I once again drove to Air Force Station. This time I was allowed to go inside after surrendering my original driving licence and with the instructions not to stop and click any pictures anywhere enroute and adhering to speed limit of 30 km per hour.
At the entry gate of Shillong Peak, had to shell Rs.20- as entry fee, Rs.20- as camera fee and Rs.10 as parking fee. The first thing that I did after parking the car, was to eat lot of these heavenly tasting pineapples cut pieces.
Like Elephant Falls, there was a huge tourist rush at the place. A number of hawkers were selling a variety of food items besides few permanent shops selling snacks. Many shopkeepers were offering photoshoot with local dress and armament.
A special tower was built for the tourist to enjoy a bird’s eye view of Shillong city and surroundings. Excited tourists from all over the country had gathered to see the panoramic view of Shillong city and make merry.
It was good to meet a family from Ludhiana Punjab. They were excited and astonished to know that I had driven solo from Amritsar to Shillong and was enjoying without family.
From Shillong Peak I drove through a slow moving jam to Police Bazar and then to Wards lake. It was good to see people not creating ruckus as we are used to in our area. Since it was little hot and crowded, I did not enjoy all that much. I noticed some people playing archery, a new and interesting thing for me.
Drove through the crowded bazaars of Shillong and saw some more landmarks. Frankly I was not enjoying, may be due to heat, or crowd or restlessness or may be I am not city man and love to be on the road as soon as possible. So began missing my home and family.
I was little bit down in the afternoon, did not feel all that well. But as the evening started setting in the mood started getting better as well. Enjoyed walking through the happening Police bazar and bylanes, chatting with ever smiling open hearted people, appreciating whatever they were doing, clicking pictures and enjoying a variety of snacks.
Later, parked the car in the parking area, talked to the taxi drivers, enjoyed few drinks, walked around a little and thought about my solo trip which looked bit unreal and a fantasy. Some more of local snacks and that was all for me in the dinner.
Walked back to the parking area where my Lalpari was parked. By then all other vehicles had left, even the boy managing the parking had left. Felt little lonely but drinks had its effect, pulled the covers over, slipped inside the car, locked it from inside and had a fabulous sleep, one of the best during the whole trip……!!!