I had been in India for three months covering the major tourist draws like Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala. I had shuffled through the Taj Mahal, squeezed on to local buses, slept at train stations after long delays and been hassled for taxis, rickshaws, tours and hostels. It was a country that never rested and was in your face day and night. It was time to find a place away from all the hustle and bustle to reinvigorate the real reasons I love to travel. I found the peace I sought in Meghalaya.
A friend had told me about a place called Meghalaya in the far northeast of the Indian subcontinent. It occupied only the last couple of pages in guidebooks and there was limited information online. Even local Indians I had met in states like Rajasthan and Goa didn’t know anything about the place. This only intrigued me more.
The wild Northeast of India is the awkward triangular shaped piece of land that sits in between Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China and is connected to India by a skinny corridor east of Nepal. It comprises of seven states, one of which is Meghalaya; seventy percent covered by forest and known as the wettest place on earth due to its downpours in the wet season.
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Travel guide for the root bridges
Where I stayed
In Shillong, I would recommend staying at Baba’s Tourist Lodge, it’s right in the main mall area and is an old favourite of the state capital. They have a good restaurant and really friendly staff.
In Cherrapunji, I stayed in By the Way Hostel which is actually in Lower Sohra, run by a very nice and helpful man although at the time I was there he had shut the hostel down and only had a couple of rooms out the back that he kept for those who walked in (like me). Unfortunately, I’m not sure how long he will keep accepting travellers, which is a shame because he is a really nice host.
In Nongriat, I stayed at Santina’s Homestay which is just below the popular Serene Guesthouse. Santina is a very kind Khasi woman and although the family hardly spoke much English, it was a beautiful, authentic experience. I couldn’t recommend Santina enough.
How I got in
From Shillong, I took a shared jeep which leave when full on a fairly consistent basis throughout the day to Cherrapunji. The ride is very scenic and takes around two hours. From Cherrapunji I walked down the hill to Lower Sohra where I stayed, although there are generally shared taxis available that run from Lower Sohra to Cherrapunji town and back.
I stayed one night in Lower Sohra and stored my luggage there and the next day I took the bus that leaves Cherrapunji and passes through Lower Sohra between 9-10am towards Mawlong. The bus conductor knew where I was going and told me where to get off, on the turn off to Tyrna. From there, I walked down to Tyrna village along the road for less than a kilometre and then at the end of the town, the road ends and the stairs begin down towards Nongriat. There are signs indicating the way. The hike down to Nongriat took around one and a half hours along concrete stairs.
From Nongriat you can explore the area by foot. Serene Guesthouse has a hand drawn map with sights to see. Most of the paths are being concreted now and consist of a lot of stairs. There are various caves and villages and other root bridges to see as well as the popular Rainbow Falls, which is around an hour from Nongriat.
How I got out
To return to Shillong, you come back the same way. I hiked back out of Nongriat to Tyrna where I took a shared taxi (although these are few and far between) to Cherrapunji. I got out in Lower Sohra to collect my luggage and then continued onto Cherrapunji town where there are sumos leaving for Shillong when full. I did this return trip all in one day rather than stopping in Cherrapunji for the night, which is very easy to do if you leave early from Nongriat.