I was thinking on what to write about my next journey. The North East and specifically Meghalaya.
This time it has to be different because am running out of words to express my experience. How do you explain something that has changed your perception in life? To have a catharsis?
When I first thought of making this journey,I had absolutely no idea about the North East or Meghalaya. I dived in, just head first dive in. I didn’t have a plan, where to start and where to end and thank god I didn’t! Every day, every ride, every journey I took led me to new experiences.
Sometimes I got more than I asked for and I wondered truly if I deserved this,if am worth all this. From complete solitude to connections, from adventure to thrills, getting over my fears and taking leaps,literally and metaphorically.
But let me tell you the hard fact, Meghalaya cannot be experienced through the eyes of money and luxury.
Hiring a private car,staying in hotels and driving through towns and must visit places and clicking pretty pics galore? Absolutely not!
You will truly know this fascinating region if you let all your defences down, be totally receptive to what it offers you. Good, not so good, bare minimum stuff, maximum thrills and be ready to walk your ass off, it’s worth the effort.
Be ready to get chilled to your bones in the cold and getting completely tanned- charred black actually under the blazing sun and feel alive in every breath and every sigh.
Be ready to hop along on a ride by helpful strangers, to spend a night with the locals under an open sky knowing you have nothing else.
Leave everything behind, leave where you came from and what you came with and come with a clean slate, a blank and then you will know.
This blog will NOT be on where to, how to get there, where to stay, which place to go nothing because I didn’t map my route, I kept going and I explored places where I stopped.
So what am going to do is make this a pictorial blog.The simple clicks might tell you stories. You make your own interpretation.
My suggestion? Just don’t tick Meghalaya in your bucket list of ‘ Been there, done that destination’.
Give it respect and the sanctity it deserves. Give it’s people your deep respect towards their culture,language and food. Know their music,their religion,the different tribes, their community,their stories, their beliefs, the lore. LISTEN.JUST LISTEN..
Ask questions and learn and do this with outmost humility and you will see how doors will open for you. In short, don’t be an asshole like most of them are when they travel.
I have been a solo traveller for almost 16 years now, travelling/backpacking around the world and only in the past few years I have been discovering India,my beloved India. I will not be arrogant and say re-discover because it’s not true. And I can say this openly, I want to explore India and nothing else. It’s that clear and transparent to me.
As for the people.. What happens when one is a solo female backpacker?An Indian woman at that? I was the only one wherever I travelled and what I got was love, understanding and appreciation from people and plenty of encouragement and a thumbs up sign with ‘Keep going!’especially from men 😊
And I met extraordinary people.From Homestay owners to Backpackers to people from villages. Evas(two of them!) from Cherrapunjee, Kevin from Mawphlang, Danmi from Tyrna. Karbi and Frank from Dawki whom I can say now come in my close contacts list.
Sweet, kind and mature for his age 22 year old Karbi took me in as if I was his long lost friend, showed me places an outsider wouldn’t have explored. We shared our life stories,love for Bruce Springsteen(Yes Manal!) and sharing a cigarette on the cliff with his awesome friend. I got an invite for a Gospel Rock concert in the village. I had lovely meals and tea with his Aunt who ran a small shack near the river.
Frank and I shared joints and a love for good music under the stars.He promised me he will play the blues on his Guitar when I come back. The shared rides, the people I rode with,pushing a Tata Sumo with the locals uphill,the local driver from Dawki who took me in his vehicle filled with goods and spoke at length about his family and his friends- the boatmen who jumped in,told me about their prospects of not finding girls from their Khasi tribe and entertained me thoroughly. The list is endless.
Aniket and Ajinkya -the backpacker brothers were backpacking across Assam and we were housemates. I started chatting with them one night in a village in total darkness and they became my travel companions the next morning.
Deepti,Varsha and Dipankar- the cool backpackers whom I connected with from Tyrna to Dawki, and I shared an awesome long ride with them to Guwahati. They bundled up their backpacks to accommodate me in the car.
The ever caring Dipankar, behind the wheel and making sure we were alright. Varsha playing the coolest rock music from the 60’s to 80’s. The deep conversations Deepti and I had by the river and continued till Guwahati. It was a solid connection.We met again in Calcutta. And am sure we will meet again somewhere else.
I was not alone really. Kindred spirits find their way towards each other, it happens when we let go of our inhibitions.
So here is a glimpse of Meghalaya for you. But don’t just get fascinated by this ‘end product’ of what you are going to see, don’t rush and book your trip because ‘it’s the cool place to be’.
Peel that mask off, listen to the silence inside you and make your own map, your own route to this wonderful region that is a world of its own and a big part of India and it’s time we give it due attention, pure love and the value it deserves ❤️
Ekla Chalo Re.. to Calcutta(to be continued..)