May 17, 2021
That was in January 2020 and the novel coronavirus has just arrived India. Ten of us from Mangalore had booked the trekking, Meghalaya caving expedition with the Youth Hostel association of India. Many trekkers had a dilemma whether to join this trek or not due to the coronavirus. But we decided to go ahead with our scheduled plan in the first week of February 2020.
Before joining the scheduled trek, we had planned to visit some part of the Assam state as well, and do some sightseeing. After landing at Guwahati airport (Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport), we had hired a private cab to reach Shilong. Even though Shilong has an airport, it is always recommended to take a flight to or from Guwahati. In Shilong due to frequent climatic changes, there are always more chances to flights getting cancelled from Shilong.
In Shilong, we had booked a dormitory accommodation at the Shri Aurobindo ashram. Being a trekker, we always preferred to go for accommodation with basic amenities, but, with hygienic food and shelter. We arrived at Shilong around 4 pm, and it was almost dark and the temperature was very low and as usual people like us from the coastal area had trouble coping with the cold. In the north-east, the sunrise and sunset occur very early compared to the rest part of India so, we could not do any sightseeing that day and thought about resting for the day.
Then next day, early in the morning we began with our sightseeing and the first priority was Umngot river which is one of a key attraction for all visitors. On the way we visited the village Mawlynnong (I know these names are quite difficult to pronounce and remember as well) which was awarded as cleanest village in the Asia by Discover India in the year 2003. After seeing the village, we had breakfast and headed toward the Umngot river.
Umngot river famously known as Dawki river which is located near the Dawki town. Dawki town is situated along the border of India and Bangladesh. The Water here is so crystal clear as one could see deep in the water. The exquisite beauty of the river makes you feel, that you are just floating in the water. It was one of the heavenly experiences of boating. If we had stepped out of the boat on the other side or the river, we could have landed in the Bangladesh. In fact, boatman suggested us to get down, but we didn’t do that as we did not have requisite permission documents to get down in the foreign land.
Best time to visit Dawki river is November to April. In rainy season visiting the river will be disappointing as water becomes turbid. The River is very deep, but people can swim where the water is shallow. Boating and kayaking is available with life jackets.
Though we did not feel like leaving the river bank so soon, due to shortage of time, we went to visit the Umananda temple. This Shiva temple is located in the middle of a river on the Island. The ferry is available to reach the temple. After seeing this temple, we went to Kamakhya temple. It is one of the oldest of 51 Shakti Pithas. This temple is usually crowded. By the time we finished visiting entire temple, it was time for sunset, so we decided to retire for the day.
Next day early in the morning we started towards Pobitora Wildlife sanctuary, which is on the Southern bank of the Brahmaputra river. Due to short of time, we decided to visit Pobitora sanctuary instead of visiting the Kaziranga National park which may need more than a day. This sanctuary is the main habitat for Indian rhinoceros along with other mammals like Golden jackal, wild boar and water buffalos. It is also an important bird area and home for thousands of migratory birds and various reptiles.
Here Jeep and Elephant safari two options are available. We had opted for Jeep safari which was accompanied by a guide along with a gun for safely purpose. We could witness many animals and migratory birds. The guide was explained thoroughly about all required information about birds and animals. After visiting the wildlife sanctuary, we headed to the Youth Hostel of India (YHAI), Shilong for our scheduled trek Meghalaya Caving expedition.
To be continued…