Unlike most people starting with Shillong when on a tour to Meghalaya, we were driving down to the southernmost point to begin with. This change of conventional plans always is a necessary if you are a tour guide, who wishes to offer the best to your clients. My travelers for this tour to Meghalaya were David and his wife, an Australian couple of mid fifties, who entrusted me to show them one of the less visited fronts of India.
I had decided on Meghalaya due to the time of the year being March, and as per the duration of two weeks they could spare for the grand adventure with me. In Meghalaya though , I needed to find some exquisite place, which are still lesser frequented by tourist. Though we were heading to Dawki, I felt an urge to find something beyond the ordinary to show my travelers.
I knew Dawki, was quiet famous, and it was evident from the cars that were lining the road crowding, once we were close to the destination. I inquired for more information on any unusual destination from my local driver friend, to see if there is some village with almost as good as views as Dawki, but lesser number of people. He said, well there is, and if we are ready to spend night in tents instead of rooms, we can live by a beach of the river. The river Umngot, which was running along with our drive, seemed to be a stream built of emerald crystal clear water , and I would be more than happy to spend a night just by it's vicinity. So i asked my clients about the change of plan that I proposed.
My clients being adventurous , gave me the permission to risk it, and so we did not stop in Dawki and drove on through a narrower road towards the new destination we knew nothing of..
The forest became denser and the road almost came into a single lane, with the tars vanishing from point to point, reflecting that we were moving quiet inside the region. Hardly we met another car as we rolled, I knew it was truly as remote as the driver had suggested. After an hour from Dawki, I read a sign board saying " Welcome to Shnongpdeng " .
I could not pronounce the name, and found myself confused how was it spelled. After repeating again and again from my driver's dialect, I could see it was pronounced as
" shnawng – preng ".
By the time he taught me, and then I taught it to my Aussie clients, we had reached. The road ends here, and one must take a walk down to the river bed, where camps are the shelter for night for seekers of adventure.
As we began walking towards our shelters, we passed through the village. One of the eye catching fact was the village here, had its huts and houses mostly made out of bamboo. They looked pristine and exotic after having lived in concrete for years to people.
I made it a point that once we got settled in our tents, we must take a walk around here, to truly see how the locals live around here in the remotest part of Meghalaya.
We finally walked down to the river bed, to see our shelters for the night. The river here, Umngot, has one of the most crystal clear water , you will ever find in the landmass of India. This is the same river that starts in Jaintia hills, through the gorges high up from Shnongpdeng, and then flows down river to pass through Dawki and then into the neighboring country of Bangladesh.
Plethora of tents were camped on the river beach, and a laid back atmosphere spread around. Frankie, was my man who arranged tents for me. It is pretty basic accommodation inside tents with pillows and bedding. Thank God one does not have to use sleeping bags , as the humid heat of the region does prick inside of you at this time of the year.
We were given options of rooms in bamboo huts too, but who in the world will leave the chance to camp by a crystal clear river flanked by green gorges, huh !!???
Common toilets were a little far, but spirits high with the discovery of this unknown place, we managed the discomfort as did David and his beloved. It was time now to walk around the village.
Shnongpdeng is home to around two hundred people at maximum. The prime livlihood of the villagers here will be fishing and farming. With the arrival of tourism, the newer generation has turned to services of hospitality and adventure sports. One can easily have the pleasures of kayaking, cliff diving or for more calmer experience just boat around the Umngot river. One could try fishing too. There is no shortage of activities here, but the most fun of all would be swimming in the flowing river, which is not too deep, and easy for beginners and experts alike.
Inside the village, the true lifestyle of the Jaintia tribal people of Meghalaya comes alive, as one can see them busy in their daily chores. The villages are filled with trees that ornamented with abundance of offsprings as litchees and jack fruits. A huge cultivation of beetle nut and bananas can be found , which seemed like the prime product of farming here. As we walked through the villages, the locals were all smiling and happy to give us pictures. There houses made out of bamboo or bricks made of river sand from its bed, were signs of their sustainable lifestyle. Clean and tidy, just like most of Meghalaya, the village looks a part of the fairy tales stories we read from.
Quietly I realized they are not yet bored with the conquest of outsiders, that happens, once the place gets overly famous. With such peace in mind and welcoming smiles, we did not know, when the evening passed, as we explored every nook and corner of the villages we could.
As the final light of the day sets out, we hurried to a local food shop near our camping place. Already many a locals were having dinner. It was quiet certain that life here starts very early with the sun rising , and they go back to sleep well ahead too. For dinner , we ate a simple rice and Dal , with boiled eggs, the only thing they had in offer, which felt we knew of. There were certainly other meals, local and regional, but it being the first night in Meghalaya, and also staying in tents, we felt best to go with safe options.
While on dinner, the women who ran the place, told us that if we came around in winter, it was better for the weather. In winter , there are clear skies, and due to that one can see the transparent water of Umngot river at it's peaking beauty. The crystal clear water holds such a magical image that it feels the boats on the river are uplifted in the air.
For now, all I could do is, keep it in my mind, that I needed to return in Shnongpdeng in winter once, to see what she told about so excitedly.
Sometimes, you are not in the right place at the most right time, but it does not take away the beauty of the adventure, for you see a more truer face that very less boast of.
Shnongpdeng , is a favorite destination for the youngsters of Meghalaya. With a fondness for western rock music, at night one can see group of youngsters camping by the beach and playing their music or jamming around a bonfire. I remembered my home in Kasol with such scenes. As we had a long journey , and a tired legs and heart after serious exploration, we decided to sleep. The music that came fror far, acted as a lullaby along with the crickets playing their tune from the dense nature that enveloped around.
The day starts early, and by 5 a.m we were up as with the arrival of a soft lightening sun. A huge cantilever bridge connects the two sides of shnongpdeng, and had our views all throughout the last evening. It was time to walk over it.
The bridge gives amazing view of the place from an alleviated ground. A good place to go, if you want to take great pictures. In my mind I could think, this would be a good bunjee jumping spot, may be in few years they will convert the idea.
After the walk over, we decided to take a bath in the river. Though we could kayak or get ourselves a boat, we just felt like watching them from far. The locals always go out in the morning to fish for the day. It will certainly be a good life to catch a fresh fish for meals, specially for the likes of us, who loves fishes.
But for now, bathing and watching them from far, I also noted to try this for the next time, I find my feet in this river again.
Finally it was time to leave Shnongpdeng, and I could pronounce it's name well by now too. Bidding the friends adieu I made for overnight, I did promise to visit here back in the winters. I must admit, if you can , do skip Dawki and spend your night or two here, definitely in your trip to Meghalaya.
For solo travelers, this place is connected to Shillong via Dawki, and then another hour of shared taxis. For group travelers , hiring a car is more easier and comfortable option. It takes around four hours from Shillong to reach here, though you can drive straight from Guwahati early morning too, like I did.
Lastly for accommodation or such helps, you can connect over to me through facebook or instagram. Both links up on the right corner!
I hope you plan a trip to Meghalaya soon, and feel free to consult me for any advises !
Hope you visit the unknown shnonpgdeng soonest !!
It was a Sunday morning of August in Kolkata, and waking up I felt a little dizzy. I thought it might be gastric effect of eating rich food for the past days. As the day went on I had a fever which felt undetected on thermometer. You know, when the temperature shows normal yet, inside you are not so well. A slight body ache could be felt too, but nothing that could make me label myself sick.
If it was not pandemic situation, I would not have even felt bothered to tell my parents about it. My mother told me, we must go for the Covid test immediately next day, and for now, I should be into bed resting.
I had to follow since otherwise it meant , I am going to endanger my parents as well as friends I was having plans with.
After a good afternoon nap, I felt better, the fever feeling had disappeared and the body ache was not much felt too. I felt like going for a jog or to continue my own kinda day, but again had to stop myself. I was sure it is just a cold, since Covid 19 is heard to be showing it's presence through throat pain, and a little breathing disorder. Both were absent in me.
Next day , still without having any health problems , I kept my commitment of getting checked for Covid from the government hospital. The test was painful , as they insert the testing bud into your nose and take the swab close from the brain. The same process is done to your throat. The pain inside , lingered for the day, as I returned, and only felt better and better.
Just to prepare in case I have Covid, I called a friend of mine , who had suffered it with his family, few days back. After hearing me out, he asked me to try to smell the perfume bottle.
A little weird request but I went for it.
And BAAMM , as I sniffed the bottle , I had no smell ! Absolutely nothing!
My friend said " Congratulations , you're up for the game ! "
Agreeing to my no smell symptoms, what I knew the test report came positive , and my parents went for their tests too. My house was sealed by the corporation of Calcutta, for a next 14 days at least. There were helpline numbers to call and get essentials, though , my friends and my dad's , volunteered to help us. I was glad to see that inversely to all the news that was going around, people in my vicinity were not treating us as untouchables.
To be honest , once the report comes out , you are a little scared. You take extra notice of how you are breathing, if there is any problem. As stress and fear grew on, I remembered, that in many discussions , I had written that Covid 19, isn't as dangerous as the news had preached. Now me being afraid of it, seemed so hypocritical of myself.
I took a deep breath , chanted my Buddha mantra and said, I have already told people, that I have a good immunity, and that Covid would not hurt me much.
It was now time if I believed in what I had put faith in.
Gladly, I was able to gain my confidence, that like my friends and people I know who had recovered well, I too shall go through this fine!
And believe me when I tell you this, it is this faith that did most of the work than the medicines. For when you are not afraid , or stressed , science says your body and immunity definitely works better.
I also decided, I will only take the immunity boosting pills and no Antibiotics, that were prescribed to me.
I am not telling this decision is for everyone, but surely it was for me. I believed in the body and lifestyle I have created over years living in mountains , and surely this was it's peak test for now.
After a fight with my parents, I did convince them that I will not take antibiotics, unless I have a fever or cough and cold, that seems very troublesome. By this time four days had passed, and honestly I felt anything but sick or what is potrayed of a Covid victim in media. Also gladly , my parents did not test positive and the people I had came in contact, none of them had any symptoms too.
This was my basic routine that I followed in my qurantine days.
Wake up around 10 and take three medicines which I surely recommend. It has no side effects.
3. SNEC30 ( Ayurvedic and most effective )
I took the SNEC 30 two times a day, the rest only in morning.
Apart from it, drank two cups of kadha.
Four cups of hot water to gurgle and drink.
Two times hot water vapour for myself. ( I found this from my friend, as the vapour helps to kill the virus if settled in nostrils).
I ate well, as my taste was still there, and I ate heavy protein with meat and egg everyday.
I saw movies , wrote things , read books and most importantly still did small workouts in room, keeping my sweating on in the evening.
Bit of prayer and meditation chanting my mantra, as normally as I do everyday before sleep.
Except for the smell which was still vanished, I was feeling very fit, enough to climb mountains.
Yet as to the norms I was inside the room isolated, but friends and people who called me , helped me have a good time indeed.
Finally after 14 days completed, I took the test again and was tested negative. I survived and realised a story I had heard a long time ago.
" Once a prisoner in US was sentenced to death. Two scientist thought of experimenting on him.
They told him, he was to be executed by a venomous snake bite.
On the day of execution, he was tied to the chair blind folded. And a non venomous snake was left near him, for him to feel the presence of the creature. The prisoner could hear the hissing and understand the inevitable presence. The snake however, was not allowed to bite. The scientist pierced the prisoner with two safety pins in his feet, and the prisoner died immediately. "
Remember my friends , Corona is going to happen to everyone , almost. The spread can't be stopped. However , if you keep you immunity strong and healthy, and your faith intact, it will only mild affects on you, as it did to me.
Of course if you know, your immunity is not so great, you must take added precautions, but even then , believe in your own strength. While climbing mountains , I always tell this to my clients. Our bodies always give up, as it feels pain. It is our will that helps us climb the impossible heights. It is such for this pandemic or for recovering from any sickness I believe. Your will & faith matters more than your physical conditions.
As for now, I am all fit , and it has been a month since I have survived my part of pandemic, and am back on my Adventures, to climb Mountains again.
If anyone of you, is surviving Covid 19 and wants to talk to me about any suggestions or advices , feel free to connect.
And yes if you think you have an immunity strengthened by will power and good lifestyle, join me in my Adventures in the mountains!
Hope to see you soonest!
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"