North East Chronicles: On March 18, we visit the town of Cherrapunjee, about a two hour drive from Shillong, through curvy roads and some beautiful scenery. Cherrapunjee, until recently, held the record of being one of the wettest regions on earth.
Cherrapunjee, which is known by the local name of Sohra, is located in the East Khasi Hills at an altitude of 1484 metres. The average rainfall between the years 1973-2006 has been 39.14 feet, and that’s a lot of rain!
Unfortunately, due to below average rainfall in 2006, it had to forgo its title of the wettest place to its neighbour Mawsynrem, but still holds stubbornly to its reputation.
I come across some incredible statistics: â€œThe rainfall in 1974 at Cherrapunjee was the highest recorded annual rainfall in any one place in any one year in the whole world. On 16th June 1995, it rained 1,563 mm in 24 hours (i.e. 5.12 feet : i.e. 61.53 inches).â€ Compare this with London, which has about 600 mm of average rain in a year and you’ll get an idea! (info from Cherrapunjee.com)
Bangalore would drown if it rained that much, I’m thinking!
We’re on the road from Shillong to this small town. Having woken up late, after a huge buffet breakfast, we take along a guide with us and head towards Cherrapunjee. The villages on the way are situated right on the road. And most houses have flower pots and cute little gardens in the front, giving them a bright and cheery look.
We stop at one such village and meet a bunch of excited kids. They’re not only incredibly cute, but they’re also very friendly!
|Cute kids on the way to Cherrapunjee|
Unfortunately for us, it’s a hot day. We reach around 11 am and with the sun continuing to get stronger, Venkatesh exclaims, â€œWhere are the rains?â€
It isn’t the rainy season of course. For the best time to witness and experience the rains, visit Cherrapunjee between May and October. So it’s more a case of bad timing in our case. We spend some time on the rocky viewpoint looking at the Nohkalikai falls : this is a majestic waterfalls – but a seasonal one. It depends on the monsoons to create its magic, so we can only imagine what it might be like in full flow. I’ve been to Cherrapunjee a few times in my childhood, but I don’t have any clear recollections of my earlier visits either
From the falls, go across to the Mawsmai limestone caves. The rather eerie interiors have these interesting lime formations everywhere. And in some parts you have to actually bend double to pass from one cave to another : the openings are rather small and narrow.
While emerging from one such opening, Deepsan walks directly into one of the overhanging rocks. While we hold our breath. Thankfully, he didn’t sustain any serious injury (though I thought I heard something crack!) except a really nasty looking mark, which soon turned deep red in colour.
After that, we were all a little more careful.
|The Mawsmai Caves in Cherrapunjee|
My school friend Christy had told me about Cherra Resort, so I give her a call to find out if we could have lunch there. She gets it organized and we drive about 11 kms from Cherrapunjee towards the resort.
Cherra Resort turns out to be a pretty little homely place (and really more like a homestay than a resort), perched on a hilltop, with a nice view of the surrounding hills. The owner, we find out is a South Indian who’s settled there since a long time having married a local.
The meal is large and satisfying, besides the fact that we are all really hungry. After a round of dessert, we laze around in the bench in the lawn and then around 4.30 pm, when the light starts going out in the east, it’s time to bid goodbye to Cherra Resort.
I look up at the skies : hoping one last time that maybe there’s a chance of a downpour! But it’s still very clear.
Sigh! We’ll have to come back to Cherrapunjee in the rainsâ€¦