Half confused and half worried, I am looking for a vehicle in the bustling streets of Bada Bazaar, an exit point in Shillong for Dawki, Cherrapunjee, etc. Dreaming about a vacation is super easy, but ‘how to reach?’, will exhaust your brain to the core – pan walas, shopkeepers, bus drivers, knocking doors and Google may have multi-directional opinion sometimes. This is enough to baffle and hence, delay the so-called planned trip.
Call it lack of knowledge(read planning), but all those who want to travel will find a way(perhaps, discover a road not taken). After giving up on finding a direct public transport to Mawlynnong, I started reaching out to cab drivers. One would imagine that hilly areas would have big cars, but Shillong, in fact Meghalaya is a tiny cultural shock with the Maruti 800 prevailing as the main mode of transportation between cities – people overflowing through this miniature car of 90s. Having the basic knowledge of distance between places and what price cab drivers usually charge, did give me a platform(or basis) to bargain.
“No one would agree to a price lesser than this“, says one of the three men gathered around me i.e. a helpless tourist guy. They would drop me till Mawlynnong in merely Rs. 1500, which was a pocket-thunder-shock for a solo person no matter how hard I bargain. However, direct buses to Mawlynnong are not available, one has to go to Pynursla(~40km) and then book a cab to the cleanest village of Asia, this absurd route in the start of my north-east journey did make me sit-back and take the easiest way out. I proposed him to take as many passengers as he wants in the hired cab en route my destination, I would just need a pillion seat, rest is all yours, do whatever you want – “make some money, chap!“. There was a little excitement that I would be meeting so many people onboard. The deal worth Rs.1000 was abnormal, but eventually he agreed and packed some passengers and me in the cab. Anyways, Negotiate mode is a must while travelling.
The joyride began through the picturesque road, which gets covered with the clouds in monsoon. After seeing the thrilled expression on my face, Daman, a khasi origin and young-looking(40 years actually) driver asked whether I would find such mountains and waterfalls in Delhi? After spending years in Delhi and earning more than he usually does now, he gave up against the inhospitable and cunning air of Delhi and moved to his homeland somewhere on the way to Dawki. Delhi will always be as cold as it’s people, added by Daman. I pranked whether he would come back to Delhi and the expected reply was, ‘Ouiiii, Na baba..’.
I got to meet a lot of people who were hopping on-off the cab while commuting a shorter distance than me. They introduced themselves, teaching a bit of Khasi to me and sharing their excursion stories in Khasi and broken hindi. One of them crossed the Bangladesh border in the middle of night, and someone told about their secret bunk during school in the famous market that is held in Pynursla(an enroute town) every eighth day. The insaness level was held up by the two young boys came in front of our speeding car, just to give Daman a hi-5 and friendly chit-chat. Wish everyone could stay a little longer, but I had a long way to go and meet more people. Totally loved the deep rooted people dwelling in the northern khasi region of Meghalaya.
While we were few kilometres away from Mawlynnong, Daman asked my trip plans and somehow convinced me to cover Tamabil and Dawki in his cab, with a mere additional fare. Since I got to know him pretty well during the last 3 hours and these places were on my bucket list, I chose Daman’s chariot itself.
After reaching Dawki, we had lunch at a tiny stall on the bank of Umngot river. I also took him along for boating. The colorful Bangladeshi Dawki-zone, fishing people waiting in their boats, big mountains on one side with bamboo tree roots, a bridge that connects the Bangladesh area(which may get reconstructed soon) with the Indian area over the river and finally, the camping area on the bank of river made the boating experience relishing.
Hardly a five minute ride away is the Tamabil border, connecting India and Bangladesh. People at both sides of the border were peeking into other’s state. We both do the same–one step ahead–we’re looking for a difference between the citizens in our gossip manner. Eavesdrop one of the Indian-Bangladeshi crazy talk at the border – ‘Are you from Bangladesh?’,’Yes yes’,’Let’s take a selfie‘. It was hilarious. You can see a small migration office closeby and a lot of trucks that import and export goods between the countries.
Terminating the mini-visit with Kwai(a popular pan in Khasi region), we headed to Mawlynnong through the border area that reduces the distances to 20km. Yay, I made one contact in Shillong that comes with a package deal of driver, guide and a friend. However, I still can not digest the fact about how I visited Dawki, unexpected and frolic.