Today, we are privileged by not having to get up at 5 am. Some of the bikes need maintenance and are taken to the workshop. In fact riding will be kept to a minimum to give room for some other adventure activities.
Two “Himalayans” have been driven to site by the crew to shoot a couple of scenes from an aerial point of view, using a drone. Apparently we, the cast, are not required for the job. The relief is welcome after yesterday’s madness.
The Dawki river
After a leisurely drive by car to Dawki, a village South of Shillong close to the border with Bangladesh, we reach a small village called Shongpdeng, on the Umngot river. Incidentally we notice that most localities’ names have now a typically Eastern consonance, very different from the rest of India, possibly resulting from some old Cambodian influences?
Kalki and the canoe team
Swimming, canoeing and fishing on the river sounds like an attractive, not-so-stressing form of entertainment!
Fishing boats and the 200 m bridge spanning the Umngot river
Kalki & dad in absolute concentration
And that’s what we are indulging in for most of the day in spite of the sporadic lashing rains which are constantly playing spoilsport with us. While doing so, we observe this interesting phenomena of the river swelling and retreating at quite a rapid pace in function of the precipitations happening upstream: we call this the “breathing of the Umngot”.
The friendly local audience
This river is spanned by a narrow suspension bridge which is among the longest and highest I have ever seen in the Himalayas: I measure it at close to 200 meters in length. The floor of the bridge (about 1 meter wide, designed only for pedestrians) is surprisingly modern in concept, made of aluminum strips to save weight, with a 1 inch gap in-between to offer minimum purchase to the wind. The net result is that one is able to see the river far down under one’s feet. Plus of course with such a long span and a bit of wind, the bridge has this disagreeable tendency to swing madly. No need to say, crossing this bridge is not meant for the faint-hearted!
Balancing act on the swinging bridge
With dusk approaching, we ride our Himalayans for about 30 km on a tortuous road to Mawlynnong, that we reach after nightfall under heavy rain. Mawlynnong is known as the “cleanest village in Asia”. Hum.. fine by me.. However we feel that — possibly due to bad habits contracted through an easy life — the inhabitants (of course one should not fall prey to generalities, since we met only few people, but such was our experience) seem to have lost the profound sense of hospitality which, till now, was a trade mark of our entire journey in the North-East. Pride and laziness seem to prevail: in pitch black darkness and under the rain, we have to carry heavy luggage without umbrellas or torch light, no basic amenities in a clearly overpriced room, and worst of all, ultimate sin and highly conducive to my bad mood and poor opinion, no tea available anywhere in, or near, the guesthouse in the morning! And it’s fine, nobody seems to bother, only condescending smiles around us. In short, Mawlynnong has earned the only black dot on my Seven Sisters map so far.
Cleanest village in the mist
We only hope that tomorrow will bring us to more welcoming places.
(To be continued…)
Watch our upcoming TraveL Show “The Great Escape with Kalki”, to be aired on FOX life TV next August.
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