In a country where foreign tourists return home with bitter stories, there is not much hope for female travelers. In fact, how can people from other countries even consider travelling to a country infamous for its treatment of women when the women who belong to the country themselves do not consider it safe?
India today has only a handful of female solo travelers compared to western countries where female travelers are ubiquitous. In recent times, people like Sapna Bhavnani have commented that it is in fact true that Indian women do not travel alone and have determined to change this scenario.
Things are however, not altogether dismal. Every other day now, more and more brave Indian women are joining the band of fearless solo travelers. In such a scenario, it is a welcome change to be able to visit some of the last surviving matrilineal tribes of India – the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya. Like the other matrilineal tribes of the North East India, Garo and Jaintia, in the Khasi tribe too, the property is passed from the mother to the youngest daughter. Women run the household and also work outdoors while men are sent to the bride’s household post marriage.
Even though Khasis inhabit almost every part of Meghalaya, this article focuses mainly on the hill station of Cherrapunjee and there about. World over Cherrapunjee, is known for being one of the wettest places on earth with stunning tropical rain forests, natural waterfalls and springs. But those are not the not the only things it is should be known for. If you are a solo woman traveler or toying with the idea of taking on your first solo trip here’s why you should pick Cherrapunjee.
You can finally switch off your alert radar
The first and the most obvious reason to visit Cherrapunjee is that it is as safe as it gets. The possibility of moving comfortably in an environment where women run the show, instead of cowering behind veils is quite liberating. Even miles of dark and deserted hilly roads don’t sound scary when you know there will be a lady selling her wares quietly in the next shop.
Because you know simplicity is rare
The people of Cherrapunjee are simple and refreshingly uncomplicated. They survive mainly on farming. People from the villages, visit the mass on Sundays, and tread on foot for hours to reach the market with bags of their produce. They always greet tourists with a smile, something which completely changes your entire experience.
You have never seen living root bridges
The hill station is home to a number of living root bridges Umshiang Double Decker and Single Decker of Nongriat village being the most famous; Umkar Root Bridge of Seij and the Living Root Bridge of Umunoi. The 6 hour long trek to Double Decker Root Bridge besides being a unique adventure provides the perfect setting to get lost in a walk of self-discovery.
You love it when women are in charge
The Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort with its lovely and efficient all woman staff is the kind of service you will not forget soon. Owned by a Khasi lady, Carmela Shati and her husband Mr. Rayen, the resort has employed quite a number of woman as chefs, housekeeping and administrative staff.
You find rains so romantic
All the year round, I hear people complaining that it simply doesn’t rain enough. Thankfully, Cherrapunjee being one of the wettest places on earth gets enough and more rainfall throughout the year. It is also one of the best places to enjoy a hot cup of tea watching the pitter patter on your window panes. Just remember to throw in an umbrella into your backpack.
You don’t have to worry about chlorine in a natural swimming pool
Imagine the joy of not being bothered about dry patchy skin post swimming. And the worry of what people will say when you suddenly decide to jump into a pool you have just stumbled upon. Being blessed with numerous waterfalls and natural swimming pools, Cherrapunjee is a swimmers’ paradise. The most memorable one being the brilliantly blue one, under the steel rope bridge.
You have got to taste the mind blowing Tungtap Chutney
If you like spicy food, you will become an ardent fan of the Khasi food in no time. Do not miss the mouth watering dry fish Tungtap Chutney at the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort. You can also sample the Pork Jadoh, Chicken Neiong, Fresh Local Fish Curry among other delicacies. For vegetarians there’s dal prepared with mustard greens, veg jadoh, khasi style salads and more at Orchid Roots, a pure veg restaurant.
You would have beaten Yash Raj Films
The road to Cherrapunjee from Guwahati is a visual treat and nothing short of Yash Raj film locale. Right from the steppe farming on the hills, to tea gardens, pineapple orchards, raja mirch and bamboo shoot pickle at Nongpow market, glistening water of Borapani, to random waterfalls, to the music and fashion capital of North East, Shillong, the drive will be dotted with many a memorable thing. The best part is most of it is still unexplored.
You have seen enough of fake waterfalls
Unless you have seen the Nigera falls, you cannot miss the Nohkalikai falls. It is simply spectacular during the rains. There are a number of other equally stunning waterfalls in and around Cherrapunji, leave alone the little nameless falls you keep bumping into every now and then in the villages. To name a few - the Seven Sisters, Wah Baka, Kynrem, Nohsngithiang Falls, Rainbow Waterfall, etc.
You want to rough it out in a real cave
What can be more adventurous than exploring a cave? The 820 feet long, halogen lit, Mawsmai Caves with limestone rocks and dripping water drops provide a spine chilling setting. Not surprisingly, it is a huge crowd puller of adventure lovers.
(Guest writer Anindita Das works in the advertising industry. But she is also a part-time back packer, a full-time dreamer & an amateur photographer.)