From Sikkim To Meghalaya (northeast India)
To get to Sikkim takes longer than than it takes to get back to West Bengal again (due to having to show your passport and Sikkim permit in Melli) and the roads are better on the way down because the Jeeps go directly to Siliguri.
It takes about eight hours from Siliguri to Geyzing with shared Jeep and five hours from there back again (it’s a different route).
I left Geyzing around 6:30 in the morning and arrived NJP (ten km. from Siliguri) railway station around noon and had to wait there for twelve hours for my train to Guwahati (in northeast India).
Or so I thought!
It turned out to be 17 hours and it was challenging to say the least.
I couldn’t go out because it was too hot outside and so I had to stay in the women’s waiting room, which means you have to listen to the constant announcements in the speaker of trains coming and going.
And it is constant listening, hour after hour to the same automated voice;
“May I have your attention please, train number 12345 to such and such place is now departing from platform number five..”.
Just imagine listening to that for 17 hours! 😀
My “super fast train” to Guwahati (they are actually called that) was five hours late so I had to wait 17 hours in total, until 5:30 am.
Not much sleep was possible during the night, not only because of the loud speakers but because you have to stay alert and keep an eye on your luggage and so on as well.
Lots of things went on that night.
There were loud arguments between some women (they were yelling and almost getting into a fistfight with each other), there were beggars coming in and out all the time, sellers of all kinds of things who also always loudly announced themselves yelling “coffee, chai, chai, coffee!” or whatever it was that they were selling.
And then there was a man coming into the women’s waiting room where I sat and tried to trick me into believing he worked there and that he had to “inspect” or check something.
He probably tried to lure me away from the waiting room since I was a tourist and thought that I would be an easy target for him.
I had to tell him to leave the waiting room, that he’s not allowed to be there but he was on drugs (or drunk or something) so it took a while to get him out of there and once he was out another woman closed the door but then a few moments later there were beggars coming in again..
And so it went on the whole night (slowed down a little bit the later it got but you still have to keep your eyes on your luggage) before my train finally arrived and I could lay down and sleep at last in my “bed”.
8-9 hours later (around 1 pm) I arrived Guwahati, which is a big city in which I did not want to stay more than absolutely necessary (not a fan of large cities in India).
Once there I was told that there were no more Jeeps going to Shillong that day, that they only leave in the morning, and so I left but somehow by what felt like some miraculous event, there was a man that told me that there’s an extra Jeep leaving for Shillong ‘right now’, so I was able to catch it.
Phew! I was so relieved! I kind of felt it was arranged by the universe to wait there for me 🙂
We reached Shillong after 2-3 hours but as soon as we drove into the city I felt that I did not want to stay there.
I don’t like cities in India (if they are large); they are all the same to me; smelly, crowded, noisy and dirty, so I just wanted to get away from there as soon as possible.
So I went to the nearest tourist office and asked if they knew of a guesthouse or a home-stay outside the city but within walking distance to everything and they said no but that there were a nice place called Cherrapunjee where there’s beautiful nature, waterfalls, etc.
She then said that I could still catch a Jeep to get there already that day so I said okay and went out to look for the Jeep stand (there are several in Shillong) and a guy helped me there and found the right Jeep for me and then after a while we left for Cherrapunjee.
Taking a shared Jeep in India means that there’s no time table, they just start going in the morning until a specific time depending on the route and they don’t leave until the Jeep is full (a minimum of ten people but sometimes more where people even sit on the roof of the Jeep!).
When we left Shillong the sun was just going down and the mountains were so beautiful, so majestic, and I was (again) in tears as always when I see beautiful nature 🙂
The mountains here are different from the mountains in Sikkim (the Himalayas).
Here in Meghalaya (the state name) the mountains are very high and the valleys are very low and the towns and cities are built on plateaus on the mountains (at least from the little I have seen).
It got dark quickly and misty so it was difficult to see anything before you and a couple of hours later I arrived in Cherrapunji.
I must say that on the way there was a moment when it got pitch-dark where I was doubting my choice to leave Shillong because I had no clue where I was, my phone was dead, no one knew where I was (that I had taken the Jeep) and I was on my way to god knows where with no pre-booked room anywhere.
Cherrapunji is a very small place (a tiny little village), there’s hardly anything there and had I arrived a day later I had been met with the sign “sorry, no business today” because the manager was away the whole day!
But anyways, it ended well, I got a room (a small cottage) and stayed there for 5 days I think it was.
It was wonderful to take a hot shower and sleep in a real bed in my own room 🙂
I went out exploring and walking a lot (will post pics soon when I have WiFi) and I have seen many smiles here too (as in Sikkim where people were very friendly and smiling).
Especially the children, they all say hello to me in chorus and sometimes there’s like ten children and they all want to say hello to you and take pictures and then when you leave they all say goodbye and they won’t stop saying it until you have replied.
So there’s a lot of hello’s and goodbye’s every time you walk by a school or a house where there’s children living 😀
And I don’t feel any apprehension when it comes to walking alone in nature in both Sikkim and Cherrapunjee (also called “Sohra”), it feels safe and okay.
It’s cleaner there too, there’s garbage bins everywhere here.
It’s funny how we sometimes plan to go to one place but then end up in another 🙂
I thought I would like Shillong but stayed here for less than an hour when I first arrived, similar to how it was with Pelling where I thought I would go (didn’t like it) but ended up in Geyzing instead (where I loved it).
As I now write and are editing this article I have now left Cherrapunjee and had a wonderful time there mainly because the nature is so beautiful.
I went to see many waterfalls, a cave, a living roots bridge (that was an amazing day-trip! Will post pics soon:) but there were lots of issues with electricity and no internet and so on.
Cherrapunjee is called “the wettest place on earth”. During the day the weather was nice but at night, .. wow! I have never experienced heavier and more powerful thunderstorms and rain, it was amazing!
I left yesterday and went to a really small village only a few kilometers from the border to Bangladesh, but that’s another story which I will share more about later (I slept in a hut in the jungle! and no electricity there either).
Right now I’m in Shillong and have access to Internet (no WiFi though) so I will stay for one more day to catch up on emails and other important things that I have not been able to attend to for over a week (or even more since the weather in Sikkim was similar).
It’s expensive here in Shillong but I have to stay here and figure out where I can go next since the northeast part of India is the least unexplored place and there’s not much info to find online.
We’ll see what happens in a few days time.
I had a moment today when I was so fed up with traveling that I cried.
It was bound to happen sooner or later because it’s not easy to travel in India, especially on a low budget.
There’s a lot of frustrating things about India travel, mostly (for me personally) the uncleaniness here and to not have enough money to be able to choose better places that cost more.
It’s just too much sometimes, and it was challenging for me today when I couldn’t find a cheap place here in Shillong after had been looking and searching and walking around with my two backpacks so I just bursted into tears and called a friend who listened to my rant.
Thankful to have such a friend, we all need them! 🙂
I’m hoping to find an affordable place somewhere (within a few hours from Shillong) where I again can stay for a while, a week or two at least, so we’ll see what happens.
Will share more later, the journey continues.. 🙂