Meghalaya, one of the seven sister states in India, May 2013
One day I had met a guy who told me the following story of Cherrapunjee: When the British invaded the Indian Subcontinent, they built one of their first outposts at cherrapunjee, because it is situated on a plateau with a good view over the plains of what is today Bangladesh. But because it was raining so much, many soldiers got depressed and killed themselves, so that the British were forced to move their outpost to a climatically better situated area.
So I cycled through a landscape which was called “Scotland of the East “ by someone – green valleys, high plains, fog and clouds and a humid climate.
I reached Cherrapunjee in the evening and decided to cycle to the Nohkalikai waterfall, (which is apparently the fourth highest in the world). I arrived just in time to see the waterfall disappear behind big clouds. I took a picture next to the “Wettest place on earth” sign, which had also attracted some indian tourists. These middle class people with western clothes, sunglasses and cameras, arrived in a jeep, jumped out, and rushed over to the “waterfall view point” . Disappointed with the view, they wanted their 100 Rupees entry fee back, but it was senseless. “Let´s go, don´t waste time here… Just a quick picture next to the sign.” While I took the picture for them, the son told me, waving with his iPhone, “The wettest place on earth is the village Mawsynram 15 km away from Cherrapunjee with 11847 mm annual rainfall”. For the first or second wettest place on earth – I was a little bit disappointed that it was not raining, and started to look for a place to stay.
In the night the rain started. And it wouldn´t stop raining for the next 48 hours. On the next morning I packed some stuff in one of my waterproof cycle bags, borrowed an umbrella from my host, and stepped out into the drizzling rain. I was on my way to go to a place which it´s difficult to reach by bicycle. Nongriat, a small village situated in a gorge, only accessible through more than 2000 steep steps down. To get there I got a ride with the local newspaper- and milkman. It is not like that he would put the newspaper in a letterbox or something. When he reached a house where he had to deliver a newspaper or some milk, he started to push the horn continuously and shouted, until the person hurried to the car to grab it at the window. If that was not fast enough the case, the newspapers landed on the muddy street. After half an hour drive he dropped me at the beginning of the steps and I started to descend into the humid, steaming jungle.
Where there is a lot of rain, there is a lot of water also. Waterfalls and wild rivers had to be crossed on small bridges which consist just out of a few rusty steel cables. After some more endless steps I reached Nongriat, some houses scattered around in the jungle. Though I had this umbrella, I was wet from head to toe from the humidity and sweat when I reached the house of Bayran. He runs a small homestay for the few tourists who come here.
The people here have electricity, and also a mobile network is working sometimes, but most of them are living from that what the jungle gives them. They go to the forest to collect bananas, pineapple, litchis, vegetables and leaves and also firewood. Some rice fields were around the village. Before the times of umbrellas (the most important accessory here – everyone has one with them) the people built rain cover out of strong and huge leafs.
Rain is a part of life here, the rainy season part of every year. During rainy season people spend more time in their houses, it is not possible to do some construction work or get stones and sand from the river.
The rain slows down the life of the people and accelerates the life of the nature. A small stoneway leads into dense jungle, everything is green and orchids and other flowers are growing in this humid climate. But the most amazing thing are the living root bridges, which are bridges across the rivers, formed and grown for years by long air roots from banjon trees. It is a little bit shaky to walk on these bridges, but not more than the artificial bridges out of these steel wires.
The next day I walked up all the steps, and it was pouring down on me. Everything was wet. Like it should be on one of the wettest places on earth.