Monday, October 24, 2011

Some Unusual Experiences

In the ancient times all stories used to come only through travel. Travel brought about the mysterious faraway land closer through stories to the common man who did not travel and spent there entire life in one village. These stories offer glimpse of achieving higher values like honesty, compassion, beauty to the aspiring person listening. Today with modern technology, traveling has become easy. Everyone travels and the mystery is removed especially with the advent of television. Yet for those with the gypsy mind, it is foot travel in lesser frequented terrain that brings in possibility of mystery, adventure and legends closer. By experience of hiking or trek, the legend that speaks of a past with heroes, several mountain and wonderful panorama are automatically evoked. It is not uncommon for trekkers to get animated while narrating his experience of a trek. This is especially so, when the experience is uncommon to the modern era. I narrate herewith one such experience that happened to me.

“Once upon a time…” I could not resist it. The ancient way of telling a story always began with these words & they still evoke that rich sparkle & mystery of a wonderful story. However, here goes my story. While in college, Myself & my friend made an impromptu decision to trek to Peth on the coming Saturday. The two of us fixed the time after lunch to start our journey. Our route planned was train to Karjat and bus to base point. We reached Karjat at 4 pm. At the bus stand we were told that the bus to the base village near Peth was at 7 pm only. Groan! That meant we had 3 hours to kill. We brainstormed and decided that we will go through any other bus to closest possible point and then re-plan from that point onwards (we were hoping to get a lift from that point onwards) This saw us reach 8-10 kms before the base point by 6.00 pm We had a quick breakfast and took the trial to peth. As we started walking we saw to our dismay that no vehicles were plying along this inside road of 7 kms. However, we were young and confident. It was mutually decided that we will walk the 8 kms and sleep for the night at the base village and start trek early morning at 6 AM. As we continued walking along the road it started getting darker & darker. Soon our torches were out (there were no streetlight in those days along the village road) In the dark, our mind did play some tricks as we were also facing our fear of the dark. About 2 hours of walk later, we could see the lights of a reasonably sized village. We sought to enquire in the village about the distance left and time required to walk it out. To our amazement, this innocent question that was asked in hindi by us (we were both south Indians), found several curious villagers asking us in marathi about how we got to reach their village. Suddenly we felt like 2 aliens landing from the mars to planet earth for all the curious stares and questions that was being thrown our way. Shortly we found ourselves sitting on the porch of the village Sarpanch (headman) while tea was being made for us (No charge for we were guests!). One lady amongst the villagers gathered around remarked in local dialect(marathi) that “Amhi pun evda laamb chalet nahi” (Even we do not walk this long) she continued talking. The overall content added up to meaning that they were of opinion that Mumbai (city) people were lazy and now we had put them to shame by this long walk All this adulation made us feel great and important as if we had climbed mount everest! This still did not end. Just when the tea was ready, the bus from Karjat reached this village (that started at 7pm) One villager made the bus halt for us while other villagers asked us not to rush and drink tea peacefully. As per them we had walked enough and that the bus will ensure that we reach the base village without any further walking. Before we entered the bus another villager, went ahead and instructed to the 1st villager inside the bus(who was a resident of base village) “bega, heyy amche pahune aahe, tyacha khatirdari kara”(these are our guests, ensure they are taken care of!) It was such a heady experience when that local resident villager made us sleep in his house for the night despite our protest that we were ready to sleep in the temple. 

It was one awesome experience and adventure. This was 15 years back in my life. Even now, I retain my love & fond memory for the rustic hospitality and love showered by the villagers that makes me look forward for more rustic outings. I am sure that other trekkers must have had similar experiences to share! Also in such places if you seek, villagers will eagerly narrate an eerie ghost story that occurred in their village.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Getting lost from Home

Mickey had been born and bred on books, movies and television all his childhood. His early yearnings were full of passion for mystery, adventure and romance. As Mickey grew he observed that people who supported his adventurous acts were the ones who were outlawed by his family or society as “BAD INFLUENCE”.

As years pass by, the grown up Mickey has become a mouse at heart. Mickey has now learnt to hide behind a fa├žade to cover-up all the above aspiration (labelled as “foolish”). The regular censure of his childhood exploratory attitude has reduced his adventure spirit and now reflects as a real fear of the unknown.

Once, Mickey chanced upon a post in the newspaper for a trek to “Great Himalayan National Park”. The child within fires ups his imagination and he is keen for the idea.  Yet the fear of unknown is now deeply ingrained in his brain. With a gentle nudging by his childhood yearning, Mickey musters up the courage to call upon the advertiser and find out details. The more he listens about the place, the more he gets fired up. Knowing from experience that such moves seldom find approval of close ones, after a very long deliberation, he chooses to assert himself. To his pleasant surprise, he finds that close ones agree to his plan with what he sees as “no struggle”. What he failed to recognize was his own adult status (capable of sound decisions) that others comprehended from his unconscious signals.

Having conquered his first fear, Mickey is all gung-ho as he signs himself for the trek. His small fears of walking on uneven trails or into a hostile weather are assuaged by the advice of the trek leader that sees him buy appropriate gear before the event day. Armed thus he is more secure & comforted. On the trail as he crosses the boundaries of all forms of civilized society, Mickey is about to spend his first night in the company of only a handful trekkers and an entire life form of wild. Inside, Mickey is ecstatic and afraid at the same time. Years of culturing has taken its toll and Mickey can hear several voices from past warning him of walking into danger. On the outside, thanks to the company of fellow trekkers Mickey professes courage that finds him doing all the unusual chores of wild like collecting firewood, sitting, chatting, wandering, playing and sipping tea in the open around the campfire. His mind is full of wonder at the splendid sight that beholds him in the wild. The tiredness of limbs owing to long arduous trek fades into oblivion in the presence of such overwhelming glory of Mother Nature. Soon it is time to retire for the night. Mickey can see and sense that it is pitch dark and very cold outside the tent. He is aware that several wild animals lurk around these mountains. He realizes that he still feels powerful and not afraid! He senses that in this modern era animals are more wary of humans and tend to avoid contact. Thus the presence of fire and light is synonym with human beings that makes Mickey feel as a powerful human being. As Mickey prepares to sleep, mentally his vision of the trek reminds him and he is full of admiration for mankind’s superior brain that has ensured adaptability and survival in such harsh and a hostile environment.  

Early next morning, Mickey is a changed man. He is in high spirits and full of zest to explore further. Several of his reasons for fear have now become exposed as myths. His childhood zeal has retuned with a vengeance thus making him more active and driven. Soon after, it is time for the trek to end. Mickey is in rapture over the entire ordeal. As he returns back to civilization, others find in Mickey a changed person. More passionate and energetic, Mickey is feisty in all his actions. Mickey himself feels the change. He finds it easier to face his fears within the society. Every fear reminds him that unless it is challenged it cannot be exposed as a myth. Mickey is no more the mouse; instead he is the Mickey MAN who insists on trekking whenever he gets the opportunity!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ambling in the sahyadri woods

Kartik is 18 years old, energetic, college going person who is on the lookout for an outlet to his excess energies that does not find expression in the otherwise stifling city-life with its movies and malls. Deepti, 21 years has just started working in uptown Mumbai and has begun to love the small freedom that earning money has given her. She wants to explore her independent spirit further. Her friend’s approach to going for shopping regularly or eat-out is often a tad bit expensive & unhealthy for her taste and does nothing to enhance her independent spirit. Karnik 35, is a disgruntled corporate person tired of routine working & lifestyle that Mumbai offers. While he has no complaints on the pay, his inability to get a good long vacation break is making him irritable. Kajal 36 is suddenly feeling claustrophobic in her own home in Mumbai. She needs an avenue to be by herself and rearrange her priorities in life. Nisha 29 is unmarried and missing her friend circle who are all married and settled elsewhere. Several such people with similar need for a break, break their heads to find the right cure in vain; until they all hit upon trekking in Sahyadris!

Sahyadris - a mountain range that extends from Kerala to Maharashtra offers “just what good doctors would advise” kind of break for many living in the urban and concrete confines of Mumbai city. Being as close as 2-3 hours drive to the Mumbai outskirts, it makes the right weekend break for the city dwellers. A teenager, Kartik can get gung-ho on climbing it’s peak & find positive release for his excess energy. The independent spirit of a Deepti like women can find outlet to mental shackles and restriction through small treks and in unison also help her keep fit and healthy. The bored outlook from Karnik like people can get replaced with inexhaustible joy in trekking on weekends (There is no issue of obtaining vacation time here). For women like Kajal, weekend treks offer the time and solitude for a little soul-searching away from family & the maddening crowds with the calm therapeutic effect of nature bringing in a warm glow while people like Nisha find themselves a new hobby that ushers new friends.

Trekking in Sahyadri can be very seductive as several answers to city living problem gets automatically addressed ambling along the trials of Sahyadri peaks. While resorts and hill stations also are in the lap of nature, these avenues do not satisfy the inner core. The raw & harsh nature that one faces while trekking along the Sahyadri peak ends up bringing the feel good factor. As one struggles to overcome the harshness of nature in terms of terrain and weather, on reaching the destination one is overwhelmed with the sense of an immensely satisfying accomplishment that hits the core of being. During monsoon, the green overcoat offers regalia to the entire Sahyadri belt that is very pleasing to the eyes and the camera (if you possess one). Innumerable waterfalls along the trail make one as gay as a child. Post monsoon, the blooming of flowers along all trials, gladden and raise the spirit of the hiker making all worldly man-made objects of pleasure insignificant. The chilly winter mist makes one revere the warmth of the sun that shines everyday in the Sahyadri range. Similarly in summer, one appreciates the mild coolness of the night as one is able to easily sleep in the open, staring at the starlit-skies (there is no pollution to darken this vision).  The rural lifestyle that one is introduced to, makes one value basics (like food, water, shelter, electricity) taken for granted in city.

Truly, when one explores Sahyadri and is ready to go through the hardship (of trekking), nature opens up to let you in on her secrets places that leaves you enthralled and in rapture. Your city worries no more become the bone of contention for another trek, as it becomes irreversibly replaced by an innate craving for being nature’s favourite child.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Experiences on a typical Moonlight Trek

End of last workday for the weekend & there is this sweet anticipation in the mind for the night ahead. I am off for a moonlight trek to Peb near Matheran. 7 PM-Sitting inside the car (there are 2 of them this time) heading for Peb, several others inside the car chatter away in anticipation as well as reliving old times together. The fresh faces lap up every word of the senior discussing on treks while trying to contribute to the conversation in any small way and position themselves in the group. Around 9 pm, closer to our destination, we stop for our food. An hour later, we are staring into the clear skies lighted beautifully by the moon at the base point. This is start for our moon-light trek

The torch becomes most important tool for our night rendezvous with the mountain. A newcomer might ask “should I remove my torch?” This is seemingly unnecessary as the moonlight makes it easy for us to place our steps carefully at right places even when there is no other manmade source of light. Yet, the presence of torch offers reassurance to the modern day trekker used to street lights. Again, even in the moonlight, due to presence of trees & its shadows some areas appear dark, while the path remains uneven & the torchlight helps.

Trekking in the night is way different from trekking in the daytime. I have always looked forward more to the night treks than the daytime trekking in the Sahyadris. The reason for this partiality is not far. During the night time, it is always more pleasant & definitely more cool than in daytime. This makes the arduous plodding more bearable than when the sun is beating down on us. While sweating on treks is common, the sweat offers a coolness in night every-time we take a break. The tiredness of limbs that becomes acute in daytime trek, does not reflect most of times on a night trek. How is this possible, you might ask or think? When hiking in the night, owing to peculiar nature of night & darkness, people tend to walk carefully & as gently as possible to avoid accidents. The rhythm in hike exists, yet this rhythm is softer during night treks making it gentle on the limbs. Thus one can get more human mileage if required during the night trail!

Another wonderful aspect of the night trek is that unlike day treks when the group tends to split into multiple faction based on trekking speed & vision of destination, in the night trek, the distance between marching people is very little. There exists a physical proximity of group members to avoid getting lost. The proximity is also necessary wherein the leading person directs the following members to avoid mishaps due to sudden depression or rise along the uneven surface of the treacherous path followed. Owing to this closeness of members, every person automatically feels equal to the challenge of reaching summit. Again, due to this temporary bonding, every person co-operates and helps the person next or behind to him or her and thus finds joy in feeling powerful.

It has also been my experience that fresh trekkers who tend to lose heart about reaching summit during daytime owing to the vision of distance or seeming difficulty in trail, find themselves amazed the next day on their way back from the night trek. It is always hilarious to see the expression of wonder that questions ”Hey! Did “I” climb all that way up?? How did I manage to do it?” Trails that otherwise seems to suggest signs of difficulty & long distance to the newcomer due to it’s visibility in daytime are easily & safely completed in night time. Owing to person’s unique culture in city life, the mind gives a negative signal of impossibility to the newcomer sometimes. Yet the same person realizes on the way back from a night trek that it was not so difficult after all. I also believe that a fresher who does his 1st trek in the night and later treks in the daytime always ends up feeling that night treks are far better off!

Lastly on reaching the summit in the middle of the night, there is always an excitement on reaching the shelter place that despite it being otherwise the normal time for sleep, one tends to feel more content in just feeling the coolness in the air and the sweetness of offering well deserved rest to the limbs for long time before falling asleep. For the enthusiastic group members, it is also tea time or soup time at 12 pm sometimes. For these people there is a joy in preparing tea and getting warmth from the fire as well as the hot beverage prepared. Chitchat becomes very meaningful on such occasion. There exists a true joy in small things. The tea becomes heavenly (especially when one is also faced with the panoramic view down below through moonlight)

All in all, the otherwise troubled mind obsessed with routine work and family related chatter finds release & freshness in the following morning of the night trek that remains in his heart for a long time (It is always the prelude for the next trek)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bird Watching

It starts with the initial human enthrallment for the winged creature. The winged creature’s ability to soar up in the sky on it’s own seems magical to the child who is unable to achieve it even after reaching adult age. While advancement in science and mechanics has allowed homo sapiens to overcome the impossibility of flying, this is also thanks to the availability of material resource from Mother Nature. Thus the small innocent child looks in wonder as the winged creature flutters around him escaping his vain and puny attempts to grasp it.

The budding relation of humans and their fascination for birds, when nurtured; slowly grows into a passion for all natural resource and reverence the rich abundance that mother nature lavishes on it’s dependents. For the slow learner like me, whose curiosity and fascination for birds was ignored till adulthood, it is sudden dawning to be inducted into a magical realm that was lost in the rat race.

The simple hobby of bird watching is not simple, as it seems. While binoculars are a handy tool, it takes internal resource like patience, perseverance, stillness, stealth-ness, keen eyesight and focus to be able to follow the movement of a bird and be able to identify it correctly. Again, bird-watching can involve staying away for days from civilization & modern luxuries sometimes in open plains, sometimes in tents and caves. One has to trek and discard all amenities for a keener outlook into the world of birds. With doggedness of pursuit, the budding ornithologist is incited to the vast arena that surrounds the habitat and movement of birds.

To his satisfaction, the Indian enthusiast can take pride in the statistics that determine 13% of world’s birds to be present in Indian subcontinent. Owing to it’s wide altitudinal range extending from sea level up to summit of Himalayas, as well as the region’s highly varied climate and diversity of vegetation, the Indian subcontinent is very rich in bird species.

Delving deeper into this riveting study, the hobbyist soon confronts the threat that affects his hobby. He comprehends that habitat loss and deterioration are detrimental to the threat and even extinction of birds. Contributing factors to exploitation of habitat and natural resource include poverty, over-population, government, national debts, international policies and a high demand from first world countries for forest resource of third world. The increasing hydroelectric development alters dynamics of the entire river eco-system of the region while drainage, siltation of wetland, sewage and industrial effluent add to the misery. Use of pesticide in agriculture has proved to be particularly poisonous to the birds. Pesticide getting trickled from land to the river soon contaminates the river thereby affecting fish and fish eating birds. While hunting of birds for food is not a major threat everywhere, illegal bird trading within the continent and for exports can traumatize the avid ornithologist.

For the passive onlooker who is not inducted into the fascinating world of bird watching and who is trapped in the rat race the entire threat is dismissed as hogwash. Indeed, I have myself dismissed stories of environmental threats on the assumption that it does not concern me now as an individual. Yet, as my relations with birds improve, looking at each bird, I’m subtly reminded of the role that I play in denying myself of paradise. After all the paradise notion that was cultivated in every mortal brain was always depicted as a land of abundant trees and birds!!

Innocent as it may seem, there is certainly more to the seemingly insignificant act of bird-watching than the eye can behold (literally also).

You would like a holiday,
You do not have to go far away.
Watch the birds chirp and fly;
Watch your spirits soar high.

You would like to be in paradise
“Preserve Forest”, heed the bird’s cries.
Let the forest grow and expand
Behold paradise in this land.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Caving In North East India

I can still remember the most exciting, the most awkward and the most unforgettable moment of my life when Gregory a experienced cave explorer looked at a river vanishing into the mountain and said to me this is the entrance to Krem Chympe!
It was my holiday time which is usually between christmas and new year, typically spent shopping during the day and partying or working at nightclubs filled with smoke, wild drunk girls and wanna-be-gangsta boys kicking off with someone. But not this year, this year I knew I would be spending my holiday ‘differently’. I wanted to explore a new world, experience a new adventure, be lost in the wilderness and do all that stuff that a lonely planet guide book would ‘recommend’.
I did not go too far looking for options as alI I had to do was call Jayesh from Odati Adventures and surrender myself to his expert advice and recommendation, believe me thats all it takes to get a great holiday… and of course some cash to cover your food and accommodation which is basic… well I assume if you wanted plush accommodation you would probably stay at Hyatt wont you?
Would you like to go Speilunking asked Jayesh and to that question I had another question… WHAT IS THAT? He said its caving, we can go explore some large cave network in hills of north east India and not many people have done that yet. I knew nothing about caves (Not that i know a lot about them now, except that they can be intimidating and beautiful at the same time). The only vision of caves I had was from a hollywood movie The Cave and the trailer flashed in front of my eyes. I immediately logged on to my bank account, transferred the money and got myself a place on this not so common holiday trip. Soon I was on that flight to North East of India (Note- for people not familiar with India, I must tell you India is a big country almost size of entire Europe… hence the flight!).
I reached Guwhati airport from where I was supposed to meet the rest of the troop and head to Shillong the capital of Meghalaya. I must mention Piran Elavia a co-organiser of this trip who is a specialist of North East region, another vagabond who loves nature and knows a lot about butterflies. I am sure I must have impressed him with my knowledge on butterflies, its just that I cannot remember the correct names in correct sequence for the correct species but I do share the same enthusiasm.
This is where I start my story – Caving the good, the bad and the ugly.
Caving story – The Good:
let me start from the last day of my caving trip because that was the most overwhelming and unforgettable experience for me, we set out early morning to kreme chympe kreme meaning cave in khasi and chympe is the local name to this magnificent natural cave. We were guided by Greggory a experienced caver who told us we have to hike over hills and forest for atleast 3hours to reach the cave entrance but the excitement of getting there got us to the entrance in some 1hr 15mins but that doesnt even catch my notice because what I was looking at in front of me made me question or reconfirm my capabilities to even be here.
Gregory pointed at a large depression on a hill covered with thick forest and a river disappearing into it and said this is the entrance to kreme chimpe. And we have to swim for about 15 meters from the entrance to get into the cave. I had wet suit, cave suit and a life jackets on for safety but Iam not sure if it was safety concern or anxiety to swim across to enter a different world that got my heart beating louder than a bloody harley davidson engine.

Piran took the lead and swam across followed by Jayesh and then it was me. It must have been only fifteen meter of water filled entrance but it was almost like a doorway to world of Narnia. I love swimming but this was something else, so surreal and out of the world experience which unfortunately cannot be worded.
We reached a dry platform where we could have a good look at where we were or atleast attempt to look at, as our lights could not reach either the ceiling or the next passage the sheer size of this cave cavity brought back images of all the sci-fi stories and games I had played. So in less than 5 minutes I was Agent 47 of Hitman then Master Chief of Halo3 and Kratos from God of War.
I was about to get my camera out when Gregory told me we have to continue swimming for another 150 meters in patches… It couldn’t get better than this…I said to myself and took to the water immediately. As we moved along the waterway our cave guide was describing features of the caves which was very interesting then he said there are a lot of cave fish here so keep looking you may see some. Since I was swimming in the middle of the waterway which was supposed to be deep, I cast my light below to see If I could see any cave fish but there was nothing visible except deep dark gorge. Suddenly I imagined a creature from the underworld coming out of the gorge at a lightning speed and taking us all down under! Silly me I told myself and started noticing the beautiful formation around me instead, It must have millions of years for these caves to form and the glittering mineral deposits that make the cave look like a treasure chest have taken their time to form. Its all work of patience.

After reaching a solid platform we started to hike up to see more of stalactites and stalagmites. Yes it is a bit funny when you say you have to hike up inside a cave but that is exactly what we did, we hiked and climbed across many boulders and sharp rocks making sure we don’t destroy any of the cave corals, cave curtains, stalactites or stalagmites. It was almost like climbing a small hill so that should give you an idea of how big that cave is. I took my camera out and started to click some pictures but it proved to be difficult task as the high levels of moisture fogged up my lens every two minutes and the vast vacuum of the cave made it impossible to focus on anything. Soon I realised something was not right… I looked around  Jayesh, Piran and Gregory were not insight they vanished into the darkness, I quickly packed my camera back in the waterproof container and followed faint sound coming from a steep ventilation shaft. I bet the guys found something very interesting there so I speedily follow what looked like a trail and enter the shaft that led to another big chamber which was filled with countless limestone candles – formation of Stalagmite Column which looks like a melting candle and not to mention certain patches of cave floor were filled with whats called cave pearls shining bright like stars on our milky way. It was impossible to believe that this was a natural creation in fact it looked like a movie set of some mythical story. I wanted to be there a bit longer to get some decent pictures of this chamber but Gregory had to usher us out as we were racing against time, it would get dark soon and we had a long walk to transport and a short drive to came after.

A day before krem chympe. We were exploring a beautiful but not as massive cave as chympe but The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus comes alive in here. I can only make a attempt to describe the beauty of this cave, It was like being in chamber filled with gold dust with tall stalactites and stalagmites standing there as silent guardians of this treasure. Hours passed by as minutes and were told to head back as we had to reach the camp before night fall… This is where I begin my Caving story – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Check out My Caving photos on FB 

Caving story – The Bad.
As I say goodbye to the silent guardians of the cave and head out from the narrow passage leading out in the open, I saw some people with power drills and some heavy machine tools out side the cave. Everyone’s heart sank as this needed no explanation, the men with the machines were out here to begin mining for coal and the power drills were to set dynamites so they could blast this site to bits. I never had such a high and a low feeling in one day and knowing we couldn’t do anything to stop those men made us feel more helpless and frustrated.
We spent the rest of the evening and following morning talkng about the mining and deforestation problem but could not figure out anyway around it, this region was blessed with natural beauty and then cursed by human greed and now its all about waiting till the time human greed consumes it all.
But who do we blame? The miners? The miners say we are only supplying to the demand. And the demand is from you, me and our lifestyle. Our lifestyle is mainly dictated by our needs and convenience and we can go to any extent to make ourselves believe that without these conveniences we wont be able to survive.
Talk about plastic bags for example, most city dwellers act as if its impossible to have a life without plastic bag whereas plastic bags have been invented only 50 years back and have been in wide use since only 30 years but we act as if we it is impossible to have a normal life without them and not using them is compromising on comfort. What about electricity? It is the main cause why mining is carried out. Can we not save electricity or use it sensibly? I have known many friends who do not turn off their TV or PC ever because it is a “bit of a pain” to switch it on every time you want to use it. Many of us keep our mobile phones on charge the whole night when actually you only need couple of hours of charging.

Caving story – The Ugly

Mining is a big problem around the world and for a place like Meghalaya its highly uncontrolled and growing at a very fast pace. The only thing that this region has is its natural resource and beauty which once finished plundering will be nothing less than a barren land. The mining lobby treats the land like a prostitute and exploits all that it has and would leave when there is nothing more to exploit and locals who call this land home will be left like the orphans of the prostitute nowhere to go. Without a doubt the government will be blamed for not taking care of them and there will be more political unrest and more funds will be sanctioned to ‘help’ the region not to mention the money leaking out into pockets of corrupt officials.
Gregory told me that they had filed petition to high court to curb mining in the region but the court dismissed the petition saying its for local people’s development. But I didnot see any locals working at the mines, there were workers from Nepal and Bangladesh who work there. I am going to stop writing about this here because I dont even want to think of the ‘The Ugly’ side of this story, hopefully some of us can do something about it or at least support someone who is doing something about it.
Tourism can change things around in this region, when the locals benefit more from planting trees than cutting them down and miners earn more money working as a cave guide rather than in mines. One person worth a mention here is the owner of Cherrapunji Resorts… Cherrapunji  was our next destination after caving in Jaintia hills, I would recommend this place to anyone who fancies visiting Cherrapunji, a word of caution! Its not a very fancy resort nor is it very exotic and traditional in fact when you walk in, the place looks like any other functional guest house sort. The reason I give it a special mention is because the man who runs this place. He has put several years to make local community realise that their land is beautiful and if they keep it beautiful, people form around the world will come and visit them. He has been laughed at and ridiculed but now he is probably the most respected man in whole of Cherrapunji. The resort has a large dinning area which looks like a very basic lodge diner but when you start paying attention on the information bits thats put up on the wall you may loose track of time. From folklore to facts, from flora fauna to local traditions, the wall has everything to catch your fancy.
You can also request for books on birds and insect If you fancy looking up something that you came across on one of your treks around the resort. You will find some scribbled notes in his diary that mentions names of species with the year and time when it was spotted around by him or his visitors. Clouded leopard one of the rarest creatures to be found made it to his diary, unfortunately he did not see it himself but some locals reported having seen one in the vicinity. Pope’s Pit Viper a very uncommon snake was mentioned too. If animals and birds dont interest you then there are a lot of day activities that you can challenge yourself to depending on your interest and fitness level but I would definitely  recommend a trek to see Double Deccker Root bridge. The one of a kind clever example of Bio-engineering, technique used for many years by locals to cross rivers in monsoon that become very dangerous because of fast moving turbulent water.


 After we trekked to our heart’s content we all head back to Guwahati airport to get on the flight back to Mumbai and as we reached Guwahati, I had a different plan … TBC :)

Kirti Chavan