The Seven Sisters- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, together make what is more commonly called, the Northeast India. In one word, this part of India is raw. It is unexplored, untouched by technology and the dirt that comes with it, pristine and just plain natural. Out of these states, Assam is the most developed with the most connectivity. The others are still developing and for some, that’s how it should remain.
Until very recently, road (and not even proper highways, just temporary roads which last one monsoon) was the only way to reach any of these states. Now however, there are flights and that helps tourism. It is debatable if that’s a good thing or bad for as we know, after a while, the tourists destroy everything. There has been an initiative by the locals here, to promote tourism while still keeping the natural wilderness alive. There have been camping groups, musical festivals and other cultural fests being organized all year round.
One might have heard of the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland, or the Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal. Here I’ll talk about NH7 Weekender, which started in Shillong only a few years ago.
We were a group of 3, all pilots, flying in from different cities. We met in Guwahati and picked up our own car (Zoomcar offers good deals but there are many more such vendors now) and drove to Shillong, Meghalaya. We were surprised by the quality of the roads and the completely amazing weather. I wouldn’t dare keep my windows down in Delhi but here in Meghalaya, breathing in the fresh air as we zoomed by, really made me feel alive. Couple that with a chill playlist and good company, it was the kind of road trip I’d definitely repeat.
We stayed on National Highway 6 all the way and continued to the campsite, close to the venue for the music festival. There are obviously options of carrying your own tents and booking a camp-site but we were amateurs, and we needed proper washrooms, for this was to be our first camping experience. We therefore coordinated with a group called Challohoppo and these guys pitched their own tents in the most beautiful of sites. We didn’t even have to carry our own sleeping bags; they provided everything in their package. We did get the “wild” peeing experience because after a few hours, the portable washrooms became dirty. We did get cooked meals and a lot of entertainment but one could choose to sit in a secluded area and just listen to the birds if they wanted. The music festival was good, with different genres of music and artists. We spent most of our days exploring the small town and driving to a few waterfalls and lakes, and the evenings at the festival.
From our campsite, Cherapunjee was not very far. We drove to Tyrna to visit the famous Double Decker Living Root Bridge. It was a long trek down but the view is worth it. These trees have aerial roots and the local Khasi tribes built bridges using the same. A smaller version of the same can be seen in a few places across Meghalaya.
Next day, we drove to Dawki, which is on the border of Bangladesh and India. One can actually see army men standing in a queue. We took a boat ride in the water, which was beautifully clear. The boatmen here are generally talkative and love to explain the history behind this region.
The roads to Dawki aren’t very good so I was quite glad that we’d booked an SUV. There aren’t a lot of tourists in the area so it’s quite clean in comparison to most Indian hill stations.
Other places to see:
Elephant falls or the Three-Step-Waterfall and the Umiam Lake can be visited in the same day, hardly 30 minutes drive from Shillong.
Mawlynnong, the cleanest village of India, has guided tours and need you to be full of energy to be able to walk the entire length. The Mawsmi caves in the Jaintia Hills are a must-see. The Seven Sister Falls in Nongkalikhai are a sight to see, plunging over limestone cliffs.
The best (or maybe the worst, depending on the condition of roads) would be monsoon season, which in the NorthEast is June to September. The waterfalls would be at their peak and you’d understand why Cherapunjee is the wettest place in India. November to May are pleasant months and most of the festivals are during this period.
We drove back to Guwahati after 3 days and spent one night at a hotel, just to get take a nice hot shower and sleep on a clean bed without fear of bugs. We flew back to our cities, with a truckload of memories. That was my first time in this part of the country. And because of how I felt here, I knew I’d come back. So the following year, I came back for the Ziro Festival of Music and drove around Arunachal Pradesh. That was another exhilarating experience, which I shall talk about later!