A guide to picnicking in Shillong: A road-trip across Meghalaya

I usually take a short break in January and head for a quick getaway before the cooler days end. So last week, as our yearly ritual, I gathered my cousins for a trip to Guwahati. We stayed at our friend’s place in the city for a couple of days and were planning for a day-trip to Shillong. Our plan coincided with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha, leading to sudden protests and uprising among the locals. But a traveler can never stop and must continue the journey, despite all odds. So we booked a reliable, comfortable and cheap cab from Guwahati to Shillong and headed out.

To Shillong

Keeping all the socio-political scenarios aside, this stretch between Assam and Meghalaya makes for a scenic drive. The drive lasted about three hours down the winding roads through mountain bluffs and terraced hills. This is precisely one of the reasons why I prefer to rent a car in Guwahati that can navigate the hilly terrain. Finally, when we reached Shillong town, it was nearly afternoon. The effect of the protests had not yet taken over in this town and it was quite peaceful. We checked in to our hotel and called it a day so we could start afresh the next morning.

The Scotland of the East, Shillong, is a mysterious and mystical land with the most unique surprises in its landscape. To explore the same, we headed out to explore the best this place has to offer. Sitting at 80 km from the Meghalaya capital, the beautiful locale of Dawki is what attracted us the most and we planned to have a day-picnic there. And once I tell you more about the place, you will want to visit too.

Exploring Dawki

It took us about two hours to reach Dawki. Locally called Dauki, it is a small and quiet town nestled on the border of India and Bangladesh. Surrounded by lush mountains, forests, and gorges with frothy waterfalls, Dawki is an ultimate treat for all your senses. But the real treasure of this place is the Umngot River. Set against the mountain ranges of the Jaintia Hills and Khasi Hills, this greenish-blue river looked like a piece of art akin to a Monet or an El Greco. Tranquil and flawless, this river was ideal for a picnic and became our respite for the day.

We found a cozy corner on the banks, where there were some other picnickers and campers lazing on the pebbled ground. After we settled down, we took turns to take a dip in the crystal clear water. I had never seen such a clear waterbody in my life! The mountain-fed water felt cool on the skin and sweet to taste. The mild yet sparkling January sun cast its golden glow on the surface, making it look ethereal. Exhausted from swimming, we lazed on the banks and savored our picnic lunch, under the open sky.

By afternoon, we went on to explore different corners of the river and the surrounding hills. We took a ride on one of the narrow dinghies offered to tourists. The oarsman drove us to the other edge of the river where the Jaintia Hills touched the water surface. The river narrowed around the huge, rocky boulders. A few amateur anglers were trying their luck, waiting patiently on the rocks. We stepped out of the boat and down and waded through the shallow water, intermittently trying to capture the landscape on camera.

I have always known Shillong to be the Rock Capital of India. But for me, this northeastern beauty turned out to be a treasure trove of nature’s best gifts.