We were bowled over by the beautiful plains of Bangladesh, the view of our neighbouring country from the rest of Meghalaya! So, the thought of driving over to actually see another country from close quarters made us very excited. The innumerous blogs about the crystal clear waters of the Umngot river and the boat ride with the emerald green backdrop kept us on toes until we were finally there.. Dawki is the last village on the Indian border and Tamabil on the Bangladesh end. This is a friendly stretch and an important trade route between the two countries with limestone being majorly exported across borders. We were driving there from Cherrapunjee. Dawki is located in the Jaintia hill district of Meghalaya. During our interactions with the locals, the cultural difference of the Jaintia tribes was clearly felt by us who had spent many days in the Khasi hills previously.
This post is part of my fortnight long road trip across North-east India, specifically covering parts of Meghalaya – Assam – Arunachal Pradesh I had tagged along with two other travelers and drove around the state of Meghalaya in a self-drive car hired at Shillong. The places visited in Meghalaya include Shillong – Smit – Cherrapunjee – Mawlynnong – Dawki – Ribhoi- Shillong.
The details of our trip:
A mesmerising stretch of green mountains on one side and a deep valley with thick fog settled hills, accompanied us all the way till our destination. Based on a friend’s recommendation, we stopped by on the way to find a small board that guided us to Byrdaw falls. The road got narrower and isolated as we drove further. After passing through very thick forest, the road ended abruptly. Although we were a little apprehensive of the route ahead, I forced my friends to walk down. We continued to walk through what looked like some poorly maintained plantations and seemed more like a forest infested with some bandits where we could be held for a ransom. There were no signs of any water source or a stream that would eventually lead to a waterfall. But, I insisted to continue to follow a flight of well laid stairs that finally led us to a view that has us awestruck. It was a magical view, to define nature’s beauty that was infront of us! There stood a 3-tiered waterfalls, through which we could walk through enjoying the serene location from the waterfall’s point of view, quite literally! My friends thanked me for having them got there!
We then drove over to where we were destined to reach for the day.. It was a slow route thereon, with several loaded trucks heading towards Tamabil. Suddenly, the blue waters of the Umngot river appeared from amid the trees with the rays of the setting sun reflecting back at us. We were overjoyed at the sight! To get to the other side of the river, we had to cross the narrow steel bridge, that is declared weak and over which only one vehicle is allowed at a time. There were at least 50 trucks ahead of us in the queue and so, we patiently awaited for our turn.
It was dark by the time we met our guide ‘Mr.Bright Star’ at Dawki town and followed him to where we were supposed to camp for the night. Bright Star drove his car ahead of us and guided us through the eerie looking terrain carved though mountainous limestone. There was no asphalt and no streetlights, with only thick creepers hanging down the high rise limestone walls. It was more like an offbeat off-civilisation drive for over 5kilometers into nowhere, until we braked at our destination: Shnongpdeng.
With our backpacks and camping essentials, we walked down a small valley with torchlights. We then pitched our tents which we were told was on the river bank. The night was spent in absolute peace under the clear starry sky and some burning wood by the side that kept us warm through the night. Apart from the three of us, it was just the rustle of the flowing water and our guide’s dog for our company.
I was awakened early on the following morning and I unzipped my tent with the first ray of the breaking dawn. That’s where my heart skipped a beat with what I was seeing! That’s when I actually realized that we had stayed on the river bed all night. The swiftly flowing river, the rich never-ending stretch of green forest cover, rounded rocks of different colours strewn all over the place seemed to have put up a piece of heaven right infront of our tents. A couple of bamboo shacks and a long suspension bridge added to the beauty of the setup.. We then met Mr.Mickey, our oarsman who rowed the boat along the rapids of the river. We wanted to catch the sunrise from the popular view point and get back to our camp before the tourist crowd poured in.
Although the beautiful landscape kept us motivated, the ride was rather taxing. We would board the boat and sail in it along the calmer stretch and then get off the boat and walk when we there were rapids. This on-and-off continued in multiple cycles. But then, it was all worth it at the end.. We could enjoy the pristine beauty of the place right up, close and personal.
After a filling breakfast, we packed our stuffs and continued to travel towards Jowai with a stop-over at the Tamabil checkpost.
Concluding remarks: Dawki is a very laidback place blessed with natural beauty. It is very disheartening to see tourists flocking in thousands everyday which will not surprise me if in just five years down the line, Umngot river would be nothing more than a stinking slushy pool of water left back as a memory of abusive tourism.