Sunday, 21 July 2019

Exploring the Mawsmai Caves, Meghalaya

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." ~ Joseph Campbell

I have always wanted to go on a cave excursion to see what lies within the old caves. Being with Nature has always taught me something or the other. So, I could envision that an underground cave excursion would not only be an adventurous experience, but also a metaphorical journey. When I heard about Mawsmai Caves of Meghalaya, I was determined to explore the cave. And so was my father. So the next day, we both planned to explore the cave system of northeast India.  

Mawsmai Cave is located in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, about 6km from the main town of Cherapunji. 

It is one of the most accessible caves in Meghalaya that travelers can explore even without a guide. However, a sane mind and a courageous heart are needed for the underground excursion. 

Before taking the staircase to reach the cave, we had to buy tickets from the ticket counter. There was a board on which instructions to the visitors were clearly given. The map of the Mawsmai cave was also included on the board. 

We had to take the staircase to reach the cave opening. Plenty of tourists were taking photographs outside the cave. Seeing the spacious opening of the cave, no one can tell that it would soon squeeze into a narrow lane.

If there were 50 people outside the cave, a maximum of 5 people went inside the cave to explore it. We were told that the Mawsmai cave is a one-way narrow road. Tourists need to enter from one end and keep walking until they reach the other end. 

Although the cave looked gigantic, I was determined to explore it. We were told that the cave is lit with electricity. Therefore, we do not need to carry candles with us. Moreover, it meant that we can observe the colors and patterns of each and every rock formation. 

The cave looked beautiful and inviting. I saw a few college-goers entering the cave with a lot of enthusiasm. My father and I followed them after taking a few pictures. We knew that as the light inside the cave would be minimal, it will perhaps not be possible to take many pictures.

The weather was quite pleasant as it was a sunny day in December. I was excited to embark on the thrilling adventure of my life. 

Once we entered the cave, we noticed that the pathway is getting narrower. At some places, we had to bend and squeeze our bodies in order to get through. 

I realized that obese people would have a hard time exploring the cave because some passages are too narrow. Fitness is an important criterion to get through the smaller openings of the cave, without getting hurt. We also had to climb a few rock formations in order to walk forward. 

A few rock formations looked like the gigantic feet of elephants. There was no option of going back. The only way was to move forward with hope and courage in the heart. 

The rock formations glinted beautifully in the light. We could find water dripping from the tips of the rocks. Mawsmai Caves helped me understand the powerful force of Nature that created such hard limestones. 

As the realization dawned on me, I surrendered to the beautiful, mystifying force of Nature. And once I surrendered to it, the rest of the journey became much easier. 

I was no longer being desperate to come outside the cave.  Rather, I observed each and every stone formation without the fear of being trapped inside the cave. Yes, I was able to overcome my fear with every step I took. 

Although the length of the cave is only 150 meter, it feels like a long journey due to the narrow passages and gigantic rock formations that do not allow a person to walk faster. 

Finally, we noticed a beam of sunlight that made us squeal with delight. Once we came outside the cave, we couldn't help celebrate our successful cave excursion. My father and I took a selfie with the cave. It was indeed an unforgettable experience, a metaphorical journey that taught me so many important life lessons. 

When we are trapped in a problematic situation (cave), we often feel that it will never change (never-ending journey). But if we walk forward with hope and courage in the heart, we will notice the ray of light at the end of the tunnel. At the same time, if we enjoy each and every scene that we come across without cribbing about the problem, we will have great stories to tell later. 

We explored the nearby forest after the cave excursion. I knew that this underground experience will always stay with me, making me a better, patient, courageous, and resilient human being. I have always believed that Nature has answers to all our questions. Exploring the Mawsmai Caves gave me not only a beautiful experience that I can talk about but also provided answers to the questions I was contemplating during that time. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my cave excursion. In my next travel post, I will take you to another beautiful place in Meghalaya. You can also check out my photo essay on Laitlum, the Grand Canyon in Meghalaya. 

Have you ever gone for a cave excursion or embarked on any other adventure while traveling? 

Do you feel Nature is the best teacher?

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Photo Tour of Laitlum, Meghalaya

It was a beautiful December morning when I visited Laitlum grand canyon in Meghalaya. It took around 90 minutes in a cab from Shillong. Laitlum is located in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. The minute I alighted from the cab, I was mesmerized by the landscape in front of me. The curelean blue skies and the verdant greenery were bewitching my soul. I stood, mesmerized and speechless. The soothing wind pampered my hair and whispered softly in my ears to live the moment. 

It was the first time I ever visited a grand canyon. Laitlum means "end of hills" and this place offers the view of breathtaking azure mountains and steep winding stairways snaking their way down to the gorgeous valley. The sky was a beautiful canvas of fluffy cumulus clouds. 

Laitlum was not at all crowded. It is an ideal place for trekkers can explore the canyon by trekking from one end to another. It is extremely difficult to capture the raw beauty of Laitlum in camera. The place is nothing short of paradise. One needs to see the beauty through one's own eyes to believe that such a soothing place exists in North East India. 

As I kept looking at the azure mountains and the deep valley, I was overwhelmed with powerful emotions for the Creator who created this beautiful world. I could feel a sublime connection with Mother Nature. I could sense a deep harmony with every element of Nature...the mighty mountains, the modest valley, the jubilant sun, and the healing zephyr.

I felt blessed for the five senses that allow me to grasp the beauty of Nature. I felt immense love and gratitude as I kept gazing at the landscape. 

I thought about the villagers who stay in Laitlum. Such a peaceful existence they have! They are fostered by the raw beauty and spirit of Nature. William Wordsworth had rightly said in the poem Tintern Abbey: "Nature never did betray the heart that loved her."

In the cities, we destroy Nature carelessly and selfishly. And what's the end result? Depression, Stress. Anxiety.

Whereas the people who live in the mountains and hills are so happy, peaceful and content. They allow Nature to guide them at every step. The people of Meghalaya give high priority to cleanliness. The roads are extremely clean. The people are polite, patient and hardworking. The women of Meghalaya run their own business and are sometimes, assisted by men. At every tourist stop, I could see independent women busy with their work. It was a heartwarming thing to witness. 

I love adventure especially when I am traveling. So, I trekked till I reached the white rock-like structure from where the view was incredibly magical. 

I fell so much in love with the place that I felt like staying there forever. I felt that I am wrapped in the arms of Mother Nature, safe and secure. Wherever my eyes traveled, there was only beauty and serenity. 

Such places are perfect for soul searching. As I inhaled the beauty of the place, I contemplated the journey and purpose of my life. I felt so blessed that this experience of my life will find its way in so many of my poems and stories. After all, as William Wordsworth had said, "Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility."

I was reminded of the theory of transcendentalists, a literary movement headed by Ralph Waldo Emerson. A human being must have three relationships in order to live better: relationship with one's own soul, relationship with Nature and relationship with the Super Soul/Divine Energy. How beautifully true! That's what I felt at that moment in Laitlum...perfectly at peace with my sync with my own soul, Nature, and Super Soul. 

Almost 2 hours passed in Laitlum and I must say that those 2 hours are one of the best hours of my life. Even now when I close my eyes, I can visualize the beautiful valley beckoning me. I had to travel to the next tourist spot, but I felt like staying for a few more minutes. My heart was not ready to leave the place. 

I sat on the grass and gazed at the mighty mountains and the modest valley. I have fallen so much in love with the place. I knew that no matter wherever I go or stay, this place will always stay with me. And a part of me will stay in this place.

Wordsworth had coined a beautiful term called "spots of time" to define a moment when time seems to stop, senses get heightened and life gets a deeper meaning. I am sure that I experienced one such moment in Laitlum.

I was rejuvenated with positive energy. Every cell of my body felt healthy and happy. What a joy it felt being alive at that moment!

Someone has truly said, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away." With a jubilant heart, I said goodbye to the beautiful grand canyon of Meghalaya and headed towards my next destination.

I hope you enjoyed the photo tour of Laitlum. In the next travel post, I am going to take you to another beautiful place of Meghalaya.

Have you been to Meghalaya?

Which is your favorite place in Meghalaya? Let me know in the comments below. 

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