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Khublai Shibhon, Sohra
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

Khublai Shibhon, Sohra

The aftermath of the Sohra episode was hilarious disaster. All involved parties were doing the duck-walk for three days, and grumbling at the slightest prospect of movement. But let’s start at the beginning. Completely unaware of what was in store for us, our arrival at the (once) rainiest place on earth, was, as expected, wet. Three cups of steaming tea later, we hurriedly set off towards the living root bridges, which were just a three-kilometre trek downhill—or so the signboard read.

Helter Skelter: Sohra
A fraction of the trail. Photograph by Malavika Bhattacharya.

As we began our descent, the vegetation turned thicker, weather turned clammier, and the atmosphere in general turned Amazonian. Our guide Bun cheerily whistled as we trampled on for hours, through sun and rain, over treacherous rocks and slippery leaves. The signboard was probably just a mean joke aimed at the misinformed. The sights en route were marvelous, though—tiny village-like settlements built into the mountain; small faces peering out of each window staring at the strangers walking by; magnificent waterfalls behind the misty clouds, raging on furiously as the rains came down; wild pineapple and beetle nut trees, and fresh water streams to quench our thirst. It felt like an Enid Blyton adventure! Embarrassment crept in when local six year olds and sixty year olds alike hopped from rock to rock with mountain-goat-like ease, overtaking me at lightning speed.

After about two hours we caught sight of the root bridges stretched above the rushing river, connecting one hill to the next. It was stunning, and the signboard didn’t feel so cruel anymore. The boulder–strewn clear water yelled “Pit-Stop!”, and after a long rest we set off to the Grand Daddy of all root bridges, the ‘Double Decker Root Bridge’. This was a sight to behold—gnarled, moss-covered roots entwined to form a sturdy bridge, making life easier for the people of Nongriat and Laitkynsew. The bridge had two levels, just like a double-decker bus, with clear pools and rushing waterfalls beneath it.

Mostly undiscovered even by the locals of Shillong, this natural wonder was unlike anything I’d ever dreamed of—unspoilt, untouched, unimaginable. I marveled at the inhabitants of the settlements, as they carried their heavy loads and went about their daily life climbing up the insanely steep slopes, several times a day.

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Sohra is at most a two-hour drive from Shillong—scenic, with rolling greens and misty blues. Cherra Resorts, a quaint, family-run place, offers reasonable, comfortable accommodation, and organises treks to all the local spots. The authentic Khasi food here is a must-try. My Sohra adventure ended in endless plates of Pork Neoiing, a mean curry served up by the friendly staff at the resort. All that walking worked up an appetite for destruction!

And so the adventure came to an end. Until my next visit, Khublai Shibhon, Sohra!


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