Away from social media and the daily grind, nature will set you free.
Life throws up unexpected surprises, especially if you’re travelling unplanned. Meghalaya had a surprise for me as I soaked in her beauty - The Rainbow Falls. Call it ultramarine or azure or any other name, the scene would sit well as a Chromecast screensaver.
Situated in the East Khasi Hills, a little away from Nongriat Village where I was staying, this magnificent waterfall is other-worldly, making it the highlight of my travels. I arrived there unscheduled and felt almost as if it was meant to be.
Chancing upon the falls
As with most travels, I had made a rough to basic plan and chalked out a couple of places I wanted to see or things I wanted to do, leaving enough room for impromptu adventures. Talking to fellow travellers is perhaps the simplest way to discover offbeat places and it was exactly how I chanced upon these falls. I discovered its existence while chatting with a group of Britishers, and I was appalled that among the recommendations I had been given, Rainbow Falls figured in none. It didn’t even occur to me to ask if there was actually a rainbow there. I thought it was just a name.
The hanging bridge
The road to Rainbow Falls
The route to the falls is partly concrete, with small bridges and long hanging bridges over streams and ravines, interjected by rough mountain-like pathways. Despite being squeaky and shaky, the hanging bridges are sturdy as hell. It would bode well to walk on them with your feet pointed outwards (like Charlie Chaplin) for good balance, especially when you’re taking multiple pictures and videos and not holding onto the railings.
Right at the start of the trek I came across a stray dog, which was initially pretending to sleep on a rock under the ‘Double Decker Bridge’. As I walked ahead, I realized she had quickly overtaken me. And though she disappeared every now and then, she was with me throughout.
The trek was short, but I found the undulating hillside with roughly cut steps heaving up and down, can suck the life out of you. Though the view more than makes up for it. The lush environs of Nongriat were abundant with bay leaf trees and other flora. I passed locals cutting and drying bay leaves that would be sold in the market later.
An afternoon in paradise
And suddenly I heard the gushing falls, even before my eyes fell upon them. It was beyond gorgeous. A cosy little paradise, and keeping up to its name, a rainbow hanging over it. I swear I could stare at those blue waters forever. Inky blue pools placid under huge brown rocks and boulders. The place reminded me of the Ein Gedi nature reserve on the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel but this one was way more lush, wild and picturesque.
Climbing up for a better view of the falls
I spotted the British travellers inside the pool which had formed where the falls ended. Wasting no time, I joined them. We talked and we sat quietly, subsumed in the beauty around us. Some of us perched ourselves on a big rock in the middle of the pool for a better view as we watched wonderstruck. One of the younger guys lay sprawled on a rock, butt-naked with the sun shining on his, well, butt. My four-legged friend joined us too and immediately went to sleep with her head tucked under the shade of a small rock.
The two older guys were discussing how the water was too cold to swim in and decided that taking a sudden and quick dip would be the best way to accustom their bodies to the temperature. Although invigorating, it was like swimming in a pool of icy mouthwash.
My fellow Brit travellers
Everything around was so pure and pristine that the tiniest bit of dirt stood out. We humans leave our mark wherever we set foot. A plastic sachet here, a discarded alcohol bottle there, cigarette butts everywhere. A large bag filled with litter lay a little further from the pool and we realised it had been left by locals so that visitors could dispose stuff in it instead of littering everywhere. After a while Josh, on a five month solo trip to India, carried the entire bag of litter back to the homestay.
Finally it was just me and the sleeping dog, the two of us wrapped in a ceremonial feeling of solitude. With no signs of civilisation, the place truly looked like heaven, like Adam without Eve. I slipped out of my clothes, becoming free from all of society’s exigencies.
Sometimes not being used to this freedom, can be the biggest impediment to being free. Nervous about being discovered this way by strangers, I slipped back into my clothes. Evening was approaching and I was worried I’d be stuck there in all my glory if something were to happen to them.
Best swim ever
My timing was impeccable because almost immediately a dozen teenage girls made their way down to the falls. Imagine the horror and embarrassment if they had sauntered down a few minutes earlier!
I woke the dog up and we headed back. Having punctured my only water bottle from dropping it, I had to continue my trek thirsty as hell. I bumped into Josh at the end of the trail. I found him hunched over trying to take a photo of a beetle adjusting its position for a better angle, which to me looked dead.
Leaving a place can stir up inexplicable emotions. It’s almost always a confusing mix of wanting to stay because you feel like you belong, and wanting to leave because home is somewhere else. My homestay at Nongriat had set me free in ways I couldn’t fathom and I bid adieu to the place with rainbow-coloured happiness in my heart.
101 Rainbow Falls:
1. Keep two days to visit the Root Bridges and Rainbow Falls
2. Choose homestays for budget travel
3. Carry water and snacks for the trek
4. A swim is definitely recommended
5. The falls might be inaccessible during the monsoon
6. Visit the Nohkalikai waterfalls, the tallest in India. It’s a three-hour trek from Nongriat.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Mohan KK
Photographs by Mohan KK