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Julie Kagti

A winter’s walk

Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

December past, we spent two days in Barapani, Meghalaya on our way up to Shillong from Guwahati. The drive itself was disappointing as the two lane hill road is being converted to an express highway and the hillside was a mess. We stopped at Nogpoh, at our nanny Kong Wonmon’s  place for a delicious lunch cooked by her sister.Kong , means sister in Khasi and is a term used to address women there. Salad in a black sesame dressing, pork stewed with lei sag (similar in taste to mustard leaves), mutton curry in a base of caramelized onions and chilli served with Jadoh , a rice dish cooked in either pork or chicken stock with some meat pieces. Sublime!

kong's house
Kong Wonmon’s house in Nogpoh, Meghalaya.

Her small cottage is spotlessly clean with a tiny yard all round, where pickles were left out to sun and chickens pecking about. We were most impressed by her kitchen, were all the utensils very neatly stacked up and glimmering ,  a great ad for vim liquid. It was easy to understand why Asia’s cleanest village , Mawlynnong , is situated in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.

From my childhood days I remember clean was always compared to how a Kong maintained her small home, kitchen and tiny garden, her pride and joy.

kong's kitchen
The spotless kitchen in Kong Wonmon’s house, Meghalaya.


Barapani is a man made lake , situated  23 kms below Shillong.  The government of Meghalaya has  put in an effort to convert it into a tourist spot. There are a few hotels, a boating  facility on the lake and numerous great picnic spots. The view from our hotel was spectacular and personally I never tire of a scenery that captures mountains and  large water bodies.  We had read mixed reviews of our hotel, the Ri Kynjai and I was a bit anxious about it as we were traveling with our two little ones. The staff and the hotel turned up to be  excellent and very helpful especially with the kids.  Lovely garden and many tiny trails to the water’s edge through the pine forest that surround it.

Barapani is a walker’s paradise, from short strolls through the forest to long treks up the mountains. Every direction scenic, providing many opportunities to create one’s own  beaten track. Great for quite contemplation, solitude and general sense of tranquility. After this holiday, I would recommend the short version as a nice way to spend quality time with kids, who are naturally curious to explore their surroundings. Of course a bit of patience goes a long way to prod them along once the newness wears off or when you are required to be excited about the 31st pine cone they present you.

Children are great ice breakers too and if lost with them, people stop being strangers and are very willing to guide or advise you.

Fern adorn a pathway, Ri Kynjai hotel, Meghalaya.
Trail through the pine forest to the water’s edge, Umiam lake, Meghalaya.

One of our numerous walks took us down a long path to the lake, were we passed a little village, farmers were planting potatoes in the nearby fields. The village consist of about 8-10 little huts with a yard in front. Some had chicken pens and others pig sty. One hut seem to double as the local store, another as a primary school, from where the children trailed us part of the way to the water front after many questions mainly in sign language. One of which led me, later to take a solitary walk through the deep verdant green pine forest  pondering ….. “why we left Bangalore to come to a place where the sun sets at 3.30 in the afternoon and then it freezes, to walk down small mud lanes to a lake?”

How do you describe paradise to one who has never left it.

I love ambling around small serene hamlets, quaint the better and I hope my kids who get roped in frequently , enjoy it too. Capturing their essence, life in one seems so self contained. Time so still.

Winter days are great for this as blue skies remain above and my chilled bones get thawed in the sun. Around the lake near the village, two men were collecting firewood and a little boy fishing.

On the other side of the lake, we went boating with the kids just before sunset and then back to our hotel room where a blazing fire awaited us.

bamboo aganist blue sky
Bamboo against the blue winter sky, Meghalaya.
collecting firewood
Local men collecting firewood to sell in the nearby market, Meghalaya.
fishing on the lake
A lad fishing from a boat on Umiam lake, Meghalaya.
a choir pratice
A choir practice on top of a hill, they were rehearsing for a television show, Meghalaya.
sailboats on the lake
Sunset, sail boats on the Umiam Lake, Meghalaya.

Image credit –  author’s  own.

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