Cycling from Cherrapunji to Dawki to Jowai

Our travelogue from day 4 to day 6 of cycling in Meghalaya. These three days saw us riding from the wettest part of the world, Cherrapunji to the border town of Dawki, before climbing back up to Jowai. Please first read the first 3 days of cycling in Meghalaya, before reading our journey of cycling from Cherrapunji to Dawki.


Day 4: Cycling Cherrapunji to Dawki

Day 4 of our adventure led us from the mystical hills of Sohra to the bustling border town of Dawki, promising new experiences and unexpected encounters along the way.

The night preceding our departure was dominated by thunderstorms, both from the heavens and my own snoring. Rising early, we sought breakfast to fuel our journey, only to find the town still asleep. Reluctantly, we settled for a humble meal at our homestay, where oily omelettes and burnt tea set the tone for a day of culinary misadventures. It was complemented by an offkey uncle who was singing his heart out.

As we set out amidst the lingering clouds and light drizzle, the scenery unfolded before us in shades of green and grey. Flat-roofed houses dotted the landscape, making us question the architecture in one of the wettest places on earth.

The weather gods teased us with sporadic rain showers, prompting a dance of donning and doffing rain jackets. We then passed through a village, Mokdok, adorned with more dustbins than inhabitants. We marvelled at the peculiarities and cleanliness, only noticed at the leisurely pace of a bicycle.

cycling cherrapunji dawki
The happiness of wearing a rain jacket…only to realise the rain has stopped!

Pynursla

A pitstop for lunch at a ziplining spot offered little respite from our culinary woes, with bland parathas and mediocre fried rice failing to satisfy our appetites. Pressing onward towards Pynursla, we traversed winding roads flanked by verdant hillsides and glimpses of distant valleys. Our plan was to stay the night in Pynursla before proceeding.

Arriving in Pynursla, we found the village a curious juxtaposition of natural beauty and human encroachment. Massive ferns clung to the mountainsides with endless valleys on the other, while signs of ‘development’ loomed in the form of hill cutting and construction. Meghalaya has a lot of mining. This industry retains its global characteristic here as well, with the rich getting richer, while the workers lifestyle remains stagnant.

With accommodation scarce in Pynursla, we pressed on towards Dawki, descending through narrow roads bordered by areca nut tree plantations. The road was mostly broken and completely descending. As a result, we were overtaking most automobiles! Our speed compounded by the fear of the setting sun.

The landscape bore little resemblance to my previous journey here, a testament to the ever-changing nature of travel. On my previous trip, it was cloudy, rainy and foggy, offering the land a mysterious look. Now in the clear sunshine, there was no mystery forest. It was plain Jane human cultivated plantations.

cycling cherrapunji dawki
Trying to stand as straight as the tree…

Dawki

Upon reaching Dawki, our anticipation turned to disappointment as we were greeted by a muddy river teeming with boats, reminiscent more of a crowded ghat in Varanasi than the tranquil Dawki of memories.

Scant lodging options and lacklustre eateries added to our dismay. The hotels are overpriced and substandard, but the minimal options, means you have to make do with what you get. As a result, most tourists don’t stay the night in Dawki, but return by vehicle to Shillong or other places.

Dinner was at a dubious dhaba. The food was average, but the utensils were spotlessly clean in stark contrast to the grimy walls. In more contrasting visuals, we saw big ‘No Smoking’ posters inside the dhaba, while the owner served food to the customers with a cigarette in one hand. Maybe the chicken curry was flavoured with cigarette ash, who knows!

As we navigated the chaotic streets of this town bordering Bangladesh, we couldn’t help but notice the stark differences in behaviour and culture among the locals. People here are more aggressive and unwelcoming. The West Jaintia Hills has the vibe of a Wild West town directed by Clint Eastwood!

cycling cherrapunji dawki
Some roads of Meghalaya are absolute bliss…

Roads and Dogs of Meghalaya

Reckless Assam drivers were once again visible on the roads of Meghalaya. And to add emphasis to our already poor opinion, a AS vehicle managed to crash itself into the hillside while navigating a corner.

Alcohol shops peppered along the highway is not the only source of entertainment it seems. We saw (or smelt!) a lot of people puffing on weed. Sadly, that included a bunch of very young boys as well.

Yet amidst the chaos, one thing stood out. The Dogs!

The dogs of Meghalaya are the loveliest. They see you and sidestep you, as you do them, each giving a wide pass. Almost as if they were trained by the super polite truck drivers of the state. This was an amazing experience on the saddle of the bicycle for us. We come from Goa, where the state has a teeming population of street dogs. These animals in Goa are entitled elitists, much like the humans who look after them. Making me think, that dogs mirror their owners and the culture. Something I noticed previously as well while cycling in Garhwal and Kumaon.

And so, with weary limbs and adventurous spirits, we retired to our lodgings, eager to see what new surprises awaited us on the morrow.

cycling cherrapunji dawki
On the cusp of greatness!

The Route

Day 5: Dawki to Krang Shuri

Our journey from Dawki to Krang Shuri unfolded like a tapestry of unexpected encounters and breathtaking landscapes, revealing the essence of Meghalaya’s diversity and charm.

Setting out from Dawki, we embarked on foot to the boating point, greeted by a river that seemed marginally cleaner than the previous day. Despite the slight improvement, we opted to forego a boat ride and instead retraced our steps to the safety of our previous night’s dinner spot, indulging in a hearty breakfast of puris, matar sabji, and dal bada, accompanied by sweet tea.

What The Truck!

Departing from Dawki towards Jowai, we charted a new course, leaving behind the familiar sights and sounds. The initial 12 km was filled with laden trucks. Lined up with limestone, these vehicles were awaiting passage to Bangladesh, their exhausts belching diesel smoke.

Amidst the chaos, enterprising vendors plied their trade. Offering food and drink to weary travellers amidst the sea of stalled trucks in their mobile ‘dhabas’. Even here it was shocking, that even the truck drivers were buying and drinking bottled water. The bottles being discarded by the roadside as expected.

The first 10 km proved arduous, with steep inclines and broken-down trucks punctuating the landscape. We climbed a whopping 600 metres in that distance.

cycling cherrapunji dawki
Once the steep climb ended, it was time to breathe and take photos!

The Shire…

As we traversed the Jaintia Hills, their smaller, more rounded contours spoke of a land imbued with character and culture. Quite distinct even to our untrained eyes when compared to the Khasi tribes and hills. The hills reminded me of the shire in which Frodo lived!

Along the way, alcohol shops outnumbered tea stalls, a curious observation of local commerce.

Venturing deeper into the heart of the hills, we found ourselves amidst a landscape devoid of amenities, save for a humble tea shop where the proprietor’s fascination with betel nut preparation surpassed her enthusiasm for tea-making.

cycling cherrapunji dawki
In most parts of Meghalaya, the asphalt quality was stupendous

Krang Shuri

Elections were looming as we saw a political rally in the village of Amlarem. After which we stopped at the next village. This lunch break was near the captivating Krang Shuri waterfall.

After lunch we rode towards the fall and passed a school along the way. Schoolchildren were clamouring for rides home and almost every vehicle stopped to give the kids a lift. An everyday matter in village life, which is a far cry from urban settings, where no kid would be allowed near a stranger.

As we cycled past the school. Some young bright ‘uns yelled out, “where you going bro?” That and every other sentence ended with ‘bro’. I really wonder if their teachers are rappers or something!

Krang Shuri was incredible. We reached early evening and what a pretty sight it was. Even in the ‘dry’ weather, it was a beautiful place. We sat around on the rocks, letting the falls absorb us as we absorbed the falls.

Above the waterfall, there was a cordoned off portion of the river for water sports. We enjoyed a bit of pseudo-Kayaking in tranquil waters, basking in the glow of the setting sun. A rare treat afforded by the absence of cloud cover.

cycling cherrapunji dawki
The road to Krang Shuri!
Krang Shuri Waterfall in Meghalaya
Krang Shuri… notice human for scale!

Xolar’s Abode

Amidst the serenity, chance encounters with fellow travellers enriched our experience, from an avid cyclist hailing from Bhubaneswar to a retired Bengali gentleman on a cycling odyssey of his own. It was great meeting up with Anukul Mandal, as he rode around Meghalaya on his Scott hybrid bicycle.

Returning to the welcoming embrace of our dhaba, we found solace in the company of its amiable owner, Xolar.

An interesting story Xolar had. He left his village to go study and then work in Chennai. A massive difference not just in terms of food and culture, but more importantly weather as well. After working a few years in the big city, he returned home to start a small food processing unit in his village. Now he runs a dhaba, homestay and a noodle making unit as his entrepreneurial success mirrored the resilience of the land itself.

As we savoured a delicious dinner of dal and pork curry, we reflected on the day’s adventures, grateful for the myriad experiences that had woven themselves into the fabric of our travels.

The Route

Day 6: Krang Shuri to Jowai: A Journey of Contrasts

Day 6 of our expedition ushered us from the tranquil haven of Krang Shuri to the bustling town of Jowai, a journey marked by poignant observations that spoke volumes about the region’s character.

With morning came the challenge of survival-mode hygiene, as even the simple act of brushing teeth proved daunting amidst the rustic accommodations. Breakfast offerings mirrored the simplicity of our surroundings, with oily omelettes and toast served alongside the ubiquitous plastic bottles that seemed to define daily life. Even the staff of the dhaba were drinking bottled water and thought we were nuts not to do the same.

Wine & Mine

Setting out late at 9:30, we were met with a landscape defined by constant climbing, reminiscent of my journey through Mongolia.

Along the way, we bore witness to the profound impact of limestone mining on local society, as evidenced by a child’s makeshift toy truck fashioned from discarded materials. The body of the truck was a plastic can of engine oil, the wheels were the cover of the same can. The toy was an open dumper style truck and it was filled with… guess what? Limestone pebbles! That is how deeply the culture of the place is defined by limestone quarries.

Further along our journey, the rhythmic sound of hammers striking rocks echoed through the air, as women and children toiled to break boulders into pebbles for construction purposes. Unlike the Khasi hills, where industrial machines were used for crushing, here it was all humans labouring with tools.

cycling cherrapunji dawki
The road to Phe Phe

Phe Phe

Amidst this backdrop of industry, we found respite in the natural beauty of Phe Phe Falls. A hidden gem accessible via a dirt track and marked by its serene atmosphere and sparse infrastructure. It was lovely to walk on natural trails, instead of human created steps as we descended to the pool of the falls.

The waterfall was magnificent and blissful with just three other people around. Good fortune of reaching there relatively early in the day. We also spotted dark rumped swifts flying in big bunches above the falls while hearing their shrill call.

As we walked back to the top, we spotted a bunch of local teenagers going in the opposite direction. They had a big birthday cake in hand, as they were going to celebrate at Phe Phe Falls. Now that is a celebration worth remembering!

As we traversed the steep slopes, both on foot and by cycle, we marvelled at the contrast between village roads, shaded by towering trees, and the sweltering heat of the main highway. Trees are kinda important you know, should probably get the government to stop cutting them!

The prevalence of plastic litter, shards of broken beer bottles and the scent of intoxicants wafting from parked cars served as sobering reminders of the challenges facing the region.

A challenging climb out of Jowai led us to a fancier dhaba, where we sought refuge from the elements and indulged in a leisurely lunch amidst increasing traffic.

Pine-ing for more…

Reaching higher altitudes, we were greeted by the sight of pine trees and the melodious song of birds. Our journey took an unexpected turn as we stumbled upon a quirky bakery, where language barriers were overcome in the pursuit of sweet buns.

After crossing the town of Jowai, we stopped at a lakeside hotel. There we found solace in the surroundings before venturing out once more for dinner at a shady dhaba, where we ate disappointing roti sabzi. A sad story in comparison to the pork being barbequed and sold by the roadside.

As we retired for the night, our minds buzzed with the day’s revelations, each moment serving as a poignant reminder of the richness of experience that travel affords. And so, with hearts full and legs weary, we embraced the promise of the morrow’s adventures.

The Route


If you enjoyed this blog of cycling from Cherrapunji to Dawki to Jowai, then stay tuned for the next one! Until then you can read about our cycling journey in Mongolia

One Reply to “Cycling from Cherrapunji to Dawki to Jowai”

Like what you read, let us know what you think...