India // The Northeast //

Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram

CHERRAPUNJEE, 56km south of Shillong in the Khasi Hills, achieved fame as the wettest place on earth: the highest daily rainfall ever recorded fell here in 1876 – 104cm in 24 hours. Nearby Mawsynram, however, now gets slightly more water, with a staggering average annual rainfall of 1187cm. The area’s numerous waterfalls are most impressive during the steamy monsoon season when awesome torrents plunge down to the Bangladeshi plains. However, in recent years the level of precipitation has decreased – most likely as a result of climate change – and water shortages have even been reported.

Cherrapunjee town is spread out over several kilometres. Every eight days a market is held here, with tribal jewellery and local orange-coloured honey on offer. The various nearby points of interest – the Noh Kalikai waterfall, Bangladesh viewpoint, and Mawsmai village and cave – are all within a few kilometres of Cherrapunjee, though in different directions. An easy way of seeing them all is to join Meghalaya Tourism’s day-trip. Alternatively, a taxi for the day costs Rs1200–1600.

You can visit Cherrapunjee on a day-trek along the David Scott Trail from Mawsphlang, the site of an ancient sacred grove. Impulse Inc at the NGO Network in Shillong’s Lachumiere (t0364/250 0587) can organize this.

The main attraction at MAWSYNRAM, 12km from Cherrapunjee, is the Mawjinbuin cave, where a stalagmite resembling a shivalingam is perpetually bathed by water dripping from a breast-shaped stalactite. There are no direct buses between Mawsynram and Cherrapunjee, so hire a taxi or join Meghalaya Tourism’s day-trip.