Sunday, 31 December 2006

Mawsmai Cave

Not far from Cherrapunjee we also visited the atmospheric Mawsmai Cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites.

Typical part of the cave wall.

A closer look at some of the rock formations. Notice the little shiny dots sprinkled around, looking like shiny stars in the night sky. They are really small crystal like stones set in the rock. When reviewing this picture I noticed that it looked a little blurry/out of focus, but in fact it isn't. It is simply the interesting texture of the rock surface giving the picture this look. You can click the picture to enlarge and see this for yourself.

Part of the cave's ceiling. Notice the amazingly curiously shaped stalactites in the top part of the picture.

Suddenly deep inside the cave you see sunlight streaming down into the cave and when you look up see that there is an opening leading up to the forest above. This gives the whole place a very cool lost world feel.

Crystal and Akia in one of the moe spacious corners of the cave.

Beautifully coloured leaves just by the entrance to the cave.

12 Indian Days of Christmas

I briefly interrupt my reports from my Northeast trip to test my ability to post videos and to show you all this music video, which has become a big hit in India. It's an Indian-theme version of the "12 Days of Christmas". It was made by a group of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) from Australia and it's quite hillarious.

Friday, 29 December 2006

Daytrip to Cherrapunjee - Earth's Wettest Place (?)

Moving on we got to beautiful Cherrapunjee close to the Indian-Bangladeshi border.

As mentioned Meghalaya is very much a state defined by water. This is spectacular Nohkalikai Falls. It's huge and the setting for it is spectacular. And I was even lucky to catch a few rays of sunshine on the strip of rocks below the falls.

Look at that pool of water. It's unbelievable turquoise.

Another lovely waterfall. Notice the van on the top left side to get a sense of scale.

Seen from a different angle.

As this sign shows Cherrapunjee has long been known as the rainiest place in the world. However, Ironically Cherrapunjee suffers from serious droughts for large parts of the year. And to add insult to injury nearby Mawsynram has recently taken over the title as the rainiest place in the world!

Beautiful steep cliffs visible from Cherrapunjee. Notice the difference in vegetation between the almost barren hills on the top and the lush valley below. This interesting contrast is yet another phenomenon caused by Meghalaya's water. The heavy monsoon rains wash away the top soil of those areas that are the most exposed to the rains. This means that no serious vegetation can settle here. However lower lying areas not so exposed directly to the furious downpour have access to plenty of water and thus become very lush.

A further example of the relatively a barren landscape caused by the monsoons. It is no wonder Meghalaya was known as the Scotland of the East in colonial times.If you look closely on the top of the hills you can see traces of landslides caused by the monsoon.

A few more pictures from the trip on the way to Cherrapunjee:

Getting lunch packed for the trip in a small local restaurant.

Akia and Crystal coming back from a snack run near the restaurant.

Large piles of traditional Khasi baskets. You'll see more of these in future posts.

A wonderful gorge being filled with sunlight penetrating through the skies.

A curiosity: A big house being built on top of a small house.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Water Created Wonders

As I mentioned in my last post Meghalaya is very much a state defined, for better and worse, by water. On day 2 of our trip we went on a day trip to a place called Cherapunjee. I'll get back to that place later, but for now I'll show you some very interesting places we saw on the way, all created or defined by the water.

First an idyllic lagoon where the clear, turquoise water comes flowing from underneath the rock.

Wapang and Mark by what they call a natural spa. The water is green, but at the same time clean and inviting and the place is dominated by some very interesting shapes and limestone formations formed by the water.

A closer look at the little waterfall to the right of Wopang and Mark. The water flows across a hole hit the opposite wall of the hole and falls down, were it flows underneath the rock out to the larger pool of water which is the spa.

Seen from the other side of the pool Susanna is showing us a hole through the rock by putting her legs through it.

A very short version of Susanna.

Resting in the grass next to the natural spa.

This is another amazing landscape shaped by the massive waters that are sometimes flowing here. According to local legend a great mythical serpent was slain here and these are its remains. To give a sense of the scale of things all these pillars are considerably taller than an adult man.

More and less filled pools of water in another part of this peculiar landscape.

Notice here how clean and clear the water is. I like the seemingly waterless hole in the lower left part of the picture. Looks almost as if it intended to be closed with a lid concealing whatever unknown things are hiding down there. I also like the little flowers on the holes edge.

Here the red colour of the rocks make the water look like it really is the flowing blood of the serpent which was slain here in some mythical time.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

North East Tour Begins: Arriving in Meghalaya

Finally I am back in Delhi and ready to start sharing my experiences from our grand tour of Northeast India. We started the whole thing in the state of Meghalaya just north of Bangladesh. We stayed in the capital of Shillong (location etc.) with Susanna's old friend Wopang and her family. I'll introduce them below, but first show a couple of sights from our first afternoon in Meghalaya.

We started very by visiting a waterfall, named Elephant falls. This is very fitting because Meghalaya state is home to many grand waterfalls and also the planet's rainiest place. More on all that in later posts. The Elephant Falls here are neither that grandest nor most beautiful in Meghalaya but the water running down in many different levels still makes it an idyllic sight. In the monsoon season there would be much more water flowing here which should add to the drama.

We only made it to the falls very late in the afternoon, so it was quite dark and I had to use a long exposure time on my camera. This is what gives the waterfall this cool white flowing sugar-like look.

At the entrance to the falls you see this sign. Notice the bottom line: "No Bad Words".

Beautiful fall colours in the forest on the way to Elephant Falls. Meghalaya is a hill state with a cool and very wet climate, so the weather here in December reminded me a lot about a Danish fall. Unlike most other places in India they have trees and plants here which adjust to the seasons by shedding their leaves, before which they produce beautiful colours like this.

Time to introduce our host family. This is Wapang, Susanna's old friend and - according to her husband - the boss of the household.

Her husband Mark, a very talkative and entertaining guy.

Akia, their beautiful 9 year old daughter.

And Neola, who is 3 years old and extremely cute.

And finally Akia's half cousin and best friend Crystal, whom we also had the pleasure to hang out with.

Mark plays with his daughter on the sun filled terrace in the morning.

And here I am playing with the girls on a bascule near Elephant Falls.

Monday, 18 December 2006

A small sign of life

Since it has been 10 days since I updated my weblog I felt that it is time to give a small sign of life. I am currently on my tour of the Indian Northeast. It is a region not much explored by tourists and as such it is very hard to get to the Internet. I will be back in Delhi in 9 days and promise to start posting about this wonderful trip by then. I have truly seen many beautiful things that not many foreigner are lucky enough to experience.

If I do not manage to update until then my best wishes for a Merry Christmas for everyone :o)

Friday, 8 December 2006

Wagah Border Ceremony

A very different sort of attraction in India - and indeed the world - is the border closing ceremony at Wagah, the only land border crossing (at least for foreigners) between India and Pakistan.

What makes this ceremony so special is the highly ritualized aggression displayed by the soldiers of both sides - with huge crowds cheering them on as both sides try to drown out the other side by playing loud patriotic pro-Pakistani or pro-Hindustani songs! Here the soldiers have just begun pulling down their respective flags.

And here the flags are almost down. The soldiers try to coordinate their efforts so that no flag hangs lower than the others.

The whole thing runs in a very orderly fashion but yet there is a lot of bravado and aggression involved. Here a Pakistani soldier tries to intimidate his Indian colleagues with a loud stomp of his food. The Indians reciprocate of course.

A view of the whole spectacle seen from our seats. As you see this event attracts many thousand spectators - and it happens every single night. You can also see that we were sitting quite far from the actual action which is why I couldn't take better pictures. This is the best I could do.

A view of the women's section of the Indian spectator stands...

...and the Pakistan women's stands.

A true super fan of Pakistan. This guy seemed to act as sort of a cheerleader on the Pakistan side egging on the crowd to sing pro-Pakistani songs. Here however he takes time to signal over to the Indian crowd where his loyalties lie. The Indian side had a similar guy but he was just wearing ordinary clothes so I don't bother showing him here...

..but in stead I show this enthusiastic guy. It seems every day a few lucky members of the crowd get to carry an Indian flag up and down the little strip of road towards the border and wave the flag in front of the Pakistan crowd. This old guy was literally running 4 times up and down the road being loudly celebrated by the Indian spectators.

The Indian boys march in front of the closed gate.

One of the soldiers yells out orders to his subordinates.

India makes sure to tell any visitor who should be in doubt, that it is democratic (Ha ha, Pakistan is not) and very large (Ha ha, bigger than Pakistan). The languages here from top to bottom Hindi, Punjabi, English and Urdu.

And the state of Punjab also welcomes visitors. Note to the right the celebration of religious harmony with the combination of symbols of Sikhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

Indian soldiers get ready for a cold night of guarding the border.