Day 11 – Around Shillong: cave exploration and ziplining

The surroundings of Shillong and Meghalaya in general, have developed a fancy for adventure since a few decades and here has come an interesting new proposition: today we are headed towards two adventure activities that neither Kalki, nor me have ever experienced:

1) Cave exploration in Sohra, great! I feel very enthusiastic about this and…

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Kalki with our caving Instructor (narrow cave-mouth on upper right)

2) Zipline … zipping, it seems — although I have no idea of what this is all about…

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with the zip team

And so we have an early start towards a place in the high meadows called Cherrapunjee, and by luck the weather seems to be fair and stable. Here I am not talking about just avoiding being wet on the bike, no, but about something much more important related to safety: let’s not forget that caves are created by underground water erosion, and underground rivers or streams are usually part of the cave system; as a result,  one of the major dangers in caving is what is called “flash floods”. If any strong precipitation occurs in the vicinity, the surface streams collect it all through a multitude of channels converging into the cave system, which becomes violently flooded at lightning speed. The prospect of drowning like a rat in a hole does not appear to me as overwhelmingly attractive! That’s why we avail the assistance of a local guide who knows his business well, equips us properly from boots to helmet with headlight, and a bright orange coveralls which makes us all look like escapees from Alcatraz.

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Ready to explore

It starts with a trek to the site from the main road of about forty five minutes through high meadows and then down into steep gullies to the mouth of the cave. I really pity our filming crew members who find it quite tough to trek down, most of the time on their bum, without dropping their heavy and expensive equipment.

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Slippery access to the cave site

The cave’s mouth is barely accommodating the breadth of a human’s chest and requires a fair amount of contortions to sneak in. Fortunately the passage widens shortly after, because I was beginning to wonder if, with all my affixed macho attitude, I would not shamefully suffer of claustrophobia after all.. We went on for a few hundred meters, sometimes climbing huge mushrooms of  sculptured limestone, sometimes scaling down narrow vents, watching our head not to hit stalactites and below not to trip on stalagmites, till we reached an underground stream, with fine sandy beach and all, where our guide decided that it was imprudent to push any further in this season, due to the flash flood risk.

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Among stalactites and stalagmites

All in all, the discovery of this alien underground world was one of the best experience we had during this trip and a total novelty for both of us.

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Modelling in the Deeps

After a well-earned buffet lunch at Cherrapunjee which has us devouring ravenously as a result of the exercise, we are headed to Mawkdok bridge, the famed zip line place. About midway, as I was enjoying leaning my bike at high-speed through the bends of the beautiful hill road, I notice that Kalki is no longer behind me. After waiting for a while, I turn back to find her a few kilometers behind parked on the road side with a long face: “my bike stopped” she says.. ok.. We are trying to find out what’s wrong when we finally figure out that she had run out of gas, which looked like the last possible thing since we had refueled both bikes together last night. Anyhow whatever the reason for this mystery, the problem is solved by siphoning a liter from my tank into her’s. But one thing is sure, my girl definitely doesn’t like to be stuck on the road side and it has a nasty effect on her mood: absolute mechanical reliability is her motto!

When we reach the zip line site and observe what it looks like, zipping away at full speed on this thin cable and disappearing into the fog, she says at once — possibly due to the mood generated by the previous events — “I am NOT doing this!” And I say “why?” And then I hear some sort of indistinct grumbling noise. “Ok”, I say, “I will do it first, then”. Some more grumbling comes out as an answer.

I have to confess that I was not too attracted by this thing — looking at it from high “I am a hang glider pilot, what is this ridiculous thing and blah, blah, blah…” — but then, after having been briefed by the instructor, I zip once along the tree tops in the fog, and.. I find it quite fun, to the extent that I ask for a second go at it that I enjoy even more! At this stage, Kalki seeing me smile from ear to ear cannot resist to endorse her harness and zip the hell out of herself, and bang! slam at full speed into the landing tyre which acts as a safeguard for the reckless one who forgets to break on time.. and then, she asks for more too! The Diva’s good mood is restored and everyone around, crew and Director alike, is breathing again**.

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Gliding out of the mist
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second landing, happy landing!

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**Note: This may look like a revenge from an early post, but believe me, it’s purely coincidental!

(to be continued…)

More adventurous situations are awaiting us tomorrow: watch our upcoming Travel Show on the FOX life TV channel this August.

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