Any idea which state is the wettest in India? I’ll be impressed if you know, because I for one had never even heard of it before this trip. The name is Meghalaya, also known as ‘the land of the clouds’ and ‘the Scotland of the East’ and comprising one of the Seven Sisters of India’s north-eastern states.
Lily had one request only for her 10th birthday: that we spend it in a forest. So I duly began the search for a three night sojourn and hit upon Mawphlang, a 500 year old forest, sacred to its native Khasi people. The trouble was, there was only one place nearby to stay according to my guidebook and they weren’t answering the phone or replying to facebook or email messages. Plus the internet wasn’t throwing up any other accommodation in the area. But I so wanted this place to work out as I knew it would be perfect for our forest fairy Lily’s 10th birthday.
So along with my lovely aunt, Caroline, who had recently joined us in India for a few weeks (laden with oat bars, more wool for the kids’ knitting & crochet and polo mints – yay!), we took an executive family decision: that we should risk it, and just turn up without a booking. Imagine this: We took a long, wet, winding journey out from Guwahati, the capital of Assam, bumped along a rutted track from Shillong (Meghalaya’s capital) into a wild, isolated valley, only to arrive at Maple Pine Farm to be told they were all booked up.
But it can’t be! I cried. I’d thought that since I couldn’t get hold of them, surely no one else would have been able to either, right? Well, wrong. Because it turned out that the host had replied to my email to tell me they were booked up, only I hadn’t seen it, as it had gone straight to spam. Oh God! ‘I really want to stay here,’ Lily said, her eyes huge and mournful. It was getting late and starting to rain again and essentially we were in the middle of nowhere.
I explained our predicament to the host. He looked pensive, then told us he could accommodate us for one night as it was only the following day a big group were arriving. Relieved, we accepted his offer immediately as the last thing we wanted after our long journey was to be heading out again in search of food and beds. And then…JOY! The following morning over breakfast, he said to us ‘What are your thoughts on camping?’ Yes, it was cold (over 2000 metres in altitude) and yes, it was wet, but if it meant we could stay…well, bring it on! The children were absolutely delighted, especially Lily. Despite the fact that I’ve rarely seen rain like it, and there were hailstones the size of small ping pong balls, we were just so over the moon to be in this stunning wilderness as the sprawling town of Shillong (where we would have ended up otherwise) would have been a poor substitute.
Maple Pine Farm had a feel of the prairie about it; the last frontier or the wild west with its wooden cabins and sense of being in the middle of the wilderness. Powered entirely by wind and solar power, it was run by a Canadian man who was born here, his lovely Khasi wife and their three sons.
We were also lucky enough to be staying here when a local Khasi festival was taking place which was so fascinating to watch, the villagers in their traditional costumes and performing their local dances. The Khasi are interesting for many reasons, not least that they are one of the largest matrilineal societies in the world.
On the day of Lily’s birthday, we really couldn’t have been luckier as the day dawned bright and sunny and the heavens open literally the second we reached home after our day out in the forest. Deep within these 500 year old groves, Khasi would come to pray, sacrifice animals and crown their royalty.
Lily Catarina, child of Maya-hand-me-down’s & confuddled frowns, infectious giggler & magic-believer, cupcake baker & fantasy-world maker, tantrum-thrower & kindness-doer, disco-dance-mover & green -fingered-grower, mud-lover & fun-seeker, story-teller & grunge-Cindarella. Our middle child wood sprite, I can’t believe this chiddler has reached double figures ♥︎ (Sorry, have been reading Benji The BFG and the word ‘chiddler’ has rather stuck!)