April 12, 2020

Lost in the Caves of Meghalaya

This week, The Musafir Stories speaks to Khaliq Parkar, a researcher and social scientist as he shares his adventures in the caves of Meghalaya!

Today's destination: Krem Lymput caves, Meghalaya

Nearest Airport: Shillong airport, SHL

Nearest Railway Station: Guwahati Railway station, GHY

Prerequisites - Inner line permit for some states in the North East (https://services.india.gov.in/service/detail/e-ilp-inner-line-permit)

Packing - Make sure to carry a pair of hiking shoes for good grip, powerful torch and backup, energy food for the trip.

Time of the year -  Avoid the monsoons (July to September)

Length of the itinerary: Per your convenience

Itinerary Highlights:

- Khaliq and his friend, Xavier, set out to explore the north east and one of the most memorable experiences during the trip was their trip to the underground caves of Meghalaya.
- The caves date back to millions of years ago and have been formed by the water percolation and gradual dripping of water, primarily from rains and monsoons and dripping through the rocks resulting in beautiful formations.
- The duo decide to set out on a cave adventure when waiting for the ILP and other permits required for travel.
- Meghalaya has a bunch of caves including Mawlong caves, Mawsmai caves and a bunch of other caves the most famous being Krem Lyat Prah which is 30kms long and is the longest underground cave formation in India.
- Khaliq and Xavier decide on Krem Lymput, a medium sized cave about 6 kms long and head out to explore. Enroute the mouth of the cave, they run into a group of boys from the local village who offer their powerful torch which the duo gladly accept.
- The expedition begins around 9:30AM and the plan was to trek till a prominent landmark within the cave complex called the "Mughal Room" which is a huge enclosure with a height of about 20 ft and at a distance of about 2kms with stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations.
- The complex is almost like a mesh of caves, passages and walkways that connect and form a network. The cave is filled with water puddles at points and stalactites (projections from the ceilings) and stalagmites( projections from the ground). These can range from a few inches to a few feet high!
- The duo pass through a number of interesting formations, rocks, knee high puddles, dripping water and pin drop silence. Some of the pools were crystal clear and felt like a completely different world with its own eco-system.
- The trip to the Mughal Room was quite exciting and both Khaliq and Xavier were enthralled by what they saw, capturing photographs on the way and marvelling at the nothingness and deprivation of sound and light within the caves.
- The trip to the Mughal Room takes about 2 hours and there is a feel of elation on reaching the summit. After taking pictures and resting for a few minutes, the duo starts their journey back, only to run into unfamiliar passages.
- When this happens on two or three occasions, Khaliq and Xavier decide to take a step back and retrace their footsteps which leads to more panic as all exits lead to a dead ends. Almost 2 hours of deliberation and trying and the duo discovers some footsteps trailing from a passage way that was above them.
- The realization strikes that they have been descending all along and thus have missed out on taking the right passage way back. On discovering this, they start their journey back and repeat the marking exercise and narrowing down on the return options.
- After more deliberations, they finally retrace their way back to the mouth, where they are greeted by the sounds of crickets! Success at last, almost 6 hours later!
- Khaliq also discusses about options one should consider which primary includes trekking with the Meghalaya adventure association which does a number of expeditions for beginners as well as pros.
- He also calls out some threats that the caves face from mining for limestone for cement factories that is endangering the cave ecosystem and how the Meghalaya Adventure association are spreading awareness and activism.


Link to the Caravan article:

Pictures by Khaliq:

Link to Meghalaya adventurer's association:

Follow Khaliq on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/khaliq.parkar
and Follow him on IG: https://www.instagram.com/outofstockq/

Nikhil Shankar's podcast - Get Out!
Follow Nikhil on IG: https://www.instagram.com/pichidodo/

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