Walk a few hundred steps on the David Scott Trail in Meghalaya and you will find yourself at a clearing, with a view of imposing green mountains and a background score of gushing water. This is your first ah-inspiring moment of the trail, a teaser for what’s to come.
There’s absolute silence all around except the crunching of pine corns under your feet. Sky-high mountains, pristine pools, idyllic meadows and spectral forest patches are the compelling attractions as you go forward.
Located in Meghalaya, a small stretch remains of the once-popular horse-cart route built for trade during British rule. It is believed that the trail is named after the British administrator David Scott who was posted in the north-eastern region during the early 1800s.
He ordered a horse cart trail to be laid down across the jungles of Assam to Sylhet with the intention of using it to transport goods of importance. This route was also the cause of the war between U Tirot Singh, king of Khadsawphra Syiemship, and the British. The Anglo-Khasi War went on for almost four years.
Originally, it stretched from Bangladesh, advanced through Assam and ended at Cherrapunji. Today you start at Mawphlang village and exit at Lad Mawphlang, a comfortable 16 km. Even if a Google search tells you it’s possible to complete the trail in four hours, count in extra time for feasting your eyes on the trickling streams and wild blossoms.
If like me, you like to click photos or shoot reels, this place will offer you expansive sights, azure blue skies with cotton candy clouds, luscious greens, clear pools, charming arched stone bridges and a lot more.
The first five km are a comfortable descend to the Umiam River. Even on a sunny day, you will find several cool dark patches with intricate ferns creating a canopy as you walk. It is here that you must exercise caution because the mud-cum-stone trail can be slippery with all that moss. The trail is dotted with crisscrossing waterfalls and streams.
Take delight in crossing these bare feet and refuelling yourself. Let the cool waters wash away all that city stress. Request your guide to get a packed local fare lunch for you. By the river makes a perfect picnic spot. Try the tangy Jamyr Doh salad and Doh Neiiong or chicken in black sesame paste, to power you for the next critical part of the trek – all uphill.
As you climb the steady slope on the narrow crude path that has been cleared of greens, immerse yourself wholly. On each side of the path stands foliage big and small, silent witnesses to years of activities around them. The floor is littered with leaves and their smell permeates the air. A strenuous three km later, one reaches the midpoint, a little village with a Maggi stall. After a much-required break, the next five km are a breeze on the flat terrain.
Here, the tiredness gives way to a more relaxed feeling. The cool breeze caresses your tiredness away immediately. There is a sense of rejuvenation. Far from the madding crowds, you begin to appreciate the abundant beauty nature has to offer. You may want to wander a little longer here, collecting wild berries and making crowns out of ferns.
The last bit of the trail also serves up incredibly scenic views. Full of towering rock taluses, moss-strewn trees and green meadows. It takes you through the kind of scenery where author Mary Oliver wrote, “Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Rejoice as they learn to love this green space they love in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms. Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
While hikes in the Himalayas earn a lot of respect from adventure seekers, this truly is an underrated gem, that will surely be worth your while.
Keep in mind
The weather is unpredictable, so carry a sunhat, raincoat and a jacket
It’s easier to cross the many streams and rivers a little after the monsoon, better to have waterproof shoes
Take a guide along, unless you are looking at another kind of adventure
Keep your eyes peeled for the resting places and Camila’s tombstone
Ask your guide to show you the hollow rock (man-eating rock) and the folk tale about it