Staying in a boat-house was my childhood dream. For the average Indian a boat-house is synonymous with Srinagar, Dal Lake and Kashmir Ki Kali. However, thanks to the political unrest in Kashmir, my plans to live in the valley of dreams got cancelled several times. So much so, that I had almost given up on my long cherished desire. But destiny had other plans.
Last year, I discovered that boat-houses are there in the North-East too! And there I came to know about a quaint little boat-house at Meghalaya’s Umiam Lake. Needless to say I decided to explore it, at once. It was not Jahangir’s heaven on Earth; it was however the closest I will ever be to realising my dream.
In India we call Shillong the “Scotland of the East” and like the Scots if we had a “Loch Ness” it would invariably be the beautiful Umiam Lake. This gigantic freshwater lake is dotted with green sloppy islands which makes the entire landscape a photographers’ paradise.
I was planning for a long weekend getaway for mid April, 2019 and I said to myself how about Meghalaya? Although I knew April was not a good option but I wanted to utilise the off season cheaper tariffs, because paradise often comes with a steep price tag! The Gods were in my favour as I booked the boat-house at half the price! I was surely off to a great start.
Umiam Lake is located between Guwahati and Shillong and can be reached by car from Guwahati. I took an early morning flight from Kolkata and landed at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport, Guwahati – the nearest airport from Meghalaya. One can always take the train, but time was a deciding factor for me. From the airport I arrived at Guwahati main city. Had a sumptuous breakfast and managed to get a window seat in a shared car to Shillong.
It was a picturesque journey of just fifty minutes. As the car left the suburbs of Guwahati, the lush greenery of North-East was like a treat for sore eyes. Right after the car entered Meghalaya, two security officers asked for our identity proof. Due to the geo-political location of Meghalaya, this checking is necessary. Once satisfied, they signalled a “Go ahead” and our car cruised away towards a pit-stop – a roadside food joint for a tea. I recalled, from my first visit to Meghalaya back in 2005, when our cabbie had advised us that, Meghalaya is known for exciting country liquor and pineapple. As a matter of fact, 70% of all street food joints here always have these two options in their menu. Post pineapples, the journey resumed. Soon I could see the Umiam Lake on the horizon up ahead.
The floating boat house is anchored with Lumpondeng Island. The cab dropped me at the bus stop, and from there, the ferry for the boat house was a mere ten minutes walk. It is great to be driven around but this was a welcome walk, as I got to stretch out my limbs after being cramped up for the bigger part of the trip. The ferry ride reminded me of one of the comic strips from “The Adventures of Tintin” where Thomson and Thompson reached the island by motor boat. The ferry service came for a nominal entry fee and finally they dropped me off at the boat-house.
Here I was about to spend a day realising my dreams! Straight off the boat, the calm and serenity around the boat house and all of Lumpondeng Island is bound to leave you impressed. Nursing a cup of coffee and cigarette, I rested myself on a couch placed on the balcony of the boat house. The blue water of the lake was surrounded by hills with coniferous trees. Ah the tranquillity! It is an ideal retreat, where anybody would want to unwind and relax.
“Sir, your lunch is ready” said by the caretaker as I was lost in my moment. Now I finally glanced upon the interior. It had a large wooden bed, where four people could easily be accommodated and an extra mattress with a couch to relax on. The wooden boat house had big windows that allowed fresh air and natural light to keep the interiors charming.
I enjoyed a good lunch with Rice, local vegetables and pickle. After which I started exploring the adjacent Lumpondeng Island. There was nobody around. That’s when I remembered the famous quote in Robinson Crusoe “I am the monarch of all that I see.”
Around dusk, I returned to the mesmerizing vista of a dazzling full moon in the night sky. The light of the moon on the lake seemed was shimmering beautifully like a silver cloth. The mysterious sound of tide added to the mood in the otherwise pin drop silence of the boat-house.
It was a night of my dreams. While I savoured three pegs of Teachers 50 over home-cooked chicken Kebabs, served by the caretaker, I regaled in the soft moonlit glow in the land of clouds. The night ended with some mouth-watering Khasi cuisine. I wanted to stay longer but I’m sure some other weary soul was ready to embrace the beauty I had just witnessed in all its glory. This was better than my dreams.
Next day at 11 am, I checked out and left for my next destination Cherrapunji.