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Old 16th November 2013, 10:25   #1
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Arrow Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Let's get lost !

One fine day when I was busy in my desk, peering on the Laptop screen, answering mails, doing mundane works, then a thought just came to my mind, let’s escape to another world! No e-mails, no deadlines, no ringtones, no paperworks, absolutely no works….

I thought for finding a place to bury myself for some moments of tranquility. Where to go? What to do?

I started preparing and trying to sort out the logistics.

Some moments fast forward….

Wading through bone chilling knee deep water, crossing slippery rock surfaces, maneuvering though sharp rock edges, deviating a pool of water and quicksand I went to explore a new world inside earth, an experience of lifetime. Found a beach near a pond inside the cave, sat on the sand and switched off the light of the helmet. The eerie feeling of darkness, cold engulfed me and that was the moment of tranquility. I was at another world, cut off from everything just darkness around me….


Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd1089.jpg

On 10th November,2013 at around 11.30am I was inside Krem Mawmluh, the 4th longest cave in Indian Sub-continent.

How it happened…

Quote:
Krem Mawmluh or Mawmluh Cave, is a Grade 2 level cave in terms of difficult and easiness in Meghalaya, which includes about 5 meter vertical drops, waist deep pool of water, belly crawls, vertical climbs at few places and mostly horizontal passages inside the cave. The Cave entrance is a short trek by crossing hills and thick bushes near the Mawmluh village of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya. The limestone deposit in the southern part of Meghalaya along with the consistent rains forms these caves. ‘Krem’ is a Khasi word for cave. The length of cave passages is over 7 kilometers.


My Alto was the Companion along with me in the trip.
This picture was taken in NH40 on the Guwahati-Shillong Road.

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I started from my home from Guwahati at around 6.30 am towards Cherrapunji, tanked up at a Petrol Pump at Khanapara, in Ri-Bhoi District of the Meghalaya. One side of the road falls in Assam and other side of the road is in Meghalaya having the beeline of Petrol pumps and Wine shops as both petrol and wine are cheaper in Meghalaya. The NH 40 is being widened at many places cutting through the hills for the Guwahati – Shillong Expressway. I enjoyed the morning freeway till Umium Lake (Barapani). I just took two breaks in between for some photos along the highway.

The NH40 being widened up
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Umium (Barapani) Lake, Shillong
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Umium (Barapani) Lake, Shillong
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Umium (Barapani) Lake, Shillong
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Umium (Barapani) Lake, Shillong
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Umium (Barapani) Lake, Shillong
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Umium (Barapani) Lake, Shillong
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Reached Shillong and picked my cave guide, Mr. Manbhalang Wann. He is a professional cave guide who trained in Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi. He told me about his experiences and the basic guidelines of caving. The main point is to concentrate and focus on the job while inside. Caving is a dangerous activity if anyone is not serious and does not concentrate on the basic guidelines. Mr. Manbhalang told me that it is fun and one should enjoy the trip but by strictly following the rules. Each step should be taken cautiously and the grips on rocks and one should know about the body balance, weight transfer etc. He also specifically told about the fragile atmosphere inside the cave and asked not to touch the beautiful limestone formations which took thousands of years for forming and beware of the sharp edges of the rock surfaces.

The road till Cherrapunji was beautiful with numerous hairpin bends. We reached Cherrapunji and took the turn towards Mawmluh Cement factory in Mawmluh-Laitkynsew Road. I parked the vehicle near the cement factory and changed into caving suites, Boots and helmet with LED lights. Manbhalang took the cave bag containing Water bottle, rope, carabiner, extra batteries and other things. We will be required to track for almost one hour for the cave entrance. Then we started the walk towards a hill navigating trails in long grasses. The path turns to a steeper track from where we started climbing the hill using a rocky path. Each and every step was to be taken carefully, inspecting the rocks before putting the weight of the body in it. The climb was very stressful for me and finally we ascended to the top of the hill. Then we needed to walk near a cliff for some distance and on reaching a point Manbhalang pointed to the area where the opening of the cave was. It was in the lower point of the hill.

The winding roads towards Cherrapunji

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The Mawmluh Cement Factory

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The Cave Gear

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My Guide 'Mr. Manbhalang Wann' leading me on the track
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The River which came out from the Cave

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From the Hill Top

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The track
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The track
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The track
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The Cave Entrance is marked with the arrow. Long way to go.
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We stopped for a moment and the Plains of Bangladesh is visible from the place. Manbhalang told me about the descending procedures towards downhill. The jungle was thick and the track was complicated as there were some confusing trails towards the cave entrance. Slowly and carefully I have started the downhill descending. At around 11.15 we have reached the cave entrance. Manbhalang briefed me about the basic safety procedures inside the cave. One has to be very focused and attentive inside the cave as it is a dangerous activity. But at the same time following the rules it’s a very exciting adventure. I checked the helmet straps, and lights of helmets, and then switched them. An unknown feeling gutted me and I stepped inside.

Contd./

Last edited by jyotirupam : 16th November 2013 at 13:08.
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Old 16th November 2013, 13:32   #2
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Arrow re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

The Cave Entrance

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At The Cave Entrance
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The Entrance was very narrow and we had to squeeze ourselves to get inside. After some distance we needed to descend. Manbhalang showed me how to hold the rocks and how to balance the body weight on the two legs which are to be put in two different rocks. Frankly speaking I was not confident enough at the first time that I can do that because a slight error will result falling to the rocky surface below at around 15 feet. But after observing his techniques and following the instructions I crossed that section. The Helmet did a very good job because inside I was hitting the ceiling albeit stepping cautiously. The air was misty and I was having trouble because of my spectacles were fogged which needed to wipe after every minute. But after some distance the air was clear and comfortable. Very soon we found a section where some rocks were sparkling like a diamond! Manbhalang told me the rocks of that section contain some mirror like impurities in the rock that reflected lights. The sight was marvelous. After some grueling and intriguing time finally we got a comparatively easy section of the cave.

Sharp Edges

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Beautiful Calcite formations

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The Sparkling Rock

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I adjusted my light and tried to look and admire the lime stone formations. It took thousands of years to form the natural limestone carvings but it resembles intricate carving if done by some artists, but there the artist was the nature. The atmosphere engulfed me; the quiet and serene place imbibed the spirit of me. The cave had some passages which were confusing, Manbhalang, who is an expert guide described that some passages are 200 meters to 2 km long. It is obvious that anyone can easily get lost if they are not able to identify the correct route. He told that in caves we should always look around and try to find some landmarks so that while returning we can follow the correct route. The mind had to be much focused and one should not hurry in any situations.

Some areas of the cave are completely submerged in the time of monsoons and the rivers carries garbage from outside and these get stuck in the cave walls. I have seen many polythene and other non degradable wastes in the ceiling and the walls of the cave.

This formation looks like an Elephant Head.

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Narrow Passages

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Then we found a pool, he told me that we have to cross this pool. I followed him wading through the cold water by the side of the pool holding onto the sharp rocks. The water was thigh deep at the area, the feeling of drenching in bone chilling water was unspeakable, loose sands under the water made the walk very difficult. Then we needed to climb a steep rocky wall almost 7 feet just after the pool. I had to pull my water drenched body by holding some edges, carefully by letting to fall or slip. My boots were full with the cold water; I tried to drain some water from the boots by bending the knees but could not succeed much. So with a pair of sloppy boots, wet cave suit, wet hands thankfully I did manage to cross the wall. Relieved at last, but there were more obstructions to come.

Just coming out from the thigh deep pool
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That part was interesting because an underground river or a stream was flowing beneath the cave floor, the noise of the flowing water was simply breathtaking. The cave was holed in at some parts and the river beneath it was visible. I had to be very cautious while stepping at the bridge formation with holes in it. ( It was like walking in footpath with open man-holes at night).

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We reached a spot called Hanging Garden. A sight to remember, a beautiful area surrounded with various stalactite and stalagmite formations. We were very careful not to touch the formations or not to damage any lime stone carvings. We sat for a while in a rock and admired the sight of the ‘Garden’. Water was flowing from two different directions and the sound engulfed my soul.


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The Hanging Garden
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The Hanging Garden
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The Hanging Garden
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The Hanging Garden
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The Hanging Garden
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The Hanging Garden
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We started again admiring the carving on the walls. The cave was spacious and the floor was easy in this part so I could walk a bit freely. Manbhalang stopped at an intersection, there was three passages in front of us. He told that one of this passage is not very long, may be 200 meters long, and the left was long and goes deep, he told me that we will go by the right side passage. He again told me that how will we find the correct path while returning. There was a big white rock, he told me that in caving while going through a passage one should remember some markers. I made a mental note that we veered into right of the passage from the white rock lying there.

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Contd./

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Old 16th November 2013, 14:45   #3
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Arrow re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

We entered that passage. That passage lead to another classy sight of rock formations beautifully ornated with the limestones like pillar of a palace. Albeit all curved by nature. We reached another crossing of river which was ankle deep so navigating was easy on that part. Finally we were standing on another intersection of three passageways. The chamber was huge and a gushing river was flowing furiously by one of the passageways. Manbhalang asked me to be cautious while stepping on the rocks beneath water as those very slippery. The rocks had formed a shiny golden layer and very beautiful. But navigating through those slippery rocks were very dangerous. We took the sandy parts to track and took utmost caution while stepping on these slippery rocks. But the scenery was marvelous, gushing waters flows and the our lights made these golden rocks into a fairy land! Just mesmerizing!


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The Golden River!
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The Golden River!
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Beautiful formations!
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Beautiful formations!
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Mr. Manbhalang
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Manbhalang pointed to a passage that will have an opening near the cement factory, the passage was only 2 to 3 feet high so anyone who will go in that direction will need to do a belly crawl. The other passages were high as about 15 to 20 feet. We stayed there for some moments and decided to rest a bit. The water formed a pool and the sandy part was looked like a beach inside the cave!

I sat on the beach and drank some waters. A bat was circling around us as to inspect the intruders of his territory. Manbhalang and I switched off the lights and the darkness engulfed us. The sound of the water in a pitch black environment cannot be described in words. That was a different world, and alien world, far from the civilization, inside the earth with no lights. I soaked in the atmosphere and let the time pass by, separated from everything that was the feeling of absolute nirvana! We both were sitting on that wet sandy beach for some time without any words, just soaking into the clam atmosphere, soothing our nerves and the soul.

Seating in the Beach inside the Cave
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The height of the ceiling was too low
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A 'Ghost' in that Picture ? No, no, just the air inside was misty, so the camera flash and exposure did the trick.
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Lights off!
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Manbhalang showed me some knots and explained the types of ropes used in rock climbing using a rope and a carabiner which he was carrying. I learned some tricks of the knots and some basic rock climbing techniques. He shared some of his ‘let’s get lost’ adventures along with his fellow mountaineer friends. He was an experienced person and a true nature lover. He was very particular about safety precautions and ensured not to do anything that can damage the intricate system of the caves. He worked with many Indian and Foreign cave expeditions teams and cave researchers in that part of Meghalaya.

We decided to return from that spot. I clicked some pictures and started the return journey. Surprisingly I did not felt any fatigue till then. Manbhalanag was very cautious and repeated to me to be focused and very alert. He showed a pond called ‘Fish pond’, cave fishes which are blind by nature used to live there. We could not see any but heard some trickle formed from their movements in the water. Suddenly he stopped for a moment and signaled me to be quite. He pointed his helmet light to a part of the cave wall, I adjusted my light towards the cave wall and could not believe the sight...!!

Contd./

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Old 16th November 2013, 15:07   #4
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Arrow re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

There was a Bat just holding into the wall, it did not reacted once even if our lights fall on that creature. It was beautiful, on a white surface like a shiny black spot, it was resting. We waited some time, but it stayed on. We just went by side and he was still there holding the cave wall. May be he was hibernating.




The hibernating Bat
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A Rock was hanging just above our head

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After that area there was a steep ascending where Manbhalang showed me a trick of Chimney climbing. By using the body weight, balancing the hands and legs one need to pull up along the wall. There was very little scope to hold and there was little margin for any errors. I did that without any major problems by listening and working on the instructions of Manbhalang. At one time only a four finger grip was holding my entire body weight while transferring the weight to the other side!


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The Markers which was used to Map and measure the cave
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Markers in the Cave
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We crossed the deep pool and again soaked the cave suite and the boots with the cold water. At some times the cold was unbearable, but I was telling myself that I should focus on the objective without doing any mistakes. We finally crossed that section and I was happy that my body responded to the situation.


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Contd./

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Old 16th November 2013, 15:25   #5
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The return to the entrance was uneventful. However the ascends in the rocks needed extra caution and some expert guidance of Manbhalang. I felt the change of air and the atmosphere near the cave openings. Finally I spotted lights, it was daylight and then seen a part of the sky. I was enthralled and overwhelmed with joy. Shook hands with Manbhalang with a big grin in my face. The experience was still engulfing me. The feeling soaked me to the core.


A stream coming out from a passage
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The Sparkling Rock.
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Near the rock
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Near the Entrance of the cave. The root of the trees can be seen here.
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Our return tracking to the Cement Factory started. Now we needed to climb the steep rocky hill and finding the least visible jungle tracks. Manbhalang talked about the jungle surviving techniques and his experiences. He warned me not to step in the green surfaces of the rocks that have a slippery surface. I needed to stop after every 100 meters or so to compose and regain strengths because the climbing part was very tough. Finally the climbing was over and we found again in the plain top of the hill. After walking for almost 30 minutes we saw the cement factory and my car which was parked near to it. Oh! My baby Alto! She was basking in the sun awaiting for my return!


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Climbing the rocky path
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First Sight of civilisation after the surreal experience.
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My Baby Alto can be seen from the hill top.
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vini-vidi-vici. With my Guide Manbhalang.
Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd1115.jpg


We started descending; strangely there were no signs of fatigue or cramps till that time after the hard, grueling day of adventure. This may be due to the exciting experience which was still afresh in my minds. But after some time when we reached the plains I can feel fatigue, and numbness of my body which was creeping in slowly. We reached the place where my car was parked and pull off the cave suites, boots, wet socks etc. My feet changed colour to a strange white because of the soaked boots which I were wearing for a long time. Drank some water, ate some chocolates and helped Manbhalang in packing our caving gears.

Took some photographs with Manbhalang near the Cement Factory and headed off to Guwahati. I was still 160 km from home at that time.

Epilogue:

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
- Edgar Allan Poe

It was an exciting trip coupled with lots of difficulties but finally resulted a happy ending for me. The trip rejuvenated me to the core and enjoyed the nature’s beleaguered creation to the fullest. With a promise to return and explore new destinations I am signing off here. Thanks to all.
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Old 19th November 2013, 15:05   #6
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 19th November 2013, 15:47   #7
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

That must have been an awesome experience. Given my crazy levels of claustrophobia I dont think I would ever get more than 10 feet inside that or any cave. But the pictures are more than enough to tell me what I would miss whole my life.
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Old 19th November 2013, 16:44   #8
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Alabama, Tennesse belt in the US has a lot of these cave systems (especially around chatanooga). The good thing there is that they have developed them as tourist destination, with good access, guides, golf carts for the elderly,etc and all the support system required for a tourist destination. Guided tours are organised every few hours and it makes the whole experience, really out of the world!
In the US, with their high standards, they can maintain the caves in top shape even with all the tourists. But, here in India, it would be very difficult to maintain the cave systems in hygeinic conditons, if any commercial activity is started (more so since it's a closed environment). I mean it can be done, but it would be a tall order to maintain them properly.
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Old 19th November 2013, 18:30   #9
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

That's one closed space , dare you went there , did you have some sort of communicating device with you , in case of any eventuality , but definitely thats where you can do some penance and achieve Nirvana, lucky you .
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Old 19th November 2013, 22:24   #10
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Jyotirupam,

That is an interesting, incredible eye opening trip - truly Incredible India. I would be really scared to be doing such a trip. My kudos to you for such a remarkable adventure!

Please share more details for those of us who may want to do it as well.
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Old 21st November 2013, 10:36   #11
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Awesome adventure-trip, and a very different experience. Should've been really scary. If I were you, I would've tied a string around the guide's waist and held it all the time!! Brought back some Tom Sawyer memories. Congrats, bro.
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Old 22nd November 2013, 13:25   #12
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Smile Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks a lot, GTO.


Quote:
Originally Posted by New.Novice View Post
That must have been an awesome experience. Given my crazy levels of claustrophobia I dont think I would ever get more than 10 feet inside that or any cave. But the pictures are more than enough to tell me what I would miss whole my life.
Thanks a lot. It was difficult to click pictures inside the cave because most of times I had to concentrate on walking and safely navigating the dark and slippery surfaces. But the experience of being inside the earth cannot be described or expressed in words or in photographs.




Quote:
Originally Posted by chaudh2s View Post
Alabama, Tennesse belt in the US has a lot of these cave systems (especially around chatanooga). The good thing there is that they have developed them as tourist destination, with good access, guides, golf carts for the elderly,etc and all the support system required for a tourist destination. Guided tours are organised every few hours and it makes the whole experience, really out of the world!
In the US, with their high standards, they can maintain the caves in top shape even with all the tourists. But, here in India, it would be very difficult to maintain the cave systems in hygeinic conditons, if any commercial activity is started (more so since it's a closed environment). I mean it can be done, but it would be a tall order to maintain them properly.
I agree. The State of Meghalaya had around 1500 caves which are explored till date. Some caves are measured and mapped till now. Most of caves are in the process of mapping and measuring. Recently Some organised adventure tour operators are assisting the interested cavers in Meghalaya.

Meghalaya have a very convenient and easy cave for the tourists to feel the atmosphere of limestone caves. The Mawsmai cave in Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya is a tourist cave where the general tourists can get an experience of a limestone cave. The cave is lighted inside and secured with iron railing etc. Some official persons are always present inside the cave at times to help the tourists. The cave is only 150 meters long and it can be accessed easily by car.

I am attaching some images of it.

The Mawsmai Cave. The cave is lighted inside.

Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd999.jpg

Wooden planks on the floor for safe navigation.
Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd1000.jpg


My family inside the Cave.
Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd1001.jpg

My little daughter gets a taste of caving
Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd1002.jpg

The map of the Cave
Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd1003.jpg

The entrance of the Site
Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent-jrd1004.jpg


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nanometer View Post
That's one closed space , dare you went there , did you have some sort of communicating device with you , in case of any eventuality , but definitely thats where you can do some penance and achieve Nirvana, lucky you .

There were not any communicating devices with us. Before the trip we needed to call the contacts in Shillong that we are going in. After coming out of the cave and walking a distance of almost 2 kms when we got the mobile network then informed the tour operator's office about us. If they did not get any information after the normal time they would send a rescue team. We carried some bars of chocolates, a water bottle, extra batteries, rope, carabiner and that’s all.



Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
Jyotirupam,

That is an interesting, incredible eye opening trip - truly Incredible India. I would be really scared to be doing such a trip. My kudos to you for such a remarkable adventure!

Please share more details for those of us who may want to do it as well.

Thanks. There are many adventure tour operators based in Shillong who are organising Caving trips. I contacted Mr. Gregory of Shillong and e-mailed my enquiries. He arranged the guide and the caving gear. I drove my Alto from Guwahati to the starting point of the track and came back on the same day. That day was a 360 km of driving and walking for about 14 kilometers.

Here is the route from Shillong to the starting point of the Track. Shillong to Mawmluh Cement Factory.

Name:  Route.jpg
Views: 5056
Size:  322.3 KB


Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe M View Post
Awesome adventure-trip, and a very different experience. Should've been really scary. If I were you, I would've tied a string around the guide's waist and held it all the time!! Brought back some Tom Sawyer memories. Congrats, bro.
Thanks. It was indeed an awesome experience for me. I followed my guides instructions and tried to concentrate on the climbs and descends.

Last edited by jyotirupam : 22nd November 2013 at 13:28.
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Old 27th November 2013, 02:17   #13
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Nice photos. Krem Mawmluh looks like fun.

You brought back old memories. Been to Mawsmai couple of times, more than a decade ago! Love Meghalaya in general. Lots to see and do.
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Old 3rd December 2013, 18:16   #14
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Wow fantastic TL and a nice place away from the regular tourist jaunts. How much time did you take to cover this complete activity? Are there are any safety setup done by the Government to encourage tourists or is it very raw in nature?

Rating it a 5 star for capturing the location for us.
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Old 5th December 2013, 17:56   #15
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Default Re: Caving Trip to Krem Mawmluh: 4th Longest Cave in the Indian Subcontinent

Quote:
Originally Posted by jyotirupam View Post
That was a different world, and alien world, far from the civilization, inside the earth with no lights. I soaked in the atmosphere and let the time pass by, separated from everything that was the feeling of absolute nirvana!
Hello Jyotiruam,

Thank you for a very different travelogue. Rated 5 stars.

Your note above - inside the earth with no lighs - feeling of absolute nirvana - sums up everything that we need to live a happy life in this earth. Those were the moments when you are detached from entire life on earth & were connected to your innermost self. The feeling would have been definitely out of the world.

Most of us here may not be aware that there are more than 1500 caves in state of Meghalaya. Wish you all the very best for future expeditions & keep updated us with your travelogues.

Thanks,
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