A Historical Trail
David Scott was a British administrator who operated in and around the Khasi hills for nearly thirty years (1802-1832). This 16-km trek is a part of the famous horse-cart track that he built, which stretches from Cherrapunjee to Bangladesh and is named after him.
This road resulted in a war amongst the Khasi people, led by U Tirot Singh, king of the Khadsawphra Syiemship and the British. British muskets finally defeated the Khasi forces after fighting them for four years.
The trek stretches from Mawphlang to Ladmawphlang. Both the villages deserve their own chapters in the annals of Khasi history, culture, and folklore. Mawphlang, which literally means ‘grassy stone’, is one of the many settlements in the Khasi hills named after monoliths. The sacred groves in this village make it a centerstage of Khasi culture.
- Altitude: 4,892 ft
- Time taken: 4-5 hours, 16 km
- Trek gradient: Easy-Moderate. Gradual descent for 1 hour followed by flat walk for about 2-3 hours. Gradual ascent for the last 1 hour.
- Water sources: Carry 2 litres of of water. You can refill your water bottles at the Umiam river, around 1.5 hours away from the starting point.
While the trek can be done from both sides, starting from Mawphlang makes it more of a descending trail. Mawphlang is a very small village. The starting point of the trail is not marked. However, being a popular trail, locals can help out with directions.
Expect to see rivers, woods & rocks sculpting the enormous landscape, and of course of bridges that act as important medium of connection between the two villages.
You need to start walking North of the village and till you notice a resting place called ‘Ka Kor Ka Shonmai’. This is named after a daughter of Dorsing Lyngdoh, the 1st Lyngdoh with the British, and acts as the primary trail identification point for the David Scott’s Trail. Follow the mud path winding down for another one and half kilometers to a place called Mawsahep, where you notice a Tomb. This tomb was erected in 1843 in memory of a Child fondly called Camilla. There is a water tap right behind the tomb in case you need to refill your water bottle.
After crossing the tomb, follow a winding path overlooking Umiam river, Simpanghang Falls and part of Mawphlang Dam. ‘Umiam’ quite literally translates into the flood of tears. According to legends, the river was formed by the tears of a sister who came down from the heaven losing her sibling en-route.
You can replenish your water at the stream that comes your way – the water here is unusually sweet. You may spot a few villagers on the bank.
Once you cross the stream, the mud trail continues onward. After about 3 km of gradual descent, you reach a hanging bridge over the Umiam river. This military-built bridge acts as the perfect entry into the forest.
The trail widens a little after the bridge. Continue on it for about 15 minutes, till you reach a point where you’re at the same level as the river. This is a good spot to take a break.
Cross the river by hopping over the rocks. The trail continues on the other side through a field. You need to follow the same path until you find a lowland, locally known as Wahtham, stretched for about a kilometer in length. You then climb the winding path for about 3 km to reach Step Lakrai and Laitsohma villages. Notice the huge oddly shaped rocks on the way, particularly the one that eerily resembles a man’s face!
The trail after this becomes narrower, taking diversions at unexpected places. Though there is every possibility of getting confused, always opt the route which appears tougher and lengthier, never take shortcuts. that After walking on this trail for 1 km, you reach a hilltop. This is where Mawphlang forest ends and Ladmawphlang forest begins.
From here on, take the trail going east. The trek would appear less green and its streams would become thinner too. You need to follow the same trail (there is no diversion and it is one single trail) for around 45-60 minutes till you reach Ladmawphlang. The village is situated at the edge of a valley. There are water sources close by.
You can choose to camp near Ladmawphlang or at one of the villages on the trail, or hail a ride from the road head at Ladmawphlang to Shillong or Cherrapunjee.
Points to note:
- If you plan to camp overnight, carry sufficient warm clothes since temperatures drop t0 5-6 degrees celsius in the night in winter.
- The trail is infested with leeches during monsoon. Take adequate precautions if you’re doing this trek in monsoon.
This trek has been documented by Niladri Mukherjee.
You have multiple travel options –
- Get a seat on a shared cab going from Shillong to Cherrapunjee. Get off at Mawphlang, which is around 40 minutes away from Shillong. After the trek, hail for a private cab from the road head at Ladmawphlang. You can either return to Shillong or proceed to Cherrapunjee, which is around 45 minutes from here. This will cost around Rs.150 each way.
- Get a private cab to drop you to Mawphlang and pick you up from Ladmawphlang to bring you back to Shillong. This will cost Rs.1200-1,500.