A cold early Friday morning starts the first journey of 2019. Khrawpyrkhat Mynsong is our fearless leader. A first in leading the team of enthusiasts: Badshai, Bipul, Eddie, Meban, Miranda, Bonnie and Ralph. Donald would join us later as our local forest guide.
A tea co-operative creates a win win for farmers
The first stop after breakfast at Smit was Mawlyngngot where our guide Donald took us to the Urlong Tea Co-operative society where Mr. Nogspung explained the equipment used for the tea processing. We enjoyed a tour of the tea gardens where we met with some tea farmers. Encouraged to hear stories from farmers that the cooperative was a win solution to the problem of not having a consistent market for selling their tea leaves. We were impressed with the tea initiative especially the price being paid to the farmers.
Plant-based healing solves the problem of muscle
We started the long treck from the tea garden to Pyngkya. On the way we met a family chopping up the bark of a creeper Known as Jalher in Khasi. It is inspiring to see how nature provides plant-based remedies for healing muscle and joint pain. The bark will be used to make an ointment for healing pain. The locals even claim it heals and ankle sprain!
Not afraid because I know who protects me
Kong Tharina, couldn’t believe our team came to visit her. Miranda and I met Kong earlier at a SARAS Festival in Shillong. We told her that we wanted to visit the village where they did weaving of baskets and carved wooden spoons, and made Khasi knives and tools. She was ecstatic when Miranda and team approached her home. Greeted with complete traditional hospitality and a house full of the cutest children in the world.
Kong Tharina showed us her coffee plants, millets and Sohkymphor wooden crafts. The life of the villagers in Mawlyngngot is simple. With no road, there are no cars, scooters, or bicycles. Most needs are met by growing locally: millet, rice, pulses, vegetables, root plants, honey, chilli chickens and pigs. Resources and requirements that can’t be grown locally need to be hiked in.
Looking at all the children in the home makes it clear that every baby was birthed at home! Kong Tharina made no excuse to boast about her protector. The bible verse from Psalm 27:1
“With God as my stronghold, He is by my side. I am fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. The Lord is the light and my life.”
With about six or seven small children, most of them girls, Kong Tharina gave witness to how God has protected her family and children. Her eyes intensely express this belief.
After lunch, we trekked for another 2 hours to Khapmaw village where we met the headman who provided lunch for us.
Motivated by strategic farming
After lunch, we trekked down to Wah Umsong. On the way, we met Lurshai, a young inspiring local farmer who owns a big plot of land in the middle of the jungle. Lurshai gave us various insights about farming and marketing. We quickly learned that he was motivated by this theory:
“EASY TO GROW, EASY TO CARRY, Will MAKE LOTS OF MONEY”
Lurshai claims this is the solution that makes his farming business successful. He explained that dry pepper is more expensive than the wet ones as dry pepper takes time to process. He spoke about his pain point of having limited space to dry. We were happy to share with him videos and photos of the sustainable low-tech drying solutions we had innovated for drying turmeric and ginger.
He told us that he just started bee farming (apiculture)with five beehives just to test the market. He hopes the wild flower forest honey will be another high-value low volume product to sell.
We nick-named Lurshai: Angel-in-Disguise because little did we know we would be trekking in the dark, not knowing our way through the forest. He spontaneously he tagged along with us guiding us to Wah Umsong to camp for the night. Little did we know that he selected the most beautiful camping spot. (Not the most comfortable as there were stones and sticks poking into every tent.)
Waking up in a stunning spot next to the river, ‘The Angel’ prepared us an awesome white tea which was served to us in beautiful bamboo cups which Meban cut and made right from the forest.
After a wonderful breakfast some bathed and swam. We all spent some time enjoying the majestic view of the river before heading up to Mawkhap to meet Khraw’s Granduncle who is doing stingless bee cultivating.
Inspired by nature
Maybe it was the pristine hills, the bush trekking or remembering the crystal-clear river water that kept us going. We all struggled with a very tiring trek up the mountain. We reached the village of Khraw’s Grand Uncle. Enjoyed a sumptuous lunch and exceptional hospitality.
The grand uncle explained to us what was different about the unique stingless bees. He showed us how stingless bee farming is done. He was kind enough to let everyone taste the glorious honey bee produced by the tiny little bee.
Lead by her rock and protector
Before we left the village of Mawkhap an enthusiastic lady grabbed Miranda and insisted that we hike all the way back up to the center of the village. Little did she know how tired we were. She had something to show us and she was quite urgent in her request.
When we reached the top of the hill there she stood, proud to show what was at the center of the village: a church. Her enthusiasm for the church and its role as the center of the community was evident. She insisted we stand at the entrance of the church to take in the grand expanding view. Here we stood, in awe, of another simple village. No roads, no cars. Yet an active thriving community getting most of their resources from the land. The best part: elders, middle aged,children all mixing,mingling and interacting in an integrated lifestyle.
Kong insisted that we take her photo in the place she adores
Khraw’s Granduncle next took us and introduced us to another farmer who is doing bee farming. From there we moved toward the end of the journey and it was another 45 minutes trek. and then we reached the road where our vehicle was there which took us back to Shillong. That’s how our first Epic Journey ends. It was a big physical achievement for the team to complete the whole route. Our discoveries were small – but the inspiration was large.