1 mad Irishman, 1 laid back half German-half Khasi, 1 native Khasi.
Kut Madan – from the native Khasi language translates into – “End of the Land”.
Located on the eastern edge of the Sohra (Cherrapunjee) headland, it has an almost geographically arrogant view of the Bangladesh wetlands below. The gradients fall in quick succession to create an abrupt and jagged convergence of hills and plains. Thick and dark Monsoon Clouds heavily pregnant with rain are urged along by winds from the Bay of Bengal that run smack into Kut Madan and the continuing Meghalaya headlands. The clouds, unable to pass over these low massifs, break. Rain lashed with wind ravages the land in torrents; denudes most of the higher plateaus of top soil; waters the lower forests to a steamy sub-tropic and then floods the plains of Bangladesh below.
“Have you seen it?”
“The Rain coming in.”
“I’ve seen the Rain, but not how it comes in.”
“Must be a sight. How about a night out there?”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
That actually wasn’t a very good idea. But then again, that depends on one’s perspective.
We stood at the edge and watched clouds a few kilometers tall roll in silently. Like little children at a circus, we almost went “Oooo”. The clouds got darker and changed to a ominous battleship grey as they neared. It is hard to describe the eerie magnificence about how something so large can move so silently and yet so quickly.
“It looks a little like Armageddon.”
Low rumbles of thunder belched from the under belly of the Cumulonimbus. The squall line loomed over us and we had to crane our necks upwards to see where the edge was. Rain fell in tiny droplets through the fine mist. For all its bravado, the clouds did not drench us through. We were a bit let down with the anti-climax of the no-rain clouds over our heads. The early evening passed in a fine mist that muffled our voices while we clowned around with our headlights and camera.
The thick fog lifted and the view of the plains below brought a lucky-thats-not-us feeling. Lightning and thunder lashed the skies. Rain pummeled the plains to a wet mass of swamp and floodwater. The lights of the hamlets below shone bright against the onslaught in an almost defiant stance of human habitation.
As suddenly and silently as the sky formations loomed and bellowed, they cleared. Stars peeped through the night sky and the storm clouds dissipated into fine wisps of benign strands.
Clouds formed once again and raindrops pattered lightly on our heads. The rain was slight and did not give us much cause for concern. Our bellies full of Chow, we crept into our tents at the edge of the cliff and we stretched out to what seemed like the end of a nice day. All at once, a sudden drop in pressure brought in winds that picked up at a surprising speed. Our feeble tents placed precariously close to the edge strained at their stakes and we were happy for the little mound that shielded us from the full force of the winds.
The wind and rain increased in intensity and drove the point home of our location being the wettest place in the world. In half an hour, the elements raised to such a pitch that we had to shout to each other just to be heard. Stakes were yanked out and the rainfly flapped noisily in absolute surrender. We had to get out of the warmth of our sleeping bags to try to replant the stakes and planted stones on them for good measure. The wind toyed with our tents for a bit and then tore them right out again. We mentally prepared ourselves for a long howling night.
As sudden as it’s arrival, it quickly died down again. The stars were back and the clouds turned into the benign wisps of a few hours ago.
After giving us a breather, the rain started once more, and they were not the friendly droplets we had a while back. The torrential downpour turned the flat field we were on into a criss-crossing mash of hurried brown rivulets. We felt the water rise around us in our tents and we hoped the seams would not leak. We lay in our damp sleeping bags, half awake, half resigned to our fate.
It was a long night.
Trying to keep dry and tents secure from being blown off the entire night made sure we had a late start the next morning.
A local man stopped by on his way to the forest while we broke camp to have a chat.
(translated from Khasi)
“You stayed here last night? What are you doing here?”
“Yes we did, we wanted to see the rain come in from the plains. Pretty heavy storm last night!”
As he walked off, he laughed out, “You lot were lucky. Last night was a small one.”
We originally planned to stay a second night at Kut Madan.
We fortified our tents with stone walls and a drainage ditch around them to stop the wind from getting under the rainfly and lifting them clean off like the last night. We collected a lot of brush and grass to place under the tent for further cushioning and to get the floor off the ground. We did not even last till nightfall. There was no wind. Only Hard Rain that streamed 3 or 4 inches high, rendering all our defences into a watery mush inside and outside the tents. We stayed at Bahnah’s house in the nearby village the second night and he eloquently observed, “You ran like pussies.”