When we were preparing for our class 10 examinations, our geography textbooks all said that Cherrapunji was the wettest place in the world. Then suddenly there was a news report in the paper of a new place with an even more difficult name that had recorded more rainfall over the year. At that time we were living in Madras, where every time it rained (which was very rarely), there was a major upheaval with flooding of streets, increased rates of water-borne diseases and sometimes (joyfully) closure of schools. So whenever we imagined the 'wettest' place, I thought of some dark and dingy wetland that was perpetually flooded and generally a terrible place to be!! It has really been a great blessing that we have come to live in this place and in the process discovered what must be one of the most beautiful places on earth (in addition to being the wettest!!) Thanks to the mountains, there is never any flooding and the rain, though often constant in the months from March to September, is light, causing little or no disturbance to daily life. My sympathies are with Assam and Bangladesh where our rainwater gets collected (not that they need any more - they get enough of their own!!). This picture of Bangladesh taken from Cherrapunji shows rain falling falling from a cloud and the ever-present floods!
So is Cherrapunji still the wettest place on earth as widely advertised in tourism brochures, or is it Mawsynram, a village not far from Cherrapunji but in a different cluster of hills.
Neither it seems, as over the last decade or so, the changing world and local weather patterns have made the matter one of great debate. Mount Wai-'ale-'ale, one of the Hawaiian islands and 2 places in Columbia are vying for the 'honour'. A good article on this debate can be found here. The Guinness Book credits Mawsynram with the highest recorded rainfall in a year at 26,000 mm in 1985. However, in recent years there has been less and less rain and amazingly, both Cherrapunji and Mawaynram have shortage of water in the winter (courtesy of extremely poor rainwater harvesting). This interesting article on the haphazard methods of measuring the rainfall may explain the high recordings of rainfall in the past, but it is certainly true that for more than 6 months of the year, there is almost continuous rainfall.
We decided to set the debate at rest for ourselves by making a trip to Mawsynram about a month ago. On a Sunday morning we set out with Amy taking a hand at the wheel after a long time as the roads were almost empty. That was a great opportunity for yours truly to enjoy the beauty without bothering about the road (except for the rare occassions when another vechicle appeared and we almost lost our lives!!). I will not attempt to describe the landscape as words will not do it justice. But scenes like the one below were unfolding every 50 metres or so and we were moved.
It was a cloudy day and though we are now getting used to it, driving into a cloud still remains an awe-inspiring experience (as well as one that is extremely difficult to capture on film!!)
Mawsynram may or may not be the wettest place on earth, but it certainly is a land of waterfalls. Nearly every turn of the road revealed a new and unique one and we were fortunate to stop at one of the most beautiful of them for our picnic lunch (thank you, Amy!). As we sat and watched the thin film of water falling like a curtain of silk and heard the gentle splash as the droplets fell into the water below, we felt a surreal atmosphere in the place. How wonderful that God has made these places and times when we have the opportunity to stop running and commune with Him in the depths of our being.
The pictures do not do justice to the beauty of that moment.....
We travelled on and discovered more waterfalls and more beautiful sights. As we returned through the clouds, I thought how wonderful it would be if we could spend our lives in a place like this. Where perceiving God seems so much easier and a life of quietness and contemplation seems so much closer. That is our prayer, O Lord...