By Marbakynti Shati
Badaplak Majaw, known to friends as Badap, is an explorer of the indigenous breed. Born and brought up in Sohra amid the rolling hills, the 32-year-old tour guide has always responded to the call of the wild.
“I credit my grandmother for this. It was she who would forcibly take me with her to the jungle when she went to look for firewood. She showed me the forest pathaways and secrets of the wilderness,” he had said during an encounter at the double-decker root bridge at Nongkriat in East Khasi Hills.
As he briskly climbed the steep stairway on the way back from
the double-decker living root bridge, he had lit a cigarette and throughout the climb he had smoked intermittently.
Talking to him later about his explorations of the wild, Badap said he felt a deep connection with the ethereal beauty of Meghalaya. Initially, he would visit unusual places all by himself and explore the forests and the waterfalls. Then he would do a mental mapping of the place.
“Wherever I went I got in touch with local hotels or homestays and suggested to the managers the places I visited. The managers, in turn, would suggest the places to tourists. In case of a tough terrain, I would guide interested tourists to the places. That is how I became a guide,” he said.
Badap runs Paradise Tour Guide based in Sohra. The lean stature, long hair and a rock star look make Badap an unusual guide and he looks more like a lost soul in the wilderness. But as he speaks about his explorations and knowledge about the forests of Khasi Hills, one gets enamoured by his passion for the stunning beauty and virgin forests. Nothing misses his eyes. The wild flowers, the butterflies, the weeds and the unknown creepers, Badap takes note of everything.
“There is a type of snake that you get in the jungles here. It is black in colour and it has a peculiar smell. I can recognise it even from a distance,” he said and again thanked his grandmother for teaching him the indigenous ways to co-exist with nature.
He can also tell you the names of the different trees and about the forest ecology in Sohra on the trek.
Narrating about his adventures, he said he often comes to Nongkriat trekking over 3,500 steps and during monsoon, “the beauty is breathtaking”.
“The water in the stream almost touches the hanging bridges and it looks dangerously fascinating,” he said.
Asked how he took up the job of a full-time tour guide, Badap said he is fascinated by the inquisitiveness of some travellers who want to know “everything about Cherrapunjee and other places”.
“I am zealous about informing outsiders about the place, my place. And when I get visitors who are equally enthusiastic about knowing the wildlife here I do not let go of the opportunity to show them things. This is how I started guiding them through the tough terrain. This encouraged me to guide more people through to the unknown beauties of Khasi Hills and here I am,” he laughed as if belittling his endeavour.
His Facebook page, Paradise Tour Guide, gives a vivid picture of his sincerety as an adventurer.
Badap, who always wanted to be a tour guide, has already explored and taken explorers, mainly from abroad, to Khlieh Kynrem, Mawparew, Kshaid Diengdoh, Kshaid Lyngksiar, Janailar, Mawsawa, Mawkyrngah, Khmat Kharai, Kshaid Tlai (formerly known as Ksai Sada), Kshaid Wah Lyngkien, Wei Sawdong, Pung Kshaid (known as Kjat Nohkalikai), Kjat Deinthlen, Kshaid Noh Mylliem and David Scott trails, among others.
The tour guide said he prefers to explore places alone first. “I go to the places alone and explore the terrain. This way I get an idea about the place and its terrain. Only then I suggest the places to tourists,” he informed.
Badap said winter is the best time to explore Khasi Hills for first-timers. “Summer too is not a bad time but you have to take into account the temperature change in different places. Monsoon, however, is the best season to explore the beauty but for amateurs, the forests become a difficult terrain,” he explained.
Asked about government support at a time when the state was planning diversification in the tourism sector, Badap answered in negative. The young adventurer does not have any plans for the future and wants to take life as it comes.
The explorer has another side of himself. He is a trained ksing player and drummer.
Badap started playing the indigenous drum when he was in Class VIII and has participated in and won many competitions. He has also participated in Meghalaya Icon Chapters II and III.
Badap said “music is his other love” besides adventure. “I feel a special connection with the forests and nature here. As a child too, I loved to wander around. I am doing what I like to do the most,” he said.