Bob Powell-Jones

This page is a page dedicated to the stories and memories of Bob Powell-Jones who resides
in Shillong with his lovely wife Dorothy

We thank him for allowing us to share his  anecdotes.   
Please click on the story headings below to find his stories

Tara Tea Estate

Frozen State Pensions

Bob Jones trip to Riangmaw

A walk along the David Scott Trail


 May 7 2011
Below we have a photo of John Nuttall, Larry Brown and Bob plus some beautiful photos of the landscape adjacent to Tara Tea Estate which Bob created


December 8 2005

Bob has sent in the following information on frozen UK State pensions
Frozen State Pensions

Currently some countries where UK ex Pats live have their pensions frozen with no inflation adjustments allowed as opposed to what is enjoyed by those remaining in the UK.

The South African Alliance of British Pensioners has taken up the cause against HMGovernment in connection with the freezing of pensions in certain countries (and not others),which the association feels is highly discriminatory. They have lost the case in the House of Lords, but it is intended to go to the European Court for Human Rights in the Hague.

If you are interested in finding out more or helping please contact Bob Powell Jones at

      or if you wish you can contact the Secretary Eric Byrom   direct

Or Member Rhett Hazlitt

Return to top

August 7 2005
  Bob Jones Trip to Riangmaw
  Larry Brown makes the following introduction

The trip that Bob has so graphically describes is far removed from the Captain Hunt's Cherry Brandy at Mawphlang, The Pinewood Hotel, Crinoline Falls, Hydri Park, Wards Lake,or Shillong Peak, with which many of us are so familiar.
The Riangmaw village consists of only 200 people and the area is cut off from the rest of Meghalaya by steep sided jungle covered hills,filled with elephant,tiger,leopard,boar,black bear and gaur,the giant Indian Bison.
A comment made by a member of the Scientific Exploration Society, who made the trip to Riangmaw in 2001 stated that "The jeep track would have been a challenge for any experienced rally driver" Bobs experience bears this out.
I trust that this trip description will evoke exactly what it is still like in the North Eastern corner.

Thanks  Larry Brown-from the Editor

Bob's Story

I had heard much about the village of Riangmaw from a friend who used to hunt there a few years back. So when he told me that we had been invited to attend a Bang Surot ceremony of a prominent village elder who had died the previous year, I thought that the opportunity should not be missed. A Bang Surot is the celebration of the life by the whole village,which takes place approximately 1 year later &can only be held during the dry season as the whole clan is invited & due to it's inaccessibility it can only be reached at this time.

 The villagers are Linghams & are a sub-tribe of the Khasis of N.E.India.The practice of burying their dead in trees around the village until the Surot could be held was discontinued only about 10 years ago, but the Surot continues & of course is a major event for these tribals

The village is 222 kms from Shillong & is due South West towards the Bangladesh border. We set off at 12.30noon & expected to spend the night on the outskirts of Shallang a small mining town,where we would have to branch off the main road onto a dirt track to cover the balance 42 kms to the village.An uneventful night on the floor of a bamboo hut& woke up to a cold misty morning & after breakfast set off in to the unknown as far as I was concerned.The road  was initially sandy & before long we were all covered in dust.Typical Indian Jungle with Sal trees on both sides of the road.We crossed the first small stream & I thought that my Suzuki would be able to make the village easily.We then came the first real test,The dirt road reached the base of the hill & there was no question of going up the contours,you went straight over the top.4-wheel engaged & low ratio first gear, revved the engine & climbed. Halfway up lost the revs& stalled.Everybody out & eased her slowly back down to the bottom again. Same again but without the 5 others & made it over the crown & waited for the others to walk up the slope .We continued in the same way& crossed small rivers at the bottom of the hills with the jungle getting thicker as we progressed. Stopped for a bite at around 3p.m. we had been traveling for over 5 hours& still left with another hour & a half to go. By the time we reached a beautiful clearing called Puit Biang, we saw our first game. Three large wild boar crossed a disused paddy field 150 yards to our right. Mike took off after them with his rifle but they were too far away.  

Being winter & the dry season  the sun started setting early, so we pressed on wanting to reach the village before night fall as elephants are plentiful & being the rice harvesting season they would be starting to move out once the sun had set.

We arrived at the last river crossing before the village & lurched up the bank up the last small hill & had arrived. It had taken us nearly seven hours to cover the 42 kms from the main road. At this stage I didn't want to think of the return & wondered what we would do if we had a major problem with the Gypsy. We would have to walk out.  


Riangmaw is an Asterix type village of about 40 houses mostly made of bamboo& thatch with a few of the more affluent having corrugated iron roofing sheets.It is on the fringe of the forest,which then opens up into a vast open grassland plateau.The villagers rely on Jhum cultivation(slash& burn) for their staple dry land rice crop,& spend 9 months of the year tending these paddys in the jungle away from the village & living in Borangs( watch towers) in order to protect their crops from elephants,wild boar& other animals.After the rice crop has been harvested,they return to the village until March,when the whole cycle starts again.This is the time they observe the Bang Surot.

After our arrival were given our own container of rice beer stored in a hollowed out gourd& after our dinner of rice and dried meat,we turned in.

The village folk all rise early and the following morning we were up at 6.00.The view was stunning.The plateau stretched out in front of us & only in the far distance could we see the beginnings of the forest again.Small copses could be seen scattered on the plain& these were where the Great Indian Hornbills had roosted the night before& were now moving off to their feeding grounds.In the far distance to the South we could see the prominent peak of Pyndengru and we remembered that we would be heading that way after 2 days to reach the sacred area known as Iaow Aow( pronounced Yow Ow) where it was believed the spirits of the dead rest before finally travelling to their final resting place.

The Bang Surot.   We had arrived the day before the Surot was due to begin & after settling ourselves in to raised bamboo hut.The first of 11 trucks arrived carrying relatives from other areas of the state.They were all open sided trucks with a strong rope attached to the cab,on to which people hung on to.If you didn't get to hold on to the rope you hung on to the person nearest to you. Each truck carried around 50 people.Welcoming shots were fired from shot guns & old muzzle loaders.The music & the drums then started & would carry on almost without stopping for the next three days.In between certain rituals were held in memory of the departed headman, who had been a prominent person of the village & then it was back to eating & drinking of rice beer. 22 bulls were slaughtered for the occasion & we supplied one wild boar,which was well received, but didn't go very far for which we duly given our quota of rice beer.By the end of the second day we felt we needed a break from it all,so we all piled in the Suzuki& decided to spend some time looking for game.It was early evening& we drove on a dusty track for an hour or so South West of the village.Allthough the engine was quiet we saw no game,but plenty of signs of wild boar digging for tubers in the grass.We stopped for a beer& just sat & listened to the evening jungle sounds,which itself was soothing after the non-stopmusic in the village.By the time we decided to return to the village it was dark& beginning to get chilly.The night was clear & those who appreciate wilderness areas would understand the beauty of a Night in the Jungle.We were lucky enough on the return to see a beautiful leopard,who seemed least bothered about us for about 100 yards before loping off in to the Jungle again.We eventually were within earshot of the village again & resigned ourselves to more of the same & ample quantities of rice beer before turning in.We decided to turn in early before moving off to Iaow Aow the following morning.What a hope  

The Trek to Iaow Aow& return to Shillong

Up at 6.00a.m.& feeling dehydrated with all the rice beer,so drank lots of water,before eating a quick breakfast of an oily omelette & some sweet Marie biscuits with red tea,prepared by our host's daughter.We packed some fried rice,onions,salt &awild rabbit which we had shot the previous evening& moved off in the Suzuki Gypsy heading South towards Pyndengru& the fringe of the jungle visible in the very far distance.It was still nippy ,but the sun was out & it promised to be a fine day.The dirt road,used by 4 wheel trucks to remove valuable timber wound across the grasslands heading towards the forest fringe a distance of perhaps 25 kms which we eventually reached after an hour & a half. Now the road cut off in to the forest of mostly thick bamboo& we had to keep our eyes open for elephants. Another half an hour & we had reached the point where we would have to leave the vehicle & start the long climb up to Iaow Aow.We took two rifles for security& set off & this is where the person up above gave us a break. One of our party had forgotten to put his jacket in his rucksack,so we returned to the Gypsy& found the jacket had been wrapped around the spotlight (used for night spotting of game)the spotlight had been left on& had already burnt a hole in the lining.If we had not returned we would probably have lost the vehicle, which would have surely caught fire.

We crossed a small stream& the path started climbing steadily through the bamboo forest. The climb was not too steep & after half an hour or so we came out of the forest & on to grassland.The path followed the top of the ridge, to the left we could see down a fairly steep slope in to a thickly forested ravine & now in the far distance behind us we could just make out the village, with the sun reflecting off the CGI sheets of one of the houses.To our right the forest was still thick with occasional clearings where hill paddy had been grown. Some signs of elephants where bark had been pulled off from some of the trees, but no actual animals. The path continued to climb steadily & the forest started to thin out in to grassland. As we climbed on we saw large slabs lava where there must have volcanic activity millions of years ago. We eventually reached a point where the path crossed a type of bridge with substantial ravines on both sides.We were close to our destination.

We crossed the bridge& once again, the area opened up in to a small open plateau which we crossed and reached the edge of huge escarpment. The drop down to the valley floor was perhaps 2000ft.This was Iaow Aow, the resting place of the spirits, before continuing their final journey.

The place was extremely quiet & the only signs of life was where the Serpent Eagles soared on the updrafts from the escarpment.Their high pitched calls were slightly eerie,but generally the place although remote & lonely did not give off any bad or evil aura in fact just the opposite, it seemed a peaceful place, which has been supported by those who have been there before.

It was now we cooked the rabbit over an open fire & ate our packed rice,& onions. We watched a herd of Gaur in the valley below& relaxed until 2.30 p.m.& then stated the 2 hour journey back to the vehicle. We felt the trip had been worth while.

The trek down was uneventful, except we couldn't find the Gypsy. Being almost dark by the time we reached the bottom, we had taken a wrong turning. We retraced our steps & although we all carried torches I thought we might have to spend the night out in the jungle, which really did not worry us too much, apart from the fact that we had no more food& even though it was winter there were still mosquitoes around. The return to the village was uneventful& we got in at around find all quiet as the relatives had all taken off in their trucks to return home after the Surot& even the villagers had all turned in early.Things were back to normal again.  

The return journey to Shillong:

We started to pack up after breakfast with the idea to move off at around 12 midday & if all went to plan would drive the 10 hour journey back to Shillong & reach home before midnight. As long as we were off the the difficult stretch before dark(about 5hours) we reckoned things would be fine.It was not to be.To cut a long story short & the villagers being so generous with food & drink& reluctant to let us leave& with promises to come again,we finally managed to say our goodbyes & lurched down the first slope which had lead us in to the village 7 days before & crossed the Riangmaw river, which seemed rather higher than when we first arrived.It was exactly 4p.m.we were well behind schedule& to make matters worse it had started to rain, not a good sign. We were down to 4 of us now as two of our party had gone down in one of the trucks to lighten the load, they would wait for us in Shallang & we would then do the easy stretch together.The rain continued steadily& we could see fallen & broken bamboos on the road & on both sides, there had been elephants around. I had taken the wheel since the village & although the going was more difficult in the wet conditions than when we came in,the Gypsy was still doing her stuff well& we made progress, until we came to the first steep slope downwards.A long sleep slope perhaps 1:3 or so with an embankment of 8' on our left & a drop of about 30' on our right.I stopped on the crown of the slope& engaged low ratio 4-wheel drive & eased her downwards.Even at minimum speed I was still descending too quickly,I touched the brakes& the rear of the vehicle slid over to right,I turned into the direction of the skid& had over corrected& the vehicle slammed in to the embankment on my left& the vehicle leapt up in to the air perhaps to a height of 2'& then banged down again on all 4 wheels across the length of the road.We were lucky it could have been much much worse.

Fortunately one of the Party,Habamut,said "Bob would you mind if I took over?"I said go ahead as it had shaken me up quite a bit.I then saw an exhibition of off road 4-wheel driving as good as you will ever see anywhere. "Mut" straightened the vehicle up, there was no mechanical damage, but the left side door had been pushed in, He then proceeded to engage the 4-wheel& turned off the engine.The hand brake was connected to the propeller shaft& thus there was no danger of the rear wheels locking.He then proceeded to ease the vehicle down the slippery slope using only the gears & the handbrake. until we got to the bottom. I had thought I was good in off road driving, this guy was brilliant. We continued in this way, with the rain not stopping & of course night had fallen.We came to the top of another major slope, which under the conditions prevailing even Mut go down.It was not a difficult decision, we would stop overnight .He backed the vehicle on to a bit of level ground,& we spent a pretty sleepless night in the middle of the Jungle inside a cold vehicle with steady rain falling outside. The rain stopped at sometime around 2a.m.& by 5.30 it had begun to get light. There was a thick mist outside & we lit a fire using bits of old inner tube which we always carried for lighting damp kindling& had the first cup of tea of the day.It couldn't have tasted better! we carried on & made it to the roadhead at Shallang without further incident.Had a good breakfast of chappatis & vegetable curry in a small tea shop& sadly hit the tarmac for the 180kms back to Shillong. Got back home again with the wives all very worried as what had happened to us, as we had arrived 24 hours later than planned. Apologies all round ,which were accepted. The next day I phoned my friend John Edwards who runs Tiger tops (India) in Delhi& told him about the trip& would he be interested in sussing it out as a possible tourist destination.To his credit he arrived 5 weeks later& we were off again.After our return we both got Malaria as this was the middle of March& much warmer,but that is another story.

Return to top

August 16 2005

  A walk Along The David Scott Trail  

         kindly supplied by Bob Powell Jones --thank you Bob

A brief History

  1826,David Scott was agent to the Governor General of the East India Company and was given the special responsibility of shaping & consolidating the Company's administration on the North East Frontier.For logistical reasons he requested the Syiem(Raja) of Nongkhlaw State to allow a road to be built passing through his territory from Kamrup in the North to Sylhet in the South(now Bangladesh)A Durbar was held at Nongkhlaw& Scott was impressed by the way the proceedings were held to discuss the Company's proposal. However Scott grew impatient with the long winded proceedings & as the story goes sent over a dozen bottles of rum to speed matters up.These were politely sent back with the message that no spirits would be drunk until the matter was settled,which eventually it was in Favour of the Company.A treaty was drawn up the following day between the British Government & the Cossyas(Khasis) to construct the road with the help of local labour,which would pass through the territory

On his return to Assam, David Scott ordered a survey to be made.The road would start from Rani Godown in the North proceed Westwards to Jirang, take an Easterly curve to Nongkhlaw, thence to Sohiong& then due South to Cherrapunjee& then terminate further South at Chatak(now Bangladesh)The total length of the road would be about 210kms.Consruction started in 1826/27& would continue for nearly three years until due to mistrust& misunderstanding the treaty was broken in 1829 when the Anglo Khasi wars started& lasted until 1833 when the territory now known as the Khasi Hills was annexed, resulting in the imprisonment of the Syiem& subsequent death in Dacca

Click here to see pictures

Present Day.

Little is left of left of the 180 year old road, although traces can still be seen along the original route. The best preserved portion is a 14kms stretch from Mawphlang( 18kms from Shillong) to Lad Mawphlang 38kms from Shillong. I give here a brief description of the first time I walked this route along with four friends.

We took the bus from Burra Bazaar,it left half an hour late at 7.30 a.m.The 18kms journey took an hour after stopping for anyone& everywhere en route finally reached Mawphlang ,being the last stop at 8.30a.m.A small clean agricultural village, previously well known by planters for Captain Hunt's small pub & his Cherry brandy.Sadly both are no more.The country side around Mawphlang,as it is mostly in Meghalaya is beautiful with steep pine covered gorges & potato cultivated fields in the more suitable areas.The Sacred grove is well known to botanists around the world & consists of many species of rare flora.No-one is allowed to cut or remove anything from this grove.

 From the outskirts of the village we followed a narrow path until we reached the beginning of the trail.The trail is about 12' wide and starts descending almost immediately along the contours down in to a deep valley. The cobbled stones are all in good condition & the drainage channels, one can see have been well planned.At about the 2kms mark& just a few yards to the right of the trail,there is an old gravestone with the following inscription: To a child fondly  
call'd Camilla 
Soft Silken Primrose
Fading Timelessly 1843.

No one knows who Camilla was, but probably a child of one the early Welsh missionaries who came to these hills in the early 19th century.

the trail continues down to the bottom of the valley. No signs of habitation except smoke from charcoal makers on the steep hillsides, it is still mostly unspoilt. There are wild chestnut, rhodedendrons & oak species everywhere. We reach the bottom of the valley& find an old suspension bridge crossing the Umiew river about 60 yards wide.It is still in good condition& would have been used for transporting people & goods across this fast flowing river.another 2kms further we have to wade across a stream,no problem during the winter months,but impassable during the Monsoon.Old steel girders show where the original bridge had been, at some time, washed away.

The trail now starts to climb up the other side of the valley.This takes about an hour,an easy well contoured climb.We see few people only the occasional cowherd & a fisherman or two on their way down to the stream we have just crossed.On reaching the top,we see the first village,but little signs of life as everyone is out in the fields.The trail now flattens out& after clearing the village we decide to stop for lunch near a little pool being fed by a small waterfall.Very clean and ideal for a quick dip.We set off after a break for an hour on the last stretch.The going is flat and easy,there are wild camellias & azaleas along the route& huge rock formations where honey collectors search for wild bees nests.Few signs of wild life although we are told there still a few barking deer to be found,& we see occasional Pangolin burrows. History records that tigers were common around the jungles near Cherrapunjee 150 years ago. Sadly no longer the case. We cross two old arched stone bridges, still in excellent condition& can see the care that artisans must have put in to carving the stones. There is no binding to hold the stones together.We arrive at the last slope down, cross the final stone bridge& start the last climb of about 1km to the main road at Lad Mawphlang, which leads to Cherrapunjee. We are horrified to see that on this last stretch the PWD has covered the old cobblestones with aggregate to construct a new road. We hope that better sense will prevail& hope that the alignment will be changed to preserve this last 14 kms of what should be declared an heritage site

N.B.The trek can be walked comfortably in around 5 hours,which includes rest breaks&a halt for lunch.

Return to top

Click on each picture to see it larger - click again to return to the selections


The David Scott Memorial

Close up of wording on the plaque

The Mishmai Falls during dry season, just a trickle,but like Niagara during the monsoon

View of a typical deep gorge

Looking down from the heights of Cherra down to Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal beyond horizon

The sacred stone plinth used for the cremation of the Cherra Siems family

The Circuit House at Cherra