Bridge that breathes - Journey to Living Root Bridge

Imagine a bridge you are crossing, has life. A bridge that can be trained, A bridge that can be stronger over a period of time. A bridge that can be built but grown as well.

Hard to believe but this is a reality in Meghalaya.

A small state in northeast part of India. Meghalaya means abode of clouds and the name is perfectly apt. Meghalaya is home to Mawsynram and Cherapunjee, the highest rainfall in the world. Tropical forest, waterfall, deep valley, Meghalaya is truly a nature lover paradise. Crossing a stream, the river is always challenging but the local tribes Khasi knows how to overcome these challenges. By building a bridge from roots of rubber tree aka Living root bridge.

Ficus elastica tree (Indian Rubber Trees) is found in a dense tropical forest in Meghalaya, particularly along with river bank.A living root bridge is formed by guiding the pliable roots of the Ficus elastica tree across a stream or river and then allowing the roots to grow and strengthen over time until they can hold the weight of a human being. Then young roots are sometimes tied or twisted together and are often encouraged to combine with one another.

In Meghalaya, there are many living root bridges but the most famous is the double-decker bridge, because of its unique design.

Double-decker living root bridge is at Nongriat a small village. Journey to Nongriat requires a trek to 3500 steps (No, I didn’t count, it's all local guides said), mostly steep descend.  

How to reach - From Sohra (Cherapunjee), reach Tyrna village (13 km), roads are narrow but manageable. From Tyrna you will have to trek down to reach Nongriat

Plan - We planned to trek down to Nongriat, stay there overnight, and trek back to Tynra next morning. Once we reached Tyrna, we parked our car at the parking lot. The parking fee was 100 rs for one day.

It took us 2 hours to reach Nongriat. En route we took lots of photos, made videos, otherwise it could have been 1 or 1.5 hrs trek. I started wondering why many people considered this trek as difficult. I got the answer the next day when we started ascending to Tyra. Anyways if you are a regular trekker then its a moderate level of trekking. The route was scenic, we crossed bridges, suspension and living roots both. The sound of the water stream around, birds chirping made the trek more enjoyable. In some area, there are steep descend, but taking small breaks helped.

By the time we reached Nongriat, it was 5:30 pm, we found small homestay right next to double-decker living root bridge. The room was small but manageable considering the area. There were many travelers from different part of the country and after tasty dinner, we had eventful night sharing our travel stories over late-night tea.

Woke up early morning, packed out small back and before we started ascend to Tyrna, spent some more time at living root bridge. A small waterfall and natural pool is like icing on the cake, added more beauty to this place.

It is thought that, under ideal conditions, a root bridge can last for many hundreds of years. As long as the tree from which it is formed remains healthy, the bridge will naturally self-renew and self-strengthen as its component roots grow thicker. During this trek, we came across few living root bridges and observed some are provided added support with more wood or bamboo poles.

The emotion of traveler kicked in and started thinking why are we leaving such a beautiful place, where can you find such peace, the beauty of nature. But reality hit us back and we started our trek up to Tyrna. This time it was tiring and we took more time.

Overall it was one of a kind adventure, I do trekking regularly but this time the place made this experience unique and unforgettable.

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