1st January 2016
One of the primary reasons of our visit to Cherrapunji was to see the root bridges, especially the double decker root bridge.
|Double Decker root bridge|
What is a root bridge?
According to wikipedia “Living root bridges are a form of tree shaping common in the southern part of the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya. They are handmade from the aerial roots of living banyan fig trees, such as Ficus elastica by the Khasi people and War Jaintia peoples of the mountainous terrain along the southern part of the Shillong Plateau.
The pliable tree roots are made to grow through betel tree trunks which have been placed across rivers and streams until the figs' roots attach themselves to the other side. Sticks, stones, and other objects are used to stabilize the growing bridge This process can take up to 15 years to complete. The useful lifespan of any given living root bridge is variable, but it is thought that, under ideal conditions, they can in principle last for many hundreds of years. As long as the tree they are formed from remains healthy, they naturally self-renew and self-strengthen as their component roots grow thicker.”
The most beautiful root bridge is “Double decker” root bridge in the village of Nongriat village near Cherrapunji visiting which involves climbing 3500 steps each way taking 5-6 hours. Our earlier plan was that only I and Sankara would go down while our families would stay back at the resort. But excitement of seeing root bridges was too much to resist and hence we decided to make a complete family trek.
At 8:30AM, our driver dropped us at the start of the trail. The initial 1.5 km of walk was a steep decline through well laid steps. I knew that my daughter would get bored soon and start complaining. She had done only few easy treks of couple of hours before. Though she liked to travel and enjoy nature, she does not like to make it “hard”!! In order to keep her engaged, I hatched a plan. The task was to count the steps till the root bridge. That kept her busy throughout the journey!! She became very excited.
|Path while going down|
Getting down is always easy though it hurts the knee a lot. Within 45 mins we are at the end of the steep decline and had reached the base of the valley. Here a small detour would take to “longest living root bridge”. Since our destination was double decker root bridge, we decided to visit the longer one while returning back.
|Hills of Cherrapunji|
The path was now though gradual slopes. Soon we reached the first rope bridge to cross. While it was not new to me, but it was a new experience for Chaya and Tanu.
|The first cable bridge|
Soon we had to cross a longer and higher bridge. That was quite a task as the bridge was longer, higher and wobbled a lot. The stream running beneath also added to the adventure. The stream had beautiful natural pool with crystal clear water. An amazing scene to watch.
|The second cable bridge and water pool|
After crossing the stream, we had to climb a bit. At one place the top portion of Nohkalikai falls was visible. The stream that we crossed before was from that falls. We had visited that falls on the previous day. It would be a scene to watch the falls during rainy season. A reason to visit Cherrapunji during monsoon!!
|Water trickling down Nohkalikai falls|
Very soon we reached the double decker root bridge. The sight of the bridge gave a feeling of thrill and excitement. We were the first ones to reach the place on that day. That have us the privilege of enjoying it without any disturbance for some time.
|Chaya and Tanu posing at Double Decker root bridge|
The question arose why did the villagers construct double decker bridge. Apparently, the first bridge was not enough during rainy season when the stream overflowed and hence they built one on the higher side without knowing that it would be a tourist attraction one day. We also saw the third one in progress (It would take several years to finish). But that is only for tourist purpose!!
|Clear water in a pool near Double Decker root bridge|
I had heard about beautiful the pools near the root bridge. I walked alone while other relaxed at the root bridge. A 20 minute walk brought me to the pool which had clear waters. There was also a rock with fossils. I could not understand anything from it!!
One can also stay near root bridge. A lodge in the village can house few people. A small hotel also serves snacks and drinks. There are some good hiking routes in this area!!
|Tanu posing at longest root bridge|
People were thronging the bridge when we started our return journey. Since our spirits were high we also visited single root bridge which is known as the longest root bridge.
|Longest root bridge|
The last climb up was tougher for Chaya and Tanu. It was slow but managed it without much incident. At 3:30 PM, we had reached the road to wait for our driver to pick us.