Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Nongriat, is a tiny village nestled within the hills of Cherapunjee.

Centuries ago the Khasi tribes of this area encountered difficulties when they had to cross the raging rivers. The found a unique solution to bridge this problem 🙂

The roots of a banyan tree were coaxed to grow across the waters, identical to a bridge. Bamboo sticks were used as a support. The roots kept growing in the direction of the other side of the river. Many years later the first bridge was created naturally.

These natural crossings are known as the Living Root Bridges, as they are continuously growing.

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It takes around 15 years for such a bridge to naturally form. There are many such bridges around Meghalaya. But the biggest and unique bridges are the double decker bridges of Nongriat.

You have to personally visit them to see how man can make a miracle from natural resources.

A trek of around 3 to 5 hours will get you there and back. There are approx. 7000 steps to be climbed up and down, back and forth to visit this place.

We began our trek early morning by going downhill. We had to descend using the steps. On our way down we met village folk carrying heavy bags and cargo on their backs, making the climb uphill. This was their daily route.

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The trek route has two river crossings which could be crossed by locally made suspension bridges.

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Both the bridges were similarly constructed with iron rods and bamboo sticks tied together. With every step taken the bridges would swing and sway. The fear of heights was not helping me as I nervously crossed the swaying bridges.

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I dared not look down at the crystal waters, this was taken later.

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After crossing the second bridge, the route went uphill for about an hour and led us to Nongriat village.

A short walk into the forest led us to the living root bridges.

There are two ancient trees flanked on both sides of the river. Between these trees are the roots. There are two levels of the bridge, both are similar looking.

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The double decker bridge is densely covered with leaves and roots at the sides. When crossing the bridge, I can see the bamboo shoots interspersed with the roots of the banyan tree. Both the bridges are sturdy and I feel very safe when crossing them.

A waterfall from a rocky outcrop flows into a calming pool under the bridge.

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I stand away from the bridge looking at the structure in its entirety. The workmanship and brains behind this thought, amazes me.

After an appreciative analysis of the bridge from all angles, we indulge in some fish therapy by resting our tired legs into the water; after all we had to go back.

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Our journey in the reverse order would now mean climbing those steps uphill.

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Before starting out on our full-fledged uphill climb, we make a pit stop to have some maggi and tea.

We reach our starting point by early evening, happy the climb is over.

A day of discovery and physical endurance ends, as we look at the lovely pictures taken for the day.

Things to note

  • You don’t need a guide for this trek as the trail is well marked and goes through the villages.
  • You can stay overnight in the village homestays.
  • Carry water or ORS it will help, if you feel dehydrated during your climb.
  • The steps and paths are not bad but wear good sturdy shoes as the climb up and down will hurt your feet.
  • Wear a cap for the sun and take a raincoat if travelling during the monsoons.
  • Take a change of clothes as the pool below the bridge is fantastic and after the long walk you will definitely want to swim.
  • Buy cold drinks, food / maggi etc from the village shops and help the villagers.
  • Carry a repellent and a muscle pain spray just in case.
  • Do not litter, take your trash back with you.
  • If you have the energy, trek to the Rainbow falls which is another hour away. We did not go as we were exhausted.

What do we know what have we learnt?

The locals made the best use of the resources that was available at the time. It was an intelligent and practical solution to a difficult problem.

Today we have the resources and technology to build sophisticated bridges, but sometimes they are not able to withstand the forces of nature.

The living root bridges have been built using simple tools and green technology. They continue to grow till this day and have weathered many storms.

Man can learn from nature and use it without harming it.

Khublei shibun 🙂

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