“Nongriat”: Home to the living roots bridge a man-made and natural wonder in itself. I say man-made because it was initiated and first created by the villagers and the natural as it grows every single day and becomes stronger and stronger as the time passes by. If you thought that there’s just one of these, then you’d be surprised to know that that’s not true. They are a lot more. Talking about these beautiful creations of nature how’d you like when I say that these bridges come with the beautiful backdrop of natural crystal clear blue water pools and strong gushing waterfalls. And then the top of it, if you are in for some luck you might just be overwhelmed with rainbows around these.
Overview of the Living Root Bridges
Deep inside the tropical jungles of Meghalaya, enveloped in cloud and rains most of the year are these man-made natural wonders known as living root bridges hidden. The roots of ancient rubber trees, native to the northeast region were trained by the Khasi tribe members to grow in such a formation. These root bridges are a stable alternative to wooden bridges, which tend to decay and get destroyed during the lengthy monsoon seasons that this region is accustomed to.
They say it takes around 15 years for a new root bridge to become strong enough to bear the weight of people crossing it. However, it will continue to grow and strengthen even more over time. Some of the bridges are believed to be hundreds of years old, although no one knows their exact age. And the most famous one “Double-decker root bridge” on it’s the way to becoming triple-decker is more than 200 years old.
The tangled webs of roots are almost eerie and wouldn’t look out of place in a fantasy world.
Double-decker Living Root Bridge
Meghalaya’s most famous root bridge, the “double-decker” root bridge, can be found in the vicinity of the wettest place on earth — Cherrapunji (also known as Sohra) in the village Nongriat which lies 2400ft below the starting village of Tyrna and takes a climb down 3700 steps. There are 11 functional root bridges in this area, situated around two and a half hours drive from Shillong.
Reaching Nongriat ( Double decker-root bridge)
Tyrna(the base village) is 20km from Cherrapunji(Sohra). It is best to start early in the morning if you want to visit both the double-decker root bridge and the rainbow fall and return on the same day as the sun sets by 4:30 p.m. here. You can either take a local bus or a shared cab to reach Tyrna.
There are guides who can be hired but again not required since this is a well-marked trail but they can be of help to cross the hanging iron bridges. The initial stretch is through small villages and pretty gentle descent until the point where the trail forks out towards the longest single-decker root bridge and the steps ahead to the double-decker root bridge are smaller in width, thus requiring a little more attention while climbing down.
Fitness level required for this Trek:
The 3 km, 3700 steps, and the 2400ft height might make you think twice before taking up this trek to see one of its kind root bridge and think that only the fittest should do it. But in reality, you don’t have to be super fit. However, if you have any joint or mobility issues, or are not in decent physical condition, definitely don’t do it (at least not until you are better or take the doctor’s advice). The trek is very steep in parts and will put a lot of strain on your knees and calf muscles.
About the Trek
The double-decker root bridge is situated about 2400ft below the village of Tyrna in the Nongriat village. The trek itself can be divided into 2 parts:
1. The most challenging one and the steepest part is the first part, down the hill to Nongthymmai village.
2. The second part involves crossing narrow steel suspension bridges over raging rivers, is much flatter and less taxing.
But both the steep descent and the 2nd part can be unsuitable for anyone afraid of heights.
Cherrapunji Weather: When to Go
Cherrapunji holds the record for the most rainfall in a calendar month and a year. The rainy season starts in April and continues until October. Most of the rain is received during June and July. It rains intermittently during the rest of the monsoon months. When I did the trek in mid-February, It rained mostly at night and slight drizzles during the late afternoon. You’ll find a useful rainfall chart here.
In January (the dry winter season), the average maximum temperature is 16 degrees Celsius/60 degrees Fahrenheit. This drops to around 5 degrees Celsius/41 degrees Fahrenheit at night. In July (the wet monsoon summer season), the average temperature increases to a maximum of 22 degrees Celsius/72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. At night, it drops to an average of 18 degrees Celsius/65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Due to the region being accustomed to continuous rains you’d be tempted to wear raincoats or carry an umbrella / or wear winter clothing ( as it can even get cold) during the climb down. But keeping the humidity in mind, as the region is accustomed to rains, it’s preferable to wear as little as possible and not layer your self and even better would be to wear quick-dry clothing. As any chances of the clothes drying off are very meager if you do plan to stay there for more than a day and the added weight of the wet clothing would be discomfort while climbing back up.
In regards to footwear, choose comfortable shoes that have a good grip. (Sandals are fine, particularly if they’re proper walking sandals).
What to Take
- Carrying a poncho or umbrella is a good idea.
- Some food and water, as you’ll only find a couple of shacks selling packaged drinking water and snacks along the way from Tyrna to Nongriat village. (You’ll be able to get basic Indian vegetarian meals at Nongriat.)
- Do carry mosquito repellent as mosquitoes are present in the evening.
- It’s possible to go swimming in the natural pools at the double-decker bridge, so bring appropriate swimwear if you want to do this (it’s refreshing and changing rooms are provided).
- Head torch or a small torch, as it gets pitch dark at night for you to be able to see anything. The only help would be if its a moonlit sky, but not so if it’s cloudy.
- Preferably a waterproof rucksack or a bag with rain cover.
Again, do be aware that everything you take adds to the weight though, and you’ll feel it when hiking back up the hill.
Stay options in Nongriat
There are a few guesthouses and homestays in Nongriat village that offer very basic accommodations. If you have the time and don’t mind some discomfort (minimal facilities are provided), it’s worth staying a night or two as the surrounding scenery is spectacular. You can trek to waterfalls, natural swimming pools, and other root bridges from the village.
The one that we stayed in was called Chally’s Guesthouse run by Chally himself. The best part about it is that its a little secluded and just beside the Double-decker root bridge as if it’s your personal!
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