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The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya

Tripoto
14th Jun 2015
Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya by The Highland AdvenTourist
Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya by The Highland AdvenTourist
Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya by The Highland AdvenTourist
Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya by The Highland AdvenTourist
Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya by The Highland AdvenTourist
Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya by The Highland AdvenTourist

The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour

Have you been to the clouds, walked into them, felt them touching & kissing your feet??

Shillong – Meghalaya is known as The Clouds Abode for the same reason! In school when we were asked which is the wettest place on earth? Pat came our answer…Cherrapunji in Meghalaya! But do we learn about geography from textbooks? Yes & No. I was the weakest in Geography at school, partly because of the fact that our mind is trained to see our benefit, why do I care if it’s the wettest place on earth? I ain’t going there & nor do I live there!!!

 But you learn geography when you travel & as the quote goes, “The world is a book & those who don’t travel read only a page”.  How did I come to know about this place?? Geography taught me well & so did Lonely Planet which described the Living Root Bridges as one of the top 50 things to do when in India. There were a lot of places that I went to before I reached to the Living Root Bridge as I had a few days in my hand… In fact I even crossed the Bangladesh border!!!

I started off with the Wah Kaba falls, Nokolikai falls, Elephant falls on the first day where I had hired a car to do some local sightseeing. Now considering the fact that it was actually summer you would think that these falls would not have any water, but do not be mistaken for you are closer than you think to the wettest place in the world & the rains strike as they please, so I was actually surprised to see the flow on these falls & the sheer number of locals who come to visit this place. The Nokolikai is not to be missed no matter what, the sheer drop of water will mesmerize & keep you holding your breath. The Elephant falls again is 300-400m walk down & the three step waterfall is nothing but a picture perfect location, in fact when I was there a bridal photoshoot was going on here & all I wanted to do was run away with that model. I think my to be wifey will kill me for that… but as they say, darr ke age jeet hai, ladki k peeche uska meet hai”!!!  In the evening we stopped by at the Ward’s lake a beautiful picturesque place with ducks swimming in the lake, pretty flowers, some couples hiding in bushes & some boating in the pristine waters while others walked its pavement. The rains play their part well & make sure everytime you feel, aree lake mein kya hai, yeh to dekhaa hua hai, it just rains & transforms the whole place into a beautiful boulevard setting. The 5 ki chai is your companion as you contemplate the peace within you. Ohh & I have to tell you about this place where we used to just love the food… The Bamboo Hut, its on the main road just as you are entering Police Bazaar & try the momos, veg spring roll, soups anything, the most prompt service, amazingggg mouth-watering food & beautiful ambience.

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 1/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist                                      Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 2/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

I started off with the Wah Kaba falls, Nokolikai falls, Elephant falls on the first day where I had hired a car to do some local sightseeing. Now considering the fact that it was actually summer you would think that these falls would not have any water, but do not be mistaken for you are closer than you think to the wettest place in the world & the rains strike as they please, so I was actually surprised to see the flow on these falls & the sheer number of locals who come to visit this place. The Nokolikai is not to be missed no matter what, the sheer drop of water will mesmerize & keep you holding your breath. The Elephant falls again is 300-400m walk down & the three step waterfall is nothing but a picture perfect location, in fact when I was there a bridal photoshoot was going on here & all I wanted to do was run away with that model. I think my to be wifey will kill me for that… but as they say, darr ke age jeet hai, ladki k peeche uska meet hai”!!!  In the evening we stopped by at the Ward’s lake a beautiful picturesque place with ducks swimming in the lake, pretty flowers, some couples hiding in bushes & some boating in the pristine waters while others walked its pavement. The rains play their part well & make sure everytime you feel, aree lake mein kya hai, yeh to dekhaa hua hai, it just rains & transforms the whole place into a beautiful boulevard setting. The 5 ki chai is your companion as you contemplate the peace within you. Ohh & I have to tell you about this place where we used to just love the food… The Bamboo Hut, its on the main road just as you are entering Police Bazaar & try the momos, veg spring roll, soups anything, the most prompt service, amazingggg mouth-watering food & beautiful ambience.

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 3/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist                                                                      Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 4/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

The next day we had the 3 point tour of Mawlynong Village said to be the cleanest village in Asia, Bangladesh border & today was the first glimpse of our Living Root Bridge. This Living Root Bridge as Timothy Allen describes it is for people who would not be able to see the actual bridges at Nongriat Village as this has a very small descent down. I was waiting to see what was this all about & after a Rs. 10/- ticket & 10-15 mins. of descent we had reached the Mawlynong root bridge. The bridge as described was a labyrinth of roots, rubber tree roots routed through a guidance system perfected by the Khasi tribesmen. The bridges take about 15 years or so to gain the strength to hold the weight of say 50 people at a time & grow stronger by the day. As they gain strength stones are embed into it which the roots cover thereby making the pathways to design a unique labyrinth of roots & stones. The art has been perfected by the descendants of the Khasi tribesmen & has been passed on to the next generation with the first of the bridges dating back to more than 500 years old. I got some amazing shots while we were ascending up & here you have the Bangladesh view point from a Bamboo Bridge that they have constructed which takes you to top view point. The Bamboo bridge structure takes you back to those childhood days when we used to build tree houses as this bamboo bridge takes you almost four floors in height just on a believe it or not bamboo structure with just 450 inclination upwards.. It’s too much fun even my mom made it to the top so you have no fear! Our next stop was the Mawlynong village said to be the cleanest village in Asia… You could skip this actually as every village in the N.East is like the cleanest village & they have a very good sense of hygiene.

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 5/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist                                   Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 6/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

Our road next took us to Dauki the last village on the border on Indian side between India & Bangladesh. We neared the checkpost & our driver suggested that we go for a boat ride in the lake ofcourse on the Indian side. Now there lies a major difference between Indo-Pak & Indo-Bangladesh Borders… what’s the border you would ask? Well we got a STONE as a border, pathar k iss paar India & pathar k uss paar Bangladesh, so you could see all Bangladeshi people just frolicking in our waters while there was a Indian checkpost manned by three jawans from our side, their side was manned by just one. Usko full confidence saala koi Indian idhar ghanta cross karne walaa hai ! No wonder you find so many Bangladeshis in India, no objection there of course. My Mom even crossed over to the Bangladesh side & came back, we have started calling her Bangladeshi Nationality from that day onwards. Well hundreds of fishermen can be found here in Brahmaputra which flows from India into Bangladesh & we were amongst these people for a good 35 mins. in the boat ride & even tried our hand at Angling. The bridge that links India to Bangladesh check point is so amazing. This side of the bridge you belong in one country & the next moment you are in a neighbouring country, that’s nuts!

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 7/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist              Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 8/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

The day wasn’t over still, we visited the Mawsynram cave from here. Now I have been to the Pandav caves in Mahabaleshwar, Panchmarhi & I have visited the limestone caves in Andmans but I have never seen anything of this magnitude. The cave was like a trek within a trek, with rock formations that could just send you to depths of thinking, how many years did this take to build up? The cave formations show below are just a reminder of how changes have occurred to natural rock formations due to water & erosion. Surprisingly there was space for atleast 100 people inside with multiple outlets from which water was seeping down the rocks. Scary it was & I am crazy to take my mom to places like these but she is always two steps ahead of me in these kidas that I do & this location is a no-miss location no matter what, you will love it!

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 9/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist                         Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 10/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

The Living Root Bridge Tour Starts Today!!!

I started my day at 5.00 am in the morning, my driver comes to pick me up sharp & today I am heading alone to the Double Decker Root Bridge. My family has taken off a day prior to me to reach home & my Mom only knows that I am going to a place where nobody goes or dares too.. The description I have given her is this, I am going to descend 4500 steps at 850 vertical inclination, I will cross two more tin bridges that can pass just one person at a time which have a vertical drop of 100 feet with flow of water that has equal velocity when you let open a dam & then I will walk 2 kms. to reach the Double Decker Root bridge at Nongriat. My mom & Bro finally feel I have completely lost it & leave for home.

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 11/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist                             Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 12/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

Its raining today as I sit in the car, I feel its passing clouds, but little do I know I am inching closer to the worlds wettest place – Sohra or Cherrapunjee. I have a jacket, dryfruits, DSLR & a survival kit since I know not many people are going to be here so early in the morning. These clouds ain’t passing for sure as they were staying & the pouring was incessant cats & dogs. I couldn’t see a thing outside my window, it just became freezingly cold & 2 hrs. later we finally found a place that had opened up for breakfast & tea… Jaan mein jaan aayi & that is when we started moving ahead, the rains just opening up the whole quota they had brought. I had a DSLR a phone, cash, no umbrella & the biggest thing crossing my mind, what if I don’t get to shoot any of this. I was scared but slowly as they say luck favours a few I started seeing the clouds clearing up. I reach the base village at 8, I have read enough & its time to do it now. I start from the Tyrna village which is the base point for starting the descent & its 8.00 in the morning with kids starting to go to school. I am the only one descending while the villagers are ascending upwards. Every one greets you with a smile & hello for they knew that only a brave few have the heart to go where they come from everyday. Its still drizzling & 10 mins into the walk I see 3 waterfalls just next to each other in the mountains ahead of me. This view is nothing short of what you must have seen in the film Godzilla or King Kong where the actress is being offered as a sacrifice to Tore Kong ! I quickly take some dim shots fearing for my dslr & phone but knowing that while coming it could get even more worse than this.

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 13/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist              Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 14/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

I see the stairs & the sheer drop hits me. Now I have trekked in the Himalayas so I am used to this but when you know the drop ahead is such that one small mistake & you are head first into the valley atleast 1000ft down you will be scared at every step. The rains don’t stop & I keep descending, villagers passing me & within an hour I had managed to reach the first root bridge called the Rityamen or the Long Root Bridge. I ask some villagers the direction & ask them if they have an umbrella they could rent, they point out the direction in which I am supposed to go. Five minutes ahead & I see a water flow that just makes my heart skip a beat. The road to reach there passed through a waterfall & here I was hiding below a rock completely drenched & somehow saving my DSLR & phone & still trying to capture the pics. I knew I could not tell my story in pictures & so took videos of this entire journey which I have posted on Youtube. I start climbing the first root bridge, I am speechless at the flow of water below, the labyrinth connection of roots, the bamboo step bridge to reach the root bridge & I see a bridge just next to it which I decide I shall take back to return to Rityamen village from where the other path led to the Double Decker Root Bridge. 

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 15/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist               Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 16/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

The Long Bridge was sturdy as a horse & that gave me the confidence that lets go back through the other bridge & that’s where I had made my mistake. I climbed up, it looked scary as the bridge was just being built & it would take many years before it would gain that strength, I am scared as I am already half way. I have a backpack that’s weighing me down, I can neither go forward nor back & I can only keep one step ahead of each other at a time with only the roots on the right to hold on… what’s on the left? A steep fall guaranteeing sudden death based on the flow of water below. I somehow keep inching ahead, scared but without an option. I reach almost the end & then I can’t see a bamboo step bridge like the prior one I had gone on which mean that this was still not to be in use. I was almost at half a tree height, going back the same route meant risking death in its face & so I had decided to use my knife, make cuts into the trees & then use my feet to reach down… My heartbeats must have touched a 150. Shivering I just sat down as soon as climbed down contemplating that I wouldn’t do anything like this on the route ahead. I move ahead after completing 3000 steps descent to Rityamen & I am still left with a 1500 steps or a 2 km journey.

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 17/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist              Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 18/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

The rains have definitely reduced & I now start walking on flat lands with occasional steps taking me deeper into the forest. I reach a bridge that’s built from Iron rods, I am more scared of man-made structures than natural ones. I see two people crossing the bridge one after the other and conclude ki bacch to jaunga hi pakka!! With my phone in video mode I keep shooting what would probably be even my last moments as the bridge wobbles. What I see can only be described by these pictures, I have never seen waterfalls this crazy, rivers not flowing just gushing & throwing off anything in its path. I could look down, but I had balls of steel & if you intend to come here make sure you got them too! I cross it & keep walking further ahead & next 15 mins I am again at a similar iron rods bridge, similar feelings but more grave as now the flow has increased 10 times more. I am in the land of King Kong or Jurrasic park & there is no mistaking that. I cross this to my disbelief with a cam in my hand, DSLR around my neck, backpack & rains again pheww with views that will last me a lifetime.

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 19/22 by The Highland AdvenTouristPhoto of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 20/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

I cross it and find a small shack, I ask this kid 14 approx. who can speak fluent English for a cup of chai, he starts chatting up with me & tells me about some secret locations that he has discovered here in the mountains which are hidden caves. That cuppa of tea is a life saviour, the view worth a lifetime, the memory of that shack & the guy will stay forever for he had dreams, he said I don’t like this place, I don’t know what you travellers find so beautiful in this, it rains throughout for days, we climb 3 hours everyday for a simple thing. Its perspective I thought, for people like us this would be what heaven can be described & for him this was his hell. He knew about the Internet through some fellow travellers & said would I help him out to advertise his guest house if he could some day make it. I said I would be glad & promised him the next time I came here I would do so with a lot of travellers like me. I borrowed an umbrella from him & he told me the next 10 mins. would be my destination, The Double Decker Root Bridge was just 10 minutes away sand enroute I would find one more living root bridge. I did which had a hut that was perched next to the root bridge which served tea & maggi to everyone... 

I had arrived at Nongriat village. I saw 3 foreigners sitting by their guest house, the first 3 travellers I had met in the whole journey. I came near the double decker root bridge I see just one, I am dumbstruck & I am like where is the double decker bridge so I ask a local girl there & then she just pulls me a bit ahead & suddenly Eurekaaaaa, I see the Double Decker Root Bridge, perched on top of each other roots as strong as 10 times of our steel bridges, bridges that were 500 years old & here I was witnessing history, genius & man-nature working in tandem. I have seen heaven & this was here. I just sat there looking at those waterfalls & bridges for the next hour. After my eyes were at peace my recordings & shots done, I was heading ahead to the final root bridge which was 20 minutes ahead & I had read about this in the blog by Timothy Allen & so I was not gonna miss it. The next 20 mins, took me through a series of steps up & down each that was covered with a foliage of wet leaves from tress red in colour, every step felt I was closing in to heaven. I crossed a small football field & before I knew I was climbing some steps to a huge rock & I knew this was it. 

Photo of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 21/22 by The Highland AdvenTouristPhoto of The Living Root Bridge AdvenTour - Shillong, Meghalaya 22/22 by The Highland AdvenTourist

The final tin rods bridge was leading me to the Mawsaw Root Bridge which had bamboo step bridges to get on it… I knew this meant there was no going forward. I knew my journey ended here, but then this is when I felt… my journey does not end here, it starts here. In all the things I have seen in the world this was the closest spiritually to the creator I have felt, this is what feels in nature, you are the predator or the kill. Its that feeling that makes you live everyday. I have seen heaven & there is no other heaven than this. My driver was too happy to see my face when I came back after climbing almost 4500 steps up & the best thing the rains had given up on me, they knew I would find a way & while climbing up it just became sunny. I was slowly drying off & now sweating but the camera shots I got while coming back had no words… The waterfalls the descent which I could not see when I was going down just came alive in front of me… 7 hours had elapsed  by the time I had gone & my driver was more than happy to see me alive.. I am glad I survived & I am glad that I lived…

Meghalaya- The cloud’s abode, Truly is.

The Highland AdvenTourist signing off  !!!

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