The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya
Last year during one of my trips to Meghalaya, I happened to learn about the Living Root Bridges from one of our taxi drivers, not only did the name find my interest, but the way the taxi driver described it was equally interesting and fascinating.
So once I got back I googled and read a lot about it. The more I read the more I wanted to go visit this mysterious place. So finally after a little bit of planning I took off to this majestic place.
Meghalaya’s double-decker and single-decker root bridges are unique in the world and one of its kind. The bridges are a brilliant examples of bio-engineering. The secondary roots of the Ficus Elastica trees are entangled in such a way, done so by the Khasi people ages ago, that after many years they grow across streams or tiny rivers to form what we now see as the Living Root Bridges. These root take around 15-20 years to grow into bridges strong enough to hold many people together.
Reaching this place:
Well, to begin with this place is not the easiest to reach. Reaching Guwahati is easy, Guwahati is one of the most prominent cities in the North-East of India, it is well connected by air, rail and bus to all major cities and also some international locations. Once you reach Guwahati, you have the option of either going to Shillong or Cherrapunji directly, we chose to go to Shillong as it is my obvious favorite place to stay. Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya, the state where the Living Root Bridges are located. From Guwahati airport there are several options of transport. My suggestion, if you are alone or 2-3 people, take the Winger service, its basically a big traveller van, spacious and comfortable for a 3 hour journey. They charge Rs 400 per person for an air conditioned winger service. If you are a larger group, hire a car for Rs 2000. We stopped at Nongpo for tea and snacks, Nongpo again is famous for its various pickles available for sale there, we saw an abundance of pickles of various types, my favorite one was the fish & bamboo pickle. I found the rates at the restaurants not very cheap and the food not very yummy, but it works fine as a stop over. On your way we passed the Bora Pani lake, one of the largest lakes and very beautifully maintained, it is kept really clean as well. It took us a good 3-3.5 hours to reach Police Bazaar in Shillong. After a quick check in into our hotel in Police Bazaar, we took to the streets of Shillong in the evening. Police Bazaar is the main hub in Shillong and one can find several taxis and drivers standing there in the taxi stands. As soon as we approached one of the drivers we had a crowd of drivers ready to bargain. We fixed one taxi at Rs 1500 to take us to and fro from the Living Root Bridges. It was a good bargain since it was monsoon season and off season at this time of the year. Usually one can expect the hired taxis for 4 people to cost Rs 2000 – 2500.
Next day we started our journey to the Living Root Bridges at 8:00 am after breakfast. Since we were travelling in the month of August, we were greeted pleasantly by heavy rainfall and why not so, Meghalaya is after all the land of the rains. The roads were not as bad as we had assumed them to be. Apart from a few landslides on the way which caused no harm to the roads, we also came across several tiny waterfalls formed due to heavy rainfall, after which we reached Sohra. Post Sohra the road gets a little bumpy as we took a right turn which headed towards Tura village. It is not even a proper road, it is basically washed out due to heavy rainfall. In total it took us 3 hours to reach Tura, the village from where the trek to the bridges start.
At the Living Root Bridges:
When we reached, the rains had subsided, you we found a couple of shops at the beginning of the stairs going downwards, selling biscuits, chips and one could also hire a local guide if required for around Rs 500, which might be bargained to Rs 400 for a to and fro trip to the Living Root Bridges and back.
We started our trek with the local guide, who unfortunately only spoke his local language and broken English. The first few flight of stairs are properly cemented, wide stairs. As you further walked ahead the stairs start getting narrower until we reached a flight of twisted stairs taking a plunge downwards providing majestic views of the hills around with multiple natural waterfalls found during monsoon season.
We found the local guide helpful since he voluntarily helped us carry one of our bag packs. And since it was raining non-stop there were no locals around to ask for directions, so we definitely would have got lost since the direction markings were not very proper and lets not even talk about GPS guidance. After a certain stretch of stairs we reached a rocking hanging wire bridge, with water gushing below it, it was and absolute thrill crossing the bridge I must say.
In total there are 2 hanging steel bridges we had to cross and a series of unpaved natural stairs to reach the magnificent Living Root Bridges. It took was 1.5 hours to reach to the bottom inclusive of considerable time we spent clicking pictures in the hanging bridges and around. We spent a good 2-3 hours there soaking in the surroundings and admiring the intelligence of these ancient people who had mastered the art of using natural resources of engineering.
On our way up we stopped by a local shop selling tea and omelette. Although funny thing the lady did not know how to make an omelette, so we helped her make one. It took us 2 hours to climb back up the 3000+ stairway.
I felt this beautiful piece of bio-engineering was way under hyped and not known to a lot of people even in my own county India. I hope more people take a journey to this beautiful bridges, it is once in a life time experience for sure.
Some more snaps from my trip: