The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya is an innovative way of using nature’s abundance for connectivity. The bridges are man made by weaving in the aerial roots of Rubber Trees around a Betel Tree truck placed across a stream or water body. The roots keep growing out and entwining the trunk and the bridge is elongated to the desired destination taking about 10-15 years to completion. The roots thicken over time and the bridge is further strengthened with stones, sticks, leaves, bamboos and other items serving the purpose for hundreds of years. While most of these bridges are single decker there are a few which have two layers earning the name of Double Decker. Trekking to the Double Decker Root Bridge near Sohra (Cherrapunjee) was high on my agenda during a trip to Meghalaya. This is one trek where descent precedes ascent.
Trek Start Point
We drove down to Tyrna village about 12 kms away from our modest homestay in Sohra. After a quick biscuit and tea break at the Bros and 2 Sis’s Shop we started our descent down the 3000 steps. Sticks are available for Rs 20/- but frankly it may not be required. 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.
Longest Single Decker Root Bridge -Jinkieng Ri Tymmen
This bridge is a short 10 minute walk away from the fork, follow the arrows towards “Jingkieng Ri-Tymmen” . This bridge is supported by 2 rubber trees on either side unlike the others where the bridge attaches itself to the ground. As locals pointed out; this bridge is about 120 years old, sturdy and still serving the purpose for the villages on either side.
I would suggest that this bridge is visited before descending downwards. Most people are exhausted on their return and this bridge does not appear to be as spectacular compared to others.
Double Decker Root Bridge of Nongriat
The glass of lemonade had charged us up and we briskly descended towards Nongriat village. On the way, we crossed 2 hanging iron bridges. I could feel a flutter in my stomach and a little weakness in my legs at the beginning which soon dissolved into excitement as I walked ahead. The descent is steep and the steps small which at times is a hindrance.
There are 2 homestays in Nongriat and here where people choose to stay overnight to get a close feel of the forests and waterfalls. There is a food stall as well for a bowl of Maggi or a glass of lemonade. The root bridges are sturdy, hardly giving the feeling that they were woven with roots from the nearby rubber tree. The second tier was facilitated since the lower one would often get submerged in water during the monsoon months making it difficult for the local residents to cross over.
The third is in the making and will be done in due course. We sat around the natural pools below the bridge; it was a beautiful sight which left me wondering how mesmerizing it would be during the monsoon months. After spending an hour around the double decker root bridge we headed further upwards towards the Rainbow Falls.
The path to Rainbow Falls though defined is not cemented and is a mix of alternating ascents and descents as well as crossing two long iron bridges which seem to sway gallantly overwhelmed by the number of people walking on it. I was amazed at the speed at which I was becoming a pro at crossing these bridges.
We walked along the hill side often stepping on a bed of bay leaves which seem to be growing in abundance in this part of the country. After about 1 hour of ascents and descents some steep and a few gentle ones we reached Rainbow Falls. It was a beautiful sight from the top of the hill, the turquoise blue pool of water was soothing to the eye. The waterfall thundered down into the pool wearing the natural rainbow sashay with pride.
After the initial moments of awe, we slowly trudged down over the rocks towards the turquoise pool. The nimble footed enthusiastic bunch of students who passed by us were enjoying a swim and some even climbing up the lone rock to get a up and close feel of the waterfall. I comfortably perched myself on a rock; resting my back against another immersed in nature’s handiwork.
Trekking Back to the Starting Point
The return journey was arduous and exhausting; the most difficult being the last stretch. The steps inclined at nearly 80 degrees appeared to be unending and I paused every now and then admiring the beauty of nature; chit chatting with local children who were out on a school trip. A gentleman informed us that there is a defined path from Rainbow Falls to No Khali Kai which though a boulder jump in places is quite a visual treat. Estimate 50% extra time for the return journey
What kind of fitness level is required to Trek to Double Decker Root Bridge?
Anyone with a fairly active lifestyle and not having cardiac or asthmatic issues can make it to and back from Double Decker Root BridgeWhile the descent is fairly simple walking down cemented stairs; the upward climb is a bit of a challenge since the stairs appear to be never ending after an exhausting day. Would recommend; 30 minutes of brisk walk and trudging up and down 5 to 6 floors for a month prior to the Trek to prepare physically.
How long does it take to complete the Trek?
The completion time for the Trek is a function of the fitness level of the person. The time estimates below are for the journey to the bridge and falls.
- Start Point to Diversion for Longest Single Decker Root Bridge – 45 mins to 1.5 hours. This may take anywhere between 1 hr to 3 hours during return
- Single Decker Root Bridge to Double Decker Root Bridge in Nongriat – 30 mins to 1.5 hours
- Double Decker Root Bridge to Rainbow Falls – 1 hour to 1.5 hours
- Round Trip to Double Decker Root Bridge and back – 5 hours to 7 hours
- Round Trip to Rainbow Falls and Back – 8 hours to 10 hours
Tips for the Double Decker Root Bridge Trek
- Start the trek as early as possible if the intention is to trek until Rainbow Falls. Would recommend 7 am or earlier to spend more time with nature and avoid crowd
- Wear Comfortable shoes; take small sips of water through the journey
- Visit the Longest Single Decker Root Bridge on the way down.
- Try to trek to No-khali-Kai beyond Rainbow Falls so that the arduous ascent can be avoided. Hire a guide for the route if necessary
- Carry a pair of clothes to take a dip in the natural pool near Rainbow Falls.
- Contact North East Explorers for planning this trip or write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @northeastexplrs . They did a great job with mine and the young entrepreneur from north east will surely make you comfortable.