We get up leisurely and have breakfast. And by 9.40 am we leave for the Double Decker Living Root Bridge (DDLRB). Mr. Eric, a Khasi joins us as guide. During the course of the journey, he briefs us a lot about the culture of the Khasis.
The road is quite narrow but is in good condition. After passing through several breathtaking turns, views, country side etc., we finally reach the last point of the road. And there a board tells us that the “path way” to the DDLRB is 3 km long.
Now let me tell you something different. Being a building construction consultant myself, I know very well that in case of STEPs, every STEP must be of equal height. Be it your own house, or any building, or even a monument on a hill top, the STEPs must be of equal height. If the height has to be changed, it can be done only after LANDING, i.e. a big STEP, where you keep at least both the feet in a single STEP. Then only it will be comfortable for walking. Otherwise you had it. Your walk in those STEPs will suck your joints, knees and legs. It becomes too tiring to walk in those STEPs. And you see, in any open public places, normally the STEPs will be made up of cement concrete, or just by keeping stones & boulders. So the walk in these STEPs becomes too tiresome.
Now let us proceed. The 3 km pathway is actually misleading. It is a walk of around 5000 STEPs, most of the times UP and sometimes DOWN. No question of plain pathway. Now I tell you, this pathway will literally suck your blood. You will be really testing your legs, joints, knees and your walking capacity. If you are old-aged, having difficulty in walking etc., I advice you, not to try this DDLRB.
Hey, don’t lose heart just for that. Just look at what we did. We started our walk (trek) at 10.30 am. In the beginning there were some houses on both sides of the steps. Later on it was a mild forest. We went down, down and down thru many steps, could be more than 2000. It was cemented steps all the way. Then there was a dead end and there were diversions on left and right sides. Actually there was a village and these two diversions were going inside the village. Some of the members of our group were slow and hence the guide was with them. We were quite fast, and reached there much ahead of them. Our commonsense told us to take the right turn. We asked the villagers also, but there was the language problem and hence some communication gap. After walking through in the right direction for some more steps, we came across two living root bridges. They were quite lengthy and sturdy. As they were single, we knew that we should have taken the left turn instead of right turn. So we came back to the original spot.
This is where I said, don’t lose heart. Because, I think even if you are not all that physically fit, you can try to see the single root bridge and come back. And if you are on a group, and if other members are going towards DDLRB, then in that time, you can see this Single Root Bridge and come back. And in midway, if you think that you can’t make it to the Single Root Bridge also, then you can always return back from there. There is no question of losing the track as you have steps all the way and there is no risk from any angle what so ever. It is absolutely safe.
Now let me continue from the dead end. So we take that left turn. The steps pass through the village, and after that, some jungle also. There are steps made out of boulders. Then we crossed two rivulets through iron rope ways. The steps were up and down at many places. And finally after crossing one more root bridge, yes, we were there. It was time to celebrate. We were right in front of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge.
This bridge connects two villages namely Nongriat and Umshiang. The first bridge is at a lower height. Probably during rainy season, it would have submerged. So the village people would have built the second one on top of it. That is what we thought. Both the bridges are quite sturdy, and were as good as any concrete bridge. I just appreciated the villagers for their innovation and living with the nature.
The Living Root Bridges are made from fig, banian or a sort of rubber trees. There can be only one tree on one side of a river, or there might be two trees on both the sides. The roots from the tree are passed thru the hollow trunk of beetle nut trees and made to land on the opposite side. This process is repeated several times, and the roots, sub roots, sub-sub roots etc. are made to repeat the similar process. So the complete bridge including the railings, are made using the roots. Sometimes even small stones and boulders are also used in the floor of the bridge to fill up the gaps in between. This whole process takes 15 to 20 years. And it becomes stronger and stronger as the years pass by. And these bridges serve generations and generations as the tress have life span of several hundred years.
We spend more than an hour at the DDLRB, and with the goal accomplished, we rerun to the vehicle. Our onward trek took us around 110 minutes including the visit to the single root bridge and the return trek took us around 90 minutes.
We come back to the resort, have a late lunch cum dinner and call it a day.
Friendly Advice: If you have time and energy, then make it to the DDLRB, because it is worth all the strain you take. It is something out of the world and one does not come across such things every day in life. If not, at least see the Single Living Root Bridge.
Before I conclude, I must tell something more about Cherrapunji. The original local name of Cherrapunji was Sohra, and is renamed like that now. Sohra is now the wettest place on earth? No, definitely not. In fact it is totally wrong to call it as wettest place. It is the place with highest rain fall in any given year. You can feel that, only if you go during rainy season. During other time of the year, if you go to Sohra, you can’t even think of its uniqueness. There is a huge water scarcity everywhere in Sohra. The top layer of the soil is not red but somewhat greyish. It does not absorb or hold rainy water. And underneath that soil, we can see solid rock everywhere, in cliffs, valleys etc. Hence there are no thick forests. We can see only Shola forests with small trees. So the water does not penetrate much into the ground, and hence there is water scarcity during summer months.
And what has the Govt. or our elected representatives have done to overcome this problem? The Indian politicians are same everywhere. Just fit for nothing. Even Hazaar Anna Hazares can’t do much, I think. The Govt. is most lethargic solving people’s problems as well as making Sohra look like a rainy city to tourists. Yes, what they could have done? They could have built check dams, water tanks, mini dams, water bodies etc. If there is a will, there will be a way out always, we know. And that will is missing among our politicians everywhere. So when you visit Sohra, don’t expect it to be wet or rainy. It is just cold and dry during non rainy season.
An avid traveler, BP Bhat is among few travelers, who instead of scratching the surface of a destination, prefers to go deep and wide to understand, explore and soak in the beauty of a place. His quest for travel has taken him to all extremes of main land in the Mother India; from Leh to Kanyakumari and from Guhar Moti to Kibithu. He likes to explore all the important tourist places in India, State by State.