One day, I borrowed a motorbike (Bullet) from my friend who is residing in Guwahati, Assam, and set forth to enjoy Meghalaya alone. Since my school days, the name Chirrapunji was my obsession. I wondered about its record of the highest rate of rainfall in India. However, the least important choice in my list of destinations turned out to be the most surprising experience during this travel! I am saying about the world famous tree, Living Double Decker Root Bridge (Ficus Eastica), found in a simple, North Eastern village Nongriat.
Umshiong Double Decker Living Bridge
This wonder exists in a tribal village, named Nongriat, near Chirapunji, Meghalaya. It reflects the close-knitted existence of man and nature. You can see numerous Living Root Bridges across this region. However, a double decker root bridge is available only at Nongriat. The inhabitants of this area are called Khasi’s , who used to set up bridges across the rivers, using these longs roots. They used clay and other substances to fill the gap between the roots, and thereby, made the bridges strong enough. Nongriat village situates amidst a typical rain forest. And, the living root bridges are the only thing that connects them to other communities. When the river floods during heavy rains, water engulfs the bridge. This was why they made another layer of the bridge above it. And, thus, the Living Double Decker Root Bridge is a real wonder.
How to reach Double Decker Living Bridge
The trekking to Nongriat starts from the village Tyrna. It takes hardly 30 minutes from Chirapunji for you to reach Tyna. Taxis will take you there despite the pathetic condition of the roads. Maruthi 800 is the most common type of taxis you will find there. And, the maximum luxurious vehicle you can get is Swift Dezire. From Shillong to Tyna, you will have to travel at least 2 to 3 hours by taxi, because there is no public transport. Concerning expense, 3000 INRs are the taxi fare from Shillong to Tyna.
Guides of Tyrna Village
You have to climb 3500 cement steps and trek 3 kilometers to reach Nongrait village to see the Double Decker living bridge. As soon as you reach Tyrna village, many local guides will offer you help. However, to reach Nongrait village, you require no support. Although you have to trek through the forest, the cement path itself will work as a guide.
I ignored the guides and moved, but a Khasi boy approached me.
“Sir, would you mind if I guided you to the living bridge of Nongrait?” he asked.
His name was Apbor. He was a graduate student in Shillong and spoke good English. He worked as a guide for earning some part time income. I couldn’t ignore his sincere smile and way of communication. I knew that I could reach the destination without his help. But I accepted his offer, thinking that I could know more about the culture and lifestyle of Khasi people from him. Also, I admired his attitude toward education and decided to help him, at least in that way.
About the trek to Double Decker Living Bridge
We trod the narrow path that dived deep into the rainforest of massive trees and sky-high mountains. There come huge, roaring waterfalls from the top of those mountains! If I make a genuine comparison, the Athirappally fall of Kerala is inferior, even to the second type of waterfalls I witnessed here. I enjoyed the sweet whistling of several strange birds that I hadn’t ever heard in my life until then.
Apbor took me to a gigantic hanging bridge. The rage of the river deep beneath the bridge frightened me. My legs shivered as I stepped through the bridge that has almost half kilometer length. To my surprise, Apbor went through it briskly, like a child.
It was beyond the bridge that the real thrill of trekking started. Once you climb the cliff, you reach an open land surrounded by green mountain ranges. After the open land, again come steep climbs. The sweet odor of jackfruit and pineapple will lure you. You can see some small stalls annexed to houses, from where you can buy essentials like snacks, glucose, and water. On your way, you can see multiple subways and passages that lead to other villages. Although root bridges are common in many villages, they are only single line bridges. You will wonder when you see the abundance of crystal clear natural ponds in the region. Some of you might have already read such narrations in my another article, “The hidden paradise….”, on the Meghalayan trip.
The journey through this forest is not very hazardous. However, you should be cautious about accidental falls because the paths are mostly slippery. Also, one side of your trekking route is a terrible flume that will surely make you vigilant!
Finally, we reached the gateway of Nongrait. I was speechless when I saw the amazing thing, Double Decker Root Bridge! We took the bottom line of the bridge. I heard my heart throbbing as I stepped carefully along that living bridge.
I could see hundreds of small houses scattered across the region. A small grocery shop, a hotel, and an ‘Anganwadi’ are the maximum amenities luxury available there. The hotel offers noodles, tea, and omelet.
The people of the village welcomed us warmly. I gave my biscuits to the kids I found playing in front of the Anganwadi. They were happy, and they thanked me. In fact, the revenue from tourists supports them greatly. You can see how close-knitted their life with nature is. They live happily, not bothering much about tomorrow. Neither do they have big plans for the future. They are fine with what they get today.
I saw Apbor flirting with a girl while I was having tea from the ‘three star hotel’ of Nongrait village. He must have wondered why I was noticing them with my typical ‘Malayalee’ moral eye. He introduced her to me. It was his lover, proposed to marry next year. She was a secondary school pass out. However, I was shocked to hear the fluent English she spoke. I doubt a post graduate degree holder in Kerala has that much fluency in English. I captured as many photos as I wanted from above and beneath the bridge. Apbor, his girl, and the kids were laughing, seeing my excitement.
Staying in Nongriat
Homestay is the only option available for accommodation. If you are fine with the limitations and enjoy living close to nature for some time, homestay is the best choice. You need not book your stay in advance since too many tourists do not come to this place. IF you have a plan to stay, you can inform the matter to the shoppers or guides as you reach Tyrna village. They can arrange a house for you a Nongriat.
I would recommend a 2 to 3 days stay because that will help you experience the real beauty of the nearby places. If you do so, you can enjoy the company of lovable birds, uninterrupted, the wild flow of freshwater, and the rejuvenating fresh air.
Apbor pated on my shoulder. I was enjoying the loveliness of the living bridge and village.
“Sir, we should return soon and reach Tyrna before nightfall. Otherwise, it’s dangerous”. He said.
I noticed that it was already getting dark, though it was only 4 O’clock. Apbor said that I should stay with his family one day.
“Thank you, dear friend, but I can’t accept that offer now”. The flight from Guvahatti can’t fly without me tomorrow.”
I rejected his offer painfully and bade goodbye to the villages. In fact, I wanted to be there for so many days and nights. “I will come back”, I mumbled as I waved my hand to the living bridge and villagers.
You may visit the official website of Meghalaya Tourism Department for more information.