Suspended above the dense foliage of Meghalayan rainforest, glimpses of which can be seen from between the ivory silvery cover of cloud, mist, and rain, hang, several serpentine web of roots. These living breathing centuries old fantastical entities, bridge the walking distance in the perpetually wet tropical forest.
Living Root Bridges of Cherrapunji
These living bridges are an ingenious man-made wonder that take 15 years to take-root. Members of the native Khasi tribe trained the roots of old rubber trees to join hands together to form a stable, strong, natural, ageless, and deep-rooted alternative to wooden bridges.
Situated a couple of hours drive away from Shillong, the root bridges of Cherrapunji are a famous tourist destination. Though there are 11 functional living bridges around the second wettest place on earth, it is the ‘double-decker’ live root bridge, that makes Cherrapunji world-renowned.
These bio-engineering marvel have the capacity to carry around 50 people at a time.
The Umshiang Double-Decker Living Root Bridge
More than a century and a half old, this particular root bridge draws adventure enthusiasts from places far and wide to test their mental and physical strength. The trek to this living bridge that starts from Tyrna village, is arduous and steep at times.
The path leading to the double-decker root bridge is 3 Km long. The root bridge itself is 65 foot or 20m long, with 3,500 steps, and a decent of 2,400 feet. To view the man-made wonder, you need to have strong knees and calves, and should not be afraid of heights.
Unlike its contemporaries, the double-decker root bridge is the only one of its kind. Unromantically, the second level was grown by the local Khasi tribe after an unprecedented rainfall that left the entire first level submerged underwater. The local government is planning a third level, purely to capitalize on the tourist potential of the place.
More of these Native North-Eastern Delight
Besides the double-decker living bridge, there are a few more trekkable root bridges that are not so taxing.
1. Ummunoi Living Bridge – Starting at Laitkynsew village and located at Ummunoi river, this 54 foot or 17m long root bridge is the most popular one among the single-layered root bridges. With a descent of 1,400 foot, this 2km one-way long journey is easy going and leaves a deep impression.
2. Umkar Living Bridge – Starting and located at Siej river, this 0.5km long one-way distance is the easiest one to travel. During monsoon season, a gushing cascade of water adds an extra charm to the living bridge.
Part of the bridge that was destroyed by flash floods is undergoing natural regeneration. Witnessing that process is an experience in itself.
3. Rityman Living Bridge – On the way to the Umshiang double-decker living bridge, grows the longest known root bridge. Located in Nongthymmai village and starting at Tyrna village, this 100 foot or 30m can be covered in 1.5 hours to 2 hours.
4. Mawsaw Living Bridge – Located 20-30 minute away from the Umshiang double-decker living root bridge, this living bridge is surrounded by natural swimming pools. The only kicker, the pools are wild and unapproachable during monsoons.
Swing like the Tarzan or twirl like a Jane, but traversing the Meghalayan rainforest on these living bridges, will be worth the pain.