Like the saying goes 'A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,' our long trek to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge in Nongriat village commenced from Tyrna village. The Double Decker Living Root Bridge which is 250 years old is in a remote village 'Nongriat' and is accessible only by trek. There is no doubt that it is a challenging trek involving a steep climb of over 3000 steps. However, let this not keep you away from this place. Despite being a little challenging trek, it is very much doable.
There is a motorable road until Tyrna village and from here a 3 km hike to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge begins. We crossed two tiny villages which have around 40 homes and small shops set up by these villagers served as hearty refreshments stops. The trek took us through some excellent beautiful green forest and two amazing long iron rope bridges that run over crystal clear blue river. The source of the water is of the Nohkalikai falls.
The natural pools formed here are breathtaking. The iron bridge sways when one walks on it and on the very first one we had butterflies in our tummy. For someone who has a fear of heights, it was scary initially but being a water baby the sight of the turquoise blue water was enough to bring a smile and worked like a charm in conquering the fear and crossing the other ones got exciting.
The pathway to the root bridge is almost 99% cemented and the whole trek could be divided into 3 legs. First leg is pretty easy and less time consuming with long and neatly spaced out steps. Second leg is the most challenging as the steps are really small and the descent is almost vertical. One needs to be careful during this second leg as a single mistake could make you tumble down.
As we finished the second leg, we reached a fork and to our right was a single decker living root bridge- "Jingkieng Ri-Tymmen," the longest of all and is 120 year old. The unique thing about this bridge is that it is the only one to take help from two rubber trees. The rest of the root bridges are all offshoots of a single tree. Only a short seven minute walk from the fork leads you to this root bridge. Backtrack to the fork and the path to your left continues to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. From here it is only 45 minutes and this final leg is not as challenging as the second one.
En route we came across interesting small cemented box like structures and we could spot bees hovering around it. We were told that the smart villagers have opted for an easy way to procure honey that is by trapping the Queen Bee in these cement structures. Obviously the worker bees follow the Queen and start building a beehive collecting nectar making it simple for the villagers. The villagers need not go looking out for honey rather they have made the bees come to their backyard simplifying the process of collecting honey rather than climbing steep ridges and tall trees. These indigenous traps are hard to miss as there are many en route.
This region has abundant bay trees and the entire trek path is covered by dried bay leaves. These flavorful leaves are dried, collected and then sold in the market for as little as Rs.25 per kilogram. We came across villagers wearing tattered or no footwear carrying massive loads trekking all the way. In spite of the hardships that these people face for their daily survival, we still see them wearing a smile on their face going about with their routine. A big contrast to the rest of the so called "urban folks" who have all the comforts and luxuries in life but still seem to wear a frown on their face and find reasons to complain at the slightest chance of discomfort.
As we approached the first iron bridge, we caught a glimpse of an abandoned Living Root Bridge at a distance on our left that runs parallel to the iron bridge. This bridge now defunct was once used by the villagers to cross over the river. Throughout the trek path there are several such amazing surprises and interesting sights that make the whole experience of traveling memorable. This is the beauty of trekking, you never know what wonders are in store for you. These paths takes you deep into less explored territory offering virgin natural beauty at its best. Such experiences make you want to forget everything else, live and enjoy the present moment. Of course, there are others who do not consider the journey worthwhile but are more focused on reaching the destination ruining the entire experience. In the end if they just sulk, whine and complain about how much more distance needs to be covered, its their loss!
|Tiny Settlement On The Other Side Of The Hill Was Our Destination|
The lengthy process of creating such a wonder starts with planting a sapling of the rubber tree. Fast forward 25 years, the tree grows and the off shoots are meticulously channelized to the other side with the help of hollow betel nut tree trunks. Slowly and steadily the bridge takes shape and after 25 years is ready for ferrying people for the next 500 years. This feat is nothing less of a miracle.
In the case of Nongriat root bridge it so happened that the water levels of the river surpassed the under bridge leaving the villagers helpless and completely cut off again. This resulted in them building another tier above the bridge and the Double Decker Living Root Bridge came into existence.
After growing popularity of this bridge, to further boost tourism the villagers are creating another monumental feat by growing another tier to this living root bridge from the same tree. This would promote the Double Decker Root Bridge to a colossal and even more unbelievable Triple Decker Living Root Bridge. The root bridges grow in strength every passing day. As of December 2015, the roots have actually reached the other bank. If you want to see how the Living Root Bridges are grown or nurtured, head to Nongriat within the next couple of years.
The calm waters running under the bridge are so crystal clear and serene that it would make a perfect place to kick off your walking shoes, put your feet in cold water, have unending conversations with your loved ones with a view of the root bridge and to add on, enjoy a free fish spa.
The small cafe at the entrance of Nongriat village serves lunch and thanks to them in this remote location we had piping hot yippie noodles. The villagers are such nice people. They charged us only Rs.30 for a single plate, given the remoteness of the place, they are at the liberty to charge any exorbitant price.This goes on to show how generous and nice these folks are.
There are only 2 stay options at Nongriat Village on either sides of the root bridge. The first one is 'Serene home stay' (PH: 9436739655/ 9615252655) that charges Rs.300 per bed and food at an additional cost. The other guest house (PH: 8575787340) with 4 rooms that have 2 single beds run by the village community. They charge Rs.400 per room and food here too is available at an additional cost. We did not stay here but had a glimpse of the rooms and they are very basic but provide beautiful views of the living root bridge. Also, imagine having the entire bridge to yourself all day and night. If one is not able to carry their bags, word is porter services can be arranged. The descent is relatively easy compared to the tough and draining steep uphill hike.
|Community Guest House|
The very first shop at the start of the trek "Bros N Two Sis's Shop" rents out bamboo sticks at Rs.20 each. This would simply be one of the best lifetime investments that you could make. During the hike, this serves as your third leg.
If you really want to visit the Double Decker Root Bridge but have serious health ailments or are differently abled there is still hope and you can visit the bridge. The solution is to request the villagers to carry you in a makeshift palanquin but kindly make sure that the arrangements are made well in advance.
During the entire trek we crossed 6 root bridges apart from the Double Decker Bridge and 3 iron rope bridges. A reliable guide and also POC for porter services and room reservations who prefers to be called "Batman" can be reached at 9856892992/ 9402399350.
Your only other stay option is the amazing "Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort" in Laitkynsew Village. The resort is 5 km away from Tyrna. This is your only and best stay option in the entire region. They have 3 categories of rooms and all rooms are very spacious, have attached bath and 24 hr running hot water. This amazing property is set atop a hill and offers panoramic view of the village. The resort serves excellent food and is managed and run by very professional and courteous locals. They took care of our every single need in the most efficient manner. Since this area is pretty remote, they provide cab from the resort to Tyrna, the start point of the trek and also arrange for guides at nominal charges. Every evening we had bonfire to keep ourselves warm. They also organize local folk music at a cost of Rs.100 per room.