I find planning for a road trip a thrilling experience by itself! Should I tick a place in my bucket list or consider new suggestions from friends or go by that picture…so many ideas! and then one day in 2011 while flipping through a magazine, I read about ‘the living root bridges’ of Meghalaya. A quick round of discussion with family and friends and our summer holiday plans were finalized. We were going to Meghalaya!
Our group had a thrilling time in Meghalaya. However, when we were advised that a visit to Double Decker is a rough trek not advisable with family, we were a bit heart-broken. Whoever said….where there is a will there is a way… was right because we didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I and my friend Ravi decided to visit the Double Decker on our last day in Cherrapunji…thanks to our families who allowed us to go alone and themselves stayed back at the resort to enjoy their time.
Along with our guide Bhadang, we started early in the morning at 6:30 am and after 45 minutes of a cool drive reached the starting point of the trek in Umsohphie village. At 7:30 am we started our journey with the first part over a 3 Km concrete footpath constructed in 2007 up to Nongthymmai village. About half an hour later, we reached Nongthymmai village which greeted us with its simple yet charming environment. There were traditional Khasi (this area is part of East Khasi hills of Meghalaya) houses and very sweet and happy villagers. One couple with their new born baby was all smiles which made us wait and share their happy moments….kisi ki muskurahthon par ho nissar!
As we moved forward, we came across beautiful flora and fauna of the lush green jungle and encouraging sign boards indicating that we were on the right track. It is easy to lose your way in these unknown jungles and we were happy Bhadang was there to guide us. At 8:45 am, after about 75 minutes of trek, we reached a river which had to be crossed through a very narrow footbridge made of many iron rods tied with each other. It was important to put every step carefully…the bridge was unexpected but this was perhaps the most entertaining part of the trek. The view of the river from the top of the bridge was splendid. The sound of crystal-clear water forcing its way through the amazing rock patterns was music to our ears! Bhadang then pointed to the top of a hill far behind us and informed that it was our starting point. Wow! We felt happy that we have covered a lot of distance but still a long way to go. After some time, we were on a small root bridge and could admire its beauty and the tranquility of the jungle around there. Moreover, our curiosity to see the Double Decker was now on a high. After about 2 hours of trekking through a beautiful jungle, this was the motivational push to go for that last mile! Soon we were at Nongriat village, the last village before our final destination. A couple of minutes more and we were at the doorsteps of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge!
After 2.5 hours of a wonderful and tiring trek the sight of the Double Decker was indeed no less than the peak of Mt. Everest for us. We had seen small root bridges on the way but this was absolutely amazing! It was as if the entire place had been kept neat, clean and perfect to receive us with all its charm. Actually, we decided to take a closer look at the Double Decker later because a waterfall nearby was too tempting to resist. The water was pure, cold and very forceful which refreshed our tired bodies in nature’s spa. At this point, frankly nothing else mattered except for the bridge that still had to be explored!
The Double Decker is a combination of two root bridges one above the other. It has been created by weaving and entangling the roots of a banyan tree. The Double Decker forms a strong path across a river whose water flows down from Cherrapunji’s Noh-kalikai fall, the fourth highest waterfall in the world. Local villagers utilize this bridge to cross the river for their daily activities and therefore it is a lifeline for them. As there was no one else at that place, we could explore with complete freedom and to our satisfaction…we had earned it. For those moments, we owned the Double Decker. However, these enthralling moments were running out as we had to return. After about 1 hour at the Double Decker, we bid farewell and were on our way back at 11am.
Cherrapunji is world famous for its rains but there was none on that day. The sun was now blazing making the weather hot and humid. We had great memories of the Double Decker to keep us in good spirits but surely we wished the rain gods to bless us! After about 2.5 hours of return trek, we were back at the base. The only thought was…”Oh Yes! We did it, buddy”. Our Meghalaya tour would have been incomplete without this double cherry…a perfect finish. The Double Decker was magnificent but the experience of the journey was equally exciting. We were proud of our achievement but felt humbled by the hard-working labourers and school children who travel the same path several times daily. We could feel the pleasure of a peaceful jungle, the happiness of simple, heart-warming but strong-willed people, purity of unpolluted rivers and air so fresh that can make us want the same in our own city. A beautiful location in India like the Double Decker living root bridge in Meghalaya should not remain in oblivion and hidden from the world….unless it is best left untouched in nature’s care!