I guarantee that a visit to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge will be unforgettable; if not for the beauty then for the hike itself.

Double Decker Living Root Bridge? One may be wondering what I am talking about. Well, my family and I were on a 5-day trip to the north-eastern state of Meghalaya in India. We had, on the previous day, reached Sohra (erstwhile Cherrapunjee). You can read about the journey to Sohra here. The second day of the trip was completely earmarked for the hike to the famous Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge.

Well, what is a Living Root Bridge? In very simple terms, it is a bridge that has been handmade from the aerial roots of trees. But this definition does not do any justice to the ingenious manner of its construction. Long before modern material was available to the local Khasi people, they had devised an ingenious way to build bridges that would help them cross waterways and connect different villages. Thus they created the Living Root Bridges; locally called jing kieng jri.

The Khasi (the natives of Meghalaya) plant Rubber Fig tree (Ficus elastica) on either side of the banks. Over the course of a over a decade, the people thread the roots of the trees across a temporary bamboo scaffolding to interconnect the gap across. Over this period, the roots grow strong and voila; you have a usable Living Root Bridge. They are known to survive flash floods and that too in a low-cost and sustainable manner. So you see, it is really an example of brilliant “natural engineering” šŸ™‚ .

Reading thus far, hopefully has raised the intrigue in you and possibly want to visit one yourselves. And when you do, why not visit the grandest of them; the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge šŸ˜€ .

There are many Living Root Bridges in Meghalaya. Most are one-storey. But the one that we had planned to visit was a two-storey one, thus the name Double Decker Living Root Bridge. This was also why it was unique.

The Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge is located in the Nongriat village. But to reach it, one has to hike from a village called Tyrna. The trail is not an easy one. One essentially starts near the top of one hill, goes down and then goes up another hill finally reaching Nongriat village. The complete trail is paved. However one has to go over 1000s of steps. I have read blog posts saying it is over 3500 steps one way. But my children claimed it was more like 7000 steps one way. Whatever it may be, it is a LOT of steps! And a good part of the trail is pretty steep. But trust me, it is worth doing it. As I had written at the start; the sights are memorable and so is the hike šŸ˜€ .

Here are some of the opening views as you start the descent:

Here is a picture to show you the destination. The white dots showing up in the middle of the hill is Nongriat village. This picture is taken from the other hill where Tyrna village is located. Hence it should give one a good perspective šŸ™‚ .

I did mention there being LOTS of steps. So here are some views of the steps going down.

Don’t think it is all just going down when hiking to the bridge; one has to go up as well šŸ˜€

So what does one do if one gets tired enroute? And trust me, if one is a mere mortal, one will šŸ˜€ . Well, you sit down

talk to each other

and enjoy the views

Nature has so much to offer on this trail. It is not just the hills, clouds and trees that will cheer and refresh your eyes and minds; even “smaller” (only in size) things join in the experience. Here are some of the butterflies that added to our joy.

Almost mid-way in the descent, we reached a village called Nongthymmai. We saw a sign board announcing the presence of the longest Single Living Root Bridge; around 100ft in length. It was a bit of a detour from the main trail to the Umshiang. But we did not want to miss visiting it. So off we went. And we did not regret it. We were awarded with some fantastic views. First we had to walk besides a stream; it was flowing strong given the rains.

And then we were given our first view of the Ritymmen Living Root Bridge.

The bridge was pretty narrow as well as shaky . So only one person was allowed to use the bridge at a time. I waited for my family members to cross it one by one. Here is my wife giving the all clear signal from atop the bridge šŸ˜€

Here is how the bridge looks like when standing at the start of it:

Here is my son crossing and showing off his balancing skills :

The bridge shakes when one walks on it. The structures on the side are also uneven. So it can be an adventure crossing over for anyone with any fear of heights or wobbly structures; especially when you see water flowing quite a bit below. My daughter and I fall in this category. But we were determined to overcome any of our apprehensions. Being a gentleman, I said to my daughter “Ladies first” šŸ˜‰ .

When I finally made my way on it, I managed to capture the scenery around.

Once we were satisfied with the Ritymmen Living Root Bridge, we traced the path back to where we had taken the detour and then headed on the trail to Nongriat village. It was still a distance away.

Before one reaches the village, there are a couple of metal bridges that one had to cross. One is a narrow one and tends to swing.

My wife and son were quick to get over.

Finally my daughter and I crossed over. Here is my daughter crossing:

This section has a few ups and downs. We then come to the second metal bridge. This is a broader and more stable than the previous one.

My wife and I followed once the kids were almost at the other side.

The stream flowing under is turquoise in colour. We spend some time enjoying looking at it. Here is a view from one side atop the bridge:

Again after going up and down for some distance we finally neared the Nongriat village. Before you can reach it, you have to cross over a Single Living Root Bridge. This was reasonably broad and super strong.

We had to walk through the village a bit first. There were sufficient signboards pointing the direction of the Umshiang. We climbed the last set of steps and were finally able to see the stream over which the bridge was built.

Post buying the tickets, we finally got to see what we had come all the way for; the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge!

Here is one of the family standing at the edge just before the stream flows under the bridge.

There is a nice “pool” that is created just before the stream flows under the bridge. One can jump in and enjoy a refreshing dip if one wishes to here. We instead chose to just sit on the side and dip our feet in.

It was very relaxing and refreshing. We even had small fish come and start to give us a pedicure; a well deserved rest and rejuvenation before we started on our arduous hike back to the starting point at Tyrna village šŸ™‚ .

So was it all worth it? An emphatic YES! This is another journey that will stay in our minds forever; not just the sights and the beauty but the hike itself. Since we were doing the hike back also on the same day, it was harder. This added to the experience; thinking back now šŸ˜‰ . We walked in pairs when going back up. Each of us made sure the other kept going; just talking, laughing, cajoling, inventing “games” to keep us going. I feel such experiences increases the bond.

Virtual Tour

Here is a short video that I put through from our hike to the bridge. It will give a good idea of what to expect. Watching it still gives me goosebumps, especially the parts when going over the Ritymmen Living Root Bridge.

Suggestions

First the difficulty part; probably the question that is on top of the mind having read of it. As I said there are a LOT of steps. So if you have any knee or leg problem, then this hike is definitely not for you. So how fit does one have to be? I would say a reasonably fit person can do it. One should be able to walk a couple of levels of stairs without any hesitation or trouble. An important factor is going to be the mind. You should WANT to do it; that gives amazing energy and resilience.

You will also have to decide if you want to do the hike to and back to Tyrna on the same day. If you decide to it on the same day, like we did, then the hike is going to be harder šŸ™‚ . Do not plan anything else for the day. If you have time, then you can choose to rent a room at one of the homestays in Nongriat village to stay overnight. This way you can possibly explore the Rainbow Falls, a 2 hour hike from Nongriat as well. Your legs also get a break.

Take a walking stick for the hike. It definitely helps, especially when climbing the steps. You can rent a bamboo stick at the starting point in Tyrna. This is what we did.

You WILL get tired, unless you have, may be, done an Iron Man challenge šŸ˜‰ . So do the hike at a reasonably pace. Take breaks in between. Do so even if you don’t feel tired; the views are just fantastic.

Almost all the trail is shaded given the tree cover. So one need not take a hat. But carry a water bottle. You can buy water, lemonade or snacks from the shops that you will find in the villages enroute. But we drank from the natural streams when we needed.

Now weather can be important factor for the hike. We were prepared for rain; we carried rain gear as well as an umbrella. So do your preparations. Prayers for not having rain also helps I guess šŸ˜€ . I think the hike will possibly be a more difficult in rains. Be mentally prepared for it in case you are going in the rainy season.

Carry as little baggage as you can; including bottles of water. If you plan to do take a dip in the pool once you get there, do take a change of clothes and towel. There is a place to change nearby.

We saw a number of people deciding not to take the short detour to the Ritymmen Living Root Bridge. I would strongly recommend visiting it. It will probably add 30 minutes of time to the hike; but totally worth the experience.

Most importantly, enjoy the hike itself; look around, enjoy the nature, look at the butterflies, look at the flowing streams, stop and enjoy the magnificent views, take photographs and make memories!

My next post is on the sights around Sohra. You can read about it here.