Friday, July 8, 2016

Pages from my diary– Nongriat in Meghalaya; more than just Root Bridges

God is simple. The world is relative. If you try to find absolute value in worldly things, you will always restless. 

May 09, 2016 (Nongriat, Meghalaya)
double decker root bridge nongriat meghalaya

In certain places you feel time has stopped. You don’t want to do anything, and without doing you are hurtling through a process of nature that is sometimes so overwhelming, you can’t help but to wonder about this incredible diversity, which is so sundry, and at the same time everything is so precariously balanced. I never thought Meghalaya would give me such an overpowering experience that I stopped moving altogether and stayed at one place for so long. I believe in moving, I never stay at one place for more than 2-3 days, I keep moving to places during my travel, and savor the changing landscapes, but here I stopped everything.

The whole day I used to sit at my room or outside my balcony, watching hide and seek play of rain and sun. Rain here comes in feat, like a teenage lover, throwing tantrum for a whole and then shows her sunny side. But she is mercurial, again gloomy for now and again. She is fresh, not depressing, melancholic yet hopelessly poetic.

I was sitting at my rest house, looking at distant waterfalls and enjoying tiny raindrops constantly pouring from yesterday when I came here. The rest house was located near the famed double decker root bridge. I could see people, sometimes with family, sometimes solo, crossed the bridge and then went back. Nobody came near the rest house, a few may be, but people just came to Nongriat for this bridge.

Nongriat is a small village in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. There are 44 families lived in this small village. The life for them is tough as twice or thrice a week then had to cover 3000 steep steps to reach neighboring village Tyrna, from where they go to Sohra market for their weekly shopping. The place is famed for these two living root bridges, especially spectacular double-decker suspension bridge called Jingkieng Nongriat.

Yesterday I met a young Canadian guy who was traveling in India for last 6 months. I was surprised to see his knowledge about places. He seemed to me as an intelligent guy, quite friendly as well. I had my binocular with me, so I watched him in the morning bathing in a stream filled gorge under the double decker bridge. He stayed in a cheap homestay named Serene that I first initially didn’t know and took an expensive one. (Rs. 250 at my rest house). When I said about the rest house, he said whatever came under Rs. 300 was okay. Once he came to my rest house and impressed with the setting.

May 10, 2016

I had a pretty rough evening as mosquitoes wouldn’t let me sit outside, but surprisingly mosquitoes started to disappear as the night approached. There was not electricity in the whole village for last two days, so no phone. I had a fantastic candle light dinner alone. The food was awesome, and to my amazement, he served me a sophisticated way. He also gave me two candles, so I read for an hour and then slept early.

Double-decker bridge and beyond

I found Nongriat an amazingly peaceful place, especially if you walk beyond the famed double decker bridge to the forest. Sometimes while walking around the forest I felt if I would be glad to see at least a person because the ambiance around the forest posed an eerie feeling. I visited the place onset of monsoons when almost the whole day rain never stopped. I walked for hours in the woods, took bath in some small waterfalls and enjoyed the diversified vegetation. I never saw such diversified vegetation in my life, such a beauty! The forest was full of various trees, plants and ubiquitous ferns and mosses. Everywhere I saw variety of mosses on the rocks, logs of trees, on the stem of trees, literally everywhere.

From an architectural point of view, root bridges are amazing. These are totally made up of secondary roots of Ficus Elastica tree, otherwise called rubber tree. These roots are interweaved on both sides or directed from a single tree to the other side. It is not unique to Nongriat; in various villages in Meghalaya small root bridges are made by locals for convenience, and truly a natural art form. These bridges or roots take 10-15 years to grow fully to become a functional root bridge. These bridges are extraordinarily strong, strong enough to support at least 50 people at a time.

Important Information about Nongriat

Trekking information

Surprisingly it is not an easy trek, even for people like me who are habituated in trekking. The trek starts from Tyrna Village, around 20 km from main Cherrapunji market, from there Nongriat is 5 km away. It is 3000 steps climbing down, descending 2500ft and then climbing up again.

Picture courtesy Untravel - Nidhi Thakur  

Before Nongriat, you will find two small villages Nongthymmai and Mynteng, which are sights to behold. I liked the small huts like houses on a raised platform, built of wooden plants with slanted tin roofs. The verandah of almost every house reflected colonial style architecture.

The excitement stopped when I reached a wire rope bridge, strung precariously some 40ft above a stream. I thought I came to a wrong place because I couldn’t see anything on the other side except dense forest. I tried to cross but it swayed dangerously, so I returned back. The size of boulders in the streams, roar and the sway made me nervous. In the end I had crossed the bridge but soon discovered there was another rope bridge to cross. It was perched even higher and river below had bigger boulders. But this time I had crossed it with a little fear because I saw yet another bridge to cross after that. So, it was total three bridges to cross to reach the first root bridge.

Where to stay?

I stayed in Nongriat Rest House, which is owned by Nongriat community. There were three double bedrooms with attached bathrooms, but you have to carry water from outside. The rest house was on the other side of double decker root bridge and quite a good location where you could see the bridge and forest. It’s Rs. 250 per day excluding food. They didn’t offer my food but after requesting them to cook some food for me, they served me surprisingly great food, even with decorated with salads.

Most of the foreigners stay in Serene Homestay because of its popularity and comfort. Serene costs you Rs.200 per day excluding food. The guesthouse has some really elaborate breakfast menus but they only serve their guests, even they don’t serve tea for outsiders. Another guesthouse named Santiana charges Rs. 100 per head with basic rooms.

Important Notes

I suggest you to stay in Nongriat for at least 2-3 days to soak in ambiance.

There is an excellent trekking route that goes directly from Nongriat to Nohkalikai falls. You have to walk past Rainbow Falls and just walking straight. It is tough because ascend is sometimes too steep. I didn’t do it but I met three people who did successfully.

If you want to come back on the same day, it is better to start it early. From Sohra to Tyrna, you will get a government bus at 9am-9:30 am. If you want to start early in the morning, you have to squeeze yourself in one of those taxis that ply from Sohra market to Tyrna.

Carry as minimum as possible. For a non-trekker, it’s an arduous trek.

You don’t have to carry food. Everything you will find in the village albeit in 30% extra cost.
The villages are extraordinarily clean, in fact almost every Meghalaya village is amazingly clean. So, please don’t throw plastic bottles, wrappers and your garbage in the forest.

A guide will charge you anything between Rs. 300- Rs. 500. Although the path is quite straightforward, a guide will tell many hidden stories during the journey.

If possible carry colored pencils, pens, crayons, books, notebooks for children. There are plenty of them in the villages.

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