India’s Incredible Trails is an ode to the places in India that are a Superlative “Most” or a Unique “Only” for something in this world.
- Superlative “Most”– Wettest Place in the world/Highest rainfall in the world
- Unique “Only” – Only place in the world with Living Root bridges
While most people know that Cherrapunjee has the distinction of been the wettest place in the world as it receives the highest rainfall in the world, only a handful of people know about the unique Living root bridges found in this part of the world. Cherrapunjee is a small town in the Indian North east state of Meghalaya (Justly translated as “Abode of the Clouds”). My first introduction to this amazing phenomenon called “Living root bridges” was eight years ago in a national geographic documentary and since then I have been in awe of it and amazed that something so spectacular has not become a tourist magnet.
The Living root bridges are handmade bridges , made from the aerial pliable roots of the rubber trees by the Khasi people.The pliable roots are made to grow through betel tree trunks placed across rivers, thereby forming a bridge which the khasi people use for their daily movement. These bridges are mostly single root bridges, but the jewel among these bridges is the unique double decker root bridge (two levels of roots ) which is almost 200 years old and is still as strong as ever.
I finally made the tick in the moonsoon of Aug’16 as part of a 5 day long trip to Meghalaya with a group of 5. A flight to Guwahati and a five hour drive from there, via Shillong brought us to this gorgeous green, and rainy Cherrapunjee. The first thing that stuck me while making the itinerary for this trip was this place had more waterfalls and caves than people, and I had to make a tough choice of which ones to visit in my limited time. We divided our itinerary into 3 days with the first day dedicated to waterfalls, second day dedicated to the living root bridge trek and the third day dedicated to the caves.
- Day 1- Waterfalls (Elephant falls, dainthlen falls and the most beautiful Nohkalikai)
- Day 2- Living Root Bridge trek (Single root bridge and Double Root bridge trek)
- Day 3 – Caves (Mawsmai cave, Arwah Cave)
Day 1: Waterfalls
If you had to see only one waterfall in entire Meghalaya, choose Nohkalikai without any doubt. The height of the fall and the blue pool below are a truly a sight and the best part is the complete non touristy feel near the fall. We spent two hours sitting in a tea shop that faces the falls giving us the most beautiful view and imagining how the same shop would have been commercialized to death had it been anywhere but the North east of India.
Day 2- Living Root Bridge Trek
Access to these bridges are only by foot and involve a full day trek up and down close to around 7000 steps and 10 Kms distance. The journey to these bridges is as beautiful as the destination, with turquoise streams and pools on the way. As these bridges are all on rivers, the location becomes ideal to take a dip in the river and play in the waterfall facing the bridges, adding to the charm of the trek (especially in the peak monsoon, when the falls are at their fullest). While the single root bridges are very easy to reach, the trek up and down to the double root bridge usually result in swollen feet, wet hair and happy faces 🙂
- The Beginning of the Trek
2. The First Stop at Single Root Bridge
3. The Journey to the Double Decker Bridge
4. The Double Decker Bridge
4. The waterfall on the river facing the double decker bridge
5. The Journey back Up
5. The Camp for resting the night after the trek
Day 3- Caves
Meghalaya has the unofficial title of been India’s caving capital catering to caving enthusiasts from around the world. The Khasi hills have a number of caves with a mix of both adventure and history. As always, we had to make tough choices with our limited time and visited only two caves- Mawsmai Cave & Arwah Cave
Mawsmai cave is the more touristy cave as it is the only fully lighted cave. However, if you had to visit only one cave in Meghalaya, then choose the Arwah Cave without any doubt. It has the unique distinction of once been under the sea millions of years ago with the fossils of fish and other aquatic organisms still embedded in its walls. A full exploration of this cave requires head lamps and crawling but it is totally worth it as the cave ends with a shallow beach like water body and a waterfall right inside it- Eerie and worth it!
Cherrapunjee stayed true to its reputation and made this one of our wettest trips – Rain, waterfalls & river dips everyday, fulfilling both its superlative “Most” and its Unique “Only” with the Spectacular Living Root bridges.