9th March 2016, Wednesday…Day (19) Nongriat to Cherrapunjee 44 km
What a beautiful day it was….!
With the breaking of the day birds joined the insects in playing the orchestra. Its shrill peaked with the onset of first rays of sunlight. The feeling of sleeping inside the jungle besides the double decker living root bridge with travelers from all parts of the World was once in a lifetime experience.
Although slept for just 3-4 hours during the night yet was very fresh when I woke up that morning in Nongriat. A pair of dogs kept us guard throughout the night. Arijit was up early as well, so the day began with a walk to the nearby double decker living root bridge first up.
The breakfast was simple but nice consisting of egg omelette, maggi and tea. The hosts duo of husband and wife were nice people and belonged to the same village. They charged me just Rs.150- for sleeping and Rs.150-for food (dinner and breakfast).
The double decker living root bridge was closeby. Arijit and I walked to the bridge and looked at it in utter amazement. Human ingenuity is hard to believe. Even the people of Khasi do not exactly know since how long their own tribe has been building these wondrous structures.
Living root bridges are a form of tree shaping common with Khasi and Jaintia people in Meghalaya. The flexible aerial tree roots of banyan trees are grown in such a way until the roots attach themselves to the other side. The process can take up to 15 years to complete and the lifespan of these living root bridges can last for hundreds of years.
The living root bridges are known to have existed in many parts of West Jaintia Hill districts and East Khasi Hill districts. They are mostly single deck bridges although double decker bridges are also known to have existed at some other places but the most famous one was the I was looking at, the one at Nongriat.
Nongriat is best known for its two living root bridges, one double-decker and the other single decker little away from the village. There is a very beautiful waterfall just an hours walk from the village known as the Rainbow falls.
We stayed at the bridge for over an hour marvelling at the beautiful human creation and natural surroundings. The stream passing under the bridge was almost dried up, I was told the beauty of the place goes to its peak during monsoons when the river flows under the bridge and the surroundings are lush green.
There was a board displaying fees for visiting the bridge, however, may be because we were too early, no body was there to collect the fee.
From the bridge Arijit left for trek back to Tyrna as was to catch a train from Guwahati in the evening. I decided to stay for sometime and explore the village.
Since I was too tired for trek to the Rainbow falls, I decided to head back to Tyrna village where Lalpari was parked overnight and I was already missing her.
On the way back I met two young boys from Mumbai Sanchit and Sachin who were also returning back after spending night or two at Nongriat. They helped me in clicking my pictures, being solo, one always look for fellow travellers who can help in any way.
Although fresh after sleep and visiting the double decker living root bridge at Nongriat and amazing time on the way back clicking many pictures, meeting new people, fatigue was catching up yet I did not want to miss the single decker living root bridge at the first village which was almost halfway up the stairs.
I noticed, not everyone who visit Nongriat, visit this bridge, may be after seeing the double decker bridge, it loses bit of its charm. When I reached this bridge no one was around except a lady who collected a fee of Rs.20- as entry fee to visit the bridge.
Since it became bit hot and fatigue got hold on me, I did not enjoy as much at the single decker living root bridge at the first village as normally I would have. Furthermore steep stairs of about 1800 were staring at me. My knees were wobbling and I was getting breathless constantly. My back was paining too.
Somehow reached back at Tyrna village where Lalpari was parked. I started the trek at 9.30am and reached Tyrna at 2.30pm, a five hour ordeal including an hour or so spent in clicking pictures. Beholding and touching Lalpari was such a wonderful feeling as it was first time during the trip that I had left her alone.
After finding the Lalpari intact hail and healthy, no damage done, I opened the dicky and slept for about an hour. It was such an amazing feeling felt like I had reached my home. A cup of tea later from Bro’s N Sis’s shop drove to Laitkynsew viewpoint. Although the neat pathway, trees and forest around was wonderful no one else was there.
I stayed back at Laitkynsew viewpoint hoping to view sunset but sadly it was too hazy and the view of sunset was blocked by thick haze. Later in the evening drove back to Cherrapunjee. Unlike many other touristy places, Cherrapunjee was different, it did not have usual touristy crowd. In fact it felt I was the only outsider roaming around.
Found a nice restaurant run by a local lady. Asked for fried rice, dal and chapati, which was quite good. I asked the lady weather I could park the car inside the premises of the restaurant and sleep inside, to which she happily agreed. The shops and the market was almost fully closed by 9pm. I drove the car inside the premises, covered and slipped inside the car.
It was a dream come true, never in my wildest of dreams had I thought I would be driving solo to the once wettest place in the World, about whom I had been reading in text books right from childhood and now sleeping inside the car parked at the same place not knowing a single soul in Cherrapunjee, Sohra…………!!!