Thursday 1 September 2022

Cherrapunjee: Adventurous Trekking: 7000 stairs: Double Decker Living Root Bridge. (3,500 stairs down, 3,500 stairs up)

 People like me, who love adventure in travelling, love to stay close to nature, breathing virgin air will love trekking Nongriat’s Living Root Bridge in Cherrapunjee.

“3,500 seediyan hai. Pehle niche phir upar jaati hai, phir village aur bridge aata hai

As a student all of us has read that Cherrapunjee, located at an altitude level of 1484 meters (4869ft) is the wettest place in the world. Since then Cherrapunjee was alive in my dreams.

Travelling of Shillong is considered to be incomplete without a visit of mystique Cherrapunjee. There are plenty of places to visit in between Shillong and Cherrapunjee, rich with fall off the mountains in thunderous waterfalls, abundant with forests, natural caves, and a thriving flora and fauna.


Cherrapunjee-Abode in Clouds

Truly Cherrapunjee is abode on clouds, paradise on earth, the home of indigenous tribes and exotic cultures. It was our third day in Shillong and Cherrapunjee was still to explore. I was very excited, keen to find Cherrapunjee of my dreams: hills, fern, orchid and low cloud. The sights and match my imagination.

Land Scape of Cherrapunjee

Cherrapunjee also called Sohra which is known to be the wettest place on earth: Distance of Cherrapunjee from Shillong is hardly 55 km and can be traveled in just 2 hours with the help of shared taxis and local buses plying all day from Bada Bazaar, the main market to buy all sorts of fresh vegetables and fruits in Shillong.

Google Map--  Cherrapunjee to Nongriat--Double Living Root Bridge

Buses and taxis will drop passengers to the main market near the Sumo taxi stand in upper Cherrapunjee. One can find the popular hostels for backpackers and other cheap options like dormitory option for budget travelers. 

What is a Root Bridge and how they are formed?

The root bridge is most commonly found in the state of Meghalaya, and it is one of the major tourist attractions of the state. The root bridge can be formed naturally as well as guided by men.

Roots of rubber fig trees are used to build the most common root bridges, and this practice is most common in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills and carries out from generations by local tribes.

The root bridge is formed by guiding the roots of the rubber tree and often tangling and twisting them so that they can grow and strengthen over time. Sometimes scaffolding is used to provide external support to the roots so that they are capable of holding the human weight.


The bridge formed by the roots easily holds the human weight, and the bridge remains healthy until the tree is healthy. The bridge naturally self renew and rejuvenate itself. Scaffolding can be in the form of Bamboo trees or wires as per the need and area. 

A Hidden Paradise “Nongriat”, is a small village in Shillong known for its famous Double Decker living Root Bridges, Single Root Bridge, Rainbow waterfall and many such natural private pools with small waterfalls. 

Starting point at Village Tyrna

How to reach Nongriat: There are no direct roads to Nongriat. The closest village to Nongriat is Tyrna.

You can hire a shared cab from Cherrapunjee or get a private cab. The cab will drop you till Tryna village. Book your cab in advance for your return journey as Tyrna is quite off the road and you will not find vacant cabs there.

You can get a local cab driver booked in advance from Shillong or Cherrapunjee, to pick you up from Tyrna for your return journey.


The path to the double-decker root bridge is three kilometers long. It has approximately 3,500 stairs and descends and again3, 500 stairs up in return.  The entire trail is a treat to the eyes.


You will find the famous Double decker root bridges here, overlooking a beautiful waterfall and a natural pool. One of a kind to experience.


The Rainbow waterfall involves some more trekking uphill. But the view is worth it. Beautiful blue waters you can't resist taking a dip into.

You will find plenty of butterflies here some are as big as your palm. Huge boulders, screeching sounds of insects, flowers and fruit trees all throughout the trail. If you come from a big busy city, you will witness a completely opposite life here. Rooted to simplicity and far away from urbanization.

Nongriat has two homestays. (Byron's Homestay and Charley's Guests House). Very basic yet clean and comfortable.


Do not expect a luxurious stay here as this place is a very simple and does not have all the modern amenities available.


The food here is delicious and generously served. It's a buffet service so you can help yourself with a good satisfying dinner.


Trekking to Double Root Bridge starts from Tyrana to Nongriat.

We stayed at the dormitory in Cherrapunjee on the 2nd night of our Shillong Tour as I had to explore and take up the most fascinating activity- the trek to the ‘double-decker root bridge’ of Nongriat village on the third day.


Nongriat village lies in Tyrna, is around 15 kilometers from the Cherrapunjee town. The road in the Cherrapunjee town is good but as Tyrna starts approaching the condition of road starts deteriorating.


It was around 6.00 AM when we started our most adventurous and thrilling trekking to Double Root Bridge in Nongriat village.

It took 30 minutes for me to reach the parking of Tyrna village from where the trek to the Double Root Bridge and single root bridge starts. The parking area has a few small shops where one can purchase items like chocolates, water bottles, bamboo sticks, etc.

Though this trek may look stressful, it is not something impossible to do. And even if this place includes climbing some odd 3600 steps the view down there is worth it.


After reaching Tyrna Village we re-energized us with breakfast and warmed up with cup of hot tea at nearby food stall. Few boys were selling bamboo canes to be used as trekking poles, and a few locals were offering services as guides.

Though this trek may look stressful, it is not something impossible to do. And even if this place includes climbing some odd 3500 steps the view down there is worth it.


I was carrying a small backpack and thought it would be wise to bring only the camera bag and drop the rest of the stuff at the shop. The boy at the shop charged 50 rupees for taking care of my bag till the time I complete my trek.


With only a camera bag in hand, I was feeling much lighter and started my trek. As per the locals, to reach the Double Decker Bridge one has to descend 3500 stairs and it excludes the walking in between the stairs and other bridges.


The trek is, no doubt, challenging, long and tiring but it’s totally worth it and I can guarantee that the experience of the trek and the beauty of the surroundings is so magical that it will definitely stay in your memory forever.


I think, before even discussing about how to go to Double Decker Root Bridge and sharing other details, you may need to know if you’re fit enough to do this trek. I would say, yes, you need to be fit for this trek.


The most difficult part of the trek is the stretch where there are extremely steep steps. Climbing these steps while coming back to the starting point will be a good test of your stamina and strength.


But if you do not rush and take frequent breaks during the trek, it is not going to be that difficult. The descent is also quite tricky as it causes a lot of strain on the knees and calf muscles due to the steep stairs. Take it slow and you can do it successfully.


We started climbing down the steps, navigating through a small village first. Pots of marigold in canary, orange and copper- brown lined the steps. This is the easier part of the trek, with the steps nicely levelled and iron railings on the sides to hold on to.

Clouds were moving one direction to another way and clash with each other with unique lightening. Beautiful rainbows were created down to the waterfalls. A unique scene created by nature to entertain tourists. It’s nature’s gift to human on the earth.


From the top, I was seeing thousands of stairs going down, looked like these stairs will lead to the earth's crust. One thing to keep in mind while descending a trek is to maintain the balance as gravity will be pushing down.


In most of the patches, the tourism department has constructed handrail for support yet I was keeping extra precaution. After a 30 minute trek, I reached a small village compound with small shops.


The stick helped me to navigate down the steep descent. Before climbing down a step, I transferred my body weight on to the stick so I didn’t trip on. It is not just the number of steps that is so overwhelming and intimidating, it is also their character- steep, serpentine and vertiginous.

From here the path divides into two-part, one goes to Double Decker Bridge and the second goes to the single root bridge. Since the double-decker bridge is the main attraction of the area, I decided to visit it first and visit the single root bridge while returning.


Double Root Bridge

Finally, after a further trek of one hour and thirty minutes, I reached another village with a signboard showing the direction of the double-decker bridge. Knowing that the root bridge is a few hundred meters more, I was filled with excitement and soon reached the entrance/ticket point of the double-decker bridge.


After paying the entry fees for Camera, I reached the double-decker bridge and was amazed by its construction. Though the bridge was not long, the way it was spanning from one tree to another was spectacular.


Anyway, I reached Tyrna in good time and thankfully also got a lift on a car carrying some foreign tourists. Otherwise transport between Tyrna to Cherrapunjee, although a short stretch, can be problematic.

It felt as though I had arrived in paradise. With chirping birds that began to emerge after the downpour, the double-decker bridge in the middle of a thick jungle, set right across a rumbling waterfall and over a gentle water stream, was a sight to behold.


A short walk from the village is the Living Root Bridge. The first view of the root bridge mesmerized me and made the tiring trek fully worth every drop of sweat and every ache in my body. It felt as though I had arrived in paradise.


With chirping birds that began to emerge after the downpour, the double-decker bridge in the middle of a thick jungle, set right across a rumbling waterfall and over a gentle water stream, was a sight to behold.

The water was so clear, cool and fresh and it was alluring me for relaxing dip. I just made do by sitting with my feet swaying in the water and periodically dipping my face in it.

Ahh, I so didn’t want to go back. It is quite natural to feel like this in the middle of nature, completely off the grid, where one can unburden the stresses of daily life and try to find a rhythm between self & nature.


Two bridges running parallel to each other and made up of roots; it was something I witnessed for the first time. I went close to the tree to see how the bridge was formed, and it looked like roots were braided with each other like a girl's hair.

Local people have placed a wooden plank on its entire length to reduce the direct weight on the bridge. It looked like a sensible decision as the bridge is the main attraction of the area and directly and indirectly, provides a livelihood to a lot of people. There is a small pond near to the bridge and rocks give a shape of a waterfall.


There are a few shops nearby to the bridge, and I went to a shop operated by women with her children, 

helping her in every possible way. I was not sure if they go to school but then climbing 3500 steps every day to go school requires a lot of dedication.


People living in these areas have adapted themselves according to nature and topography and gave the impression that India is not what we see in metro cities, but real India lies in villages.

Anyways, I had a heavy breakfast in the morning, and I was not in a mood to stop until I return the point I started my trek. I reached the double-decker bridge around 10 AM and stayed there for about 30 minutes, clicked photos, shot video, and had a tea. After spending a considerable amount of time, I moved to trek the Rainbow Falls.


Return from Double Root Bridge

I left the double-0decker bridge at 11:00 AM and took another one hour to reach Rainbow waterfalls. I stayed at the Rainbow waterfall for around one hour and then started returning. While returning, I took another 45 minutes to reach the double-decker bridge and again clicked a few more pictures.

I knew that no matter how many photos I click, they can't explain what I saw with my eyes. I went for another tea break at the same shop where I had tea when I reached the double-decker bridge and started returning from the double-decker bridge by 1:30 PM.

Rainbow Water Fall

My calculation said that I would take a minimum of 2 hours to reach the starting point as while returning, I won't be spending time taking photos, but the climbing 3,500 stairs will be a challenge.

If anyone is planning for the double-decker bridge, I will recommend staying there at night.

After one hour and thirty minutes of climbing, I reached the bridge where I crossed the stream, and I knew I had made it to the half-way mark. From the bridge, the real climb began, and now I can see stairs going only upward and no falt path or stairs going down. I started taking breaks after every ten or fifteen minutes of the climb as I was exhausted.


After another 15 minutes of the trek, I reached the point from where the path splits into two, and in the morning, I took the one leading to double root bridge. Now it was my turn to visit the single root bridge. A 15 min of a walk (not trek) and I reached the entrance of the single root bridge.


The place looked deserted as I was the only one at the entrance gate. Again I paid the fees for visiting the bridge and turned off my camera as I was not in the mood to pay extra amount for the camera.


I walked on the bridge to see how it formed. The single root bridge is longer when compared with the double-decker bridge. The bridge spans over a broader water stream in comparison to the double-decker which spans over a small pond.

By the time I completed the single root bridge, it was 3:0 PM, and I had still some 500-600 stairs to climb. I started climbing again and took another 30-40 minutes to reach the starting point of the Double-Decker Bridge.

Khasi Tribes
Two Khasi girl

 A Beautiful Khasi Girl 

Once I arrived there, I took a rest for around 15 minutes, ordered some snacks and hot Coffee to refresh and to gain some energy, and paid 50 rupees to the boy who took care of my bag.

It is interesting to tell here that Sylhet a City of Bangladesh is only at a distance of 48 km from Cherrapunjee.

The End

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