Monday, February 13, 2017

Hello from Meghalaya and Assam Installment VI

Sixth Day

It was a important day for me and our two children. Today while my wife and mother was to take it easy and rest in the morning session  we have been making them travel relentlessly for last few days) while we three were to go for one of the toughest trek to Living Double Root Bridge at Nongriat village. The toughness can be gauged by the mere fact that it takes over 3500 stairs up and down one way, the altitude loss / gain is of 500 m and the walk is about 3 km on the across a number of hills. In this trek one sees the longest single root bridge and crosses two wire rope bridges and a single root bridge before reaching Nongriat village.

The sun in the hills is very strong and irritating in the hills of Meghalaya. That was also our primary worry. As such we prefer to start early, we decided to start from the resort at 0500 in our car to be dropped at Tryna village, the base for the trek. However, we could actually be dropped at 0530 as the guide that was committed to come to the hotel did not turn up. Cherapunjee Holiday resort was kind enough to give us Cheese Sandwiches, apple and banana as packed breakfast with a bottle of packaged water.

  Our trek started at 0540 after getting a guide at the parking (for Rs 600). Initially it was a village road, mostly plane. Then came a downhill walk over comfortable stairs. Next came a steep downward descent of over 70 degree gradient. The stairs were laughing at us saying, “feel happy while going down, don’t forget we are going to meet you on your return trip going up and make you cry”. After we finished this set of steep downward stairs, it was time to visit the longest single root bridge. Which is a small detour from the route to Double Decker Root Bridge.

Longest single root bridge was almost V shaped and narrow to walk. We enjoyed a trip on it across the stream. It was also interesting to see another single root bridge which has been completed but the roots are yet to become strong for it to be used as a bridge.

After this visit we resumed our walk to our objective. The route took us to two wire stay bridges over turquoise green rivulets. We also crossed a small but very sturdy single root bridge and soon after many up and down climbs / descents reached the Nongriat village at about 0700 hrs.

Emerald Green Water down the Steel wire bridge

Walking on Steel Wire bridge is Tricky but safe
Way down  from The Nongriat village 

A Small but Beautiful Water Fall feeding the River under Double Root Bridge
It is a small village with very basic facilities. There are few home stays here where it is possible to stay amid the locals but be mindful that the facilities are just basic. Things like tea, noodles, etc are available in few shops that exist there. There is a very small entry fee and camera fee. As we were early visitors (rest people that we met here were all staying over at the home stays, there was none to give us tickets (one lady did come later and gave us tickets).

It was just a wow scene to look at Double Decker root bridge. Some people have worked for generations weaving the roots of a single rubber tree at two levels and created a root bridge having not one but two carriageways on two bridges one over the other.  Welcoming us also was a small waterfall with its sparkling clean and cold water. This water fall feeds the small river that flows under this bridge. The fall was very inviting and we did have a plan to take a dip but that had to wait for our photography session to finish.
Double Root Bridge

Double Root Bridge as Seen from its entry

Crossing the Double Root Bridge
The bridge was photographed from various angles taking in to account morning time and the position of the sun. Then we just could not wait and soon we were enjoying a dip in clean, cold water of the fall. After thoroughly enjoying the dip and changing, it was breakfast time. The packed breakfast was testy and adequate. Post breakfast we had a cup of tea in a nearby shop and then our return trip started at 0810 hrs.

Return trip was smooth but when sheer vertical stairs came, climbing up hill became tough and we had to take frequent breaks after about 30 to 40 steps (I remember taking breaks few times after 50 steps also). We felt out progress is slow but we pressed on completing our trek at 1000 hrs. As it stood, we took just 4 hrs and 40 minutes, that too after spending over an hour at the bridge. The determination that we showed and the times we achieved impressed our guide too. He gave us oral certificate of having very good fitness. Since we returned at 1000 hrs which is the usual time for most people to start the trek hence he had a chance of getting one more trip as guide.

With Our Guide post the Trip
Yeh, We did it. Leaving for Cherrapunjee Resort post Trip

We returned to Chera Holiday resort post this trip. After a quick fresh up we checked out and started our trip to Cherapunji Sights. Cherapunji has some of the great waterfalls but sadly they are most active during Monsoons and had little water post Monsoon. The seven sisters waterfall was at this time just one or two narrow streams. But the scenic beauty  of the surrounding areas is worth visit.

 The Mawsmai lime Stone cave has a very narrow entrance where we were told that one has to crawl to get into the cave which was not possible for some members of our family. We dropped the plan to go to these caves and decided instead to go to Arwah Caves having with wide open entry. These caves are situated off the route of return trip to Shillong. However, we did go to the road leading to Mawsami caves for a different reason.

The reason was, since we changed our plan and dropper Jowai trip in Jantiya hills in southern Meghalaya, famous for multiple monoliths mounted in memory of dead worriers or persons (vertical for man and horizontal for woman) or to commemorate some major victory or event, we had to compensate. The nearest Monoliths are present at beginning of the road leading to Mawsami caves.

We visited a small set of Monoliths, both horizontal and vertical, tall and not so tall, crowned (signifying memory of a king) and uncrowned. They are inside two enclosures either side of the road and they are well preserved. A visit is must if Jowai is not part of itinerary to get a glimpse of Jantiya culture. 

Monoliths enroute to Mawsmai caves

Shreya in Front of a Male Monolith
Next was a visit to a 1846 built first Presbyterian Church at this place. It is nice, clean and peaceful place showing the length of missionary activity in Meghalaya.

Nohkalikai falls, one of the perennial falls of this place was the next in our visit. Noh-ka-likai means Jump of Ms Likai. There is tragic story associated with this fall and I will leave that story for every one to find when they visit this place. Needless to say that this story has given rise to many poems, etc in local language. Another important information is tallest plunge water fall at a fall of 340 meters though from the view point made for this fall it does not feel so but if the fall is viewed from the beautiful pond that has got generated (due to this falls) the extent would be evident.

By this time we were famished and we headed to Orange Roots Restaurant, one of the few pure veg places at Cherapunji. This was not purely for the love of veg food but for the reputation of the place. We had lunch there and then started off for Arwah caves.

Arwah also are old cave but has been opened to public with a regular walking path few years ago. Earlier a rugged path was available but the new path has made visiting the cave easy for everyone. It is a beautiful lime stone cave with standing walk in entrance and also standing and walking viewing of cave. The cave is long (may be a few km) but only about 150 m is open to visitors. This area is well illuminated. It was a different experience like never before.
Entrance to Arwah Lime Stone caves

Inside View

Post this visit, it was straight way back to Shillong. The usual routine of dinner and then sleep followed.

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