Himalayan Eco Friendly Root Bridges

Part 1 of 2.

My husband and I went on an amazing adventure a couple of years ago…

It started deep in the rain forests of the Northeastern Himalayan foothills when we decided to visit some local living root bridges.

Talk about ecological consciousness…

Contrary to bridges constructed with man-made materials, these natural “living” bridges are made from the roots of the Ficus Elastica, also known as the the Indian Rubber Tree, and most are over 500 years while continuing to get stronger over time.

In an era of growing environmental consciousness, it is so refreshing to find a place where man has harnessed nature to survive and live in such harmony together for hundreds of years.

The start of the trek…

Together with a few friends, we traveled about 50 miles away from the city of Shillong. After a long drive through windy mountain roads, we Stepsfinally met our local guide who would take us on our hike. As we left the paved road behind, we started descending further into the mountain and pretty soon the stone path disappeared completely and we were hiking down a sturdy but sometimes slippery forest trail.

Our survival instincts took over as we picked up some wooden branches to help us keep our balance because our legs were starting to feel like Jello at this point. I was also getting a little concerned about our return journey going back “up”  this trail.

The set of Avatar?

Onward we descended as we trekked deeper into the forest with the bizarre feeling that we had just stepped into the set of Avatar, into a quiet magical jungle of deep green, lush foliage where any moment we would see Neytiri and the Na’vi people coming out to greet us.

In my next post (Part 2),  I will share the unexpected scene we saw when we got there.  Stay tuned.

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My husband and I went on an amazing adventure a few years ago that I would like to share with you today.

This particular adventure started deep in the rain forests of the Northeastern Himalayan foothills when we decided to visit some local ecological marvels – living root bridges that are part of nature itself. Contrary to bridges constructed with man-made materials, these natural “living” bridges are made from the roots of the Ficus Elastica, also known as the the Indian Rubber Tree, and most are over 500 years while continuing to get stronger over time. In an era of growing environmental consciousness, it is so refreshing to find a place where man has harnessed nature to survive and live in such harmony together for hundreds of years.

Together with a few friends, we traveled about 50 miles away from the city of Shillong. After a long drive through windy mountain roads, we finally met our local guide who would take us on our hike. As we left the paved road behind, we started descending further into the mountain and pretty soon the stone path disappeared completely and we were hiking down a sturdy but sometimes slippery forest trail. Our survival instincts took over as we picked up some wooden branches to help us keep our balance because our legs were starting to feel like Jello at this point. I was also getting a little concerned about our return journey going back “up”  this trail. Onward we descended as we trekked deeper into the forest with the bizarre feeling that we had just stepped into the set of Avatar, into a quiet magical jungle of deep green, lush foliage where any moment we would see Neytiri and the Na’vi people coming out to greet us.

When we finally got to the bridge we just stared at this surreal structure before us, set in a fairyland forest above the gentle rippling sounds of the stream below. By the way, the water was gentle because we were visiting during the dry months. During the monsoons, this gentle stream turns into a rushing, swirling, swift river. As we continued to gazed at this bio-engineering wonder in front of us, I could almost imagine the stories it could tell us – hundreds of years worth! I wondered what the original people were like who built these bridges centuries ago, what were they doing in this remote part of the jungle and how did they live?

According to the local Khasi people, the bridge “building” started when the trunk of a betel nut tree is sliced down the middle and hollowed out, then the young roots of the Ficus Elastica Rubber Tree are placed inside and these roots are then guided to grow across the swift rushing rivers and streams. When these roots get to the other side, they then take root in the soil and continue to thrive into natural, eco-friendly, living root bridges. This process takes between fifteen and twenty years before the bridge is ready for people to cross.

As we were walking on this bridge to the other side of the stream, we noticed the path on the bridge embedded with large stones which we were told were put there generations ago to cover the holes between the roots, the vines eventually absorbing the stones, growing around them as they became a part of this living bridge. Imagine that – a natural stone walkway across a bridge.

Some of these bridges are over one hundred feet long and can support the weight of about fifty people at a time. The local tribes of these mountain villages have used these bridges for hundreds of years to cross swift thundering rivers and streams during the heavy monsoons, as they travel to the local markets and so on. You can check out a picture of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge here – we were not able to see this particular bridge but from what I have heard, this is the most aggressive hike of them all. Yikes!!! Because I am not a fainthearted traveler, one of my goals this October 2011 is to go and see this one in person!

Interestingly, until just recently, the rest of the world had never even heard of these bridges. They were discovered by Denis P. Rayen of the Cherrapunji Holiday resort as he explored these remote forest regions looking for hiking trails for his guests.  I grew up about 50 miles away from these bridges and my family and I never even knew these bridges existed until just a few years ago!

On our return back up the trail, we stopped by a beautiful waterfall for a picnic and to give our legs a much needed break. Although we were pretty sore the next day (this is not a trek for the faint of heart) it was so worth it – a discovery of something trul

My husband and I went on an amazing adventure a few years ago that I would like to share with you today.

This particular adventure started deep in the rain forests of the Northeastern Himalayan foothills when we decided to visit some local ecological marvels – living root bridges that are part of nature itself. Contrary to bridges constructed with man-made materials, these natural “living” bridges are made from the roots of the Ficus Elastica, also known as the the Indian Rubber Tree, and most are over 500 years while continuing to get stronger over time. In an era of growing environmental consciousness, it is so refreshing to find a place where man has harnessed nature to survive and live in such harmony together for hundreds of years.

Together with a few friends, we traveled about 50 miles away from the city of Shillong. After a long drive through windy mountain roads, we finally met our local guide who would take us on our hike. As we left the paved road behind, we started descending further into the mountain and pretty soon the stone path disappeared completely and we were hiking down a sturdy but sometimes slippery forest trail. Our survival instincts took over as we picked up some wooden branches to help us keep our balance because our legs were starting to feel like Jello at this point. I was also getting a little concerned about our return journey going back “up”  this trail. Onward we descended as we trekked deeper into the forest with the bizarre feeling that we had just stepped into the set of Avatar, into a quiet magical jungle of deep green, lush foliage where any moment we would see Neytiri and the Na’vi people coming out to greet us.

When we finally got to the bridge we just stared at this surreal structure before us, set in a fairyland forest above the gentle rippling sounds of the stream below. By the way, the water was gentle because we were visiting during the dry months. During the monsoons, this gentle stream turns into a rushing, swirling, swift river. As we continued to gazed at this bio-engineering wonder in front of us, I could almost imagine the stories it could tell us – hundreds of years worth! I wondered what the original people were like who built these bridges centuries ago, what were they doing in this remote part of the jungle and how did they live?

According to the local Khasi people, the bridge “building” started when the trunk of a betel nut tree is sliced down the middle and hollowed out, then the young roots of the Ficus Elastica Rubber Tree are placed inside and these roots are then guided to grow across the swift rushing rivers and streams. When these roots get to the other side, they then take root in the soil and continue to thrive into natural, eco-friendly, living root bridges. This process takes between fifteen and twenty years before the bridge is ready for people to cross.

As we were walking on this bridge to the other side of the stream, we noticed the path on the bridge embedded with large stones which we were told were put there generations ago to cover the holes between the roots, the vines eventually absorbing the stones, growing around them as they became a part of this living bridge. Imagine that – a natural stone walkway across a bridge.

Some of these bridges are over one hundred feet long and can support the weight of about fifty people at a time. The local tribes of these mountain villages have used these bridges for hundreds of years to cross swift thundering rivers and streams during the heavy monsoons, as they travel to the local markets and so on. You can check out a picture of the Double Decker Living Root Bridge here – we were not able to see this particular bridge but from what I have heard, this is the most aggressive hike of them all. Yikes!!! Because I am not a fainthearted traveler, one of my goals this October 2011 is to go and see this one in person!

Interestingly, until just recently, the rest of the world had never even heard of these bridges. They were discovered by Denis P. Rayen of the Cherrapunji Holiday resort as he explored these remote forest regions looking for hiking trails for his guests.  I grew up about 50 miles away from these bridges and my family and I never even knew these bridges existed until just a few years ago!

On our return back up the trail, we stopped by a beautiful waterfall for a picnic and to give our legs a much needed break. Although we were pretty sore the next day (this is not a trek for the faint of heart) it was so worth it – a discovery of something truly unique and magical, worlds away from reality. You see, we had arrived at an enchanting place that encouraged soft whispers so as not to disturb the silence of the forest or the serenity of the gentle, soothing sounds of the waterfall, beckoning us to bask luxuriously in the warm afternoon sunshine, to relax on the surrounding rocks as we dipped our feet in the cool waters, immersed in the grateful sensation of being truly blessed and the exhilaration of bring alive.

y unique and magical, worlds away from reality. You see, we had arrived at an enchanting place that encouraged soft whispers so as not to disturb the silence of the forest or the serenity of the gentle, soothing sounds of the waterfall, beckoning us to bask luxuriously in the warm afternoon sunshine, to relax on the surrounding rocks as we dipped our feet in the cool waters, immersed in the grateful sensation of being truly blessed and the exhilaration of bring alive.

7 Responses to “Himalayan Eco Friendly Root Bridges”

  1. Spring says:

    Wow! What an amazing adventure! It’s remarkable how these bridges are made.

  2. Kliarri says:

    This sounds really exciting. I am quite interested and would love to visit and explore these places. Are you having any tours for later this year?

  3. Julie Labes says:

    Wow. What an adventure. i can’t wait to read more about your trip! And about these wonders of nature

    Julie Labes,…The Fierce over 50 feels much younger point and click junkie loves to travel does not use a jogging stroller and before you ask this is NOT my granddaughter..Woman

  4. What an exciting adventure. My husband will soon be returning from deployment and he is really good about making sure we have adventures like the one you are describing. I can wait to see what he has planned for us. I’m looked forward to part 2 of your post.

    Lisa Ann Landry
    Vibrating positive energy…what are you vibrating
    http://www.imagedevelopmentgroup.com/speakers.html

  5. Hi Connie,
    Thanks for the story — now I’m looking forward to Part 2. Sounds like you might have been risking life and limb, as they say. Was this a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, or do you frequently make trips like this?
    Robbie

  6. Sounds like quite an adventure Connie. Out of the ordinary world that is for sure. Love the idea of a living bridge.

    Jennifer Duchene
    Home Makeover Mixtress blending lifestyle and laughter
    http://LYShome.com

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