I am one of those extremely stubborn solo travellers. I want to explore and find everything out on my own.
I don't need no guide!
Sometimes, when you are hiking through the jungle, trying to find some incredible thing you heard about - it is wise to go with a guide. As I found out the hard way.
But before yet another massive travel-fail, first this!
Bike Love in Shillong
Even though I am carrying 2 litres of engine oil and spare oil filters with me - I like to keep those for emergencies.
On top of that, my rear disc brake started to sound like a screaming pig whenever I used it. Riding around hilly areas - that is quite regularly. Time to have the brake pads checked as well.
The most logical choice to give Basanti some love was Shillong, a large hill station in Meghalaya.
Chatting to the lovely owners of the tree house, they pointed out a road to Shillong which was curvy and without traffic. Say no more!
See in below video whether they were right!
At the Royal Enfield workshop in Shillong, I arranged the oil change, a new oil filter, had the brake pads cleaned and a thorough wash of Basanti. Ready for new road adventures!
I decided to make a day-trip to Cherrapunjee, about 60 kilometers south of Shillong. There was something incredible hidden in the jungle around here, worth to go and check out.
Lost in the jungle
I first rode towards Cherrapunjee, and then took a narrow road to a tiny village called Nongriat. From here, the steep 2000 (!) step descent started. Some villagers asked me whether I wanted a guide.
Of course not. I will find it by myself!
Which I did - to the first living root bridge. This was a single bridge, spanning a river gorge and entirely made out of living roots of the rubber fig tree. It was an amazing sight. But the real attraction in this jungle was a double-decker root bridge.
So after crossing the first root bridge, I figured I just had to continue walking. I spotted a small but steep trail going up the mountain. That must be it.
Spoiler alert: it was not.
For more than an hour I climbed and climbed. And sweated and sweated. The trail became narrower and heavier overgrown with each passing step.
Gigantic webs of yellow orb spider were everywhere. Several times I came until an inch of walking right into one of those monsters. (Supposedly completely harmless creatures, but still. It’s spiders we are talking about here.)
At some point I realised this couldn’t be the right way. Trekking all the way back wasn’t a very appealing thought though.
Luckily my scrambling through the bushes hadn’t gone unnoticed. Suddenly I heard somebody calling to me. Using some “OEH”-owl type of sound.
I responded: “OEH!”. And then: “HELLO!”
A few minutes later, the head of a local boy emerged from between some bamboo bushes. I was quite glad to see him and asked him: “Root bridge?” He nodded and signed for me to follow.
Some 10-minutes walking later (I have to admit - 180 degrees in the other direction) we got back to the official trail. I gave him a 100-rupee note which he accepted with a wide smile. Completely exhausted I finally reached the dubbed-decker root bridge. And it was incredible!
Living root bridge
There are a dozen living bridges in this part of India, made by the Khasia and Jaintia people. They figured out that by gently guiding the aerial roots of the rubber fig tree they could create a passage over streams.
With each passing year, the roots grow and strengthen until they allow for the weight of a person to cross over them. Because they are a living, growing organism, the lifespan of the bridges are variable, but are thought to last for up to 500 years!
There are a couple of double bridges with two parallel spans, but there is only one doube-decker bridge in the world - and it was worth the long hike on my not-so-comfortable motorbike boots.
Obviously, when I was admiring this incredible piece of architecture, I wasn’t thinking about the way back yet. That way back up involving 2000 steps. It was an absolute killer and when I finally got back to Shillong - I was a complete mess.