At the base of the Meghalaya Plateau are a series of bridges unlike any I have seen or heard about elsewhere in the world. The Khasi tribe in the valleys leading to Bangladesh have trained the roots and branches of banyan trees to create living bridges spanning the rivers that separate their villages. These bridges look as if they belong in a Lord of the Rings movie.
The living bridges, which keep growing stronger by the day, take ten to fifteen years to become fully functional. After they have been fully formed, their life span is estimated at five to six hundred years – much longer than a conventional bridge.
This is the local guide we hired to get us down into the canyons where the bridges are found:
It is 1,000 meters down from the Meghalaya Plateau. You may think you’re in good shape, but descending 1,000 meters on this extremely slippery StairMaster will leave your legs a wobbly mess at the bottom. And then, of course, you have to hike back out as well!
It all seems worth it though when you start encountering the bridges. This is the first one we came to on the route we took down:
On the surface of the bridge, which you can see below, rocks and bits of wood have been added to the mix to make for an easier crossing. There is an additional reason for the bits of wood though. As the wood decomposes, it provides nutrients for the tree roots growing around it:
Here’s a quick video that captures the entirety of the bridge:
Looking back the way we came:
Just after this, a crude bridge leading through the treetops…
…Takes one to this view of the river that the living bridge shown above crosses. The river may not look like much now, but during the monsoon season it becomes a raging torrent. You can see the top of the Meghalaya Plateau in this picture which is where we hiked down from:
A little farther on is a “double-decker” bridge. And if you look closely you can see that they have started a third one in order to make this a “triple-decker” bridge:
The living bridges may look flimsy, but our guide told me that they have had more than fifty people at a time on the bridges. Below is the surface of the upper “double-decker” bridge:
There are also cable bridges crossing some of the rivers. These are fun to run across if one is not afraid of heights as they are not as sturdy as the living bridges and swing around all over the place:
This, the longest living bridge, crosses over the Ummunoi River:
The steps leading up to the bridge:
A view of the supports for the bridge:
Looking across the living bridge:
These wonders of bioengineering are an eloquent testimony to man’s capacity to live in harmony with nature.