Text & Photographs by Aparna Mohan, Founder, Let’s Get Lost
The first week of March will be etched in my memory for a very long time. Why you may ask…because I just returned from an unforgettable week in the beautiful mountains and valleys of Meghalaya, the abode of clouds. I have done a fair bit of trekking in the Himachal and Sahyadris in the past, but nothing could prepare me for what was awaiting me in the forests of India’s North-Eastern sister.
Running my travel company: ‘Let’s Get Lost’, has taken me to some fantastic places in the past three years. Last week, I took a group of six spirited women from Mumbai and Jaipur, who like a bunch of excited children wanted to explore every bit of Meghalaya. What finally stood out the most for us were the two very arduous but unforgettable treks.
We did two of the toughest treks in Cherrapunji– Double Decker Root Bridge Trek and Rainbow Waterfalls Trek. Two gruelling treks that tested our limits but rewarded us with the most stunning views. The Double Decker Root Bridge is a marvellous man-made structure, a bridge made with the ever-growing roots of trees that are over hundreds of years old. Not only is it an engineering marvel, but it is also a thing of unparalleled beauty – almost like a scene from a fantasy film.
Surreal beauty of the Root Bridge
The path to the root bridge is 3 kms long and can be reached by climbing down 3,500 steps, descending 2,400 feet. The climb down is beautiful as you witness amazing valley views, cross sacred forests and dreamy little villages on the way. We soon noticed the impeccable cleanliness of the trail. The paths, villages and streams were totally clean and free of garbage pile-ups. Very impressive for a place that attracts hoards of visitors every year. It almost feels like the locals have kept their forests just the way the Gods must have gifted them.
While bubbly little kids played on the streets, the beautiful village folk went on about their regular chores like filling water, washing clothes, selling snacks, fruits and drinks for the trekkers in their tiny little bamboo hut-shops. The villagers seemed to be a happy, simple and satiated tribe of people. Whenever we tried to click their pictures, they turned away with a soft yet stern reply “No photo”. We realised we should ask for permission and not take it for granted. Whether the trekkers are seen as an irritant or intrusion into their clean peaceful lives, is not clear to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is so.
A Gruelling yet rewarding trek
After an hour and a half of walking and collecting multiple photographs and a few slips and falls, we reached the marvellous Double Decker Root Bridge. Sweat beads were rolling down our backs and our knees were shaking because of the constant downward motion. But none of that mattered. The spot was so pristine, that it left us mesmerized. The Double Root Bridge stood like a swing, intertwined with roots that were hanging down trying to kiss the still waters below. The water was green and absolutely clear and big rocks were strewn around, offering perfect spots for rest. We spent an hour soaking in the beauty of the place, dipping our feet in the water that was full of playful multi-coloured fish. One could spend a lifetime just being one of the rocks here.
Surprise Rainbow Waterfalls: Heaven on Earth
But what my group was not aware of was that I intended to take them ahead to the stupendous Rainbow Waterfalls. Caution: You should do this only if you have any physical and mental strength left in you. While three of the girls stayed back, the rest of us picked up our walking bamboo sticks and trekked another two hours, crossing dense forests and many suspended bridges over flowing streams to witness a truly hidden marvel. The Rainbow Waterfalls! With stunningly clear pearl white water falling on the rocks that split into a disco of rainbow colours, before finally settling into the pool below and turning into a bright aqua blue. The sun rays fall on the water in such an angle that a rainbow can be seen almost all throughout the year here.
Butterflies fluttered around us, sipping on nectars from flowers, birds chirping in a chorus and the flowing water provided a piece of constant background music. We climbed down the rocks towards the aqua pool, rolled up our trekking pants to dip our feet in the icy cold water and grabbed our lunch. What more could a beautiful life be made of? Our legs had totally given way but we couldn’t help saying: “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
The back-breaking return
When it was time for us to head back, we realised it was not going to be an easy feat to trek back to the Root Bridge and then climb 3,500 steps back to the base. We gathered whatever little strength was left in us and started walking. Any false sense of pride that we had about our fitness levels, vanished quickly. Clothes got drenched in sweat and stuck to our bodies under the gaze of the hot mid-day sun. Huffing and panting, we took a break after every few steps. We passed other trekkers on the way who were close to collapsing and offered them whatever little water and food we had left. Each step looked like a tall mountain to climb. An unending ordeal of eight hours. Next time when Google throws up quotes like “Push your limits”, I will always remember the Root Bridge and Rainbow Waterfalls Trek. I would truly recommend you to experience this unforgettable adventure once in your lifetime.
Tips for trekkers for Root Bridge and Rainbow Waterfalls Trek:
- Try and work on your fitness before attempting the trek. A basic fitness routine of running/gymming can prepare you for it.
- Know your limits. While it’s good to push your limits, it is also good to know where your limits end. Some of the girls in our group were very sure that they wouldn’t have been able to attempt the Rainbow Trek and they stayed back at the Rock Pool. Smart decision.
- Budget one full day for the trek, including travel time from and back to your hotel. Best to start early by 8-9am.
- Carry enough water and energy food for the trek like energy bars, nuts or a banana. While you do get Maggi noodles and other snacks on the way, it’s always good to be prepared.
- Hats and shades are a must. Afternoon sun can be harsh on the trail.
- Carry a light backpack because you will have to carry it back up too.
- In case you have an extra day at hand, and you wish to do the Rainbow Trek as well, it is better to take a break and stay overnight at a homestay/campsite in Nongriat at the end of the Root Bridge trek.
- Be respectful and mindful of the locals and their culture and privacy. Follow their rules. Do not click their pictures without express permission. And be grateful that they allow us to experience the beauty of their homeland.
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Aparna’s positive, bubbly and effervescent attitude is infectious. She’s brave enough to pursue her dream of travelling through her venture Let’s Get Lost and crazy enough to make you love travelling. Go on a trip with her and you’ll be a travel enthusiast for life.
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