Thursday, December 20, 2012

Across the Khasi Hills Day 3: Down to Nongriat

The famous Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge in Nongriat Village. The only root bridge with two spans (I suppose to allow for two-way traffic). Living Root bridges are made by taking the roots of Indian rubber trees and placing them in hollowed out betel nut tree trunks that have been cut in half lengthwise. The halves of the betel nut trunks are lain across the stream that needs to be crossed, while the rubber tree roots grow through them. When the roots reach the opposite side of the stream, they anchor themselves in the soil. Usually a full bridge is composed of a number of such roots, sometime from two different trees that have had roots trained in opposite directions. Smaller roots are used to provide additional stability, while flat stones and bamboo poles are used to produce a surface to walk on. It apparently takes about 15 years for a bridge to become operational. Once the construction of the bridge is complete, the roots continue to grow, meaning that the bridges are in effect self-reinforcing: The older the bridge is, the more structurally sound it is. They can evidently last for many hundreds of years. Though the British knew about the bridges as far back as the late 19th century, as of the turn of the 21st the bridges were largely forgotten. Not long ago, the villagers in the area were contemplating tearing some of the bridges down in favor of less exotic wire suspension bridges. Thankfully, the owner of the Cherrapunji Holiday Resort in Laikynsew convinced them to keep the bridges around as a tourist draw.

Still moving right along......

Monday, December 17, 2012

Across the Khasi Hills Day 2: Soggy Preparations

My umbrella, at the entrance to a small, almost certainly illegal, coal mine. On the way to the Nohkalikai Falls view point, about 5kms outside of Sohra.

So, moving right along........

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Across the Khasi Hills Day 1: Getting to Cherrapunji

The Objective: The Nongthymmai living root bridge, at somewhere in the vicinity of 110 feet in length,  the longest (known) living root bridge in the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya. Taking around 15 years to grow strong enough to become usable,  the Khasi Living Root bridges are some of the only examples of architecture that are grown rather than constructed...more on these later.