Day 15 – Hiking Day – Root Bridges

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

After 13 days in a Tuk Tuk our legs are like lead and possibly in jeopardy of DVT, the logical thing to do is to get them moving.

Our friends Rama and Rakesh from team ‘Chutney Chungas’ told us of some amazing root bridges in Cherrapunji, 56km from Shillong. They sounded interesting, so we set about looking into a day trip. We visited the tourist information office and learned that the Cherrapunji Holiday Resort arranges guides. We booked a driver and the plan was hatched, another 6.00am start.

It’s not like we haven’t spent enough time on the road. That’s the thing about travel, you create your journey through your efforts and the sacrifices you are prepared to make in etching out your memories.

Unfortunately Carol and Kaitlyn got food poisoning and were sick throughout the night and unable to join us. We think the culprit was the soup at our hotel as Chris was also feeling questionable, but soldiered on hoping for the best.

The Alpine Continental hotel has a few disconcerting factors. There is an overall dampness that permeates all the corridors and rooms. There is the stale stench of urine that wafts up from the lower floors and unfortunately hits hardest just as you approach the dining hall. Lastly, yet again Kaitlyn and I have landed the room (347) that smells like a sewer, clearly issues with the pipes. On the upside it’s well located and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Today Adam and Markus are off to Guwahati, en route to Goa, so it’s just Chris and I from our crew.

The road from Shillong to Cherrapunji is a narrow, continuous winding road that spans 56km. At about 25km’s, I was starting to feel ill. An empty stomach and those endless turns weren’t agreeing with me. Poor Chris had to throw up. Oh dear! -Things were turning pear shaped rather suddenly.

I think we were all relieved when we made it to the resort. A fantastic eco lodge, perched high atop the valley and mountain ranges with spectacular views. We ordered coffee and breakfast and settled our tummies while we waited for our guide. If you are ever in this region, I would definitely consider an overnight stay at the Cherrapunji Holiday Resort. The staff and owner are warm, welcoming and generous with their knowledge.

Ebenezer, a small, gentle man with kind eyes was assigned to guide us. We agreed to try for the 14km return hike and reassess after we could establish how everyone was coping. A hiking group at a nearby table warned us that it was a tough hike and to take plenty of water.

“What goes up must come down” and more importantly “What goes down must come up”. As we descended down a mountain of stairs into the valley, skirting small collections of 3-5 houses, I’m pretty sure we were all thinking the same thing – “we have to make it back up”.

The bridges are moulded and formed over centuries from tree roots. They are quite spectacular. They provide the means to cross over the river and rock pools that flow below. They are powerfully engaging and their agedness and purposefulness instantly command respect. I am always in awe of century old trees, I gently stroke them hoping for some of their wisdom.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/root-bridges-cherrapungee

We made it to the double root bridge where village children were washing and swimming in the rock pools. We rested and spent a good 30 minutes soaking in the atmosphere and the uniqueness of this natural wonder.

Unfortunately Rakesh had hurt his calf muscle and didn’t think it was wise to continue on the longer route. I think Rama was relieved. Rakesh & Rama are 2 Indian’s who live in the US and work in IT. There’s a real warmth to them as a pair and as individuals. Rakesh has a quiet confidence and calm about him and Rama is a bounding ball of joy.

Chris was happy to return as his stomach was still dicy and nausea imminent. All that stood between us and our lift home was a 3km incline of stairs. Everyone did well, all things considered. Rama had only gone to bed at 3.00am, so with 3 hours sleep and not much training, I think he put in a sterling effort. It was like the 1000 steps on steroids. The return incline seemed like it was never going to end.

Along the trail of stairs I came across 2 young girls playing cricket on the path and shared my orange and chocolate with them. I love when language affords no barriers and just a mutual desire to connect with another person allows you to converse without words. Just with smiles, gestures and a mutual desire to be understood. Carol had prepared goodie bags the day before and as usual they were full of just the right things.

On the subject of cricket I happened upon some IPL on TV and I must say I never dreamed it possible, but the Indians have sexed up cricket. Pretty reporters make silly jokes in sexy outfits and flirt with the players while they interview them. I’ve never seen cricket look so much fun.

The winding road home was no easier than on the approach and I found myself feeling nauseous again. We returned around 5.00pm to find Carol & Kaitlyn depleted and weary, having not left the room all day.

It was an early night with a few dry biscuits for dinner. Tomorrow we head to Bangalore.

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