Bridge Over Monsoon Waters – Laurence Mitchell

Article published in Geographical Magazine, UK in March 2009.

Khasi villagers in the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya have long used an ingenious means of crossing the turbulent streams that separate their villages and plantations during the monsoon season. Laurence Mitchell reports

The road down to Nongriat is a steep one; not, in fact, a road at all, but a vertiginous procession of small stone steps that plunge 700 metres into the valley from the neat village of Tyrna just off the main Cherrapunjee to Mawshamok road.

This region of the East Khasi Hills in northeast India’s Meghalaya state is almost exclusively Khasi territory, and the Khasis, a Mon-Khmer group originating from Southeast Asia, favour isolated valleys such as this one for their villages and betel nut plantations. The topography here is characterised by finger-like ridges that extend south of Shillong, the state capital, towards the Bangladesh frontier. Each ridge is separated from its neighbour by deep, forested valleys that necessitate long, meandering detours if travelling by road.