Have you ever walked on a bamboo skywalk with the cliff on one side and the gorge on the other? You look down and can see the endless abyss beneath. This is said to be one of the scariest treks in Meghalaya. Scariest or not, I do not know, but the experience of the Mawrynkhang Trek was totally exhilarating. The trek is locally known as the Bamboo Trail Meghalaya and begins at the remote village of Wahkhen in the East Khasi Hill district of Meghalaya.
Meghalaya is beyond beautiful. I am not speaking of the towns of Shillong and Cherrapunjee. Even with the tourists pouring into these destinations, they are still charming and utterly gorgeous. I am talking about the rural Meghalaya, the places that are not usually visited by the general tourist. That Meghalaya is blessed with an abundance of rain and clouds, waterfalls, meandering rivers and wonderful people. The locals live in perfect harmony with nature. They have preserved the ancient forests and root bridges in the same way that they protect their traditions. The camaraderie with nature is present even when something new is created as seen in the Bamboo Trail or Mawrynkhang Trek. So without further delay, let us start our comprehensive guide on Mawrynkhang Trek. We will share our experience of the trek and share with you all the relevant details about the trek.
- 1 What is Mawrynkhang Trek or Bamboo Trail Meghalaya?
- 2 Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya) – The Story of Community-based Tourism
- 3 The Legend of U Mawrynkhang
- 4 Our Experience of Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya)
- 5 Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya) Travel Guide
- 5.1 Mawrynkhang Trek Quick Facts
- 5.2 Mawrynkhang Trek Entrance Fee
- 5.3 How to reach Wahkhen Village?
- 5.4 Best time for Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya)
- 5.5 Where to stay at Wahkhen?
- 5.6 When to start the Mawrynkhang Trek?
- 6 Some Important Tips for the Mawrynkhang Trek
What is Mawrynkhang Trek or Bamboo Trail Meghalaya?
The Bamboo Trail Meghalaya or Mawrynkhang Trek is the latest addition in the adventure activities in Meghalaya. Located in the Pynursla sub-division, the Khasi village Wahkhen lies on the popular Shillong to Dawki route. Pomlum village lies on this route from where you have to take a detour. At Pomlum, you will see a signboard that will point towards the right direction to take to reach Wahkhen village, about 7 km away. The trail runs along a mountain cliff along the Wahrew River until it reaches the top of a huge single rock, U Mawrynkhang. The huge rock stands tall amidst the river valley surrounded by forests commanding its mighty presence over the surroundings.
As easy as it sounds, the Bamboo trail Meghalaya is not for the faint-hearted. And it is definitely not for those with acrophobia. The entire trek involves walking over man-made bamboo bridges tied with cane ropes over farms, river and deep gorges. Sounds exciting? Keep reading.
Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya) – The Story of Community-based Tourism
The Mawrynkhang Trek was opened to the public in 2016. The entire project was the effort and hard work of the villagers of Wahkhen. The village has a population of around 1000 people. There is a traditional Music school that offers classes every week. The entire bamboo trail has been constructed by the villagers without taking the help of the Government. Without taking any external help, the villagers constructed the multiple bridges made of bamboo and wooden ladders. These bridges were tied by cane ropes and only very few nails were used for the construction.
The Legend of U Mawrynkhang
Every Stone Tells a Story
“In Khasi region, every stone has a story to tell”, BG, our guide for the David Scott Trail had remarked. He was sharing his childhood stories with us when he said this. Khasi community is full of folk tales and legends. Inanimate objects like rocks and waterfalls are personified in Khasi folklore and a story is woven around them. Mawrynkhang Trek also has interesting folklore behind it.
Mawrynkhang actually means the “King of Stones” and U in front of the name is used as a mark of reverence. According to Khasi legend, once there was a great battle between stones. In this unique battle, one mighty stone emerged the winner. It was Mawrynkhang and he became the King of Stones and came to be known as U Mawrynkhang. He stood there like a mighty force being the lord of all he surveyed.
Very soon, U Mawrynkhang fell in love with another damsel known as “Kthiang” from a neighbouring kingdom. All was well, until the arrival of Mawpator, another mighty stone who also had his eyes on Kthiang. Thus ensued a deadly battle between the two stones. In the fierce battle, Mawpator broke off the left hand of Mawrynkhang. But Mawrynkhang was an excellent warrior and was not ready to accept defeat. He summoned all his strength and gave a mighty blow to Mawpator thus decapitating him. Finally, U Mawrynkhang and Kthiang left happily ever after.
The tallest and mightiest looking rock that you will see is U Mawrynkhang. Infact, the trek takes you to the pinnacle if this rock. Once you are at the top of Mawrynkhang, you can see the rock of Kthiang behind him. Another rock lies down in the valley which is said to be the decapitated head of Mawpator. There is a mark on U Mawrynkhang which is believed to be the scar from where his hand was broken off!
Our Experience of Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya)
We went for this incredible trek at the advice of our host in Cherrapunjee. Batista is an amazing person with profound knowledge about the Khasi Hills. He knows all the off-the-beaten tracks of Meghalaya very well. But he is also fiercely protective of these places. He would only take those travellers to the offbeat places who understand the sanctity of nature and respects the culture of the Khasi people. After completing the Nongriat Trek and exploring Cherrapunjee, we went for Mawrynkhang Trek at his suggestion.
There are a number of trekking trails and adventure activities in Meghalaya. But the experience of Mawrynkhang trek is one of its kinds. It is unlike any other trekking experience in Meghalaya. The trek starts from the Wankhen village parking area. There is a small bamboo hut that also serves as the ticket counter. When we reached the near the ticket counter, there was no one to be seen. Batista was with us and he decided that we would start the trek and pay the entry fee later.
Wankhen Village to Wahrew River (0.05 km)
After the signpost of the Selfie danger zone, we saw an elevated bamboo walkway on the right. But it was in a sorry condition, broken down at places. The walkway had completely collapsed at places. For a moment we thought is this going to be the bamboo trail? A few broken elevated walkways in the middle of the fields! To be honest we were a bit disappointed at first. But little did we realize what was in store for us ahead.
Anyways, we reached at the end of the even terrain. Next was a downhill trail through the plantation of broom grass. Yes, these are the grasses from which broom is made of. Steps are made in the trail for easy movement and after about 20 minutes, we could hear the gushing sound of water. In the meantime, we came across a vantage point from where we saw a commanding view of the river, valley and mountains. It was completely breathtaking!
Finally, after a few steep steps, we reached the banks of Wahrew River. I think Wahrew River is one of the most pristine and beautiful rivers in Meghalaya. Yes, I saw so after seeing Umngot River in Shnongpdeng and Dawki. The Wahrew River was a great place for taking a refreshing quick dip. Here, we could see a number of bamboo bridges built over the river for taking people across it.
I got pretty excited about seeing the bamboo bridges. These bridges looked a bit wobbly and we were quite unsure whether they would keep our weight. In moments like these, you should simply keep your faith and start walking. We did so and found that these bridges were strong enough to take us across. Of course, we moved across the bridges one at a time.
Once we were across the river, we sat down for some time near the river bank and enjoyed the cool breeze. The initial disappointment of not seeing the bamboo trail completely vanished. The place was so serene and beautiful that we did not mind about the initially broken bamboo walkways.
This was when Batista informed us that the actual trek would begin now! What? Isn’t this the trek? There are more to it? Our thoughts found words and Batista explained patiently that this is only the start of the Mawrynkhang trek.
Wahrew River to Mawmoit Viewpoint (1.52 km)
This is the second part of the Bamboo Trail Meghalaya. We left the Wahrew Riverbank and stepped into a narrow trail. The trail gradually ascends hugging the cliff and with the river on the left. Finally, we encountered the first man-made bamboo bridge supported by inclined ladders for climbing the sections where a natural path is almost nonexistent.
These bridges and ladders are constructed of bamboo and branches of locally available trees. The bridges were quite sturdy and fairly comfortable to walk. The uphill tracks were made easy by the placement of ladders. The bamboo trail continued all along the steep rocky surface of the cliff and continued going higher and higher. We could see the river below getting farther and farther away from us. We were steadily gaining height.
After another 45 minutes to one hour, when the river was just a line flowing deep into the gorge, we arrived at the Mawkhlieng Cliff. This is perhaps the scariest part of the trek and also the most exposed section of the trail. Here the cliff is almost vertical. There is no way that we could trek in these parts of the rock. Only a continuous bamboo walkway traverses the near-vertical cliff with the dizzying drop on the left.
Anyone with a fear of heights would definitely not feel comfortable here. At one moment, I thought whether these bamboo walkways would hold my weight or not. What if I fall? That would be the end of everything. However, I took the first step and continued on the walkway. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I was a bit afraid. My suggestion here is to not look down at the left. It could turn your legs into jelly. All the while, I kept wondering how were these bamboo trails made in such a cliff and how are they being held up. I did not have the answer and so I continued moving with trepidation.
Finally, we reached on the other side of the stretch. I was completely ecstatic on completing this part of the trail. To be honest, walking over the bamboo walkway was quite exhilarating for me. The trail continued a little and then we were finally at the Mawmoit viewpoint. This is a huge rock from where you will get the first view of the great rock U Mawrynkhang. It also gives a panoramic view of the surrounding Rngain valleys and mountains.
Mawmoit Viewpoint to U Mawrynkhang (0.20 km)
We were quite excited to conquer U Mawrynkhang soon. But the trail was not quite easy after this. At first, the trail was a descending one until we reached a rocky gap. We had to squeeze underneath the rocks at this time. The trail them follows both uphill and downhill ways. There is an arched bamboo bridge in the middle across a dangerous-looking ravine. Finally, we reached the U Mawrynkhang himself. The final part is a steep climb up a ladder that took us to the great Mawrynkhang.
There are fencing and bamboo track on the rock that enables the trekkers to circumnavigate the rock. I heard that U Mawrynkhang is considered sacred among the local people. Maybe that is why they made this round trail.
Once we were at the pinnacle, it was the moment to savor the victory. We looked all around only to realize the beauty of nature. It was a wonderful feeling to be on the top of the rock after crossing the scary bamboo bridges and trails, truly a feeling to be halfway to heaven! This was undoubtedly the most exciting trip in Meghalaya for us. We had visited so many offbeat places in Meghalaya, explored the tea gardens at Mawlyngot, did cliff jumping at Umngot River. But nothing beats the experience at Mawrynkhang Bamboo Trail.
Back to Wahkhen Village
After a break, we retraced our path back towards Wahkhen village. It was this time we understood how much we had covered. In the excitement of walking over the bamboo trail, we did not realize the distance, but now we did. After reaching the Wahrew River, we sat down for a break. Agni was too happy and literally jumped into the river for a bath. I sat down on a rock with my feet in water for a natural fish spa. There were small fishes in the river!
The last stretch from the river to the village was the toughest walk of all. Our legs gave way and the tendons screamed of mercy. Finally, we reached the village and heaved a sigh of breath. Well, there was a local person at the ticket counter at that time. I bought the tickets after completing the trek. He seemed quite happy that travellers from Kolkata have come to visit their village.
Next, we went to the tea stall nearby and had our lunch. Suddenly we saw pineapples being sold at a nearby store. I went on to buy a pineapple. It was the best pineapple I had in a long time – totally sweet and juicy and it cost only Rs 40.00. I went to the store and asked for 2 more. They were quite surprised that I was buying so many but happily sold us the pineapples after cutting them nicely. After completing the trek, we started our journey towards Langkawet, another extremely gorgeous destination in Meghalaya.
Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya) Travel Guide
Well, that was about our experience. Now let me answer all the important questions related to the trek.
Mawrynkhang Trek Quick Facts
Total Distance: 3.54 km approx. both ways
Difficulty Level: Medium
Time taken: 3 – 5 hours depending on your fitness and agility. We took about 4 hours to complete the trek. We took a lot of breaks in between taking photographs and enjoying the surroundings. A Khasi local can complete the trek in 45 minutes.
Wahkhen village – Wahrew River – Mawkhlieng Cliff – Mawmoit Viewpoint – Mawrynkhang Rock
Mawrynkhang Trek Entrance Fee
- Adult: INR 50 per head
- Child: INR 20 per head
How to reach Wahkhen Village?
Well, public transport to Wahkhen village is almost non-existent. There are a few options to reach the village.
I assume that you would be starting from Shillong. In that case start, early from Shillong, so that you reach Wahkhen village within time. You have to drive via Myellium and continue till Pomlum village. This village has a very bright blue colored church. Look for the board that states “Welcome to Pomlum” and an arrow towards the Wahkhen village, about 15 km away.
Reserve a taxi for the day
If you don’t have a car, then the next option is to reserve a taxi from Shillong or the place you are coming from. We had reserved a car from Cherrapunjee who brought us to Wahkhen and then dropped us to Langkawet, our next destination. However, this can be a bit costly. A taxi can easily charge you around Rs 3000.00 to 4000.00 for the whole day.
Public Transport to Wahkhen
As I mentioned before, public transport is very poor. I think there is one shared jeep from Shillong Bara Bazar to Wahkhen village. But it reaches in the evening and Wahkhen does not have any overnight accommodation option as of now. So this is not a good idea.
However, you can take a shared jeep from Bara Bazar towards Pynursla and get down at Pomlum. From Pomlum, you have to hitchhike. In this case, start as early as possible.
Best time for Mawrynkhang Trek (Bamboo Trail Meghalaya)
The best time for Mawrynkhang trek is undoubtedly the winter months. The trails will be dry and less slippery unlike that in monsoon. Also, the weather will be cooler and conducive for the trek. During the monsoons, the trail becomes slippery and a bit risky as well. Nevertheless, you can enjoy the trek in any season.
Where to stay at Wahkhen?
Unfortunately, there are no overnight stay options at Wahkhen as of now. So you have to either stay in Shillong or Cherrapunjee. You can also stay at Pynursla, the nearest town to Pomlum village.
If you want to stay at Wahkhen, then you can request the local villagers. You can spend the night in the village church or the local school. In this case, do carry your sleeping bags.
When to start the Mawrynkhang Trek?
The earlier you start the better for you. We would recommend you to start the trek not later than 1.00 pm. If you start late, then you might not be able to enjoy the trail completely. There will always be the thought of returning at the back of your mind.
Some Important Tips for the Mawrynkhang Trek
- Wear good and comfortable shoes for the trek. Some parts of the trail might be slippery, so a good pair of shoes is important.
- Meghalaya is known for its rainfall. It can happen anytime. So carry a rain jacket or poncho with you.
- Carry a bottle of water and some snacks with you, especially the energy-giving ones. You will not find any shops in the entire trail.
- Those with a fear of heights should think before going for the trek. The part before the Mawmoit Viewpoint can be quite scary.
- Finally, do not litter the place and throw plastics around, especially at the riverbed. Let the pristine beauty of the place remain. Leave no garbage and bring back only fond memories.
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