Himalayan ways of connecting opposite banks of roaring rivers

Every day you connect with your friends in a spilt of a second using internet cables in urban areas.

Or, you may quickly drive to the friends’ place in your fancy two-, three-, or four-wheeler or a public bus.

But connecting with villagers living on the opposite banks of the rivers in remote Himalayas is still a consuming task due to lack or inadequate “bridge” cables.

This inadequacy has upsides for thrill seekers: the remote areas are free of urban ugliness (pollutions) and the nature is pristine.

And crossing the roaring Himalayan rivers is still a big challenge that could also be a fun.

To make it fun you need to know possible ways to cross the big and small rivers. One of the thrilling ways is kayaking and rafting, the traditional modes of transport that use modern equipment.

These transportation means require special skills. But the bridges (if available) connecting the river banks and / or the valleys are more popular now a days because everyone likes easy quick connections.

You will find different types of bridges in the Himalayas. Some of these connecting channels may also have separate walkways and / or roadways.

8 types of Himalayan bridges

 

1.   Hand pulled “bridges” / spans (small trolleys)

 

2 bridges spanning the wide course of the Zanskar River near Chilling in Jammu and Kashmir. Small bridge (bottom) is a traditionally used hand-pulled bridge.

2 bridges spanning the wide course of the Zanskar River near Chilling in Jammu and Kashmir. Small bridge (bottom) is a traditionally used hand-pulled bridge.

 

Hand pulled bridges or trolleys hanging over the rivers and streams are still in use by residents of the remote parts of the Himalayas. These bridges are operated in two ways: (1) pushed or pulled by someone standing at the river bank or (2) pushed or pulled by the user.

 

2.   Log bridges / wood contraptions

 

Long or short logs connect the two banks of the river in many villages and along the trek routes. You will find one-log bridges and multiple-log bridges. Walking on the one-log bridges is bit tricky due to difficulty in balancing on “wooden cylinders (logs).” If logs are wet and steps are not cut across, chances of slipping and falling in the water are high. So take care.

 

Multiple-log bridges generally have a collection of short logs arranged and bound horizontally to create a wide path. These bridges may or may not have rails. These are comparatively easy to walk on.

 

You need to inspect the log bridges before stepping on them because old bridges may be broken or worn out at places.

 

3.   Pedestrian trail bridges / footbridges

 

These bridges serve only pedestrians, cyclists, and / or animal riders. Vehicular traffic is banned on these bridges. Foot bridges can be divided into two categories: suspension and suspended bridges.

A suspension trail bridge has a walkway hanging on vertical cables that are hanging from the main cables connecting two towers erected on the opposite river banks.

A suspended trail bridge does not have towers. The bridge has a walkway hanging on the suspenders linked to the main cables.

For example,

Lakshman Jhula Suspension Bridge in Uttarakhand

Steel composite footbridges at Khandgaon, Manjoligaon, Banani Gaon, Methana, Pelargaon, Surnarguan, Nodi and Sonathgaon in Uttarakhand.

4.   Roofed cantilever bridges of wood

These bridges are mainly made of wood.

5.   Stay cable bridge

 

6.   Rope bridge / jhulas

These bridges are exclusively made of ropes. These bridges have caught fancy of artists too. For example, Baden Henry Baden Powell, a British artist created a water-color and pen and ink drawing of the rope bridge spanning the Kishan Ganga (Neelum River), a tributary of the Jhelum River.

7.   Steel girder bridges

For example, a steel girder bridge at Khandu Khal in Pauri, Uttarakhand

8.   Interwoven twig bridges

Beautiful footbridges made of painstakingly interwoven willow or birch tree twigs are still in use to cross icy Himalayan streams.  These green cables can be seen in Zanskar.

 

Ropeways

 

Ropeways are means for transporting goods and people. In some places, even ropeways take you over the river courses or deep Himalayan valleys.

 

Rope use / zipping / zip line

 

You may hold a rope connecting the two banks of the river with hands to wade through the water. So one person with strong feet and will power has to walk through the river and anchor the rope on the other bank.

Or you may use a pulley or other suitable equipment to slide on the rope.

 

4 things to remember while hopping between the river banks

1.   Time for river crossing

Cross the river sections located near and beyond snow line in the mornings because the river is slower and thinner during these hours. Sun does not have enough energy to melt the glaciers and snows that infuse water into the rivers. As the sun rises and reaches high in the sky, the melting process gains pace, increasing volume and speed of the rivers. The bulky fast furious rivers are dangerous to cross.

2.   Bridge load capacity

Do not ignore bridge load capacity. You will find load capacity details on many bridges. For example, the signboard may read that one person walks at a time.

And the bus drivers and conductors may ask you to alight and walk the bridge and await the bus at the other end of the bridge. Honor the request. The driver would drive empty bus with your luggage and allow you to re-board the bus.

3.   On spot bridge repairs

You may have to await completion of on spot bridge repair work. In many popular places, during tourist season, if bridges break due to bad weather, sudden landslide, etc., the bridges are quickly repaired.

4.   Getting wet

Crossing the Himalayan rivers in traditional style requires some skills: (1) finding a shallow and slow section of the river, (2) use of a stick, and (3) fixing a rope. Walk through the shallow section of the river in a group holding hands or use a solid stick to balance on wet pebbles.

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