How do you cross a suspension bridge? Just walk across it, right? In theory, yes. In practice, a very different proposition – at least in the case of the one at Pangin, 29 kms from Aalo (formerly Along) on the way to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh.
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Built for locals to cross over the fast flowing river Siang, just the sheer drop from the bridge to the river below can give one the creeps. When crossing it, the persistent wind drafts cause that pendulum swinging movement – something you feel only when you are actually on the bridge. What certainly doesn’t help matters is the state it is in: ground below (if you can call it that) is made of bamboo and some planks. All somehow put together but shaky in many parts. Non-existent in some. And looking like all coming apart. You don’t watch you footing and the leg could go through. No, it is unlikely you will take a plunge to the rapids below – the mesh holding it up looked sturdy – but a twisted ankle or a broken leg could well ruin your trip.
Did I get across? Yes. Surprisingly in only 7 minutes one way. Locals did much better. 3 minutes maximum. In flip-flops, not even sports shoes like me. With their backs holding up babies or loads of oranges in baskets.
Talking about oranges, the villages across the river are engaged in orange cultivation. They got started as a part of a Government program some time back. They were being carried across for traders to buy in bulk and sell in the markets of Pasighat. These were offered to me at Rs 2 a piece. When I started selecting the best, the sellers protested saying I had to take a mix of small and big. How much for only the big ones? Rs. 2.50. Done. At any price, they were a bargain. They would cost three times as much in Delhi. But the best part was the taste: I had sweet oranges after years. The ones in big cities are so bland now. And these were organic too: the North East is still to get used to using chemicals and fertilizers. Hope it remains this way.