Weaved out of living tree roots, this rickety bridge set just a few feet above a treacherously fast-flowing river looks like it could be from a scene in an Indiana Jones film.
Extending over the Indonesian Batang Bayang River, the slowly growing Jembatan Akar root bridge is made entirely out of the naturally growing roots of two banyan trees that have been slowly cultivated to knit into a walkable span, connecting the residents of two tiny villages in Pesisir Selatan District, West Sumatra.
The span (Jembatan Akar means “root bridge”) was first conceived of in 1890 by a local teacher named Pakih Sohan, who wanted his students from a village across the river to have an easier time getting to his classes.
To start the bridge, he put a bamboo frame in place and began wrapping the ever-growing aerial roots into two large banyan trees placed on either side of the water along the frame. Ever so slowly, the bridge began to take shape.
The project took 26 years of carefully tended growth to become sturdy enough for the residents of Pulut-pulut and Lubuak Glare to use it as a crossing.
The 100-foot span has since been shored up and reinforced with wooden planks and metal cables as well as becoming stronger year after year as the massive roots of the still-living trees continue to grow. Guidelines have also been added to provide additional support for visitors.
Around the base of the bridge, there are thousands Larangan fish that are also considered sacred and are forbidden to be fished or taken. According to local belief, when residents bathe in the Bayang River around the root bridge their hopes and wish to find love and better fortune will be granted by God.
For more than 100 years, families have used the bridge to reach one another, trade supplies, and connect. It is now a mainstay tourist attraction of the province. Unfortunately for the original creator of the bridge, he is no longer alive to see what has grown from his simple idea, but thousands of visitors and commuters each year have him to thank for creating one of the most curious bridges in the world.