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. But this unique living tree root bridge called ‘Jembatan Akar’ is actually a vital link to connect the residents of two tiny villages in Pesisir Selatan District, West Sumatra, Indonesia.
The bridge was created by weaving a combination of roots into two Kubang trees placed on either side of the Bayang River that gradually grew strong enough over the course of 26 years for the residents of of Pulut-pulut and Lubuak Glare to use it as a crossing.
For more than 100 years, families have used the 30 metre bridge to reach one another, trade supplies and connect and it is now a mainstay tourist attraction of the province. The incredible engineering was captured by amateur photographer Robertus Pudyanto who visited the villages with help from the locals.Robertus said: ‘The root bridge is frequently visited by tourists during the holidays or before Eid as they are considered sacred.
‘They are extremely vital to the villagers and their entire lives depend on them. ‘The creations are remarkable but you have to be careful when walking on them in the rain as they become slippery – and that’s not good when hovering five metres over a fast-flowing river.’
Root bridges were first created by Muslim Ulama named Pakih Sohan and have been used in the region since 1890. The construction process takes approximately 26 years. They were created after original bamboo bridges were battered and broken by the Bayang River’s torrential currents. The process of creating the bridge begins by stringing together tree roots along a stem bridge made of bamboo. They then strengthen and grow over time into a bridge strong enough to cross.
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 wishes to find love and better fortune will be granted by God.