Bridges in the Himalayas
The river valley along the Dudh Kosi from Lukla to the Namche hill is lined with a succession of spectacular and very wobbly rope bridges. Although they are not literally made of rope, you still feel a little nervous as you step out and you realize the length of the bridge (maybe I'm exaggerating, but some seem to stretch out 100 meters at 30-40 meters above the rushing waters) is swinging free on its own support. There are some older bridges that are lined with eroding wood planks, but the newer bridges are all steel construction with rods welded to the walkway for better traction. You'll need all the help you can get with traction because the whole bridge does sway and wobble in ways that beffuddle your land legs, and you need some confidence to offset the open chain link fence siding. The ends of the bridges are anchored at each end by a firm concrete block that binds the long steel cables.
The whole construction doesn't look that solid, but it holds well considering
the kind of traffic they get. There will often be numerous hikers and porters
crossing the bridge, and their rhythmic footsteps amplifies into a giant bouncing
spring up and down. With a strong breeze the bridge will also start to sway
side to side. Add up those forces and you can imagine the panic that builds.
The really amazing feat is how the bridge can bear the load of a pack of yaks
pully laden with gear. They don't seem to get nervous. I get nervous watching
porters cross who have bulkly loads that seem to be top heavy. The railing
for the bridge doesn't rise up that high, so if they take a bad step with all
that wobbling they may end up flipping over the side. The beautiful and serene
mismatch with thrill ride of the bridges is that the Sherpas fasten hundreds
of colorful prayer flags to the railing, and they catch all the great, gusty
breezes. As you cross and pass by all the blessed prayer flags the gods must
be watching over to make sure all pass in safety.