Monday, June 24, 2013

The trek that wasn't

There I was in Rishikesh feeling that all nature was conspiring to make me feel at home by ensuring that it rained all night. This idea that everything was coming together to ensure that I felt at home was intensified when the next day's journey onwards was one long traffic jam after another - what else can make a Bangalorean feel more at home?
 
How human it is to think that everything in the universe is being staged exclusively to affect you! A massive landslide had halted all traffic about 3 hours from Rishikesh. The stop-start mode of transport continued almost all the way. Even the boulder that crashed into the road scant feet behind our vehicle gave us no indication of the massive disaster that was engulfing the region.
 
We hit Srinagar - between DevPrayag and KarnaPrayag - around 4.30 PM. The original intention of reaching Loharganj - which was the starting point of our trek route - had long been abandoned and we were intending to reach Karnaprayag by night and staying there. We stopped there for tea and by the time we started again, the bridge over the Alaknanda on our route was blocked and another traffic jam had developed. Abandoning any intent of traveling any further we took rooms in a hotel at Srinagar for the night.
 
That was where we stayed for the next couple of days. It rained almost incessantly for till the evening of Tuesday and the sight of the Alaknanda in spate was enough to strike terror in the hearts of anyone staying just one house to this side of the banks. One more day of rain would, in all probability, have found us stranded on the second floor with water lapping at our heels. The roads forward and backward were impassable.
 
We did not realize how lucky we had been. But for that stop for tea we would have probably been past the point of no return and looking for manna from Heaven and helicopters to the rescue. As it was, I felt almost ashamed when I received concerned calls from friends while comfortably ensconsed in a hotel watching cricket and guzzling vodka. A far cry from the desolate straits of the thousands of pilgrims stranded along the route.
 
A further indicator of our extraordinary luck was the news that an alternative route - which cut off at a point about 15-20 Km.s before Srinagar - was open on Wednesday. We opted to go back and with absolutely no problems or delays reached Haridwar by evening. Deciding not to go back we managed to find accomodation in Club Mahindra, Kanatal near Mussoorie and were there till Friday.
 
The most dangerous part of this entire trip was the car journey to Dehradun. Our driver seemed to have modelled his driving on the Formula 1 drivers and racing down a mountain road at 50 Kmph was certainly the scariest part of the whole trip. When we started remonstarting with him about the speed, the car started zipping at 60 Kmph as though he had mistaken the accelerator for the brake. We abandoned our attempts lest each attempt increased the speed by an additional 10 Kmph ending in our sailing off in a graceful arc into the valley below.
 
It seemed like our chauffeur had homicidal tendencies. Every time he passed any vehicle on the road, he seemed to be giving in to the temptation of sideswiping it before changing his mind at the last moment. While I was busy holding in the contents of my stomach, the others were bewailing the fact that we had escaped the horrors of nature's fury only to end up as a red smear on an otherwise harmless road. One of us was reassured about the driver's eventual entry into Heaven - having put the fear of God into so many people's hearts.
 
A change of drivers at Dehradun was accompanied by a gusty sigh of relief. The 'fear of God' companion sought our driver's name and, as he later told us, merely to ensure that he never got into another car which had a driver whose name even remotely resembled it. The trip back to Delhi was uneventful.
 
The trek to Roopkund still remains a proposal but, seeing the possible horrors that we could have undergone, that is a blessing. I do hope that all those who are undergoing such suffering now also end up safe in their homes.

58 comments:

  1. Glad you are back safe and sound. The driver must have known of what was happening at Kedarnath and must be wanting to be out of the hills in record time

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    1. That's like committing suicide to avoid getting killed in an accident :)

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  2. Well, you were not in the heart of darkness and that is good. let me admit, however, that a part of me wished you were there where it was all happening... to come back with the truth and the real fiction!

    Arvind Passey
    www.passey.info

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  3. Interesting adventure. Sometimes luck works in our favor too. Hopefully you will make it to Roopkund next year.

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  4. Just glad that you are safe and back. It is so depressing to see thousands stranded, hungry, wailing and mourning for their loved ones. Can't even imagine their plight.

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    1. True - wish everyone could have had the same sort of luck

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  5. Goodness gracious you are well and true safe and happy back home. The visuals on tv made everyone shudder at the intensive fury of nature!

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    1. Hope your friends made it back safely too.

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  6. Dear Suresh
    Gratitude be to GOD for your safe return...HE has been with you all through, in the midst of Nature's fury and seemingly senseless driver...Nice to hear from you!.....Manimala

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  7. Glad you are back safely. I called you on your mobile but your number was not reachable :( Anyway, by God's grace, you are safe bro! :)

    Someone is Special

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    1. Thanks SIS - signals were off and on in the mountains

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  8. Glad that you are safe Suresh!

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  9. So glad that you are fine. Jokes apart, we were worried about your well being after seeing those horrendous visuals on TV. And my heart goes out to every single person who suffered nature's wrath. Thanks heavens things worked out in your favor. And what an idiot driver that was. I hope you complained to the agency.

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  10. We just did not wait long enough :) Too much of a hurry to get back to (sweltering) Delhi :)

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  11. Hi Suresh, glad you made it back safe. Is it appropriate to ask you to get your papers (will) in order before you leave for your next trek? ;) :)

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  12. Thank God you came back safely-it is truly providence which saved you.

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    1. Never before have I felt how much luck matters than this time Indu!

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  13. I am sad that you couldn't do the normal Himalayan trek that you look forward to every year. But aren't we all glad that you made it back in single piece...despite the antics of that F1 driver ki desi aulaad! :D

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    1. There is always a next time, Rickie - both for treks as for the F1 driver to really do a job on me :)

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  14. I am glad you are back safe ...Lemme tell u something- Drivers of the hilly terrains do scare others while driving. But they are used to the routes and and experts :-) Born and brought up in Dehradun, I can vouch for the fact. A hair raising adventure you had ! :-

    Shilpi
    Shilp3005@gmail.com

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    1. For me it is less the fear than the motion sickness that kills at those speeds on the mountains :)

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  15. Suresh ji , i experienced similar driving experience on my first trip to Darjeeling through the so called short cut road in monsoons .. it was a horrifying experience while the driver was casually waving hands at fellow drivers coming from the opposite end ..and going out of those thin narrow pitched road .. I used to have my heart in my mouth ..watching the steep valleys.
    U must have felt a deadlier adventure experincing crises due to nature's anger .. I am sure !! I can sense that as i read your experience.
    for the trekking thing mission - as they say in Hindi - Jaan Hai to Jahan Hai :)

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    1. True - this is the second time I have been in the mountains when rains played havoc. The first time in the Leh region we finished the trek and got out just the day before Leh got cut off for a week. That trek had a lot more hair-raising moments than this.

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  16. Good that you are back with or without the trek. No photographs ??

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    1. I am not too good with the camera, Puru. Will give links when the others kick in with their photos.

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    2. Here are some photographs....

      https://www.facebook.com/hariharan.sankaran/media_set?set=a.10151744291789052.1073741841.777449051&type=3

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    3. Thanks Hari! Do you still beware of Rakeshs? :)

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  17. Glad To Know That You Came back Safe!!
    Many Of The People Are Still There & Some OF Them Are Missing Too. They Drive With High Speed Because If They Will Drive It Slowly There Will Be Chance To Slide Back.

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    1. Scant chances of sliding back when you are traveling downhill.

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  18. Glad that you are back safely because of the good luck of not only yours but your elders,youngers and well wishers liker us and the lucky cup of tea.
    I was there on 2.06-10.06 have you seen the increasing no. of slide zones which the hydropower people did not treat? This outburst of Nature was aggravated by milking of Hills and Hill rfivers beyond the limit.

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    1. Yes - thanks to the well-wishers whose wishes probably resulted in that lucky cup of tea.

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  19. A miracle indeed, that stopping by at the chaiwala! and thank god ur safe!

    it is scary to hear a first hand account like this after weeks of reading reports in the newspaper...

    and who better than u to look at the lighter side of things even in such horrendous conditions...that part about ur homicidal driver actually put me at ease after reading all that disturbing details.

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    1. I was wary using humor here - sometimes humor seems like making fun of other people's misfortunes even when you have no intent of doing so.

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  20. Looking at the mess these rains have brought, it is a huge relief to see you somehow managed to reach back safely. May be that driver was being extra nice, trying to compensate for your failed adventure. ;-)

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    1. :) Giving me one to compensate? :) I prefer to choose my adventures :)

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  21. Good to learn that you came back.you were lucky indeed.

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  22. Good that you are back safe Suresh. Yes, its nature's wrath unleashed this time. I am sure the media is giving wrong numbers . Talk about these adventurous drivers! No wonder there is a separate program on History channel that challenges drivers from other countries to drive on our Himalayan roadways(i forgot the name!)

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    1. I wish they would not take us along willy nilly on those adventures :)

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  23. Glad to see you back safely, Suresh.

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  24. Great that it was a trek that 'wasnt' ! Fate always has other plans for you and we are mere puppets in its hands. Delightfully written as ever !

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    1. Fate, thankfully, wanted to keep me alive :)

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  25. Good that the luck was on your side. Read this last week but could not comment. Glad that you are safe and sound!

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  26. Hi Suresh! Nice to read your blog. Somehow, your trek dreams seemed to be jinxed as you broke your hand before Thadiyandamol trek and now this. You are a cat with 9 lives!

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    1. I wish all nine lives were not put to the test so frequently :)

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  27. I have had near death experiences with drivers in hill stations so I usually stay away from them. A few of my cousins live in Dalhousie and Chamba and they are equally bad. I prefer buses to cabs because if you are lucky, your food will remain in your stomach.
    I am glad that you are safe.

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    1. Looks like danger means different things to the plains-dwellers and the mountain-dwellers Amit :)
      Thanks

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  28. Very late here, I know.. but better late than never. Glad to see you back safe, CS! Wonder how is that driver even allowed to drive and risk lives on that terrain?

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    1. Better late than never Arti :) Apparently all drivers in the hills are like that - going by some of the comments I have received :)

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  29. I think nature wants to be alone for a while, the hilly nature.

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