Traveling through Rustic Himalayas

By Bhuvi M

It is a small hilly village the destination. The rescue and rehabilitation volunteers after flash flood of Himalayas are camping there. SUVs are the only mode of commuting in Himalayan terrain after flash floods.  I take one of them along with three other volunteers travelling with me from Rishikesh (a small town at the foothills of Himalayas). We started early in the morning to cover the as much of distance within day light.

In this day journey we find broken and blocked roads, completely washed out. The regular route has been diverted hence, increasing the journey by another hundred kms. Navigating though washed out roads, crossing small rivulets and muddy patches the vehicles move. Whenever it is required, passengers get down to help in repairing the roads dumping rocks and silt or to help out clearing a stuck up vehicle. This is only possible if the damage is small.

There are earth movers (called JCBs locally based on one of the companies which manufactures it) deployed by the government agencies for clearing landslides every few kms. They can work only in the daylight. There are some high risk landslide zones. The signage indicates it to drive slow and cautiously. The dirver of our vehicle wants to clear the every such stretch as soon as he can if it is open. He takes updates from the drivers of vehicles coming from opposite side about the road blockages.

Around pre noon we stop by at a small road side hotel for tea and refreshment. It is a small hut kind of place with rustic wooden benches and tables. The refreshments available are maggi, chips, some fritters and tea. After having it in another 20 mins we start moving. There is a running water tap nearby. I go there to freshen up. Water is chilling and refreshing. Standing at the edge of the road, I can see the river flowing by with all its fiery. All muddy with the silt it has brought from uphills. It is still roaring with daily rains. At each curve it has been washing away some hundreds of meters. The river has grown four times in its width.

Late in the noon we halt again at another hub of make shift hotel to have lunch. Locals have told us there is no place to eat after that joint. We have hot steamed rice, dal, chapatti and potato curry. It is soul satisfying meal. In another half an hour we move again. Driver wants to stretch as soon as possible so we reach the destination by evening.

In another one hour up the road, we come to know about the blockage of usual route. We now have to take an alternate route which is hundred kms more. We take the diversion. This road is rustic, unmaintained road which has hardly seen visitors. It has been used only by the villages in vicinity. Most of the patches are muddy and full of bug and small rocks and slush. It has been a tough 12 hours journey and we are still half the way to reach the destination. The evening falls by. We know we can’t reach the destination today. The driver is still rigid to take us within the night itself. He does not want to lose another day.

Moving ahead we come to a massive jam. Another vehicle ferrying relief materials in upper echelons is stuck now just a few hundred meters away from us. It is pitch dark. All that we have our trekking torches and the headlights of the vehicles. We are stuck. Some of the men get down and walk in slush ahead to check if the way can be cleared. We wait for more than an hour. It is evident that it can’t be cleared in the night without help of JCB. While waiting we get down the vehicle. Some of the people are chatting about jaguars often spotted on those roads. There is jungle in the valley just where we are fixed. At once we see one of those shining jaguars in the light of flashlight. It was there just beneath us. It scared us to hell. We are at a fix. As it saw the light it disappeared in the trees.

Note: Day 2, Writing 101: A Room with a View (or Just a View) by the Daily Post

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