We all woke up by 6:30 am in the morning. It was still raining, so badly, that everybody was speechless. The entire trip was looking futile due to this incessant rain. Rajesh announced that he will be going back to Delhi without seeing the Tiger Fall, but I was not in any mood to miss the sight and roaring voice the Fall makes while crashing onto ground. So I was trying to convince him and all, to wait some time more and the weather will be all clear.
In the mid of our conversation, the pantry guy from the camp came running to our tent wearing a plastic sheet and holding a thermos full of tea. He apologized that the tent in which they have made the kitchen has been washed off by rain and expressed their inability to prepare anything good to eat, but some poha and omlette. I sneaked out of the tent to find the real situation and concluded that we will never receive our breakfast as all the wood they were trying to burn under the debris of the tent was completely wet and were not able to ignite the matchstick due to dampness. We stayed inside the tents for next one hour hoping for the miracle, and finally decided that going back to Delhi will be a wise decision than to visit Tiger Fall.
Within no time, all bags were packed, there was no point in changing the clothes as whatever we wear was going to get drenched. Losing all hopes to visit Tiger Fall, the other two guys also agreed to go back to Delhi. After coming out of the tent, Sanjay started shouting for Himanshu (our Guide) so that he can take us back or guide us to their main Resort at Chakrata. Himanshu came out from one of the tent after 10 minutes and we were all set to go back. Since he was wearing a big cellophane sheet, I handed over my camera bag to him to prevent it from getting wet. We started walking down the hill to the parking area which has turned slippery due to minor land- and mud-slides. Gurdeep slipped at two to three places while crossing the waterfalls that have made their way onto our trekking path. On reaching down the flat meadows everyone prayed in the Ram temple for our safe return, and get settled in the cars.
This time Gurdeep and Arun sat in the car of Atit and Kartik, and Himanshu joined our car. Rajesh steered slowly, and I figured out from the silence inside that everybody is chanting prayers in their heart. Inspite of the rain that was falling like cats and dogs, there was not any destruction for a stretch of 3kms and smile started coming back on everybody’s face. Going ahead we saw that Atit car is parked at a hill bend and all the guy were standing out, my heart started pounding, sensing some problem. We stopped our car to enquire about their well being, to which none of them responded and insisted us to come out of the car. Soon everybody from our car, except me, followed them, to see a huge waterfall on other side of the bend. Posing himself in front of the fall, Gurdeep shouted in demand for a photograph, and I responded back in fury, ‘how the hell you can think of photographs in this nasty climate’. But my voice was overruled by the brigade joining him in demand for a shot. I clicked few of their photographs with waterfall background which never appeared in the picture due to foggy weather.
Just a kilometre before Lokhandi, our happiness vanished on seeing few boulders and a tree of over 60 feet, big enough to halt our journey, has fallen down on the road. It was impossible for all of us to remove them, and to add to our misery the rain also intensified and temperature drops to 10 degree C. Everybody started looking at each other face and then we looked at our mobiles to find network in it. Fortunately, the network was there in Rajesh mobile and we dialled 100 in hope of help. The person on the other side told us that JCB has gone down to Kalsi to remove the landslide and will only be able to reach this place by tomorrow. Himanshu, the Guide, gave us number of disaster management office and few other places from where we could expect some help, and after talking to them we concluded that we are not going to get any help before the rain subsides or earliest by tomorrow morning. Finally we called owner of the Blue Canvas Resort who was there in Dehradun at that time as our last hope and he promised to get back to us. We stayed inside our cars waiting to hear from him, and to break the silence Himanshu said ‘bhaiya aap log chinta mat karo Vikram bhaiya (Owner of Blue Canvas) kee bahut jaan pehchaan hai, wo jaldi hee kuchh madad bhejenge’. After waiting for more than an hour, I called Vikram to which he told me that since there are landslides all around the Jaunsar district it is impossible to expect any rescue team to come before 18th June, and advised us to go to Koti. Atleast wahan aap logon ko kuchh na kuchh khane ko to mil hi jayega aur ho saka to rukne ko bhi. Dekhiye ab ghabra ke kuchh nahi hoga, aap wahan jao aur jab mausam khulega to hum yahan kaam chaaloo karwa denge. We communicated the same to guys in other car and all agreed to go to Koti. Now we have to reverse our cars, as Koti was in opposite direction, 3km from the Kanasar Forest House. Atit took the lead and reversed his car carefully on the narrow hilly path. Rajesh too tried to start his car, but in vain as battery of the car was drained off since he was charging his mobile from the car charger and had kept the parking lights on for over an hour. The fear of getting stucked in this disastrous weather which was pouring stones and boulders from the mountains along with rains sent shivers down my spine, but I gathered courage and instructed all to push the car so that it can be started by applying gears during its motion. We all three, except Rajesh came out of the car started pushing it, but the car was adamant to move even an inch further as it parked uphill and none of us had got muscles to shake it. Seeing us not coming behind them for more than 15 minutes the guys in the other car came chasing us and with the power of seven, we somehow managed to start the car by pushing it uphill. All rushed into the car and I was trembling with the cold after getting drenched badly in this task. We started driving towards Koti and reached there after clearing a big boulder almost of my height.
In Koti we all stopped by a small shop and sipped few cups of tea with biscuits to get some relief from cold. Turn-by-turn we all warmed ourselves from the heat coming from a small Chulha. All of us wanted to get out of this place anyhow, so kept enquiring about the conditions of the road. After some time we saw a jeep coming from opposite side and told us that road ahead is motorable with small to medium landslides. We all decided to continue our journey after hearing from Himanshu that Purola is just 22 kms from this place and well connected to NH. Bhaiya ek baar Paraula pahunch gaye to aap aaram se Delhi pahunch jaogo, wahan se 5 raste nikalte hain Delhi jane ke. Have we been aware of the fact, we would have never taken that risk.
With loud jaikaras of mighty Lord, journey was resumed. It was going good for 10 odd kilometres, our car was leading the show with Atit car following us. Soon the task of clearing boulders and rocks from road started as they were all on the road due to landslides. We all were going mad by getting out of the car in the rain after every 200 m to get various kinds of blockages cleared. We were actually afraid by not seeing any human existence in the entire stretch of road and having not seen any vehicle crossing us in the past 3 hours. It was not a journey of 22 kms, it was manifolds, and appearing to be never ending due to disastrous hurdles coming our way. To add to our fear and bring our jaws out of the mouth, we saw a mighty river flowing over a bridge that we were supposed to cross. There was no point of going back, and crossing that flooding river over the bridge was a task we have never ever imagined, so after much courage both the cars decided to keep accelerating without any thought of applying brakes. Both the cars managed to cross the river but that courage comes with a price, and the bumper of our car was washed off by the river flowing perpendicularly to the motion of car with mighty pace. Had we even thought of applying brakes, we could have been flowing in river along with cars. We celebrated our victory of crossing the hurdle by clicking a photograph and moved ahead.
We reached Tiuni by 6 in the evening, a place 50 kms from Purola, where we bought fuel by paying Rs. 25 extra for each litre to keep our cars moving, and after buying some bottled water we moved ahead. It was the river Tauns which was flowing with all its might down the road and was accompanying us all the way, and after few kilometres, the river started touching the banks of road on which we were driving, sending us the fear of wiping off the road below our wheels and taking us down in its eternity. Such flooded state of river stayed with us for almost 5 kms after which it descended a little. The river followed us till Mori (a place 22 kms from Purola) and moved away in different direction. With much difficulty and overcoming all hurdles we reached Purola at 10 pm and enquired about the highway that was supposed to take us to Delhi at a small restaurant, where we had our food. The guy at the restaurant told us that there are no highways that will take us to Delhi. It was also brought to our notice that we are now in Uttarkashi district and the road are badly broken due to landslides. We decided that it will not be wise to move ahead in this bad weather at night, so called off our journey and took three room for the night halt, above the restaurants where we had our food.
To be continued…