Friday, February 28, 2014

Never Ending Journey

14 Feb 2014 : Both me and Dr. Mathur left Uttarkashi at noon as we were warned by the District Disaster Management Officer that anytime the roads might close as landslides have begun in some places. So, were rushing to get out. We were told that we should travel through Chamba and Rishikesh, a much longer route in comparison to Musoorie, which is the shorter route to Dehradun. In about 20 kilometers we crossed Dunda and our ordeals began. Couple of landslides had just begun and we escaped them carefully.  As we crossed what is known as Dharasu Bend, Dr. Mathur told me that the worst is over – and we are now free to travel! But that was not to be so!
Just three of kilometers ahead of us at a place called Nalpaani, a landslide from a high mountain had begun almost vertically, and it had thrown much of dirt and was throwing down small rocks. One of the vehicles had damaged its windows. As more vehicles waited, we too began to wait. When for a few minutes the rains seem to withhold, the policemen who had a mini police station next to the location let first the vehicles from the lower hills to climb up towards Uttarkashi. (Did you read it correct? Yes, they let more vehicles to climb up the hill when the landslides were actually blocking the roads.) Once all vehicles from the lower hills had crossed into the upper hills, crossing past us, now it was our turn to move ahead to safety—but then came the shocker!  In line of vehicles was a loaded truck that was standing in front. With much of the slush from the active landslide already having filled most part of the road, the truck was trying to cross it. I was wondering why the police is allowing this to happen. By the time even my thinking was over, the truck had already got stuck in the slush and now it cannot be taken out! We returned back to Dharasu Bend where we had hot rice and fish curry – which was much of the solace against the cold blowing rain. We went back to Nalpaani hoping that the truck will be taken out. Hei, there is a huge earthmover that can be utilized to pull out the truck. No, it cannot be used. Reason: the earthmover had no fuel! Comedy of errors???
Attempt to pull the truck hadn’t succeeded till 5.45 pm, and it was getting dark. We began to look for a place to stay for the night. A little guest house at the Nalpaani and a smaller one at Dharasu Bend were already full with stranded people from couple of buses and private vehicles like ours. People suggested that we travel to Brahmakhal, about 15 kilometers from Dharasu Bend and leave for Dehradun the next morning through Badkot, an alternate route. So, we climbed to Brahmakhal and stayed at Hotel Dhruv for the night, after having some chapatti and vegetables for dinner.
Photo taken from outside my room of our hotel
As we woke up on 15th morning, a Saturday, we were welcomed by four inches of snow and the snowfall continued till 10.00 am. We had been badly stuck in the snows. Once the roads got better with the snow melting and people voluntarily clearing part of the roads, we took the risk of going back to Dharasu bend, as the previously planned route to Badkot had totally been closed with over 3 feet of snowfall in the higher ridges that we would otherwise have taken. We were happy by then that the rains had stopped and the roads will be opened at Nalpaani. But to our dismay, just about a mile before we reached the Dharasu Bend, the road we had taken the previous night, had closed with fall of huge rocks and boulders. Now that is what destiny would have it!

We called up few officials hoping that the road would be cleared. But nothing was happening. Meanwhile we walked down to Dharasu Bend, took lunch, carried some lunch for the driver, and then asked him to go back if the roads don’t open by 5.00 pm so that he can stay with the vehicle at Brahmakhal in a safer environment. Both me and Mr. Mathur walked and crossed the Nalpaani and another landslide about a kilometer from there, and then took a jeep to Chiniyalisaur. I decided to stay that night in Chiniyalisaur, and not take the risk of traveling late at night through the mountains to Dehradun.

Next morning at 11.00 am, the driver along with the vehicle came after all the roads were opened, and then I traveled to Dehradun and reached at 5.45 pm – dead tired. By the way: what or whom should I blame for the ordeal? The nature’s fury?  My luck? The policemen who did not follow proper order in passing vehicles? The journey that should have taken just six hours turned out to be a terror of 54 hours.

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