Stranded across the Rohtang

Travel time: October 1995  |  by Roshni P.

The great walk across!

The next morning we waited at the roadside from 4.30 AM onwards. We waited and waited and waited - finally when we had lost all hope, the jeep showed up. We quickly sat in the jeep and left. We reached Koksar, where the officer had some work. And then we started the drive to the Pass.

Along the way, we could see trains of humans trying to walk up to the pass. They were mostly the Bihari labourers. Some of them were slipping; some ran to us asking for a lift. It was CRAZY! From Gramphu onwards, the sight was a bit frightening. The snow walls on each side covered up all the view, we felt as if we were driving through a snow canyon. Only the sides where the road turns in a ‘hair-pin’ bend, we could see where we were. About 5 kilometres before the pass, the jeep could go no further. The snow cutter was stuck there. The blades were badly bent – the power of nature can be so strong! We bade our farewell and started the walk.

To protect us against frostbite, we had worn a layer of Nylon socks, then wrapped our feet in polythene bags and covered it with another layer of socks. We had only nylon socks that made the polythene slip more. I would have liked to take off the polythene but I knew what exposure to cold could do to you. The walk across the flat pinnacle of the pass was pretty crazy as we tried to get used to walking with our paraphernalia.

It was very windy, so windy that I thought I was going to be blown off. So, I insisted on carrying the haversack. At the tip of the pass, we saw some locals and asked them to walk with us. They said OK but soon disappeared – thank you so much! Going downhill from the Rohtang is very tricky as you could end up at the wrong place – in to a glacier or a fall. So, we avoided the road (we only knew the direction of the road – you could not see the road in that snow). At some of the places the snow was thin enough to trap my thighs and we had to dig me out! It was adventure! I felt like a Yeti as I tried to take giant steps! This part was the trickiest part of the walk. At last, we could see the makeshift dhaba’s of Marhi.

At Marhi, we ate at our favourite place – The Chamba Dhaba. The lady was so surprised at seeing a little boy (most people thought I was one!) that she gave me a handful of toffees from her shop. She gave us the food she was preparing for herself. She also gave us some juice packs and biscuits – all free of cost!

It must have been around 11AM by then. The lady pointed us the direction that we should head. And off we went. It was a steep downhill and midway to the bottom of the valley there was greenery. At the bottom, we were stuck as there was a river to cross or, we could cross the stream that was too big to jump across. There were two boulders on our side. We looked inside and found a sort of a pathway to crawl across the tip and jump to the other side of the stream. That was GREAT! It was like crawling through a tunnel! I felt like Indiana Jones in the 'Raiders of the lost Ark'!

Once across, the going was easy. We found a broken down bridge leading across the river. Half of it was in the river. We did a little ‘swing and jump’ monkey act to cross the bridge. There was a path leading to the main road near Gulaba that leads to Manali. From there on, we walked through the shortcuts. People would come out of their houses to see us – where are you coming from? Where did you start walking? At 5 PM, we were near Palchan. The last bus to Manali was leaving. Some boys were playing on the road. They heard our disappointment and so they whistled to the bus to stop. The conductor looked out and saw us standing at the top of the hill. It took us 15 more minutes to reach the bus – yes they waited for us! : -)

We loaded ourselves on to the bus and reached Manali. In Manali, we quickly went to our favourite momo shop- Dicky’s. Then we arranged for a private car to drive to Kullu. We reached Kullu at night and woke up the guesthouse owner who thought of us as ghosts!

The next day, we took an overnight bus for Delhi reaching in 12 hours. At 8AM the next morning, I saw the dreaded Redline bus (dreaded because they caused a large number of accidents – the government was smart and so they repainted the bus blue and calls it blueline now!). Never have I loved the sight of smoking buses before! And the sight of a Redline bus – was truly great!

We reached home on the day of the main festival of Diwali. Of course, for a week or so, we could not walk or move our head. We had to turn our whole body around!

The walk from Rohtang has become very special for me and whenever I am there and have the time, I take a bus to the pass and walk down the old path.

© Roshni P., 2003
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The trip
 
Description:
On a recce trip to the newly opened Spiti valley, I learned why mountains are nobody's friends! From there on, no matter where I go, I am always prepared for the worst!
Details:
Start of journey: Oct 12, 1995
Duration: 14 days
End of journey: Oct 25, 1995
Travelled countries: India
The Author
 
Roshni P. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 18 years.