21st February 2015
Had a nice sleep inside the car parked in Kingal bazaar. Got up early again and walked up to a nearby tea shop. After four days of rain and snow, weather was clear. Sky was azure blue. While dipping bun in steaming hot tea, first thing in my mind was whether the road to Narkanda was open or not. My eyes were looking for any vehicle coming from that side. I did not see any traffic by then. Most people whom I asked, had no clue. So instead of waiting, decided to drive and check actual road condition myself.
I found it very difficult to drive on black ice. Lalpari was getting stuck, skidded and wobbled, had to reverse it many times to gather momentum. After suggestions from many passersby, reduced air pressure. Since I was solo, many suggested to put put more people inside the car to increase weight. Some suggested to drive steadily in 2nd gear without using clutch or brake, shaking steering all the time. Heeding to the suggestions made by all and sundry, with guts and grit, huffing and puffing, somehow reached Narkanda by afternoon.
Took lunch break at Matiana. Get the camera and laptop battery charged. There were lot of pretty faces around especially women, which I have seen earlier in Kashmir, Chamba, Kinnaur and few other places.
I was already familiar with the route till Theog. From Theog I turned left towards Rohru. This was my first time on Theog-Kharapathar-Rohru road. I already had an idea that the road thereafter was bad. But knowing theoretically and experiencing personally is different thing altogether. It was real mess, in fact horrible.
Throughout the drive till Kharapathar I could see nothing around. Had to focus on the road only. Constantly trying to save Lalpari being hit by the rocks hidden underneath the slush and mud. Coupled with this, the ascent was too steep. Like Kingal-Narkanda road, it had snowfall few days ago and snow on the road had turned into hard black ice.
It became dark as well.
There were still around 10 kilometers to go. Hard and soft snow was piled up everywhere. Underbelly of the car was being hit time and again. Last 2-3 kilometers were a steep descent. At times driving on it felt as if brakes have failed and Lalpari was out of my control. It skidded, wobbled and kind of skied on the road. I did not know what was happening. I just took care of few things, that the car was in 1st gear and my eyes were glued on the road all the time avoiding rocks and stones.
Reached Kharapathar at around 8pm. It was good to see few dhabas open. Went to check HPTDC Giri Ganga Resort. Nobody opened the door. I thought it must be closed due to off season. Huge piles of snow were scattered all around. It was pretty cold as well. There was no electricity. The lady at the dhaba told me that they were about to close and that I could order something quickly otherwise there won’t be anything to eat thereafter. Generator would be put off too. She told me that it was safe and I could park and sleep inside the near her hotel. It would be chilly though.
Instead of meals, had some raw cheese and roasted grams. Parked the car near the dhaba. Slipped into the car. Pulled the cover over, locked the door from inside, pulled inside the sleeping bag and tried to sleep. Few failed attempts later, tried watching videos on cell phone. Tried reading. Wrote daily diary. Still no sleep. I heard shutter of the dhaba go down. The only live bulb on the road, outside the dhaba went off. It was pitch dark now.
No one on the road, inside the car I was trying to sleep. Some other cars were parked nearby. Snow was scattered everywhere. Cold wind was blowing. Instead of sleep my mind skidded off and started creating horrible scenes, all those that lay dormant in subconscious mind. Sleep was miles away now. Started shivering with cold too. First time in the trip I was missing extra bedding.
Stray dogs barked faraway. With each passing moment their barking was getting louder. Pretty soon I could feel them all around my car. They were barking in tandem. A small puppy with annoying, shrilling voice would start and others would follow soon. It was quite annoying.
This went on for about an hour or so. Around midnight I felt like using toilet. Tried putting it off till morning. But could not, was feeling very uneasy. You all know how it feels. Going out in pitch dark, freezing cold, an army of menacing dogs all around, it was pretty scary. Somehow I mustard up courage, put the headlights on, took hold of water bottle, torch and opened the door. The dogs got perplexed and stopped barking. They might have looked at my fearful face, took pity and instead of barking started wagging the tail.
Encouraged, I alighted from the car, walked few paces to find a suitable place. The dogs were friendly by then and seem to lead me to proper place. Until the whole thing was over, the dogs sat at a safe distance, wagging the tails, as if guarding me.
Thus relieved, I walked up to the car, opened the door, put on another clothing to beat the cold and tried to sleep. There was no barking thereafter. Fear was gone as well and I had an amazing sleep.
Amazing experience…………..will never forget that night, the 5th of IN THE CAR ON THE CAR trip, at Kharapathar!!!