4th March 2015, Wednesday……..Day(16) Chaukori-Thal-Kalamuni-Thal 136 km
Got up to a stunning morning in Chaukori. Sun was about to rise. The setting was cool and serene. Went out for a little walk around the rest house. The views all around were beautiful. Found a wonderful location to view the stunning sight of rising Sun.
Chaukori, a small hill station, at 2010 meters ASL is famous for spectacular panoramic views of the snowy peaks of Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Panchachuli, Sunset and Sunrise.
Since it was too early, no one else was around. I saw a tall handsome gentleman carrying a big camera walk briskly. He found a vantage point and started clicking pictures of the rising Sun and Himalayan peaks. Our eyes met and instantly I knew we were going to be friends. The gentleman was Mr Sunder Iyer, a journalist, a teacher, a photographer and an avid traveler. He was calling someone to come out quickly.
Soon I saw a lady walk hurriedly towards us. She was Mrs Namita Sunder an equal match to Mr Iyer. Like me, she took an early retirement from the bank to take care of the family. She was also an avid traveler, blogger and currently running an NGO. It was good to meet a couple who shared common passion and had good chemistry.
Munsyari in mind I left Chaukori just before noon. On the way met many drunk men who stopped and asked me to give money to celebrate holi. No amount of excuse could keep them away. But the hard nut that I am, did not budge.
From Birthi the ascent to Kalamuni top began. Weather, which was sunny till birthi, suddenly became murky. It started raining followed by snowfall. It happened so quickly that It was hard to believe..it was sunny few minutes ago and then snow was falling. The snowfall got heavier and heavier. Soon it was snowwhite everywhere, on the road, on the trees, on the mountains, valleys and whatever was in view.
I continued driving though, until I bumped into a bus carrying students from Bangaluru stuck on the road. Luckily there was enough space for the car to cross. But crossing the bus my car got stuck on a steep turn too. It refused to go any further. Little ahead many other vehicles were stuck too.
There was no way out other than to wait for the weather to clear up and the road to open. Many other vehicles were stuck as well, some were coming down and few were going up.
The snow and rain continued for over an hour. Suddenly the weather cleared dramatically again. Sun was out in full glory. It appeared as if nothing has happened. The only evidence was fresh snow white landscape all around which looked stunning in the brightly shining Sun.
Some drivers tried to drive through the thickly snowed road but could not. The Bangaluru bus was also stuck in such a way that it blocked the road. The vehicles going down were not able to cross it. So we were stuck in between…could not drive ahead as due to thick ice on the road…could not go down as bus had blocked the way.
Soon we heard a big roar and saw a machine coming down from Kalamuni Top. The way machine and men were working we thought things were going to be okay soon. But it was not to be. It started getting dark very quickly and the ice on the road became harder with the colder weather of the evening.
Few maxi cab drivers and trucks were able to drive their way out but the bus and other light vehicles were not able to move. The struggle continued till around 8pm in the night.
The BRO men advised me to drive down instead of going up as there were more chances of me getting stuck again and that I might not get any help during the night. The bus people were really having tough time, the was neither able to move up or turn back as the road was too narrow.
The only option left was to go back in reverse gear. The driver was finding it very difficult to drive the bus back on a narrow slippery road and the bus moved back ever so slowly. Little later there was enough space for my car to cross and the driver asked me to cross.
Checked up TRC at Birthi Fall but somehow decided to drive down to Thal. Driving on that lonely narrow road, I reached Thal at around 10pm that night. The otherwise bustling Thal bazaar was all closed and no soul was awake at that time.
Parked the car in the middle of Thal bazaar under the safety of lights, pulled the cover over, slipped into the car, locked it from inside and pushed myself into the sleeping bag and slept after an eventful, unique and memorable day…….!!!