4th March 2015
Got up to a stunning morning in Chaukori. Sun was about to rise. The setting was cool and serene. I 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…..Sun set and Sunrise.
Since I was up early no one else was around. Suddenly I saw a tall handsome gentleman walk briskly carrying a big camera. He found a vantage point and started clicking pictures of the rising Sun and Himalayan peaks.Our eyes met and I instantly knew we were going to be friends for life. 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 bank to take care of their family. Like Mr Sunder she is 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.
Keeping Munsyari in mind I left Chaukori just before noon. On the way I met few people who were drunk even at the day time to celebrate the Hindu festival of colors, Holi. I was stopped many times and asked to shell money on the occasion of holi. No amount of excuse could keep them away.
From Birthi the ascent to Kalamuni top began. Weather which was sunny till birthi, suddenly became cloudy. It started raining followed by snowfall. It happened so quickly that It was hard to believe..it was sunny few minutes ago and now snow was falling. Snowfall got heavier and heavier. Soon it was snow everywhere, on the road, on the trees, on the mountains, valleys and everywhere around.
I continued driving though. Suddenly I saw a bus carrying students from Bangaluru stuck on the road. Luckily there was enough space for the car to cross. Soon after crossing the bus my car also got stuck on a steep turn. It refused to go any further. I saw few other vehicles stuck in the snow.
There was no way out other than to wait for the weather to clear up and the road opening. There were few other cars stuck as well. Some were coming down and few going up. Snow and rain continued for an hour. Weather cleared dramatically again. Sun was out. It appeared as if nothing had happened. The only evidence was freshly created snow white landscape all around. It was looking even prettier in the bright Sun shine.
Some people tried to drive through the thickly snowed road but could not. The Bangaluru bus was also stuck in such a way that it had blocked the road. Down going vehicles were not able to cross it. So I was stuck in between…could not drive up as there was thick ice on the road…nor could 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 cold 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.
I was advised by the BRO men 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 in the night. I did not mind it either as I am never an adamant person. The bus people were really having tough time. The bus was not able to move up. The road was so narrow that it could not turn back too. So with great difficulty the bus people slowly took the bus back to birthi some how in reverse gear.
I decided to drive down to Thal, though. Driving on that lonely road, I reached Thal at around 10pm in the night. Thal bazaar was all closed and there was no soul awake at that time. I parked the car in the middle of 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.
Driving back on that dark lonely road from birthi to thal was not as scary as it feels now when I am recalling and writing about it sitting on the cozy bed of my home!!!