7th October 2009. The one where I almost died, where I stood at 17,800 feet, the one where T had his full of adventures, music and conversations, snowfall and rainfall and Army guys! What a crazy day!
3.30 am start. Tenzing, our drive said, 'Madam, char baje nikhlenge'. 4.45 am and no sight of the guy. 5.00 am chap shows up. Says a cheery hi and says, 'Chale?' Looking at his smile I could not even yell at him.
We left at 5.00 am and stopped at several checkpoints. Destination Gurudongmar - a lake 17,800 feet where a friend said, 'I should forget about shit and show the world the finger!' (which I did btw). We reached Thangu located at 13,500 ft and stopped for namak cha and brekkie - Maggi - the yummiest I have ever had. Namak cha had the aftertaste of butter for some reason.
The place where we stopped was so small - barely 5 ft x 5 ft and all run by ladies. The men were nowhere in sight. 7.15 am, brekkie done we set off for Gurudongmar and it then started snowing by then!! T has never seen snow in his life and he was ecstatic to put it mildly. September - we had been told it never snows and here it was pissing down on us and the cold literally entered our bones. T, ever dramatic, said he could feel it in his bone marrow!! :D
Stopped at the final Army checkpoint before they let us through towards Gurudongmar. The Army guys were very polite - most of them had their snow gear on complete with sunglasses.
Then began the long ice-cold journey to Gurudongmar - took us more than a hour's drive from the Army checkpoint. We had almost got there and the driver informed us that the clutch had stopped working! Luckily another tourist vehicle came along and the driver helped us out. So, you climb a hill covered with snow - there were steps for those of the intrepid nature and you find yourself staring at this pale blue lake surrounded by snow clad hills.
There's a temple there as well as a sign commemorating Gurudongmar's existence. T & me had 'actually' planned to stay at the lake for a full hour! What a laugh! We lasted five minutes to ensure necessary photos and jumped into the car as quick as possible.
The snow fell soft and thick and at one point, we almost skidded off the edge down a twenty foot snow covered ravine. But it was beautiful - the first time I have ever experienced snow in India and considerting it wasn unexpected, totally way out!!
We headed back towards Thangu - stopped again to warm our innards and gulp some hot namak cha which is a local speciality. I smoked a beedi too after a long time :) Then began the long drive back to Lachen - enroute snowfall became rainfall as we descended.
We were almost at Lachen - I remember thinking how desperately I wanted to pee at that point- when we got stuck behind a long convoy of vehicles. We could see an Army jeep stuck ahead. 5-10 minutes passed. An Army truck came along and hauled the jeep. Our driver comes up and we think - finally the hotel till he says, 'Kuch try karna hai!'
We forged ahead without the two of us realising what we were getting into. Next thing I know our solid sturdy Mahendra Maxx is in the path between a waterfull full of rocks and a forty foot ravine at the bottom. There's a whole lot of people around us - all the drivers who are trying to get the car out of the mess we are stuck in and confusion at the same time.
T offers help and steps out. I am sitting inside at this point. I see T walk away from the car and still lost in my own world. The driver Tenzing rushes up to my side, yanks open the door and yells at me, 'Madam abhi chaliye!' I jump out and he drags me by the hand away from the car getting my shoes all mucky. I go wtf! I see people gesturing, 'Come here, get to a safe place'. I am still wtf. I look up and I see a gigantic stone weighing a tonne atleast hurtling down with force towards the car. I'm thinking, 'Shit our stuff is gone!!'.
The stone deflects and ends up about ten feet away from the car at the side of the road.
I see people walking around the car - an Army truck comes and tries to life it off the muck its stuck in. I walk through the muck to the other side and see T shell shocked staring at me. I am bitching about my shoes and jeans and he's looking at me like I am crazy. He says, 'In those three seconds, our four year association flashed in front of my eyes.' That threw me and I actually stopped and thought, 'What if!'
I was three seconds away from dying. I would not have got the chance to say goodbye to my folks, friends - people I loved because some dumb rock decides to come down on me. None of this struck me until much later! T is still mindfucked about it and I went into thinking mode after a while. Life's too fucking short. You gotta grab every moment and live it. Ironically apart from T no one knows about my near death experience because my network ain't working here!
How do I begin to tell people without sounding too dramatic...How do I use this chance that I have been given (because its that - pure luck, fate whatever you wanna call it) ...don't know yet but it makes me more determined to do the things I have always planned for in life and make sure I live each day with joy.
An uneventful journey into Lachung - Yumthang Valley being our next destination - we have had diner and almost sleeping as I pen this down. Tomorrow a 7 am start. Thank God for that. Thank the Lord for giving me these precious moments of life...