Sunday, 18 September 2011

August weekend adventure, part III

Triund was heavenly, and probably the reason I’ll keep going back to McLo, at least till the place is still untouched by the reveller-tourists. Sitting at the chai shop near Galu Temple, munching Maggi and Mars bars, we watched the rain. The occasional colourful umbrellas, blooming like flowers amidst the rain washed mountains and the sound of the drizzle, this was what McLo meant to me. Not the crowd and eateries that I had left behind downhill. We also met a Brit couple and helped them  to get some leeches off themselves. They told me how they’ve been here for the past month and were planning to go to the North East next. At once, my heart longed for the beautiful NE, wish I could return, sometime, sometime soon...

On our journey back, we sat in the Volvo, the bus which will take us back to the city, where we will have to trudge back into our daily activities, each day stealing away a little bit of this tranquillity. The bus was full of people from all over the world, an ageing British Manchester United fan with his Spanish girlfriend, an American with his guitar, two French groups and a revolutionary slogan laden umbrella toting Tibetan activist. There were also the usual smattering of lamas, Tibetans on their way to Delhi and returning Indians. Soon the bus started on its journey with its motley crew. As we sank back into our reclining seats, we wanted this journey to be as non-happening as possible.

But Murphy disagreed.

Sometime around 22.00 hrs, our bus stopped. The conductor asked all the men to get off the bus. As we got down, I got a briefing of the previous incidents leading to this evacuation. It so happened, that due to the heavy rains, our bus driver had decided to avoid the main highway and take a shortcut to avoid the traffic. When he reached the shortcut however, he found that there were more like him who had thought of the shortcut, many more. On top of it, the shortcut, not used to such heavy traffic and already coaxed by the constant rain, has started to give up. Our bus driver had decided he might as well go back to the highway and taken a U-turn. But while doing this he had managed to drive the bus into some mud, so now he needed to reduce the load to try to drive his way out of it. Hence the evacuation.

All of us got down, except a few (including one friend of mine) who were too fast asleep to hear the conductor. We watched from the road as the driver tried to drive his way out of the mud. To our horror, he tried to over speed his way out of it and within minutes his speeding and frantic manoeuvring led to the bus tilting completely on one side, for a while the wheels on one side were off the ground!  Very soon, the bus sank more into the mud and stabilised at an angle, one side in the mud. By now the ones asleep inside had woken up, and the ones awake inside were screaming.

Very slowly, we managed to evacuate the entire bus, each person carefully stepping out through the driver’s door on the side facing the road. The bus was not going anywhere now, at least until a crane arrived to pull it out. Several call to the bus owner and local help lines later; we were told that the crane would arrive in another 3- 4 hours. It had been raining constantly all this while, and we were getting drenched in the middle of the road. Next thing most people wanted, was to get their luggage, so the ones who can, would go ahead without waiting for the crane. But that was easier said than done. Somebody had to go in, but who?

The driver had left the spot after being given a sounding off by angry passengers. One particular youth, who had managed to “extract” the fact out of the driver that he was driving on this route for the first time, had his moment of glory cut short by his girlfriend, who wanted him to go in and get her umbrella!

Poor Indian boy, he had signed up for the gym for a well toned body yes, but not for this !
We, on the other hand, were plain apathetic by this time, we couldn’t care if we had to wait till morning in the rain. Our bags were also inside, but we were in no hurry.
However, soon one guy decided to go in, his compatriot, our gym guy, at once supported him by telling him the seat number from which he should get the umbrella first! One by one, the brave lad got all the bags out, while the poor lad risked his life, some people were ordering him around to get their biscuits and pack of chips!! We couldn’t take it anymore, we stepped in.

Some others joined us and soon we managed to get the scramble in some sort of order. Soon he was going seat wise and getting stuff out, whatever he could find, which we would pass on to be identified and collected by the crowd. We also arranged for some flashlights and mobile phones so that he could find his way inside the bus. Within minutes we had managed to get most of the stuff out and him safely back outside. Some people were still missing some of their “important” stuff like biscuits, caps and sunglasses, so they got in themselves to look for it. We didn’t care to find out if they retrieved them or not, but all of them managed to get out safely, which was more than enough for us.

After waiting for a couple of hours more, with no sign of the crane still, we decided to look for some sort of transport to the nearest town. It would be better than waiting in the rain in the middle of the road. We managed to get hold of two Bajaj Tempo Matadors who agreed to drop us off at Una, a nearby town.
Everyone somehow managed to squeeze themselves in the two matadors. Our matador had the good fortune of being host to gym boy, who on the entire way back, was chided by his girlfriend for “putting her through this” and not holding the umbrella properly to save her from the rain. On an overcrowded matador, while we were barely able to stand still due to the rough roads, I must commend him for even trying to hold an umbrella.

At Una, we found out that the bus to Chandigarh would only leave in the morning. We were tired and had had enough adventure, so we went looking around for any cab that would drive us to Delhi. We managed to find one, even settled on a rate, however, it was a big cab, fit for 7 and the fare was more than whatever money we had with us. So we told him that we’ll get some more friends, to which he agreed. At the bus stop, we spoke to one of the French groups, with whom we had got acquainted by this time, and they agreed to come with us and share the fare. All set, we came back, only to find our cab guy has disappeared!

Half an hour of searching later, we could only manage to make one cab guy agree to drop us off at Chandigarh, but for 60% of the fare that we’d have paid till Delhi. Anyway, we decided to take it. In the morning we reached Chandigarh. The three of us now only had enough money to afford a bus, we could not, even if we wanted, afford a cab to Delhi. So we spoke to our French friends, what they’d like to do, wait for the bus or take a cab. They wanted a cab, they were too tired. This had been their first weekend out of Delhi, where they all had come to work a month back, and what a weekend it had been for them! We managed to get a cab for them and settled the negotiations with the driver and set them off n their way back. They were a bit surprised that we weren’t joining them, but we were too embarrassed to tell them that we didn’t have enough money to pay the fare.

We settled for a low-fare state bus back to Delhi. Even if it had been a cab, it would probably had been the same, all of us were so tired, we slept through the entire journey...

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