Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Long, Leg-ful Adventure

Downhill treks are usually more exciting. For one, I get to see what kind of terrain I had climbed on my way up. Two, I don't get tired bouncing from one stone to another. Downhill treks are usually more exciting, but not when the distance is 13 km. The first 6 km or so are fine. Then, your shins feel a tinge of pain. Upon conquering another kilometer or so you realize the pathway is actually quite steep and every step pushes your entire weight on your toes, now regularly crushed into the front of your shoe. Breaks help, but with each successive hiatus new pangs arise. By the time we finally reached Govind Ghat an entirely new set of muscles had announced their existence.

There wasn't much to do in Govind Ghat and we were running low on funds. We had to get to a place with an ATM machine or else we would hardly have enough for another meal. Option 1 was Badrinath. Rumour had it that many roads were closed due to excessive rains and landslides, but one could be dropped to the closed area, walk a kilometer or two, and catch a ride on the other side. We caught a Sumo heading toward Badrinath which had 12 people packed in the small seats. The three of us climbed to the top of the vehicle and held on to the grail meant for securing baggage. That was fun.

2 kilometers down we saw the closed road. Police were only letting empty vehicles through "to pick up stranded people." Our driver made a U-turn. Option 1 wasn't happening.

We returned to Govind Ghat when the driver suggested an Option 2: Joshimath. A landslide had occured there as well, but a road was being constructed. He would drop us to the closed off section. We were in desperate need of an ATM. Option 2 it was.

A huge traffic jam awaited us. Connecting our side of the road to the chained area was a bridge, speckled with colorful ponchos donned by the throngs of Sikh pilgrims on motorcycles. I was afraid the bridge would collapse since the weight on it wasn't moving. We met another driver who volunteered to take us to Joshimath once the chains opened. An hour later, traffic began crawling off the bridge onto the newly constructed road. Soon, we were on the other side as well. The road was intact, the bridge didn't collapse, and I was relieved. The only frustration was the news van blocking traffic to report on the weather-induced traffic jam. Go figure.

It was already dark by the time we reached Joshimath. The first ATM we walked to was closed. Twenty minutes later, we saw a bank. No ATM there. After half an hour a glowing State Bank of India ATM greeted us. Hallelujah! We wouldn't go hungry tonight after all.

When we finally reached the GMVN hotel I was exhausted. We had walked more today than any other day. This was the time to give our legs the much needed vacation they deserved. All's well that ends well.

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