Not every travel memory need be a positive one. Most of us have had that one near-death experience where we have seen our ‘lives flash before our eyes’, were certain we wouldn’t make it, believed it without a grain of doubt and said to ourselves, “This is it.” The memories of these incidents may make us laugh and cry at the same time, but deep inside they never fail to remind us that it could’ve been bad, really bad. I too have one such story.
It was the last day of our stay in a valley in the Himalayas on a school trip several years back. We had survived, only a day earlier, a very harsh thunderstorm that blew our tents and belongings away and reduced a gang of 40 chattering teenagers to a mournful, scared group of shivering children. We thought we were leaving the worst behind when we left for Rishikesh for two days of pure fun on the banks of the Ganges, white water rafting. Nature, however, had planned a freakish detour.
We left for Rishikesh, seven hours from the valley of Tons, in the morning. After having braved the storm, we all felt a sense of invincibility at having survived a certain fury of Nature which should surely have killed us. The storm, however, had not completely let up. A couple of hours into the journey, the rain started to wreak havoc again. We prayed hard that the rain would stop, not quite ready to face another thunderstorm. It did. Only to give way to hail. As the hail lashed at our jeeps and threatened to shatter the glass, we were humbled into acknowledging the strength of the forces that surround us. Half an hour into the hail storm, our jeep slowed to a halt. There had been a landslide.
Stranded on an inaccessible mountain is a nightmare, especially when it’s dark. The thunder and lightning that followed seconds after this thought crossed my mind illuminated the valley below and for the first time since night fell, we saw the height we were at, and the violent river winding between the mountains metres below.
It’s a miracle we got out alive at all. Nostalgia comes swiftly when one gets out alive, I guess!
Contributed by Leah Sebastian