Finding ourselves in the middle of nowhere on a dark night, had taken “Adventurousness” of this trip at an entirely different level. The greatest fear I had, standing there in the dark, was that I would be run down by some passing vehicle. But as time passed, my fears seemed so unfounded and vain. As I had mentioned earlier, there is hardly any vehicular movement in these parts. But every vehicle that passed us, stopped and enquired about our situation. They offered advice, spoke to the driver and tried to help.
Just to refresh your memories, this is was 2011. We didn’t have smartphones or google maps at our fingertips. In short, we had no idea where exactly we were. All we knew was that we had crossed Nimu (Nimmoo) sometime back and Leh was approximately an hour away. Therefore, these people talking to us helped us even more. What the vehicle needed was water, and we realised that we could get it from Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, which was further down the highway from where we were. Finally, we managed to find a vehicle that was going in that direction and the driver offered to take two people from the group along with all the empty containers, up to the Gurudwara. However, he was going further to Leh and could not drop them back. With a hope that they would find someone to bring them back, we sent them off on the mission.
The anxiety, fear and confusion were gradually replaced by clarity, hope and peace. Relieved, we started noticing the beauty of our surroundings. A full moon formed a silver halo behind the adjacent hill. My perspective about so many things changed in its light. When we left Jammu, our driver had a sack full of coconuts, which he devoutly offered at every road-side shrine in these Ghats. I saw this small gesture in a whole new light. These perilous journeys required a tough mind. Faith was one way of achieving that toughness.
All through these high passes, a 65-years-old gentleman with a weak heart, was the one to keep reminding us “Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hain.” Our driver was running fever as he navigated the dying vehicle through the sharp bends and steep roads. Our cleaner, while crossing Zoji La, would swiftly climb up the roof of the bus and push back a falling suitcase, while the vehicle was still moving. Our kitchen team would dish out warm, comforting meals after a hard day and our tour arranger – Sandeep Dada kept his cool and never once faltered, even in situations as these. Yes, a strong mind is what sees you through difficult situations.
My reverie was interrupted when our people arrived. The vehicle came to life after drinking water and we continued our journey. As we approached Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, not just the driver but all of us got down and paid our respects. We re-filled the containers with water and although everyone kept saying that Leh was not very far now, each of us filled our water bottles too. We were wiser now, always ready!!! We finally arrived at Leh past midnight. After freshening up, as we sat in the warmth of the dining room gorging on the super delicious and oh-so-comforting Kadhi – Khichdi, I looked out towards the mountains. Thanks to them I was stronger, wiser and in love with them, once again!!!