Just to recap: So far in this story life handed me over to Murphy and in turn Murphy drove us over the road divider and then presented us with a flat tyre. What happens next? Read on...
All was well thereafter. I’d resumed back to my matchstick mode when between
being lulled and then jerked out of sleep I heard the driver mutter to us that
he wanted to sleep for about half an hour before continuing the journey any further.
In my own state of sleep induced delirium, I thought that it made perfect sense.
At least he’d be able to focus (read: drive better) after a power nap. I
checked the time. It was 2 AM. We were still some distance away from Manali. We
still had the group to meet and bus to catch at 5 AM. But half an hour wouldn’t
Murphy, who’d reclined his seat under the pretext of sleeping for half
an hour, had to be woken up by ‘yours truly’ who now jolted-from-her-sleep realized
it was 3 AM. We had two hours to reach Manali. When quizzed on how long it
would take, Murphy promptly replied, “Two hours”! And so we set out; the pace
much smoother than earlier in the night. But that’s not where this story is
going. Because at just about that same time, it started to rain!
On the outside the long uphill
winding roads continued. No lights on the roads continued. And in addition we
had the rains too.
Sleep was still hard to fight. And there was only so
much I could and chose to fight.
When I trained my eyes on the road some time later I tried to catch
the milestones to make sense of how much more distance was left for us to
cover. There was a slight tension in the air only because we were suddenly
certain of not making it to Manali by 5 AM. The idea of checking in into the
guesthouse to catch even one hour’s worth of sleep long since chucked out of
the window into the ravines next to us.
So imagine the look on my face (because I don’t know what it may have
been) when Murphy asked me to check my phone for directions and (fortunately
again) network complied only to inform us that we’d driven 15 kilometers in the
wrong direction (towards Manikaran. Refer to the image of the map below. Frost spoke of two roads diverging in the forest. My friend Murphy here took the one not required).
Already in the race against time and struggle against wondering
what the hell what up with the writers of the story of my life we had Murphy
take a U-turn and get back to road we were meant to take.
Daybreak was somewhere in sight. We decided to give the tour organizer
a heads-up that we were running behind time only to be told that we should call
and speak to the driver. A second call was made and the message delivered.
Driver of the bus, a certain Mr. Prem, sounded sympathetic. My concerns were
And the distance was gradually reducing too. In retrospect, I gave up
on (and hence have no memory of) how Murphy drove the rest of the journey.
until we were stopped at the check post by the cops. My friend and I
exchanged a look – our journey was far from drawing to a close it seemed
because as fate would have it, Murphy didn’t have the required permit papers on
So while conversations ensued between Murphy and the cops, I was
dialling Mr. Prem for a second time in less than 30 minutes only to be given a
number of THE driver! At this point I believe I did roll my eyes out (the only
time I did react since all things "this" had transpired).
Apparently as I did learn
then, Mr. Prem was not going to be driving our group from Manali to Spiti so I would need
to speak the man who would. Another frantic call was made and a word was had
with this new driver who was nonetheless equally sympathetic.
Before we knew it Murphy’s matters with the cops were also now
resolved (or so it seemed) and we were off again.
Manali a mere 10 kilometers away.
I could hear my heart thump.
It had been a long night.
And an even
longer journey where it was just dawning on me that the entire time I’d been
sitting cross armed; my fingers digging into my arms being the only response my
body mustered through all the madness. But this would be over soon.
If that were the view. Mayhaps it would be easier to accept.
It was 5:30 AM.
We were already 30 minutes behind time.
The group was going to be furious. My friend decided to phone one of the co-travellers to keep them in the loop.
We’d get there soon.
Not quite actually because we were stopped yet
again by the cops at the other end of the check post!
We were a mere 3 kilometers away from Manali by this time. I groaned
and I called the bus driver requesting him to pick us up while Murphy fought his
own battle with the cops. We were done with him. However that wasn’t to be the
Murphy extricated himself somehow and was to be the person to deliver us
to Rajesh – the bus driver who was now replacing Mr. Prem.
And so at 6:30 AM, after a night full of exploits of every kind and
form during what had turned out to be a 18.5 hour taxi ride from Delhi (though Google says it is 11 hours 15 mins - refer map above), the
three of us stepped out of the vehicle to board the bus of seemingly disgruntled
fellow co-travellers in Manali (and with reason as they’d woken up around 4 AM and
we’d caused everyone the delay in departure).
But the ice would thaw sooner than we’d anticipated.
And we had no one
but Rajesh to thank.
More on that in the next post!
The journey continues here