We had nearly given up the idea of reaching Jammu & Kashmir, despite it only being 120km away. A bus hadn’t left for 2 days and rumour spread around the town of Keylong that no one was game to head north in such dangerous conditions. Obviously the town hadn’t met our driver Shyambabu. With a laugh wilder than a Hyena and a motto of “Adventure Adventure” he was our answer to ticking off state number 6.
Mid afternoon approached and the unfamiliar sound of a bus engine running was the beginning of an adventure we will never forget. The bus was jam-packed and only heading 40km north, dropping a few locals back to their villages. In a heartbeat we had packed our bags, grabbed the surfboard and were climbing onto the roof of the bus. Shyambabu didn’t even regret the inconvenience of no spare seats but rather got us psyched up for the journey ahead.
Jonno and I grabbed front row roof, sitting on a yellow tarp that I soon learnt was full of frozen meat. Smriti and Campbell sat about 2m behind us, capturing the adventure on camera and gasping at the scenic brilliance. Over the next 45 minutes we ignored the freezing wind and stench of meat, winding around the tightest corners at 3,500m altitude in awe of the marvellous Himalayas. This is why I came to India, this is why I knew we could surf in all 28 states.
Only 80km from the border the last passenger was dropped off and only 6 remained. Shyambabu, his friend, and our crew of 4. With our fingers crossed we asked the question that would determine whether or not we would reach the most northern state of India. The sun had just crept past the peak and the weather dropped, making this momentous occasion all the more epic. Thumbs up on one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other, Shyambabu (who was slightly intoxicated and luckily not driving) gave the go ahead, and we embarked with high spirits towards the north. As the sky turned charcoal and the roads became icier doubt crept into the camp and an eerie silence filled the bus as I thought to myself “Am I the only one who is freaking out right now?”
The driver let out a gasp, we jumped from our seats and looked out the window to see an oil truck, flipped upside down on the bank of a river. The heartbeat went from a jack johnson tempo to rave status, realising the danger that lay ahead. Just 60km from the border we entered the movie set like Indian army base. A soldier approached our bus and demanded we turn around, informing us that the roads are fatal and there is no chance we’re making it to Jammu and Kashmir alive. A communal sigh confirmed that none of us wanted to continue this journey, but the look on Jonno’s face and the feeling in my gut reminded me that we’d just failed our challenge of surfing in 28 states of India. The driver completed his 3 point turn and we drove on an all to familiar road back to Keylong, devastated about our challenge but thankful for our life.
With less than two months and 23 more states to go, the last thing we needed was Snowmageddon 2010…
We were stranded in the northern Himachal Pradesh town of Keylong with locals and other travellers from all around India. Initially like us, everyone was wondering when they would be back on their pursuit of working, traveling and continuing their planned journey. When will the roads clear up?…when will we get out?… when will we get electricity, water, internet?
One of the locals nonchalantly informed us that just last year they were immobile in this Tsnowmani for a month. He ends it with…
“Well, What can you do? This is the blessing you were given so just take it.”
With our deadlines and goals glooming on we defeatedly accepted that this bump was beyond our control. The reality of our landscape eased us all into appreciating the serenity that we were surrounded by. We were tucked away in a small village north of India that I didn’t even know existed but will always have a defining place in my memory bank. The snow capped mountains seemed different throughout the day as they changed personalities from the morning sun to the bright moonlight sky. The humble homes were built throughout these intertwining upward roads, all whirling above with Buddhist prayer flags. The beautiful Nepalese people had no hesitations on letting us capture them. Locals without any stares or glares, we were greeted with smiles from the village women. No one was trying to gain anything from you and everyone seemed to look after one another. There wasn’t one above another – we were all stranded in this haven together.
It’s as if this shared snowcalypse allowed us to experience the closest thing to local comarederie in a mere few days.
We were the farthest away from familiar comforts but knew this was a blessing and break all four of us needed in mist of our kms, train hopping, hard drives, and p2 cards.
When life gives you a four day break, we learned to enjoy the serenity because before we knew it, we were back in the world of multitasking between hanging outside the Ambassador’s window operating a makeshift light grip while holding on to handsome Campbell as he gets the perfect shot of Jonno and Stefan surfing yet another state on the roof.
“It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong”
6 deaths, 4 rolled trucks, and a spin out we found this quote being thrown around a lot…
The original plan was to make a one night trip to race up through the Himalayas and tick off India’s most northern state Jammu/Kashmir. When packing our day packs we did not realise that the clothes we had were the ones we would be wearing for the next 4 days.
Vehicle wise we also found ourselves under prepared. Being supplied a two wheel drive family car we had no idea what we were in for and neither did our driver. After an hour of navigating the snaking roads we were starting to climb the first of two summits. We had finally adjusted to the ridiculous nature of these roads and were starting to relax even with the 40ft drop looming only centimeters away. Just as we had found our zen everything went quiet, no engine revs and no chatter we all froze up like the wheels sliding across the icy road. In a matter of seconds our car had started spinning out of control catching us off guard. As we came to a halt we found ourselves lucky, spinning inwards towards the mountain instead of being thrown over one of the many cliffs.
This being the first of many hiccups set the pace for the next few days. After leaving the family car behind and hitchhiking the rest of the way we would find ourselves in situations that would be some of the scariest and most epic of our lives.
It was an experience that we lived but not one we would want to relive.
Our 4 days in the mountains can not be summed into one simple post, so over the next few days we will be releasing 4 stories summing up the adventures of the Himalayas. Part 1 coming soon.
I had read online about this game that is played around India called Kabaddi. It is especially popular in the state of Punjab that we were in and I had been itching to play.
From what I read, you had to get from your base, past a line, then back to your base without being tackled and held down by the other team….holding your breath the whole time.
We eventually stumbled through some epic hand motions and Hindish (Hindi-English) to get a game happening in a school yard in a small village.
I had it all wrong.
You have to run up to the other team of 4 people holding hands and touch one of them and then make it back to your base without being tackled…while saying “Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi” the whole time.
It took us a little while, but eventually we got the hang of it and got some heavy tackles, hearty laughs and dust everywhere. Good footage!
Good times in Punjab,
After 4 days of no electricity, no hot water and no contact with the outside world we’re finally back… and absolutely knackered.
Long story short, the weather turned for the worst and we were snowed in at a small town called Keylong, situated in the chilly Himalayas.
We’re showering and resting up our exhausted bodies planning to update the blog with some amazing stories.
Apologies for disappearing off the face of the earth, the last few days still feel a little surreal.
Leaving our luggage behind in the state Haryana we set off by foot, walking along the side of a dusty Indian highway. With only a daypack and surfboard under my arm I stood with Jonno, thumbs out, trying our luck at hitchhiking to the next state of Punjab only 3km’s away. Trucks zoomed past whilst our spirits began to deflate in the midday sun. You see, we had no plan. The Ambassador was still 7 hours away back in Delhi at the mechanic, we were running behind schedule and worst of all we had nowhere to go.
2 rickshaw rides later we find ourselves in Punjab at a Quarry where the local tradies pick up sand, gravel and other supplies. The biggest pile of sand is about 10metres tall and has Surfing Punjab written all over it. With his smooth words and charming goldilocks Jonno convinces the manager for permission and word spreads quickly around the quarry. The confused employees follow us like zombies, gathering around Campbell & Smriti at base camp.
Jonno drops in steep and fast, flying straight down the face to the bottom where the board suddenly stops but he continues, tripping over and rolling into the crowd of Indian dudes who laugh at the opening scene of the kook show.
Over the next 30 minutes we attempt to shred the mountain of sand but leave with numerous cuts & bruises, enough to ensure no crowd participation takes place.
It’s a funny feeling that is becoming all the more common here in India. A day can start off so rough, nothing working in your favour, enough to make you want to throw in the towel. Then comes the magic, the stars align and you’re so deep in the knarliest Indian experience you completely forget how badly the day began.
As much stress and frustration you sometimes deal with here in India I can assure it makes the good times that much sweeter.
4 states down. 24 to go.