Monday, June 17, 2013

The Washed Out Bridge Challenge

The Challenge: Manually lifting a Royal Enfield across a washed out bridge at Pangi Valley

Himachal Pradesh is a hilly state and there are many regions in Himachal that can (arguably) be called the remotest in the country. One such region is the Pangi Valley in Chamba district of the state. Now the travel bug that bit me in 2009 took me to the Pangi Valley in 2012. There are three road approaches to this valley; Sach Approach (200KM), Kishtwar Approach (500KM), and the Keylong-Rohtang Approach (300KM). Sach approach is the most difficult one but the shortest one.

The Challenge

We had gone to the Sach Pass in 2011 but couldn’t go beyond it because of extreme weather and unfaithful roads. In 2012, we decided to hit the Rohtang approach via Manali. After fighting hard against the weather and bad roads, we managed to reach Killar, the headquarters of the Pangi Valley.

However, there was a minor problem. The bridge that served as the lifeline of this road had gone away last night. Flash floods had wiped the road away. Although BRO and GREF was employed there but it wasn’t possible to go with a motorcycle across the bridge.

At the first sight, we decided to let go and cancel the trip. But then there is something special about the Himalayas and its people. They live in the harshest conditions and that makes them strong, mentally and physically. There were Pangwal laborers (natives of Pangi valley are called Pangwals) who assessed the situation on their own, inquired about the weight of the motorcycle, and concluded that it would take 5-6 men and 20 minutes to get to the other side.

We were in a state of shock. All I could see was a gorge beneath. But optimism of those Pangwals made us hopeful.

Optimism, you see is contagious. And in the Himalayas, pessimism never survives long. Now was the time to accept the challenge and relish it. The GREF Major deployed at the site gave us free hand. “Use my men and my equipment. You are the in-charge now”, said he. Within moments strategy was put in place. And the strategy was simple, “Don’t look down. Keep Pushing.”

Amidst all this tension I managed to turn on my camera on video recording mode. A couple of Pangwals volunteered to hold the camera for us. Now the real mission started. The first hurdle was a huge rock angling towards us as if asking us not to mess with it. The second hurdle was to get down the slippery slope while balancing the weight of the motorcycle. 180KG of steel is not an easy thing to handle, especially when its engine is turned off.  The third hurdle was to push the bike towards the road.

The Pangwals did a fantabulous job. They said 20 minutes but the job was over well within 15 minutes. The job was done. The expedition was still alive. The feeling was awesome. And we did relish the challenge.

We could have turned back and that would have been a safe option. But accepting a new challenge head-on is what life is all about. And when you are willing to walk an extra mile, even the Universe conspires with you.

This post is my third entry for Cinthol’s Relishing the Challenge Campaign

1 comment:

amitgoda said...

Don't have a word to describe this fabulous post, a lovely article