Tag Archives: kathmandu

Apocalypse Now (errr….Always)

In the last few years, during my travels, I have had very interesting experiences. Almost always, the satanic (Yamraj*)  forces have conspired to add a few twists, turns  and seemingly apocalyptic events during my trips. I am not tempting fate here, but I cannot help but admire  this subtle conclave of disasters that strike. I am happy that these forces have been acting up on a spatial inverse of me.

Allow me to enumerate them in reverse order of screwed-up-ness. (countdown)

6. A couple of  incidences like the Bodoland agitation in Siliguri enroute Bhutan in 2009 and crossing Hyderabad in the thick of the Telangana agitation(think rioting)  in Hyderabad when going from Bangalore to Kolkata via Hyderabad en route Bhutan in 2009.

Bhutan

5. Witnessed live firing in Srinagar in 2007. J&K is notorious in this regard. On a family trip to J&K , we were enjoying the scenic beauty of the numerous gardens of Srinagar alongside Dal lake. We were in a tourist bus and being shown around town. All of a sudden we heard gunshots and when we looked out of the window, we saw some armed men shooting in the direction of a mosque. The driver of our bus took a sharp turn and we sped away from the scene. We could see  through the windows at the back of the bus,  the commotion and panic surging through the people.

Dal Lake

Dal Lake

4. Experienced an earthquake(6.9 magnitude) that shook the ground beneath the feet by a good 5-6 feet when trekking in darkness at around 16000 feet in Mt Everest region near  Namche in Nepal. This earthquake also shook Sikkim, Bhutan and parts of Bangladesh. It was around 7PM when it occurred and it was the only day that we were trekking into the night. It was also the longest day of the entire trek of Mt Everest Base Camp. 2 friends and I had started our descent from Periche’ and after a 2 hour delay due to our sherpa getting injured, we planned to reach Namche the same day. There was a very loud clap followed by hysterical distant screams and sound of landslides. We were fortunately not jolted too much or we might have tumbled down the mountain sides.

Namche Bazaar - Where the quake struck

3. Drove on a bike through Anantnag, 54 kms south of Srinagar on the Jammu Srinagar highway 1A , where about 400 mobsters were pelting stones, rocks and bricks. We had taken a wrong turn and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the mob with all mobsters encircling us,  and asking us about where we are from and where we were going. One of our bikes had a flag which fortunately was a buddhist prayer flag and not an Indian flag. If it were an Indian flag , I would not be here today writing this. We were then declared as tourists and let out of the chakravyuh** of  rioters . Needless to say, our hearts were in our mouths.

Anantnag

Anantnag ***

Srinagar-Jammu

Srinagar-Jammu ***

Flag of turmoil ( flag on the bike)

Flag of turmoil ( flag on the bike) ***

2. Bomb scare and suspect hijack on a flight. All passengers got delayed for almost 10 hours. Sapan, Sharath and I checked in at  Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport for our return journey to Delhi. We had been on a trek to Everest base camp. We had been trekking and travelling for about 19 days now. The flight started taxiing when we heard about a plane crash. A Mt Everest mountain flight had crashed into the mountains. Say what , we were trekking the same area a few days back. When travelling from Kathmandu to Lukla in a Donear 9 seater, we had seen numerous aircrafts in the Kathmandu airport which had some raw tinkering done on it. It was like the welding you see in a garage on an old car( possibly an ambassador or an old premier padmini fiat) . It was disheartening to hear, but I was not surprised. These small planes are really tough to manage once they develop a fault. This news, though disheartening, was not alarming. As we continued taxi-ing on the runway and as the pilot was gaining groundspeed, we heard the reverse thrust and the brakes being applied.We thought it was a technical snag, but after a few minutes of silence, we saw all sorts of personnel converging on our aircraft. Within minutes, multiple armed vans surrounded us. The pilot announced that we will all be disembarked till further notice.  We were not allowed to take out any belongings. As we exited the plane , it was evident: We were on a plane that had a bomb scare/hijack threat. About 180 passengers were escorted to a holding area along the runway. The investigation ensued and after about 10 hours, we were cleared for takeoff. Meanwhile we were witness to the procedures that are followed when a bomb scare situation arises.The troublemaker, a lady from Italy who had  been shouting doomsday slogans and abusing co-passengers( a bunch of girls from Delhi) was arrested. She had apparently told everyone she met that there is a bomb and that the world is going to end. This event caused an airspace shutdown of Kathmandu airport for over two hours! Multiple agencies had to ratify the aircraft clear – The airline , airport personnel, airport police, army, commando units, security agencies etc.

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

1. Leh cloudburst and flash floods. I have seen the flash floods of 2010 unfolding right in front of my eyes. A few friends and I had just reached Kargil at 10PM after a full day ride to Dha and Hanu villages, Aryan civilization settlements. We were touring Ladakh on bikes. We saw news OB vans all over the town and when enquired , we were told that Leh had been lashed by a cloudburst and flash floods just an hour or two ago. We had dinner and went to sleep. The rains in Kargil were just beginning. At around 1AM, the cloudburst and flash floods struck Kargil. The only bridge connecting Kargil to the NH was washed out and was covered in 4 feet of sand,rocks and slush. An entire mountain face had been washed away taking along with it numerous houses. The scenario in Leh was worse. We were stuck in Kargil for 2 days and 1 of those 2 days incidently turned out to be a Kargil bandh. We had made a hotel (Hotel Siachen) our refuge which was nicknamed “Hotel Baghdad” of Kargil. Akin to the Hotel Baghdad, this hotel was the only hotel which remained open during the Kargil war in 1999. As the floods were unfolding, we saw 10’s of journalists setting up their equipment in the main dining hall of Hotel Siachen. It looked like a mini NASA command center for those 2 days. We eventually departed Kargil for Srinagar and truly saw the destruction that was beset upon the state.

Kargil before the floods hit

Kargil before the floods hit

Kargil Flash Floods OB Van

Kargil Flash Floods OB Van ***

Hotel Siachen - The "Hotel Baghdad" of Kargil

Hotel Siachen - The "Hotel Baghdad" of Kargil ***

What were some the most scariest moments that you have gone through?

*Yamraj: The hindu god of death.

**Chakravyuh : A multi-tier defensive battle formation that looks like a blooming lotus which once an enemy enters, is impossible to get out of.

Pictures with ***are credit to : Sreenath , Kiran, Shrishail.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m one feet from the edge and I’m thinking…..

I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking  6 feet ain’t so far down…. – go the lyrics of a song from Creed. This blog post is about a  bit more than 6 feet. Lets say it’s about 550 feet.

The first time you pull up and get down from your vehicle , you are instantly overcome by hysteria. Your mind refuses to accept what you see. Your assertion that you are a moron to attempt what your eyes see is validated. And then you step onto it.

You are taken to a calm and peaceful resort where the dangers of what you are attempting become evident. You are given a no-nonsense disclaimer form which says you agree not to sue in case you die and you are doing this on your own accord and no-one but you is responsible.

Your weight is taken and you are divided into 2 groups. Your weight is written on the back of your fist. You feel like you are being tagged like a featherless chicken ready to face the knife. You are offered lunch , but you know better – A chicken is offered it’s last meal before facing the knife. You politely make an excuse and request the stewards to hold on to your lunch for 2 hours and tell them that lunch shall be devoured in case you successfully return.

You are escorted onto the bridge.  The shock that you experienced earlier in the day begins to re-surge through your veins. When you got down from the vehicle and stepped onto the bridge for the very first time earlier in the day, your mind went numb. This is the 2nd time on the bridge, but this is it. This is the moment of reckoning.  The crossing of the bridge in the morning to reach the resort was a mere preview. Your mind does not know what to think.  It oscillates violently between  a blank void, fear, impeding doom, a sense of calm and what not. You are then taken to the middle of the bridge and asked to hold on as they call out the name of the first chicken. You are delighted that you are not the first. You rejoice that you will live for 5 minutes more. You then see the first person jump and your heart skips five beats.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am talking about Bungee jumping from the worlds 6th highest bungee in the world. This is located on the border of Tibet and Nepal , 3 hours north of Kathmandu,Nepal. The place is called “The Last Resort”. A cousin of mine has alluded to the bungee jump in Nepal a few years ago at a dinner. I had made a mental note of doing this jump whenever I visit Nepal. I got the opportunity to visit Nepal in September 2011 when a couple of my friends and I decided to trek to the Base camp of Mt Everest. I got the details of the jump on the interwebs, booked if and I was all set. Just to check out what it felt like , I decided to see a few YouTube video’s of the jump before trying it out. When I viewed it for the first time, it was outrageous,insane and unbelievable that someone would jump off a bridge so high. I knew that I had to do it. I had decided to do it , no matter what. Come hell or high water.

Then, your turn comes. They call out your name and weight.

You are harnessed and strapped. The videographer asks you for a few sound bites. You have no recollection of what you said because you are already in a state of trance and in a zen like state of mind. The only sound that your hear is that of the raging river about 600 feet below your feet. You can see the white water through the base of the bridge. You bend over the bridge and get a final look of where you are jumping. Suddenly, your vision gets narrower and narrower. Tunnel vision strikes. To make matters worse, you are asked to remove your spectacles and keep them in your pocket. All you hear is the seemingly distant voices of the Jump co-ordinator who gives you the final instructions. You take small penguin-like baby steps to the edge with the instructor at your back. You spread your arms and  look straight ahead. Time comes to a stand still when you hear the words ……3……….2………..1……. Bungyyyyyy…yyyyy…….yyy………….yy…………..y.

You take off from the platform like a bird.  You are free-falling straight down head first. The first 2 seconds of the free fall  is insane. For someone who has never jumped more than 15 feet from a swimming pool high board, this is insanity. The adrenaline rushes through your body. The blood rushes to your head. You scream your lungs out. Not having a fear of heights helps. I didn’t have a fear of heights so I could relish the moment. After a few seconds of free fall, you feel the bungee cord beginning to take effect. you reach the bottom apex of your jump at maximum stretch of the cord and then you are yanked back to a negative G-force. The negative G’s pump more adrenaline through your veins and in my opinion the negative G’s are way better in terms of thrill! By this time , which is about a few seconds after you jumped , you are on a high! You experience multiple falls and yank-backs  and bounce around a few times before coming to an upside down halt. By now , you have screamed your lungs out and just experienced the thrill of a lifetime. You are then lowered down to the river below when you are pulled to the bank of the river onto a platform using a really long pole.

As you lie down on the platform getting untied , you come to terms of what just happened…….

The coordinators ask you if you want to jump again.

Do I want to bungee jump again? HELL YEAH! 

Pictures below. Click to view large size images.

More details about The Last Resort here : http://www.thelastresort.com.np/content/28

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements