I, for one, am a big fan of the GPS Navigation system that cars today boast of. Not that I have a bad sense of direction or a failing memory for routes, It is just that I have been in situations which could have been easily steered clear of, had GPS existed then. I do not have the thrill-seeking adventure streak in me but I do have a penchant for falling into situations that cause an adrenaline rush. Adrenaline is the fight or flight hormone of our body, which lets us make the split second decision to fight an odd or run away from it. It also helps us in executing the decision. People go bungy jumping, rafting, paragliding and other risky activities to feel the rush. I shy away from all of them, yet life insists on bestowing upon me my share of thrill and goosebumps.
Travelling is a passion and those of you who have read my previous posts, know that my husband and I share this passion. Road travel is our favourite mode of transport and the longest we have traversed yet is from Amritsar to Mumbai. It was one fun-filled and enjoyable trip. Out of the innumerable trips undertaken, not all have been fun. Till about two years ago, we were not introduced to the world of GPS and navigation was mostly based on
-hubby's sense of direction.
-my terrible map reading skills.
-desperate attempts to read the road-signs covered with mud and posters.
Very rarely, the help of a pan-waala
or a casual passer-by was beseeched. One of the aforementioned methods usually worked and we reached destination. We got lost at times too but did manage to find a way after a while.Getting lost is not always harmless and we learnt it in scary ways, more than once.
The night walk
We drove down to Dalhousie and stopped at a friend's house for dinner. A fellow colleague of my husband, he had gotten a guest room booked for us, a little uphill. After a wholesome dinner and post-dinner chatting session, we decided to call it a night and go to the guestroom. The friend insisted that we stay at his house, given the time, but we did not want to burden him. We left with a detailed set of directions. An interesting thing about the natives of hills is that you can never estimate the distance by the phrases they use. When they say 'it is just beyond the hill', it may be 500 m or 5kms. He had told us that the place was about 10 kms and at 9 kms on the odometer, it seemed like there was no inhabitation ahead. I gave him a call and he said we had missed it by a whisker. Reversing is a big issue in mountainous terrains and we had to move further before we could find a place to reverse. While attempting to do so, our car got stuck at a bend. The only way it was coming out was by lifting it. It was past midnight and there wasn't a car or a human being in sight. According to our friend, the guestroom was just a kilometer away. My husband said he could walk back and get help but my staying in the car alone too did not sound like a good idea. A kilometer was not much, so we both decided to walk to the guestroom.
We locked the car and walked downhill with the help of a torch in the mobile phone. The walk was spooky and felt so akin to the scene in a horror movie where two people stranded on a road are attacked by a psychotic killer.I knocked off the idea from my head and quickened my pace. I looked at my husband who seemed unnerved. Well then, he is a soldier, I am not.
Fifteen minutes later, we saw a lantern waving and a man called out my husband's name and added,'Saab, guestroom idhar hai.' I heaved a sigh of relief and we reached the man and narrated him the incident. My husband asked him to accompany him back and get the car. He heard patiently and then replied,'Let me call all the boys.' We told him only 2-3 were needed to lift the car.
'Car ke liye nahi saab. I saw your car cross and waved but you did not see. I saw you stop a little ahead and I could have come after you but there are a lot of bears roaming around here at this time of the night. It would be better if we go in a group.' He said.
We had just walked a kilometer in a bear-inhabited area! Ignorance is a truly a bliss.
Road to nowhere
We were in MHOW for a short while. One weekend, we decided to explore the surroundings. Some friends suggested Mandu, a place of historical importance, some 40 kms away. We left in three cars, three families. The driver of the first car knew the way and the others were following it. After about 30 kms, we slowed down a bit and lost the other two cars to traffic. When we picked pace again, a red light stopped us. By the time we crossed the lights, the other two cars were nowhere to be seen. We had to take a right soon, that we both remembered, but which right? We should have ideally stopped and asked someone for directions but the big sign board in front showed the right turn for Mandu. We took the turn. The traffic thinned suddenly and a little distance ahead, it was only our car left on the road which was now sloping uphill and was changing from a road to a stone covered path. The road signs still showed Mandu 10 kms. Maybe it was just a patch of bad road. We kept moving on. Soon, there was no road anymore. A narrow track of stones was all that was visible. The slope was steep. We were driving a sedan, not an SUV. There was no space to reverse and only barely enough to move on. The deep gorge on one side and a huge mountain on the other had us sandwiched. Those were the longest 10 kms of my travel ever. The tyres were threatening to skid with the tiniest brake or sudden acceleration. We were not on the wrong path; we were on no path. A little ahead, we spotted a man walking along the roadside. He was quite surprised to see a crazy couple wandering on a track on which it was difficult to even walk. When we asked him what to do, he matter-of-factly said,'If you have managed to come this far, I think you will be able to manage another 5 kms. Trying to turn back would be more dangerous.'
We didn't understand whether he was motivating us or scaring the Hell out of us. Anyhow, we proceeded further. I was constantly praying to God to get us to safety and out of the problem when another knocked at our door. Whether it was the effect of the two cold drinks I had happily partaken of an hour ago or the effect of the scary ride, I know not but my bladder pressed the panic button and hard. How do you expect to find a loo at a place like this? I tried hard to control, it was only 5 kms, but the speed at which the car was moving, it was going to take another half an hour or more. I sheepishly looked at my husband and told him the new problem. He looked at me as if saying,'Not now!'
There was no one around as far as the eye could see but I have another issue- I have a little OCD for cleanliness and I am a doctor, so using the open air loo is never an option. The car could not go faster, my bladder was threatening to explode and the road was in no mood to end. Both of us sat silently in the car. After an arduous 25 minutes, we spotted civilisation. We had reached the outskirts of Mandu and there was a proper road ahead. We saw a signage- 'rooms for rent'. The dilapidated building was a hotel of sorts. Salvation! We stopped there and I ran to the loo while my dear husband engaged the owner in a conversation about the tariff.
We sent a prayer up to Heavens and moved further. As we reached Mandu, the other two cars were waiting for us.
'Where did you two lovebirds vanish? Your mobiles were not working too!' One of them said.
'We were just having fun.' said my husband and winked at me.
The plan was to travel to Meerut from Saharanpur for a day and be back the next. The journey is only two and a half hours, so it all sounded perfect. We left along with my husband's mama ji who knew the way perfectly well. On the way, we had to change route a number of times as the road was dominated by kanwarias
who were on their way back from Haridwar, carrying kanwars on their shoulders. Many roads were blocked and diversions created to aid traffic. It took us only half an hour extra to reach Meerut and the kanwar yatra
was a new thing for me that lead me to research about it and I learned that almost 2 crore people undertake it in a year. Wow!
The next day though, we decided to deliberately take up a route that would avoid the congested areas and a map made on a piece of paper by a localite was supposed to serve the purpose of navigation.
We started off in the evening and did pretty well for an hour, as we saw very few kanwarias
along the way. In the make-shift map, we were supposed to take a right after crossing a canal. The road was parallel to the canal and no right turn was in sight. It was getting dark and prudence suggested it was better to ask someone. We saw a car stop a little ahead and slowed down near it. On enquiring about the route, we came to know that they were lost too. We decided to drive ahead and then enquire again. Another car was soon behind us and before we could plan on taking the help of its occupants, we heard loud music blaring from the car. The boys in the car were shouting and seemed awfully drunk. We pretended ignorance and slowed down till the car overtook us and went out of sight. It was one of the times when you would love to be stuck in traffic than be stranded alone. Another 10 kms and finally there was traffic.
The first person we could ask for directions looked at us with sympathy and told us that we were a good 70 kms away from Meerut but in the wrong direction. All we could do now was turn back to an alternate route and travel about 180 kms to reach Saharanpur.
We tore away the map and turned back.
The memory of these three incidents always brings a smile on my lips but when they actually happened, they were far from funny. Since the day I got my hands on Google maps and then on GPS system in my Tata Manza, I have become an ardent follower. Not all wanderers are lost but not all wanders are fun as well!!
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