“Yohooo!!” “Whoopi!! This is so amazing… This is awesome… I haven’t had this much fun before”. We all were screaming in fun… I had never done such a beautiful thing in my life. We all were witnessing it for the first time.
“Bhanjiyo, are you having fun?” We replied in unison “very much… mamaji “
This all happened when I was on my Himalaya trekking freak in SandakPhu. That day we were so much tired after walking all 3 days long trek. One of the trek mates was not feeling well and another one was drained out. So we all agreed to board a Jeep for reaching our next destination.
I was excited to take a safari in this 4-wheel vehicle – Land Rover left behind by the Britishers. Though SandakPhu is called the trekker’s paradise, these jeep safaris are also becoming popular. Still, after close to 70 years these cars are running and making a travel to SandakPhu an adventure one can have. These are truly vintage adventure cars.
Our Trek organizer had 2 jeeps, one carrying our bags weighed around 10-15 kg each of all 13 people and the other carrying kitchen essentials needed to calm our eating fire. These jeeps are specifically meant for hilly regions and the terrain full of rocks and small mountains. No other vehicle could sustain this kind of terrain. And of course, no one could sustain to drive this royal machine in those rocky way.
As I said it truly requires skills.
That day one of my trek mates asked would you like to join us in Jeep. Initially, I was hesitant on joining them as I wanted to continue with the trek. I’m not able to recall on the reason why I agreed to do it. We all went to the head of the organizing team whom we have bonded in a loving relationship of Bhanji/a-mamaji. Mamaji agreed to take us with them. He already made us clear on it will take the time to load all the kitchen stuff and bags and asked us to wait.
Entire team started working on loading all stuff in the Jeep. These jeeps have a seating arrangement in front for 2 people and can stretch up to 3 max. And the back portion is for carrying goods. After loading entire kitchen stuff, everyone loaded the bags in 2nd Jeep. All bags were tied with rope tightly as it has to go through the rocky patch. These guys were singing Nepali songs while tying the rope. We kept bags in Jeep was a bit of our share.
“Done…” mamaji asked us “where are you guys want to sit?” We were 3, including team 7 in total. My brain became Gabbar and asked “Jeep 1 and people 7…what an equation.” Coming out from it I said, “As Mahaveer is not feeling well will sit in front and Prachi and myself will sit backside which is on top of the luggage.”
The struggle started when we were not getting on how to climb up. It is not having any of the slots. We are literally pushed. Voila!! Thankfully we were up… all above our luggage along with Mamaji and 2 more from the team. My friend and I managed to sit somehow between the bags. Now the big question was where to hold. There was nothing to hold as the space we were sitting is meant for luggage and not the human luggage. Mamaji asked us to hold either the rope or belts of the bag. “Thrilled or scared” I asked to myself. The answer was “scared!!!”
Manoj the pilot of the Jeep ignited the machine. We were ready to take-off with all our seat belts tighten. The road was smooth; a cool breeze has started humming in our ears. Side view of snowy peaks was giving us a see off with a wide smile. “Wow… this is amazing…” Prachi said. And I totally agree with her. This was fun. Mamaji and others were tuned to Nepali song.
After driving a while, mamaji asked Manoj to take a shortcut. It was the first time for Manoj to drive this royal machine on Himalayan roads. He was new to this. He turned the steering wheel in the direction mamaji has asked to do him. All mountain ranges were waiting for us to cross them one by one. By looking at the road, all three of us had the same thought at the same time – “Are you crazy mamaji, is this the shortcut?” Actually, it was foolish of us to think something like this. It’s their everyday route and they knew each nook and corner.
Jeep started climbing up the first mountain… this was really really adventurous. As we were reaching the top, we were feeling like we are going in the sky; up and up in the clouds. Scary feelings turned into a thrill. This is a thrill…my mind uttered. “Yohooo!!!” Prachi’s mind has already accepted that and she was screaming like a kid. “Whoaaaa!!!” I joined her.
Suddenly, Jeep stopped, we heard Manoj asking “where is the road”. We looked in front and yes, the road has got disappeared in the sky. Road has got submerged in clouds. Mamaji asked him to just start the Jeep and let it flow freely. Crazy. Jeep was talking with the wind. Jeep took the speed as we were going down. Speed made us unable to hold at our places. I was like a jumping jack, couldn’t sit on properly and was jumping like a trampoline. Looking at my condition everyone started laughing including me. It was an ROFL situation. Soon mamaji find it hard to settle and he was dangling like a monkey from one side of the Jeep. “Bhanjiyo, if I survived we will meet again” and we went into laughter burst.
I will never forget this Unforgettable journey. Land Rover – ideally the boss of these roads.