It was mid morning, swaying towards noon and we were in Hell. Pure hell if you ask me.
Sitting on a space that doesn’t cover even half of your leg yet you have to somehow fit in. Being up and about since 3.45 am doesn’t help either.
Bhim and I were sitting on what you can call a ‘steaming hot hell’ right on top of the engine of the bus, the only space given to us in an overcrowded bus where the hours of travel was anywhere between 12-16 hours. We had to fight our way to getting into this bus, our only hope of reaching Badrinath in time, or so we thought..
It was 8 hours since we were on the road, but the weather with the heat of the engine, we were sweating and sweltering and there was no relief. The crowd didn’t help either. A mix of workers, cleaners and beggars. There was a putrid filthy smell in the air filled with people who had no sense of basic hygiene.
Our backs were taking a solid beating, with no backrest we couldn’t close our eyes to sleep. The roads were really bad, with every tumble we would jerk forward hitting whoever was in front of us or take a solid hitting at the closed windows behind us. Absolutely no air to breathe.
The breakfast and lunch stops were pathetic, each one seedier than the other, the passengers who were with us begged us for money wearing orange robes. We knew these people were travelling to Badrinath to beg there pretending to be Sanyasis( saints). There were plenty of rogues using the name of God.
As we went further, the roads became worse, there was demolition of rocks for road widening and landslides that blocked the road so the entire traffic came to a stop for hours.
Joshimath would be the point post which there would be really ‘horrible road’ to Badrinath. We were like if what we were encountering was hell, how would that be??
Bhim and I tossed, then turned, trying to find angles to get comfortable in the tiny space we had. The unbearable heat was making us sick. We would lean on each other as support but the heat would make us change positions that hurt our backs like hell.
The hard braking by the driver jerked and pushed us sideways so roughly that my left arm took a beating hitting the dashboard. Bhim couldn’t place his legs properly, him being a tall big guy, it was torture trying to find a space to fit in.
It was past sunset and we were still inching towards Joshimath, 13 hours on the road and we were almost dead. Bhim said, how much we punish ourselves dude! How long do you think our bodies can keep up with the abuse? It was true, even that 30+ hours of trauma towards Rishikesh was nothing compared to what was happening right now.
At one point I truly thought this is it. We will be hospitalised after this ride, our bodies were getting rattled and torn apart with the super rough ride.
Finally we crossed Joshimath, having another 44 kms to go to Badrinath. 44 kms in the mountains meant another 2-3 hours and it was already 7 pm and we had been hearing warnings from people saying, going up there post 6 pm was dangerous because of the constant landslides.
Past 7.30 pm and we came to an abrupt stop. The police stopped all vehicles. No one could go beyond this point till the next day. There was a landslide closer to the temple and everything was blocked. They would announce the go ahead if any, tomorrow morning only.
By this time we lost our cool, Bhim was seething and so was I. Bhim went Shit!! I fucking can’t believe this! Shit!! We were craving for a decent bath, a place to stay at Badrinath and get Darshan early morning and now that hope was gone. Honestly we both looked like destitutes, proper homeless people.
It was dark and we were in a small village. The bus driver told us there were lodgings, we need to ask around. We spoke to the police and they said they wouldn’t allow anyone to go up there not even walkers at this time. They had to make sure people were safe. They would announce tomorrow, what time, even they didn’t know.
Would we get to Badrinath?