Kanchenjunga Expedition- From Ilam to Tapleyjung. 16 hour harrowing journey by bus. (Day 5)

 (sanjay austa austa)

25August ( fm Ilam to Tapleyjung)

I travel over 16 hours today, including 12 hours in a ramshackle bus on a mud track of a road that shook all the bones in my body. At Dulabari, where we stay the night it is only less than 5 hours sleep as we push off early at 4: 30 to Ilam where the rest of the expedition team is staying. The hotel in Dulabari was seedy to say the least and had no window. The sheets were grainy and the carpet caked with soggy dirt. Me and Gary stay in one such room though I noticed that Col Sharma’s room-which was opposite ours was equipped with an AC.
The driver we travel in a sumo with -takes us through the valley and up a hill full of tea-gardens reminiscent of Darjeeling. There are beautiful loops of the road as it goes up to IIam. We surprise the team at Ilam as there are still in their half-pants and rubbing sleep from their eyes. Col Sharma reprimands them for not being ready and they cough up their excuses. We have our breakfast with them and begin our journey to Tapleyjung-the place from where we catch a helicopter to Ramche. I look at the bus. It makes me giddy. I am afraid I may embarrass myself by vomiting on the way. I remember vomiting enroute to Delhi a week ago from Shimla where I had gone to deposit my car. I am not sure if the loose-motions that had triggered it all had left my system entirely. I felt giddy for some time and I paniced when the pre-vomit spittle foamed under my tongue. However nothing happned and the journey is smooth until we hit a dirt-track that goes on the entire 100km or so to Tapleyjung.

The rains had made the road soggy and the trucks and busses that ply on these roads left deep tunnels on either side of the roads. The bus wobbles from one end to the other and I sit with my heart in my mouth, thinking the bus would surely topple over and fall into the deep gorge below. This prevents any sleeping the entire journey. I sit with Gary behind the first seat which is so far back that I cannot sit without my knees rubbing its back. In that road where we are thrown about mercilessly my knees bang into the front seat and they hurt. I am uncomfortable but more worried about the bus falling down the hillside. The driver however is a saving grace. He inspires confidence. He smiles through the jolts and  sometimes when the jerks got realy wild he smiled back at us. The Maoist are in a thick concentration here and we were told they hate India and Indians. The Indian army would be a good target for these rebels. So the army guys are scared about encountering them on the road anywhere. A group  of army chaps has a scare of their lives on their way to Ilam when some youth in civil clothes and weapons climbed the bus and asked questions. No one said anything which fuelled their suspicisn and they resorted to rummaging their bags and until they came across the Indian army immigration certificate. The armed youth were from the Nepal army and they relieved a sigh of relief.

I myself have not been scared a bit about the Maoist threat -particularly not today as I am more scared about our bus slipping of the dirt road and into the valley below. I must add however that our Shimla Baghi road back home is not so much better than this road on which I risked my life today.

2 Responses to “Kanchenjunga Expedition- From Ilam to Tapleyjung. 16 hour harrowing journey by bus. (Day 5)”

  1. pankaj anand says:

    nice write up Sanjay 🙂 Sometime vomit helps to relieve pressure but it builds embarrassment 😛
    I just can’t stop reading.. your actual journey hasn’t started yet and it is still so exciting 🙂 .. next read 😉

    • sanjay austa says:

      Pankaj thanks a lot. However I have just pulled this Kanchanjunga diary from a blog i had- I have not had the time to edit it at all- and the photos are not edited either. So bear with me. Thanks

Leave a Reply