Survival – The Lost Wanderers
“Yeah!!! Only three hours until I reach the destination I’ve always dreamt of!” Sajan exclaimed in the middle of the night.
Sajan and his colleague Atit, woke up early in the morning on a cold freezing weather at an altitude of 13,451ft, and started their journey. Since it was September, trekking to the top was easier.
“I can’t wait to sing a song and post it on my Instagram and get thousands of likes!” Atit declared on the way, which made Sajan laugh out loud.
Both were struggling and getting out of breath at an altitude of 18000ft, however, their determination successfully got them to their destination which was a huge achievement for both.
Suddenly, Sajan answers a phone call from Saurav.
“What’s the matter? Is everything alright?”
The phone cuts off and Sajan immediately turns pale as snow.
“The situation is far worse than what was initially thought of”, Saurav explains, his voice trembled and seemed to be filled with anxiety.
Sajan was extremely disappointed since it was his dream to be here and was planning to accomplish it since past two years.
Wiping his tears, he turned to Atit, “It’s our calling, we have to return to the city.” Atit nodded in agreement, he understood what Sajan meant.
Both then decided to descend as quickly as possible through icy high-altitude trail of Thorang La Pass; cold breeze was whistling in their ears, calm and beautiful mountains were up on the north, but their minds were filled with the chaos.
After few hours of descending from 17,769ft, they could see few green grass and life formed to existence.
“Atit, we need to find a tea house.”
When they crossed through Gyu La Pass, they saw a tea house with smoke coming through the chimney which made both jump with joy.
“Hello?! Is anybody home??” Atit knocked the door to see if there was someone inside the house. No one replied, so he pushed the door out of frustration, only to find out the house was empty.
Then, they started searching other tea shops and suddenly Sajan exclaimed “Atit! Come here, there’s a shop open.”
Atit then rushed towards Sajan and entered the tea shop owned by Sanimaya.
“Didi, why is the other house empty?”
“Everyone migrates to Chame during this time; we’re moving too tomorrow”, Sanimaya explains.
“We’re returning to the city; do you have any idea if we’ll be able to catch a bus tomorrow?” Sajan asks.
“You’ll need to reach Khare to get a bus which will take you two more days”, she replies.
It was getting dark, they requested Sanimaya to stay overnight.
The night was long and freezing cold, they could hear wind blowing in the distance.
“Atit get up, it’s 6 AM!”
Sanimaya had already prepared breakfast and gave them enough Sattu to snack on during their journey.
The tea which she served was warm and steamy – almost like an angel in a cup.
The ground, mountains, everything was white. It was like someone spilled flour all over the world – only colder.
Suddenly, Atit heard a rumbling sound. He felt a sudden chill rush through his spine and rushed out to make sure he was wrong. He could see the mountain of snow rushing down, gulping everything on its way.
At that moment, his whole life flashed in front of him. He thought whether he would see his family again. He somehow gathered his senses and screamed, “Sajan!! Run!!!”
Both ran for their lives. They could see the house drown in the debris. It was no less than a nightmare. Their most dreamt vacation had now turned into a nightmare, nobody could ever imagine.
“Atit! Can you hear me?” Sajan panicked. He was screaming with everything he had inside. Suddenly, he heard someone yelling from a distance. With great hope, he moved towards the distant voice.
“Help me!!!” Atit shouted when Sajan came closer. Stuck under the weight of all that snow, he couldn’t think of anything worse. Even taking a single breath took a lot of strength.
Atit slowly regained consciousness. He was injured, however, could move his right arm. For the next half an hour, Sajan dug with his bare hand regardless thinking of frostbite, he used all his strength and was able to save his friend. Both understood the importance and value of life during this short period of time.
Sajan then tried to make a phone call but realized there was no network. This left them in a state of hopeless despair, however, they didn’t lose hope. They started moving downwards; Atit was limping by the support from Sajan.
After a few hours of walking, they found themselves lost in the middle of nowhere, suffering from cold and exhaustion.
“We haven’t found any human footprints, maybe this was one of the greatest snowfalls this year. Let’s stay in this tunnel for today.” They decided to spend the night in a tunnel they came across.
Both had Sattu with snow as dinner. Survival seemed to be a huge challenge; they could hardly sleep.
The weather was better the next morning; the storm had finally calmed down. The ambience was cold, filled with bare trees, and powdery snow – quiet felt like there was magic in the air.
Sajan helped Atit come out of the tunnel.
“How are you today Atit?”
“I’m a bit better Sajan. I can barely feel myself, but I hope we could find a better shelter today.”
It wasn’t long before they could hear the water flow a few distance away. It was the best sound that they had heard in life. “We’re almost there!” Sajan promised Atit from a few meters away, “Just hang in there!”
The struggle for food also seemed perpetual. With a final meal of Sattu with snow, they started their journey following the sound of the river with the hope of finding some help.
The air was cold, and both were freezing.
“I can’t do this anymore, I can barely feel my feet”, Atit hesitated sitting on a rock.
“We need to hurry and find a way out of here until the weather decides to reconsider itself”, Sajan helped Atit get up and walk. Their only aim then was to reach Chame or at least find some help on the way. They spoke very less during the journey and supported the other to stand their ground while walking.
After walking a couple more miles like a zombie, they saw a human-like figure approaching them which brought both to their senses.
“You’re finally awake! I’m so glad to see you both!” The figure exclaims running towards them and they find out the figure to be Sanimaya. She appeared to be extraordinarily beautiful, and her complexion was fair enough to match the ambience.
“Didi! How did you find us?” Both boys exhale a sigh of relief.
“I’m here to rescue you. Come with me and I’ll lead you to Chame.”
It was this moment when both realized how important it is to not lose hope, no matter how hard the situation and nobody could teach this the way life does.
“Let’s not waste time Atit, we got nothing left to eat too. We just have a few more miles ahead and we’ll reach the village in no time”, Sajan motivates him.
“He’s freezing to death. Here drink this. It will warm you and give you strength”, Sanimaya hands Atit a bottle containing some liquid.
“Wow, this taste amazing! I can feel the heat fueling in me.”
After a few shots of local millet drink, the trio continued their journey. After walking for 4hours, they came across a bridge.
“Crossing this bridge, you’ll reach Chame”, Sanimaya explains.
Soon they saw few houses and yaks grazing. Both Atit and Sajan found themselves crying with joy.
“We did it Atit! Thank you so much Didi for all your help!” Both boys turn back and what they see immediately sends a shiver down their spine.
It was a beautiful day, yaks were grazing, villagers engaged with household chores, and the golden rays of sun spread the room waking the boys who were glad to be alive.
Both were surprised when they received a gentle greeting.
“Namaste Aama, where are we?”
“You both were lying unconsciously nearby, and villagers brought you here yesterday”, Gangadevi replied.
“Where is the Didi who was with us?”
“Who? There was nobody with you.”
They explained everything about their terrifying adventure and were shocked when Gangadevi replied no avalanche took place.
“We don’t get any bad weather during September, and nobody lives up in the mountains after a massive avalanche that occurred 2 years ago.” This reply creeped both out.
Sajan then called Saurav to touch base with him after their incomplete conversation, however, was surprised by his response.
“I haven’t called you Sajan, what are you talking about?”
“Are you sure?” Sajan immediately checks his call log and realizes there was no call history.
This all seemed like an illusion until both of their jaws dropped when they saw a notice on a tree with a familiar photograph; “Sanimaya Tamang, age 29, gone missing since 2018”.