01-02-2017, 1045 hours, Lingti, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India:
Our troubled Mahindra Xylo had managed to negotiate the descent down to the straighter section with ease. As the Xylo slowly came to a stand still, the Tata Sumo we were in also stopped. On getting down we realised that the rope which was being used to tow the vehicle had become very short after it had snapped for the fourth time. The Sumo was reversed to maintain enough distance between the two vehicles so that the ropes could be tied yet again. We had already wasted a lot of time and the other Sumo driver was concerned about us reaching Rampur by today itself. He suggested that we stick with the convoy of all other vehicles as it moved forward towards Rekong Peo, thereby avoiding any risks of getting stuck on the way, and reach atleast Khab before sunset.
It was then decided that we would tow the Xylo till Lingti Power Project, leave it there with some known people, and then continue our journey to Rampur in the hired Sumo. We tied the two cars together with whatever was left of the rope and as the Sumo began pulling, the rope snapped again. This time only I got down to assist Mr. Mehta in fixing the rope again. As the rope snapped every now and then, I decided to stand on the foot rest behind the Sumo, so that if the rope snapped again, I could signal the driver of the Sumo to stop and could also help in tying the rope without delay.
This time however, we succeeded and the Xylo towed along properly. While I was standing on the foot rest, I realised that the distance between the two vehicles was very less as the towing rope was now too short. I decided to climb on top of the Sumo and sit in the carrier as a precaution – in case the Sumo came to a sudden stop, the Xylo would not be able to stop as its power brakes wouldn’t work with the engine not running.
This was an open section of the valley and the view from the top of the Sumo was just so amazing that I couldn’t help but marvel what I was seeing – a 360 degree panoramic view of the snow clad mountains, with the Spiti river flowing on the valley floor and the beautiful Manerang peak visible in the distance, exactly in front of us.
We then reached Lingti Power Project, from where we were joined by two female passengers. As we loaded our luggage onto the Sumo, Mr. Mehta said that he would stay back with the Xylo (owned by the company he worked for). He would try to fix the problem with assistance from the locals present there. He then asked us to continue with our journey ahead as he didn’t want us to get stuck because of the Xylo and would catch up with us if the problem got sorted well in time. We then tried to persuade him to join us again and again, but he just would not budge from his decision. I guess I understand why he was doing so, and I do admire him for it. But being together for the last 16 days, and with all that we had been through, it was sad that we had to leave on such a note, leaving a man behind. The Sumo is now on the move, but as we said our good byes, we didn’t know whether we would meet Mr. Mehta again or not.