Word count: 1827 | Estimated time to read entry: 20 min
Note: This entry is in continuation of ‘Who says I ain’t a Roadie – Part 1‘
At the camp:
We stood in line for lunch – you could eat as much as you wanted but the total supply was limited. One person’s greed would mean someone else had to compensate by staying hungry. So I struck a deal with the guys on perpetual diet and requested them to overload their plates and unload it later onto mine. This was one hell of a reality show we were in!
Our dwelling conditions were pathetic. The tent was made of crude asbestos sheets supported by wooden posts and thatches, with a flap for entry. There was a bulb and that was the only luxury. The floor was bare earth and all its inhabitants were our uninvited guests. A heavy gust of wind would throw open the flaps and sprinkle us with the surrounding dust.
Each tent had around 6-7 occupants and all you could do in the tent was to lie on your belly with your elbows on the ground and chin in your palms, staring at all the other tents’ occupants who were also doing the same thing. A few meters away, there was a huge open tank with a couple of taps and this was the water you could use for anything, including Jai Ho 🙂
A huge lamp on a post lit this entire area at night and people soon discovered that it had a plug and socket for charging mobile phones. Some others discovered that the wind always blew in a very favorable direction at one spot and would be ideal for smoking.
Some optimistic chaps exclaimed that the food served was delicious to which I pointed out that after all the hectic tasks we did, any food would taste like ambrosia. But even I had to agree that it was far better than what we got in our mess 😛
The temperament of the folks was varied. All of us knew that if we didn’t finish the tasks, we would be sent back again like some of our seniors were, and that meant not one but two weeks in hell. No one had failed twice till date so we didn’t want to even think about it ourselves. There was no question of backing out and most of us did the tasks grudgingly.
Some pretended to like it for a while but even they began to detest the tasks as the level of difficulty shifted to top gear. During this, we found great solace in abusing the profs who had planned this and resolved that after passing out, we would arrange a similar Outbound for them all. Fortunately, the group politics was absent and everyone was supportive, perhaps because there was no credit for excelling or out-performing another. It wasn’t a competition so we were all in it together.
After lunch, we were told that our next task was cave exploration. We got ready with our backpacks and set out with the three trainers. After a good 2km trek on uneven terrain, we again faced another rock but no caves were in sight. Miss commando came forward to quell our curiosity:
“The cave is inside this rock but entry is on the other side. You have to ascend it and descend half way from the other side to enter it. More instructions after we are at the cave entrance. Move!”
This rock was more difficult than the first one we had climbed in the morning. It was steeper and in many spots we had to get on all fours and use our hands for support. We also had to take 3 breaks to catch our breath before reaching the top. Finally, we made it and began the descent. While ascent was tedious, descent was scary. Looking down from some 150+ feet with the wind gushing in your ears is a petrifying feeling. It psyches you out. Every step had to be well chosen because though you wouldn’t fall to your death, you could certainly break an ankle rendering you incapable of doing any tasks further.
We arrived at the tip of the cave with zero casualties. I expected it to be an Indiana Jones kinda cave with beams of light streaking from above and a nice deep blue pool of cool water in the centre. All I saw was a dark pit in the rock, some 15 feet in diameter.
“This is the cave, it widens as you go in but not enough for you to stand up. It is more like a tunnel – you got to form a human chain lying down and slide sequentially on your backs. Your feet should be on the shoulders of the person sliding in front of you and he will hold on to your ankles. He will tug at your ankles when it is time to move – and you will do similarly for the guy above you. And that’s the way the chain will move through the cave. The leader goes first and will not have anyone to hold his ankles or direct him”.
“Remember these points”, she continued –
- There is only one way out of this cave.
- The cave is wide enough so you can lose your way and can get lost inside.
- Worse still, you can get isolated inside if you break the chain so never break the chain.
- If you are on the right track towards the exit, it gets very narrow and you can get stuck.
- There are bats inside the cave who will fly towards you in hordes if you create a noise so this whole task should be done is absolute silence.
- The cave is pitch dark and lighters, torches or any source of light is prohibited as it could attract the bats or other creatures towards you.
Happy exploration, one of us will meet you at the exit. So who wants to go first?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. This was like my worst nightmare coming true. Imagine sliding on your butt inside a pitch black tunnel with bats and “other creatures” ready to attack you. WTF did anyone even want to try this?
Soon we were in the cave holding on to the ankles of the guy above us for dear life. Our eyes grew accustomed to the darkness and the only sound we could hear was the rustle of denim on hard rock as we slid sequentially towards we knew not what.
“Waaaah! I think I have been bitten by a bat….a bat….a bat” echoed a panic-stricken voice from above.
“Shut the f#@# up Mr Batman, don’t make a noise…a noise…a noise”, came a reply.
“I’m stuck here, I can’t move a muscle….too narrow…too narrow…too narrow”.
“Whew! We are on the right track then…then…then”.
At the narrowest point, the cave touched our noses as we lay on our backs. We had to force ourselves out of this and the guy below tugged hard at your ankles to help you through. After a lot more acrobatics we saw light below and slid towards it.
Having come out of the cave, we had descended only 30% of the rock we had climbed. The remaining descent was before us and after that we had to cross a shallow river, go around the rock and head for the camp to reach our tents – a good 10 km of trekking awaited us. Our jeans were in tatters and so was our spirit.
We reached the tent before dark with every muscle aching. The medicine kits were out in full glory and the smell of odomos cream, boroplus, dettol, moov etc was in the air. A couple guys had injured ankles after descent but nothing serious.
Over dinner we realized that only 1 day had elapsed and we had to endure 6 more! And on this seemingly easiest day we had climbed 2 moderately difficult rocks and trekked nearly 15km! We decided to take one step at a time and went straight to our tents for some sleep. We were to be back in action very early the following day.
Mayday! We are under attack!
We were in a deep slumber when our camp was suddenly attacked by the best stealth bomber in the world – Rain. Angry torrents lashed at the unresisting tents and their confused inhabitants without warning. The flaps did little to prevent the gusts from entering and within minutes we all woke up to the fact that we were under serious attack.
The effects of the havoc unleashed were multiple. For one, most roofs started leaking and generous streams of water began to flow in. Secondly, the thatches on the sides got all soggy, thereby wetting our bag of supplies and clothes that were kept against them. Thirdly, all the insects from the earth came out in millions and we saw innumerable ants and worms crawl straight onto our pillows and glucose bottles. Fourthly, the tents were on an embankment just 6 inches from the ground and rain water was fast covering this little height and would soon flood in from the floor up as well. Fifthly, because of the rain the entire terrain and rocks would be rendered slippery, making our tasks more difficult and dangerous.
What followed was total chaos – lights were turned on, flaps were held shut, leaks were covered with towels to provide temporary relief, a few got into their boots and jumped all over the tents in an attempt to vanquish the insect army and bags were moved to the center of the tents to be fiercely guarded. As usual, there was a ‘manager’ in every tent who could only give ‘creative suggestions’ but could never implement any thing:
“Move the bag there….hold the flaps, hold the flaps….sweep out that water….why don’t you do something?!….stop being an idiot….keep the shoes away from the clothes…..”
Tempers flew in every tent very soon and there was utter fracas over all issues – people were shouting at the top of their voices addressing each others’ mothers, sisters and any other female member in the family one could think of. There were some pushes and shoves and the situation was slowly getting out of hand. The group leaders intervened finally, keeping aside their own quarrels, and decided to go to the coordinators’ tents for help.
The coordinators had thick nice tents made of canvas that were well furnished with beds, fans etc! They even had the luxury of securely locking their tents as some of them even had a TV. The plea for help was turned down and we were told that we are on our own and the crisis was part of the entire show – it was up to us to manage it and overcome it. We couldn’t even burn down their tents because of the rain and that reminded us that we were all unnecessarily getting wet. We returned to our tents, destroyed every single insect in sight, swept out the water and got ready to resume our sleep. The rain relented and we were soon asleep once again.
Pics Courtesy: Aashish/Nilesh/Lipjo/Paddy
>>To be continued…
Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4