Lost in the Mist
Lost in the Mist8 mins 10.8K 8 mins 10.8K
“The first time I was driving to Gurudongmar, I lost my way”, exclaimed Karma uncle. This instantly caught my attention as I was gazing at the rather dark scenery outside the car window. Karma Uncle was our driver and we were headed for Gurudongmar Lake at 4:00 AM when we visited Sikkim 2015. It is about a 3 hour drive to Gurudongmar from Lachen, which is where we were staying for the past few days. “Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world at 17,800 feet above mean sea level, higher than the Everest base camp. It is considered sacred by both Hindus and Buddhists”, he continued. The way uncle said it sounded like he had memorized these lines effortlessly over the years. I had disregarded the altitude and had absolutely no idea how cold it really would be and I was underdressed with two layers of woollens to say the least.
“So, the first time I came I was driving with a tourist family as well, at the time I had only been driving for a year”, he said. I continued to listen attentively. “The biggest mistake I had made was leaving at 5:00 when the experienced group of drivers I was going with had already left an hour earlier as the family I was taking were not ready by 4:00 as instructed”, this intrigued me as I too thought waking up at 3:00 was unnecessary as I was sipping on the hot soup I had for dinner the night before. Luckily uncle had convinced dad to leave by 4:00 AM.
“It starts snowing in Gurudongmar at 9:00 every morning so reaching earlier is necessary”, continued uncle. “The family and I made it to the security checkpoint we are about to approach”, said Karma uncle as the car violently shook as we went over a huge pothole, “The roads were just as bad even thought this was about 11 years ago”, said uncle. No sooner did we ask about the security check than we arrived at it. All of us were allowed to go ahead, children under the age of 10 and senior citizens were stopped from going to such a high altitude. “After driving for about twenty minutes past the checkpoint the mist set in and the visibility became really low, it was very difficult to see anything ,just like the mist we had come across the other day”, uncle said. Just a few days earlier we had come across some mist, which is common in the mountains, it was very dense and we could only see a few inches of the road ahead. I could only imagine how difficult it was to drive in such conditions.
“It was about 25 minutes of driving in the mist with no guidelines and no way of definitely knowing where we were going, before I knew we were lost”, uncle said.
As the rising sun’s rays fell upon the surrounding area I began to realise that there really were no roads and just faint car tracks and experience were your guides. “It was difficult to muster up the courage to tell the family that we were lost, but I kept calm, let them know and told them to wait”, he said. “Then?” I asked with my eyes widening. “I tried calling for help but realised that there was no signal”, he said. This came as no surprise as I myself had experienced the problem of having no signal in these high terrains. “I calmly got out of the car and asked the family to not panic and stay in the car, I then tried to figure out where we were by walking around trying to spot landmarks that were on my map” his tone became helpless.
“After walking in the dense mist for a bit it began snowing, this was because near the Gurudongmar region it starts snowing by 9:00 A.M. I began running back to the car. I knew that I must start driving back and try retracing my path at the earliest as it would be extremely difficult to drive in the snow. I hurriedly took a U turn and began following the slowly vanishing tyre tracks. The family began to ask several questions and I tried to give them the impression that I was not completely lost. I had still not lost hope. As I was driving back I witnessed the snow level gradually rising, I couldn’t drive any faster than 10 kilometres per hour. After about half an hour of driving the snow was too much for us to drive in without chains on the tyres. The family began to panic; I knew I had to act fast so I got out of the car for the second time. It was much colder this time but I was sure that the security checkpoint was not too far away as the path seemed familiar”, Karma uncle said as the car stopped. We had arrived. I asked uncle to continue but he told me he would on the way back. I stepped out of the car and the cold instantly struck me. My jaw began shivering as I walked towards the lake. I then saw the huge frozen lake. Gurudongmar Lake remains frozen for most of the year and we had arrived in June and the lake had just begun to freeze. It was peaceful with barely anybody and a mesmerizing view. I was trembling and so I went in and out of the car as I just didn’t want to leave the spot .The view was breathtaking, literally because the oxygen levels were extremely low and visiting the lake later than 10:00 AM was not advised and this is exactly what I asked uncle when we got back into the car after breathing heavily. “The oxygen level was the reason I stopped the tourist family from getting out of the car, as for me I have lived in high altitudes from when I was a child, so it was not a big deal for me. Now where was I?” asked uncle. I reminded him and he continued, “I walked along the path I recognized. I walked for a few a minutes and was beginning to lose hope when I faintly heard a car. It seemed like Heaven had sent help. I ran as fast as I could in the direction I heard the noise and was able to spot the car group I had heard. I screamed and luckily one of the drivers heard it and stopped. I ran and told the driver where I had left the family; he sympathetically spoke to me and took me to the security checkpoint. I informed the officers there and they got a truck ready to go as fast as they could. The security over there are very experienced and disciplined, they could not leave anyone in those extreme conditions and had to make sure anyone who went, returned. I told them where I had left my jeep and insisted on going with them. The family must have been devastated.”
“I did not believe in God and that day was the first time I had ever prayed in my entire life, hoping that the family did not leave the car and that they were safe” , uncle said.
Uncle continued ,“In about an hour we reached the jeep and rescued the family. They all were very scared and frustrated; I would expect no less if I was as helpless as them. The mother had wrapped her arms around the eleven year old boy who was in tears, trying to give him warmth and comfort. The father of the boy had left to look for help. Fear filled my heart when I noticed an approaching shadow. The father was back and I was relieved. The truck towed my jeep and we safely reached Lachen. Instead of expressing their frustration and anger towards me they were surprisingly thankful and optimistic. With such an incident they had become like family to me. I however wished that they witnessed the beauty of Gurudongmar Lake with me. Although they were reluctant at first, I convinced them and they put their trust in me for the second time. This time all went as planned and we were able to witness the spectacular Gurudongmar Lake.” I was amazed after hearing the story as I had imagined the whole thing. As soon as the story ended the car stopped and we reached Lachen. I was so thankful to have reached my hotel after hearing the story.
Later the story got me thinking and I realised really how difficult it must’ve been for uncle to keep calm when he was lost in the middle of nowhere with such extreme conditions, with a family he was responsible for bringing into such a situation. He could’ve simply waited till help arrived when the authorities would notice that a car hadn’t returned, instead he went out when it was snowing and there was very little visibility to look for help. He valued the family more then he valued himself. He could’ve chosen not to go with the truck as he had told them the location but he didn’t want to cause any more delay in them reaching the family even if it meant he had to travel in the bad roads after walking in bad conditions for about an hour. Also after such a terrifying experience he was courageous enough to drive the family to Gurudongmar in just a few days. In spite of losing his way he was able to keep the family’s trust and convinced them to travel to Gurudongmar again.
Since then this story has stuck with me and inspired me to never give up, no matter how impossible and hopeless it may seem and to never forget my moral values. This story inspires me to strive to achieve things in spite of disheartening experiences in trying to achieve the same. This story has also taught me several lessons on humanity and how we must always be caring and take responsibility for our mistakes. Hard work always bears fruit. I have learnt that with courage, determination, struggle and passion everything is achievable. As Ada Adams said, “There is a light at the end of every tunnel. Some tunnels just happen to be longer than others.”