The 10 day trial .. II

Lessons From The Wind

From the temple it was nearly 3 km towards the hills. The mud road went along a dry river bed. The road was elevated from everything around me. It was beautiful all over, while the road was leading me straight into the valley. I met no one on this road. The wind was extremely harsh. I have never felt wind this powerful in my life. At least 30 knots. I was riding against it and nearly fell off my bicycle twice. To me, at that moment, it was the best adventure I was having. I couldn’t see any harm coming-off of riding against the wind, and I was smiling at the prospect like an idiot.

I reached the dam, parked my bicycle, and met a few boys who arrived on their motorbikes who also wanted to get on top of the dam. I went with them and the sight was incredible. There wasn’t much water but the wind made up for it.

The interesting part here was while on top of the dam, we could stand leaning at some 70 degrees into the wind without support. You can imagine how much wind was there.

Later, I decided to head back to the temple at about 5 PM. I had to ride back and there were no street lights or anything so I had to leave. Riding back, I didn’t have to pedal sometimes, with the wind pushing me at my back at that speed, even on a mud road. I had about 20 kilograms loaded on the bicycle. As I was making my way back, my mind kept wandering into the dry river bed. There is no water in the dam, there is no sign of clouds or rain, and the river bed with small water ponds surrounded by green grass all over, looked beautiful and seemed comfortable to sleep on.

I stopped pedalling and looked about and there was a man on a moped in the distance (for the first time on that road). I stopped him. With a peculiar appearance as mine, a touring bicycle with all that luggage, it has always been extremely easy to strike up conversations with people no matter what they may seem like. I have deeply fallen in love with this notion.

I asked him a few things in general, told him who I was, always smiling, while sliding in questions about my fears here and there – drunk men, crooks, elephant paths, bears astray. I heard from the boys up in the dam already about elephants and bears coming that side. They informed that they come around only onto the lake side of the dam in the evenings. I have to confirm these things twice because when you are alone, being unsure about something like this can keep you wide awake and slack off any courage you pent up during the day. Like everything else in the moment at the time, he also suggested I spend the night at the temple which I sincerely agreed, with the striking image of the dry river bed all over my head. He pushed along and my nerves longed for that spot. I slid down to the dry river bed with my bicycle and I began examining the terrain.

Everything was alright with the terrain but the wind hadn’t stopped. The wind was blowing steadily, without changing speeds, consistently for the last 2 or 3 hours since I arrived in that area. That is the kind of focus one needs when aspiring to to do big things. The wind had it. It was about  5 0’clock. The man on the moped had said that he was unfamiliar with wind this powerful and consistent, although he had lived here all his life. What made me overlook these things, I now know. It was my undying urge to camp out. Somehow, I couldn’t settle for anything lesser that evening apart from camping out. The temple was there – I could have, I should have, but would I have? No, no, no. Because I was asking for a tough lesson that night.

It was extremely difficult to pitch the tent with that amount of wind howling through the valley. All of the trees were pointing to the direction of the temple. They were bent, drooped down, bowing to someone in that windy direction, well actually just being blown. After a painstaking effort, trying to be in stealth mode that too, I managed to pitched the tent. With all the pegs in place, and that 20 kilos of luggage, the top of the tent was dying to free itself from the burden.

Sunset. Darkness began to take over. I went into my tent looking for things. It was extremely noisy with the top flapping endlessly with the wind. Dinner was going to be nuts, honey, protein juice, bananas. It didn’t make any sense. Nothing made any sense. I tried to let my instincts take over.

Every minute lasted all of the sixty seconds. The wind was in a rush. The hours rolled. Nobody was there but me. I stepped out of the tent every five minutes to check my pegs as they kept coming off the ground. I tried different ways to really fix them into the ground each time. It was eight o’clock and still no sign of peace. What the hell? I kept waiting very anxiously. One of those times, I stepped out to find my favourite constellation up there across the sky. I was reminded of the calm and peace in the Andaman Islands, where I first learnt about it. The only familiar subject at that time was way up in the sky. The tail of the Scorpion was hanging low. If it weren’t for the wind that made the coconut trees droop, the tail would have rested on the tree top for a while. How long will this be?

Ok. I don’t really know how to describe everything that happened between then and until half past eleven. In the middle of nowhere, by myself, with heavy wind, some anxiety, but being pretty sure that I was going to last until daybreak even if I had to be awake. About ten minutes to twelve I stepped out of my tent to do my routine check. I was kneeling on one leg, punching a peg to the ground, when I heard a big rustle through the vegetation that was about 15 meters behind me. When you are anxious, your senses are sharp and anything slightly out of the ordinary can provoke your fears. I turned my head, fully expecting a big boar, a cow, or something around that size based on the loudness of the rustle.

I hadn’t finished placing my line of sight to anything in particular but I felt something hit me hard on the side of the body facing the phantom. I fell back about three feet from where I was. I got up in a flash to see nothing in front of me. My tent was blown and rolled up and my bicycle had also dragged (it was tied to it) for a meter along with the tent. What the hell? I looked around and panicked. Within the next few minutes, the wind completely died and there was a strong lull.

My head was racing for an explanation. I couldn’t find anything in the rubble – torch, pegs to get the tent back. I couldn’t even figure out how to unfold the tent. It was dark, and everything was entangled together. It was nearly 12 PM and the phone was dying. I slowly started telling myself, that it was the last strong gush of wind before it could die off completely. There was no sign of the storm since then. Everything was peace and quiet. It was eery. Quarter past the storm, the crickets began their roll call. Things were beginning to feel familiar except that my tent had collapsed.

Destroyed in seconds. It was a bad choice to camp here in the first place. I managed to pitch my tent anyway and the winds were blowing strong until about midnight. I had to frequently step out of my tent to check if the pegs were grounded since they kept pulling out. I even tied my bike to the tent. During one of those rituals I heard a loud rustle a few meters behind me. Thinking it must be a boar or something I turned to look holding on to my tent in one hand. It was one helluva gust that slapped my face and I fell forwards a few feet. My tent with nearly 20 kilos of stuff flew off by a few meters and the fact that it was tied to my bike kept it from tumbling further. The wind died completely a few minutes later. The big J-hook in the middle is actually a folded metal ring holding the smaller hook on the extreme left paired together like the one on the right. It holds the tent frame. That one gust tore off the metal ring in one blow. That's how strong the wind was. So many lessons learnt that night! #campinglife #bicycletouring #bikecamping #surlybikes #campingamateur #worldbybike

A post shared by Joel (@freedomisonthesaddle) on

I began to worry a little about snakes, and what-not. I didn’t slept a wink that night. I couldn’t risk it. I couched myself on top of the rubble keeping my eyes wide open, looking signs of life. I was just not sure about sleeping under the stars on that meadow, with a little pond next to me, without the fear of animals. It was my first.

As pleasant as it may have seemed, I couldn’t pull myself to enjoy it as much as I had imagined such a beautiful campsite. I had stepped on the wrong foot. I could have found myself some company at the temple, I thought. I could have enjoyed the storm, discussing stories from around here with that other person, about the bears, the elephants, and the dam. But here I was, facing myself, my own fears to distract me, introspecting, finding out how I would be dealing with all of this and nowhere to go.


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