The rain fell like monsoon rains throughout the night. There was no wind. Just persistent precipitation which greeted us in the morning with no intention of stopping. The teams of “open top” cars had secured them the previous evening as is the norm but they would have been glad they did or the cars would have been water filled. It was bad enough for the other teams as their cars too were put to the test for water proofing.
Denise had shown some signs of water getting in through the most unexpected areas and apertures. She was a little wet within.
We all gathered in the reception area of the hotel after breakfast to pick up the inevitable route amendments and sign off ready to start the rally in the allocated order.
We departed at 9.15 with a more positive vibe than how we felt the night before.
All went well and we located the markers as we navigated the route.
Until about an hour after, the cars came to a halt at a spot where a tree had fallen over the road.
A diversion was quickly put into place and the cars endeavoured to follow the new manually planned route and as we made our way around this little village we met rally cars intersecting each other all through this area, obviously lost. We too had travelled up dead end roads and returned only to meet others who were trying the same track. Must have been interesting for the locals to see with all these vehicles going around and around.
We began following our GPS to find the next weigh point to direct us to the first time check at Kangra. This station was well catered for coffee and food but due to time constraints, we were now under pressure to make all future PC and TC’s on time.
The course officials had however extended the time by 33 minutes to accommodate the problems experienced with the diversion.
We knew, from experience that with some unexpected events how it would affect our progress and ability to get to the next destination in time.
We wasted little time after checking out to get underway and all went well. Denise worked hard and well although the tracks and roads were punishing.
The course took us through altitude changes, of 1000 meters up and down six times during the day. That is up three times and down three times.
The roads into the steep lush green countryside was punishing. The tracks due to the rain had broken the roads up badly.
Denise was a Trojan and she just kept going.
We didn’t push hard, just steady, as larger cars and more energetic drivers pushed past.
We made good way keeping a good position.
Then a regularity. At Manjeev’s Ridge. The test of timing within an unknown distance at a given average speed. We did ok. 5 seconds fast at the checkpoint. Not bad, for us anyway. This road was very broken and rough as it wound around very step drops and winding around the hills. It was only 12kms in distance but it seemed like 30..
Then continued onward to the last test of the day, getting in on time at the hotel in Manali. The roads became so rough and the traffic was running hot on this horrible road. The horn needed continuous sounding. The uphill traffic just oblivious to any danger as we edged so close to precipitous road edges. Passing on coming traffic became really dangerous. No local drivers really showed any concern or respect as they sped up and around blind bends hogging the road and expecting to be let through. Hundreds of cars almost nose to tail on a road that was broken. It was as if the movies had just been let out.
We were making really good progress, noting that as we descended from the hills that the rivers were running dangerously high. The black waters were running at speeds of 50-60kph. The torrent had waves of up to two meters as the water gushed over the boulders beneath.
As we descended further the rivers turned to unimaginable dirt black water flows. The towns through which they flowed were being washed out. And the rain was still falling.
We crossed a couple of large span bridges and briefly discussed how they stood up to this pressure, considering that they could fail.
Further down, the results of the damage by the torrent could be seen as the river level was tearing at the banks and taking with it trucks, buses and buildings into the raging water. Roads collapsing being literally devoured by the horrendous water flows.
We headed towards the next large bridge crossing and making good way when we saw a troop of rally cars led by Graham and Marina Goodwin followed by Lars and Annette Rolner, both in open touring cars returning. It was still raining.
They waved us down to advise that the bridge had been closed and could not be traversed. They suggested we follow them to find an alternative route to the hotel in Manali. Our final stop for the day.
We followed to return back over the large bridge we had recently crossed, picked up another couple of rally stragglers, formed a convoy and followed a path, behind Graham up north on the eastern side of this raging river.
This river was just huge and it looked treacherous. We followed it until nightfall until we could see it no longer. It was hard, tough going, on a secondary road that was mostly under construction or flood degradation. Through little villages who’s shopfronts were st streets edge. Missing pedestrians with their raised umbrellas and oncoming cars, and the cows, goats, horses and dogs.
It’s a lethal mix that kept all of us on our toes to be aware of the dangers as we sped through.
It was around a 50km diversion. On the roadside, in both town and country slips of rocks, some as big as houses were falling down onto the road. Torrents of water eroding the roads and potholes, invisible as to what lay beneath. Huge pots.
Then small bridges to cross that looked like they were ready to collapse.
And, some 2kms before our hotel destination a roadblock of cars that were not permitted to pass. The road had been washed out. We could not get to the hotel. It was isolated.
We all decided to find a hotel on the other side of the river.
We headed over a bridge that was still open and on the other side a kind gentleman suggested we follow him to a hotel that he considered suitable. It was.
This is The Himalayan. A fine establishment that was of an English turret design with large rooms. A fireplace in each room.
The owner welcomed us and we sat with a few drinks and nibbles in front of a blazing fire and tell tales of our experiences of the day. We contacted some of the other rally teams who had not yet found accommodation to join us, which they did. So in all we had 10 people at the fireside.
It was a really great evening. We had dinner, guess what for dinner? There was no drowning of sorrows.
But really nice and we retired at around 10pm dog tired.
Slept well and arose for breakfast which eventually was served at 9.30am.
What was going to happen? Contact with the ERA was sparse and although it was a planned day off anyway, we didn’t know what the plans would be. Still don’t.
We had heard that the access route for our planned entry into Nepal was snowed under so we would not be able to get through that avenue.
So currently we are in limbo. It’s still raining and is predicted to continue for the next two days.
I shall post another communique when we know more.