On Easter Sunday, a perfect day here in India, we all drove up to Jalori Pass. It's over 11,000 feet at the summit. Quite a climb from Jibhi. We drove to the road summit and then had a short climb from there. With incredible, almost indescribable views and beauty, and in a setting of serenity and reflection, we took in all that God had to offer us on this day.
After a short while on our own we assembled ourselves in a circle in a nest of trees, giving us part sun and part shade, creating what felt like to me was the ideal setting for what was to happen next. One by one we shared what we are grateful for in each of our lives. In stillness, quietness, and peace we attentively and connectedly listened to one another as each of us shared from our hearts.
Following that we were given notes and supportive heartfelt messages from our loved ones. We separated a bit to give one another space and to be solely with those in our hearts and minds. I so enjoyed this time. Having been on prior expeditions, I knew that this was coming. I was so excited for each of these kids to experience this for themselves for the first time. From where I was sitting, I observed some kids smiling from ear to ear, some crying softly, trying to keep tears from landing on their notes, and some peacefully pondering in humility and gratitude. It was a special experience for me, and I'm certain it was also for each member of this expedition team.
Prior to departing for this excursion, I had the opportunity to rent a motorcycle from a local shop in Jibhi. Wait, what? I can rent a motorcycle and ride it in India? Sign me up!! Never before had I thought that this might actually happen. I couldn't wait to get started. I rented a Royal Enfield 350, a bike typical in India, they're everywhere. Built for the road and mpg's, they lack power. But am I complaining? Heck no! This was a great opportunity and I was jumping in with both feet. I rented this thing for 1550 rupees, and if my math is correct, that's $23.85 in US dollars. A steal of a deal. A brand new bike, never even been licensed, they tell me. All I had to do was to ride it, return it, and the gas was even part of the rental price. Yee haw!
Brian Noel also rented a bike. So the two of us, along with Raj and Sandeep, rode to the top of Jalori Pass. Everyone else in suv's. Now, you've got to picture what 'roads' are like here in India, and specifically the one to Jalori Pass. At home we may describe this road as a 4 wheeler trail or a mountain bike path. Perhaps Not really a road to us. At least one we'd consider driving our car on. And these bikes we're on have skinny road tires on them, not tires needed for this rugged terrain. This road is dusty, rocky, and typically narrow; you'd be amazed as to what Indians drive up them. Cars, trucks, buses, you name it. Motorcycles and practically everything else don't mix, somehow in India they do. As long as we pay attention, drive on the left side of the road, and keep our speed reasonable.
After our incredible experience at the Pass, we headed down to return to camp. All downhill of course. Lisa and Amy wanted to join in on this motorcycle experience, so Lisa jumped on Brian's bike and Amy on mine. We made sure we drove ever so cautiously on our way down. Some parts are pretty steep. And lots of rocks and gravel ahead of us, along with cows, sheep, goats, and vehicles going up.
We were about 2/3 the way down. I was moving slowly, keeping in mind I had Amy with me and did not want to make ANY mistakes. The dropoffs on some parts of this mountain road make this trip potentially dangerous, so I exercised every effort to keep us safe. Well that lasted for most of the way down anyway.
When we were moving at about 10mph I must have driven right into a rock in the road. Which is so easy to do...the road in parts like this one are all rocks. In an instant we were on the ground on our left side. (In recreating the event in my mind, had I been moving faster it probably wouldn't have been a problem, but moving slowly caused the front wheel to follow the rock as it shifted to the right when the tire hit it.) As soon as it happened I turned to Amy to see if she was alright. Amy's response is a new classic: "I'm fine; I only hit my head." Thank goodness she had a helmet on. I had a few cuts and some bruises is all. Nothing compared to my embarrassment of me allowing it to happen.
Completely embarrassed, I quickly picked up the bike and started it to get outta there before someone saw us. Too late. Some locals in a car behind us drove up and asked us if we wanted water. Amy told them 'no thanks' and off we went. In first gear only the rest of the way down. You see...the clutch lever was scraped, the hand grip torn, the front metal wheel flare was bent, the metal guard between the front wheel and the motor was broken, but the worst part was that the foot peg was bent backwards and into the gear shift lever, such that I could not get the bike out of first.
We got back to camp and Raj and Sandeep worked some magic on the bike, told me that they'd return it for me, as the owner would likely charge me more than he'd charge one of them. In a short while they returned and let me know of their agreed price with the owner for the damages...1000 rupees. 1000 rupees??? That's A little over $15!!
The next day, the owner recontacted them, said another 2000 rupees was needed to be fair. I readily agreed and paid it. Yeah, so another $30 or thereabouts. Can you believe it? That kind of sums up the Indian people, at least in Himachal Pradesh. In America the damages would easily be $500, my estimation. Here it's $45 and we're good. Amazing.
Amy and I decided to re-create the scene for you. Since it was after the fact, what I have to offer you is a photo of a bike that is similar to the one I rented and Amy and I showing what we must have looked like on the ground. We've had a bunch of laughs over the experience and I'm sure more will follow.
Shifting gears now (pun intended), this group is truly something special. We're now in Manalli, a bustling little city that attracts tourists from around the world. We left Jibhi 😭 this afternoon. Hard saying goodbye to the children we've grown so close to. Tomorrow we ride yaks and do some shopping. Followed by river rafting on Thursday. Events that allow us all to transition from teaching, serving, loving, and emotional goodbyes to winding down as we begin our roundabout journey homeward.
Tonight we met around an outdoor fire pit and did what we do every night, share what we learned about one another and from each other. Another way we connect and bond and continue to strengthen ourselves as a family.
If I had to describe this group in one word...that word would be ACCEPTING. Which is huge, I think. Uniqueness is valued, quirkiness is honored, and caring for one another is most important. We're a united team, YMAD and Antar Bano strong, and a forever connected family. It's a blessing to play a small part in that and be here with these young leaders and not so young leaders. Each of them inspires me.
Honored. Loved. Blessed.
JimTim (Tim Scanlan)