Fear comes in many forms. Eviction from the only room in town at midnight, after a harrowing two day drive dodging falling stones and landslides, can rank amongst the worst kind.
In my earlier posts, I had described how it took me two days to get from Kibithu to Hayuliang. A drive that should have taken 3-4 hours took longer as the weather caused mountain sides to come loose blocking progress. We finally made it to Hayuliang, a small settlement with only the Government run Circuit House. We had spent the night there on the way up, and were confident to get a room again; after all, how often would anyone venture into these remote parts?
The ever cooperative caretaker disappointed us this time – he had been told by someone to keep rooms for a group of businessmen travelling with a local politician. Government bookings always get priority over those of mere citizens. This could not be happening – it was already dusk, we were feeling worn out, and it was not advisable to drive many more hours in this region at night for the next guest house or hotel. We were directed to meet a local Government official; to our delight, he allowed us to stay since he had not received any verbal or written communication of any other booking.
As we were the only guests, the caretaker allowed us use of the VIP suites – we tucked ourselves in after a hot meal and fell asleep almost instantly. There had been no power all evening but we still felt we were in Four Seasons after the recent events.
Fear came knocking at midnight when a commotion woke me up. I could hear the honking of cars and animated chatter of what sounded like a score of people. Oh damn, the politician did have a booking after all. We just lay still, and prayed no one evicts us. Where would we go in the cold and the rain – it was still hours before daylight! Thankfully, everything went quiet after about an hour and we got back to our beauty sleep.
I woke up fresh at first light and stepped out gingerly, curious about what happened at night. I looked around to find all rooms occupied. The suite my friend was sleeping in was occupied by someone else – and I could not find him anywhere until much later. This is what I learnt eventually: The group of businessmen did arrive after all, much after the scheduled hour. They were a wee bit upset not to have the rooms waiting, but were decent enough not to disturb us in our room. But they did request my friend to share another room as they wanted the politician to use the suite. Since the group was big, some of them even slept in the dormitory meant for drivers. These were well-off businessmen who agreed to sleep in lowly quarters only so a couple (us) did not have to. Commendable decency!!
The caretaker, the official who allowed us to check in, the guests who came in at night – what a wonderful set of people. My heart felt warm in the cold – another reason why I travel.
This is a set of three posts best read in the following order:
1. Kibithu, Arunachal Pradesh: Take a U-Turn or Drive Into Chinese Army
2. Kibithu, Arunachal Pradesh: Dodging Falling Rocks and Landslides
3. A Night of Fear in Hayuliang, Arunachal Pradesh