Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Kaibab Trail - South Rim, Grand Canyon:

Nature has its own unique and unfussy way of imposing itself on human beings. It didn’t take too long for Ming, Steven and Radhika to understand that. In a span of 6 hours, they had encountered almost everything at the Grand Canyon, which they had fondly nicknamed as “The Greatest Hole on the Earth”. Thunderous rainstorms and lightning had left them stranded and shell shocked for hours in the middle of a treacherously strenuous trail that had slowly started showing its chameleon-esque nature. They already had to deal with loose footing and rock fall that came unannounced while an encounter with wild life was always a scare even though they had met only the friendliest of creatures so far. A heavy snow fall shut them off completely as the rain had started to thicken and its successor, ice was more incisive and cruel. They had overstayed their welcome at the trail and hunger and dehydration slowly set in as they ran out of all supplies. But clearly nature was not done with them as it landed its final and most lethal blow. Jordan, the fourth and most experienced hiker of the group was missing for the past 3 hours.

Radhika was fuming. “He should have come by now. He said he will meet us at the Hullu point. The idiot always does something crazy like this. What was the need for that maniac to explore that new route all alone? God knows where the hell he is now!”

“Relax Radz. Trust the man. He is a pro but remember he is a psycho as well. It is one deadly combination. He will make it all right. I am sure he is going to sneak up on us from somewhere and freak you out totally!” Steven was still optimistic about his best buddy.

Ming had other things in his mind. “Yeah.. I hope so too. The dude is totally nuts but he is a tough nut. But hey.. we can’t stay here for long. We will starve ourselves to death if the cold doesn’t kill us before that. I say we head up to the Hopi point and wait for him up there.”

“Yeah, let’s do that. Guess I could do with some hot chocolate at Hermit’s rest. “Radhika’s voice was trembling behind the brave smile she put up. She felt something strange inside she couldn’t understand or explain!

Unknown Location – near Death Gorge, Grand Canyon:

Jordan was a daredevil. His passion in life was to do things most people would only dream about. His life was one big adventure and he had loved every bit of it. Until now!

Nature was capable of breaking even the hardest of men and today it looked like it might succeed in overwhelming the gritty Jordan. He was clearly cheated by this perfidious new path that had taken him far away from the trail and into the canyon which was transferring its chill through his spine. It was beginning to break him down!

He was breathing heavily, clasping his hands together, partly to warm himself and partly in a small prayer to God. He was completely lost! At that moment he saw a strange thing. He saw a bird that flew past his ears. But there was something strange about it. It was wearing a dress. He rubbed his eyes again to make sure he was not hallucinating due to dehydration. But there it was. It had 2 small flaps covering its wings which looked like wrist bands. And it had something in its legs that looked like tiny little socks. Was his mind imagining things? A strange feeling of fear and death started to engulf him.

“Lost your way perhaps?” He was petrified by the suddenness and shrillness of the voice that came from behind him. It was a man. A man in this God forsaken place! That could not be true he thought. The figure that stood in front of him was tall, strong and slightly inhuman. It was a man alright. A man who seemed to have borne the brunt of both nature and life! A man who looked strong and wise from age and experience! He had a look in his eyes that intimidated Jordan.   

“What brings you here, my friend? I am afraid you should not be here!” The man’s voice was hoarse and Jordan despised its tone which had a hint of calm arrogance.

“I know who you are. You belong to one of those ancient tribes, aren’t you? The Havasu or Huala something!” Jordan tried to gather himself as his mind was scrambling to assimilate all that he was seeing.

The man stroked his long beard and looked impressed. “I am happy somebody still knows about us. My name is Hania and you are almost right. I descend from the Havasupai clan.” He extended his hand and Jordan shook it very skeptically. An Incredible surge of warmth flowed from Hania’s body through Jordan and he felt quite rejuvenated.

“Oh yeah.. you guys.. I have read about you. You have been calling the Grand Canyon your home, isn’t it? Still a few of you left, trying to survive in a world that has become incompatible to you! Well, guess what, you don’t control this place no more, fella!

Hania gave him a profound smile. “Nobody can control nature, my friend. And you, right now, would know that more than anybody. Lost, tired, hungry and angry amidst ruthless mountains and a devastating cold that can rip your soul out and freeze it to death; nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nothing to embrace, no one to hold on to! Tell me, who is in control, my man?”

Clearly Jordan was getting irritated now. “Oh come on! I have been hiking for 10 years now. This is just a strenuous hike, not an impossible one. Stop scaring me, will ya?”

Hania was his composed self. “Of course. It is neither a deadly hike nor or impossible one. But only as long as you are in the trail! You are way off it my friend. Probably drifted off around the skeleton point! You have no idea where you are. I call it the “Near Death Gorge!”

“Hmm… Never heard of it dude. What do others call it?” Jordan sneered.

Hania’s response was icy cold. “The Death Gorge!”

Jordan had a smirk on his face. “Well.. tell you what! You are doing a pretty decent job of scaring the hell out of me. Now what is it that is so deadly about this passage?”

“I am just telling you the truth my friend. In the 800 years of history that has been recorded, 10 people have wandered into this place losing their way on the trail, and attempted to get back to the top through this narrow pass. Only one of them survived!”

There was something about Hania that Jordan could not understand. “Whoa… That is something. Must be a pretty famous guy! First man in 800 years and all. Who is he?”

Hania looked out into the canyon and took a deep breath. “He is standing right in front of you, my friend. And no, he is not famous. Nobody knows about him. Never knew!” For the first time, a shiver went down Jordan’s spine. 

                                                                                           TO BE CONCLUDED (NEXT WEEK)…. 

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