“Yes John” I answered back to the phone presuming that John would be the only person ringing me at such an hour here in Darjeeling. A crackle and hiss came back with a faint recognition of “Sikkim”. So it had to be John and he had at the very least reached Sikkim.
‘The bridge is down!’ A faint shout came back at me. “What bridge? And can you speak up the line is poor” was all I could reply thinking I had heard him wrong. “By the Scaletrix turn.”
And with that comment I knew the bridge. Two steel girders with planks which I crossed with trepidation during the route survey last November.
“Find another route, there is no way to cross this river”, a rather anxious and fretful friend croaked back at me. Being rather too cavalier for my own good this is a phone call that sucks in life. I know it is not in the script but it roused in me the hope of a Stirling Quest.
“Don’t worry” I said “just what we need. They will all love the adventure; crossing a river John – sounds fantastic, and stuck as well, brilliant.”
“It’s not bloody brilliant at all, we’ve now lost our route to Sikkim,” John snapped back, not enjoying my enthusiasm. But he had the experience of a river I had not; not yet anyway.
The line went dead, but I still felt a need to add “worry no more John, I’ll find a new route”. And with that I replaced the receiver and summoned the team.
Less than an hour later, having promised the rally teams a new route by breakfast, Steve, Rashid and I drove out of Darjeeling in the blackness of a Himalayan night (And just for the hell of it we crossed the river!)